Tag Archives: writing

The Darkening



My friend the amazingly talented Myndi Shafer has just released her second book in the two in her Shrilugh Saga. So today I have a short interview with her, come and meet Myndi!

Myndi Shafer is author of the best-selling book, Shrilugh. Currently she makes her home in Kansas with her husband and four children. Her second book, The Darkening, releases in February 2013.

I hang out on Facebook here: Myndi Shafer Stories

I chat on Twitter using the handle @MyndiShafer

And my website/blog is www.myndishafer.wordpress.com Her blog is really funny you should check it out 🙂

What was the inspiration behind The Darkening?

When I first wrote this story, Shrilugh and The Darkening were all one book, told solely from Aydan’s POV. When I changed the POV, the story really exploded, and needed to be divided into more than one book. Which is why the first book of the Saga ended rather abruptly, and why, if you read these two back-to-back, they’ll feel a bit like one piece of work.
So, really, the inspiration for The Darkening came from the same place as my inspiration for Shrilugh: an old silo on the farm where I was raised. There’s a ladder that extends up past the top of it that looks kind-of like a door, and I’ve always, always wondered where that door would lead. When I began writing Shrilugh that was my goal – to find out what kind of world was beyond that door.

How long did it take to write the book? What was the most challenging thing?

Since I basically wrote Shrilugh and The Darkening (and the two books that follow) all in one fell swoop, it took…um…years. Nearly four.
The hardest part of writing them is the editing process. I’m still learning so much about what makes a book tick that when it comes time to edit, I literally struggle over every word. It’s gotten easier and easier to cut what needs cut, and sharpen the dull parts, but the thing about the editing process is that you have to look at everything with a critical eye…and when I do that, all my trusty doubts come flying to the surface, ready to pounce on any insecurities I may have. It’s a tough battle – getting to a place where I’m confident in my abilities, but willing to see what my flaws are without getting all worked up over it.

How did you decide to write fantasy?

It wasn’t ever a conscious decision. In fact, when I began writing, I didn’t know I was writing fantasy. I didn’t know there were genres like that. I mean, I liked reading (okay, loved reading), but I never paid attention to genres. I’d just read whatever I could get my hands on. I began writing with that same attitude, and the story just kind-of went where the story went.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a writer that sticks to a strict genre. I’ve got a couple new stories brewing in my head – one that’s a little dystopian (hmmm, is there such thing as a little dystopian?), and one that’s a sort-of rom-com with weird fantastical elements (the world around the protag shifts randomly into a pirate’s world). Mostly I think I’ll just write whatever sounds like fun at the time.

You have four kids. How do you find time to write?

Well, the time is there, I just have to plan for it. I keep a pretty tight rein on how I spend my time. If the baby is sleeping, I’m working. If I have a spare minute, I work. Any time that isn’t spoken for with family or cooking or cleaning, it’s pretty much given to writing. But it never feels like a chore – I love what I do, and it’s always been worth the sacrifice of my free time.

What’s coming next?

Couple different things. I’ll be working on the third book in the Shrilugh Saga. Right now its working title is FRUITION, and I’m expecting to see its release in a year or so. I’m also working on a new series whose working title is called SALT MINE. It’s about a girl who has chosen to be mute, a government that’s after her secret, a dog that’s been ‘progammed’ to protect her, and a guy hell-bent on keeping his promise to her dead brother.

The Darkening, Myndi Shafer
THE DARKENING (Book Two of the Shrilugh Saga)

As Aydan Fulbert settles into her new life in a new world, she realizes a few things. She’s healing from losing Brig. She’s coming to terms with her new home. And she’s lonely.

Rein Torvald’s return from his long absence helps alleviate her loneliness, but a darkness comes with him. Unsettling news about her father and the Sovereign has the potential to make her a fugitive all over again – from his world and hers.

Will Aydan allow her heart to be taken places she’s never been brave enough to go? Or will the threat of danger – of the Sovereign’s rage, and her father’s vengeful grudge, send her running?

You can find the Darkening at Amazon or Smashwords.


Juggling Explosives

Photo by mbtphoto. Doesn't he make juggling look easy?

Photo by mbtphoto. Doesn’t he make juggling look easy?

Last night I had a minor melt down. I managed to hold off until the kids were in bed then the ugly thoughts and tears began. Now my overly emotional state might have been caused by the email saying I hadn’t placed in a writing competition I’d entered, the fact that I had gone almost a week without thyroid medication, or that I worked straight through the weekend and got the see my husband for only a few minutes each day (I’m rather high maintenance).
No matter the reason, I was in a bad place.

And while I was sorting my clothes- the nice ones to give away and the sweat pants which would fit once I abandoned my diet and stopped exercise, because why does the crazy night clerk at Circle K need to look good. I mean surely Circle K would hire a failed writer, mother, wife, human being right???

I had a thought. Yes, it hurt a lot a little bit, hush! I imagined myself as a juggler trying to keep all these balls in the air, work stuff, paperwork, work kids, personal kids, hubby, house, cooking, writing, sleep, social media, blogging, reading, working out, showering, crap that come along and fucks up my day. And there are all these balls and they are different size (based on importance) and some things like my family and work have more than one ball because, hello, there is a lot of shit to take care of.

Cold, heavy dread suffocated me as my eyes filled with tears. I shuffled to my computer and began filling out on line application to Circle K. I was never going to be able to do all of this, never. Needing a moment to figure out what my assets to the Circle K International team might be I scrounged up a hidden Snickers bar and while numbing my sorrow with chocolate and caramel, I began to imagine my life without writing.

I could still write a little bit, and of course pop in a social media and blogging enough to maintain what I had already created but I couldn’t keep trying to pretend I could do it all, when I was obviously failing at EVERYTHING!!!
So after moping about and finishing my Snickers bar, I decided to go to bed. I stumbled over the pile of clothes and as I brushed my teeth, not looking in the mirror because I didn’t need to see the evidence of five years of dieting failure at that particular moment, I had another less painful thought.

What if I gave each of the three main areas in my life one hour?

What if I gave one hour during my six ours off per day to my family? I could clean (we have a small apartment so I could get a lot done) I could prep food for dinner, or put together something, or put something in the crock pot. Sure my family isn’t home, but I can still support them and the space they live in by doing 1 hour a day. AND, because I am a multi-tasking fiend, I can listen to audio books while I’m doing so.

Okay this was sounding reasonable, which is not something I normally hear from the voices in my head so I paid close attention.

If I also gave 1 hour of focused time to work, one hour where I did something focused with the kids (preferably) or paperwork (an occasional necessity) I would feel better about how I’m doing my job. And I already read to them at bedtime, so 30min are already getting done, if I’m having a bad day and need to count it in.

This plan also gives me 1 hour to dedicate to writing every day. One hour where I will focus on my writing and nothing else.

Now I can still check Facebook and Twitter while the kids watch Sponge Bob, and I can read blogs while I eat lunch. Multi-tasking can still happen. But maybe, just maybe I will feel like less of a failure at life if I focus some time every day on the three areas I feel like I am always sucking at.

What do you think? How do you juggle your life?

Jury Duty: A Goldmine of Awesome!


The old court house in Tucson, this was near the ugly modern building I went into.

The old court house in Tucson, this was near the ugly modern building I went into.

Most people groan when they get a summons to jury duty. I will no longer be one of those people. The last time I went to jury duty it was a fount of inspiration and study.

While in the room waiting to be called (which I never was, and I am taking that part personally) I people watched.
I learned that some people are a lot more attractive when they keep their mouth shut. I sat across from a tall handsome man, broad shoulders, nice suit, thick brown hair. I remember thinking how he would make a perfect romance hero then he opened his mouth and told his friend an offensive racist joke he just got in his email. I got up and moved. Eye candy should be silent.

People have a variety of odd tics and nervous habits; it was fun to watch, and I am sure they will turn up in future characters.

I saw the cutest man. He was sitting at the Thai place I went to lunch—one of those quick, greasy, yummy restaurants with lunch specials ready to go. He sat a few tables away from me. He was middle aged, plump, and wore tan slacks, white shirt, and blue tie. His legs were curled up under his butt and he leaned over onto his left arm which was propped up on the table holding a book. He ate one handed and he read. I wish I could have gotten a picture, or even seen the tittle of the book.

A lot of people read books to pass the time, but it was never easy to read the title. They would fold over the cover, set it down face down, or upside down. Why? At first I thought it was a coincidence, but then I noticed that almost everybody did it. Be nice and set your book down so the nosy people around you can see what you’re reading!

And the final thing that made jury duty fun: they showed Young Frankenstein—seriously—at the jury duty courthouse waiting room! I thought it was a good choice .

Photo by twm1340's

Photo by twm1340’s

Anyone else have fun at jury duty??

Critiquing Your Life


Should I really be left in charge of my life??

Should I really be left in charge of my life??

As an author you hear over and over You can’t critique your own work. And You can’t edit your own work. These are absolutely true, which is why I am thankful every day for my wondrous critique partners and editor.

The other day I was thinking (I know—scary) and I began to wonder if I am not a good judge of what is working and not working in my writing, can I be a good judge of what is working and not working in my life?

Should we ask people we trust to critique the way we live?

I can tell you everything I think is wrong with me and how I live, but would someone else feel the same way?
I know I judge myself much harsher than I judge my friends. But even still, I love my friends enough to want the best for them. If they were doing something which was making their life harder, hindering their happiness, or in conflict with their goals I would say so.

Maybe there needs to be a job of Professional Life Critique Expert. That person could look over your life, time, health, money, etc., and tell you where you need help, what you need to get rid of, what needs work, and of course what you are doing well.

Do you think you are a good judge of your own life?

I hate 8 p.m. at night


Photo by @bastique

Photo by @bastique

Creative brain still going, brain that controls motor function—no better than a drunken monkey.

I get great ideas, all of which I write down because they are priceless, but my ability to do anything else doesn’t exist.

My mind is done. The kids are in bed and I have answered all the questions, solved all the problems, and made all the coherent thoughts that I’m going to for the day.

So why is my creative mind still working? Is it because I can finally hear it now that the constant drone of children is gone? Is the melted mass of brain revealing a creative part opening it up to light and fresh air so it can grow?

Whatever it is I don’t like it. I don’t like knowing exactly how to re-work a scene that has been plaguing me and spending the next thirty minutes trying to write the word “the”.

Of course if I write consistently at the same time every day my functioning mind and my creative mind sync up and all is well in the Universe of which I am the center. But like all things that are good for me I don’t do them as frequently as I should.
Does this happen to you? How do you solve the creative/functional brain issues?

Curbing My Voyeuristic Tendencies


Book cover PC1 005
My name is Alica and I am a back story whore, there I said it! Wow it feels good to finally confess that. I love back story, all of my characters have rich full back stories and my critique partners carry dull, rusty, blood soaked knives with them when we get together in order to get rid of it.

I have gotten better as we have grown into a strong trusted group, but sometimes I still dig my heels into and refuse to give up my little darlings. Which according to Kristen Lamb I need to recognize and kill.

So why am I confessing this to all you fine upstanding people? Because I have taken Phoenix Child down to do some major editing and revising. When I got the proof copy for the paper version of Phoenix Child I found some mistakes I wanted to fix, I swear I find new mistakes ever time I look at my work in a different format.

Anyway, it suddenly dawned on me that in my first book was Star Wars Episode One, not the same plot or anything but so much back story and bringing in characters that don’t move the whole story forward, that I really needed to do something.

My critique partners had told me before I published that I had two books and should separate the group home story from the magical phoenix story. I pouted, cried, and choose not to. Well now I am doing it. I will write the group home story eventually, but for now I’m going to focus on the magical phoenix story as I have book 2 Legacy of the Feathered Serpent already written and book 3 outlined.

I am choosing to separate the two stories because while writing book 3 I realized that the strong group home relationships really didn’t have a place in what was currently happening. Not everyone is voyeuristic enough to want to read about characters checking their facebook pages for updates on previous characters.

I am speaking at a writing convention in March so I am hoping to have the book revised and all the blood mopped up by then. I will make sure Kindle readers get notified of the update, which you can download for free. If you bought it on Smashwords keep an eye on my blog I’ll announce the re-release and offer a coupon code for a free copy 🙂

I hope for those of you who enjoyed Phoenix Child in all it’s back story glory will also enjoy the newer faster paced version. And for those who found my book’s pace too slow or there was too much going on perhaps you’ll give it another try.

Either way thanks to all of you for your support. I have learned so much and while of course I wish I could write and instantly publish a perfect book, I am not ashamed to say I am learning more all the time and doing my best to constantly improve myself and my work.

My new motto for my critique group: I may pout but I may not doubt.

Just me Begging


Photo by Enokson

I have gotten such generous support for this on Facebook I thought I would post my begging here 🙂

As some of you know from following my blog I am houseparent at a group home for abused and neglected kids who have been removed from their homes by CPS. And the teens who live here have read ALL my YA books! One of them reads like I do and can read a book in a day, I can’t keep up on my own. Please help me refill my book shelves! I am hoping for books for middle grade and young adult and for both boys and girls.

So if you’re cleaning out your bookshelves, or if you want to pass on your own books I would love to have a shelf of indie books for my kids to read, please let me know. I’ll give you an address you can send them too. And don’t worry about giving me duplicates, if I have more than one they won’t fight over who gets to read it first!

Feel free to pass this on and thanks for your support!

Armed and Dangerous


Photo by halseike

First I owe everyone apologies- I have been in a funk, and hiding under my covers reading – well we won’t discuss what exactly 🙂 Because of that I wasn’t answering comments the way I should and I don’t have an edited post for you today. But I have things to say- so welcome to the crazy world of my thoughts without Kilian to save me from myself!

When life gets overwhelming I pull out my Cozi to-do list and try and breathe and work through things one manageable task at a time. When this doesn’t work, I hide. I grab my computer and crawl under the covers and read. I do get work stuff done- things that other people will hold me accountable for, but things on my list- yeah not happening.

In-case you were wondering items on my to-do list don’t disappear while I hide. I am hopeful every time I do this, but nope they don’t move. However they do seem to organize, multiple and arm themselves. As of writing this I have yet to open my Cozi to-do list, as I will need to put on protective eyes gear and grab a shield first.

Photographed by RachelH_

I have learned not to fight these down times, even though the getting back up might involve blood shed. When I fight, my self talk because really horrible and I hide from the world a lot longer than normal.

This time I had a work activity to bounce me back. I drove my five work kids (including a 2 year old) 6 hours North to ride the “Polar Express”- yep just like the book/movie. It was super fun! The kids were great, and I survived drive in rain and hail- I HATE driving in rain. It scares the crap out of me. When I’m home if it looks like it’s going to rain hard I don’t go out- not even for chocolate!

Once we got home- which was much later than I was planning due to the van doors being frozen shut, and having to stop because the kids wanted to use the bathroom and eat- so rude! I had a pout attack. I wanted to go to this Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Horror writers conference, which I had won tickets too, but two of the panels I wanted to see were already over, and I wouldn’t get there until noon.

So I sat and pouted and checked my email trying to decide what to do. I was tired and bitchy, and hiding and reading was looking good. But then shocking came a piph (not a full epiphany just a piph) of anti-zen- I was waiting to WANT to go, I was waiting to FEEL like going, and that wasn’t wasn’t going to happen. I could stay home and read or I could go, but I would start either of them in a bad mood. So I sprayed on some perfume – you’re welcome- and I went.

I had a great time. Not sure I learned a lot, but I got to have fun, I have a few new plot/ character ideas germinating in my brain, and I got to talk to adults and writers.

Photo by elfidomx

One thing I would like to say to my fellow geeks, you CAN have social skills. Really it’s okay, you can keep your ultimate geek of the universe card and not ‘talk’ to the panel as if you are sitting down having a one on one conversation with them. Really, social skills are our friends- even Sherlock can fake them 🙂

Anyway- wild rambles, not sure if there was a point, but I had a good time, learned stuff about myself (like I’m an idiot trying to plan a tight schedule with a 2 yr-old) and got myself out of my funk 🙂

How was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting?

Ninja Roaches!


Photo by BrokenSphere

Last year a woman moved in upstairs and brought cockroaches with her. Not the big sewer roaches, but the small, evil, little brown ones that can live between the pages of a book. I have kept everything clean, bombed, sprayed, and found out Pine-Sol works the best, FYI.

At first I just screamed, ran to find a shoe, and hoped the roach would stay put. But now that I am a master roach assassin, I’ve even smacked a few with my bare hands!

However, every time I go for one I worry that this one will be a ninja roach. I imagine the massacre would look like this:

As I reach out, tissue in my hand to squish the roach clinging to the wall with its dirty feet, the roach blocks the tissue, grabs my finger, and flips me onto my back.

As the breath is forced out of my body, the roach gives a battle cry before biting off my finger.

I scream as thousands of roaches cover my body, their tiny feet crawling over me like tiny needles. They began to feast on my flesh. They devour my body within minutes. The bones take longer, but by morning there is nothing left of me.

Rod looks everywhere, wondering where I have gone. Then he spots the crumpled tissue on the floor. A delicate spray of my blood is the only sign something bad has happened.

Realizing the roaches have killed me, he quickly packs up the children and drives away, fearing that the roaches might attack them next.

And this is what flashes before my eyes everything I go and squish a roach, which is why I should be honored for bravery for each and every kill.

Are you a good bug killer?

Superwoman Crazy


I frequently have posted deep, personal, reflective things about myself and my life. This usually happens during the darker, depressed part of my Eccentric Artistic Process. So today, while I’m all Superwoman Type A, I thought I would share with you what a typical day looks like. I can’t have you thinking I sit around in the dark, bemoaning the bleakness of my soul all the time 🙂

I wake up because I have to pee. The sky is light enough, so I know my alarm will go off soon. I don’t want to get out of bed. I roll over, ignore my bladder, and close my eyes.

5:45 My alarm goes off. I think, as every other morning, that I really should change the radio station to something I actually like. I get ready for the day, pee, put in contacts, brush teeth, throw on work-out clothes, and braid my hair.

6:15 Put soap in the washing machine, set temp, wake children, have kid whose day it is to do laundry strip the bed and put sheets and blankets in the wash. Wrestle two-year-old into a clean diaper and clothes. Must put on his shoes. He always has to have his shoes on it’s a bit obsessive.

6:30 Set up breakfast. We have it brought in, so we just set up the trays and get it ready for staff to serve. Listen to two-year-old child screech at me while I put out food. He wakes very hungry. I guess sleeping is hard work.

6:40 Serve breakfast, set timer for kid who needs to leave by 7 a.m. to catch bus, turn on washing machine, or yell at remind child to put the sheets in the washer!

6:43 Do 30 minutes of yoga with kids who want to join me. Desperately try to find inner peace with giggling, goofing off, and (you guessed it) two-year-old screeching.

7:20 Feed rest of children while I eat fresh fruit, which my husband makes me every morning (otherwise I would eat something covered in cheese), fill out paperwork for the work kids (I have to report behavior, contact with family, etc.) Must not add opinions, voice, or style.

7:45 Brush two-year-old’s teeth. I sing the ABC Song twice to make sure we brush them long enough. I tidy the house, make sure everyone is ready for school, switch laundry to dryer, sort, spray, and wash kids clothes. Wow, I sound really functional!

8:00 Make sure kids are with the staff. Three walk to elementary school, and one walks to day care. I take the kids who leave later to my house.

8:05 Sit and write while ignoring endless chatter from eleven-year-old.

8:20 Stop writing and send the middle school kids out to be driven to school.

8:30 Check word count, close up house, get stuff for gym.

8:40 Check in at office, gossip, find out what stupid things The Powers That Be are doing now, and escape the black hole that is the office to meet up with my gym buddy. If you don’t have a gym buddy you should get one. Without mine I would never go to the gym!

9:10 Work out. Today was 30 minutes of cross training on elliptical. I went 2.4miles and burned 347 calories while talking with Amber and checking out the others at the gym. Look! The Guy Who Should Smell His Age is here again.

10:15 Home, make protein shake, take shower before drinking it. The frozen fruit makes it too cold to drink right after working out. Check emails, because I’m addicted and can’t stay away from the internet for long without withdrawal symptoms.

11:00 Drink shake, check email again, do a quick check of Facebook and Twitter. Spend FAR, FAR too long goofing off. Shut down internet and finish meeting word count goal of 1000 words per day.

12:00 Make lunch, eat while checking Facebook, Twitter. Yes again. Stop judging me! Read some blogs.

12:30 Do dishes, start another load of laundry, and begin prepping veggies and such for dinner. Ha ha ha! Fooled you! I’m still on the internet!

12:45 Feeling guilty, so I do some prep for dinner.

1:15 Nap. I love naps.

2:10 Freshen up for work. Check email.

2:30 Work. Check work email and calendar and go to office.

2:40 Bring kids back to the house and feed them snack while asking about their day and seeing what they have for homework, and do the next load of the kids laundry.

3:00 Send kids to the learning center, a blessed place where there are tutors to help them with their homework. Read to and play with two-year-old, fold laundry, do book blurb class homework, and read email and blogs.

4:20 Kids come back. Check their homework, make sure they did their reading, then let them play outside on the playground. I will either read, knit, or push the two-year-old on the swing. Talk to my two personal children when they come home from school.

5:10 Add four more kids to the playground while another staff preps dinner.

5:30 Dinner

6:00 Do last of kid’s laundry, bathe two-year-old, send others into showers, have them tidy rooms and do a chore.
6:45 Bedtime snack for those who are hungry. Two-year-old is always hungry 🙂

6:55 Teeth brushing, and I make sure kitchen is tidy.

7:00 Everyone in bed and tucked in, lights out. I read to kids.

7:30 I sit down and eat dinner hubby made me (I’m vegetarian and allergic to gluten, so I can’t eat what is brought in) and watch So You Think You Can Dance. I’ve missed the first half hour, so during commercials, I check YouTube to see if people have uploaded the routines I’ve missed, then check emails, Facebook, and chat with hubby. Maybe too much multi-tasking? Set my computer aside to knit while watching TV. Hey, I can’t be idle. Cry when they send two dancers home.

9:00 Check on kids, lock doors, turn on alarm, get ready for bed, do belly dance isolations and shimmies while brushing teeth.

Boy child comes downstairs. Why do teenagers want to talk only between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.??

Midnight: Finally get to bed. Dear Lord, I’m going to be tired tomorrow!

And that is what a Superwoman day looks like in my Cycle of Eccentric Artistic Process. A depressed day? Take all the productive stuff not involving the kids and replace that with reading smut and sleeping, LOL.

If only I could harness this! I must admit I can keep my days looking more like this when I eat right, sleep well, and exercise! Of course knowing this doesn’t always stop me from sleeping all day and eating yummy fried things covered in chocolate.

Do you have cycles in your life? Have you ever written down what you do on a “good” day or do you only judge yourself by your “bad” days?