Menus, Venues, and Story Updates

Hi, there. This is a non-fancy post about the latest additions to this website and to a few of my stories.

Growth on SiM

Did you notice the faeries? The wide cavern in my previous header image needed an uplift. I got carried away and compiled an entirely new scene.

The top right menu below that contains several new pages. External Links is one of my favorites but badly named (for now). That page is a cheat sheet for writing reference sites.

I’ve been wanting to track information on Twitter better so created my own account under @writeramlynn. So far, the most active part of my new social media account is the lists of fiction-related accounts.

Baby sparrow in a hand
No guarantees that @writeramlynn will grow into anything beautiful.

Story Developments

Long fiction

Do7 is at 5,000 words of the estimated 40,000 I’m trying to complete by the end of February. Also, all seven of the dwarves now have names that are much better than [D1], [D7], etc.

I’ve given in the temptation to write a cold war between the merpeople and humans into the outline for OotS. My little sea-prince is more subversive than submissive. Although he will retain his naturally sweet nature in his silent battles.

Ocean sunset
“The sun rose above the waves, and his warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid”. (Andersen)

Short fiction

I completed one flash of science fiction and a longer short that’s maybe literary? (Genres outside of speculative fiction confuse me.) They will travel more of the world as soon as I can figure out who to test these stories against.

Aaaand, this last update I wasn’t sure how to announce. I’ve made my first sale to a professional magazine if you can believe that. One of my sci-fi pieces was accepted by Strange Horizons! The editor tweeted about the acceptance.



Shadow’s Second Year in Review

Yellow Fireworks - Click for source

This blog is two years old!

For last year’s anniversary, I posted blog statistics and blogging goals for 2010. How did the second year compare to the second? Let’s find out.

Posts: 45
(13 fewer than in 2009)

Comments: 230
(95 more than in 2009 — Thank you, readers!)

Total Views: 3,730
(about 870 more than 2009)
Most Views in a Month: 354 in March
(96 more than September 2009)
Most Views in a Day: 40 on August 22
(6 more than on September 8, 2009)

Most Viewed Posts from 2010:
The First Letter of Character Names

Are Non-Genre Authors Slow? (Parts I and II)
The Hero vs. the Main Character

Terms Bringing in the Most Traffic:
bliaut / surcoat and similar terms took about 90 visitors to Glimpse
writing on mirror / mirror writing / writing in condensation
(for How to Fight Writer’s Block With a Mirror)
variations of “forever by judy blume”
(for The Elusive Definition of a Young Adult Novel)

Like last year, the tags on images brought in most of the traffic from external searches. I still wonder if this is problematic for visitors.

Visitors wanting to know a way or reason for writing on a mirror might find useful information in my post. Unfortunately, visitors won’t find on Shadows any sewing instructions, history, or descriptions of medieval garments (such as a bliaut and surcoat) nor  a review of Judy Blume’s novel Forever…yet.

Goals: “My goals for 2010 include convincing more people to subscribe–
Fast and easy! Click on the button now!–
posting more consistently, and presenting readers with something useful in every post.”

Did I meet these goals? Yes, no, and not as much as desired.

I won’t set goals for 2011, because there’s too much uncertainty. Blogging is low on a long list of priorities list. Instead of guessing at what I can accomplish for the year, I’ll concentrate on private, monthly goals.

Do you have any suggestions for me or advice for bloggers/writers in general? Now is a great time to speak up.

Monday’s Topic: Review of yWriter Software

Literary Doodles

On a recent Out of My Mind post, Linda Cassidy Lewis shares responses to three photographic prompts for fiction. I enjoy prompts, not because they spur me to writing a new story (they rarely do) but for the quick release of creativity. Prompt responses are literary doodles.

Below are my doodles inspired by the same photos on Linda’s post. The challenge was to create three story ideas for each of the three photos. Stopping at three was difficult but a good idea to save time.

After I typed my nine responses, I added notes (in color) on how to convert simple concepts to story ideas. That step is what transforms fun into writing practice for me.

First Prompt

Creative Commons via Cobalt123

1. Energy creature in formation. Where’s the conflict? A scientist studies the creature while a former friend and coworker protests the creature’s confinement to a human lab.

2. Dancing angel. (Do you see the halo, head, arms, and gown?) Again, where’s the conflict? A young girl who sees tiny angels (protective spirits or God’s Whisperers) learns that insisting what she sees is real may lead to isolation.

3. Touch the bubble, flip inside out, and transport to another world. Bubbles are harder to find in that world, but you’ll find one eventually.

Second Prompt

Creative Commons via bslmmrs

1. Hey, twins. Do you think that house behind you will talk to me today?

2. She dreaded the path home and wanted only to sit on their bench until [the neighbor she adored] would come out and tell her that no other girl could take her place in his life. Young-adult romance.

3. Honeysuckle sweetened the air but couldn’t compare to the everyday seasonings of salty sand, barren wood, and exposed sea kelp. He breathed deeply to fill every pore with the essence of home. Story conflict? The main character is an old man expected to move away from his long-time beach home to live with his granddaughter.

Third Prompt

Creative Commons via moriza

These could be passages from workplace fiction.

1. “She had hair out to here. Wouldn’t you assume a lawyer would know how to groom herself before a hearing? Or did she just feel like reverting back to the 80’s? I felt like I was represented by Bobette the Clown.”

2. Her face couldn’t show more displeasure without breaking off to drag itself on the floor, yet he couldn’t help but push the issue. “I don’t know, maybe you couldn’t think through the sparkles. Maybe the blood you’ve been sucking from every one of our teammates turned bad and clotted in the decision-making parts of your brain. But if you don’t start acting like a mature member of group, I’ll make sure you’ll be living at a work center to find a new job that pays more than minimum wage.”

3. She wouldn’t lose this time. Even her mirror at home wanted to chuckle at the grumpy face she’d practiced to perfection. On this day, Earl would crack first.

Which photo or response interests you the most?

New Links: Hatrackers

Several members of the online Hatrack River Writers Workshop are blogging for the first time. To show my support, I’ve added these brave writers to a new link category, Hatrackers’ Blogs, on the right-hand column.

  • Heidi Lacey
  • Justin A. Williams
  • Meredith Mansfield
  • Ryan Edward
  • Steve Husk is a more experienced blogger but a new addition to the Shadows link bar. Learn more about him at his website, Bloggathah.

    Please tell them Hello when you have a moment.

    The First Letter of Character Names

    Sidenote: I keep rewriting the post on the advantages of critiquing. One day I’ll publish it…

    Letter M from the Fantastic Alphabet - Click for source

    In Christi Craig’s most recent blog post, My Favorite Letters of the Alphabet, she and several commenters admitted to using J and M for the first letter of many character names.

    Why are these letters so popular? My guess is that every writer is drawn to a limited range of names. I have a habit with my novels of starting a character’s name a letter that identifies its type. For example:

    • dark hero’s name with a D
    • main character’s inspirational friend’s with a J
    • warrior woman’s with an S
    • scary authority figure’s with a T

    I realized months ago that I lean towards D but didn’t realize until tonight that other letters indicate a character type.

    At least this letter-by-type method is more developed than starting most of the important characters in the same story with the same letter.

    “But wait,” someone might say. “People prefer M and J, so shouldn’t I use those for my important characters?”

    No. Readers need variation to help them tell characters apart, and they’ll appreciate if it’s in more than the physical description and dialogue.

    Consider this scenario. If a book introduced you to Dina, Donny, Darcie, and David in the first few chapters, then how likely are you to remember the difference between Dina and Darcie, or between Donny and David, without a heavy use of character tags (recurring actions, dialogue or description specific to each character)?

    Tina, Donny, Alice, and Mike don’t blend together as much but conjure similar images as the first list.

    Orson Scott Card mentioned this issue in one of his online Writing Class posts, More on Naming Characters. This form of reader confusion appears to be common and long-standing concern.

    I’ve seen writers insist that introducing characters in different chapters and different locations should prevent reader confusion, and while some readers may catch on to the difference, I prefer not to take unnecessary risks in keeping readers in the story. As a reader myself, I also dislike struggling to remember which character is which. Give each prominent character unique qualities, including a name distinct from the other character names.


    There’s a benefit to starting each character’s name with a different letter. If you make notes about your plots and characters like I do, then you like shortcuts. I prefer to write “D woke to find S waiting by his bed. S tells him T is planning on killing them” and so on instead of writing full names over and over and over again in an outline. This is especially helpful in the notes that are handwritten first.

    This shortcut won’t work for multiple characters whose names start with D or S.

    Have you been confused by names that started with the same letter? Do you know of any other reason to vary the first letter of important characters?

    Poll: What Posts Would You Read?

    One of the challenges of blogging is deciding what to post. I don’t know about the average blogger, but I come up with more ideas than I take the time to consider.

    An idea might go on paper in an electronic document somewhere and might even evolve into a new post. Even then, I’ll usually turn to my fiction or another daily task instead of publishing any posts.

    That’s because I’m really not sure what’s worthwhile for you, my reader.

    I could list fifty ideas in one sitting, and afterwards, consider the merits of each, compare them to each other, then pick enough to cover a couple weeks of consistent and possibly useful posts. I know I’m smart, given time to think.

    Meanwhile, about three dozen posts lounge around, taking up space, in my drafts folder. A few of these might stroll out of the drafts folder one day. The rest are simply lousy or too much like reference notes.

    I’d like to open the door for the drafts with potential and also learn more about your interests. Will you help?

    Listed below are existing draft posts. Would you like to read any of these?

    If you have a few minutes to spare, here’s a more general question. What do you like to see on blogs?

    Touching Base

    Oops! Had I forgotten to say I was taking a vacation from blogging? My vacation is over, I guess.

    You may expect posts this week. I owe Linda Cassidy Lewis a post comparing genre and non-genre profitibality. I also might share some thoughts on the connections between reading and writing habits and between magic and art. No more promises, though.

    On the fiction writing front, I’ve been fighting with my novel’s plot. After several painful days in which I’d sit down to write and couldn’t, I finally figured out the problem is my perception of the story plan.

    I’m working through that problem while the story draft waits to grow.

    Current DeCo Draft

    29,000 of 75,000 words (39%)