Almost New Year’s Resolutions

A person's hand writing the word 'goals'Every year I go out of my way to try and figure out what I have on, what’s coming up, and what I want to do with it all. Last year I also chose a word to go with it all: Achieve. Next year, the word is: Focus.

Usually what all this means is coming up with a ‘to do’ list which I rarely revisit and check off. In 2018 I’m taking a simpler approach.

I want to achieve three (writing) things in 2018:

  1. Publish a novel (Divine Prey – formerly Prophecy of Power) by the end of February, but I’ll accept the end of March if life gets in the way. The goal though is February.
  2. Edit another novel so it’s ready for publication (I have four first drafts to choose from). Ideally, I’d like to publish this novel late next year, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself on that. I’m trying to keep it simple.
  3. Outline and write a brand new novel (the outlining has already began).

It’s a bit of work and I’ve got a few other things on, but three specific, simple goals should be something I can achieve – and it avoids the long list of tick off items I usually ignore. When it comes down to it, I’d rather kick one or two of those goals than tick off ‘to do list’ items that rarely amount to anything concrete.

So, stating it simply. I intend to:

  • Publish a book.
  • Edit a book.
  • Write a book.

That’s it. What are your goals for 2018?

No problem? Big problem!

No problem? Big problem!When your story lacks a problem

If you’re an avid reader you’ve probably found yourself halfway through a book or even approaching the end without any idea where the story’s going.

The cause could be that the story doesn’t have a main problem (or a strong enough problem).

Imagine how Star Wars would have played out if we weren’t shown early on that R2D2 contained the plans to the Death Star. Luke would have blundered from event to event before finally stumbling upon the Rebel base. “Oh! So that’s why the Empire was chasing me…”

In Star Wars, the problem was the Empire’s control and use of the Death Star. The stolen plans were the solution – revealed during the opening battle. The basic structure surrounding the problem in Star Wars was:

  • plans revealed
  • empire hunts for plans
  • plans lead to death star’s destruction.

This simple story problem provides clarity and focus for the entire movie.

Take a look at almost anything that’s been successful; books movies, whatever – there’s usually a very simple or obvious story problem driving the overarching story. For example:

  • Die hard: a group of thieves (terrorists) take over the Nakatomi Plaza building – big problem for the people caught in the building.
  • The Matrix: the machines use the matrix to enslave humanity – big problem for humanity.
  • Any romance: the inability of the main characters to get together.
  • Any murder mystery: the likelihood a murderer will get away with the crime (and/or do it again).

All these story problems are revealed or hinted at early on. That doesn’t mean you need to reveal your secrets early on, just the problem (or a part of it).

So if one main problem is good, two must be better, right? Not necessarily.

Hand - Hang LooseTwo main problems

Give a story two equally important problems and you may end up with something like the movie ‘Hancock’. Hancock’s two main problems are solved in turn:

  • The first main problem is Hancock’s attitude – he’s an alcoholic superhero and his own worst enemy. To solve the problem he needs to change his attitude. He tackles the issue with the help of a new friend. That problem gets solved half way through the movie, at which point the movie requires a brand new problem.
  • The second main problem reveals another character with superpowers like Hancock’s. The redemption story then turns into an origin story; he needs to solve the mystery of his origins. It’s a very different story and a very different problem.

This means Hancock is a story that doesn’t know what it’s trying to be or do. It has an identity crisis.

Structurally, Hancock works like it’s the first two episodes in a television series shown back-to-back. While there’s a through-line focused around an antagonist that appears in both halves of the movie, the antagonist’s purpose isn’t an overarching problem.

Therefore, unless viewers love both stories and they’re willing to ignore their expectations about how a story normally works, they’re going to be disappointed.

Multiple problems

Your story can have any number of problems needing solutions, but each problem needs to contribute to the overarching storyline and its associated main problem. Story problems can’t be tackled in isolation; that’s what episodic drama is all about (TV shows, standalone books in a series, web series, etc., and even then there’s usually an overarching problem uniting all the parts).

In the case of Hancock the overarching problem probably should have been ‘figure out your origins or lose your superpowers’. If that meant he’d be forced to change his attitude in order to figure out his origins, then perfect. They would build on each other.

Similarly, our dryad story has several potential problems the protagonist needs to solve:

  • Who is Rose? Is it a story about identity?
  • Who’s after her and how does she stop them?
  • Can Rose save her daughter (does she need to save her daughter to gain enough confidence to achieve something even greater)?
  • Is the main problem the need to save (or free) the dryads from extinction or slavery?
  • Does Rose need to save the world?

Let’s go with all of the above points contributing to the major problem: ‘save the world’.

Although Rose will need to solve all sub-problems before she can save the world, each problem must contribute something to her journey – confidence, knowledge, etc. Exactly how that plays out is debatable, but let’s run with it.

Cartoon of a person frustrated with their computerHow do you figure out your own story’s problem ?

To find your story problem, think ‘end-game’ rather than ‘start of story’.

Your protagonist probably won’t even know there’s a problem at the beginning of the story, but your readers will need some hints.

So… as soon as possible, find a way to tip your readers off that there’s a problem worth their attention (have a princess put some plans in a droid/send agents to kill Trinity – or maybe just blow something up, that always works). And then build on it.

Do you know what your story problem is? Let me know in the comments.

Taking feedback is never fun

Drawing of a storm trooper with a gunA long time ago in a galaxy called the Milky Way, a young teenager decided to write a book.

What he really wanted to be was Luke Skywalker, but that didn’t seem any more likely than being Superman or Peter Pan, the runners-up. He probably wasn’t even cut out to be a stormtrooper.

But when it came to writing, he loved reading.

As cause-and-effects go, that meant he didn’t have a clue what he was doing when it came to crafting stories, and so it didn’t progress particularly well.

Furthermore, it wasn’t long before dating, partying, marriage and kids became more important than being a hero with mystical powers.

Yet the dream remained and he eventually got his act together, learned a lot about writing, finished the novel, and got it agented and picked up by a publisher.

Despite apparent success, this only resulted in more delays when the publisher collapsed.

And so self-publishing whispered, calling him to the Dark Side. He crossed over, printed a few copies and gave them to proofreaders (who weren’t writers).

The plan was a simple ‘once over’ before publication. The book had been through enough critiques and edits.

And after all, it had been good enough to get an agent and publisher, right?

And that’s when ‘first novel syndrome’ reared it’s ugly red pen once more. 


A cartoon of a scared face with hands.Prophecy of Power: Prey was the first book I wrote, and as a consequence it had a lot of problems. I probably should have abandoned it years ago, but I was too emotionally invested in it to give up.

I now consider it my ‘teaching myself to write’ book, and so it was always going to be problematic.

Through trial and error, learning and feedback, I fixed most of the problems, but despite numerous edits and rewrites, the protagonist still wasn’t working properly – and that’s my fault.

Agents, editors and other writers aren’t necessarily the best judge of this – sometimes it takes a reader to tell you they hope your protagonist dies a sticky death, alone and unloved.

As writers, we have blind spots we don’t want to face. My protagonist was mine. I’d resisted earlier feedback on her, making only minor tweaks when I should have gone back and done a total rethink.

I’m thinking of Grasshopper parables at the moment…

As a writer, readers can’t be allowed to hate a protagonist (or any character) so much they don’t want to finish the story: they won’t tell their friends to buy it, they won’t leave positive reviews, and they won’t buy the sequels.

That equals failure if you want to sell copies.

And so I’ll do another pass and hopefully make the protagonist more likeable right from the start. It’ll be the ‘final’ final pass.



Who said this writing gig was all fun and muses…?

Story planning and creation: Names

Story planning and creation: NamesI find searching for the right name for a character, place or anything else I’ve created in a story about as much fun as seasickness.

Running through options to find the right name for an important character can suck up a lot of time, but the right name can add a whole new dimension to a story.

I used to choose names based on the ‘get it chosen ASAP and get on with the story’ approach, usually choosing anything serviceable at the time.

That usually meant taking the first name I liked.

If something better struck me after the choice was made all well and good, but I’d often accept anything that got me past the hurdle, whereas a little thought could have delivered something infinitely better.

Recently I took an unanticipated lesson from Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy, Angle, Firefly and more, when I realised a lot of the names he gave his characters have a deeper meaning, usually in tune with their part in the story.

Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for instance:

  • Buffy. The protagonist’s name is pure irony. What kickass vampire slayer would be seen in public with a name like Buffy? It perfectly reflects the show’s tone.
  • Angel. The perfect guy who turns into the perfect bad guy during his first moment of pure happiness. Another healthy dose of irony.
  • Dawn. Buffy’s new sister. A new Dawn (because Dawn didn’t actually exist prior to her appearance in season 5). Theme-wise, wow.
  • Faith. The vampire slayer who has no faith. (Whedon really loves his irony, doesn’t he?)

Following on from that logic, I’ve found it helps to choose names that fit the story and add another level of value.

Based on what we know about the protagonist from the previous posts, we need a name that suits her situation, and for that we need to revisit (and perhaps add a little more information about) her origins:

  • She wakes up alone and dirty in the woods and is forced to dig her way out of a shallow grave.
  • She has no memory of what happened to her.
  • Memories of her life beforehand are vague.
  • All she really remembers is her name, though other memories slowly return.

And here comes the ‘secret’ I’ve been holding onto so far – a dryad changed her; brought her into the team, so to speak. I’m not entirely sure what the dryad’s motivations are yet, but that’s another question.

What I do know is that it was the dryad who gave her her new name. So what would a dryad call a woman who’s just been turned into another dryad?

A line drawing of a rose on a stem with petalsAfter a bit of consideration, I’ve decided to go with Rose Thorn. Why? Because:

  • First name: Rose. It works for her newfound youth and her growing and sensuous ability to lure people to her.
  • Second name: Thorn. It hints at the hidden danger she represents despite her beauty; her unrevealed dangerous side.
  • It’s fun and unusual, but not unpronounceable or totally off the chart. Rose and Thorn are also real names, though you’d probably feel sorry for someone with both. Considering her recent origins, it fits well.
  • It sounds dryadish… I hope.

As mentioned, there’s a little bit of fun to be had in her name as well. Can you imagine being asked by some cop or medic what your name is?

Repeat your best Bond voice: “Thorn. Rose Thorn.”

They’d think it was a joke. And then there’s the fact she was born with another name she doesn’t feel is hers anymore, yet the people she loves and who love her still hold onto it (a name to figure out later.)

Another major character is her daughter. Hope would be a good name for her. Hope wants her mother back the way she was before the she disappeared. Hope may be a little too obvious or ‘on the nose’, but we’ll run with it for now.

And then there’s the antagonist, someone who seeks the fountain of youth.

A little research shows that Methuselah lived to be almost a thousand years old and he’s mentioned in several religions. That means there’s some pre-existing mythology surrounding him that we can lean on.

Perhaps that’s all we need at this point – the myth of a man who lived for nearly a thousand years, a man who had at least one child, Lamech. Lamech lived to be almost eight hundred years old himself, and was said to be Noah’s father (as in Noah’s Arc). A noble line, indeed.

Yet where does our antagonist fit into all this? Is he Methuselah? Lamech? Noah? Someone else entirely, but descended from the same family?

I don’t want to get too far into the myth/legend/religious history, so let’s go with the same family, but merely related.

He’s a bad apple in an otherwise distinguished group, someone who once had access to the fountain of youth but lost it, and now must take it by force to get what he wants.

Considering he’s the antagonist, let’s make him someone with no regard for anyone but himself. He’s a man who would do anything to get revenge on the people who made him an outcast, including destroying the very thing that gives them (and himself) their long lives.

That seems like pretty good motivation to me.

A sketch of a man leaning against a wall.For a name, something ironic would work here – the complete opposite of what he is.

How about Christian Godson? Outcast. Murderer. Would-be king. It also ties to the mythology surrounding his ancestry.

I like it.

And there we have it, the three most important characters in this story: Rose, Christian and Hope, with the added bonus of some strong character motivation backed up with a little ‘real life’ history.

Do you think they work for this story? How do you choose or create the names in your own stories?

Dropped balls

Chris Andrews - head and shouldersIt looks like I’ve dropped the ball this year as far as writing goes (not to mention maintaining this blog).

Up until late last year I was working part-time which allowed me plenty of time to write, run my editing business, interact on social media, and blog. Since then I’ve been working full time, training for (and in October walking) the Kokoda Track (one of the toughest and most dangerous walks in the world), and now I’m moving house (which should be sorted by Christmas – hopefully) while trying to sell the old one. I also participated in a novel critiquing group (critting a novel a month) and began editing Transcendence of Power: Genesis with my publisher (Satalyte Publishing).

All in all a busy year, and next year may not be any less busy. January’s a write-off due to the Christmas holidays, I have to start training to walk the Camino (a month-long walk across Spain I’m doing in early 2018), and my novel is due to come out in the second half of 2017 which will require a lot of work in the lead-up (and follow-up). Of course I’ll still be working full time – certainly until the end of June when my current contract expires (and most likely after that as well), and perhaps even maintaining the editing business. Not sure about the last one. It’s a lot of work for very little financial reward considering the hours I put in – but if I charged even the equivalent of what I earn while working in a job the business wouldn’t get any customers.

So what does all that mean?

It means my writing is going nowhere lately. I’ve got four novels written that need editing/rewriting and three sequels that need to be written for the one Satalyte is publishing. I’d do more work of an evening, but it gives me serious eyestrain. Until I got glasses recently I was struggling to work for more than an hour or two a day before wanting to crash and sleep. At least they keep me going for the whole work day now, but more than that and I’m in trouble.

Yet the dream is still alive. One book is coming out next year, four are ready to be edited and written, and I’ve got more stories I want to write and things I want to do (like create short courses I can make available online).

So that’s me this year – very busy, but I don’t feel as if I achieved much. Next year however, I should have a published book in my hand. That’s what it’s al about, after all. I hope your dreams area just as successful, if not more so.


Update on the writing side of life

Chris Andrews - head and shouldersI can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted. Slack. Very slack.

In my defence I’m working full-time, editing and assessing manuscripts many evenings, and trying to fit a life in around that, including training to do the Kokoda Track next month. I haven’t written or edited my own work in months, and so you can imagine how high my priorities are for writing blog posts.

Still, here I am, plugging away at a writing career by what seems to be inches at a time.

On the good news front I’ve received a general publication date from Satalyte Publishing for my epic fantasy, Transcendence of Power: Genesis, which is set to appear on shelves some time during the second half of 2017.


It seems almost surreal.

We’ve started the editing process, and I’ve even seen concept art for the cover which I might share later if Satalyte’s okay with it.

My next update however may involve photos from the Kokoda Track and me looking wiped-out, assuming my body survives ten days of mountainous jungle adventures over a hundred kilometre romp. The spirit is willing, at least…

Until next time!

How busy are you?

Today was one of those days when I looked at all the things I’m doing (or planning on), and realised it’s no wonder I’m not getting any writing or editing of my own done.

For example:

  • I just finished teaching a 6-week evening course (which took just as much time if not more in preparation as it did in teaching hours)
  • I have to prepare for the next 6-week course (on a different subject, of course, so I can’t reuse much)
  • I have a novel to critique and report on in a few weeks (and another one every month thereafter for about five months).
  • I’m mentoring a writing student – we catch up once a week, and this also requires additional preparation time
  • I need to submit applications to local and interstate writers centres to do workshops for them (I have three major centres on my ‘next’ list)
  • I’m giving a writing workshop in two weeks – and as it’s a few hours’ drive each way, it’ll consume the entire weekend
  • There’s a potential writing weekend event I might be involved in next month, which will require planning and preparation as well as the weekend away
  • I want to put in an application for a research fellowship in the next two or three months
  • I want to put in an application for an arts grant in the next two or three months
  • I’m preparing to self-publish a novel by September, which is only just past the second draft stage (and needs more work before I send it out for critique next month)
  • I have to prepare workshops (and deliver other info) for an upcoming writers’ festival in September
  • I’ll be giving workshops at a writers’ convention in October
  • I have a novel with a publisher that will soon need editing when they get back to me – no publication date as yet
  • I have three more sequels I need to write in the series currently with the publisher
  • I’m training to do the Kokoda track later this year (a 10-day, 96 Kilometre hike through mountainous jungle in Papua New Guinea)
  • There’s an upcoming week-long skiing holiday with my family
  • I have two more 6-week courses to prepare for later this year.

And that’s just off the top of my head. It doesn’t include family stuff like sports on weekends or socialising with friends etc. Oh yeah, I’m also contracting in a job, so I’ll need to find more paid work about 6 weeks from now.

Occasionally I also write a blog post. Just saying.

How busy are you, and how does it impact your writing or other things you want to achieve?

Upcoming courses & workshops

Chris Andrews - head and shouldersHi all,

Just a brief post to let everyone know I’m running two courses at CIT Solutions in the first half of this year.

The Foundations of Story and Structure will run over six consecutive Monday nights from 1 February to 7 March, starting at 6pm, and will give participants a solid understanding of their readers expectations and how to meet or exceed them.

Creating Compelling Characters will run over six consecutive Monday nights from 2 May to 6 June, starting at 6:30pm, and help writers understand what their readers are looking for in a character, and how to put that on the page in the most compelling way.

Please let anyone know who might be interested, share the info around, and come along if you’re a local and keen to learn some new tricks of the trade.

New blog series: The Darkest Hour – stories of success over adversity

Woman reaching outHave you ever heard of The Darkest Hour?

In a story, it’s the point where your protagonist is struggling to find a reason to continue.

It usually appears around the three-quarter mark, quite often where the mentor dies or some other tragedy strikes, forcing the protagonist to reassess everything and second-guess themselves.

While The Darkest Hour is an emotionally-charged part of many stories, no matter how bad it gets there’s always a way through it, and the protagonist generally finds it.

Inspired by this concept, I want to create a collection of inspiring stories by writers who have faced the odds and succeeded, despite everything standing against them.

This idea has been bouncing around in my head for nearly two decades, but I’d shelved it a long time ago due to the difficulties of contacting authors (think pre-social media, when you had to go through publishers and/or do some serious research).

A panel at a recent convention rekindled the idea. That, and the ability to reach out quickly and easily using social media.

So this is me reaching out and asking for your stories of success despite and the adversities you’ve faced.

How you define adversity and success is up to you.

So send me your inspiring stories about how you conquered the odds, overcame personal setbacks, and succeeded. I want to run them as a series of blog posts initially. If they do well, I might compile them into an eBook or something.

Perhaps you’ve had:

  • so many rejections you’ve lost count
  • health issues
  • family problems
  • self-doubt
  • depression
  • naysayers
  • setbacks, etc.

Whatever the issue you’ve faced, I want to hear how you overcame it.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an international bestselling author or just starting out. It’s your story that matters.

In sharing, maybe we can inspire others to overcome their own setbacks.

If you’d like to contribute, please contact me through the form below (or you can email me directly if you already have my email address – I’m disinclined to post it online).

Inspiration from reading

I tried everyting to get to sleep last night. Well, everythign except closign the book and putting it on the nightstand. Let's not get too crazy.Inspiration comes from many places when you’re a writer – friends, events, things you do and see.

Sometimes by reading books.

Writers are readers, but there’s a catch. The more I understand the craft of writing, the more difficult I find it to get drawn into a book.

If you’re anything like me, you tend to notice craft issues:

  • telling (versus showing)
  • POV shifts
  • poorly constructed sentences
  • passive voice.

The list goes on, and they all throw me out of a story.

And then there’s a further limiting factor – the story itself. When you’ve read a lot, stories start to look the same.

It’s probably why short stories often aim for originality. You can devour a dozen or more short stories for every novel you read, if that’s your passion.

I love epic fantasy, but I struggle to read it these days. I’ve seen my full share of evil overlords and farm boys and similar tropes, and so it takes a rare book with those tropes to draw me in.

That’s not to say they’re not a valid trope, only that I’ve read hundreds of incarnations of that story.

When reading for pleasure, I tend to pick up books and give them a chapter at most to draw me in.

If they don’t, they’ll probably never get read.

Harsh? Maybe.

And so it’s a complete pleasure when I pick up a book and get sucked right in, as I did recently.

While I’m not going to call it high art, I came away feeling inspired to write.

Here was a rare author who could draw me in and get me involved in the character’s life.

For the first time in about a year I cared what happened to a protagonist.

That’s a rare gift.

And an inspirational one.

If you’ve got a favourite book you think will draw me in, please let me know in the comment section below. Until then, the muse has struck, so now it’s time to write.

Publication News

YesGreat news! I’ve officially signed with Satalyte Publishing for my epic fantasy novel, Transcendence of Power: Genesis.

I sat down with Satalyte’s owner, Stephen C. Ormsby, over last weekend’s Conflux convention and exchanged signed contracts. I’ll let you know as soon as a publication date is set.

Satalyte publish some fantastic authors, including Kevin J Anderson, Jack Dann and many more.


Three Great Lies with Vanessa MacLellan

Head and Shoulders shot of Vanessa MacLellanI met Vanessa on G+ and we immediately hit it off thanks to her fantastic sense of humour. In her own words, Vanessa is a tattooed, vegetarian, outdoorsy woman with one head in the clouds and the other firmly settled in her hiking boots.  She’s an environmental engineer by day, author, runner, reader, gamer, and naturalist by night (and weekends). When she told me she had a book coming out, I asked her over for a Q&A.

Q. When did you start writing, and why?

When I was a wee lass I’d make up stories to tell my mother while she was gardening. I think it started there.

My favorite subject was Baggy Piggy, who had a curly Q tail that never ended (I knew this, because I drew him incessantly with pink crayons).

I remember, before I could even write, ‘writing’ (aka doodling) on paper and then reading them to my great grandmother.

Storytelling is in my blood. I guess that’s enough of a reason why, although the fact that I enjoy it doesn’t hurt.

I have little people in my head (doesn’t every author) that want me to explore their worlds, flesh out their personalities and goals and give them something to do.

I can’t take all the credit, it’s partially their fault.

Q. What do you write and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write speculative fiction. Mainly fantasy, though I mix horror and magical realism in there.

I write fantasy because fantasy is what first got me excited about reading.

I remember my older sister, Audrey, handing me the first of the Pierce Anthony Xanth novels, and I was astounded at these magical places, characters with magical talents, all of the magical beasts.

Magic. Magic. Magic. I wanted that. To live there. Be special. Be something more than just human.

And I read as much fantasy after that as I could. Tolkien, Eddings, Pratchet, Weiss and Hickman, Duncan. You know the era and the authors.

That’s what fueled me as a young reader. I hope to fuel other readers too.

The joy comes from creation and imagination. Of speculating: What if? and expanding from that.

I am the master of my own universe, what is not to like?

Q. What is your latest book? Any forthcoming books?

My debut novel, Three Great Lies, releases August 6th. It’s fantasy, with historical and literary trappings. It carries a bit of a Finding My Place in Life theme.

Jeannette Walker, a modern scientist, ends up in ancient, mythological Egypt. Though she constantly casts doubt on the existence of such a world, she has to learn to live in it.

While trying to save her mummy friend’s soul from a wicked tomb robbing ring, she realizes a few important things about life.

What those are, well, you’ll have to read the book!

I have one complete manuscript for a dark fantasy I’m currently shopping out, and am working on a modern super hero series. There’s always something I’m working on.

Q. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of Three Great Lies.

Ancient, mythological Egypt.

It never rains. People’s lives aren’t equal. Prayers constantly dance upon lips. Beer is a meal. Sand is a major filler in the bread. Children of gods walk the street with the heads of animals and prophecy on their lips.

To Jeannette it’s, of course, a total shock.

There are people about in public naked and jackals speak.

A mummy—a desiccated, lumbering thing—chases her through the crowded streets, accusing her of stealing his ba!

It’s not necessarily a friendly place, but people are people, and even Jeannette is able to find friends in ways she never expected.

Q. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Three Great Lies book Cover featuring a person running from something between unseen in a rocky desert envoirnment.Jeannette Walker is my protagonist. She’s mid-twenties, a scientist with a jilted past.

She still holds the hurt from a past betrayal and has learned to trust nobody and nothing.

I love her voice and her mind-chatter. She’s got a good heart that struggles to show through her armor.

Abayomi is the dead man walking, a reanimated mummy who seeks his lost ba container so he can continue on to the afterlife.

He’s a perfect citizen who knows his place in the world and doesn’t seek to unbalance tradition.

Until his friends are endangered, then his loyalty shines like a beacon. True best friend material!

Sanura is the young daughter of Bast, cast out from her litter.

She’s lost and alone and Jeannette saves her—saves her—and she’ll never forget such gifts.

Sanura, like most young people, is soul-searching, trying to found out exactly why she’s been cast away and what her purpose and place is in life.

Her journey is one everyone can connect with. She’s the spirit of the story.

Q. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about Three Great Lies.

A major aspect of the book (the stray dog theme) sprang to life at an agility dog show.

The midsummer day was baking hot and I had parked myself under a tree for the next show.

A Jack Russell Terrier was looking at me, with that intelligent tongue-lolling smile terriers have.

Honestly, the dog was smiling.

And that was the original start of the novel: “The dog was smiling at her.”

It’s since changed, but that line and scene are still in there, the theme planted throughout the novel.

The story just unfolded from that one dog’s smile.

Q. Any challenges with getting Three Great Lies to where it is today?

Three Great Lies has been on a long journey.

In 2008, I wrote my fifth NaNoWriMo novel.

That was Three Great Lies.

It was simply titled “Egypt” back then.  It was a 50,000 word rough draft. Then I added extra plot threads and themes, and it topped out at 140,000 words.

That’s quite an addition!

Then there were years and years of critiquing and editing.

Egyption ArtifactFinally in 2013, I begin seeking representation for Three Great Lies, and it was picked up by Hadley Rille Books (which was the most perfect place for this book to land).

Now for the rough stuff.

As I was due my edits, my publisher had a stroke.  (Though he insists he was abducted by aliens to an alternate universe.)

It was terrible, we weren’t sure if he would make it. The entire press huddled together in worry and anticipation.

I was wavering between feeling devastated for my publisher’s situation and worrying about the state of my book (and feeling so so guilty for that.)

But he did pull through and has worked tirelessly on my novel, by my side every step of the way.

Now, we’re here, and my novel is published!

I think other authors might have pulled their book to seek other representation, but I knew Hadley Rille and my publisher were perfect for my book.

Q. What’s your writing process?

First and foremost, Three Great Lies was a ‘pantser’ book.

I didn’t have an outline. I wrote forward from the smiling dog on guts and intentions. I had this idea of where I wanted to go, with no map on how to get there.

Now, I am an outliner.

I think the process, for me, would have gone so much faster if I’d had a more solid idea of the substance of the story.

As it was, lots and lots and lots of editing and rewriting were necessary to make this book shine.

When I’m in the thick of writing and editing, I try to work on the novel every single day. It keeps my writing sharp and my mind on the storyline.

It keeps me from losing plot threads and missing finer details.

For me, every day is the way (ooh, that even rhymes.)

And another thing I’ve learned: Do not work heavily on writing in the summer.

I like to play outside too much and I feel guilty if I don’t write.

Now, I just hold up my hands and let it all go.

Summer, for me, is play time. No guilt for taking some time off writing. Because, we’re our worst guilt-trippers.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you come by and check out my site and my novel. It was a joy to write and I hope it brings joy to you as well.

About Vanessa:
Vanessa MacLellan was born and raised in the farmlands of eastern Washington, works as an environmental engineer, and is an avid birder, naturalist, gamer, and runner living in Portland, Oregon. Her website is You can also find her on: Twitter, Facebook and Google+. You can find Three Great Lies on Amazon.

It’s time for a new look

Screenshot of this blogWhile the standard look and feel for this blog’s current theme grabbed me when I first saw it, I’m a little over it now.

Actually, I’m a lot over it.

I’m looking for something a little simpler and cleaner.

If you’ve got any suggestions for a nice, easy-to-setup, WordPress theme that doesn’t annoyingly hyphenate words all the time, I’d love to hear it.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments section, or else can contact me via the social media buttons on this page. There’s also a “contact me” item in the drop down menu under “About Me”.



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