Wednesday, October 15, 2014

5 Secrets of Creativity You Already Know But Might Have Forgotten

Most writers worth their salt already know everything on this list… but sometimes we need a reminder. I came across this yesterday during a short-lived bout of cleaning. I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.

There are cycles of creativity

Just as there are seasons in a year and cycles in preparing, planting, nurturing and harvesting, there are creative cycles. We are not always in the harvesting phase — we do go through the dormant cycles of winter that feel as though nothing is happening. When we honor this, we complete the cycle and move on to the planting and harvesting phases.

This is something I've struggled with lately. I've been in a dormant phrase with my writing for many months now, and can't seem to pull myself out of it. This has been a welcome reminder that at times we must let our creativity lie fallow, and replenish itself for future projects. And that it's OK to do so.

Creativity takes time and silent space

Known to writers as Butt-In-Chair time — staking out regular quiet time. Make an commitment to yourself and your writing, whether it is every day or several times per week. Many writers feel guilty when they take to the time to engage in their work. It may mean letting some things go, not overcommitting, and saying no.

As the saying goes, "I say no to many things, so that I may say yes to what gives me life." We need strong boundaries so that we have energy and time for our creations.

Work from your strengths

"If you were to spend 80% of your effort to become good at a weakness you might improve that area 20%. But if you were to spend that sane 80% of your effort to improve an area of strength, you might improve it 100% or more!" ~ Cheryl Lackie

When we focus inordinate amounts of time and energy on our weaknesses, it can be easy to forget our strengths. But don't lose sight of what you're good at, or why you enjoy writing in the first place.

Fear is a companion of creativity — make friends with fear

Unless you're a thrill-seeker, you will likely experience some degree of fear when you venture out into unfamiliar territory. You can pause, examine it, slow down for a moment. Just don't let it stop you—after all, the only way past fear is by facing it.

Fear is a jolt of energy. put it to work by channelling that energy into your writing. Expect it, redefine it, use it. Just don't let it get the better of you.

Stop criticizing yourself

We can defeat ourselves before we start by constantly feeling we come up short. I know I've found myself thinking like that far more often than I'd like. You can polish your work and improve your skill, but you don't have to label yourself wrong or a failure in order to do so.

When you have to do something perfectly, you will rarely try something new because you can't do new things perfectly on the first try. Do your best, but don't hold onto it something until it's perfect because by that time it could well be outdated.

Adapted from "The Top Ten Secrets of Creatively Successful Women" by Iris Fanning

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Light and Dark

Summer is finally loosening its grip, and fall waits just around the corner. The last of summer's endless heat is always a welcome time in Arizona, and every year autumn is too brief for my tastes. Shorter days, cool nights, clear blue skies and golden yellow aspens… it's the perfect time to be in Arizona.

Light and darkness both have their place in the cycle of the year, in our lives, and in the lives of our characters. Don't get too caught up in one, because each always leads to the other. Both have their time and place. The challenge is to understand and appreciate what each has to offer. Derek Murphy over at CreativIndie has a wonderful article on this theme that's definitely worth a read.

I've been working to get Last Night in Ghosttown ready to debut on Smashwords. No (re)release date just yet, but I'll do my best to get it back on the virtual shelves sometime this month. All of my other projects have been backburnered recently for some soul searching. As all I turned up in the course of my searching were a few existential dust bunnies and an odd sock or two, I suppose I'll just keep on keeping on and continue writing at my own glacial pace.

How do you stay balanced between light and dark? What role do each play in your writing? In your characters' journeys?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I couldn't be happier to announce the release of LOUDER THAN WORDS, a YA novel by my friend Iris St. Clair! I had the privilege to read this book in its infancy, and it's a wonderful story of friendship, trust, and finding your inner strength.

Louder Than Words
by Iris St. Clair
published by Swoon Romance • released 9/16/2014

Disappointment has been on speed dial in Ellen Grayson's life lately. Her dad died, her mom numbs the grief with drugs and alcohol, and her so-called friends have slowly abandoned her. 

Trusting a popular teacher with her troubles should have been safe and should NOT have led to an unwelcome seduction attempt that made her desperate to escape the final moments of Junior year. Lesson learned. Best to keep all the sordid details to herself and trust no one.

Enter Rex Jacobi, a cocky boy, recently transplanted from New York City and fellow summer camp employee. Though his quick wit and confidence draws her in, she can't let him get too close. And summer is just long enough and hot enough to keep a boy like that at arm's length.

But by the time Rex's charm wears down her resistance, it's too late. He's put Ellen on the "just friends" shelf and has shifted his romantic attentions to the impossibly annoying and perky anti-Ellen. Even worse, the teacher who tried to get her to sleep with him is still at it, preying on other girls while Ellen struggles to come to terms with what happened.

With her ability to trust as shaky as a chastity vow on prom night, Ellen must decide if she has enough remaining courage to speak up about the well-liked teacher and risk retribution, tell Rex how she really feels about him and risk heartbreak, or hold all her secrets inside. After all, it's the only safe place she knows when the only thing louder than words is the fear of being rejected.
Find it on GoodReads here • But it on Amazon here


"Ellen!" Rex calls my name but I ignore him. "Ellen!" He draws up beside me. "I'm sorry. I got a little carried away. I'm sorry." From the corner of my eye I see him push back a swath of hair from his eyes. "Shit. That's all I seem to be doing, is apologizing to you."

My feet stop moving and I whirl to face him. "Why did you do that?"

His face is pinched, eyes droop at the corners. "Because I thought you wanted to. I thought you …" He pushes his hair back again, even though it still lies in cowed submission. “You were so close, and when you looked at me with those eyes—”

“So, it’s my fault?” I throw up my hands with an exasperated cry and keep walking.

"No. No, that’s not what I’m trying to say. It was just … I misunderstood, and I’m sorry. Wait, wait. Let me apologize better." His voice almost sounds sincere … almost … enough to make me halt.

"I promise I won't come on to you again. I won't touch you, make suggestive remarks or, or do anything else—like other stuff I can't think of now—that's inappropriate. I'm sorry. I guess maybe I misunderstood because… never mind. I have a big mouth and I’m impulsive sometimes. What can I say? I’m Italian." He shrugs and buries his hands in his pockets. Like that excuses it—a faulty impulse control switch and Latin genes he can blame whenever he’s called out.

I cross my arms and cock my head. "Why should I believe you? Cause it was that bad? Back there?” I can’t look at him anymore, wish I had just nodded at his apology and dropped it. My face blazes, and all I want to do is run away from him, to the ladies room, to splash cold water on my cheeks and wash away the awkward memory and my even more awkward reaction. I need to shut up, shut up, shut up.

"What?" He chuckles and the sound echoes through the hallway. "Is that what you … aww, hell no." He raises his hands, palms out. "That is so not what I meant." He moves a little closer, and glances around as if to make sure we're unobserved. In a hushed voice, he says, "The kiss was fantastic, amazing, fabuloso, but I shouldn’t have done it. I promise, I swear even, I won’t do it again. I’ll never try to kiss you or touch you … unless you ask me, of course." He shifts to face me. “I am a man of my word. You can trust me.” His smile fades. “Please trust me. Alright?"

About the Author:
Iris St. Clair is the pen name for a long-suffering cubicle worker by day, a Walter Mitty-like dreamer by night. (Her alter ego Tatiana Ivanadance also choreographs gravity-defying routines in those fantasies, but that's another bio.) No matter what genre she writes, she prefers witty, insecure heroines and kind, persistent heroes able to break through to the gooey heart inside. In high school she was voted most likely to win at Monopoly and Clue, but least likely to throw a ball anywhere near a target. Thank goodness writing requires less hand-eye coordination, punctuation errors notwithstanding. Iris believes in the two-year "fish or cut bait" dating rule and has a 20+ year marriage and two teenaged sons as proof of concept. She lives, writes, dreams and dances in the rainy Portland, OR area.

Book Blitz hosted by YA Bound Tours 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Unpublishing and New Challenges

With the closing of publisher Eggplant Productions, my sci-fi novella LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN is officially out of print. While I hope to make it available again down the line, the specifics of how and when are still very much undecided.

Which officially makes me an unpublished author once again. I'm not sure what the future holds for me as a writer, and it's likely my activity on this blog will be sparse for the time being. So I thank anyone who's stopped by to read or comment, along with everyone who supported me in my journey to share LAST NIGHT with the world.

Because everything is better with kittens

Friday, August 8, 2014

Publishing: One Step Forward...

… and two steps back.

By now the news that Eggplant Literary Productions is closing has spread around the internets. Which means that my novella, LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN, will be out of print sometime within the next month.

Needless to say, this has come as quite a shock. It's stirred up a lot of hard questions within myself which I thought I'd finally answered. I'm a slow writer - what if I can't get new works written quickly enough to stay afloat in this biz? What if LAST NIGHT was just a fluke, and I never write anything good again? What if I'm just wasting my time?

So now, I'm not quite sure about anything. I know I'd love to find a new home for LAST NIGHT once Eggplant's doors are closed, but that's all very much up in the air right now.

In the meantime (by which I mean the next few weeks) if you have even the slightest interest in reading gay romance with an Indian-inspired, futuristic sci-fi setting, please take a look at LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN before it vanishes:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cover Reveal: LOUDER THAN WORDS by Iris St. Clair

I'm thrilled to present the cover for LOUDER THAN WORDS, a touching YA romance by Iris St. Clair, releasing September 16, 2014 from Swoon Romance. I consider myself privileged to have read an early draft of this, and I loved every word - I can't recommend it enough!

From Goodreads:
Disappointment has been on speed dial in Ellen Grayson's life lately. Her dad's dead, her mom is numbing the grief with drugs and alcohol, and her so-called friends are slowly abandoning her. Trusting a popular teacher with her troubles should have been safe, shouldn't have led to an unwelcome seduction attempt, shouldn't have sent her running to the girls' bathroom for the final moments of her Junior year. Lesson learned. Best to keep all the sordid details of her life to herself.

Enter Rex Jacobi, a cocky teen recently transplanted from New York and fellow summer camp employee. Though his quick wit and confidence draws her in, she's not letting him get too close, not til she's sure she can trust him. By the time Rex's charming persistence wears down her resistance, it's too late. He's put Ellen on the perma-pal shelf and shifted his romantic attentions to her arch-rival. Even worse, the teacher who tried to seduce her is still misbehaving with impunity.

With her ability to trust as shaky as a chastity vow on prom night, Ellen must decide if she has enough remaining courage to speak up about her teacher and risk retribution, to tell Rex how she feels and risk heartbreak, or hold all her secrets inside, the only safe place she knows.

About the Author
Iris St. Clair is the pen name for a long-suffering cubicle worker by day, a Walter Mitty-like dreamer by night. (Her alter ego Tatiana Ivanadance also choreographs gravity-defying routines in those fantasies, but that's another bio.)

No matter what genre she writes, she prefers witty, insecure heroines and kind, persistent heroes able to break through to the gooey heart inside. In high school she was voted most likely to win at Monopoly and Clue, but least likely to throw aball anywhere near a target. Thank goodness writing requires less hand-eye coordination, punctuation errors notwithstanding.

Iris believes in the two-year "fish or cut bait" dating rule and has a 20+ year marriage and two teenaged sons as proof of concept. She lives, writes, dreams and dances in the rainy Portland, OR area.

Learn more about Iris: Website ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest

Cover Reveal Organized by YA Bound Book Tours

Friday, July 25, 2014

Guest Blog and Giveaway

I have a guest blog up over at the Femmes Fatales blog today, "Writing the Unexpected" - please come on over and say hello! Huge thanks to my wonderful host Kris Neri, author of Magical Alienation and High Crimes on the Magical Plane.

Guest blog at Femmes Fatales

And the giveaway for a LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN cover art postcard is officially over. Congratulations to winner Lisa M. Cronkhite!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Link Soup: Writing Tidbits

Lately I've been lucky enough to come across exactly the article I needed, at exactly the right moment. (I love it when that happens!) These have helped me kick start my creativity (and my motivation) again - I hope they're helpful to you, too.
And a reminder, my giveaway for LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN cover art is running for another week! Find out how to enter here.
The Crushing Weight of Expectations ~ Writer Unboxed
Essential reading for every writer! It's easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of Writing Do's and Don't's - and that's not to mention the added factors of Market Yourself and Social Media Presence! The end result, for me, is not writing at all. Which is of course not terribly productive. So this article was a much-needed reminder that creativity for creativity's sake is never a bad thing.

Writer's Block? Use a Random Generator ~ Jami Gold
This article is so chock-full of shiny links that there's literally something for everyone. Pantsers, outliners, broad-stroke types and detail-oriented nitpickers (guilty!) - no one should be left out. Sometimes it just takes one little idea spark to kick the flames back to life.

I Have an Idea. Kinda ~ Janice Hardy
This article could have been written solely for me. I always start with a premise or vague idea snippet, and my personal challenge is creating a plot. This must-read from Janice Hardy gives many different ways to flesh out the beginning of an idea.

Setting the Scene: Weather ~ Fantasy Faction
I confess, I'm a weather nerd. I find it strangely fascinating. Perhaps because I live in Arizona, where it's common to have several conflicting weather phenomena happening simultaneously. It's also a strong, effective tool in the writing toolbox. It can ground a scene, set the locale, and convey mood and atmosphere like nothing else. This excellent article touches on all of the above and more.

10 Traits of a Strong Antagonist ~ Janice Hardy
Who doesn't love a good villain? Sometimes they can be more compelling than the heroes - just look at the amount of Loki fan art on places like DeviantArt. Sorry, Thor. Anyway, Janice Hardy has a fabulous breakdown of what makes those love-to-hate characters so rootable.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Like free stuff? Who doesn't!

Like the gorgeous cover art for my sci-fi novella LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN? How could you not!

If you've ever wanted a copy of the super-shiny cover art by Diogo Lando for your very own, now's your chance!

You know you want it!

From Wednesday, July 9th through Thursday, July 24th, I'm holding a giveaway for autographed LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN postcards and bookstubs. You can enter by any of the following:

- Commenting to this blog entry
- Emailing me at kathryn_mckade at yahoo dot com (subject line "Postcard Giveaway")
- Tweeting #PostcardGiveaway to @KathrynMcKade

For every 5 entrants I'll give away one postcard and one bookstub. Winners will be chosen randomly, and announced here on my blog on July 25th. The goodies will be sent via USPS shortly thereafter. No purchase necessary, one entry per person, stay in school, eat your vegetables, etc etc.

And on Friday July 25th, be sure to check out my guest appearance at the Femme Fatales blog. My wonderful host Kris Neri will be giving away an ARC of one of her fabulous mysteries.

LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN is now available from  Eggplant ProductionsAmazonBarnes & Noble and Kobo

In the Maharajah’s Consortium every aspect of citizens’ lives is monitored by the GRID. Throughout the galaxy, on every planet: money, property, even lives are tracked by General Resource Interactive Display. Everywhere, that is, except for Ghosttown. Ghosttown: slum, theme park, holy city, the city that time forgot.

Enter Dev. In five days he leaves for Misra 7, a planet entrenched in a war so deadly it’s known as The House of Death. So it’s one last hurrah before he ships out.
Despite being on a strict time table, Dev allows a would-be thief, Rishi, talk him into handing out expensive med-gems to the sick and needy. What Rishi gets out of this, Dev doesn’t know. What he does know is that he keeps putting off his departure date, and he can’t deny that Rishi is the reason.

Does Dev stick around for Holi, help the people trapped in Ghosttown, and risk getting branded a deserter? Or should he clear out before he gives up his heart to Rishi?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Answer Me These Questions Three

I'll admit it, I've been known to get so caught up reading articles about writing that I don't get around to actually writing anything. Though this doesn't put words on the page, I've learned some amazing tips and techniques this way.

Recently I read a great article for pantsers by the great Nathan Bransford, How to Plan a Novel Without Actually Outlining. He proposes three simple questions that will get your brain going without being crushed under the weight of outlines and beat sheets.

And, because every writer is different, I started thinking on which three questions I *need* to know before I feel ready to write a story.

Who are my characters?

Best to figure this out first, because you're going to be spending a lot of time in their company. And I'm a character-person anyway - my stories always start with characters, long before a plot or even a story makes an appearance.

Beyond the basics of male or female, young or old, worldly or naive, I need to delve deep into my characters' inner workings - their greatest fears, hopes, vulnerabilities. In short, what are their biggest issues? How can I ensure they face said issues as much as possible? For instance, Dev in LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN fights a combination of anger, denial, and regret. Naturally he gets mixed up with Rishi, who challenges every single one of these demons, forcing Dev to face what he's spent years ignoring or bottling up.

What kind of world do they live in?

This question undoubtedly carries more weight for SFF writers than most. What makes this world different from the "normal" world? Even urban fantasies and modern-day settings have something that sets them apart from the world we ourselves inhabit.

For more far-flung settings (second world fantasy, distant futures, so on and so forth) what are the key features of this world? Because I dislike writing (and reading) what has been done a million times before, I always look for a different take on things. LAST NIGHT is set in a distant future where Earth is a footnote in the history books. Nothing new there. So I went for an Indian-inspired setting, and tried to build the worldview, history, and technology from there.

And most importantly, how does this world affect the characters? I'm always drawn to stories where the world is so real that it's practically its own character, which allows for more dramatic interaction with the main characters than a flat, passive backdrop of a setting.

What kind of story do I want to tell?

Perhaps even more than the others, this question is the kicker. Because no matter how real your characters or believable your world, a story that you're not interested in telling is a story that won't be written.

I knew from the beginning that LAST NIGHT would be a love story. Other ideas, however, aren't so easy. One of the ideas currently bouncing around in my brain is about an empath. He has a tragic past, and his present isn't too great either. He meets people - people from his past, mysterious people, people with Special Abilities like him - and struggles to learn who he can trust as he makes his way in the world. His world is modern-day, or relatively close, and set in the US southwest.

And I have no idea what kind of story it is.

Does it want to be a mystery, as he discovers his place in the world and figures out who he can trust? A thriller, as he struggles against a shadowy force which would harm People Like Him? A romance, as he learns to control his ability and decide which emotions are he feels are real, and which are just reflected back?

Honestly, this idea could become any one of these things, or perhaps all of them. I'm not sure yet. But until I know, this will keep simmering on the back burner.

Because a story can't come together if it's having an identity crisis.


What questions do you need to ask yourself before you're ready to write? Do they change from story to story or are there certain answers you need every time?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Link Soup: Trees, Plots, and Being Normal

watercolor painting tree dryad
 watercolor painting tree dryad
Trees in Fantasy (part 1) ~ Fantasy Faction
I've always been fascinated by trees, and in the best fantasy stories there is usually no shortage of them. My fourth grade teacher read several of the Chronicles of Narnia aloud in class, ending with The Magician's Nephew. The idea of the Woods Between the Worlds enthralls me to this day. This article is the first of a series, and examines tree mythology from around the world - as varied as many creation myths are, it's notable how many of them include trees in some way.

Are YOU the Writer's Block? ~ Donna Cummings
Essential reading for any writer. My answer (and I doubt I'm alone in this) is a resounding YES! Though I find my type of writer's block tends to be of the "I'm not good enough and everything I write is crap anyway so why bother doing it because my time would clearly be better spent alphabetizing my sock drawer" variety. Which is even less helpful than it sounds.

Too Much of a Good Thing: Over Plotting Your Novel ~ Janice Hardy
I generally struggle to come up with the main plot for any given story, so over plotting has never been a big concern. But this excellent article from Janice Hardy is still very interesting. I found her over plotting symptoms extremely helpful in a reverse engineering kind of way. And her final checklist of what a novel needs is essential for any kind of writer.

But I Just Want to Be Normal! ~ Fantasy Faction
I admit it, when I saw the title, I immediately thought of Charmed. If you saw any of the later seasons, you know exactly what I mean (this was practically the show's motto). Confessions aside, this post is a must-read for anyone writing urban fantasy or any modern-day SFF.

Novel Diagnostics ~ Kristen Lamb
More wisdom from the always-helpful Kristen Lamb. This breaks down the most common (and easy-to-miss on your own) problems that show up in the first ten pages, and gives excellent ideas on how to remedy them.

"Dryad's Dance" and "Dryad's Dance II" courtesy my alter ego

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Letting Your Story Simmer

I recently came across a wonderful post by Sangu Mandanna on Janice Hardy's blog, Give it Time, about the importance of letting a manuscript rest so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. It really resonated with me because it's exactly how LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN was written.

Not through planning or foresight, mind you, but simply through sheer dumb luck. Or more accurately, writer's block and a short attention span.

Requisite writing analogy: A story is like soup. If we don't give it time to simmer, it ends up bland and tasteless.

Writing LAST NIGHT spanned about three and half years, during which there were several gaps when I didn't write at all. Chaos in real life, a troublesome scene or section, or a new painting would distract me, and the manuscript would languish, sometimes for months at a time.

The longest gap was the last half of 2012. I'd been writing pretty steadily before that, but got stumped when the ending I'd planned for years fell flat on its face. Time for a break, I decided, with an art project that I expected to take about three months.

It took seven.

When I finally, finally looked at the manuscript again in early 2013 I discovered, much to my surprise, that it wasn't as bad as I thought. In fact, I actually liked it. Enjoyed rereading it, even.

This was far more than I'd ever expected.

And after a prolonged break, my mind was finally fresh enough to tackle that ending dispassionately. To see what the story needed, not what I thought it needed, and find a way to deliver.

So if there's anyone that's ever wondered if that "let it rest" advice is really all that important, I can vouch for it. Yes, it is important. Vital, even.

Do your story a favor, and let it simmer on its own for awhile. You'll be glad you did.

Just don't let it boil dry.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Drives You to Write? Blog Tour

This post was inspired by the My Writing Process Blog Tour from Jami Gold: What Drives You to Write? As Jami says, writing can be a difficult creature - so many different hats to wear, balancing our own creativity against an ever-changing market, and so on. Not to mention the effects of continually plumbing the depths of our psyches and laying the results bare for the world to see. So why keep doing it?

Simply put, because we can't stop.

What Are You Working On Now?

Ostensibly, a short story that combines knitting and Chinese vampires into a darkly humorous urban fantasy. At least, I hope it's funny. That's what I'm aiming for! I haven't had much time for it lately, I confess. But now that some other real-life distractions are out of the way, I want to get back to it.

I have several more ideas simmering, including a second-world fantasy retelling of The Little Mermaid, a modern-day story of an empath, and a fairy-tale-esque love story of magic and transformation. They keep jockeying for attention in my mind - we'll see which one wins out.

How Does My Work Differ From Others of its Genre?

That's a good question. I'm not sure of the answer!

I would like to think my characters set me apart more than anything. Characters have always been my primary interest, both as a reader and a writer. I'll keep reading a so-so book with an amazing character. Likewise, 99% of my stories start with a character, and plot always comes later (usually after much hair-pulling).

Why Do I Write What I Write?

Basically, because it's what I want to read. It seems so often that SFF tell the same stories, over and over - finding something outside of this rut can be a real challenge. I have no interest in writing a medieval-esque fantasy with all white characters and strict gender roles, because my library is filled with shelves of those stories already. But a race of characters who can shift genders? A trans-specied mermaid who becomes human? Those are stories I want to read. And since no one has told them so far, maybe I'll give it a go.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

Um… erratically?

OK, in all seriousness, I'm still working that out. I'm a pantser by nature (outlines give me hives) but if I just blunder into my first draft blind, it never ends well. So far it seems I work best by doing extensive character and world building in the pre-drafting stage, then going into the first draft with a general idea of plot points. And the ending. If I don't have an ending in mind, then I don't know what to write toward.

I liken it to watercolors (you knew I'd have to go there eventually). I start a painting with a detailed sketch, and a basic knowledge of which colors will go where, which areas will be dark and which areas will be light. Then I add paint and water, and see what happens. And I'm always surprised at what turns up - and how it's often more interesting than what I'd expected.

In short, it's an organic, ever-changing process.


Thanks to Jami for the open invite to join the blog tour, and for the opportunity for a little self-reflection (which is always good - in small doses).

Sunday, May 25, 2014


My scifi novella LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN is officially available!

In the Maharajah’s Consortium every aspect of citizens’ lives is monitored by the GRID. Throughout the galaxy, on every planet: money, property, even lives are tracked by General Resource Interactive Display. Everywhere, that is, except for Ghosttown. Ghosttown: slum, theme park, holy city, the city that time forgot. 
Enter Dev. In five days he leaves for Misra 7, a planet entrenched in a war so deadly it’s known as The House of Death. So it’s one last hurrah before he ships out. 
Despite being on a strict time table, Dev allows a would-be thief, Rishi, talk him into handing out expensive med-gems to the sick and needy. What Rishi gets out of this, Dev doesn’t know. What he does know is that he keeps putting off his departure date, and he can’t deny that Rishi is the reason. 
Does Dev stick around for Holi, help the people trapped in Ghosttown, and risk getting branded a deserter? Or should he clear out before he gives up his heart to Rishi?

It's been a long, strange journey for this tale. I've said before that when I first started it, my only goal was to finish it. And here I am today announcing its debut to the world!

My eternal gratitude goes out to my amazing beta readers, Claire and Shannon, for believing in LAST NIGHT even when I didn't. And of course huge thanks to Raechel Henderson of Eggplant Productions, for giving a new author her first break.

Official page • Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Tomely

Saturday, May 24, 2014

All Quiet on the Western Front

It's been awfully quiet around these parts lately, I admit it. May is usually a bit of a whirlwind for me, and this one has been no exception. I've had family in town and a big painting to distract me from all things writing-related. I had big plans to (finally) get back to the short story this past week, but unfortunately I've been distracted for a much less pleasant reason - the start of wildfire season here in Arizona.

I confess to lately being glued to both computer and tv for the latest news on the Slide Fire. Oak Creek Canyon is one of the most scenic and beautiful parts of an extraordinarily scenic and beautiful state, and I've spent many hours there over the years, wandering through the pine forests, watching the river flow and daydreaming of characters and stories. It's been horrifying to watch it go up in flames the past five days.

So if you have any spare good wishes, vibes, prayers, happy thoughts or whatever else you might deal in, send them on over to northern Arizona. We sure could use it!

In better news: LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN releases in two days! Woo hoo! More to come on that very soon.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Link Soup: Blogging Edition

Like every other writer on the internets, I struggle with balancing time between writing and this whole online presence we're supposed to have. Here are some really helpful articles for social media newbies such as myself:

How to Write Blog Content ~ Anne R. Allen
Nine steps for a more interesting blog. I've bookmarked this one, and will be referring back to it. Frequently.

Ways Authors Waste Time "Building Platform" on Social Media ~ Anne R. Allen
#5 alone made me love this article - I'm a slow writer (for both fiction and blog posts). And I'm all for quality over quantity.

Writing Tools ~ Writers Helping Writers
An array of excellent articles on everything from character development to social media.

How to Keep Up Online Without Losing Your Mind ~ Kate Hart
Good advice for how not to lose your mind (or your writing time!)

Seems like, in the end, it comes down to this: write. Tweet or blog when you can. And then keep writing.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Rant: Hobbits, Women, and Orlando Bloom

Last December, a review of the second Hobbit film "The Desolation of Smaug" ran in a local paper. It was no different than any of a thousand other Hobbit movie reviews, until I came to this line:

"… and the return of Orlando Bloom as elf Legolas. Now, besides hairy-footed hobbits and bushy-bearded dwarfs, women have a reason to get excited about this trilogy."

Excuse me?!

I didn't know I needed a reason to get excited over this latest trilogy. Silly me, I thought watching all of the previous trilogy (extended editions, no less!) and reading Tolkien's books was reason enough.

But, it turns out, I was wrong.

Because clearly I, as a woman, couldn't possibly be interested in any other aspect of these movies.

Not the richly detailed world. Not the story of an unlikely hero finding his courage and saving the day. Not the mind-blowing scenery of New Zealand or special effects. Certainly not the acting chops of some of the UK's most talented character actors (most of whom I'd have few other chances to watch here in the US). And of course I wouldn't be interested in a dragon!

Because clearly the only thing that could possibly make my girly little synapses fire is a so-called* pretty face.

It's not like I could possibly watch a movie for several hours without Hollywood's idea of eye candy to keep my attention. And I couldn't possibly find any of the other male actors compelling by virtue of their screen presence or acting ability.**

Because clearly I couldn't have been devouring fantasy books since I was old enough to read.

And I certainly couldn't make weekly trips to my library to find *more* fantasy and sci-fi books to inhale.

Because clearly women aren't interested in sci-fi and fantasy. Right?

* No offense intended to Orlando Bloom, who seems like a nice guy.
** Two words: Lee Pace.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I'm thrilled to present the cover of LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN, by the talented Diogo Lando:

Dev is a soldier, come to Ghosttown to drown his sorrows for one night before deploying to a war zone across the galaxy. He didn't expect to meet Rishi, a fugitive with a shadowy past, or get drawn into a whirlwind of colorful festivals and even more colorful strangers, of mysterious gemstones and missing princes. And his last night in Ghosttown will leave him forever changed...
Learn more at the official page from Eggplant Productions:

Or add to your GoodReads shelf!

Can't wait? Here's a taste:

Ghosttown: slum, theme park, and holy city all in one. The last place in the galaxy I should've been. I was due on base today--a flashing notice in the bottom left corner of my vision told me so, like I could forget it--and I could still make a transpod back if I hauled ass. If my CO and the other brass decided I'd gone AWOL, they'd hunt me down and have this new arm off me before I could blink.

Turn back now. Only smart thing to do. Instead, I stepped into Ghosttown.

Many thanks to Diogo Lando for the amazing cover art! Check out more of his work at his website:

Friday, March 21, 2014

3 Writing Quirks That Work For Me

~ Not writing every day
I know, it's like breaking the First Commandment of Writing ("Thou shalt writeth every day, no matter how numb thy bum may be"). But one of the most beneficial things I've discovered is knowing when to write, and when not to. Some days it's just sheer laziness and procrastination, and I just have to push myself through that wall. But then there are days when the creative juices are all dried up, and my metaphorical tank is running on E. And on those days, odds are high that no amount of butt-in-chair time will produce anything beyond frustration and stagnancy.

It's something I long ago discovered in my artwork as well (you knew I'd have to mention painting sooner or later). There are days to push myself past the "don't wanna" stage, and there are days when making myself paint will result only in a ruined piece and a bad mood. Sometimes these kinds of days are good to sit back and think on trouble spots, brainstorm ideas for what happens next; but usually I've found them best to completely ignore my WIP, so I can come back to it tomorrow with fresh eyes. Sometimes it's the best thing I can do for a troublesome story.

~ Using pen and paper for story notes
There's something about a blank word processing document that's absolutely terrifying to me. It's a void, an utter absence of anything and everything — which means, of course, that it could become anything. And in the face of such endless possibility, how can I not be intimidated into paralysis?

I get around this by writing all of my notes the old-fashioned way, in a spiral-bound notebook with a pen. In this technological age I know this won't work for everyone, but it's one of the best writing habits I've picked up. Somehow a blank sheet of paper is far less intimidating to me (don't ask me why), so it helps me get around this initial, overwhelming paralysis at the beginning of projects. And all of my notes are in one place — one jumbled-together, paper-clipped-to-death place (and I wouldn't have it any other way). I can drag my college-ruled notebook anywhere, anytime — unlike my iMac — and I never have to worry about power, wifi, hackers, none of it. Strange factoid: I start writing my notes in the back of the notebook, and work my way forward. I don't know why; it just works out that way.

~ Focusing on one WIP at a time
Another unspoken "do" of writing: have several projects going, so you can always be working on/editing/submitting something. But this is another one of those non-rules that, no matter how logical, just doesn't work for me. And for the record, I'm not talking about scribbling down notes and random "what if's" that pop into my mind, I mean writing actual drafts.

When I really focus on a creative endeavor, I don't like to be distracted. It's one of the reasons I have a hard time shifting between painting and writing, and rarely do the two concurrently. When my mind gets into something, that's it — that's my focus. And the same is true of writing multiple stories at one time. How can I get into Character A's head enough to discover her voice if I'm also trying to figure out what's going on in Character 1's mind? How can I firm up the quirks of World B if I'm also trying to explain what must happen in World 2? Likely this is something that will come to me with time, and experience. Which means I better get my butt-in-chair time in, and start writing more often...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Links and Check-In 3.8.14

Are You Living Your Dream? ~ Jami Gold
An excellent post that I think every writer on the planet can relate to. It can sometimes feel insurmountable trying to balance writing between real-world distractions (bills, jobs, day-to-day life) and personal obstacles (finding time with/away from family and friends, writer's block, and that demon self-doubt). Though ultimately it is one of those journeys that only you can discover your truth, Jami's ideas on reclaiming the dream are very helpful and encouraging. (Warning: don't watch the video if you don't want that Lego song stuck in your head for the rest of eternity!)

Is Fear Driving You Forward or Dragging You Under? ~ Kristen Lamb
A sister post to Jami Gold's, and also a very timely examination of the fears that dog us both as writers and as human beings. I've said before that I never expected my first novella, LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN, to go any farther than my hard drive, yet here I am two months away from its release by Eggplant Productions. And as amazing and exciting as this is, at times I find myself struggling - with the fear that LAST NIGHT is a fluke, and perversely with the fear that my writing will go on to require more from me than I have or want to give it (i.e. at the expense of my artwork). Fear is a funny thing, attacking from all angles if we let it. Lately I've been reminded of the famous quote from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~ ~

As for the check-in, all of my writing time this week was focused on edits for LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN. Still researching for the mermaid story (though the dystopian fantasy keeps trying to cut ahead of it in my mental "ideas" line). I've been letting the short story simmer in the meantime, though the other night I had a really great idea on something to add into the mix. Now if I could only remember what it was...

Friday, February 28, 2014

World Builders and Storytellers: Hayao Miyazaki

Now and then I'll be spotlighting some of the people who have most inspired me. First off, in honor of his final film The Wind Rises releasing in the US last week, I'll focus on Hayao Miyazaki.

Famed animator and creator of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki's films are known for their poignant stories, beautiful animation and breathtaking landscapes. Being born and bred in the US, with practically no knowledge of anime, I'd never heard of him until eight years ago, when Turner Classic Movies devoted an entire month to featuring Miyazaki's movies...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Check-In 2.22.14

Not a very exciting report today, I'm afraid. Edits have come back for LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN, and I haven't had a chance to work on the short story this week. It's for the best, since I think the short story needs to simmer on its own for a bit. I've never had much success with the "write even if you're not feeling it" school of thought. Sure, some days it's just laziness, and as a writer I have to buckle down and push through it. Other days, though, it's just not there. I discovered this with painting long ago, and learned to listen (after ruining enough sheets of watercolor paper by saying "I'm just going to paint something anyway!"). For me, when the creative well runs dry no amount of butt-in-chair time will change that.

Still researching and cogitating on the mermaid story. At some point I'm going to have to relinquish the library's oceanography book and start really fleshing out the characters. But until then…

Word of the Day: Guyot (or, my mermaid colony has a home!)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Links and Check-In

Procrastination (Or Why You Can't Trust a Version of You from the Future)
I am so very guilty of this. In fact, I've spent all week procrastinating this post, which was in turn my excuse for procrastinating working on my short story. Very interesting take on why so many writers, myself included, put off writing that hard scene ("I may have no clue how to write it today, but surely Tomorrow Me will know just how to do it!")

Premise vs. Plot: Which Do You Have?
This could have been written exclusively for me. Premises come to me as easily and often as oxygen. Lately I've had about seven different premises vying for attention in my brain. Plots, however, have always been a different story. It often seems to come down to the fact that my characters prefer standing around talking to actually, you know, doing anything. I have no idea where they got that trait from *ahem* Anyway, this article breaks down the difference of plot and premise, has some handy tips on fleshing out an idea into a story. I've bookmarked this baby!

What Makes a Story Event a "Turning Point"?
Another article that could've been written just for me. As I said above, plot has always been a challenge for me. Sure, I can come up with things to keep the characters busy, but how to keep all those events from becoming a random mishmash of obstacles? Finally my writing mentor introduced me to what so many other writers already knew of, the "trigger." It's not just that events A, B, and C happen to the characters - it's that A happens because of the initial setup, B happens because of A, C happens because of B, and so on. This article explains it all in detail, and will surely be invaluable to me in the future.

* * *

As for my own writing, I've been battling the Demons of Self-Doubt and haven't gotten too far on the short story. I did go back and rework the opening, which I'm much happier with. Currently a bit stuck, but if I can silence (for a little while at least) The Voice telling me my time would be better spent organizing my sock drawer, then I can push through and get on with the story. Fingers crossed.

Also, Arizona has been the only state in the US not buried under a foot of snow, so I feel obligated to enjoy the sunny weather on behalf of all of my fellow writers. How's that for an excuse?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Writing Links

Who Cares? ~ Rachel Herron
Excellent summary of how I've always felt about first drafts (though I didn't realize it until I read her post). My natural tendency as a writer is toward a long, rambling, and distinctly violet-hued style, so I tend to overcompensate by writing lean. As a result, my first drafts are often little more than awkward beats interspersed with clumsy dialogue. And, perhaps most importantly, I've yet to get a really good grasp of my characters and their voices (it took three drafts to feel like I really knew Dev's voice in Last Night in Ghosttown).

In Defense of Pantsing ~ Jami Gold
Really great post about plotting vs. pantsing. I write by a mix of heavy research and planning before I ever write a single word, then more or less turning myself loose on the early drafts. So many interesting points develop as I write - things I never, ever could've planned for. When gaps in my research and planning become apparent, I fill them in in preparation for subsequent drafts. So the thought of being a strict plotter, complete with outlines and bullet points, just leaves me cold. Basically, I write like I paint - lots and lots of prep (possibly to the point of over thinking everything) then get out the paint and go with the flow.

On Recent Doctor Who ~ Lenora Rose
Interesting analysis of Moffat-era Who. She pegs some of the things that have really bugged me about recent seasons ("series" for any Brits out there), like why Moffat's writing has irked my feminist sensibilities. It really all comes down to this:

While I'm looking forward to seeing what Peter Capaldi does with an older looking Doctor, we didn't actually need a new Doctor. We need to get rid of Steven Moffat as head writer.
I would disagree slightly in that I was more than ready for Matt Smith to leave (while he's a good actor, I've felt from the start that's he's simply too young for the role. YMMV). And I too can't wait to see Peter Capaldi come this fall. But with Moffat still in charge, we'll likely continue to have the inconsistent characterization, convoluted season-arcs and nonsensical resolutions that, honestly, made me lose interest in Who by Matt Smith's second season.

I want a new head writer, too.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saturday Check-In

Not very much to report, I'm afraid. I didn't write anything this week, and didn't get to starting on the next draft of the short story. I did however continue research on various topics for my two WIPs.

The short story, which I've mentioned previously, combines knitting and Chinese vampires into a darkly humorous urban fantasy. (At least, I hope it does. That's what I'm aiming for!)

The other WIP is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, and will likely be a novella or novel. Novels intimidate me, to be honest, but if that's what the story needs to be then I'll do my best to do it justice.

That's all for now. Hopefully I will have lots more to report on these in the future.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

On First Drafts

Confession time: I'm doing it again. Neglecting this blog because I don't feel like what I have to say is worth sharing. Not a good habit for a writer, even one as erratic as myself.

The good news, though, is that I actually sat down and wrote a short story this week! It's about 3K in length, and it's awful. Really awful, in fact. But my first drafts always are, so I'm not overly concerned.

Some writers enjoy the first draft, with its freedom to let the imagination run rampant before later drafts start fussing over the details. Not me, though. First drafts are like pulling teeth for me. Something about a blank page (whether paper or pixels) just intimidates me to no end. I do better with revising. Though it's always a lot of work, and often quite a slog, I find it easier to reshape what's there into something better, something stronger. Creating it in the first place is scary stuff in my world.

As with everything, this brings me back to art. When I start a sketch, I block in the shapes very lightly, and very loosely. Often it bears very little resemblance to the finished (or idealized) product, and it's easy to get discouraged ("This looks like crap! I wasted how much time on this?") But subsequent passes refine each shape, making sure their proportions, placement, and relations to one another are right before I put in the details. This is how I think of my writing — each draft gets the big stuff into place until I start refining down the details.

In summary: "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." ~ James Michener

Thursday, January 16, 2014

10 Random Facts About Me

I'm not very good at talking about myself. In fact, I'm what's known on the internets as a lurker. I will read what other people have to say, privately agree or disagree, but rarely post my own thoughts. Sometimes it's out of sheer laziness, sometimes it's just because I don't think what I have to say is worth putting down. An excellent quality in a writer, I know. So if my posts here on this blog are infrequent or incoherent, now you'll know why.

I love to knit and crochet. I don't get to do as much of it as I'd like, because my eyesight is terrible, so I can't just, say, knit while watching tv because of constantly having to take my glasses off to see my stitches, then glasses on to watch tv, and so forth (see above, re: laziness) And I'll admit, I usually don't want to take time out of my day to knit or crochet because there are always so many other things to do (I call it Creative ADD).

I lived in Ontario, Canada for ten months when I was eleven. Even though this happened to coincide with one of the coldest winters the region had seen in some years, I really enjoyed my time there and would love to see it (as well as the rest of the country) again someday.

I love plants and flowers, but can't grow them to save my life. My mother has two green thumbs, and sometimes I think she can make things grow just by looking at them. Sadly, I did not inherit that ability. So I compromise by doing as many paintings of nature (especially flowers) as I can manage.

I am too wordy for Twitter. This probably stems from my love of run-on sentences, big words, and commas. 140 characters?! I'm just getting started!

I took dance lessons from age twelve to twenty-one. Jazz and modern were my favorites, though I did take some ballet, and a smattering of other styles as well. Though I don't dance anymore, I enjoyed it a lot, and love watching others dance (when I can find anything on American tv, that is).

Back in St. Olaf… I have seen every episode of Golden Girls and The Simpsons more times than I can possibly count, and can usually Name That Episode in under a minute.

I home-schooled for two years. I actually skipped seventh grade, entered high school at thirteen, and graduated two months before my 17th birthday.

I have a near-perfect memory… when it comes to things like movies, music and television (just don't ask me to remember why I've walked from one room to another). I can recite nearly every line of movies like Clue, Princess Bride, and Highlander, to name a few. What can I say, some things just stick in my head, the more useless the better.

I lived in Arizona for nine years before seeing the Grand Canyon. And it's not like I live in the southern part of the state, where it can be a long drive to reach the Canyon. I don't know why, it's just how things worked out. But it was certainly worth the wait!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

On writing, and dreaming big

I never set out to be a writer.

I've always loved reading, so wanting to create my own stories came naturally. And I did make up my own stories over the years, when the mood struck me. But my first love has always been art - and since 2005, specifically watercolor paintings.

Art is who I am, and how I see the world. Which pigments would best capture the exact shade of blue of an Arizona sky? What kind of brushstrokes would best express the needles of a pine tree caught in the sun? When I see shadows on a white car, I study how the shadow changes from grey to blue to purple as it curves along the car, away from the sun. I live and breathe art.

So to keep a long story short (too late): although I've been drawn to storytelling for as long as I can remember, it was never my go-to mode of expression. Whereas art came naturally to me, writing has been a challenge. Oh, not the basic, high school English class stuff. But the nitty-gritty of plotting, structure and the like just doesn't come naturally to me. In a lot of ways, learning to write has been like rewiring my brain to function in Mandarin - utterly foreign to me.

All this to say I've never been the most prolific writer. Or the most dedicated, if I'm going to be honest. Many ideas have come and gone over the years - some I plan to revisit, some are probably best left in the past. In the spring of 2010 I got the spark of yet another idea, for the story that would become Last Night in Ghosttown. And somehow, my interest in it never waned. Sure, the writing always went on hold when I'd get inspired for another painting. But I kept going back to LNiG, and plugged away on it for over three years. My ultimate writing goal when I started my little novella was to finish it. (Nothing like dreaming big!) Despite a long journey filled with lots of self-doubt, hair-pulling and trips to the library, I finally finished it in the summer of 2013. And to my great surprise, I actually liked it quite a bit. Frankly, this was more than I'd ever hoped for.

So imagine my complete shock when I received an offer to publish Last Night in Ghosttown. It's so far beyond the scope of what I would have ever dreamed that I still can't quite believe it sometimes.

I don't know where my writing will take me next. There are far too many characters, and their stories, bouncing around in my mind for me to stop now. I can only hope that my next project doesn't take me three and a half years to finish! Talk about dreaming big.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013: Looking Back

2013 was, in most respects, an awful year. Personally, I was sick a lot. Artistically, my alter ago was very productive, creating 15 paintings last year. And as a writer, I started with an all-but-trunked WIP, Last Night in Ghosttown... and closed the year with a sale for LNiG to be published in 2014!

When 2013 started, I hadn't touched Last Night in Ghosttown in seven months (blame my alter ego for taking over my limited attention span). I decided 2013 would be the year I'd finally finish that poor thing, after starting it waaay back in 2010 (why yes, I am the world's slowest writer). Somehow I managed, in fits and spurts, to finish the third act until I reached the pivotal ending scene - and got completely stuck. The ending I’d intended for years just felt... stale, somehow, and I didn’t know what to do. LNiG probably would have languished in Unfinished Hell forever if not for the friendly, much-needed prodding of my wonderful beta readers. With their metaphorical kicks in the butt, I finished it... and with their encouragement, I took a chance and subbed it, expecting absolutely nothing to come of it. And on the last day of 2013, I received a contract offer. Happy New Year indeed!

And now, thanks to the amazing people of Eggplant Productions, Last Night in Ghosttown will be making its debut to the world in a few months time. So to everyone who has helped me in this long and unpredictable journey, I thank you. You’ve all helped me to achieve more than I ever would’ve hoped for. Group hug!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Welcome to my blog, wherein you'll find ramblings on writing, fantasy and sci-fi, and whatever else comes into my mind. Any resemblance to coherency is purely coincidental!

My sci-fi novella "Last Night in Ghosttown" will be released this May by Eggplant Productions:

Last Night in Ghosttown by Kathryn McKade explores love, loss and hope set in a far-flung, future Bharat empire. 
In the Maharajah’s Consortium every aspect of citizens’ lives is monitored by the GRID.  Throughout the galaxy, on every planet: money, property, even lives are tracked by General Resource Interactive Display.  Everywhere, that is, except for Ghosttown.  Ghosttown: slum, theme park, holy city, the city that time forgot. 
Enter Dev. In five days he leaves for Misra 7, a planet entrenched in a war so deadly it’s known as The House of Death.  So it’s one last hurrah before he ships out. 
Despite being on a strict time table, Dev allows a would-be thief, Rishi, talk him into handing out expensive med-gems to the sick and needy.  What Rishi gets out of this, Dev doesn’t know.  What he does know is that he keeps putting off his departure date, and he can’t deny that Rishi is the reason. 
Does Dev stick around for Holi, help the people trapped in Ghosttown, and risk getting branded a deserter?  Or should he clear out before he gives up his heart to Rishi?

More info coming soon! I can't promise I'll be the most frequent blogger, but I will do my best not to let this blog languish in cyberspace.