The Rambling Writer Talks Landscape



(Photo #1)

Those familiar with my writing know that vivid settings are important to my storytelling—whether exotic foreign locales (including invented planets), the glorious wilderness, the shimmering world under the waves, or the flavor of downtown streets. I confess I gravitate to the outdoors when possible, and find it boring when scenes and sometimes whole stories are devoted to characters talking in generic rooms. When I’m working with student writers, I “open up the toolbox” of techniques to try in the pursuit of fully textured fiction. I’ve found that setting and landscape are often forgotten in the development of character and conflict, but they can be powerful in establishing the emotional tone of a scene. Witness Shakespeare’s plays that famously use weather and landscape as symbolic mirrors of the human comedy or drama.

“This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.”    (MacBeth, Act I Scene 6)

A perfect moment to lull us into relaxation before the horrific events to come.

“It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman,
Which gives the stern’st good-night.”   (Macbeth. ACT II Scene 2) Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized, Writers on Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Alma’s Bookshelf: Changer of Days

Changer of Days: The making of a novel


I am used to this – or I should be, it’s happened to me often enough. A character steps out of the ether, introduces himself or herself if I am lucky, and then proceeds to dictate a story which I have to scramble in order to render into the written word. Often they don’t even do that, but simply start living a life of which I am tacitly appointed chronicler –  and God help me if I don’t come up to scratch.

Changer of Days began as a single scene of some five pages or so – a band of fugitives running from a powerful pursuer finds a vantage point on the top of a hill and from there bleakly observes the dust of the armies which are in pursuit. What I knew about them at this point made for a pitiful little pile of knowledge. One of them, the girl called Anghara, was the reason they were all here – and she had suffered something terrible at the hands of the man who was now pursuing her. Another was a lad named Kieran who was fairly obviously in love with Anghara, with her largely oblivious to this fact. Two more of them were a pair of twins, and somehow related to Anghara – and to Kieran. They were fleeing from danger and about to go into greater danger because Anghara spoke of  going to a place of mystery and a dark reputation, a land by the name of Kheldrin, to seek healing for her wounded spirit.

Continue reading

Posted in fantasy, Genres, Inspiration, Publishing, Writers on Writing, Writing life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tricoastal Woman: Evolution

double helix

Toward the end of my last year in high school, my speech teacher gave us copies of a textbook the district was considering adopting. I only remember one thing about it: in the front was an errata page that said the reference to evolution on page such and such would be removed before final publication.

I thought it was the silliest thing I’d ever seen. First of all, it was a speech textbook, not a biology one, so the comment on evolution was not a substantive part of the book. Secondly, if evolution wasn’t being taught in high school biology classes – and it wasn’t – it should have been.

At seventeen, I assumed the anti-evolution movement that brought on that errata was on its last legs. Surely in the modern world of the double helix and space exploration, evolution opponents would soon go the way of the Flat Earth Society. The few that might hang around would be irrelevant.

That shows just how bad I am at predicting the future. (Truth be told, very few science fiction writers are good at that.) Continue reading

Posted in Faith and Religion, memoir, Science | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Writing Nowadays–At Loose Ends

Steven Harper PiziksCurrently I’m a writer at loose ends.  I have no contracts and no deadlines at the moment.  I’m giving myself the month of September off from writing because, what with school starting, is so hectic at my day job.

But I’m finding myself oddly spinning.

I have all this spare time.  I can actually take a little nap when I get home from work.  Or watch a TV show.  Or cook a nice meal.  Or go for a walk with my husband.  Or read a book.

It feels weird.  I’m used to setting aside hours a day, every day, to write, and right now I don’t have to do that.  I often find myself not knowing what to do.  I look at the clock–huh.  An hour before bedtime and nothing in particular I have to do.  What shall I do to occupy the time?

In a couple more weeks I’ll get back to the keyboard.  I do have more projects in the pipeline.  It’s a strange feeling, however, for the moment to be at loose ends.

–Steven Harper Piziks

DANNY on sale now at Book View Cafe.

Danny Large

Posted in Writers on Writing | Tagged | 4 Comments

Dear Speculative Fiction: A love letter

Trodayne Northern

My inestimable agent

My inestimable agent, Trodayne Northern, recently decided that what he really would like to have on the new Prentis Agency website he’s building is a series of love letters from his writers to their beloved genres. Here is my “how do I love thee” letter.

Dear Speculative Fiction…

As a child, I discovered first-hand that reality was a difficult beast to tame. I was shy, too tall, too chubby, and wore braces, glasses, and orthopedic Oxfords. I was the kid that nobody wanted on their baseball team because I couldn’t run and had abysmal eye-hand coordination.

219p4ycI met you, if you’ll recall, when I was six and my father let me stay up to watch ”The Day the Earth Stood Still”. You terrified me and exhilarated me and gave me a fascination with the unexplained and alien.

Phillip K. Dick spoke of being ”content with the mysterious.” I was more than content; I was in love. I read ghost stories and fairy tales and sagas about the exploration of the unknown. I discovered that something I could do better and faster than any of my peers was read and imagine things.

When I reached my teen years, I admit, you put me off a bit with your warnings about impending doom and post-apocalyptic horrors. You seemed to be about endings and I wanted to read about beginnings. I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that it was stories of first contact that drew me back to you. Andre Norton opened the door and welcomed me in, and Ray Bradbury closed the door firmly but gently behind me. I was in. And when I began to write seriously, I began to write science fiction and fantasy. Continue reading

Posted in Writers on Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


fw_fainting-victorian-lady1Since my teens (possibly even before that, but the facts get lost in the gauze of time) I have occasionally fallen over. Often publicly. The first time I remember was in gym class, where I turned to a classmate, said, “I feel like I’m gonna–” and did, coming to a minute later to see the faces of all three of the school’s gym teachers very close to mine, and to hear the “what happened?” of 40 15-year-old girls echoing like the cries of maddened seagulls in my ears. Since then, my public swoons have been the stuff of anecdote, like the time I fell at the top of the up escalator at a department store, and awoke to find that I was being prodded with a cane by an elderly woman who thought I was staging a protest (it was the ’70s).

I never really worried about it too much. When I was young, it seemed to be mostly associated with heroically bad cramps (or the occasional stomach bug), which was embarrassing but seemed on the outer edge of what was considered normal for us frail female sorts. I figured: if I felt rotten, best thing to do was to get down low on the ground until I passed out or the feeling went away. And I will say, your fellow citizens are generally very kindly to women who swoon. I have been in the back offices or living-rooms of strangers who decided I could not be left to lie strewn about the hallway or pavement. High embarrassment, lots of thank yous, and I’d go on with my life.

Until finally it was pointed out to me that I should really get this looked into. Here’s what happened. Continue reading

Posted in Health | Tagged , | 14 Comments

BVC Announces Bundleset #01

BVC BundlesetBook View Cafe’s First Bundleset
by Doranna Durgin,
Irene Radford,
Madeleine Robins,
Kristine Smith

Four BVC authors offer bundles of their most popular novels.

Available until October 11, 2016.

These ZIP files include both EPUB and MOBI/Kindle ebooks of each title.

Go to the BVC Ebookstore to see the bundles and to read descriptions and free samples. Continue reading

Posted in eBooks, fantasy, Historical fantasy, romance, science fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome. It’s defined (according to wikipedia, which in this case is on target) as:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Now, I’ve felt like an imposter forever. It started in my PhD program and has only increased over time. The imposter in me says–high-achieving? Really? Am not. Not even close. And yet, I have a BA, an MA, and a PhD. I’ve published 15 books. I’ve been married 26 years, had a couple pretty awesome children, and have owned several houses, and published stories and articles, and won awards. By most reasonable definitions, that’s fairly high achievement (I, obviously, am unreasonable). Continue reading

Posted in creativity, Health, personal | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Tea at the Silver Spoon

silverspoon01Whenever I travel, I like to take afternoon tea in a new place if the opportunity presents. Last summer I was in Spokane, Washington, and had the pleasure of visiting The Silver Spoon Tea House, a charming establishment in an historic Queen Anne house whose original owner was a colorful businessman in the city’s earlier days. The house is delightful, with a veranda that must be lovely on warm days. We took our tea indoors, in a pretty little back room. Continue reading

Posted in Food and Cooking, Lifestyle, Travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Hold Onto the Light: Smile, Honey!


What do these two exhortations have in common?

“Smile! And the world will smile right back.”

“If you don’t stop pouting I’ll give you something to pout about.”

Yep, in both cases, whoever is being spoken to is not happy. And the chances were really good, especially in days of yore, this was a female.


On television, all the family shows offered stories where the kids, and even the dad, could have a bad day, before everybody—especially Mom—rallied with sympathy and fresh-baked cookies. Children’s books were filled with moms who existed in smiling service to their families, without any time, much less emotions, of their own.

We never saw a story in which Mom, or silly, devoted maiden aunt Minnie, tore off her pearls, turned off the vacuum cleaner, kicked off her pretty heels that she always wore even to do housework, put her head down on the kitchen table and howled. Unless she was being laughed at.

Continue reading

Posted in Health, Lifestyle, Writers on Writing, Writing life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments