Defining Terminology

In fantasy, it is almost inevitable that terms, names, and concepts will arise that are wholly invented by the author.  It can be confusing for readers to follow the story if there are unfamiliar words or references.  Thus it becomes the author’s job to give the reader understanding of these things; sometimes it’s done through background information or context, or by bringing in a character who is new or uninvolved ask questions or receive an explanation.

 Sometimes it’s just easiest to define something.  Obviously a writer can’t simply follow every unfamiliar term with a definition, but occasionally it works.   For example: “She watched the discussion between the Yniall, as they preferred to be called, with a great deal of curiosity.”  If you already know the characters having the discussion are what humans refer to as elves, you now have a grasp on what that term means and will have a frame of reference if I mention it again. 

Everyone has terms they use on a regular basis in their work.  We’ve all had to explain what a word means in conversation.  It’s just a matter of finding the right way to clue people in without making them feel like an outsider or an idiot.  🙂


Life is full of temptation.  Temptation to hit the snooze button one more time.  Temptation to let the dog on the bed so he’ll stop whining.  Temptation to make 5-minute chocolate cake for breakfast (or any time, for that matter).  Temptation to just pick up fast food on the way home.  Temptation to stay home a watch a movie instead of running errands in the rain.

For writers, there is also the temptation to skip writing today.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the temptation to *not* do something is usually less when the activity in question is enjoyable.  Anybody here ever been tempted to skip something fun?  I haven’t been tempted to call in sick to work since I found a job that I really love, although when I was at a job that made me unhappy I wanted to fake being ill everyday.  Writing is exactly the same.  When my story is coming easily the temptation to not write is quite reduced, even non-existent.  When my story is taking a bit more effort (like With Honor) it’s easier to get distracted and give in to the temptation of whatever fun activity is trying to call me from my writing.

I have found ways to avoid temptation, like not keeping any candy in my apartment.  I’ve also found ways to ignore it, like getting up and starting my chores first thing on the weekend.  That keeps the “just one episode” from turning into a marathon of the entire season of something while somehow my apartment is still dirty.  With writing I always look to my audience to help combat the temptation.  My friends who read Butterflies while I wrote it expected chapters each week, and my readers who are enjoying my stories on Serial Central expect the same thing.  It may not work for everyone, but trying to keep from disappointing people is a good motivator for me!

With Honor, part 2

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 2

The sound of thirty horses pounding down the road made everyone in the village turn in surprise.   Slowing, the soldiers approached the smoldering remains of a building at the far edge of town.  The roof, likely thatched with straw based on the neighboring buildings, had been completely consumed by the fire.  Three of the four walls stood nearly intact, posts charred near the top.  The final wall looked as though something had taken a giant bite out of it.  Matthew glanced around as he gave the command to dismount; Hayes and Davis were already on the ground, the buckets in their hands telling of their assistance in putting out the flames.           

The soldiers quickly divided into their units.  Graham’s unit remounted and spread out, creating a perimeter around the small village.  Matthew and his soldiers began discussing the fire with the locals, interested in the cause.  While it could have been an accidental blaze, the appearance of the burned structure led Matthew and his lieutenant to believe it had been started by a torch tossed onto the roof, likely by the bandits they were here to stop.

As he walked through the village, Matthew was surprised at the locals’ reticence.  When asked directly about the fire, most simply shrugged and mumbled something noncommittal.  They were willing to discuss the building itself; it had been a community building, with stores of hay and fodder for the animals of the village.  During these milder months, it was mostly empty, but as harvest came on it would be filled with supplies for the winter.  Occasionally he heard comments of gratitude for the minimal damage.  More than one woman had said something about her gladness that the girls of the village were all safe.  There was also much discussion about the fate of the now-charred shed.  This Matthew mostly ignored; it was not up to the Army to decide who would be responsible for rebuilding.

The one thing that none of his soldiers could get an answer to was how the fire had started.  Frustration with the lack of response was leading to more direct questions, which was beginning to aggravate the people of the village. Matthew made his way around to each member of his unit, gently suggesting that they return to the center of town to reclaim their mounts.  Clearly, the fire had lit a fear in the villagers, and even the presence of the army was not enough to douse it.

As he returned to his horse, Matthew caught the edge of a conversation.  He paused long enough to hear, “The wolves have gotten bolder.”  Intrigued, he turned toward the group.  The movement was enough to startle the man who was speaking, and once he realized the sergeant was listening, he bustled off on other business. 

 Wolves were not typically a problem this time of year.  Matthew mounted and signaled his unit to head out, the man’s comment niggling in the back of his mind.

Writing for the Future

I love the post scheduling feature on WordPress.  For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, here is how it works:

I write a post in advance.  I set the time in the future when I want the blog to post, and then hit “schedule.”  At the correct time (assuming the time is set correct in my settings) said blog posts to the site without any help from me.

This is a wonderful tool for many reasons.  If I know I’m not going to have access to the internet (or perhaps the energy to write) I can write something in advance so there will still be a post.  It’s also helpful for my story on Serial Central; if the story is done, I can schedule all the sections to post and not have to worry about it again.  🙂

My favorite is when I have a writing blitz (hasn’t happened for a while, but it’s not unheard-of) and I can write several Steps to a Story or other posts all at once.  Then I simply schedule them for different days and my blogging is done for the week!

This does sort of defeat one of my purposes for blogging.  I find that blogging is a good way to make sure that I write regularly – if I’m writing a bunch in advance, then that goal is not accomplished.  The convenience of it for other reasons is still enough for me to enjoy this feature of my blog. 🙂

Through the Reader’s Eyes

I have to admit that tonight I feel a little like a zombie version of myself.  Two long days at work left my brain basically useless.  Due to this, I was planning to write a “cheater” blog; maybe a teaser for With Honor, or something short and/or inane.

As I was contemplating this, I thought about you.  Yes, you – my blog readers, both loyal and new.  If I read a blog consistently, I would be disappointed if one of the posts was not up to my expectations.  (Granted, I would feel more disappointed if there wasn’t a post at all.  That’s not the point at this moment.)  This thought made me hesitant to let you down.

Putting myself on the reader’s side of the writing (be it a blog, short story or novel) can be important.  Sometimes it’s a matter of making sure that something isn’t too confusing.  I like to keep things secret until it is the most opportune moment for a reveal; this often means stepping into the reader’s shoes to make sure that I have laid out the appropriate groundwork but haven’t given too much away too soon.  I’ve also thought about plot devices that I like in other books.

One of my favorite (and, at the same time, least favorite) things that an author can do is to make a relationship difficult.  You can probably think of an example.  The first one that comes to my head is Talia and Dirk in the Arrows trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.  Both of them are miserable because they are in love with the other, but for whatever reason they can’t or won’t say anything.  They spend most of the trilogy in agony because of this.  I just want to grab them, shake them, and make them talk to each other!  It drives me crazy, but it also makes me cheer for them when they figure it out.  If I like this as a reader, then perhaps I should consider incorporating a similar concept as an author, making a relationship a struggle so the end result is more satisfying.

It’s interesting to think about my writing from your perspective.  Thanks for giving me the chance!  You are also welcome to share your perspective at any time!  Would you have been disappointed with a “cheater” post today?


Yes, that does say genetics; no, you’re not at the wrong blog.  🙂

I have a fairly scientific mind, which means that in order for me to be able to write about something, I need to have a reasonable grasp on how it works.   For The Dragon Pendant (my non-Butterflies novel) this meant I had to create some unusual genetics.  For some reason this came to mind yesterday, so I thought I’d share a bit of it with you.  This does include a little spoiler for the story, but since it isn’t even written yet (let alone published) I hope you don’t mind. 

The main character of Dragon is a human female who doesn’t know she is actually a dragon.  (Bear with me, I will explain.)  Her grandfather was a dragon who changed into human form and fell in love with a human woman.  He opted to stay with her and marry her and never changed back to his real shape again.  He gave her his dragon necklace – where a dragon in human form stores his magic – and they eventually had a daughter.  Here’s the tricky part that required some creative science.  Grandpa is a dragon, Mom (his daughter) is not a dragon, Daughter (main character) is a dragon.  I eventually figured out a way to make it work: dragons and humans don’t hybridize.  Their DNA doesn’t mix.  So Mom carries the genetic material for a dragon while she herself is wholly human.  Daughter has both human and dragon DNA, but the dragon is dominant in her. 

Her genetic material is an exact match to her grandfather’s.  This brought on two more issues which I also solved.  She’s female instead of male because in dragons (like alligators) the gender is determined by developmental temperature instead of genetics.  And she’s born in human form because she doesn’t have access to her magic.  Grandma’s still wearing it around her neck.

Once she gets the necklace as an heirloom and puts it on, the dragon DNA starts to assert itself.  As soon as she learns to take her real shape, the dragon DNA burns out any trace of the remaining human DNA, and she is truly the dragon she is meant to be.

Of course, very little of this information is going to be included in the story.  I just had to know that it would make logical sense in some fashion before I could use the concept.  🙂

Time Change

Last night I wrote my blog for the day late.  This shouldn’t be a problem; as long as I write it at some point, it counts as a blog for the day and my perfect streak for 2011 is still intact.  I officially published it just after 11pm.

Imagine my irritation when I checked my blog this morning and it said the post was for today.  It only took a moment for me to realize that I still hadn’t changed the time on my blog from the fall back of daylight savings.   As far as WordPress knew, I had published the blog just after midnight, making it today, not yesterday.

Needless to say, I changed the time zone for the blog.  🙂  I also discovered that I could go back and correct the time on the post to read 11:03pm, which is the actual time it posted.  My track record for 2011 remains intact.  🙂


There are three significant necklaces in my stories.  One will appear at the end of With Honor and also plays a role in Butterflies.  It’s not an expensive piece of jewelry; instead it has sentimental value.  This is a simple necklace: the pendant is a stone cut into the shape of a horse, hung on a leather string.  Matthew gives the necklace as a gift twice, once in each story.  I’ll let you stay curious for now, since I don’t want to give you a premature With Honor spoiler.

Another necklace appears later in Butterflies; this is actually a talisman that offers the wearer invisibility.  It is some of the only magic in the story, and it plays an important role in the resolution of the plot.

The third necklace is a key piece of my non-Butterflies story.  In fact, it is so important that I’m considering calling the novel “The Dragon Pendant” after the necklace.  This piece of jewelry is based on one that I actually own.  My necklace is a pewter dragon, wings spread, holding a blue stone.  The necklace in the story has a citrine stone instead, and the position of the dragon is a little different.  The main character receives it as an heirloom piece from her grandmother, although she later discovers that there is much more to the pendant than she is told.

I’m not sure why all three pieces are necklaces.  Perhaps it is because I personally prefer necklaces over other jewelry?  Or maybe the form of a pendant lends itself more easily to my needs?  Whatever the reason, it’s interesting to look back at my stories and think about the role jewelry can play.

Another Reject Letter

While today has not been all bad (I’m nearly finished with the next section of With Honor, I helped a friend out, and I got to handle Houston toads and completed a needed project at work) it has contained more than it’s share of negatives.  I forgot to take my keys to work.  It’s been raining all day, and I got absolutely soaked walking around a work.  I had to run errands this afternoon when all I really wanted to do was curl up with a book.  Two of my errands – both efforts to finish some of the details of my divorce – proved entirely futile.

To finish it out with a bang, there was a reject note in my mailbox.  It was not exactly a reject letter – it was my query letter sent back to me with a little handwritten note at the bottom.  At least I know that the agent opened it and read part of it, right?

I need to remember to look at the bright side here, too.  I still have two pending and an agent I really want to contact who doesn’t accept queries in January.  Who knows?  I’m going to have to get rejected first, right?  So I can just add this to the tally of rejects that I had to get and move on to the next response.  Maybe it will be a good one.

I Have a Plan!

Today I was successful at finding the motivation to be productive around the house.  Not everything got done, but enough that I can ignore my apartment tomorrow and not feel guilty.

Tomorrow I am planning to run a bunch of really exciting errands, but I also have a writing plan.  My laptop and I are going to go to a convenient Panera Bread, where I will have a tasty pastry and cold beverage and sit and write.  Hopefully getting away from the land of distraction for a few hours will help me get some progress made on With Honor.  I have a feeling that once I get started again in the story, it will start coming more easily.  (Here’s hoping that I’m right!)

Theoretically, if this plan works, I should have at least one, maybe more, Steps to a Store posts to add.  Keep an eye out – I let you know how it goes.  🙂

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