Cast from Fiction!

Okay, maybe it’s 9:00pm, but I’m going to get this writing challenge out on Monday this week. Story behind this week’s writing challenge: ever since I got a contract to publish Demon’s Heart, I’ve had people asking me if it’s going to be a movie. My inner response to that question is a subject for another day. But one of the things that has come up in this relentless drive to push another novel to Hollywood screenwriters is who would be cast in various roles. I’m totally clueless when it comes to actors, so I came up with my own casting call that I thought I’d extend to you and your works in progress:


Cast fictional characters as actors in the “movie” of your book.


Make sense? Here’s my example:

Rustav: Jonas (The Giver by Lois Lowry)
Dantzel: Skye Penderwick (The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall)
Cabel: Fink (The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen)
Anton: Abbe Faria (The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas)
Ayre: Loki (Norse mythology–although I must say that Tom Hiddleston is the only actor I’ve ever thought of as portraying one of my characters)
Tay: Eowyn (The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien)

Okay, give me your casts!


The Ghost of Coolness Yet to Come

Fun things are coming in the next six days until Demon’s Heart is released! Excerpts, interviews, maybe even a giveaway (because who can say no to free books?!). While you await the awesomeness that is to come, take a look at the great fiction coming out of Cedar Fort this December. Brand new books for all the readers on your Christmas list!

Friday Frog-hunting

Friday is here! There were far too many sleepless nights this week, between deadlines, presentations, and a sick baby, but exciting things are on the horizon! Stay tuned for some fun announcements in the next week or two.

I know I just posted one of these last week, but Rachel Carrera was kind enough to interview me over at her blog. Rachel is one of the most consistent and entertaining bloggers I’ve encountered, and she is so great at interacting with her followers! Head on over to take a look and participate in the fun games she’s posting this month.

And now on to this week’s writing prompt responses! I had two wonderful bloggers post their work in response this week:

writersdream9: Nostalgia
Emily (A Cup of English Tea): To the Grave

No email responses this week, so you’re stuck with another of mine. Happy weekend, everybody!


Find a place that fills one of your characters with nostalgia. Write a brief scene showing why that place is so important to him or her.


The twins were teasing Jean again. Dan knew that his mother was working in her office, knew that he should go collar the twins before Jean starting up with her dramatic sobbing; but, just for once, he didn’t want to be the one in charge. He wanted his dad to have a normal nine-to-five job instead of working twelve-hour days to keep his company afloat. He wanted his mother to take a turn keeping the twins under control instead of spending her days filling orders from her home office. He wanted Jack, brilliant, perfect Jack, to come home after school once in a while, to spend a day with his family instead of always getting ready for another stupid conference.

Digging to the bottom of his desk drawer, Dan retrieved his sketchbook and slipped out the back door unnoticed, cutting around the side of the house and making his way to the park down the street. He plopped down beside the mucky pond, listening to the hordes of tiny frogs chirping cheerily in the late afternoon light.

One fearless frog hopped onto the sketchbook lying beside him in the grass. Dan scooped it up without thinking, then froze as he exchanged stares with the curious little creature in his palm.

He had been eight the last time he went frog-hunting here. The end of summer, a hot day that smelled of sweat and sunburns and mischief. Dan had raced Jack all the way to the park and not cared that he lost, he adored his big brother that much. They were making the most of their final hours of freedom, embarking on one last expedition before they were trapped behind hard metal desks in the classroom.

One last expedition before Jack was recruited to spend every waking hour as a child prodigy instead of a brother.

Dan dropped the frog into the grass and wiped his hands on his pants, snatching up his sketchbook and turning back toward home. Jean was no doubt in tears by now, and the twins were probably wondering why Dan wasn’t kicking them out to the backyard yet. They needed a big brother as much as he did, and Dan couldn’t let them down the way Jack already had.

It’s Friday I’m in Love

This week, I jumped into round 2 of editing Demon’s Heart, had two truly fabulous books land in my inbox and suck me in, resuscitated a dormant writing group, and got a jolt of inspiration on two separate novels. Then I sat down to write a response to my own writing prompt, realized it revealed far too much about the actual story, and wrote a different one because I felt all guilty and accountable because I’d promised to post my response.

So that got me thinking about my new writing prompt adventure. There will probably be some that I can’t actually post because they reveal too much. And really, what I wanted to do with this was promote interaction and show off other super cool authors. So how do we do that?


So here’s the new deal. (No, not the one from FDR.) I will still post any links to blog post responses, and I will still post some (but likely not all) of my responses. BUT, if you are interested in having your work shown off to a growing crowd of admiring followers (am I right?), send your writing prompt response to bumblesbooks at gmail dot com. I’ll post my favorites at the end of the week.

In short: I post prompt on Monday. You email me responses before Friday. I post my favorites, along with any links to participating bloggers, on Friday.

Got it?

Okay, here’s mine.


Take a minor character from your WIP and write a scene from their past, before your story takes place.


I should have known something was wrong when Dad invited Pax to dinner.

After my grandparents died and Pax moved in with us, Mom was enough of a buffer between Dad and his much-younger brother to keep the explosions under control. But once she was gone, the shouting had spiraled out of control. Pax was gone the day after he graduated high school. He timed his visits carefully for when Dad was on duty at the station–unless my dad ordered him to report for dinner.

It was a mostly silent meal. Heather didn’t eat much, painting with tomato sauce on the arm of her booster seat until Dad gave her a warning glare. The tension in the room triggered phantom pains in the leg I no longer had, destroying my appetite. Pax ate, but it was mechanical. His glazed eyes were fixed on his plate, his mind obviously elsewhere. It wasn’t until Dad cleared his throat that Pax snapped back into focus, and even then he refused to meet Dad’s eyes. Instead, he turned to Heather. “Are you liking kindergarten?”

Heather threw a nervous glance at Dad, whose face grew a little redder, and nodded. Dad leaned forward and posed his own question.

“And how’s school coming along for you, Paxton?”

There was too much weight in Dad’s words for Pax to miss. I looked curiously from Dad’s lowered eyebrows to Pax’s suddenly pale face. Was Pax failing his classes? He’d always done so well in school. He was the one who taught me algebra when I was bored with fourth-grade math last year.

“UC Davis, correct?” Dad pressed.

Pax nodded. “One of your recommendations.”

“Funny thing–they seem to have misplaced your file. There’s no Paxton Jennings in their system. Not even an application.”

Heather hunched down in her booster seat until her nose was level with the table. Young as she was, she knew well enough how to tell when Dad was on the edge of exploding. One look at Pax’s face told me that no file had been misplaced. I snatched up my crutches and left half my dinner behind on my plate.

“Come on, Heather. I’ll read to you before you go to bed.”

Dad was the first to blow, though he had the decency to wait until we had made it to the top of the stairs. Pax soon followed. Before I could usher Heather into her room, she stiffened, her eyes sliding out of focus. My chest tightened in panic. Not again. Not now.

It was a short episode, only a few seconds before she blinked and looked up at me, her eyes filling with tears. I tried to keep my voice steady.

“What did you see this time?”

“It broke,” she whimpered, then ran into her room and shut the door. I threw my crutches down and collapsed to sit on the floor, letting the shouts from below and the sobs from the side wash over me as I stared out the window at the empty street.

 Mom, why did you have to go?

Outline? What Outline?

Does anyone else feel like the sole purpose of outlines is to be thrown away?

Maybe my characters are just particularly unruly, but it seems like the second I sit down to type, my careful planning goes out the window. Oh, sure, elements of it remain; but I generally have to re-outline halfway through, and then that one gets tossed as well.

The funny thing is, I can’t work without an outline, even if it’s not what I’m writing. For example, last week, I got to a point in my manuscript where I had just strayed too far from my plan, and I got stuck fast. I knew what needed to happen, but there were too many scenes and parallel timelines getting tangled up in my head. I wrote and scribbled and doodled and made arrows and charts and it all failed. Finally, I stuck my little Scout in her stroller and dragged my husband out for a walk so that I could talk it through in the open air with lots of wild hand gestures.

It worked! The sequencing was clear, all the characters were taken care of, and everything had its place. We walked home, I made a simple, neat flow chart, and was satisfied. The next day, I sat down to write what I had charted the day before.

And that darn Cabel went veering off into left field, taking all the other characters with him.

So my flow chart is relatively obsolete, but at least parallel enough to what’s really happening that I can keep leaning on it.

What about you other outliners? Do you stick pretty close to what you’ve planned, or do you find yourself writing something completely different?

Meet Rustav!

You know what the hardest part of editing is? Letting the manuscript rest. I’ve been editing until my eyes are crossed, and I know I need to leave it alone for a day; but man, it’s hard to take a step back and breathe. Thankfully, I can distract myself with the Meet My Character blog tour! My blogging buddy phantomwriter143 (I don’t actually know your name, sorry! I tried to find it on your blog and failed. Although maybe that’s on purpose.) over at Inkcouragement tagged me in her post. Hop over to her blog to meet Ava Mae Monaghan. She sounds like a super fun character, and I’m excited to buy a book about her one day!

So here are some insights to my character:

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Rustav is entirely fictional.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story is set in the small, fictional country of Courei, a peninsula cut off from the mainland by mountains and a forest that is said to be infested with demons. The time period is medieval.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Ooooh, there’s lots. You’ll have to read the book to find out most of it. I won’t spoil it for you here. But you can know that Rustav has a sort of twisted hero complex. He comes from an abusive past and likes to foul things up for the bullies in his life by getting others out of their grasp. He likes to think that he’s a rogue and a troublemaker, but a lot of people owe him a debt of gratitude for saving them from their tormentors.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

What messes up his life? His abusive uncle, to begin with. A bunch of territorial mythical creatures. An island filled with demon-worshippers. He’s torn between being the worthless no-account he thinks of himself as and being the focal point of a centuries-old conflict that has turned his country from a peaceful buffer zone to a battlefield.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

All he wants–at least, all he thinks he wants–is to jump ship and get out of Courei before it falls to the demons.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is Demon’s Heart, and you can read more at my website,, or on various other posts I’ve written here about it.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

December 9! It’s also available for pre-order at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.


Thanks again for inviting me to join in, my friendly phantomwriter143! I’d love to meet the characters from the heads of Adrienne Quintana and David Ben-Ami. And from anyone else who cares to join in! If you take the plunge and introduce your character to the world, post a link in the comments section. I’d love to hear about them!

Proud, Prejudiced, and . . . Lovable?

I’ve read Pride and Prejudice twice, both times going into it with the intention of hating Mr. Darcy. After all, why would anybody like the guy? He’s arrogant, tactless, and altogether unpleasant. But both times, I closed the book with a wholehearted love of that stiff, prickly Englishman.

This time, I picked it up to find out just how Jane Austen managed to make thousands of women, young and old, swoon for a complete jerk, especially when there’s the oh-so-perfect Mr. Bingley at his side.

Here’s the thing about Bingley: he’s boring. So boring. He’s handsome and kind and friendly; he’s already where he’s supposed to be. And he’s kind of a dope. Totally clueless about his psycho sisters. Clueless about Darcy. Clueless about Jane.

Darcy has great flaws. He’s insufferably rude, with no tolerance for anyone but himself, his family, and Bingley. But nobody would love Darcy if that were all the book was about. He gets startled out of his complacent jerkhood by a pair of fine eyes. He fights it, long and hard; and even when he gives in, it’s utterly without grace. When you finally begin to see the goodness buried deep inside of him, it’s certainly not before he’s a smooth talker. It’s because he acts, because he does everything in his power to protect a hopelessly silly girl just to see Elizabeth’s worries eased.

We love Darcy because he wins. He’s crippled by his own weaknesses, but he gets past them. He lets go of his pride. He changes.

So what are your characters’ flaws? How do they get past them? What motivates them to change?

To the well-organized mind . . .

You know that part in Stranger Than Fiction where Harold Crick finally reads the manuscript? And how, after an entire movie of fighting that narrative voice that said he was going to die, he knew that there was no way out, that he had to die because the story would be ruined otherwise?

One of my characters totally just did that to me.

I had a very happy ending in mind for this particular character. It was going to be heartwarming. And then I was dashing my way through the final chapters, everything going according to plan, and suddenly another character is sobbing over this character’s lifeless body. What?!

Sheesh. The life of a writer is brutal. Excuse me while I go mourn the passing of a figment of my imagination.


A good friend asked me not long ago how I stay focused on finishing my book. The short answer? I don’t.

Writing is hard. It’s hard to find the right words. It’s hard to pull the plot together neatly. It’s hard to get characters out of the scrapes I’ve so lovingly put them into. And honestly, there are days when I just want to write my characters right to the bottom of the ocean and leave them there.

I’ve learned that, for me, the best way to handle those frustrations is not to write through them, but to give them space. Sometimes it’s an hour, sometimes it’s a day, sometimes it’s a week. I don’t push it. I’ve tried pushing through it before, and in the end, that story got shelved for half a year before I could bear to even think about it again.

Some authors can stick with one book from beginning to end, but I always need a couple of back-burner projects for when I hit a wall. Working on something else for a while gets me excited about writing again, and eventually, I work up enough momentum to break through the obstacles in my main project.

How do you make it through your manuscript?

Campfire Inspiration

When I was a teenager, I would go to camping once a year with a couple hundred other girls. Well, they called it camping—we had two very nice buildings on either end of camp filled with showers, sinks, mirrors, and toilets that flushed. My husband has since informed me that that is not camping. But I digress.

There were a lot of things to love about that experience. I still have in-jokes (that’s one of them) with some of the girls I camped with all those years ago, and that was the first place I learned that you could crochet with your fingers. But my very favorite part was when the air grew cold, the forest grew dark, and the dancing shadows from the fire sparked visions of monsters slipping between the trees, just out of sight. That was when we broke out the marshmallows, huddled close together, and hung on every word of the night’s storyteller.

The best campfire stories, it was commonly agreed, came from one of the Camp Dads. He would lapse into a rolling Irish accent as he told us of white coffins, ruined castles, and his boyhood escapades in Ireland. His most chilling tale was told only after swearing each person to secrecy to avoid the risk of gruesome death.

The thing about campfire stories is that they only happen once. Even if someone tells the same story twice, it’s never quite the same. The words chosen, the rise and fall of the voice, the length of silences, the wind that rustles the leaves—all of it will create a new story every time.

But in spite of having heard these stories only once, they’ve stayed with me through the years. Not just the content, but the chills, the sound of his voice, the images of a country I had never seen. I knew then that I wanted to do that—to create something that would stick, that people would remember and treasure, that would inspire someone to leave behind a comfort zone for a dream.

I’m not there yet. Maybe I never will be. But I won’t be satisfied until I’ve tried.