Monday, February 22, 2021

Writing, Faith, and the Daily Grind: What I've Learned to Live a Self-Started, Creative Life


As a writer, as a small business owner, and as a Christian, I have every reason to wake up with a smile, but there are days when the day seems to yawn open with a mountain of to-do lists and no end in sight for lengthy projects.

It can feel daunting to do the dailies. I feel the need to hurry through my lists, to cram in more "should-do-this-too." This all stresses me, and I find myself getting less done.

I discovered I need to change my attitude and my daily practice of work, writing, and faith.

There's one method that's been working.

I start my day slower, with prayer, and a plan for self-care and re-energizing moments.

I schedule in self-care moments throughout my day's schedule, in-between writing, work, and life events. 

Examples of self-care: journal writing, prayer, essential oils, massaging my feet and Achilles tendon (actually physical therapy), physical therapy exercises, dance breaks, singing breaks, getting outside for five minutes with my dog, petting my cat and my dog, drinking water, checking my planner and using stars instead of checkmarks to highlight my progress (this is tiny, but it makes a difference to me), creating affirmation lists and "finished" lists, photography, idea generation/dreaming up new ideas (I know I don't need more, but this fills me with joy), conversations with friends, conversations with my daughters, date night with hubs (even though this mainly includes playing cribbage or watching a movie at home, it is good to have it on the schedule), stretching, chair yoga, regular yoga, time on the exercise bike in 5-10 minute spurts, doing the dishes while dancing to music (I know this doesn't sound like self-care, but it is), and creating healthy meals also while dancing to music, writing down 1-5 things I am thankful for, taking a drum break on the ancient drum set in our garage, sending a "thinking of you" text/email to a friend, creating a collage for a vision board, and listening to music. (Did I mention music enough times?) 

I end my day with more self-care by writing prayers in my journal.

Somehow, when I take the time to practice self-care, I actually expand my horizons. I still have the same amount of time, but when I am more relaxed and more hope-filled, I can actually achieve my goals. Self-care helps me regain the energy and attitude I need for a self-started, creative life.

Maybe this seems obvious, but I had to learn it. Heck, I am still learning it. 

How do you handle the daily grind - especially if you are working from home and everyone in your household is?

Highlights from February for me:

  • Zoom celebration for Creative Colloquy, Volume 7.
  • Writing poetry and song lyrics.
  • Podcasts from One Hope Church - Listening daily M-F has boosted my Bible study, and I created two entries of the ongoing series so far.
  • Words on the page. 
  • Labyrinth revision progress.
  • Physical therapy for my Achilles is going well again. (I had a bad plateau moment and had to have a cortisone shot that really hurt a few weeks ago.)
  • Conversations with my daughters.
  • Idea generation in my journal has motivated my "regular" writing.
  • Editing the novel of a new author - his enthusiasm is contagious!
  • #365gratitude - I don't always post my entries, but I have been writing them down. When I do post, it's fun to read everyone else's posts. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

World Building for Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: Start with Questions

Welcome to World Building for Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors

A Craft and Fandom Series

Start with Questions

One of my favorite parts of writing science fiction and fantasy is idea generation through questions.

These questions always start with the basic questions and build from there.

For example: 
A Group of Fantasy Questions Based on a Vase of Fake Flowers on my Desk:
  • What if the flowers on my desk were home to a particular species of tiny dragons? 
  • What if these flowers were picked by an unsuspecting human from an fairy dragon preserve hidden alongside a farm? 
  • What if the tiny dragons are then seen by a human child? 
  • Will the laws of fairy and human be at risk? What are those laws? 
  • Why would fairy dragons hide from humans? Why would they live anywhere near them? 
  • Will the human child need to help the dragons? Will the dragons help the child? 
  • What kind of trouble could they get into if the tiny dragons and the human child become friends? This is presuming the tiny dragons can communicate with the human child. 
A Group of Science Fiction Questions Based on the Dark Outside my Window as I Write:
  • What if aliens crash-landed and are camped out in the wooded area behind my house?
  • Why would aliens actually want to camp behind my house? 
  • Would I ever interact with them? What would that look like? Okay, maybe I'm too boring of a subject for alien interaction, but what if...the aliens decided to camp out and do some human research on a familial unit they thought was stereotypical, but then it turned out the familial unit was actually a group of criminal masterminds living together to disguise their nefarious deeds? 
  • What nefarious deeds? I'm not sure yet. 
  • What if the aliens decided to "help" the subjects of their studies with the unknown nefarious deeds? Would they help/hinder/cause humorous havoc? 
  • How would alien technology and human technology mix?
My first tip for World Building for Science Fiction and Fantasy is to generate lists of questions. Use the basic questions we're all familiar with and build on them.
What if

Repeat, and continue the idea generation with questions about the answers found for the first set of questions. 

Exercise #1 Start with Questions for World-Building

Ask yourself a question based on something you can see/interact with in your immediate surroundings mixed with something outlandish, fantastical, magical, technological, science fiction-based, or alien-based. Try for at least seven questions, all building on the first one.
Yes, this can lead you to write ideas like mine above which are a mix of real world and fantasy or science fiction. However, we'll change this up with Exercise #2.

Do not panic if some of your ideas feel like tropes the first time around. It's okay. 
First, tropes are useful. 
Second, tropes can be bent and reshaped into something new as you continue to ask questions.

Exercise #2 Rewind and Twist the Questions

Go back through your list of questions. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What if I change my initial setting? 
  • Where else can this take place?
  • When else can this take place?
  • What is the most important element of this idea? (The interaction, the magic, the tech, the characters?)
  • Do I want to age up or age down my initial character ideas, if I have some?
  • If I have a trope, how can I twist it to make it fresh?
  • What tone do I want to use for this idea? (Serious, humorous, dramatic, adventurous, romantic, etc)
  • What do I like about the idea forming so far? What don't I like?
Note: If you don't like any of the ideas so far, go back to exercise #1 and start again. Don't waste too much time on the initial idea unless you love it. Each of these exercises should take less than 15 minutes, ideally, until you land on something that really gels, or you just find yourself itching to start the story or ask more questions. 

Do you have any questions?
Ideas for idea generation?
Please let me know in the comments. I'm building this series of posts with the hope of turning them into a World Building Guide at some future date. 


Monday, February 8, 2021

Author Insights: Beth Camp and The Seventh Tapestry

Please welcome guest author Beth Camp for the first Author Insights Feature of 2021!

1.     Tell us about yourself.  

As an older-than-average writer, I used to worry about what I’d do after I retired from teaching writing and humanities at a two-year college. I’d always wanted to write, but I’d always worked – so there never seemed enough time for writing, not with 60 hour weeks! This is it, I thought. When I retire, I will write. To prepare myself for this new career, I took a creative writing class. My plan was to re-imagine a story about a serial killer that I’d drafted. My teacher had other ideas. On the first day of class, she announced, “Write about anything you want, but no violence.” I had to start from scratch! My new project led to my first publication about (wait for it) mermaids, though I discovered along the way that even mermaids have a dark side. 

Aside from writing and quilting, my other obsession is travel. I would rather live out of a suitcase nearly anywhere than stay at home. Luckily, my husband, Allen, feels the same way. In fact, neither one of us can rattle the suitcases, because the other one will say, “Let’s go!”

2.     How did you come up with the idea for The Seventh Tapestry

We had rented an inexpensive flat for several weeks in Paris and were busy visiting museums when I first saw the six magnificent Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Musée de Cluny. Discovered in an attic in 1841, these six tapestries were woven in Flanders sometime around 1500. Researchers know who had commissioned these tapestries, but questions remain over who they were for, why they had been created, and what they really mean. A few years later, Allen and I traveled to Scotland for a month to do research for Standing Stones (historical fiction, 1840’s). There we visited Stirling Castle where King James V once lived. Interestingly, James V (his reign 1513-1542) loved tapestries, had commissioned many of these delicate and beautiful works, and, we learned, the unicorn is a symbol of Scotland, appearing on the Scottish Royal Arms until 1603. Then we read of James V’s ‘summer queen,’ and the story of The Seventh Tapestry began.

3.     What is your writing process? 

 Mornings are best. Most of the time (even during pandemic), I begin writing even before breakfast. Just go to my computer and dive in for a few hours. Later in the day, I may pick up some more time. Typically a ‘pantser,’ I do now use some strategies to keep me organized. 1) Before actually writing the story, draft a blurb, short bios of characters and places, and a working outline. Update this through the writing process. 2) End each writing session with a ‘what’s next?’ list of questions/ideas. 3) Keep a separate ‘story notes’ file for research, unanswered questions, and deleted scenes. 4) If I’m stuck, ask what my main character would say or do in response to conflict/action/plot twist. 

4.     From start to finish, how long does it take for you to complete a novel? 

Sadly, writing my stories seems to take forever – typically three years from start to finish. While preliminary research may fuel the story, I’m distracted continually by bits of history/setting. I’m never satisfied with one round of editing. Maybe by three or five different passes on getting the story ‘right’.

 5.     Do you have any advice for inspiring writers? 

Try to write before distractions (job, partner, kids, normal emergencies?) intervene between you and your writing. You know when your most productive writing time occurs. Your time as a writer is precious.

Consider keeping a journal. I use those very inexpensive black/white composition books that easily slip into my bag. That journal allows you to explore ideas, capture inspiration, list questions, and even draw (characters, maps, timelines). Yes, we can do all this on the computer, but the tactile sense of putting words to paper slows the brain down. You may be surprised at what you discover!

My other advice? 

--Keep learning from other writers, whether you read their self-help writing books/articles/blogs, take workshops, share drafts with other writers f2f or online, or build friendships through being active in national, regional, or local writing associations. Online writing groups might include: The Internet Writing Workshop, Insecure Writers Support Group, or National Novel Writing Month, among many others.
--Make a commitment to write every day, which means 5 out of 7 days (or what you decide). Don't fret if you can't write on any one day (or meet your goals). Work sideways. If the words don't come, do research, write character sketches, look for funny slang. The internet can be inspirational as much as it can be a distraction. If word count goals don't work, change them for what is achievable for you. Celebrate every success!
--Most important of all, trust those stories that bubble up inside of you. No one else can tell your stories. Nurture them and your creativity – and enjoy every bit of being a writer, whether you start with poetry or flash fiction, or jump right into a novel.


Beth Camp attended eight high schools and worked her way through as many colleges on the west coast of the U.S. before earning her master's at the University of Oregon. Her careers as an international banker, a corporate consultant, and a writing teacher and English Department Chair at the community college level have fueled her passion for writing historical fiction.

A love of international travel led Beth to Scotland to research and then write her trilogy about the McDonnell family as they struggle with eviction and relocation during the Industrial Revolution. Standing Stones (2010), introduces the McDonnell family in Scotland. Years of Stone (2014), set in Australia, tells the story of Deidre who follows her fiancé, Mac McDonnell, a transportee sent to Van Diemen's Land in Australia. In Rivers of Stone (2017), Catriona McDonnell disguises herself as a boy to cross Canada during the fur trade era. 
The Seventh Tapestry is Beth’s first art crime mystery, set in Edinburgh and Paris. During this time of pandemic, Beth compensates by diving into writing and research – and working on her next art crime mystery, this time set in Egypt. 

Amazon Author Page:
Amazon page for The Seventh Tapestry:


Genre: Mystery/Art Crime/Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Beth Camp
Length:  295 pages
Format: E-book (ASIN : B08GJ8VRGL)
Paperback (ISBN-13 : 979-8639835421)
Publication: 21 August 2020

The Seventh Tapestry by Beth Camp – Art Crime Mystery

When precious artifacts go missing at the Museum of Medieval Art in Edinburgh, American Sandra Robertson, a newly hired curator, is immediately under suspicion. 

But, when she’s asked to help find out who’s involved, Sandra ignores her attraction to Neil McDonnell, art crimes investigator assigned to the case, and gets to work. After a priceless 16th Century tapestry goes missing, Sandra begins to receive threatening phone calls. 

What will they risk to recover the missing artifacts, stop the thefts, and find out who’s behind a series of mysterious deaths? Do Sandra and Neil have a future together?

The Seventh Tapestry takes readers on a journey from a small medieval museum troubled by theft into the dangerous world of international art crime.

“Filled with art history, suspense, criminal activity and just enough romance, this novel will pull you in and you won’t want to put it down until you read the last page.”
--Chris, GoodReads.

“Sandra and Neil make a great team, thwarting the protagonist and growing closer in the process of doing so. Intrigue, danger, determination make for a "can't put it down" book.”
--Sally, Amazon


SANDRA’S OFFICE PHONE rang; the sound broke her concentration as she studied the printout of museum holdings.

“Director Hadley would like to see you upstairs,” said Margaret. “Now.”

“I’m on my way.” Sandra rolled the kinks out of her neck and stared at the low-hanging ceiling in her office. She loved working for the Museum of Medieval Art, but she wondered what he wanted. She hotfooted it through the basement employee lounge, closed the door to the tiny, iron-scrolled elevator with a click, and hit the button for the third floor. She tucked her honey-blonde hair behind her ears and wished for the gift of clairvoyance.

Margaret ushered Sandra into the inner office overlooking an expansive view of Princes Street Gardens below, but Sandra’s attention was on Mr. Hadley, impeccably dressed in a gray suit with matching vest, and his guest. Both rose as she entered.

“Sandra, please join us. This is Neil McDonnell of Scotland Yard’s Art Crimes Unit. I’ve told him you are relatively new to our Curatorial Affairs department.”

The tall man next to Mr. Hadley nodded, his face still; his hand reached out to shake hers, firm and warm. Sandra automatically catalogued him: Hair a little long, tall, lanky, sure of himself, well dressed in a casual way, sweater vest and tie with a gray tweed jacket. Perhaps too good looking?

She sat on the edge of one of the chairs near a settee and waited.

“Tell us what you think of our main storage area.” Mr. Hadley’s eyes looked bloodshot; his expression not as welcoming as it was on her first day at the museum.

“The storage area seems adequate, so far.”  Sandra paused, not certain what to say.

“Were you alone in the storage area,” Mr. Hadley glanced at his notes, “on the nights of Tuesday and Thursday last week, after museum hours?”

“Yes, sir. I was working on my preliminary collections report for Roger, I mean Mr. Ferguson. I was assured I could do so.”

“And your findings?” Mr. Hadley glanced at the man seated beside him.

“I’m still working on my report, but . . .”

“Can we see your findings?” Neil interrupted, his sharp green eyes missing nothing.

“Yes, of course,” said Sandra. “The report is little more than a list of artifacts and locations just now. I can go downstairs to print them out.”

Mr. Hadley shook his head. “Tell Margaret the file name. She will print it out for you.”

Within minutes, Margaret handed out copies of Sandra’s database report.

“I haven’t finished my review of the first floor storage unit,” Sandra explained.

Mr. Hadley waved his hand to cut Sandra off. “We can see your progress. Notice this, McDonnell.” He tapped on something in her report. “Do you have any other comment on the Saxon axe hammer than what is here?”

Sandra shook her head. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Was the hammer in Case 24 when you last visited?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ah,” said Neil. “Can you explain why that item is no longer in its case?”

“What? It’s missing?” Sandra’s stomach lurched. While not a major item in the collection, the hammer was still valuable. But nothing should be missing. “What do the surveillance tapes show?”

Mr. Hadley and Neil exchanged a glance.

“The cameras were deactivated,” said Neil.

“How is that possible?” asked Sandra.

“That is just what we were going to ask you,” said Mr. Hadley.

The two men gazed at Sandra as if they expected an answer.

Sandra lifted her hands. “I know nothing of this.” 

To discover more about Beth and more of her writing, check out her author links above or go right here:
Historical fiction and more on Beth's Amazon Author Page 
Beth's Newsletter!

If you are a reader, Author Insights will be featured once a month in 2021.
If you are a writer, please contact me at tyreantigger (at) gmail (dot) com if you would like to be featured for an Author Insights feature in 2021. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

February 2021 IWSG Day: Friendship


Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and the whole volunteer admin team for keeping the IWSG up and running! Also, thank you to all of the co-hosts for this month's blog hop:  Louise - Fundy Blue , Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins at Womagwriter, and Nancy Gideon!

Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

I've made some writing buddies via the blogsphere, writers whose work I cherish reading, whose blog posts lift me up, whose e-mails are ones I delight in reading. I met an editor who helped me work through my last novella, and who is a joy to work with: Chrys Fey. I met a cover artist and interior designer: Carrie Butler. I have met many writers who have cheered me through my goals and who have helped me market my books with blog tours and shout-outs. Thank you!!!

This month, I'm enjoying new-old opportunities and working my way through some insecurities.

The opportunities: Song-writing and taking part in a church podcast. 

The song-writing has been both for faith-based songs and for a collaborative venture with high school alums. It's been rewarding in the sense that I feel like I've returned to some of my old roots - I used to make up songs between the ages of 4-12, and I love singing, so...even if it doesn't go anywhere, I am falling in love with the process of writing music lyrics.

I was asked to help out with a podcast for One Hope Church by doing a few episodes of a reboot Bible study of 100 stories from the Bible. I'll be doing the podcast on Feb. 4, 15, 24, and March 5, 16, and 25. If you're interested, you can find the podcasts uploaded HERE

My newsletter is off the ground and running. I feel pretty good about it so far. If you want to see a sample and sign up, go HERE.

And yes, I'm still writing fiction, too. :)

The mini-insecurity of the month:

I am attempting to build a number of projects at the same time. This is somewhat normal for me, since if I slog away at one project alone, I often get stuck in a spin cycle and my pace of work slows down until I am treading water. 

I am working happily, my calendar feels full, and I'm trying new things. 

However, the doubt creeps in now and then - am I doing too much? Will one of these things crash and burn? Is it okay if that happens?

Again, at the same time, I feel pretty happy with all of it so far, so I think I will keep on keeping on....


Book Destinations is an old-to-new project I have opened up for all book lovers and authors. If you're interested in highlighting a bookstore, library, or book destination in your area, or one that you have visited, please check it out! I am looking for guest posts from book lovers (and authors) from all over the world. Book Destinations HERE The first guest post will be from DL Hammons in Alaska. The posts will run twice a month for 2021, and I am looking for 9-12 guest book lovers/authors for April-December. While this blog will be focused on book places, you will certainly have an opportunity to write a blurb about yourself and your latest book(s) with some links to your sites.


I am a stowaway with the Writers on the Moon project and my novella Liftoff will be going to the moon, thanks to Chrys Fey! More details will come soon.

I had a short story published in a print publication by a local non-profit for writers in the south sound community. Creative Colloquy offers free classes, open mics, and community for writers and artists. My short scifi story "Companion for the Journey" made it into Creative Colloquy, Volume 7


IWSGPit was fun and successful this year! I hope all the writers who pitched had a good experience.