Category Archives: writing

A Drift of Quills: Care and Feeding of Fictional Characters

A Drift of Quills: Care and Feeding of Fictional Characters

Hello, and welcome back to A Drift of Quills! 2017 is already leaping out of the gate, but not to fear! We have our quills sharpened and our writing hats firmly settled! This month we are answering the following questions:

Do you plan characters in advance or in the moment, and how do you keep track of them?

A Drift of Quills: Writerly thoughts by writerly folks

For me, the answers are… Yes. And it depends! (Oops, my questionable sense of humor is showing!)

I tend to flesh out a few key characters briefly, but they grow from that organically. Every now and then random characters stroll into the story uninvited. I am not a fan of those “Get to Know Your Character” worksheets with a bazillion trivial questions, but I occasionally find them helpful when a necessary character refuses to take shape. What is this “shape”? Continue reading A Drift of Quills: Care and Feeding of Fictional Characters

Blood and Shadow is Now Available!

I am thrilled to announce that Blood and Shadow, the first novel in the Mage’s Gift, is now available on Amazon! It’s taken a lot longer to get here than I’d planned, but we’re finally there, and book 2 is not far behind. No, really.

Blood and Shadow: A vengeful mage. A powerful gift. A naive youth. (Join the journey today!)A vengeful mage. A powerful gift. A naive youth.

Sherakai never wanted to become a warrior like his father and brothers. Satisfied with being fourth in line to inherit title and responsibility, he wants only to be Master of the Horse. But on the eve of his sister’s wedding, a terrible gift arrives and Sherakai’s course changes forever. His magic is the key to secrets he does not know or understand, and he must learn to fight to escape a future he doesn’t believe in. Now he must use what he hates to regain what he loves.

The regular price will be $3.99, but for TWO DAYS you can pick it up for the intro price of $0.99! (This universal link will take you to your Amazon store.)

Are you hungry for a taste of what’s to come? Enjoy a short excerpt here: Blood and Shadow…

Another Update—In Case You’re Wondering!

Hello, wonderful readers!

I just wanted to make a drive-by post to let you know I’m still breathing. I’m deep into edits of Book One of The Mage’s Gift: Blood and Shadow, and I just want to say ohmygoshhowcaneditingbesoslow?!

Yeah. Like that.

I would like to give a percentage of progress. Something concrete, like I’m 62% finished. But silly things like “consistency” have me going back and forth in the manuscript until I’m dizzy.

But… I’ve got two little snippets to share with you. First, a picture of the timeline:

Blood and Shadow timeline

Yes, it’s small. Yes, some of the words look kind of blurry. You didn’t want spoilers, did you??

Second, a corner of the map-in-progress:

Alshan Map, The Mage's Gift Bk 1: Blood and Shadow, by Robin Lythgoe

One day it will be greener, the rivers won’t look weird, and the bordering countries will have names. Won’t that be exciting?

Do you want more good news? The covers (Yes, two! One for each of the set!) are nearly done! I can’t wait to share those with you.

Stay tuned! If you don’t want to miss the release of Blood and Shadow, be sure to sign up for my Book Progress email list, which will give you nothing but information about my upcoming books.

What’s almost as good as a crate full of chocolate?

food-1465499_640Well… nothing, but the news that I’m zeroing in on the end of Book Two of the slower-than-cold-tar Mage’s Gift series is almost as good, right?

You may (or may not!) have noticed a lack of blog posts the last few weeks. They will continue to be sparse as I turn my newly adjusted razor focus on finishing the bleepity-bleep books. RAWR.

I’ve had a particularly good week—I won’t jinx myself by quoting numbers, but suffice it to say I’m breaking all kinds of personal records. NaNoWriMo, eat my dust!

In the meantime, As the Crow Flies is getting the revised cover I’ve been dreaming about since—well, for a long time. If you’ve been following on my Twitter Feed or Facebook, you’ll have seen some of the options, and maybe had a chance to offer your opinion on which one is best. We’re still working on a few little details, so this isn’t officially official, but…

Here’s a teeny, tiny peek.

"As the Crow Flies" gets a new cover!

I’m stoked. Stay tuned for the officially official cover reveal, coming SOON!

So I'm Writing, Right? (Novel Excerpt)

So I’m Writing, Right? (Novel Excerpt)

So I'm Writing (Novel Excerpt)Hello, everyone!

It’s Friday. (Surprise!) It’s also Blogday for me, and although I could write a post about grammar, painting and fancifying a wall, the book I’m (still) reading, or a short humor piece about a recent encounter with a doctor, I want to work on my book.

sooooo want to work on my book!

So I am! And I don’t want to stop. I thought I’d share a little excerpt with you because 1) I already wrote it, 2) fun!

So here it is… Continue reading So I’m Writing, Right? (Novel Excerpt)

A Drift of Quills: Research or Treasure Hunt?

A Drift of Quills: Research or Treasure Hunt?

Does the word “research” give you the shivers? Dark memories of term papers or visions of endless numbers and figures? Well, it’s the first Friday of June (already!), and A Drift of Quills  is here to show you what research means to fiction writers!

A Drift of Quills

“My name is Robin and I am a member of Researchers Anonymous…”

ResearchOrTreasureHunt_DoQI blame it on my mother. I read a lot when I was a little girl. When I’d come across a word I didn’t know, I’d ask Mom what it meant. She invariably sent me to the dictionary.

A hundred years later (okay, not quite a hundred…) I find myself somewhat suspicious of her motivations. Did she actually (sometimes) not know the definition? Or was that just her way of making me an independent, curious wordie?

Either way, what happened was an addiction.

Oh, it started innocently enough. Continue reading A Drift of Quills: Research or Treasure Hunt?

A Drift of Quils: Tackling Writing Challenges

A Drift of Quills: Tackling Writing Challenges

A Drift of Quills is back on this beautiful First Friday! This month we’re talking about tough writing challenges we’ve faced, and how we’ve resolved them. And—we’ve got a guest! We’re so pleased to welcome P.S. Broaddus, who has  recently released his debut middle-grade fantasy novel.

A Drift of Quills

My partners in this month’s endeavor will probably not be glad that I’ve procrastinated writing this until the last minute (I have a laundry list of excuses reasons!), but it’s given me the opportunity to get a sneak peak at what they’ve chosen to write about.

It’s good stuff— Continue reading A Drift of Quills: Tackling Writing Challenges

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

My calendar says a book review is supposed to go in this spot. Oops?

I’m reading a book! Actually, I’m reading three. Chronologically, the first one I started is not holding my attention very well, which is why #2 happened. However, the offer a free ARC leaped into my lap (You might have seen it in my Teaser Tuesday posts here and here…). It came with a “read by” date, so it elbowed #1 and #2 aside.

Aaaand I haven’t finished it. It is hovering on the brink of landing in my DNF pile.

Stuff Happens

In the meantime, there’s been Spring. (Yay! Warmth! Buds! Birds! RAIN!)

There’s been a (feeble) attempt to organize some of the messes I’ve collected.

And there’s been writing.

Yes, it’s true. I know it’s hard to believe at this point, but I am plugging along like a veritable herd of turtles.

I finished the first draft of Book 1. I dove into Book 2.

What Do You Mean, “Epic”?

I’ve contemplating turning the whole thing into one book, and I swivel back and forth crazily on the final decision. In the meantime, since Book 2 is so intimately connected to Book 1, I’m writing it separately.

The entire story is long.

I like long books! My friends like long books! The names of a few epic fantasy authors immediately leap to mind—And if we each made a list we’d probably get at least one duplicate!

On her blog post in October 2012, E.M. Castellan makes this comment:

“So it seems that I’m far from being the only Epic Fantasy writer struggling with a high word count.”

Yeah, huh.

I want the “epic” part of my novel to be about its awesomeness, not its awesome size, so I still need to carve out the fat.

In that same article, Ms. Castellan gives a great example of how it really is possible to put your book on a diet that will make it shine like a star:

“YA Epic Fantasy author Sarah J. Maas did just that with her 240k-word novel Throne of Glass back in 2008. And guess what? She got rejected. She did eventually get an agent with her manuscript at 145k words. And guess what? She got rejected by editors. Throne of Glass was finally published in August 2012, with a final word count of… a little over 100K words.” (Read the entire article here)

I feel encouraged!

Bookending for the Wordy

I was recently reading some things online about story structure, and one of the authors talked about how the beginning and the end must serve as bookends for the middle. The beginning inevitably leads to the end. They nest each other. (Sorry, I do not remember who to give the credit to! Link me up if you have the answer!)

This reinforced other advice I’ve read. My beginning was good (but not great). I’d written the end—and it’s very pretty, but it’s very soft. Not at all what I’d like out of it. Ugh.

So I mulled that over as I was going to sleep one night. (BEST thinking time—if I can remember my great ideas in the morning. Yes, I know, I need something to write on by the bed, but I’m lazy, and Hubby would not appreciate me turning on the light twenty-seven times in a row as he’s trying to fall asleep.)

Much to my delight, I remembered what I’d been thinking. I ran to my computer first thing the next morning and banged out the New and Improved Chapter One, and scribbled notes for the New and Improved Ending Chapter (the poor, sad thing has no number yet).

My writing partner says, “I like it! A lot better than the previous opening, actually. Surprisingly, because I liked that, too. It’s tight, serves the purpose of introduction well and gets rid of the distractions.”

It also whittled long three scenes down to one shorter one and took a chunk out of the scene that follows.

It’s a win!

The new Last Chapter is in progress.

“I love it when a plan comes together”!

Photo by evelynbelgium via is licensed under CC0 2.0
Short Story: Deliver Me

Deliver Me: A Short Story

Want to read a short story?

Just the other day I wrote here on the blog about writer’s block, and it just so happens that I penned a short tale about that very subject a few years ago. I was poking through my files today when I ran across it and I thought, “Aha! Serendipity!”

I hope you enjoy! If you like it, I would love to hear your feedback. Just leave a comment below, email me, or comment via Twitter or Facebook.



“Deliver me…”

Such a small whisper couldn’t even begin to penetrate the weighted air holding the room in thrall. Dust motes made timid forays into the single, narrow beam of light sidling in through a clerestory window. Books—beautiful, enchanting, influential, fabulous books—crammed the shelves from floor to ceiling. They teetered in stacks on chairs and on the floor. They balanced along the window ledge. Every one of them had assumed the tight-lipped silence of a group of curmudgeons. Traitors they, refusing to offer even the slightest, most fragile means of escape. Even the glorious maps of places far and near, real and imagined, curled away from their duties. Mute. Contrary. Continue reading Deliver Me: A Short Story

Writer's Block

Writer’s Block: Zap It!

Writer’s block…
 Cue the soundtrack for ruination and doom! The very phrase conjures dread, and it’s the rare writer who hasn’t experienced it. Days, weeks, months—even years of being unable to think of something to write or being unable to finish a work already in progress.

I can’t say I’ve never struggled to write, but rather than thinking of it as a disease I’ve been struck with or the desertion of my muse, I’ve come to the conclusion that “writer’s block” is all in my head.

Writer’s Block: It’s Attitude

I still laugh at the source of the revelation: Richard Castle. (You know, the guy from the television show “Castle”! Nathan Fillion, anyone?) It’s become my number one way to deal with uncooperative words:

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in writer’s embarrassment. That’s when you’re so embarrassed by the horrendous drivel you’re writing that you can’t bear to see it on the page. After all, you can always write something. I’ve discovered that giving yourself permission to write poorly is the gateway to writing well. It may not be good, it may not make sense, but that’s okay. After enough pages of meaningless drivel, your brain will uncover something interesting, and before you know it, you’re off and writing again.

I’ve also discovered that writing about why you can’t write allows you to discover what’s holding you back. Once you know what’s holding you back, you can face the problem and solve it.


So if I’m struggling with What Comes Next in whatever I’m working on, I just write STUFF. I write about feeling uninspired, uncreative, and un-secure (yes, it’s supposed to be “insecure,” but that doesn’t match the other UNs). And after I have myself a little rant, I branch off into writing about the story situation. What’s the main character doing? What’s he supposed to be doing? How is he stuck and what are some ways he could get un-stuck? How’s the antagonist viewing the circumstances? What does he want at the moment, and why?Writer's Block: Split Open

That’s usually enough to get my brain in gear again, but sometimes my creativity needs to be rejuvenated rather than given a jump start.

You know how the ubiquitous “they” say that variety is the spice of life? It’s true.

Sure, I can scribble some drivel, then dive into the real work of writing, but I’ve discovered that I write better—more words, stronger images, finer sentences—if I exercise my creativity in another direction.

Just like physical exercise, you can’t just constantly focus on one part of the body without wearing it out, making it tired, or otherwise giving it stress.

Zap It!

So what do I do?

  • I read (Four or five books, at least!)
  • I create images in Photoshop (Let’s call that “doing artwork”)
  • I clean things

I went on vacation once, but then I had to recover… Heh. I like vacations, but they tend to derail my writing rather than infusing it with interesting stuff. Weird, I know…

My go-to de-stressers are easily available. They engage my brain in different ways. Or, in the case of cleaning, they leave me free to let my imagination wander. Whichever one I pick, I stick with it until I’m bored or until that magical moment when I have to get back to my story.

Then I put everything else away and write like a crazy woman!

The key for me is to keep it simple.

Don’t stress about not doing any actual word-count collecting writing. Stressing makes it worse.

Enjoy the side view. A writer is always writing, even when she’s not sitting in front of the computer typing.

“A writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words..always noticing.” ~Shirley Jackson

Your characters are always there in the back of your mind. You’re always listening to conversations or watching reactions. You’re always looking at things—perfectly normal things!—and sliding them into your story. The news, gossip, or a line from a show can become the perfect solution (or obstacle) for a scene.

Isn’t it so beautifully awesome that we are surrounded by inspiration?

It’s okay to leave the story for a minute or an hour—or however long it takes to slough off the blahs. Caveat: Plan to come back to the story. Don’t let your road trip move you into a completely new state.

Experiment. Find what works for you, and love it.

image credit: SPLIT OPEN via photopin (license)

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Do you get bogged down by writer’s block?
How do you get through it?
What’s the funniest “cure” you’ve ever tried?