Finding My Theme

I’m 50K words into my novel and I’m stuck.  I was on a roll for the last month and half, writing every day and building the tension between the characters, tightening the narrative and the conflict, and making sure that characters show up because they’re important and not just window dressing.

And then life happened.  I have to do a rebranding on my author name from Liz Madrid to Liz Durano, which is my maiden name.  Hubby was never happy that I was using Madrid for my books and the request came again last week.  Turns out, rebranding isn’t as easy as I thought and so it will take time.  Some said I should do it slow, but how slow can you go when you’re changing the names of your books and your author platform?  Probably not slow enough, right?  Do you stagger it?  By days, weeks, months?

So my head’s been on other things BUT the story on hand the last two days, even though I have a deadline looming just so I can get other books off the ground, too.  I need to get this done. I need to tie all the loose ends. I need this story to leave the ground running.  I really do.  I want this story to be good, so good that people will tell their friends about it. So good that I might even surprise myself.

But first, I need to find the theme behind all the words I’ve written so far. That would be nice because this rebranding is sucking the life out of me already, and right now, I need to find the muse again and allow him to guide me back home.

What about you? How’s your writing week going so far?




Writing To Understand Who We Are

My current writing project involves an older woman and a younger man, and it’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time.  At first, I thought I was going to write it for fun – maybe an erotic romance, a lighthearted meeting of two people, maybe on vacation, with lots of sexual encounters, and didn’t require too much baggage back story for any of the characters.  Maybe even under a pen name so I didn’t offend the family or get excommunicated.  But you know how it is with our best-laid plans…

…we end up getting in the way.

And so now, my original light-hearted erotic romance novella is turning into a full-blown novel with an older woman and a younger man dealing with a few tough issues like the age difference and divorce and what one really wants from life. What was once simple is now a bit complicated, though I would like to call it a more  well-rounded world than it was originally conceived – which was an excuse to write fluff.

Unfortunately, I can’t write fluff – at least nothing that goes over 2500 words.  It’s just not in my make-up because I write to understand the world around me. I always go by one of Ray Bradbury’s advice about writing, the one about asking questions.  In my case, the question is always, “what if?”

With my current WIP, the question was, “what if an older woman fell in love with a younger man?” But from that one question arose more questions, like how do they deal with the age difference? Is it even an issue? If it’s not, why?  And if it is, why?  What other issues plague the characters?  Could I have her dealing with the loss of someone?  Can I make one of them any more vulnerable but not too vulnerable?

Definitely not questions to ask for a fun erotica novella, eh?  But that’s me. I write to understand the things around me, and most of all, to understand myself.  It’s how I process many things, the conscious and  subconscious parts of me.  And what’s always surprising are the answers that come up, followed by more questions, maybe deeper than the ones that came before it.

But I’m not abandoning the erotica aspect of this novel.  No, sir.  I’m adding it all this time, which poses more questions for me because I don’t really write erotica (or at least I think I don’t) like, how many ways can you say the word X or Y?




Featured Author · Writing

Featured Author: Andrew Reid, Author of Kingdom’s Fall

This week, I’m pleased to feature Andrew Reid, author of Kingdom’s Fall, a fantasy novel about a group of ordinary people and not-so-ordinary people forced to work together to save a kingdom from an ancient evil.  I first discovered the story on Wattpad and when Andrew published his novel last year, I immediately bought my own copy. 

Andrew did a virtual “interview” and he was kind enough to answer a few questions I posed about his book and his writing process.  Before I go ahead with the interview, do check out his blog.  I love his so-English humor and Andrew’s got it by the buckets.  Considering that the main male character in one of my novels is so English, I should be taking notes…but I digress.

Let’s check out the interview!

So what is Kingdom’s Fall about?

It’s about “a handful of exceptional people who band together to brood, crack jokes, fight giant monsters and save their kingdom. It’s a fantasy novel built on the idea that the choices people make out of duty or loyalty – even if they’re the right choice – can have repercussions that echo for a long time. It is told through the medium of cool people doing awesome stuff.

What inspired you to write the book?

A scrap of paper that I saved from a writing workshop. I’d been kicking around a fantasy idea about two rival kingdoms and a gift of a cursed sword that never really found its feet. Casting about for something to give me direction, I found about 200 words of a prologue that I had written during an hour-long session with Mark Chadbourn (fantasy and tv writer) back in 2009 about a giant wall that held back the sea, and the ship that finds it breaking. I reread it and thought about a country locked behind walls; walls so old that nobody remembers why they were built; about walls that aren’t necessarily made of stone. I started with that and a list that read “Soldier, Spy, Rogue, and Adventurer” and the story sprang from there.

51RiJp3jAXL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_How would you describe your writing style?  Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I started off essentially as a pure seat-of-the-pants writer. I got the book done, but…I found it very stressful going. Even though all the parts were there, it needed a lot of work in the edits to get the structure, pace and flow correct. So now I deploy a little structure beforehand to keep me sane. It’s based off of Save the Cat, and I will build a set of cards with the major beats that I want to hit and then start writing towards each one. I do go off piste sometimes, but having it all laid out means I can think, “right, well if *this* has changed how can I use it later?” and it’s a much smoother process.

Who has influenced your writing?

I’m a huge fan of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. It’s one of my favourite fantasy works, along with the companion Tawny Man trilogy. I love Ursula K LeGuin: A Wizard of Earthsea is a fantastic book. Other favourites include The Count of Monte Cristo, and the Culture novels by Iain M Banks. Recent fantasy books that I really enjoyed and have had an influence on me: The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, Half the World by Joe Abercrombie.

What do you love about writing?

I love playing about with dialogue, the inner and outer voice. I like feeling that kick when you get characters sparking off of one another and it makes the writing *come alive* when you read it back, even though you know it took six months and three drafts to make it happen. I really like seeing what references my brain throws into the mix – all the stuff you see and read, all these old quotes and ideas get dredged up to the surface and it’s amazing what you remember when you’re sweating blood trying to just get the words out of you and down.

What do you dislike about writing?

Getting too close to the work is a problem. I can picture scenes very very clearly in my head, so when I come to write them I feel like I have to smudge the image a little to leave room for the reader’s interpretation. But when it goes out to beta readers, those parts always get flagged as being too vague, and could I be a little more forthcoming with the detail. It can be really hard to judge sometimes if you’re being blunt, or simply direct. Basically, the constant second-guessing of the thing you’ve just written.

What challenges have you faced as a writer?

Getting a traditional publishing deal is the current hurdle! I’ve been really close to things a few times now – I have a couple of unpublished novels under my belt in the past few years – and it has come down to things like “this is really good, but it’s not a debut” or “right writer, wrong book”. So…that’s what I’m working on. I’ve got one book bouncing through round after round of edits so that it is about as good as I can get it, and hopefully it will stick. Touch wood.

Can you tell us about your next book or project?

The next book is called The Tracer. Bit of a diversion from the fantasy, but it’s a contemporary thriller about a tech-savvy bounty hunter who is hired to track down a corrupt trader, only to find him dead and evidence planted at the scene that implicates her in his murder. I’ve had some thoughts about surveillance culture bouncing around my notebooks for a while now, and getting to talk about them AND have a main character whose main solution to any problem is to kick it as hard as she can seemed like a nice way to spend my evenings. I’m also working (slowly) on the sequel to Kingdom’s Fall. Hopefully the former will be finished in the summer, and then I can concentrate on the latter.

What’s the last book you read?

The last book I read was so bad it put me off picking up another one for a few days. I won’t mention the title or author but it was a hangover in the worst way.

On the good side of things, I just picked up The Privilege of the Sword and The Fall of Kings, which are the sequels to Ellen Kushner’s *truly amazing* fantasy, Swordspoint. Now that is a book hangover. The imagery is so crisp and intense, the world so compelling and yet almost entirely ephemeral on the page: the city where it takes place is never named, and yet feels so familiar you could swear you’d been there. I should have put that up in influences, but seriously: Swordspoint is an amazing gem of a book.

On the tech-y side of writing, what programs or apps do you use to write?

I write mostly in Google Docs at the moment. With one small child and another on the way alongside a full-time teaching commitment, I write on my phone during my commute and then sort out the text later on. For the complete draft, it all goes into Word so I can track changes. I use notebooks to sketch out ideas. I very rarely write blocks of text freehand, but I do a lot of flow diagrams or loosely connected frameworks. I write a LOT of dialogue fragments and often surprise myself by going back through old notebooks. I use index cards and Post-Its stuck to a wardrobe for planning, although I just got a massive flipchart refill where each page is divided into squares about the size of a Post-It and have hung it on the wall so I can write straight onto it. It should be awesome.

What’s the best advice you can give to someone about writing?

Best advice heard: finish what you start. Get it done. Yes, you have other ideas. Finish this one first. Advice to give: if you’re submitting to agents or publishers make sure your MS is complete before you start querying, follow the submission guidelines, and be polite. Writing is art, but publishing is a business. Be professional.

Thank you so much, Andrew!  Learn more about Andrew and Kingdom’s Fall on his website.


Aiden was dragged from the inn – his shoulder alight with pain, too much for him to protest or resist any further – and out into bright sunlight. The inn stood at the very edge of a tiny village. It was little more than a stopping-point, a place that thrived off what few travellers and wagons passed through on their way inland. On the opposite side of the road a massive tree disturbed the verge, so big that it had been either too much trouble or too familiar to cut down.  Someone had thrown a rope over one of the branches, and a noose swung lightly at one end.

“I thought I was going to face justice.” Aiden spat the words out between gasps. The pain was hot and bright, bright enough to mix with the sunlight and send flashes across his vision.

“You are. Warrant doesn’t say you need to be alive to face it.” The leader grinned savagely. “We’ll hang you here, and save his majesty the trouble.” He made a show of looking Aiden up and down as if judging his weight. “Might just send your head back.”

Two of the men held Aiden upright while the leader slipped the noose over his head and pulled the knot tight against the back of his neck. One peace-man spat on the ground, disgusted. “Thought you’d be bigger,” he said. “At least you’re not begging. Can’t stand it when they beg.”

“Does it ever work?” Aiden asked.

The man thought for a moment. “It gives us something to laugh about later.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint. If we ever meet again, I’ll try to make more of an effort.”

“Do that.” The man let him go. Aiden sank into the noose, barely able to stand. He twisted on the rope, turning to look at the men who were getting ready to haul him up. He could feel the blood gathering in his face, the skin of his cheeks and forehead prickling hot and tight.

“Any last words, my lord?” Their leader asked.

For a long time there was nothing but silence, and terror. He was going to die, alone and hurt and afraid, for something he couldn’t even remember doing. Aiden closed his eyes and felt the weight of it press down on him. As it sank through him, a thought rose to meet it. There’s still one thing you can do. One good thing. Aiden struggled to nod, and the weight on the noose eased off as they waited for him to speak. He forced the fingers of his good hand up under the rope, trying to take the pressure off his windpipe. “There were six of you.” His voice was little more than a whisper. “Now there’s four. If you kill those two who are off after the serving girl, that’s a lot more reward to share.”

The leader snorted. “Bit late to find your conscience, my lord.” He turned away, gesturing to his men. “Haul him up, lads.”

Purchase Kingdom’s Fall here. Your purchase benefits Pencils of Promise.  And if you’ve read Kingdom’s Fall, please leave a review.  Reviews help readers discover new authors!

-Reposted from Liz Madrid Author



A Sour Then Sweet Love Story

My novel, Loving Ashe, has been selected to be one of six stories participating in Sour Patch Kids’ Sour Then Sweet campaign on Wattpad.  They’re currently holding a Single Awareness Day contest for Valentine’s Day, with the winning story getting their tale animated in the Sour Patch Kids style!  It’s sure pretty cool to see the cover of Loving Ashe get that round #SPK sticker!

It was quite a surprise to be chosen and it’s wonderful to see the story being discovered by a whole new demographic other than the small group of readers I started with two years ago.

Currently the novel is hitting 400K reads on Wattpad since I posted the first chapter on November 1st for NaNoWriMo14 – that’s 3 months and 6 days!



Ranking #1 on Wattpad Today

With 2014 coming to a close, I’ve got a few more days before I need to wrap up my #NaNoWriMo novel-in-progress, Loving Ashe, before it heads to an editor.  Right now, it’s currently #1 under Chicklit on Wattpad and I’m pretty thrilled it made it that high.  I should be celebrating little triumphs, right, even if it’s only on a reader platform like Wattpad and not exactly generating any income for me as a writer?

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And with it already 2015 on the other side of the globe, it’s time to welcome the new year with open arms.  I’m sure there’ll be more writing and more editing, and more publishing, even if it’s indie publishing, which some of my real-life clients aren’t too happy about at the moment.  They’re still hoping that I at least query my work to agents and see what happens.  I guess we’ll see.

But it is what it is. For now, I’ll just keep on writing.  And I hope you do, too!

Wattpad · Writing

Got My Autographed Copy!

Today I received my autographed copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Stone Mattress, my prize for being one of two runners-up for the Freeze-Dried Groom Fiction Contest on Wattpad.

My entry, Miss Hazel-Eyes, was my first attempt at writing in present tense, the same tense used by Ms. Atwood for the character of Sam in the short story, The Freeze-Dried Groom, whose fate is largely unknown – till I got a hold of him, thanks to Ms. Atwood’s contest.

It was interesting to write in present tense – a bit invigorating, if you ask me.  I might even try it in another short story that’s related to Loving Ashe, the current novel I’m working on, and see how I do.

Still, I’m pretty chuffed to get my own copy!  I already have the audiobook version but I’m more a reader than a listener so this book is perfect!