In honor of Short Story Month – an #excerpt of THE SEARCH

May is Short Story Month.

Short story month began back in 2007 to showcase books that could be read in one sitting. Now there isn’t an official number of words that constitutes a short story but the general consensus online is that a short story is between 1000 and 7,500 words.

Hmmm…that makes my “short” story, The Search, which is a prequel to my The Elemental trilogy, not technically a “short” story. However, I call it a short story because 12,000 words is much less than my full length novels that have 80,000+ words.

So in honor of Short Story Month, let me share with you an excerpt of my “short” story The Search.

You can get The Search for FREE from Barnes & Noble, the Kobo StoreiTunes or Smashwords where it is available in all e-book formats.

You can also purchase it for 99 cents on Amazon.

The Search: Book Description

For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.

But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?

The Search: Excerpt

The horse’s hooves thundered across the ground. Tosh dug his claws into the saddle as his back legs threatened to slip off. A firm hand pressed against his side, pulling him closer toward the young man behind him. Feeling safer, Tosh leaned out to see the terrain up ahead. He blinked his eyes in disbelief at what he saw.

You can’t be serious.

“We can make it,” Nolan said, speaking directly into his mind.

Tosh looked up at him, but Nolan wasn’t looking at the ravine. He was looking over his shoulder at the three men on horseback chasing them. Tosh caught a glimpse of a hefty man with a red beard leaning forward, urging his mount to run faster. He clearly was gaining on them. Tosh looked at the ravine before them.

It is too far for her to jump.

“Ah come on, Tosh. She’ll do just fine.”

Tosh sighed. Nolan rarely listened to any advice he gave him unless it coincided with something that Nolan already wanted to do. Knowing there was no way and no time to change the young man’s mind, Tosh curled up against him. He dug his claws deeper into the saddle and wrapped his tail protectively around his body. He felt Nolan lean forward as the mare’s hooves left the ground. He closed his eyes, counting the seconds until he felt the mare land on the other side. She stumbled slightly, and Tosh opened his eyes to see a small section of ground at the ravine’s edge fall.

Nolan reined in the mare and turned to look back at the ravine and the approaching men. Tosh glanced up and saw the look of concentration on his face. Suddenly, the ground shook. The edge of the ravine crumbled. Rocks and dirt fell until the gorge was three feet wider than it had been moments earlier. The men pursuing them pulled their mounts to a halt at the edge of the gorge.

“You won’t get away from us,” the redhead yelled.

Nolan raised his hand and waved before urging the mare toward the forest. Tosh glanced back to see the men swearing as they eyed the ravine which now was clearly too wide for them to jump. As they entered the forest, Nolan slowed the mare to a walk.

“That was amazing,” he said with a chuckle.

You’re lucky the mare made it.

“Oh, Tosh, you worry too much,” he said ruffling Tosh’s fur.

Tosh turned to glare at him and then proceeded to lick the fur back into the correct direction. We wouldn’t have had to find out if she could make it if you just learn to control your temper.  

Tosh didn’t really expect Nolan ever to learn to do that. He had been trying to drill that lesson into him since he was a headstrong teenager but to no avail.

“I know. I know. And stop using my Elemental power in front of others,” Nolan said with a sigh. “Why shouldn’t I use it?”

I have never said you shouldn’t use it. You just need to decide when it is wise to do so.

“So using it to defend myself isn’t wise?”

Defending yourself is one thing. Picking fights is another. Tosh sighed. I guess this means we are moving again.

“But first we have to go pick up our belongings.”

They circled back toward the town. When they entered it an hour later, Tosh kept an eye out for the men, but the streets were nearly empty. No one paid them any attention as Nolan stopped before the boarding house where they had been staying. Tosh remained on the mare as Nolan ran upstairs to gather their things. Within minutes, the young man had returned, and they were on their way out of town.

 

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Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

This post is the thirty-fourth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Due to the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I have taken the month of April off for my writing series. In case you need a refresher, I last covered Beta Readers, Proofreaders and Editors. In that post, I said I would discuss grammar checking programs in a future post, so here it is.

But first, before I delve into programs, let me say that grammar is very important. Your manuscript can easily be rejected by agents and publishers if it comes to them riddled with errors. And for those of us who self-publish, you can expect plenty of negative reviews if you publish a book full of grammar mistakes. Yes, you can hire someone to fix your grammar mistakes or use grammar software but I believe every author needs to know the basics of grammar or at least know enough to look up the rule if you are unsure.

You may not recall all the grammar rules that were drilled into you when you were in school, but there countless books that can help, or you can turn to the internet.

Books to keep nearby:

Dictionary

Thesaurus

Flip-Dictionary or Reverse Dictionary – These books are for when you know what something is but not what it is called.

Style and Usage Guide – I have seen all sorts of recommendations for The New York Manual of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style. But I always have had Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style on hand since college.

You also may want to include any reference books that pertain to your genre such as forensics if you are writing a police drama or a book on poisons if you are writing a mystery.

Internet resources:

Grammar and PunctuationGrammarbook.com

SpellingDictionary.com or Merriam-Webster

Word ChoiceThesaurus.com or Reverse Dictionary

ResearchEncyclopedia.com or Wikipedia.com (the latter one may not be too reliable as it can be edited by anyone, but it can be a good starting point in your research)

Also for research, check out Writerswrite.com

Writing helpWriter’s Digest

If you need additional help, a proofreader can check your grammar, but, nowadays, as software improves, the need for someone to proofread for spelling and grammar errors diminishes. I’m not saying a program can take the place of an expert but some of these programs do a remarkable good job and they blow away the checkers that come with word processing software.

Grammar Checking Software

There are several options out there, and none of them will catch every error. You will need to review any suggestions made to see if they are correct for whatever you are writing.

Since 2012, I have been using the program WhiteSmoke which is a cloud-based program. Grammerly and Ginger are two other popular programs.

Here is a quick look at these three.

WhiteSmoke (website

  • The offer a mobile version that is separate from the cloud-based version.
  • Works with any browser.
  • Offers three version – essential, premium and business.
  • Prices range from $79 to $215 depending on version.
  • Offers a translator and a plagiarism checker on all three versions.

Grammarly (website

  • It offers a free version but will only give writing suggestions on the paid version.
  • Paid version checks for more errors than free version.
  • More Expensive than WhiteSmoke and Ginger at $139.95 for a year subscription
  • It includes a Plagiarism checker on premium version.
  • No free trial of premium version

Ginger Software (website

  • Works on multiple platforms
  • Free version only analyzes a limited number of words per check and not the whole text.
  • No plagiarism tool
  • Offers two paid versions – basic and premium – The basic version is $61.20 per year.
  • It includes dictionary and translation tools which Grammarly doesn’t.
  • The software will actually read your sentences or the words it suggests be replaced.
  • I found it hard to find anything on the site other than the free version. I figure after you download it, they might “suggest” the upgrade.

Any of these grammar checking programs will help your writing and are definitely worth the investment.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

Recipe of the Month – Cake Mix Cookies

The strawberry version of these cookies reminds me of my Grandmother. She made these cookies whenever I visited her in Florida, and I loved them. They are super simple to make. Plus since they are made with cake mix, there are so many different versions of this cookie. I’ve listed some suggestions after the recipe though my favorite is still just plain strawberry.

Ingredients

1 cake mix (dry ingredients only)

2 eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup of mix-ins (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix cake mix, eggs and oil until combined. Stir in optional mix-ins. Roll dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until just set in the middle, about 7 to 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before moving to cooling rack.

Variations by using different flavored cake mixes – these are just some suggestions but really you are only limited by your imagination!

Strawberry (possible mix-in: coconut)

Butter Pecan (possible mix-in: butterscotch chips)

Cherry Chip (possible mix-in: chocolate chips)

Chocolate (possible mix-ins: Andes mints or peanut butter cups or you can roll the cookies in powder sugar before baking)

German Chocolate (possible mix-ins: pecans and coconut)

Spice Cake (possible mix-in: pecans)

Red Velvet (possible mix-in: white chocolate chips)

Carrot Cake (possible mix-in: coconut)

Lemons (possible mix-in: white chocolate chips)

White Cake (possible mix-in: M&Ms)

Yellow Cake (possible mix-in: Toffee chips)

Z is for Zomby Woof #AtoZChallenge

For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of songs about magic. (Fitting for a fantasy author.)

Z is for “Zomby Woof” by Frank Zappa and the Mother of Invention. This song was written by Zappa for the 1973 album Over-Nite Sensation. The vocals for “Zomby Woof” were provided by Ricky Lancelotti. Background vocals were provided by Tina Turner and The Ikettes.

Zappa’s songs were often bawdy, even obscene, and this song is no different. Now while this song may not be about magic, I guess if turning into a Zomby Woof meant you were turning into some sort of zombie/werewolf-type creature it could be magical. But sadly, there is a strong sexual nature to this song which makes it less than magical. The Zomby Woof is a sexual predator. According to the Urban Dictionary, a Zomby Woof is someone who takes part in illegal sexual activities such as rape. But Z was a hard letter to find a magic song, so I will take the turning into a creature aspect as my magical connection.

Previous A to Z Challenge Posts

A is for Abracadabra

B is for Black Magic Woman

C is for Could it be Magic

D is for Do you Believe in Magic

E is for Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

F is for Five Magics

G is for Gwen Stefani (The Magic’s in the Makeup)

H is for Honky Tonk Magic

I is for I Put a Spell on You

J is for Justin Timberlake (Love Sex Magic)

K is for Katy Perry (Dark Horse)

L is for Love Potion No. 9

M is for Magic (by Pilot, The Cars & Coldplay)

N is for Neon Magic

O is for Olivia Newton-John (Magic)

P is for Puff the Magic Dragon

Q is for Queen (A Kind of Magic)

R is for Ramble On

S is for Strange Magic

T is for This Magic Moment

U is for Under Your Spell

V is for Van Halen (Me Wise Magic)

W is for Witchcraft

X is for Xanadu

Y is You Can Do Magic

Y is for You Can do Magic #AtoZChallenge

For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of songs about magic. (Fitting for a fantasy author.)

Y is for “You Can do Magic” by the folk-rock duo, America. This British group (originally a trio) released the song in 1982 from their album View from the Ground. It was written by singer-songwriter Russ Ballard.

The song was a comeback hit for the group whose last Top 40 hit was six years earlier in 1976. The song hit number 8 in the U.S. in 1982.

“You can do magic
You can have anything that you desire
Magic, and you know
You’re the one who can put out the fire”

Again a song about a bewitching woman…

Previous A to Z Challenge Posts

A is for Abracadabra

B is for Black Magic Woman

C is for Could it be Magic

D is for Do you Believe in Magic

E is for Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

F is for Five Magics

G is for Gwen Stefani (The Magic’s in the Makeup)

H is for Honky Tonk Magic

I is for I Put a Spell on You

J is for Justin Timberlake (Love Sex Magic)

K is for Katy Perry (Dark Horse)

L is for Love Potion No. 9

M is for Magic (by Pilot, The Cars & Coldplay)

N is for Neon Magic

O is for Olivia Newton-John (Magic)

P is for Puff the Magic Dragon

Q is for Queen (A Kind of Magic)

R is for Ramble On

S is for Strange Magic

T is for This Magic Moment

U is for Under Your Spell

V is for Van Halen (Me Wise Magic)

W is for Witchcraft

X is for Xanadu

X is for Xanadu #AtoZChallenge

For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of songs about magic. (Fitting for a fantasy author.)

X is for “Xanadu” by the Canadian rock group Rush. The song was written by drummer/lyricist Neil Peart for their 1977 album A Farewell to Kings (their fifth studio album). It is 11 minutes and 8 seconds long with the first five minutes being instrumental.

The song was never released as a single. It is about searching for a place called “Xanadu” where the narrator will be granted immortality. He succeeds in his quest and a thousand years pass, leaving him a “mad immortal man.” Sound magical to me.

Previous A to Z Challenge Posts

A is for Abracadabra

B is for Black Magic Woman

C is for Could it be Magic

D is for Do you Believe in Magic

E is for Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

F is for Five Magics

G is for Gwen Stefani (The Magic’s in the Makeup)

H is for Honky Tonk Magic

I is for I Put a Spell on You

J is for Justin Timberlake (Love Sex Magic)

K is for Katy Perry (Dark Horse)

L is for Love Potion No. 9

M is for Magic (by Pilot, The Cars & Coldplay)

N is for Neon Magic

O is for Olivia Newton-John (Magic)

P is for Puff the Magic Dragon

Q is for Queen (A Kind of Magic)

R is for Ramble On

S is for Strange Magic

T is for This Magic Moment

U is for Under Your Spell

V is for Van Halen (Me Wise Magic)

W is for Witchcraft