Category Archives: Guest Posts

Meet the Guest Fictorians: Author Tonya L. De Marco

Author, model, and professional cosplayer Tonya L. De Marco contributed several articles for the Fictorians over the years after attending the Superstars Writing Seminars.

Fictorians: What are you drinking today?
Tonya L. De Marco: Coffee, coffee, and more coffee.

Fictorians: What have you done for the Fictorians?
Tonya L. De Marco: I’ve written 3 articles as a guest poster.

Fictorians: What genres do you prefer?
Tonya L. De Marco: I mostly prefer writing speculative dark fiction. I’m very in touch with my dark side as you can see if you’ve read my other articles and most of my published work so far. Taboo subjects are also very near and dear to my heart and I often incorporate that into my writing, often along with some type of erotic flavor. I’ve struggled to keep to a PG-13 guideline in the past. I also write non-fiction articles which have been published with Fictorians and in magazines.

Fictorians: What’s your current project?
Tonya L. De Marco: I’m currently working on a short story submission with a deadline of November 30th. It’s a little bit steampunk, a little bit science fiction, and the story involves cats.

Fictorians: What can we expect to see from you in 2018?
Tonya L. De Marco: You can expect to see more articles, more short stories, and hopefully a novella or novelette. I’m trying to learn to draw out my muse when I need her and not just when she want to be heard. Another goal for 2018 is to become a member of more professional writing organizations. I’m currently a member of The Horror Writers Association.

Fictorians: Besides writing, you’re also a costume designer and professional cosplayer. What was your last project?
Tonya L. De Marco: My last project was designing a dress for an Elvira-inspired cosplay.The dress was very challenging and I learned so much making it! I did a combination of 2 different patterns and my own design elements in drafting the pattern. For the bodice of the dress, I also did a built-in corset for the first time. I see more cosplays I an use this pattern (or a modification of it) for in the future!

Fictorians: What was the last convention you went to and how did it go?
Tonya L. De Marco: I’ve just returned from a convention in Arkansas. I’m not going to name the convention because there were serious issues and possibly fraud associated with at least the promoter. What was wonderful was how all the volunteers, cosplayers and vendors all rallied around each other for support. I feel like I’ve got a new family from the experience.

Fictorians: Where can we find more about you?
Tonya L. De Marco: Mostly on social media and at plenty of conventions across the country. Make sure to check out the “about” section on my Facebook page which I will be updating again shortly.

Tonya L. De Marco – Published Cosplayer/Model and Author
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VintageSteamtrunk (page name is Cosplay Tonya)
Member: Horror Writers Association
Website: http://tonyaldemarco.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cosplay_tonya/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tonya-L.-De-Marco/e/B00I38RNI8/

Fictorians: Anything else you want to say?

Tonya L. De Marco: Thank you very much for the interview, it’s been an honor. Also, if you’d like to see me at a particular convention as an author, a professional cosplayer, or both, please tell the convention programming staff you would like to see me there as a guest. You can send the above links if they ask for them. Thank you!

NaNoWriMo is Key to Success, An Interview with Jayne Barnard

An interview with Jayne Barnard.

Jayne Barnard, a successful and award-winning author, says that participating in NaNoWriMo has been critical to her career. Not only was NaNo’s self imposed discipline important to learn, but it was also instrumental in launching her career. I interviewed Jayne to find out how NaNoWriMo influenced her.

#1 What did you learn by participating in NaNoWriMo?
I learned:
a) to outline (more on this later);
b) to clear my schedule of distractions. Otherwise I’ll quite happily spend all week visiting with people in person or online, reading library books because they have to go back soon, shot-gunning series on Netflix, cleaning closets.
c) that I need to reward myself for meeting my goals. The first time I did NaNo, I didn’t know to set up a personal reward structure. As the story got complicated, it got progressively harder to force myself back to the keyboard. I think I gave up around November 13th that first time.

I’ve learned since that I can lure myself through a lot of work by setting a daily word count and promising myself a couple of episodes of my current favourite show once that word count is saved on the page/screen. At 5,000 and 10,000 and 25,000 words I lined up progressively larger rewards, including going out to a movie and going out for supper (see ‘distractions’). Otherwise, I had to be at home working until I’d met the goal.

#2 NaNo requires working under pressure. Is there a lot of pressure in working with a publishing house?
I’m working for two publishing houses right now: Tyche Books, which publishes The Maddie Hatter Adventures, and Dundurn Press, which will be releasing the first in The Falls Mysteries in July 2018. Between them I have a minimum of two book deadlines per year for three full years, as well as publicity/marketing/teaching obligations. So yes, at this time there’s no shortage of pressure.

It’s not just the workload, but the creative pressure. The leisure to consider fully each individual part of each project is gone, and with it some of the joy of creation. For example, I launched Maddie’s third Adventure – MADDIE HATTER AND THE TIMELY TAFFETA – on October 23rd and was writing a video-trailer concept for The Falls Mysteries 24 hours later. It’s not my preferred way of working – I like to immerse myself in each story-world and really think about/enjoy what I’m creating – but I know it’s only for a finite amount of time, until the last 3.5 books currently contracted are written. After that, the pressure will be considerably less, and I’ll go back to enjoying myself more.

#3 Getting ready for NaNo, were you a pantser or a plotter?
I was a half-pantser. Or rather, a sixth-er. I can write the first 1/6th of any story on enthusiasm alone. That’s about 50 pages into a novel, 25 for a novella, two pages (one scene) for a short story, two paragraphs for a short-short, and about two sentences in flash fiction. If I don’t have (or make) an outline at that point, my enthusiasm will die, and so will my story.

Subsequent years doing NaNo taught me an outlining method that works very well for me now, both in keeping the story going and keeping myself going. I use slips of paper on a cork board for the overall layout – to avoid muddles in the middle – and then write the entire story out in summary, just the plot points and significant bits of character development, to cement it in my head. Often during the process I’ll find spontaneous action sequences and snatches of dialogue popping up, which lend the story life beyond the page before I ever start writing ‘for real’.

Some of those spontaneous flurries from long-ago NaNo have survived years of rewrites, three changes of title, and two layers of the publisher’s in-house editing to appear on the pages of WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS when it comes out next July. Vintage NaNo-ites may recognize a single sentence near the climax that will mark which November saw me writing the bulk of that novel’s first draft.

#4 Do you still participate?
Every month is Nano for me now, or rather every season is. Although my writing goal is only 25,000 keeper words per month, there might be a third again as many written that get cut the day after I wrote them, because I’ve discovered by the writing what the essential ones are. All year round, I’m either writing or rewriting or both. Or outlining. I have to be very disciplined about social life and other distractions, which gets more difficult the more of the year one must do so.

#5 What differences do you see between writing for NaNo and writing for publishers?
Deadlines are real, not arbitrary. Publishing a book is a multi-person, multi-department coordinated effort, with each piece scheduled months or years in advance. Missing a deadline messes up a lot of people’s work life, and costs time and money to reschedule.

Crafting rather than spewing. No throwing in words and sentences just to rack up the count. Every word has to matter to the finished story, so each must be chosen with care. I write slower, but I hope I write better.

Outlines are not an option any longer; it’s simply not efficient to meander through the story and then go back to rewrite a whole lot later. With the complete outline set down before starting Paragraph #1, I can slide in as much flavour and foreshadowing as possible, directly into the opening, instead of laboriously inserting it during rewrites. I’m not a slave to the outline but knowing where I’m going frees up my creative imps to have fun getting us to the next major plot point.

Before you ask, I’m always thinking ahead into the next book or two in a series. This not only helps my character development arcs in the current book, but allows me to plant Easter Eggs along the way, tiny references or actions or gadgets that may be fun in the moment but will gain new significance when a person is re-reading or reading out of order. When the 5th and final Maddie Hatter Adventure comes out, even though each is a fully-contained story in its own right, I want readers to look back and see a complete story that runs through the five books, with consistent character development and individual character arcs and resolutions for more of the players than simply Our Heroine.

#6 What’s next up in your high-pressure publishing schedule?
MADDIE HATTER AND THE SINGAPORE STING releases in June 2018 and WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS releases in July 2018. No pressure, right?

But it’s all fun as you’ll see if you go play in Maddie’s world with her costumed friends and foes at the purely fictional Venetian Carnevale of the year 1900. TIMELY TAFFETA is available in print at Owls Nest Books in Calgary and in print and ebook formats through fine booksellers online.

Although there’s a difference between NaNoWriMo and working with publishers, NaNo is a good way to develop skills to work under pressure and to meet deadlines. As Jayne shared, there are differences in the quality of output required, but as we hone our skills and learn to work under pressure, we will achieve quality along with higher word count. Thanks for sharing your insights, Jayne! Jayne Barnard’s books can be found at Tyche Books, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Kobo.


After 25 years crafting short mystery fiction, Jayne shifted to long-form crime with the Steampunk romp, MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND (Tyche Books 2015), a finalist for the BPAA and the Prix Aurora. This book was followed by MADDIE HATTER AND THE GILDED GAUGE, a golden autumn whirl through Gilded Age New York City, and now MADDIE HATTER AND THE TIMELY TAFFETA, taking on fashion saboteurs during a Venetian Carnevale. Jayne’s contemporary suspense series, The Falls Mysteries, begins in July 2018 with WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS, the 2016 winner of the Dundurn Unhanged Arthurs. Jayne divides her year between the Alberta Rockies and the Vancouver Island shores, and her attention between writing, parasol dueling, and cats. You can visit her at her blog or on Facebook.

Six Jedi Mind Tricks for Writers

A Guest Post by David Farland

    1. Write in your sleep. The day before you plan to write, stay up a little late and plot out the scene you will write. As you do, consider where it will be set, who will appear in it, when it will occur in relation to other scenes, who will be your viewpoint character, and what actions or changes will occur in that scene. Write a quick sketch of a paragraph or two about the scene, then go to bed. You subconscious mind will worry about the scene while you sleep, piecing it together, and in the morning it will appear vividly in your mind so that you write it with ease.
    2. Create a “Sacred Writing Space.” When you plan to write, some people find it helpful to write down the goal: I will write tomorrow from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Then, when you go to work, do not let anyone violate your time. That means that you don’t check your mail or talk to friends on Facebook. Your writing time must be dedicated to writing only. If you plan to start at 6:00 get your butt in your chair a few minutes early, open your files, think, and begin typing at or before 6:00. In the same way, the space where you sit must also be dedicated to writing. Some people find that over time, they get in a habit of doing some things—like watching videos—in a certain chair. It might be difficult to break that habit consciously, so it may be easier for you to move your chair or move into a new room to create your sacred writing space. I don’t know why, but I tend to write with fantastic ease while sitting in airports.
    3. Shut the freak up. Doctor Jerry Pournelle once pointed out that the desire to write arises out of a profound need to communicate. If you stop communicating with others—by turning off your television and your radio, stop talking to friends, don’t answer emails, and simply let the silence grow around you, you will find that very soon your imaginary characters in your story will start speaking to each other, so that you will find yourself writing dialog. (This may take a couple of hours, but it works!)
    4. Put yourself in the writing mood. Sometimes you sit down at your writing desk and just don’t feel in the mood to write. You may be anxious about other things, or tired, or whatever. Don’t let your mood derail you. Simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, then remember as vividly as possible a time when you were writing freely and without effort and enjoying the act. Hold that emotion for thirty seconds. If you don’t feel ready to write, try it again, only time hold in your mind a time when you felt excited to right. Hold it for thirty seconds. If that doesn’t work, try it again, only this time sit and remember times when you receive praise or awards or publishing contracts for writing. Hold the emotion for thirty seconds. You will soon find yourself “in the mood” to write.
    5. Develop the habit of getting into your “Writer’s Trance.” We all have times when we slip into our imaginary worlds fully. Sometimes it happens when you’re driving, or exercising, or washing dishes, or late at night while listening to music. Once you find yourself in that sphere, simply stop whatever you are doing and write! I often keep a notepad in my car, for example, so that if I find myself vividly imagining scenes while driving, I can stop and take notes. In the same way, listening to music late at night often gives me inspiration, as does lying in bed and thinking about my book before I fully wake up. Find out what works best for you, and learn to court your muse.
    6. Learn to think. Many times, a writer will try to sit down to write, only to find that he doesn’t know what to do next. Perhaps a certain character’s voice won’t come, or the writer hasn’t plotted his novel well enough to begin composing. Many writers feel intimidated at this point and feel “stuck.” Instead of giving up, simply imagine that you are getting up from your “stuck place,” and you are moving to a more creative spot. In other words, focus your mental energy on solving you writing problem. Getting stuck is a common part of the writing process, and it’s perfectly natural. A real writer doesn’t give up—instead he begin brainstorming, thinking about how to handle the upcoming scene. Simply put, you have to brainstorm the scene, looking at it from all sides, until you get excited about writing it. As ideas come to you and you look at the scene from different angles, some of those ideas will feel so “right” to you, that you’ll find yourself growing eager. When you’re ready, just write!

David Farland:

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and he has won over seven awards—including the International Book Award and the Hollywood Book Festival, Grand Prize—for his fantasy thriller Nightingale. He is best known, however, for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Farland has written for major franchises such as Star Wars and The Mummy. He has worked in Hollywood greenlighting movies and doctoring scripts. He has been a movie producer, and he has even lived in China working as a screenwriter for a major fantasy film franchise.

As a writing instructor, Farland has mentored dozens who have gone on to staggering literary success, including such #1 New York Times Bestsellers as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).

Farland judges L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, the one of the largest worldwide writing competitions for new fantasy and science fiction authors. In the video game industry, he has been both a designer and a scripter and was the co-leader on the design team for StarCraft: Brood War. He set the Guinness World Record for the largest single-author, single-book signing.

David Farland has been hailed as “The wizard of storytelling” and his work has been called “compelling,” “engrossing,” “powerful,” “profound,” and “ultimately life-changing.”

Ready, Set, NaNo

A Guest Post by Wayland Smith

It’s creeping on towards fall again, and that means it’s time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo (www.NaNoWriMo.org). I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve successfully complected it nine times, plus several CampNaNo successes. So I at least know what works for me, which I’m more than happy to share. Hopefully, some of this will work for you as well. If not, maybe it will spark some ideas that will.

While I try not to obsess over my word count, I do like to have an idea how I’m doing and where I need to be. I find the graph on the site a bit hard to read at times, especially if I’m staying up extra hours to write. So one thing I do is create a daily chart of my progress next to where I should be. It goes something like:

Day Target Actual Count
1 1667 2003 (If I wrote 2003 words that day)
2 3334 4107 (presuming 2104 that day) etc.

You get the idea. It’s simple, and I’m sure there are a lot of other ways it can be done, but I’m a big fan of simple. I set it up with the day and needed count for the whole month, and just fill in the right as I go.

With word count potentially under control, on to the next potential problem. One of the things that breaks my writing stride is names. I’ll be writing away and a new character, or place, or business, or whatever appears, and I’ll come to a screeching halt as I realize whatever it is needs a name. So as part of my preparation, I try to name as many characters, places, streets, businesses, and the like as I know about going in. It’s not writing in advance, so it doesn’t break the rules, it just smooths out a spot I know trips me up.

There’s a lot of talk about outlining vs not. Among writers it’s almost as bad as politics or religion. The two sides don’t get each other at all, and usually try to persuade the other that they’re wrong. I personally don’t outline. I have found it doesn’t work for me. Listening to professional writers talk, it seems to be split among them. I’ve found that favorites of mine are in both camps, and there’s no pattern that I can see. The right way to write is the one that works for you. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise, especially if you’re just starting out.

The first year I tried NaNo, I sat down as Halloween ended, midnight rolled around, and November began. I had no idea what I was doing, no idea, no plot, no title, no outline. I managed the fifty, barely. That’s not a brag, that’s telling you it can happen, and not to get discouraged if you don’t everything set up in detail when you get ready to start.

What I use is a system I call landmarks. I don’t try to get the minute details worked out ahead of time, as my ideas, and even my characters, tend not to cooperate when I do that. But, if I know there’s an important plot point, I’ll jot down a few of those. “Hero gets to forest, goes through with monster fights,” “hero finds heroine, flirts, looks like idiot, she laughs,” whatever is appropriate. I’ll write down several of those in the rough order I think they should happen, and stay flexible. Some people use the term “pantser” which I find juvenile and annoying, truth be told. Dean Wesley Smith, a writer who certainly knows more about it than I do, calls it “Writing Into Darkness,” and I kind of like that term. Again, find what works for you. This theme will keep cropping up, because it’s important.

Where you write, and your environment, is totally up to you. Some people insist on absolute silence with just the right lighting. Louis L’Amour, one of the most successful and prolific Western writers, won a bet and proved a point by writing a story on the median strip of a major city street, with cars zipping by. Personally, I can write almost anywhere (I’ve never tried the street experiment and don’t really want to). I prefer some music when I write, often movie soundtracks and tv themes, since they tend to be instrumental pieces. Again, find what works for you.

The NaNo site gives you a chance to look into regions, and if you do that, you can find people from your area to chat with, share frustrations with, or look for mutual encouragement from. Often there are “write ins” where people get together and write. I’ve gone to a few of those, and I’ve enjoyed them, and gotten work done. As much fun as fellow writers might be, the goal is to get those 50,000 words minimum down, not make new friends or chat. If you’re taking a break, by all means, socialize a bit. But if you do that the whole time, you just managed to lose writing time. That’s a judgement call you need to make for yourself.

Breaks are important. You should occasionally stretch, eat, drink, shower, all that good stuff. Go ahead and laugh, but if you really get in the zone, you can lose track of those things. Trust me. Fortunately I have someone to throw things at me or say things like, “Save what you’re doing in the next few minutes, because I’m going to turn off your computer until you eat.”

Which is another point. Talk to your nearest and dearest and tell them what you’re trying to do. As a rule, they’ll be supportive, even if they don’t “get it.” But if you want to hit 50,000 in a month, you need time to write, which usually means less time for other things. You might have to let that favorite show go to DVR. You might need to not watch (or play) the game. If you give people warning ahead of time, they’ll generally understand when you say, “I can’t go out tonight, I have to hit my word count.” Plan your time, and remember Thanksgiving happens in November. If you have a big family gathering planned, you need to take that into account for your writing goals.

My last suggestion, which is a very strong one, is turn off your editor. The goal here is words on page. As many have said, “You can fix a bad page, you can’t fix a blank one.” As others have said, “Give yourself permission to suck.” Your first draft won’t be a publishable, salable story. It’s not supposed to be. It’s the base for making a good novel later. And it also might be that it’s not as bad as you think it is. Don’t reread what you just wrote, don’t go back and rewrite, keep going. You can polish it later, after November ends.

So there you go. Lay in the snacks, stock up your favorite liquids, clear your social calendar, and get ready. To paraphrase a wildly popular tv and book series, “November is Coming.” Give it a whirl, and remember: if you don’t finish, if you only get 1,000 words for the whole month, that’s still 1,000 more than you started with. Which is an accomplishment.

I write under the name Wayland Smith. My NaNo site name is Kingsmythe. Feel free to look me up. Good luck, follow your own path, and see what you can do. You just might surprise yourself.