Author Archives: Kristin Luna

About Kristin Luna

Kristin Luna has been making up stories and getting in trouble for them since elementary school. She especially loves young adult literature, fantasy, Nic Cage, literary fiction, magical realism, and wouldn’t even be opposed to reading yeti erotica. She has written book reviews for Urban Fantasy Magazine, writes for this very blog your eyes are glued to at this very moment, and her short stories have appeared on Pseudopod and in anthologies about unicorns and dragons published by WordFire Press. She lives in San Diego with her husband Nic and eats way too much Taco Bell. Learn more about Kristin at her website www.kristinleighluna.com.

Jump-start Your Writing Routine with NaNoWriMo

If you told me that I’d write my first book in a month, I’d say, “Thanks, and here’s the beer I promised you for saying that.” Because, in truth, I had already worked on one book for three years, and in that time, I’d given it more treatments than a Beverly Hills housewife. And I hadn’t even finished writing it.

If spending three years writing one thing sounds a little nutty to you, imagine how I felt, especially being an impatient person.

It occurred to me that I had been looking at this writing thing all wrong. Well, wrong for me.

So I wiped the slate clean. I postponed writing short stories, put the labor of love novel on hold, and started outlining a new story. By piecing the new story together as a YA novel, I realized it would be easier to cut my teeth on than a dramatic literary fiction piece (which will be The Next Great American Novel… just give it time).

Instead of slaving through paragraphs, scrutinizing word usage and generally trying to make the labor of love perfect, I put all of my energy into preparing my new story. I used National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as my diving board– no more dipping my toes in the water.

I wrote approximately 57,000 words in 28 days. More importantly, I finished writing a book.

But I couldn’t have done it without a game plan.

How to Jump-start Your Writing Routine with NaNoWriMo

Realize what writing a book in a month actually means.

Yeah, sounds like a doozy. I know. But lets do some MATHS (even though we hates it, the filthy mathsies).

Let’s say you’re planning on writing a young adult novel. The average young adult book is between 50,000 and 60,000 words. This isn’t a rule, and you’ll find plenty of books that aren’t. But it’s easier to do the MATHS if we just say 60,000.

    •  There are 30 days in November.
    •  If you write every day in the month of November (spoiler alert: you should), then you need to write 2,000 words a day.
    • Don’t worry, dude. You can do that.

Realize what writing a book in a month means for you.

Clear your calendar, bro. Do not agree to take Taekwondo classes with your boss in November. Do not schedule voluntary surgical procedures during this time. What I mean to say is: make writing your top priority (or one of your top priorities). Let your boss know what you’re going to be doing. Tell your family and loved ones. Buy lots of snacks and make a little squirrel stash at your writing desk. Create a good headspace for yourself. For example, I didn’t drink alcohol during the entire month (I missed you, beer! We had a tearful reunion at the end of November).

Realize what writing a book in a month means for everyone you love.

You may daydream about November – you, all hunched over a laptop wearing your sexy, hipster bifocals with two fingers of scotch in a glass next to you while you brood at the screen. Or, this may just be you. In any event, this is what your family and/or loved ones will see: an angsty hobbit creature J.D. Salinger-ing it in its office.

You may think, around the 10th of November, that you are still speaking clearly and concisely to your wife. To her, your words are nothing more than animal-like grunts, and when you look at her, your eyes are a permanent, gazed-over haze. This is why the planning phase is so important: tell loved ones you’ll become a hobgoblin in advance. Make them promise they won’t get mad at you, leave you, call the cops on you, or burn all of your clothes.

Plan for everything.

Some important things to consider before November rolls around:

  • What time of the day will you sit down and write? If you don’t make that appointed time, when is your Plan B writing time?
  • Your in-laws are visiting? This is your one opportunity to say (and mean) “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Okay. We all know that’s not going to work, so instead, explain that you’re writing an entire friggin’ novel in a month, and you’ll need some quiet and alone time every day for at least an hour.
  • Crap. You missed a day. How will you make up for those 2,000 words? Write 4,000 the next day? Spread it out over a couple of days?
  • Outline your entire novel in September and October. Take as much time as you need on your outline. Know the story you are going to tell so you don’t get stuck during November.

Use the tools that are available to you.

Take advantage of the NaNoWriMo website, which sends you helpful tips as the month goes on, provides tools to help you track word count, and connects you with other crazy writers NaNoWriMo participants.

NaNoWriMo may not work for everybody. But if you’re looking to jump in to your first book, finish writing a book, or set up a daily writing routine, it’s an extremely efficient practice. Remember, it’s never too late to start, and it’s never to late to try something new. You may find that concentrated bursts of writing help you complete projects and help you establish a routine that works for you.

 

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Kristin Luna is a Marketing Consultant by day and writer by break of dawn. She sings to one of her cats, but the other cat doesn’t care for her voice. Kristin, a descendant of the 74350infamous Dread Pirate Roberts, is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy trilogy. When she isn’t contemplating marketing campaigns or writing, she’s designing handbags for gerbils, playing board games, tasting craft beers, teaching her cats sign language, reading, or getting in cabs saying, “To the library – and step on it!”. She is kidding about only two of those hobbies.

 

Barbie Queen of The Prom: A Cautionary Tale

The Barbie Queen of The Prom board

I’ve always been a big fan of board games. Although my taste in board games has become more refined with the likes of Dominion, 7 Wonders, Agricola, Age of Empires III and more, I had to start somewhere. And I started with Barbie Queen of the Prom (BQP).

First, some background. Growing up, I primarily lived with my dad and my brother. I had to sit through countless hours of He-Man, college basketball, pro basketball, G.I. Joe, golf, and occasionally baseball. While I do appreciate all of these things, let’s just say I paid my dues. So every now and again, my dad and brother let me pick out which board game I wanted to play, and I would almost always choose Barbie Queen of the Prom. And I’m just going to write it now so the embarrassment for them is over quickly: my dad or my brother almost always won. They always got to be queen of the prom! *Folds arms, grumpy face*

The dreamboats.

Anyhoo, something funky was going on with BQP. I had the re-boot version of the 1960’s board game, and apparently the rules weren’t any clearer in the 90’s than they were back in the 60’s (kind of like actual prom – ZING!). The basic premise is this: you start out with some Barbie bucks and with those you accumulate a dress, a hairstyle, a ride to the prom, and a boy to take to the prom (you didn’t have to pay for the boy, thank goodness). Then, when you got to the prom, you spin (sometimes over and over and over) until somebody gets to be prom queen.

But here’s the weird part – when you got to prom, if you landed on a friend tile (a token with one of Barbie’s friends on it), you picked it up. But the rules were extremely vague about what you actually did with this token. Before this point, every token accumulated was used in exchange for something. After some careful speculation, my dad, brother and I could come to no other conclusion but you could trade in one of your friends for an extra spin – that is to say: another chance to become queen of the prom.

What. The. (Youknow.)

All social conditioning from the first part of the game aside, what’s up with this trading in your friends thing?! That’s so not cool, man.

The moral of my story is this: when things aren’t clear, people can’t help but assume. In writing and in life, if you don’t make things clear, things will start to go awry.

Also, if something doesn’t ring true, people will notice.

All games take a bit of imagination and fantasy in order to come alive. Make sure that whatever you develop rings true and leads the audience in exactly the direction you want them to go (even if that direction is misdirection), or they may just start trading in their friends for a chance to be queen of the prom.

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74350

Kristin Luna is a Marketing Consultant by day and writer by break of dawn. She prefers to wear t-shirts. Kristin, a descendant of the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts, is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy trilogy. When she isn’t contemplating marketing campaigns or writing, she’s crocheting, playing board games, figuring out yoga, teaching her cats sign language, reading, or getting in cabs saying, “To the library – and step on it!”. She is kidding about only two of those hobbies.

Always Bet On Black!

Passenger 57 poster
Passenger 57 poster

The first movie I saw in a movie theater was Terminator 2. Because my dad was a preacher and we lived in a small town in Kansas, the theater owner decided that all the ministers in town and their families could come and see movies for free. We took full advantage of this generous opportunity, and while my dad allowed me to see all of the best action movies from the early 90’s, he forbade me to see Ace Ventura. As you may have already suspected, my dad is pretty awesome.

One of my all-time favorite action movies is still, to this day, Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes. It includes some iconic action elements like a hijacking, an evil hijacking terrorist with poofy hair, poofy-haired henchmen, Tom Sizemore, and an awesome catch phrase: “Always bet on black!”


As it turns out, Wesley Snipes and Passenger 57 inspired me to write my very first story. Here were the elements, written by yours truly on my dad’s Smith Corona Personal Word Processor at 7 years of age.

1. Wesley Snipes. All good action films somehow incorporate Wesley Snipes. Thusly, I made him my main character, staring opposite Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard had a very special place in my heart and CD player at the time). Also, I needed a foil to Wesley Snipes’ seriousness and overall attractiveness, so I chose Mel Gibson as his witty sidekick.

2. The Marijuanas. I knew – at 7 – that drugs had to somehow be in the story. Either the Bad Guy had to be on them, smuggling them, or giving them to minors. I chose the latter. My Bad Guy, married to Whitney Houston, was the most infamous marijuana dealer in all of Los Angeles. One day, Whitney goes into their closet to look for a hat on the top shelf and, lo and behold, all of the drugs are there. (I asked my dad if I could put in a cuss word when she finds the drugs. He suggested “shoot” or “darn” instead. We reached a compromise with “Oh crap!”) She calls the police right away, because it’s the right thing to do.

3. A secret place to hide. Wesley and Mel are FBI agents tasked with keeping Whitney safe and hidden from her drug-pushing husband. I thought up an exotic place where most of my movie-story would be filmed – a place where no one would even think to look for them: Hawaii.

4. A blossoming romance. Oh c’mon, you knew it was coming. Wesley and Whitney fall for each other.

5. The twist! Drug husband has a dirty agent in the FBI who tells him Whitney is hiding out in Hawaii. Drug husband is happy to hear this, as he already has a drug ring in Hawaii and he needed to work on his tan anyway.

6. Cue huge action sequence with GUNS! A shootout ensues on the beach. The drug peddling husband’s henchmen get picked off one by one by Mel and Wesley. Mel gets shot in the shoulder, “Go find him! I’ll hold them off!” Mel says, and off Wesley goes to find that drug husband guy.

7. Like all good action movies, Wesley and drug man have a long fight that leaves them both exhausted. Wesley somehow wrangles his gun back, then says something moral and/or funny like: “Smoke this!” and shoots Bad Guy/drug husband.

8. The kiss. Wesley and Whitney make out at the end, Mel says something snide but funnier than: “Get a room!” The camera zooms out, showing an aerial view of the scene and the beautiful beaches of Hawaii.

And there you have it.

Whatever inspires you, pursue it. Movies are a fantastic medium to shape our ideas into a more realistic presentation. If you need to cast movie stars as your characters so that you can see them clearly in your mind, do so. If one of your favorite movies taught you a little something about story structure, use it.

And if you learn one thing from action movies from the 80’s and 90’s, it’s that you probably shouldn’t do drugs. Or Wesley Snipes will find you.

Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man, and also what he looks like going after drug dealers.
Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man, and also what he looks like going after drug dealers.

 

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Kristin Luna is a Marketing Consultant by day and writer by break of dawn. She goes to bed at 9:00 PM. Kristin, a descendant of the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts, is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy trilogy. When she isn’t contemplating marketing campaigns or writing, she’s crocheting, watching action movies, figuring out yoga, teaching her cats sign language, reading, or rounding out her handmade Jadzia Dax figurine collection. She is kidding about only two of those hobbies.

A Secret History: The Real Stories Behind Literature’s Most Legendary Figures

As you are well aware, excellent reader that you are, every story starts from an idea. Every legend is inspired by something real. Think about some of your own stories and the crazy places from which they originated: a phenomenal supernatural event in space, a news report, or a picture you stumbled upon on the internet when you were [suppose to be] writing. Most of my best story ideas come straight from my dreams.

Let’s take a look at the seeds that eventually grew to be literature’s most legendary heroes and villains.

Protagonists

These popular protagonists underwent a few author-induced identity crises to become some of the most iconic characters in literature.

New Sherlock Holmes by allegator
New Sherlock Holmes by allegator

Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fashioned his character Sherlock Holmes after an infirmary clerk, Dr. Joseph Bell. Doyle also had other sources including Sir Henry Littlejohn, a lecturer on Forensic Medicine and a Medical Officer, but Bell provided the main trait of figuring out the mystery from small, seemingly innocuous clues. After Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories were published, Dr. Joseph Bell wrote to Doyle claiming, “You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it.” Perhaps we are reading a bit of Doyle himself in the pages of every Sherlock Holmes story.

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo on the Nautilus
Captain Nemo on the Nautilus

Captain Nemo (aka Prince Dakkar) was not always of Indian heritage. Jules Verne originally wrote him as a Polish aristocrat whose family was murdered during the January Uprising, in which Poles protested against enlistment in the Imperial Russian Army. Verne’s editor feared that Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea would be banned in Russia – a French ally at the time. Verne kept Nemo’s origins relatively vague for the time period (nemo in Latin means “no one”), although he is now clearly identified as Indian.

Hobbits

Before I jump in here, did you know the decision to publish The Hobbit came down to a 10-year-old boy? Unsure if she should publish the story, Susan Dagnall of George Allen & Unwin Ltd. gave the story to her son to read, and because he enjoyed it, Dagnall decided to move forward with its publication.

The Hobbits by Qwertee.com
The Hobbits by Qwertee.com

Although he had been writing about goblins and developing languages for years before he began writing about Hobbits, Tolkien suspected his idea for hobbits came from The Marvelous Land of Snergs by Edward Wyke Smith. Tolkien wrote that the Snergs were “a race of people only slightly taller than the average table but broad in the shoulders and have the strength of ten men.” He also noted that Sinclair Lewis’ character Babbitt had a homebody-like nature, which was also an influence.

Tolkien originally wrote Aragorn, or Strider, as a hobbit. Imagine Frodo’s first encounter with the mysterious hobbit Strider in the Prancing Pony! Doesn’t quite have the same effect, does it?

 

 

Antagonists

Some of literature’s more legendary antagonists were created from the most obvious and peculiar places.

Dracula

Bela Lugosi in the 1931 Dracula
Bela Lugosi in the 1931 Dracula

The name alone triggers shivers down the spine. It may be no surprise to you that Dracula originated from the Romanian word dracul, which means “the dragon’ or “the devil’.

As Bram Stoker dug into Wallachian history, he happened across Prince Vlad III, or Vlad the Impaler. Known for his brutality by impaling his enemies, it’s estimated that Vlad killed nearly 10,000 people.

Vlad’s patronymic name was Dracula, passed down from his father Vlad II Dracul, a member of The Order of the Dragon. These knights were tasked with protecting Christianity in Eastern Europe.

The cover of John Gardner's book Grendel
The cover of John Gardner’s book Grendel

Grendel

In the Scandinavian epic Beowulf, the monster Grendel terrorizes a mead hall and slaughters those poor souls who happened to be drinking inside of it. The author describes Grendel as a grotesque creature descended from the race of Cain (who was the first murderer according to the Bible). Scholars debate the nature of Grendel – was he monster or humanoid? Some scholars even propose that Grendel represented enemies of the Geats, or even more simply, an outcast.

Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick sans barnacles
Moby-Dick sans barnacles

An enormous, albino sperm whale covered in barnacles that attacked whaling ships in the early 1800’s served as the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Jeremiah Reynolds, an explorer in that time and who was thought to have inspired the character Captain Ahab, wrote of the whale Mocha Dick, describing how its attacks on ships appeared premeditated. It was rumored that Mocha Dick had around 20 harpoons in his back from the 100 or more encounters it had with whaling ships that sailed near the Chilean island Mocha.

 

 

The saying goes that legends are born, not made. But, as evidenced above, they certainly can be made – created from an idea half the size of a man, or as terrifying as a bloodthirsty albino whale.