Wanna see a new cover?

Wanna see a new cover?

Book 3 beta reading is chugging along. I have already gotten feedback from a couple of my readers and so far so good. There are of course, some things that need ironing out, but I'll be tackling that in good time. 

So, it's about time I showed the world the cover for Thrice to Thine. Of course my newsletter subscribers and Kettle Holler Literary Society members have already seen this, but it's about time the rest of you did too So, here it is. 

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The River Maiden - The song

The River Maiden - The song

In The River Maiden, Sarah spends her time chasing down a particular song. That's where the book get its title. This song itself is fictional. I wrote the lyrics to match the legend of The River Maiden. The legend is also invented but is an amalgam of various motifs commonly found in Celtic folklore. 

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Fall for the Indie Book Challenge: Out of Time

Fall for the Indie Book Challenge: Out of Time

I found this book through some of my Outlander pals, and it sounded like an interesting time travel romance. What history nerd doesn't like a good time travel romance, right? Imagine my surprise when I started reading only to find that part of the book is set in my hometown of Fredericksburg, VA, even more so when the main character's mother lives a "few miles up the Rapphannock" on what is probably the same road I grew up on. So, my review might be slightly biased from familiarity alone.

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Win a signed copy of The River Maiden

To celebrate kids going back to school and me being able to FINALLY dive deep into writing the next book in the series, I decided to do a Goodreads giveaway. So, 5 lucky readers can win a signed copy of The River Maiden. All you have to do is sign up below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The River Maiden by Meredith R. Stoddard

The River Maiden

by Meredith R. Stoddard

Giveaway ends September 16, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Not on Goodreads yet? I highly recommend that you join. It's great for reading reviews, and discussing books with other readers. Just click here. You can even login with your facebook login so there's no extra typing and finding your reader friends is easy.

"Choose a suitable design and hold to it."

I am a plotter. I think I've mentioned this before. I'm always amazed when I hear people say they just write by the seat of their pants. I can't even conceive of the idea of writing without knowing how something is going to end. Maybe it's my non-fiction background, or my academic bent, but for anything larger than flash fiction I have to have an outline. I think it was probably said best by those wise writing gurus Strunk & White. "Writing, to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur."

This is not to say that I'm never carried away by a scene or character into something that I hadn't foreseen or planned. Much of the Alex Budge parts of The River Maiden were expanded based on the strength of the character as he appeared in my head while I was writing. Still, I start a project knowing where I will end and what things need to be covered along the way.

Now, I started writing The River Maiden years ago, and when I did I had a very useful mind mapping program that helped us turn abstract ideas into outlines. Unfortunately, since I no longer work for that company, I don't have access to that program anymore. So, now that I'm in the process of plotting the next book, and was looking for a way to get all of the various themes of this book that have been swimming around in my head into some sort of outline. I found a few methods for plotting a novel, including mind mapping as I had done before. But I also found the information about how to use a snowflake diagram.

That's a lot of very specific steps (so specific that they've now made software for it) that get down to more specifics than I'm ready for right now. Instead I'm using it help me layer the various themes of the plot. I have 6 main themes and each section is for outlining that theme and how it all fits together.  I built my own tool for using the snowflake diagram using a folding foam board.


This helped me brainstorm the different movements of the plot and how each of the main characters get to where they need to be at the end. Instead of going through all of those steps however useful they may be, I used the snowflake structure to organize my brainstorming. Since I've had some scenes running through my brain for a while now, this gives me a chance to get them out and organize the. Not all of these points of the snowflake have specific events lined up with them, but it does give me a look at what is needed to move Sarah and Dermot and company to where they will be at the end of this book. While brainstorming the plot, I used the side panels to note locations and characters who need to be fleshed out further. I did this with post-its on the board so that I can move things around as needed. This also enables me to use the board again for the next project (did I mention I'm cheap?).

Snowflaking as we've started to call it around here is becoming quite the thing. My six year old is even using it to plot her work-in-progress "The Day it Rained Kittens". I helped with the writing, but the plot points are hers. I can't tell you how important organization is when your story is being dictated by a six year old.


Don't Fear the Rewrite

About ten years ago (yes really, that long ago) I got the idea for the novel that I'm currently working on. It came in the form of a prologue. I know prologues are out of vogue, but I've checked and rechecked my reasons for having one, and I'm definitely sure it's the way to go. I wrote the prologue and was pretty happy with it. In the intervening years, I have outlined and written about half the book, other short stories, researched, had a career in corporate training, had two children, bought a house, sold a house, and generally lived a life. All of those things have contributed to my maturing as a writer. So, last year when I picked the novel up again after a hiatus, I read the prologue and was thoroughly unhappy. It meandered through the heads of the characters involved without direction. The descriptions were overblown and some of the dialog was down right syrupy. In the years since I wrote the original prologue, the characters have become clearer in my mind. I have even outlined a whole series of books with these characters. Two of them in particular aren't alive, during the main story line, so the prologue is the first of just a few places that the reader will be able to get their perspectives. The prologue should focus on them, and its original edition did not.

My years of writing training materials as a corporate trainer have conditioned me to write to an outline. It also got me used to working to a deadline, which I always managed to by keeping to an "always moving forward" way of working. If I get stuck on something, I move to something else until my mental block clears itself, or I find the information I need to finish. That's also why I always have multiple projects going. I'm always moving forward on one of them. So with that in mind, I was loath to spend valuable time going back and completely rewriting something that I had checked off my novel writing to do list. I told myself that I just had to get the rest out before I could go back and rewrite the prologue.

The trouble is, I floundered somewhere around chapter 9. As I was writing the rest of the story, the characters and events included in the prologue solidified in my mind more and more. I seemed to lose my way with the rest of the plot. I couldn't stop thinking about that prologue and how important is was to tell that story well before I could get the rest of it right. I finally had to bite the bullet and rewrite the darned thing. That's just what I've spent my few hours of true writing time for the last week or so doing, and I couldn't be more pleased.

What was unfocused and immature, is now true to the characters whose stories need to be told there. It has depth and subtext and foreshadowing that suggests where the overall series in addition to that novel will go. It doesn't reveal too much, but gives the right amount of characterization and a tantalizing glimpse of the heroine's back story. And best of all the writing doesn't make me want to hurl my iPad across the room as the original version did. It also has the added benefit of making me feel so much more focused about moving forward. I know some things in my outline need to be changed, what needs to be added and taken out. Rewriting took extra time that I could used to advance the plot, but it's also helped me refocus. Now, when I advance the plot I know I'll be moving in the right direction.


I have a confession to make

And I hope you won't take this the wrong way. I'm only half listening to you. It's not that I don't care about you, in fact I probably care more than the next person. But the fact is that while you're talking to me about; the weather, your job or your toddler's propensity for sorting his toy cars according to color, in my head is a whole other world. There a broad cast of characters is falling in love, catching a serial killer, or searching for the Holy Grail. They have lives and loves and histories that rival any of ours. This goes far beyond mere daydreaming. So if I seem a bit distant or respond in an awkward way, it's only because I'm caught up in the epic struggles going on in my head.

It's been this way for as long as I can remember. My parents will tell you stories of the whole worlds that I would make up as a child before I ever learned to read and write. I could shut myself in my room for ages and live out sagas of my own making.  I was and still am perfectly happy being alone. In fact, sometimes I crave it.

My AP History teacher in high school, upon hearing another teacher complain about me not paying attention in class was heard to say, "Well, Meredith has her own agenda." Mr. Ridgeway got it. He knew that even though I was sitting in his class and part of my brain was listening another part was in another world. He could handle the fact that on my desk was one notebook for taking notes and another for writing. Fortunately, I have run into a few people in my life who do get it. I treasure those people and occasionally give them my full attention. The part that was in class, incidentally kicked ass on the AP exam and got college credit for American History. Likewise the part of me that was present in my college classes made the Dean's List. Still, there is always that part of me that is in a cabin in the mountains, on a ship crossing the ocean, in Scotland/Mexico/Peru.

So, it's not that I don't like you or that I'm not listening, it's just that the people in my head are talking too, and sometimes they drown you out.