My Writing Ritual…or Lack Thereof

We’re kicking off our series on writing rituals a week early. The Spellbound Scribes has added a new member, Nadja Notariani, to our scribedome, so not only will you have a full month of reading about quirky writing habits, but an extra week to boot!


The term ‘writing ritual’ implies there’s a method to the madness. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those writers that subscribe to the tried and true methods of writing a book. If you’re reading this post to get insights or direction on how to outline, create character profiles, or how to simply write, you can keep on moving…nothing to read here, folks! 

I don’t write to music (sorry, no nifty soundtrack in this post), nor do I have a scheduled time of the day when I write. I don’t follow a linear outline as I write; in fact, I often write scenes in random order.

So what are my writing rituals? 

Okay, so I may not listen to music, but I’m a total TV gal, so the tube must be on at all times. This generally involves watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I’m working on a new book. Because I’ve seen all seven seasons so many times, I tend not to get too distracted as I’m writing. While I do have soundtracks for my books, I don’t create them until after I’m done. 

I don’t have a trusted assistant like some mega authors do, so I have to rely on my own memory to remember certain aspects of my universe. So, more often than not, I have to go back and re-read my previous works in my series to make sure dates, names, and places are accurate. Yeah, I spend a lot of time doing this. 

Many writers have daily specific word count goals they try to meet, while others, like me, tend to go with the flow. I do, however, have a simple goal…write everyday. I have my good days and bad days, but I generally feel pretty good even if I only get a sentence or two in. If it matters, Sunday’s tend to be my best writing days. I don’t know what it is about that day, but the words just seem to flow. 

The only constant in my writing routine is my involvement in A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80). I started this writing challenge, offered four times a year, when I first started publishing my work and I have to say that it’s been a wonderful experience. The writers that are involved are a tremendous source of inspiration and support, I don’t think I could have gotten this far without them. Coincidentally, this is how I first met up with Nadja! So for those writers out there that have a life, need a little encouragement, or just want to set some simple goals for your writing, the next round begins July 2nd. 

If you can already tell by this post, I love the flexibility that comes with being a writer. I write when and where I want. Sometimes at home, other times at my favorite coffee shop. Work attire is casual, whether it be writing in my p.j.’s or showing up in flops. And as an indie writer, I set my own deadlines and run my business as I please. 

So, while I don’t follow the conventional guidelines for writing, I do follow the wisdom of Stephen King: write every day and read a lot. (Totally paraphrasing here)


Shauna’s Kickstarter Campaign – Shameless Self-Promotion

Everyone will have to forgive me for this, but it must be done!

I am preparing to release the third book in my series in late June, in order to help me with the costs of production I’ve jumped into the Kickstarter pool for some help! So! If you like to pre-order books or like deals on some serious swag (including signed paperbacks, bookmarks, magnets and more!) please, check out my Kickstarter Campaign. And if you can’t afford to donate/pledge, just helping me spread the word is amazing too!

Help me fund the production of Water!

Description of Water: Shayna’s first surfing session of the summer is interrupted by the screams of a mother who has lost her little boy in the water. Without regard to her own safety, Shayna swims out, rescues the boy, but must escape the clutches of something far worse than she could have ever imagined – mermaids.

Compelled to answer the sirens’ call, the boys of Shayna’s town are drawn to the sea, but when they return are afflicted by an unknown illness, a sickness which is draining them of their life force. Unable to tell anyone about the mermaids, Shayna and her friends are forced to solve the mystery before it’s too late, and in doing so, Shayna will finally have to face the full force of her powers. Whether she’s ready or not, she will have to face her true nature.

Where’s the Horror?

Last week, I was writing a post on my own blog about lesbians in fantasy, and I came across an interesting list of so-called best lesbian scenes/plotlines in science fiction and fantasy. (Best in a feminist way, not a pervy way.)

Anyway, the author included Willow and Tara from Buffy but said it was “cheating,” because Buffy the Vampire Slayer is technically horror, not fantasy or sci-fi.

I was flummoxed. I always think of Buffy as urban/contemporary fantasy: to me, “horror” means Anne Rice and Stephen King, Silence of the Lambs, murderers in creepy masks, and teenagers trapped in lakehouses. Of course Buffy has some of those elements, but I never even connected it with the horror genre. So where’s the line between fantasy and horror, particularly in the paranormal/contemporary fantasy genres?

I did some checking. Wikipedia classifies Buffy, Supernatural, True Blood, and Charmed as both horror and “supernatural drama.” Of those four, only Charmed and True Blood get the fantasy label. (All four get other classifications, but I choose to conveniently ignore those.)

But what’s the difference? All three shows have demons, vampires, and other ghoulies. They all have witchcraft and magic of varying types and pantheons. Trusty old Wikipedia says supernatural drama is

a subgenre of fantasy combining elements of supernatural fiction and the drama genre. This genre deals with ghosts and other paranormal topics, but without the tone and scares associated with the horror genre. The storylines of supernatural dramas have always been centered around magic or unexplained phenomena that cannot be rationalized by science but, rather by pagan or supernatural explanations.

Well, that settles things, doesn’t it!

…not really. It’s quite a loaded mouthful, too. And to throw another definition into the mix, horror is a

genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus they may overlap with the fantasy and supernatural genre…

Horror films often deal with the viewer’s nightmares, hidden worst fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown. Plots written within the horror genre often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage, commonly of supernatural origin, into the everyday world.

Well, that’s a little more enlightening. Supernatural drama is fantasy that seeks to scare us by manipulating our most primal fears. I think I can buy that for all four of those television shows have subsumed the best parts of horror to make fantasy more frightening. In answer to my earlier question, there’s not so much a dividing line as an area of overlap.

Be dazzled by my graphic-design skills!

A few weeks ago, Claudia wrote a post about the difficulties of defining the paranormal genre. And it’s true across all genres. There doesn’t seem to be clear-cut fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, or horror genre. We paranormal writers are all muddling around in a big, sloppy puddle of fantastical and horrible elements.

And despite the messiness, it’s quite fun. There are no rules—we can define our own genre, especially if we forego the traditional publication route.

Do you have an genre-definitions? For you, what makes a story a horror story, a fantasy, or a paranormal drama?

On My Bucket List

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that one of the things on my bucket list (i.e. list of things to do before I die) involves visiting a haunted place. But the haunted place itself might be met with many a raised eyebrow, maybe even a few head scratches. Where do I want to go?

Toys ‘R’ Us.

Yes, yes, I’m fully aware that Toys ‘R’ Us is a toy store, and the spooky attractions there during Halloween are all battery-operated. Well, almost all of them are. See, there’s this one particular store in Sunnyvale, California that boasts a haunted attraction that is all real, all year round. His name is Johnson.

Apparently Johnson died in the 1880s of an ax wound. Why he hangs around the old toy store, no one knows. He’s actually a rather famous ghost, and has appeared for TV cameras and psychics like Sylvia Browne.

You want proof, you say? How about this?

See that dude, just jauntily hanging out in the left corner of the picture? Yeah, apparently he wasn’t there during the filming. He was caught by the infrared lights that were on during the session these people were having in the store. All of them later said there was no one visible to the naked eye in the actual moment (and as you can see, he doesn’t seem to be involved in the group’s tete-a-tete).

Johnson has also pushed books and toys off shelves during sessions with TV cameras in the store. It seems he likes to perform when there aren’t any kiddies around to be scared. Employees say he’s harmless. Maybe he just wants to be acknowledged?

For more on the Toys ‘R’ Us ghost, see this Snopes article. Pretty neat, eh? Any haunted places on your bucket list?

Have Vampires Lost Their Charm?

A few weeks ago, I was writing over at my local coffee shop when the trailer for the upcoming Dark Shadows film came on (the proprietor of the coffee shop has a very nice flat screen). At that moment, two twenty-something-year olds stop ordering long enough to catch the trailer. One girl proceeded to comment to the other one, “I’m so over vampires. They’re like, everywhere.”

I felt like saying, “Uh, do you even know what Dark Shadows is?” But I kept my mouth shut. They didn’t need to be lectured on television trivia by me, although I really wanted to give them a crash course on Vampires 101.

But it got me thinking. Shouldn’t we be over vampires by now?

It goes without saying that there’s a growing trend in the vampire genre that cater to both adult and young adult audiences. We have Charlene Harris (Southern Vampire Series/True Blood) and Stephanie Meyers (Twilight), the author who brought young adults back into the reading fold, to thank.

Now, we can’t exactly credit these authors with coming up with these imaginative vampire storylines that spawned a hit television show and a five picture deal, respectively. But we can credit them for the reemergence of the genre. At least to some degree.

But our fascination with vampires is nothing new. Even before the baby boomer generation, we’ve been exposed to vampires in almost every facet of entertainment and commercial outlets over the last century. We have seen the evolution of vampires firsthand, from our preschool years well into adulthood.

Now, going back to the girls at the coffee shop, I have to imagine that as twenty-year-olds, they haven’t experienced as many vampires as, let’s say, a mid-thirty-something-year-old (ahem, me). Simply put, they haven’t been around long enough to grow tired of them yet! At most, they’ve seen/read Twilight and/or The Vampire Diaries.

Let’s take a moment and look at vampires in pop-culture over the last century:

1. Bela Lugosi (Dracula; novel: 1897; play: 1927; film: 1931)

Not counting Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is always as the top of the list. He is the image of the quintessential vampire. When you think of Dracula, you automatically think Lugosi.

2. Lily Munster/Grandpa (The Munsters; TV series 1964)

Lily Munster was way ahead of her time in terms of fashion and feminism. Not only was she the matriarch and stay-at-home-mom, but she also explored work outside the home. And let’s not get started on her father, Grandpa, who was just too cute for words. Perhaps that’s why he was married a record number of 167 times.

 3. Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows; TV series 1966; film 2012)

Because Dark Shadows ran as a daily daytime soap, it enjoyed the most episodes of any sci-fi/fantasy series during it’s five year run (more than all the Star Trek episodes combined, both original and subsequent shows) and is certainly deserving of a feature film. (Only the daytime paranormal soap Passions* has logged more episodes.)

4. Count Chocula (General Mills 1971)

Do I have to say it? He’s simply chocolicious! And after 40 years, he still graces our grocery aisles. Not only that, but he’s got his own brand of lip balm!

5. Count von Count (Sesame Street; TV series (first appearance) 1972)

I don’t think there’s a child in American who didn’t learn how to count from Count von Count. And he’s got most vampires beat by far: he can be out in daylight, he doesn’t need a coffin to sleep in, and doesn’t need to drink blood in order to survive.

6. Lestat de Lioncourt (Interview with the Vampire; novel: 1976; film: 1994)

Not since Bram Stoker’s Dracula has a book brought so much attention to the vampire mythos as Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice. The Vampire Chronicles brought vampires to life (metaphorically speaking, since they are undead) in this ten book series, which spawned one blockbuster hit and two not so great film adaptations. Rumor has it, there’s talk of a reboot in the works.

7. Bunnicula (book 1979; TV cartoon 1982)

Not your fluffy children’s bedtime reading folks. A vampire bunny who sucks the juice from vegetables. What a novel idea…now why didn’t I think of that? Yes, both puns intended.

8. Elvira (Elvira’s Movie Macabre; TV series 1981)

No, not the song from Oak Ridge Boys. But rather Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who is the epitome of vampire glam. She even gives Lily Munster a run for her money. Really, we should all take our fashion cues from Elvira.

9. The Lost Boys (film 1987)

Before George Hamilton got really tan and starred in the 1979 flick, Love at First Bite (you can’t really be tan and play a vampire), decent vamp films were pretty much dormant until the late 1980‘s. Not only did we get to see Kiefer Sutherland looking all smoldering hot as the lead vampire in The Lost Boys, a classic cult favorite, but any movie with the Two Coreys is A+ in my book.

10. Angel/Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer; TV series: 1997)

If you haven’t seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where have you been? Joss Whedon is a genius! (I’ll wait while you put BTVS in your Netflix queue). In BTVS we had two juicy vamps to swoon over: the brooding vampire with a soul, Angel, who sometimes turned into the sadistic Angelus, and Spike, the selfish villainous vampire who later gained a soul and became a champion in his own right (*Spike’s favorite soap is Passions).

So, after taking stock of all the versions of vampires I grew up with over the years, I can’t say that I’m all that tired of the genre. And while I’m kind of over Tim Burton, I am looking forward to the premiere of Dark Shadows on May 11.

Who’s your favorite vampire?