The Character Description Project

I hosted something of a creative community project on Facebook the week before last, mostly by accident. By ‘accident,’ I mean that I didn’t expect it to explode into the huge deal it became (for me at least.) Here’s how it went down:

Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing) author Chris Brecheen (a fabulous human whose website you should check out) shares amusing writing-related memes, encouragement, and puns all day every day, in addition to churning out solid word-slinging advice. One of these was an older Tumblr post asking the reader to describe the original poster ‘the way an author would in a book.’ I didn’t like sharing something so me-centered, so I reposted it with a little twist.


Tumblr post: “describe me the way an author would in a book” – if you do this i might cry Additional commentary: ‘Comment and I’ll do one of these for you.’

By now, two weeks later, I’ve written thirty of these character descriptions. Thirty. With one still in the pipeline, because that one’s on the back burner for now. That’s a little over a quarter of my friends list. The cool part, though, is that I wasn’t the only one writing these–several other people joined in, writing lovely character descriptions of their own. There was even one who wrote a description of another commenter, without involving me at all. Two others shared the original post from Writing About Writing with the same offer to their friends.

It. was. awesome.

Also… frightening.

The day I posted it, I started the first response with silliness and flippancy. Not even trying. But as my finger hovered over the post button, something within railed at the artificiality. I just couldn’t make anything less than real, so I scrapped it and wrote a new piece from the heart. Not stopping there, I kept doing the same with the rest. I pulled together impressions, musings, and memories, drawing out the essence of my subjects, holding up a mirror so they might see their reflections the way I see them.

As a result, I discovered that the trouble with writing authentically about people you know is twofold:

  • First, it reveals a lot about you–the way you’ve noticed others, what you’ve noted, how many secrets you must know. Folks could be more on guard around me now.
  • Second, it reveals a lot about them–writers are observant by nature and so, I think, we often know things not meant to be known, without realizing. Things inefficiently hidden away. It wasn’t until I was halfway through–when some people came forward to tell me they were too scared for me to write their character descriptions–that I recognized I might be showing too much.

It’s sort of like fortune telling, where you, the seer, are peering into someone’s past rather than into their future.

The good outweighs the bad, though. There are 150 comments on the post right now. Obviously, thirty of those are my descriptions, but the rest (not counting descriptions written by others) are happy reactions to them. Each glowing a little stronger. There’s nothing so freeing as telling your friends how awesome and beautiful you’ve noticed they are, especially through your own art.

What happens when you angle a mirror toward a shining light? It brightens the entire room. That’s what I hope to have accomplished from thirty-odd hours of writing work: a brighter world.

(P.S. I will be posting one of these character descriptions every Thursday for almost the rest of this year. Stay tuned!)

Fourth 2017 Writing Goal Complete

In which I blather about reaching writing goals surprisingly early.


Wait, another one? Didn’t we just do one of these like two weeks ago?

Yeah. I got through this 25,000 word chunk with a lot of help from some writing I did on this story last year. I had no idea that roughly 15,000-ish words comprised just five chapters. By the time I added them in (because I’d finally reached them in the plot), I was at 99,000 words. That’s what that random spike is in the chart. It was just a matter of writing that last 1,000 to already be done for this month.

Of course, that’s not the way of writing. I’ve got to keep up the momentum so the narrative doesn’t go stale in my mind. But with the sudden complete jump to the next arc, I find myself flailing a bit. I know what’s going to happen next, but not quite how it will. I didn’t have time to think about it, to spool out the events and dialogue and gunfights in my imagination. It’s taken me three days of thought to just now start working it out. I’m still turning possibilities over even as I write this.

I’ve somehow gotten it in my head that I’m about halfway done at chapter 45. That had me feeling a little defeated, imagining another 100,000 words before I can take a break from this story. It’s been a fun adventure but also a harrowing struggle, being my first true efforts at overcoming writer’s block again and again and again. Fortunately, I’ve come to the realization that I just have this one arc and some small chapters to tie in a few subplots before I’ll be writing the final climactic arc.

It will be nice to put this down for a while and spend time on some short stories. I’ve written two while working on this larger piece, but it stresses me out when I take time away from one to do the other. Soon, maybe after one more progress update (sooner, if I didn’t have to wander around the block just to get down the street when I write first drafts), I’ll set this aside for a couple months. Stephen King said in On Writing that when you come back to your draft, “you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.” I’m ready for that break. But more than that, I’m looking forward to coming back and beginning to revise.

I’m close enough to see the end. Now I have only to reach out and touch the finish line.

Book Review: The Dark Days Club

I cannot gush about The Dark Days Club enough. It’s deliciously dark, a thrilling urban fantasy.

The Dark Days Club
The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman


London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions:

I missed the release of The Dark Days Club back in 2016 and I’m sad that I only just now got to read it. But the upside is this: well before I finished this book, I found out the second in the trilogy, The Dark Days Pact, has already been released, a discovery I made because I didn’t want the one I had in my grubby little hands to end yet. Whew.

I may or may not have the sequel on order as I write this.

I cannot gush about The Dark Days Club enough. It’s deliciously dark, a thrilling urban fantasy. I don’t normally go in for Regency era narratives (yawn), but this one builds a rich world, lovingly detailed to strengthen the plot rather than detract from it. The book is large enough to use as a weapon in a fight, but the narrative wastes none of that space, moving right along from one bit of intrigue to the next. Alison Goodman pulled me in with an escalating cascade of questions and mysteries, one leading to another, growing grander in scale. Lady Helen Wrexhall is a sharp and clever main character, vibrant and lifelike. The other characters are distinctly themselves — from a horrid, overbearing uncle in charge of Helen’s life, down to the house footmen. At this point, I would love to meet the steadfast handmaid Jen Darby or the savage Lord William Carlston myself.

You know how we often get tales of heroines ripe for rebellion because, for some reason, they don’t ascribe to the norms of society in even the slightest? This is not one of those stories. Lady Helen Wrexhall lives a comfortable life in Regency London and when her life starts to shift toward the paranormal, she’s actually resistant to losing that carefree happiness. A refreshing change in characterization, in my opinion. The question of which life Helen will choose grows more and more exquisitely agonizing right up to the end. In Alison Goodman’s duology, Eon (which I highly recommend), the heroine does not choose the life or the lover I wanted her to pick (because, frankly, that choice would not have been heroic and would have led to her ultimate downfall). But this time around, Helen did not disappoint me in the slightest. Darkness rules the day in The Dark Days Club and I am well pleased.

Goodreads rating: 3.82 stars (why?!)
My rating: 5/5 stars (I would give it more if I could)


Third 2017 Writing Goal Complete

In which I celebrate writing more on a project than I ever have.

A graphic depiction of many slain words

Yeah, this might be starting to seem kind of silly. Why am I posting updates about my writing progress every 25,000 words, at a rate of about once a month?

Because this is the only reward I’m getting for writing this many freaking words for the first time in my life. It’s a gold star to myself. I’m type A and I need those gold stars. Thrive on them. If I don’t give myself some recognition for my tiny accomplishments, who will?

Also, I bought myself a couple of these, one for work and one for my desk at home:

A Fidget Cube from AliExpress

So I made it to 75,000 words. It took me three days past my intended deadline this time, but I still made it once again. I’ve never written this much on any single piece.

Contrary to what NaNoWriMo would have me believe about how 50,000 words is a complete novel, this sucker is probably only halfway done. Granted, it’s a sprawling, crawling mess right now because I don’t always know where it is I’m going. I just know I have to write to get there. It’s a lot more than I need for the plot that I’ve got and Stephen King and probably Dan Harmon would be ashamed of me. A lot of this precious word count will be cut out in the end and I’ve already started daydreaming about where I can trim and tighten up, streamline it a bit.

But not yet. Not yet.


This progress tracker is from, which is a neat and simple tool for keeping up with your writing progress. It doesn’t just track your words, but also scenes, chapters, pages, lines, etc. If you, like me, get a high from watching that progress bar go up, check it out. And if you, like me, would care to have a writing buddy/cheerleader, look me up here.

Ultimate 2017 Word Count Goal Complete

In which I talk about setting goals and destroying them.

A lot of words


New high score.

Last year, I wrote roughly 75,000 words total. So at the beginning of this year, I set that number as my goal to beat. I have to admit, while my intention had been to reach this sooner than April, a part of me didn’t expect to make it at all. So high five to me! This is the most I’ve ever written in just three-ish months. It’s also the most I’ve written within the span of one year.

Target destroyed, my dudes. Here’s to seeing how much I’ll have written by the end.

This progress tracker is from, which is a neat and simple tool for keeping up with your writing progress. It doesn’t just track your words, but also scenes, chapters, pages, lines, etc. If you, like me, get a high from watching that progress bar go up, check it out. And if you, like me, would care to have a writing buddy/cheerleader, look me up here.

Book Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

The narrative style is quick and punchy enough to keep me turning pages, the wit snaps, and the characters are quite lifelike. I’d definitely hang out with this bunch of goofballs and have a good time with them.

Hold Me Closer
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride


Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions:

About the Author:


Lish McBride
Lish McBride, image from


Lish McBride lives and works in the Pacific Northwest as a Young Adult novelist.  She’s written two books about Sam LaCroix and she has another series she’s writing that starts with Firebug. While I haven’t read this one of hers yet, Leigh Bardugo — whose book Six of Crows was the subject of one of my more fangirly previous posts — publicly acclaimed it on Twitter, so Firebug is going straight onto my to-be-read listHold Me Closer, Necromancer is McBride’s first novel.

About the Book:

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is a character-driven urban fantasy set in Seattle, Washington and populated with a plethora of magical creatures, namely some witches, a mess of werewolves, and, of course, a couple of necromancers. It’s not the John Dies at the End story I expected based on the description. (Why would I think that? I don’t know. That’s just what I got out of it.) More like something in the vein of The Dresden Files books, but for young adults.

Though the book is designated as Young Adult, the main character, Sam LaCroix, is really a new adult, just post-graduation and stuck in a soul-sucking fast food job with little to no hope of a fulfilling career. His wry attitude makes such all-too-familiar agony bearable though, as he’s a guy capable of rolling with the punches with good humor. He has a handful of solid friends who have his back when his entire life takes a turn for the weird. I dig how the villain, Douglas Montgomery, is constantly in motion, not sitting on the sidelines or waiting for Sam to bring the fight to him. The narrative style is quick and punchy enough to keep me turning pages, the wit snaps, and the characters are quite lifelike. I’d definitely hang out with this bunch of goofballs and have a good time with them.

There were some parts that didn’t thrill me too much. For example, the really cool, kickass chick spends nearly all of her time in a cage magically designed to keep her half-breed self locked up, and the rest of her time flirting with Sam. She does get one awesome and well-deserved fight at the end, but that’s it. The romance isn’t mushy, as my local library promised (half the reason I picked this up, aside from the word necromancer on the cover), but, as is my main complaint with most YA romances, it comes off a bit forced. Also, while Sam’s narrative is in first person point of view, we get the point of view of several other characters, all of those in third person. Switching between first person and third person bugs me, but that may just be a personal peeve. I really liked getting into Sam’s head, but I found myself less interested in the other characters and looked forward to when we would get back to his part of the story.

McBride takes a decent amount of time with her wrap-up to tie up any loose ends, which I appreciate. Her execution struck me as kind of odd, however, until I found out there’s a second book in the series, for which she was setting up. I think she could have put most of the ending content at the beginning of the next book and it would have been a good deal neater. But it was just intriguing enough that I think I’ll be checking out the sequel, Necromancing the Stone.

Goodreads rating 3.95 stars
My rating 4/5 stars


Book Review: Crooked Kingdom

As a sequel to Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom hits the ground running, carrying the energy of the previous book by dropping its readers into the beginning of a new heist-in-progress, one that will determine the fate of our favorite bunch of gangsters.

Crooked Kingdom
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo


Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets — a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

(Via Barnes & Noble)

My Impressions:

About the Author:

#1 New York Times-bestselling author Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times-bestselling author of Young Adult fantasy. In addition to The Six of Crows Duology, she has written The Grisha Trilogy–set in the same world of the Grisha as Six of Crows–along with a couple of kids books. According to her website, she has three more books in the works.

About the Book:

Get ready, because the action hasn’t stopped.

As a sequel to Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom hits the ground running, carrying the energy of the previous book by dropping its readers into the beginning of a new heist-in-progress, one that will determine the fate of our favorite bunch of gangsters. Kaz Brekker’s team of dangerous criminals are now outlaws and the stakes are higher than ever; even though they should be on the run, they’re out to rescue their captured friend from the clutches of a back-stabbing merchant overlord. Reeling from the successes and failures of the previous adventure and, with no resources or allies, they can only rely on each other for survival.

Just when I thought this bunch of badass misfits couldn’t get any cooler, they do. As they each capitalize on the lessons they learned in the last book, we get to watch them become a force to be reckoned with in the face of more and more danger. Tension and conflict and character development take off right out the gate so that, when I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down until halfway through, and then only because I had to sleep. Bardugo makes you think you know where the plot is going, only to draw the curtain back to reveal the hidden mirrors. You just thought, she smirks at you. Her character, Kaz Brekker, not only stays a step ahead of his enemies (for the most part), but also ahead of the readers, making for delicious twists and surprises.

The Six of Crows Duology is technically a sequel to The Grisha Trilogy. A few characters from the trilogy are mentioned and some even make an appearance (squee-worthy for those of us who’ve read both), but readers need not have read about the Grisha to enjoy this story. Bardugo seamlessly weaves their backstories in so newcomers will not be left in the dark.

This story is masterfully woven into a fast-paced tale of anti-hero justice and vengeance, clever heists, cunning tricks, and intriguing characters, all set in the beautiful 1900s-esque merchant undercity of Ketterdam. I’m especially pleased that the narrative reaches a satisfying climax for all characters involved and it takes enough time with the wrap-up to answer all lingering questions. If you’ve read Six of Crows, you won’t be disappointed with this crowning sequel. If you haven’t and you’re not quite convinced, you can read my review of the prequel before you go pick it up.

No mourners, no funerals.

Goodreads rating: 4.63 stars
My rating: 5/5 stars