Back by popular request…another Kindle Countdown of THWARTED QUEEN starts today!

Back by popular request, another Kindle Countdown starts today!

Lady Cecylee requests that new fans click on this link to get a discounted copy of her memoirs.CastleRabyCecyleeSig

Please note that this deal ONLY applies to the KINDLE version of THWARTED QUEEN in the market.

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News & Notes

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these lessons on craft gleaned from my first semester at Lesley. As June approaches, I have to disappear to prepare for my third residency that takes place from June 19-29 this year.

I look forward to reconnecting with you all later this year! Meanwhile, have a wonderful summer…


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Friday Pictures: Unusual places for books

For the last in this series, I thought I’d leave you with a picture of a winding staircase, in a home that is obviously lived in by someone who loves books…



I hope you’ve enjoyed these pictures. My thanks to Bookshelf Porn, Camille Wonderlands and Stumbleupon.

Have a fabulous summer!



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Book Review: THE THIEF (Attolia) by Megan Whalen Turner

TheThiefTHE THIEF is a YA novel by Megan Whelan Turner that is an example of a well-crafted plot twist. When doing this kind of structure, you need to have two storylines: the A story, which is what the reader thinks the story is about and the B story, which is what it actually is about. It is helpful to either have a protagonist who is as clueless as the reader, or one who doesn’t share his thoughts until the reveal.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have NOT read this novel and would like to, please do NOT read ahead as this review is a spoiler.

Ms. Whelan Turner tells this story from the point-of-view of the thief, known chiefly to us as “Gen”, who appears to be a low-life criminal plucked from the city jail to do a job for the Magus. The assumption being that once the job is done, he’ll be sent back to the jail, or to the gallows, or on his way.

Throughout the novel, Ms. Turner drops hints that Gen is not quite as he seems. He is well-educated enough to be able to tell stories about gods and goddesses. He is well-educated enough to be able to critique another’s sword play. He is also very good at horsemanship, although he pretends in the beginning that he knows nothing of it.

More hints come towards the end of the novel:

The magus and I were nearly knee to knee, ahead of the others. I dragged the reins of my horse over to one side, and it stumbled into the horse beside it. I brushed shoulders with the magus for just a moment and then turned the horse on its haunches and drove it with my heels back toward the trees on the streambank. As a branched passed overhead, I grabbed it, using my free hand, and pulled myself up into the tree. …(156)

They dragged the bodies out of the water, while I sat forgotten in the tree. I carefully rebraided my hair and watched. When the dead men were laid out on the bank, the magus remembered me. (158)

At the moment of the twist, Ms. Whelan Turner gets out of the reader’s way by using language that is crisp and clear:

The room fell quiet. The soldiers around the magus, Sophos, and me stepped hastily aside. Once the queen saw us, she dropped her hand.

“Oh,” she said in irritation and perfect understanding. “It’s you, Eugenides.” (203)

Four stars.

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A guest post by Nikolas Baron: What to Write Next, Beginner’s Writing Technique

QuillSo now you’re a writer. You’ve written a story and, although it may not have been published, you completed it and are actually pretty proud of it. Now what? Do you hover over the story looking for errors? Hire an editor? Try to get the material published? Start a new work? Since you’re just starting your writing career, one of the best paths to take is to write as much as possible. Though you have finished one complete work, you still have a long way to go to improve your skill set. Writing every day can help improve your skill set quicker, but learning the mechanics and fine-tune skills of a seasoned writer takes time and experience.

Where do you go from here then? You’ve decided you’re proud of yourself for completing a story, and you should be, but what tools can you use to help you improve your next plot, characters, mechanics, setting, theme, motif, or foreshadowing? There are many online and book resources out there to help beginning writers get a better grasp on their style and skills. With all of the millions of choices, though, which ones are the best or most help to a wide variety of writers? Let’s explore how to improve your technique through some excellent resources.

518oQLsZroL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner was a book I read for my first writing class in college. It changed the way I thought about writing, how I wrote, and how I thought about story structure in general. This book taught me all the basics while pushing me to improve upon my basic skill set. There was useful advice on every page of the book and I really appreciated that the book was structured for beginning writers. This book provided me with a huge amount of new information I had previously never come across. I would recommend to any writer embarking on his or her career to take a look at this book.

51o6c5YQTmL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee may sound like a book  for up-and-coming screenwriters but it is equally useful for writers of fiction. One of my earliest writing professors at university instructed the class to read this book and it opened up our eyes to innumerable techniques, skills and viewpoints. The book aided me in the construction of my skill set and the structure of my fictional narratives in a similar method to the structure of a screenplay. I vividly imagined my story unfolding as if it were a theater play.  Story allows fiction writers to step outside the status quo and consider the fictional novel as a movie: there are characters, a story arc, a setting, a conflict, a theme and a resolution. This book is simple for beginners to comprehend and pushes them to think of writing in new and absorbing ways.  Story is an experience for a beginning writer looking to improve their technique.

Grammarly is an all-encompassing, mechanics-driven, grammar checking, proofreading, and writing technique website that can help you improve your skills quickly and accurately. I’ve talked to many seasoned writers, and they’ve been impressed at how much they’ve learned about grammar, punctuation, and writing overall by using Grammarly. One of the best parts of Grammarly are their online teaching tools. These tools will help you from basic sentence structure to extremely complicated grammar and punctuation. They can help you look for better synonyms while also teaching you about your most common mistakes, and style. Overall, Grammarly helps beginning writers learn easily and quickly while also giving them tools for the future like a grammar checker or proofreader.


In my writing career, I’ve found these resources to be the most helpful. For every writer, there are make-it-or-break-it resources that push them ahead or pull them back. You, as a beginning writer, need to read and write as much as possible to learn what you need to improve on, how to improve on it, and act on improving it. For all of the millions of resources out there, there’s an equal amount of writers trying to make it. Take the time to build up your technique and skill set and your writing will improve quickly and beautifully.


By Nikolas Baron


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Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.


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On the Occasion of Her Ladyship’s Name Day, this is your last chance to get a discounted copy of THWARTED QUEEN!

ThwartedGeBACreateFrontToday is the last day to get your discounted copy of THWARTED QUEEN as the Kindle Countdown Deal ends at Midnight. Please click here to get your copy!

Please note that this deal ONLY applies to the KINDLE version of THWARTED QUEEN in the market.


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Friday Pictures: Unusual places for books

Wouldn’t you love this airy, elegant space?


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Book Review: POSSESSION by A. S. Byatt

PossessionPOSSESSION by A.S. Byatt employs a parallel plot device, in which two modern researchers (Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell) try to find out what (if any) was the relationship between two Victorian poets, Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte in the years 1859 to 1861.

The first time we meet them is in a railway compartment on page 299:

“We are travelling together,” he said. “We decided–you decided–to come. What I do not know is whether you would wish–whether you would choose–to lodge and manage yourself separately from me after his point–or whether–or whether–you would wish to travel as my wife…

“I want to be with you,” she said…She spoke quickly and clearly; but the gloved hands, in their warm kid, turned and turned in his. He said, still in the quiet, dispassionate tone they had so far employed: “You take my breath away. This is generosity–”

“This is necessity.”

“But you are not sad, you are not in doubt, you are not–”

“That doesn’t come into it. This is necessity. You know that.” She turned her face away and looked out, through a stream fine cinders, at the slow fields. “I am afraid, of course. But that seems to be of no real importance. None of the old considerations–none of the old cares–seem to be of any importance. They are not tissue paper, but seem so.”

“You must not regret this, my dear.”

“And you must not speak nonsense. Of course I shall regret. So will you, will you not? But that too, is of no importance at this time.” (299-300)

Victorian In this scene, we are not just limited to the words written down as part of a one-sided conversation that characterizes a letter. We are also given, in A. S. Byatt’s text, additional information that conveys more vividly the emotions. Here, she characterizes Ash’s embarrassment, hesitancy and fear of failure by the rhythms of his speech. He does not speak fluently, he pauses and repeats himself, sometimes changing a word (from ‘we’ to ‘you’, from ‘wish’ to ‘choose’) to acknowledge that Christabel LaMotte isn’t his wife, but an independent being. LaMotte is nervous and somewhat self-deceiving, telling herself and him that staying in his room is a ‘necessity’ rather than a choice. In all other aspects, she employs a steely clear-sightedness, knowing that she is ignoring feelings of guilt and fear and regret in her single-minded determination to have an affair with him. Lastly, she doesn’t hesitate to contradict him. So this is no typical coy Victorian Miss. This is a clear thinking woman making choices, with one dash of self-deception thrown in to make her human.

I loved the way this novel ends. Five stars.

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Monday Craft Tips: Using details to bring characters alive

Although Possession is justly considered to be a literary masterpiece, A. S. Byatt still knows how to tell a good yarn. Who can resist two attempts at a letter from a gentleman to an unknown lady professing undying admiration? lettersEspecially when the young man reading it proceeds to commit professional misconduct by purloining those two sheets of paper:

Dear Madam,

Since our extraordinary conversation I have thought of nothing else. It has not often been given to me as a poet, it is perhaps not often given to human beings to find such ready sympathy, such wit and judgement together. I write with a strong sense of the necessity of continuing our talk, and without premeditation, under the impression that you were indeed as much struck as I was by our quite extraordinary to ask if it would be possible for me to call on  you, perhaps one day next week. I feel, I know with a certainty that cannot be the result of folly or misapprehension, that you and I must speak again. I know you go out in company very little, and was the more fortunate that dear Crabb managed to entice you to his breakfast table… (7)

This is the first time the reader is introduced to Randoph Ash, a Victorian poet, and the woman he admires, Christabel LaMotte, who also writes poetry. In this medium, a letter, we have to infer what these characters are like by examining the text. We are told that Ash is a poet, and indeed we can see this by his large vocabulary (premeditation, misapprehension, entice). His writing is powerful and direct. These two characters met and fell into conversation easily. They had empathy for one another. They were well matched in intelligence. They had a great deal to say to each other, and what they said was significant. The strikethrough is a brilliant touch, showing how anxious Ash is to make a good impression on Miss LaMotte, how he restrains himself from assuming that she sees the conversation in the exact same way, even though he believes she does.

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Kindle Countdown Deal for THWARTED QUEEN starts today!

CecyleeHeaddressSmileLady Cecylee requests that new fans click on this link to get a discounted copy of her memoirs.

Please note that this deal ONLY applies to the KINDLE version of THWARTED QUEEN in the market.

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