Category: Writing Advice

Putting the Neon Back into Spring: Cultivating Inspiration in 2023!

In glowing green tribute to the recent visit of the comet, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), let your creative spaces dazzle with such brightness that they, too, might be seen throughout the galaxy!

(I’ve also made an inspiration page over on Pinterest. Check it out here:

Spring Equinox (Ostara): March 20

Seasonal Symbolism: Awakening, Energy, Movement, Treasure Hunts, Discovery, Knowledge, Spiritual Quests, Activity, Intergalactic Contact, Adventure, Travel, Evolution, and Guardians such as Rabbits, Lizards, Snakes, Scorpions, Alligators, or Dragonflies.

Writing Prompt: What if your characters had to navigate a world that was suddenly plunged into darkness? Would they even survive, and if so, how would they adapt? What if your story took place on a world that had never known light and yet had a thriving society of life forms?


March 2023: Tarot Cards for Creative Inspiration

Tired of the daily grind at your workplace? Planning an exciting Spring Break getaway? Perhaps this month’s set of writerly inspirations will also help you appreciate the mundane security of your day job–especially if you finally garner that big promotion!

Character: King of Pentacles and V The Hierophant. This character is someone who has led a very stable and secure existence. They have worked hard, and their life has gone according to plan. While it’s true that they are financially stable, it could be said their life lacks both adventure and excitement. But this character doesn’t feel like they’ve missed out on anything; they are content with their life, and the strong ties they have built in their community makes them feel even more fulfilled. They are also largely optimistic, but may feel irked or depressed during those rare occurrences when circumstances don’t turn out like they had hoped. They may be angered when an employee suddenly quits, or they become depressed when their best friend doesn’t show up for their weekly meet-up at the local coffee shop.


February 2023: Tarot Cards for Creative Inspiration

I was so excited to do this reading! I mean, February, am-I-right-or-am-I-right? Paranormal romance, supernatural romance, historical romance, space opera, you name it! The romance-theme possibilities are endless!

Well, until the fates intervened by way of the cards, and no matter how much I glared at them, they weren’t giving up their creatively inspiring secrets. Instead, the message was all about inner reflection—essentially, “Creative, love thyself.”

Pooh. I mean, if we wanted to spend time with ourselves, would we really choose to engage in activities that kept us in our heads (or creative ether realms) most of the time? Realms where we hang out with the exciting array of the characters we’ve created? Especially when reality is probably even more discouragingly real right about now.

Again, sigh.

Still, this reading came out they way it did for a reason, so, take what resonates with you on this 2023 journey, and perhaps we’ll learn to nurture ourselves as carefully as we do our characters, our stories, our artistic creations.


The Em Dash: What Is This Punctuation Mark And How Do You Use It?

If you’ve ever read modern fiction before, especially pieces written by an American author, you’ve probably noticed this ‘—’ symbol before.

A lot of people would mistake it for a hyphen, or a dash, but it’s actually a special kind of punctuation character that is separate from the others known as the em Dash.

The Em Dash: What Is This Punctuation Mark And How Do You Use It?

Perhaps you’re familiar with the name, but you don’t understand the grammar rules or the situations where you’d use it in a piece of writing.

Either way, it can be an important tool in a writer’s toolbox and something that is important to know. But we know how difficult grammar rules can be to learn, especially when so many people use them differently.

How can you be sure to use an em Dash correctly? Where is the shortcut on a keyboard to place in your document? How necessary is it to use em Dashes in the first place? If you’re wondering about these questions then you don’t need to panic—you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’re going to be taking you through everything there is to know about em dashes. When to use them, some of the rules involved with them, and how you can find a shortcut on your word processor.

What Is An Em Dash?


January 2023: Tarot Cards for Creative Inspiration

Happy New Year, HT Peeps! I hope you have lots of creatively spooky fun in the New Year!

Character: Ten of Pentacles. This character was selected at an early age to serve the future Queen. As a child, they were the Queen’s primary playmate; as a young adult, they were not only the Queen’s beloved companion, but served as an assistant as the Queen made the transition from a child to an adult herself. Once the Queen reached the age of maturity, and assumed the mantle of power, this character, by way of their lifelong training, became not only the Queen’s most trusted advisor, but the Queen’s consort as well. While this character enjoys a life of luxury as the top member of the royal court, their life is not without hard work and sacrifice. This character is now responsible for managing the Queen’s entire household; arranging not only the Queen’s meals, wardrobe, and social calendar, but also organizing political meetings with other heads of state, overseeing strategic diplomatic negotiations, and assisting in other key duties where needed. They are the public face of the Queen herself, and, as such, their conduct must always be above reproach.

A fresh start to 2023 – how about we *don’t* claim it as our own?

2022 was a bit of an ongoing horror story for me, with this volume of the trilogy reboot starting in 2019 (see what I did there?). In all seriousness, I went into 2022 saying it was going to be my year.  I was so gung ho.
It was a huge mistake.
This year I promised myself and others I’d write more articles (here being a prime example.  I’ve written a dozen.  I’ve posted…this one?), that I’d publish more books, I’d launch my podcast.  I had a huge list of things that I could have done. Could being the operative point.

Could is a difficult one too, because I’m looking back now and I’m miserable because I didn’t get everything I wanted to do, done.  And quite honestly, the later I got in the year the less I got done, the more I felt guilty, and the less motivated I was.  It was like a self-fulfilling loop. Get less done, feel guilty, lowering what I could get done, slower work, more guilt. Repeat.

100 Compelling Short Story Ideas

If you’re here, you probably love writing! It’s all fun and games, until it isn’t, right? Sometimes your brain just stops being creative, and you’re left with a dry well of ideas.

If you want to write something but can’t seem to actually think of something to write, you aren’t alone.

100 Compelling Short Story Ideas

Even the best writers are idealess sometimes! I’ve been there, you’ve been there – it’s normal. While it always does eventually pass, you’re likely looking for something else in the meantime.

Well, if you need some short story ideas, we’ve got you! Now, bear in mind these won’t be too detailed, because you still need to make these ideas your own!

However, these are a great start for any story, and it will help you get back into your own creative mindset.


Happy New Year – Coming back from burnout

Hi.  Long time no write.
When Stuart asked us all to write a blog about the New Year and share advice, the only thing I could think of was ‘why would anyone care what I had to say, it’s not as if I’ve written in the last year.  Between Uni, my adult children, my own illness, and all of the other stuff I’m doing, and honestly, I don’t think horror readers would care about what I’m doing with infosec’.  And then I realized, you just might, because one of the things I did this year, finally found my way back from burnout.

Burnout city, population….variable?

The last few years are probably the sort of years many can relate to though, possibly not all in one burst.  In the last three years, since my last fiction book was published, I’ve had to close parts of my company, discovered that my mental health is anything but straightforward, and actually, probably the weirdest combination known to man (aspie+a form of issues with language processing that goes the other way from normal (fussiness about definition to the point of pedantry, CPTSD and bipolar disorder.  I’m just a bundle of fun 🙂 ), and I’ve been doing therapy to train me out of my automatic reactions to upset and worry/fear/panic which has taken up a lot of my time.  I also got involved in the information security (Cyber-sec) community and started a degree.  And while I’ve always been involved in Nanowrimo, this year was actually really quite nice, because by November, the stories were whispering again!  Admittedly, the stories had to, we ended up with so much more going on in our world (the word three kidneys and my son feature quite prominently, to be honest), so my time is spent, most of the time, in waiting rooms, and I’m learning my way around an Android tablet, and actually, finding joy in my writing.

And that’s what hit me the hardest.  For so long, I’ve worked very hard to ‘work’ at my writing.  It’s been a chore and often ends up being something I avoid. I commit to stuff, and then end up being overwhelmed, and then get into a loop, and I finally learned this year how to avoid that.

My three tips for the New Year

So, with that in mind, here are my three tips for the New Year, and new decade.

  1. Self-care is not a bad word, and neither is no: I’m not very good at saying no, and I’m even worse at knowing when to stop, and it’s a very common thing in creatives.  So…while you’re slogging it at everything else, remember it’s ok to say no, and make time for yourself.
  2. Write every day – edit when you’re happy – this might seem a bit of a weird one, but I’m pretty sure that if I just write and not worry about it, I’ll find it far easier to edit when I feel less pressure over it.  I’m not saying ignore deadlines – far from it. But I am saying that editing isn’t something I always need to be in the mindset for and honestly, that’s ok.
  3. Read, read, read.  My Goodreads listing, which doesn’t include most audiobooks I listened to, has me at 120+ books. I’m really delighted with that because reading was hard this year.  And so, I’m upping my goal.  I’m doing 150 next year.  I’ll be reviewing some on Netgalley (and maybe bringing horror ones over here), and working on other books as time permits.

Did I say threePhoenix Kai?  Well, here’s a bonus.  If you’re really looking to give yourself a kick in the pants, shoot for the moon.  Make a big pledge, and make it in front of as many people as possible. So.  Gulp.  Here’s mine.
I’m going to write a million words, I’m going to publish at least 12 books and 8 novellas.  I’m doing some boxed sets and anthologies and entering as many short story projects as catch my attention.  I’m taking this year, and beginning this decade and I’m hoping to do it and do my degree, but if I don’t, that’s ok.  I’m going for it, but it’s a lofty goal, so though I’m sharing it loudly, if I miss, I’ll have things to talk about.

What are your plans for the new year, and are you coming off burnout, or trying to avoid it (I’ll write about that later in the year).  Whatever it is, good luck, and I hope you keep visiting the site for markets, advice, and information.