“Goodbye always makes my throat hurt.” – Charlie Brown

I’m leaving Scotland—again. I’m going from this…

…to this.

Of course, life is much more than scenery, and my adopted state has been good to me. It’s given me opportunity to stretch and fly, a job I truly loved, and the company of wonderful people. I’m always glad to come home after a journey, to familiar tastes and people, sights and sounds. To family.

Family is more than those who currently surround me, though. It is years, even centuries of DNA passed down, mixed, and passed on again to my children and their children. It is the future, born from the past.

To Canadians and Americans living on a continent whose recorded history is recent by world standards, family origin takes on new importance because those from whom they descended came here long ago, from places far away that often failed them and forced them to go.

In the case of my ancestors, that place is Scotland.

I’ve been fortunate as a writer to be able to spend months in the Highlands, to soak in the atmosphere and the history. The place and many of the people have become dear to me, even necessary. The Scottish Highlands are the backdrop for my writing, the wellspring of my creativity.

I’m a wordsmith with an imagination so overwhelming sometimes that I can be brought to tears by the simplest sentence, as long as it calls to me. I have difficulty in reading such passages to someone else, because I’ll feel the tears rising to choke me.

Such is my emotion at both arriving to and leaving Scotland. Would I feel the same way if I lived there? I don’t know. Surely my ancestors, looking back at their mountains for the last time as they receded into the mist, felt that grief, that pull that would never leave them. But I need to believe that they then turned their eyes forward finding the courage that had followed them through the centuries, a sense of adventure that would sustain them as they began a new life in a land far away from the villages they’d known.

As they explored their new continent, they found mountains and valleys that reminded them of  their beloved hills and glens back home, and they settled in places not so different from those in which their ancestors had wrestled out a living. Such is the human condition.

I’m going home to South Jersey and a landscape as different from the land of my ancestors as is possible. Flat, sandy, and sometimes swampy, with stunted trees and alien marshes, it also offers the beauty of the great sea that ties us all together.

New Jersey is a good place, a familiar place, but it’s not really home to my heart. It is home to those in my heart, though, and that’s enough for now.

But I’ll go back, and back again, to the mountains and glens. To the history, the pageantry, the mystery of Scotland.

At least for me there is British Airways, instead of an arduous sea journey with sadness at its beginning and the great unknown at its end.  I’m a child of the 21st century, after all. I like my creature comforts, and the whisky trolley is coming by. Slàinte Mhath! See you in New Jersey.

An Exciting Newcomer to the Dystopian Landscape!

My friend Evelyn Puerto has launched her debut novel in the Outlawed Myth series, Flight of the Spark.

Duty. Desire. Destiny.

How far would you go to be safe… to be free…to be loved

Iskra doesn’t question the rules. The rules are there to keep her safe from those who are deemed unsafe or unfair. Anyone who breaks the rules is taken, never to be heard from again. But that’s the price everyone gladly pays for peace and safety. And no one wants to live like the Riskers–barbarians who reject order and justice, and could kill or be killed at any moment.

When a friend is taken because of Iskra, the guilt forces her to do the unthinkable: seek out the Riskers. Iskra’s quest to save her friend quickly entangles her fate with a cryptic prophecy and a young Risker named Xico, who ensnares her heart and is willing to put it all on the line to win her.

With every risk Iskra takes, the closer she gets to true freedom. But every choice carries a consequence. The choices she makes set events she never imagined into motion, and the price of her freedom could very well be her life and the life of the man she loves.

Don’t miss it!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Flight-Spark-Book-Outlawed-Fantasy-ebook/dp/B081S9B17B/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1574860715&refinements=p_27%3AEvelyn+Puerto&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Evelyn+Puerto

My favorite quote on writing…

And there are days when it’s that easy and that hard, almost at the same time.

So: you sit down at the keyboard. Check.

When I first started out to be a writer, I had grandiose plans and lots of wonderful ideas. I researched my little head off, and saved all the research in lovely files that I never looked at again. I named characters who were as flat as the paper they would (someday) be written on. And I outlined. Okay, I sort of outlined.

Then: you put one word after the other until it’s done. Check.

Well, now, and isn’t that special! Only I wasn’t doing that. I wrote the first sentence of the first page, and the last sentence of the last page. And then I quit and went and read a book that somebody else had written. Then I came back and deleted it all and started over.

It’s that easy, and that hard.

The easy part is the desire. The hard part is the work. Because writing is work, and once I accepted that fact, the easier it got. I’m fortunate to be doing work I love, and I have two published novels and a third nearly finished to show for it.

Now, if you want more great quotes that inspire you and possibly kick your butt to get you going, go here.


Volume 9 – When Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

When Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

My bio on my webpage and Amazon and everywhere else I can think of says I’ve been a writer since at least age eight, when I wrote a heavily plagiarized combination of Moses and Cinderella called Zelda (where the hell did I get that name? I hadn’t even heard of Faulkner!)

But did I truly believe I was a real writer? Apparently I did then, because I begged my mother to take my stapled-together manuscript to the public library and tell them to publish it (translation: add it to the shelves, as is.) It was my first rejection as an author, and did nothing to stem my zeal or the knowledge that I held the key to the Next Great Novel.

But somewhere along the journey to adulthood I lost that early confidence. Writing became a chore, not a joy. And when a teacher in high school bled all over one of my darlings with a red pen, the words “you have no style” became the nail in the coffin of my writing. I went on to become an English major in college, but I took as few writing courses as the syllabus would let me get away with. A chore became a sentence.

I graduated with a BA in English, which makes great paper for a bird cage, and eventually went back to get a certificate of teaching in elementary education. Safe, right? Kids would always think I was smart. I could write a complete sentence–I was a star!

But at the back of my mind was a niggling voice saying “you were meant to be a writer. What the hell are you doing? Write, already!” I ignored it. I already had a calling.

I got into the pregnancy and child raising thing, forgot about everything except Halloween costumes, playgroup and toilet training, and overdosed on parenthood. Until I reaslised that Sesame Street was raising my last child, and I needed to go back to work.

A job opened up at the local Catholic School, teaching English. I had to teach these bright-eyed kids how to use proper grammar, read the world’s great literature…and write. Gaauuugghhh! I read the textbook from cover to cover, and finally realized that if these kids were going to learn how to write, they had to enjoy it. And if they were going to enjoy it, I had to enjoy it. So I rewrote the fifth and sixth grade English syllabus. (I did not mention it to the nuns.)

I taught my students how to research and like it, to outline and like it, to create characters that they would go home and talk about to their parents. And in the process, I rediscovered my own love of writing. It took years of practice, but in the end I was a writer again. And I never looked back.

So…when can you call yourself a writer? When you publish? When Hollywood calls? When your fans outnumber the people in your home town–or your home?

No. You’re a writer when you write. A journal entry, a memoir, a short story for a local contest, or even a novel that only you will ever see. If you write, and you get that undefinable feeling that you’ve said something the way only you can say it, you’re a writer. When you take courage and post a chapter in a writer’s workshop, you’re a writer. And when you sell your first book, to a stranger who has never heard of you–and he likes it–you know for sure you’re a writer.

It’s been a long journey to discover this, but I am a writer.

Links for Writers

When Can You Call Yourself a Writer? https://thewritelife.com/call-yourself-a-writer/

12 Signs That You Are a Writer at Heart (And 3 Signs You Are Not) https://thewritelife.com/call-yourself-a-writer/

8 Signs You Were Meant to be a Writer https://writetodone.com/8-signs-that-you-were-meant-to-be-a-writer/

15 Obvious Signs That You Are a Writer https://www.lifehack.org/287156/15-obvious-signs-that-you-are-writer

Indie Finds

The Hike, by Sarah Gribble

Is it ever too late for a good horror story? Halloween is behind us and we’re into the season of thankfulness, but it fits. After you read The Hike, you’ll be very thankful that you’re not spending Thanksgiving in the desert.

Dee didn’t want to go on the hike. What starts as an ordinary trip into the desert for four friends turns into a horrifying struggle for survival. Against nature. Against each other. Against what’s out there, lurking…

…waiting to pounce.

Get the book here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hike-Sarah-Gribble-ebook/dp/B07XCYFLS1/ref=sr_1_1?crid=OFIYHVIEOZBW&keywords=the+hike+sarah+gribble&qid=1572967129&s=books&sprefix=the+hike+sar%2Cstripbooks%2C159&sr=1-1

M MacKinnon’s World

The Piper’s Warning was launched by DartFrog Plus over the weekend!

My team of intrepid launchers took to social media to announce the second book in the Highland Spirits series. Another paranormal romance set in the magical Scottish Highlands, Kate Bianchi must deal with ghosts, Owls, and a very aggravating man who pushes every one of her buttons. A modern conspiracy has the two adversaries teaming to find Aubrey’s fiancé in a race against time and evil in another fast-paced trip through Scotland.

Available on Amazon and other online booksellers in paperback and ebook, as well as 70 independent bookstores (listed on Dartfrog’s website: across the US.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/M-MacKinnon/e/B07RNFC2M2?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1572968146&sr=8-1

Leave ‘Em Laughing

Volume 8 – How I Became a Local Author in Another Country

How I Became a Local Author in Another Country

When I came to Inverness, Scotland for my annual month, I brought with me a carry on stuffed with copies of The Comyn’s Curse. Each book had a sticky-note with a name on it, and a bookmark inserted at the beginning of the section in which that person, restaurant, store, or tourist site was mentioned.

This was not to be a touring visit, although I’m managing quite a lot of sightseeing. It was a marketing and thank-you visit. The books were courtesy copies, and the hope was that people would read them, display them, and in some cases possibly order more copies.

As a joke, I began my pitch in the Waterstone’s Bookstore by saying, “I’m a local author–pay no attention to the New Jersey accent.” He laughed, but then said, “Well, you do write about Scotland, aye?” And it hit me. I do write about Scotland. About Inverness and Inverness shire in particular. I write about local legends, and other than my protagonist, almost all my characters are Scots.

So I’m a local author three thousand plus miles from where I live, which brings with it some very unique challenges:

Language – but they speak English in Scotland, right? Aye, they do, but English varies widely throughout the nations that call it their own. Add to that the need to write for the market where your book will be published, and the specific regions and backgrounds from which your characters come, and you have a real soup boiling there!

History – Well, this seems simple. Just do the research. But let’s take Brexit, for example, which was the political bombshell I used for the mystery in my first novel. What an American understands (if anything, in many cases) as opposed to the daily barrage a European is forced to deal with, is very different. Political opinions vary widely worldwide on almost every issue imaginable, and if you want to write intelligently about them you have to put yourselves in your character’s world.

Customs – Of course it’s easier to write from your own experience of the customs and idiosyncrasies in your own country, state, even neighborhood. But what if you don’t want to? What if your passion lies somewhere else? Well, if you can, go there. Spend time with the locals. Join a Facebook page devoted to the country or state of your dreams. If you can’t go, read. And read some more. I spend so much time reading British literature, I find myself slipping into vernacular that isn’t mine on occasion, which gets some head shakes and eye rolls. Yeah, I see you doing that!

I thought I had it down, really. But I didn’t, not by a long shot. I had an American protagonist who thought in American, Scottish characters who spoke with a light or heavy brogue but of course thought in their own dialect, a Frenchwoman, an Englishwoman–Augghh! It was a juggling act.

But anyone can learn to juggle, and with the aid of new Scottish friends, a newly-found kinswoman who lives in Inverness and tweaks my local word usage, and the internet and library, I spun it all into a rather decent book. And the second one will be better, and the third better than that.

I’m a local author in Inverness, Scotland, with a South Jersey accent. And for me, it works.

Links for Writers

How to Write About a Country You’ve Never Visited https://www.writersdigest.com/guest-columns/travel-on-the-page-how-to-write-about-a-country-youve-never-visited

How Do You Write About a Country You Don’t Know Well? https://www.bryndonovan.com/2016/05/02/how-do-you-write-a-story-set-in-a-place-you-dont-know-well/

Leave ’em Laughing

Volume 7 – Does Your MC sing? How to Fix a Boring Protagonist

Does Your MC Sing? How to Fix a Boring Protagonist

When I began The Comyn’s Curse (then titled Full Scottish Breakfast–what was I thinking!), I created a cast of unique characters that reviewers and critiquers on The Write Practice immediately loved. Old, irascible Scot Angus with his nearly incomprehensible broque and quick temper, the Owls, that mysterious group of housemates who stepped in to save Aubrey from herself…and of course my men. Oohh la la, they were fun to write! And everybody loved them.

But I began to notice comments like “I really can’t get into Aubrey”, and “Aubrey is so wishy-washy, I just don’t care about her!” They weren’t being cruel. I had to admit that, from the start, I hadn’t cared much about my protagonist either. She was just a vehicle for the others’ antics–a straight guy for their humor or evil or magic. I had let her down.

(Which is another reason to join a writing community and develop relationships with other writers you grow to trust. They won’t lie to you. It’s their (unpaid) job to tell you what sucks, and how it makes them as readers feel.)

I went back to the drawing board, put Aubrey on the table and went to work on her character. I gave her a reason for her behavior, and then I gave her a backbone. In other words, I made her human. She became a joy to write, full of pithy humor and self-deprecation that proved she was worthy of not just the man of her dreams, but the position of star in my show.

I eventually sent my manuscript to an editor, and the first comment she made was that she loved Aubrey! Angus was still wonderful, the men funny and handsome and the villain(s) appropriately villainous, but my main character stole the show. I had made her sing.

In the links below I’ve shared some articles on how to make your protagonist rule the roost in your novel, but the main thing to take away from this is:

Make him/her real. Make her flawed. Make her brave enough to face her demons and strong enough to find the will to win. Give her a motivation for the stupid/thoughtless/terrible decisions she makes in the story.

And most of all: Make her funny, damn it. If your protagonist doesn’t have a sense of humor, as Aubrey didn’t until I made her find and embrace it, there’s no point in reading further. She’s the scaffolding for your story, the reason you’re writing it.

Don’t sell her out. Make her sing.

Links for Writers

How to Make Your Protagonist More Likeable https://prowritingaid.com/art/718/5-ways-to-make-your-protagonist-more-likable.aspx

How to Create Unforgettable Protagonists https://www.literautas.com/en/blog/post-443/how-to-create-unforgettable-protagonists/

33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters https://www.well-storied.com/blog/write-stronger-characters

Character Creation: 3 Tips for Crafting a Protagonist https://thewritelife.com/character-creation-protagonist/

Indie Finds

Twice Upon a Time, by Dan Davidson and Rich Marcano

What if you were given the opportunity of a “do-over”—a chance to travel back in time and change your life’s path? What decisions would you make differently? What mistakes would you fix? And what would you do if you learned that your fate is set at birth, and cannot be escaped?

Available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Twice-Upon-Time-Dan-Davidson-ebook/dp/B07VYMFZKT/ref=sr_1_18?crid=1N1FUFC0KPMBB&keywords=twice+upon+a+time&qid=1568147765&s=gateway&sprefix=Twice+upo%2Caps%2C225&sr=8-18

M MacKinnon’s World

As you know, I’m in Scotland for the month. What you may not know, is that, as a MacKinnon, I can trace my heritage back to Alpin, last king of the Picts. Oh, yeah. Pretty cool, eh?

Well, moving on. I went to the center of Pictish culture to find out more about these original inhabitants of Scotland, and I found out that they were a proud people who eventually assimilated with the Irish and became Scots. So, now I’m Irish and Pictish. In other words, a Scot. I can deal with that

I visited the area in which Celtic/Pictish culture flourished, and in the tiny fishing village of Portmahomack I found the Discovery Centre, located in a monastery which had seen its share of violence throughout the centuries, but also had given rise to a phenomenal Pictish culture. Here’s a picture of a stone found on the site. Incredible people, the Picts.

Leave ‘Em Laughing

Volume 6 – Bad Boys, Watcha Gonna Do? (Crafting Your Villain)

Bad Boys, Watcha Gonna Do? (Crafting Your Villain)

One of the most satisfying things I’ve found about writing a novel is the scenes involving the bad guy–the nemesis of my protagonist. And it’s also the most difficult, because while I want him/her to be truly memorable, I don’t want a two-dimensional figure that just exudes nastiness for no particular reason.

I don’t want Cruella DeVille, who is memorable more for her fur coat and horrible hair than anything else. I don’t want Dr. Evil, memorable because he is hilarious. Which of course he’s supposed to be, but he in himself could act as a tutorial for how not to write a villain.

In my first book, the main character never even met one of my villains. She was affected by his shenanigans, surely, but he existed out of the plane of her existence entirely. And it worked. At least my readers seem to think it did.

In my second book, the villain is very much hands-on with the protagonist, so it is a different scenario. And hopefully that works too. The issue with a good villain is not how or where they act, so much as why. What caused him to become this way? “Born this way” only really works for Lady Gaga. Your villain must be human, real–she must have a reason for her actions. The reader must understand the motivation behind the evil, even if he cannot accept it.

A good villain may be likeable. The idea that all villains are sociopaths with no empathy is a trope that, in my humble opinion, is played out and rarely works except in superhero movies. And even then there was a reason Lex Luthor was the way he was. He didn’t just go about slinging kryptonite for no reason (except maybe that Superman looked stunning in his tights)–he had a personality.

Find out the “why” of your villain. If you’re writing a mystery or a thriller, the top reasons for murder include revenge, money, and greed. A romance villain can suffer from jealousy. Any of these can be the kernal for the backstory of your villain. But you can’t just name the motive if you want a three-dimensional bad guy–you have to give him a backstory if you want readers to get on board. Make him believable, even sympathetic.

It’s not easy to do, because usually the villain is seen through the eyes of your protagonist. I do it in part with separate chapters written from the POV of the villain, but there are other ways. Just find a way to get his story out there.

And here’s a thought–while you’re getting rid of the idea that your villain was just born bad, tell us what he was like before the defining moment that turned him. What changed him? Did his mother die and leave him a victim of the system? Did his buddies lead him into a “no turning back” situation that ruined his life? Whatever you choose, flesh him out. Give him a personality with more than one dimension.

And remember, in one of Agatha Christie’s most memorable novels, the villain was the protagonist. Now that’s how to write a good bad guy!

Around the Site

The much anticipated Downton Abbey movie is almost upon us. It opens on September 20 in the US, but I will be watching it on Opening Night in the UK, at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, Scotland.

In honor of Julian Fellowes remarkable work and in the spirit of dialogue between characters from two different worlds, I invite you to press that widget of the girl reading under the covers, and discover My Guilty Pleasure – Fan Fiction.

I got my start by writing alternate universe stories about Lady Sybil Crawley and her chauffeur, Tom Branson. I created a world where Sybil lived and they could be together, because that’s what FanFic writers do–they fix things that went wrong for their favorite characters. Click on the link and enter another world…you won’t regret it.

Links for Writers

What Makes a Good Villain? https://jerryjenkins.com/what-makes-a-good-villain/

5 Tips for Writing Superbad Villains https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/07/05/5-tips-writing-superbad-villains/

How to Create a Villain Readers Won’t Forget: 6 Tips https://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-create-a-great-villain/

6 Ways to Write Better Bad Guys https://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/6-ways-to-write-better-bad-guys

Indie Finds

Love is A Rebellious Bird, by Elayne Klasson

“A surprisingly complex and realistic love story delicately narrated by an endearing protagonist.”


M MacKinnon’s World

I’m in Scotland for the month of September! Back in Inverness, my happy place, and ready to chase down some new ghosts and legends. Meanwhile, I have about fifteen copies of The Comyn’s Curse to sign and drop off to people who helped out with the book as well as locales and venues that were featured. With the exception of the Tullach Ard distillary, all the places in the book are real. (I’m sorry if you’ve been looking for Lachlan MacKenzie’s wonderful whisky on your store shelves! Really.)

Leave ’em Laughing

Volume 5 – Who Said That?–The Art of Dialogue

Who Said That? – The Art of Dialogue

In your reading, you may have endured dialogue like this:

It’s a nice day today, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is a nice day. The sun is out and the sky is blue.”

“We’re having lovely weather, aren’t we?”

“Yes, the weather has been very good lately.

“Remember when it rained last week?”

“Yes, that wasn’t so nice.”

I don’t know about you, but I fell asleep an hour ago. I should have quit with the first sentence and never looked back. Unlike real life, where sometimes people can blather on for hours and say virtually nothing, dialogue in fiction is there for a purpose: to move the plot forward and build your characters’ resumes.

Writing dialogue is not that difficult. If you remember that it is people talking, you should be able to pull it off. If it sounds like your third grade reader–run Spot, run.

So how do you write dialogue that will resonate with readers?

If you remember that your characters are real people, that will help. Don’t sell them out. Figure out how each character’s personality, ethnicity, age, education, and regional origin affect the way they speak to others, and give them their own voicel

Is your main character shy? Angry? Forward? It will all affect the way he carries on a conversation.

Does your villain speak in clipped, tight sentences? Or is he ebullient, likeable, perhaps a con man?

A word to the wise: If you are writing about someone who is not a native speaker, be careful how you present that character’s accent. In The Comyn’s Curse, all the Scottish characters had varying Scottish accents, but only the old man, Angus, spoke in Scots. As a non-Scots speaker myself, I had to consult on-line Scots translators and locals in Scotland familiar with the language in order to translate Angus’ speech to the page, and then I had to offer a glossary of terms so that the reader wasn’t turned off by the difficulty of understanding him. The one thing I refused to do was sell him out by whitewashing his speech.

But Angus is unique. In the same book there is a Frenchwoman whose English is very good, but she has an accent. I did not have her say, “Eet eez not good,” because that is stereotypical and (at least to me) demeaning. Rather, I used transliteration–the transposing of the grammatical structure of the native language into the new one, to suggest her French heritage. “This man–he is not good for you”, told the reader that English was not her first language.

People don’t usually speak in complete sentences or use faultlessly correct grammar in conversation. Feel free to have them (okay, this hurts, I’ll admit it) end a sentence with a preposition. There. I’ve said it. And I’ve done it, and we’ve all survived.

Keep the dialogue short–no long paragraphs unbroken by someone else in the conversation. In real life, people rarely listen to long one-sided conversations without interrupting the speaker. As it should be; we all want our turn.

Keep your identifiers at a minimum, but make sure the reader can keep up with who’s speaking. I’ve read innumerable conversations of short, back-and-forth discussion that gives me no idea of who is speaking, and I’ve had to go back and read it all again carefully in order to figure out who knows what or has which opinion. It’s very wearing, and can sabotage the story.

All you need is “said”. One of the hallmarks of amateur writers is their overuse of verbs such as shouted, screamed, blathered, cried, sobbed, etc. These are lovely words, but they distract from the action. Let the character’s speech and action tell the story.

If you’re lucky enough to have a listener–someone who is willing to listen to you read your work to him or her, you can read the dialogue in the accent or tone you meant the character to convey, and believe me, your listener will tell you if it doesn’t work. Reading your manuscript aloud is a valuable tool for many reasons, dialogue being one of the most important. There is nothing like eliciting a chuckle from your listener at something one of your characters said.

When all is said and done, you love your characters, and you won’t let them behave like robots, You are speaking through them, and they will thank you by saying things that readers will find funny, or sad, or tragic. That’s the magic of dialogue.

Around the Site

By now I think everyone who follows me knows that Scotland is my Happy Place, and that I look forward to living in the Highlands for a month each year. This year that month is September, which means that I’ll be boarding a plane for Edinburgh in two days!

In honor of my heritage and obsession, this month’s Author in the Spotlight is David Rae, a Scottish writer who handles horror, comedy, irony…oh, you name it, he’ll write it, and write it well. Just tap that widget with the eyes peeking through the pages of a book, and check out one of my favorite David Rae stories, “What the World Needs Now”.

Links for Writers

6 Tricks to Improve Dialogue https://jmenefeeblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/6-tricks-to-improve-dialogue/

3 Tips for Writing Good Dialogue https://medium.com/the-1000-day-mfa/3-tips-for-writing-good-dialogue-8f1e4e476e60

Bad Dialogue–Bad, Bad Dialogue https://theeditorsblog.net/2011/11/03/bad-dialogue-bad-bad-dialogue

Simple Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Realistic Dialogue https://cayceberryman.com/1073-2/

Indie Finds

The Regret, by Dan Malakin

What if someone wanted to ruin your life?

Now she has a three-year-old daughter and is in a new relationship. But someone is stalking her again. Her phone, her emails and her social media are hacked.

Rachel Stone’s world was destroyed by a stalker, Alan Griffin. After he went to prison, she rebuilt her life.

M MacKinnon’s World

The Piper’s Warning is on its way!

You have the honor of seeing, for the first time, the cover of Book 2 in the Highland Spirits Series! Yes, it’s here, and I’m pretty durn pleased with it, if I do say so myself. DartFrog nails another one! Thanks, guys.

More on The Piper’s Warning (and how to get it) as we get closer to launch date.

Leave ’em Laughing

Volume 4 – What if My Mysterious Historical Ghost is in Love? (Finding Your Genre)

What if My Mysterious Historical Ghost is in Love? (Finding Your Genre)

I’m in love with my ghosts. I really am. I want them to be happy, and fulfilled, and with their significant other. Is that too much to ask? For a ghost to have a happy afterlife? I think not.

I started my writing journey by researching some of the legends and haunted castles of Scotland. There are a lot to choose from! I found a lot of tales, but they all had one thing in common: the ghosts that were haunting these ancient keeps had come to a bad end, died by violence usually not of their own making. Tragic. And I became incensed on their behalf, and determined to do them justice.

This was my mindset when I set out to write my first novel. I had a legend that consisted of one paragraph in any source I found. Because it was so long ago, there was little known about the event, but the castle ruin still stood as testament that something happened in 1442. The ghost was a girl who chose love over duty with horrible consequences. It was perfect.

I quickly realized that just writing a paranormal story wasn’t satisfying enough. I needed a modern counterpart to my ghost. Then, a mystery started weaving itself through the story, and suddenly I had a paranormal-romance-mystery-history-thriller on my hands. A multi-genre nightmare.

I went to the Philadelphia Writers Convention, ready to sell my story to an agent. After two sentences, she said “I don’t think this is paranormal romance. It’s women’s fiction, and I don’t do women’s fiction.” (cue door slam) Miffed on behalf of my incorporeal lovers, I said, “But it has ghosts…and romance!”

It was not an auspicious beginning, but fortunately I decided to persevere. The result is The Comyn’s Curse, and here is the Kirkus review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/m-mackinnon/the-comyns-curse/

Did you get that last line? “A pleasing cross-genre novel.” My genre confusion was over; I had been vindicated. I had a paranormal romance with a mystery sub-genre and elements of history. And that’s okay.

My second novel in the series is also paranormal romance with a mystery sub-genre. And it’s been accepted for publication, so I guess I’m on the right track. As Chuck Wendig puts it, “The key for me is that, when I seek a book by an author, I want that book to be a book nobody but that author could’ve written. That, for me, is what voice—and “branding”—is all about.”

And I hope that’s what my books are–something only I could have written.

And so I say to the agent who dismissed my idea so easily, “Take that, oh entity whose name I have forgotten! The only genre not mentioned by anyone reading or reviewing my book is women’s fiction! Ha!”

Of course, genre–and knowing your genre–cannot be dismissed so easily. It’s important to pick something to be going on with. A guiding question might be–what is the primary focus of your book? What is its base? Romance? Horror? Mystery? And then when you’ve decided that, what is (are) your sub-genres?

In the case of The Comyn’s Curse, at the base is an ancient curse and a ghost who still haunts the ruin. So, paranormal. Said curse came about because of love. So, paranormal romance. A modern woman is haunted by the curse, and a present-mystery threatens her life. So now we have paranormal romance, subgenre mystery. The entire story takes place in Scotland, whose rich history is key to the action. So we end with paranormal romance, subgenre mystery with elements of history. Voilá!

Oh, and I might direct you to DartFrog’s website: https://dartfrogbooks.com/, My publisher doesn’t seem to mind crossing genres. The Comyn’s Curse is featured in both the Romance and History sections of their site.

Around the Site

I love fantasy, and when a book comes along that evokes Harry Potter and Dr. Who, I’m there. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is just such a book. Check it out in the Book Corner.

Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, doomed to die on her twelfth birthday. But intervention by a copper-haired patron named Jupiter North changes everything. Harry Potter would be proud.

Links for Writers

Should Novelists Stick to One Genre? https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-i-wont-stick-to-one-g_b_11779290

Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2015/11/thinking-about-writing-in-multiple-genres-heres-what-you-need-to-know/ Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know:

What if Your Book is the Child of Two Genres? https://www.thewoolf.org/2018/06/01/what-if-your-book-is-the-child-of-two-genres/

M MacKinnon’s World

The Piper’s Warning has been edited and is in the formatting process, and work on the cover has begun. Exciting times ahead!

Leave ’em Laughing

The Battle Between Genre and Literary Fiction Goes On.