Tag Archives: Writing

Finding the Fantastical in Everyday Life

Finding the Fantastical in Everyday Life.pngAs a fantasy writer, I’m constantly asked where do I get my ideas. I think it first began when I was a kid growing up in the mountains of Montana. I didn’t see the world around me with ordinary eyes. Instead, I saw the world with my imagination. Everything around me was magical, from the creek that ran behind our house, to the forests I would hike with my family, to those snowy days when the snowdrifts would be as tall as I was. I was an explorer wherever I went, constantly making up stories about the world around me.

I’ve grown older, but I haven’t changed much. Instead of keeping the stories in my head, I now convey what I see into the stories I write. When most people see a sunset, I see a painting of God every evening. The stars are diamonds in the sky. A thunderstorm is God’s power on display.

Even little things like the weaving of a spiderweb and a bird building her nest amaze me. Or the scent of fall as the leaves crunch beneath my boots. Or the stillness of a winter’s night. The sweet scent of a baby, or the tender purrs from my cat.

When I write, I want to convey the wonder I have of the world around me, and of the God who made it. And that doesn’t just stop at the physical world. Sometimes I ask questions in my stories: Are we monsters? Can anyone be redeemed? What does God’s grace really look like? What if I could walk in dreams? Who are we? And what does it mean to follow God?

I place my characters in situations that could not exist in this world in order to explain the real questions we ask as human beings. And I use the beauty of the real world to convey a fantasy world full of wonder.

Where do I find the inspiration for my stories? It is the fantastical I see every day around me.

How about you? What ‘ordinary’ things do you see as amazing? How does it bring you closer to God, and if you are a writer, how does it influence your writing?

The Importance of Living in Order to Write

enigma-1427049-1280x1920In this day and age where there is pressure for an author to churn out lots of books, I’ve stepped back and realized that when we as writers forget to live—to take those walks, to eat dinner with our families, to spend a half hour in quiet thoughts—we lose the very substance which we write about.

A favorite children’s book of mine is Frederick. In this book, while all the other mice are gathering supplies for winter, Frederick is sitting on a rock and enjoying the sunshine. Or he’s feeling the rain fall on his face. He’s sniffing the flowers and eating a strawberry.

The mice complain, but Frederick just smiles. What they don’t realize is he’s experiencing life. When winter comes and it grows cold and dark, Frederick steps forward and begins to tell them stories of summer. He reminds them what it felt like to feel the sunshine on their faces. He reminds them of the scent of a flower, or the feel of rain. He describes a fresh strawberry so vividly they can almost taste it.

That is what we do as writers. We experience life, then write stories to remind others of life.

A couple weeks ago I was in Chicago with my family. As we walked between the skyscrapers, I talked to my daughter (a budding writer) and asked her to describe the city for me. I had her listen to the sounds of Chicago, the smells, the sights, even the feel (Chicago can be bitterly cold and windy). I told her to remember this as an experience to draw upon if she ever wrote a scene within a big city.

Last month I was up in Michigan. I spent an hour walking around a lake, taking in the feel of the gentle rain falling, smelling the wet soil, listening to the different birds and sounds of the lake, and watching swallows dive for food along the water’s surface. I filed these away to use someday to describe a rainy day on a lake.

But these experiences are not just tied to places. A writer should also study emotions. I remember filing away how it felt the day my dog died, so I could accurately describe grief over death. Or the desperation and depression I felt the year my husband was without work. And what hope felt like when we found a job and a home.

Some life experiences are small and simple: conversations around a dinner table, a walk around the neighborhood at night, how good it feels to finish mowing the grass as I drain a large glass of lemonade.

If a writer spends every day, all day, sitting at a computer writing stories, then slowly they lose touch with the real world, and the substance that would feed their story fades. It is not a bad thing to write lots of books (many times I wish I was a faster writer), but there is something to be said about living and experiencing life, then bringing that life into your story.

What if Only One Person Reads My Books?

writingThis thought has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if you’re doing what you’re supposed to as a writer. Doubt is always there, lurking in the back of your mind. My rankings are down, should I still be writing? My royalty check makes me blush, should I still be writing? I feel like I’m letting my publisher, agent, etc… down, should I still be writing?

Is anyone even reading my books?

So as I was once again re-evaluating if I should be writing (aka, I’m not feeling like I’m successful and wondering if my life would be better served doing something else), I had this thought: what if only one person ever reads my books? Then I took it a step further. What if what I was writing was meant for just one person? That God wanted me to spend my lifetime writing multiple series for a person who I will never meet, but someday would need to read my books because through those books God would change them? And not just one book, but God would use all of my books to help that one person?

Would it be worth it?

Would it be worth all the hours I pour into writing, the sacrifices I make so I can make time to write every day, the other “good things” I could be doing, but instead I am writing? Honestly? In my flesh that thought makes me cry. Just one person? But as I pondered this thought, I realized that God would do that, because of that one soul.

When we think of God doing above and beyond what we can imagine, we think of grandiose plans and ideas. But what if God’s plans involve a lonely writer, writing her heart out for the rest of her life, then connecting her books to one person who needs to read those books—every single one of them—and by reading them, comes to know God his or herself?

That’s exactly how God would do things…because to Him the value of a soul is priceless. He would do anything to reach people, including using the lifetime of a writer and all of her books to reach that other soul.

This thought has plagued me over and over again for the last few weeks. What if only one person ever reads my books? And not just one book, but will read everything I will ever write, and by doing so will connect with God? Is that worth it?


That’s not to say sometimes I wish I had more to show for my writing, but when my focus is on God, it’s then I believe that what I am doing is not in vain, even if it might be for just one person. After all, every soul is precious to God. And that makes writing worth it.

How about you? Are you struggling with what you’re doing? Do you wonder if it’s worth it or is it time to throw in the towel? I can’t tell you yes or no, but I can tell you anything you do with open hands held up to God is never in vain, even if you don’t see the results.

I Choose to Write Dangerously

A couple weeks ago I received a review that made me scratch my head and ask if this person really read the same book I wrote? The descriptions given seemed far out there. But as I had time to process what this person said, along with what other people had to say, it made me realize something: I choose to write dangerously.

I will never glorify evil, but I will write about it because there is real evil in this world. In a tactful way, I will write about abuse because there is abuse in this world. I will write about the dark places of the soul, gut-wrenching pain, and betrayals by loved ones because all of those are real.

I will also share hope, because without hope, the soul withers and dies. I will write about the hope I have experienced, that is, the hope I have found in Jesus. I will do this in a non-preachy, realistic way because Jesus isn’t a sermon or a moral, He is God, and He has touched my heart and changed me. He is the only light and hope at the end of all things.

To write about both the darkness and the light puts me in a place of tension. I told my husband the other day that sometimes I feel like I have a horse tied to each arm and the horses are running in opposite directions. On the one hand, I write about uncomfortable things. Why? Because life isn’t squeaky clean, and neither are the lives of my characters.

  • Rowen from Daughter of Light has the power to see inside people and see all of their sin. This has caused her to be exiled from her home, used for financial gain, and abused by her own people.
  • Caleb from Son of Truth was a previous murderer and womanizer and still struggles with lust.
  • Nierne from Heir of Hope struggles with faith. She grew up in a monastery, but comes to realize she really has no faith in God.
  • Stephen from Tainted is betrayed by his fiancée and allows his bitterness to cloud his judgement and place a friend in danger.
  • Kat from Tainted is abused by her father, and yet longs for a relationship with him as well. Because of her father’s experiments, she has uncontrollable power that has caused her to hurt others, and so she sees herself as a monster beyond redemption and love.


Four books

Even though I write about fictitious characters in worlds far from our own, their struggles, pain, and hurt are familiar to us all.

On the other hand, I write about God, and that just makes people uncomfortable or downright grouchy. Like I said, I do it in a non-preachy way ( I leave the preaching to my husband!). But I do mention a monotheistic deity and have gotten in trouble for it. But to not mention God in one form or another in my books is to bring my readers through a very dark story then offer no hope.

True love does not bring hope in the end. A happy ever after does not bring hope (and seriously, how many real-life happy ever afters actually happen?). There is only one who can heal the soul, and that is God. And after what some of my characters go through, they need more than a true-love bandage to heal what has shattered inside of them. I know there are readers who have also been shattered, and I want to help bring healing to them as well by showing them what God can do.

However, to write this way is to write dangerously. It means I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’m not going to make the person who wants the clean, light-hearted Christian novel happy. And I’m not going to make the person who hates any mention of God happy. It means I will always write with tension on either side of me.

There are readers out there who want—even need—the books I write. They know the darkness, and they want the light. And so I will continue to write dangerously because that is what God has called me to write and because of those readers.

How about you? Have you felt tension in what you write? Do you feel pulled in both directions? What is God calling you to write?


Writing the Middle of a Novel and Lagging Stories

coffee dateIt’s the last Friday of the month and that means it’s time for our coffee date! This month I had a reader submit two questions, which I will tackle today. So grab your cup of coffee (or tea if you’re a tea drinker) and let’s get started!

Michael asks: What keeps you writing in the middle of a novel?

I outline all my stories before I start writing them. So what keeps me writing when I enter the middle of the story is whatever I put on my storyboard. Okay, that’s not really much of an answer 😉

One time at a conference I attended, a teacher said that each chapter should have something that pulls the reader along, whether that is suspense, the romance thread, mystery, something that will entice the reader to read the next chapter, and the next. So when I am putting together my storyboard (where I map out my story), I figure out what needs to happen next and what can I do to make it interesting. Here is a visual:

romance->suspense->make things dire->expand the romance->humor->mystery->more suspense

I usually get bored with one aspect of the story, so changing it up not only keeps me from getting bored, it helps the reader take a breather from the more intense or darker scenes by scattering a couple romance threads and maybe some humor in between.

To find out more about how I storyboard and write a novel, click here: How I write a novel.

Michael asks: How do you add interest before the climax, when stories (or early drafts) tend to lag?

If I’ve done what I explained up above well, then with each chapter I’ve made the reader start to cling to the book or kindle with white knuckles, wondering what’s going to happen next? Each chapter in the middle is like a click on a roller coaster, bringing the reader to the top where I will unleash the end in a flurry of twists and dips until we reach the end and the reader is gasping for breath 🙂 (at least I hope so).

I think what also helps me to add interest is I plot out my story and tighten the plot before I start writing. That is where I can see the story and the potential places for boredom or stagnation. If you’re more of a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, then ask yourself two things as you write the chapter: is it boring? If so, which of the aspects I shared above can you add to make it not boring (enhance the romance thread? add suspense? add mystery? make things more dire for your character?). And does it add to the overall plot of the story (or is it a bunny trail)?

I hope that helps. Great questions, Michael!

Every month I answer questions from my readers. They can be personal, how to write, or about my stories. If you have a question you would like me to answer during my coffee dates, feel free to leave the question below and I will answer next month. Thanks!

You’re Not Going to Please Everyone

I had a handful of reviews come in a couple weeks ago and every single reviewer did not like my books. Ouch! Some stated why, others were left blank with less than stellar stars. What is a writer to do with reviews like these?

For a while, I walked around the house with their words bouncing around in my head. Should I have…? What if I had…? Or maybe I’m really that bad.

Then I looked up and realized something: I’m not going to please everyone. The moment I admitted that to myself, a huge load was lifted from my shoulders. Let’s face it, that is the truth. No one can please everyone. There are going to be people who don’t resonate with my story, or don’t like my writing voice, or my characters, or my descriptions, or fill-in-the-blank. That’s just life.

So what do I do? I keep writing. I have a unique voice that I’ve tried to change in the past and it didn’t work (check out my blog post Surprised By My Own Voice). I like my voice, it is who I am. It just might not resonate with others.

I will continue to write stories that I love. If I don’t love the story, it will be hard to come to my computer and write it each day for the next year.

I have been blessed to work with editors I respect and agree with. There are many editors out there with different ideas on how a story should be written. Because of that, what I write and how it is edited will not be as appealing to those who come from other schools of thought. And that’s okay.

Writing is one way I worship God. I wrestle with themes, questions, and ideas and ultimately create a story that I give back to God. Through every story I write, I am reminded of who God is, how much He loves me, and there is a reason I am here on this earth. Even if no one else picked up my book and read it, I would have joy in simply giving my story to God much in the same way a child draws a picture and gives it to her papa.

I’m not going to please everyone. I need to remember that. But that’s not my job anyway. My job is to write the best story I can and pour my soul into it. That is what I can control and will continue to do.

How about you? Do you sometimes get caught up in wanting to please everyone and feel depressed if you don’t? How do you overcome that?

Rooglewood’s Third Fairytale Writing Contest

I am excited to let you all know about this writing contest! Love fairytales? Ever wanted to write a story based on one? Then check out Rooglewood’s writing contest!


Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their third fairy tale novella contest—

Five Magic Spindles, a collection of “Sleeping Beauty” stories

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Sleeping Beauty,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!

Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Magic Spindles collection, which will be packaged up with the phenomenal cover you see here. Maybe your name will be one of the five listed?

All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.

Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers is available for purchase, and our second collection, Five Enchanted Roses is scheduled to launch on July 27, and is currently available for pre-order. Be certain to get a copy of each and see what previous winners did with their wonderful retellings.


And now for the cover for this new collection!

Five Magic Spindles

Cover Illustration Credit:

This cover illustration was rendered by Julia Popova, “ForestGirl.” You can find out more about this gifted artist on her website: www.forestgirl.ru

To All of Those Who Have Helped Me on My Writing Journey

A writer is not a hermit who writesI never had a chance to write an acknowledgement page for the Follower of the Word series. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is the last couple pages at the end of the book where the author thanks those who helped her write the book. I have had many people help me since the moment I wrote that first chapter for Daughter of Light and decided to do my own acknowledgement page here on my blog. So without further ado, here are the amazing people who have been a part of my writing journey:

First, my husband Dan. If you have read any of my interviews, his name comes up because he is my biggest supporter and cheerleader! He was the first one who encouraged me to write and believed in me. He provides time for me to write, a computer to write on (I’ll have to write about the day he came home with a laptop to surprise me), he takes care of the kids and house when I’m on a deadline, and those times when I have wanted to give up, he has talked me out of tossing my computer out the window. I am so thankful for such a wonderful, supportive husband!

Jeff Gerke. He saw something worthwhile in Daughter of Light and took a chance on me. Over the course of editing Daughter of Light and Son of Truth I learned so much from him. He’s a great editor who knows how push you to your limit without breaking your spirit. He does freelance and I highly recommend him! You can find him at http://www.jeffgerke.com/

My fellow authors at Enclave Publishing (formerly Marcher Lord Press). I don’t know what it’s like at other publishing houses, but here at Enclave we are a close knit group. We share ideas, encourage each other, help each other, and cheer each other on. I am so thankful to be a part of this amazing group of people.

My critique partners and beta readers: Ralene Burke and Jill Fortriede. You both get me and my writing, and help make it even better. Ralene is also a freelance editor and good at what she does. You can find out more about her at www.raleneburke.com

My proofreader: Julie Thiry. Thank you for seeing what I don’t see.

Steven Laube. When Marcher Lord Press was bought out, I wasn’t sure where I would end up. Instead, I found another person willing to take a chance on my work.

Karen Ball. Karen brought a different kind of editing to my work when she edited my third book, Heir of Hope. She is an amazing editor and helped me hone what I had already learned under Jeff. I am very thankful I was able to work with her.

My readers. A writer writes because they have something to say, but they also hope to find readers who resonate with what they write. I have found that in a special group of people who are both my readers and friends. I write my heart and soul into a book and when one of my readers writes back and tells me how my story impacted them, that makes all the sweat, tears, and time worth it. I don’t know what I would do without all of you! You charge on ahead, sharing posts, reviews, and your love for my series. That is something I cannot do as the author and I thank you for sharing on my behalf.

Lastly, but most importantly, God. Without Him, I would not be where I am today. I have been down some really dark roads, ones that would have led to certain destruction if God had not been at my side. Through my brokenness, God poured a story through my heart, a story that I have turned back toward God in worship. If you have been touched the words in my books, then you have been touched by my love for God.

There are many more people who have helped me over the years: people from conferences, other writers, teachers, and family members, and to each I thank you. A writer is not a hermit who writes alone in some dark office or cabin in the woods, emerging with an amazing story after a period of time. No, a writer is a human being who needs others to help bring forth her story and share it with the world. And for all of you who helped me bring forth mine, thank you.

Surprised By My Own Voice

VoiceVoice. That elusive part of writing. The part that distinguishes one writer from another. Voice is hard to nail down, but once found, brings a uniqueness to one’s writing.

So what happens when your voice doesn’t match your genre?

I write fantasy. When most people think of fantasy, they think of J.R.R. Tolkien. His voice is eloquent, lengthy, lyrical, and full of description. Many fantasy writers share a similar kind of voice. It’s the standard when it comes to this genre.

However, my voice is different. I discovered my voice after writing Daughter of Light, the first book in my epic fantasy series. My writing voice is blunt, short, and to the point. I tell the story in a strong, quick tempo, moving along at a clip pace. Not the style usually employed by the average fantasy writer.

A couple reviews reflected the fact that some readers did not like my voice. They wanted the poetic sound usually found in fantasy.

I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to try and change my voice. I believed I needed to write in a certain way in order to be a fantasy writer. It was like trying to write a square word into a round story. It didn’t work. In fact, those scenes stuck out so bad that my editor called me on it. He gave me the freedom to be me, and to write like me.

So I tossed out those scenes and went back to writing like Morgan.

After reading an article Ralene Burke wrote about voice, I realized even more how important it is to embrace my own voice. Not only is voice my style of writing, it encompasses the stories I write and how I write them. No one can write the stories I write, in the manner that I write them. When I write a story, I draw on the things I have went through: parent’s divorce, death, loss of jobs, loss of house, cancer scares, months of wondering how we will survive, deep depression, and emotional wounds dealt by people.

Through all my life, even in the darkest times, I found hope. And I clung to that hope like a life thread. Through my writing I explore the darkness and how to find hope.

My life and my writing style have formed my voice. To not be true to my voice would be the equivalent of not being true to myself.

Sometimes I don’t like my voice. I wish I could write eloquent prose, running along with beautiful descriptions, long colorful sentences, and dialogue that sounds more ancient.

But that’s not me. I’m Morgan and I will write in Morgan’s voice. After all, I’m the only one who can write my stories 🙂

How about you? As a writer, have you discovered your voice? Did you like it or did you wish you could write like someone else?


Story Momentum

coffee dateHi everyone! Welcome to my first Coffee Date Friday! Every fourth Friday of the month I am opening my blog up to questions from my readers. You can ask anything from writing to personal (for the most part ;). I first announced this on my Facebook page and already have a couple questions lined up. So I will start with those. If you think of more questions, leave them in the comments and each month I will answer a couple of them. Now let’s begin!

Brenda asks, “How do you keep the momentum of the story going?

Take out all the boring parts ;). Ok, that’s only part of it. When I first start dreaming up a story, I see different scenes in my head. I keep a folder on my computer with those scenes in it. Then when it comes time to actually write the book, I take those scenes and start moving them around, testing them and seeing if and how they fit together. If they don’t fit, they get axed. If they do, I ask how did my characters end up in those situations?

It’s amazing how our subconscious ties things together. Many times those scenes fall into place, creating the story for me. And then I write it.

There are different story aspects that keep a story going: the romance thread (are they going to fall in love?), the mystery thread (what’s going to happen next?), the villain thread (how is the hero going to stop the villain?), the “make things worse” thread (wow, how is the hero going to get out of that one?), and so on. By using at least one of these per chapter, I keep the reader turning the page. That is how I keep the momentum of the story going.

Thanks for asking, Brenda!

Now for the next question.

Maegen asks, “Do you ever get stuck in a scene or chapter? If so how do you get the story moving again?”

First, I love the way you spell your name! Very unique take on Megan 🙂

Ok, so I made it sound like all I have to do is dream up the scenes, put them together like a jigsaw puzzle and write the story in the previous question. I wish it was that simple. Then I would never get stuck in a scene.

Sadly, there are times when I do get stuck. I call them “plot knots”. It’s where something isn’t working out, or the story is getting boring, or I’ve written myself into a corner and can’t get out. So yes, I do get stuck in a scene or chapter. And that’s when I panic (especially if I’m under a deadline) and wonder why I didn’t just choose to do something else with my life, like become a professional cake baker ;P

So how do I get moving again? Well, if I get the sense that it’s a boring scene, I axe it right then and there. If it’s a scene that is needed but the pieces aren’t working together, I take a break. I go for a bike ride, play a video game, watch a movie, read a book outside my genre, something to give that part of my brain a rest. Usually the scene will come to me that day or the next (and usually right at bedtime too!).

However, there are days when I’m just stumped. That’s when I move on and work on a different part of the book, on a scene and chapter I already have firmly inside my mind until the problem scene works itself out. Luckily those are few and far between.

Thanks for the question, Maegen!

That’s all for today. If you have any questions you would like me to answer next month during my Coffee Date Friday, please leave them in the comments below 🙂