Juma’s Rain – new release

Yes, I know I’m late again. That happens often with authors since we all have ur head in the clouds (actually in stories to tell the truth). I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (= writing a novel of 50K words minimum in a month) again this year (for the 8th time) and have been writing like mad. I managed to get more words down already than in any NaNo I did before. So, please forgive my tardiness in all things aside from that.

Today, I present to you my next book, a YA love story set in Stone Age Africa, Juma’s Rain.

Juma's Rain cover

Yes, I do know that Juma’s buttocks are visible, but people in Africa didn’t wear all that much in the Stone Ages. I assure you though that there is no graphical sex in the book (although a little smooching occurs). The story is about a girl who wants to become the next clan leader but is apprenticed to the village witch instead because she can see the gods. Her talent is urgently needed to wake the rain-goddess and stop the fire dæmon from destroying the earth. Falling in love with the current clan leaders’ son wasn’t part of the plan…

You can pre-order the book on Amazon so that it will be delivered to your Kindle on Sunday 15th of November. Or you can buy the print book if you prefer. And if you like the story, please let me know.

On Further Review…

With a nod to what the refs say during football season… I want to tap the collective wisdom of our readership on a topic we’ve been hearing about recently. Amazon appears to be cracking down on paid reviews and I think most of us would cheer that idea. But what’s the real problem here? And what’s the best solution? Take the poll below and comment.

Briefly- Amazon moved against several paid review sites recently, to shut down people posting five-star reviews that were bought and paid for (and presumably inauthentic). You figure Amazon can do what they like, and you figure they’re ticked off their own star-rating system is being gamed, sure. But here’s a twist, as pointed out in this online article I saw via a colleague today: Amazon is now going after individual reviewers, and evidently is suing for a “remedy” that includes the information to find out who those reviewers got paid by. Everybody still cool with that?

Layer on this, which many of us are familiar with: the Zon also removes reviews if they judge that you “know the author personally“. The criteria they use to determine this is something they refuse to share, and the take-down they apply is irreversible. You can complain when it happens to you. I did, and got bupkus back. For an honest review of a book I had read, penned by a fellow author who is indeed my friend (as a result of our online collaboration, not because I am her kid’s godfather or we go bowling on Tuesdays). I can tell you, I took THAT personally.

And through it all, the part that I really love to hate- ignorant, hateful, racist/sexist/ageist trolls can come crashing through an author page and wreck the place with no penalty whatsoever. Just scratch up $3 of sourdough money to buy the first title: download, write a one-star/one-line review, then return the book. Get all your money back, while your review stays up naming you as a “Qualified Reviewer” forever! Use the same money to lather-rinse-repeat through every title, just because the author’s a woman, or dared to praise Reagan, or said something nice on Facebook about the football team you hate.

Hahn_critic_1So, what’s the right and just thing to do, will Amazon ever get around to doing that, and what would be best for all of us anyway? Take a shot at the poll to get your juices flowing, and then by all means leave a comment (use pen-names so the Zon doesn’t figure out how well we know each other!).

Vote for the statement you think is most true ! Then comment.

Wishes coming true…

I love my family.

I love to read.

I love to write.

So, why can’t I manage to get all these under one hat? I know there are a lot of people (especially marries woman in the area where I live) who do their best to kill time. I wish they could give it to me.

Imagine what it would be like if I could use those discarded time snippets of other people to… read just one more chapter or write just one more blog post or another scene on my novel.


Truth be told, I though something like that would never happen. But then, I discovered NaNoWriMo. And all of a sudden, my very supportive husband helped me to make room for a miracle that takes an incredible amount of work but gives back to me a) a partly finished novel and b) a boost of creative energy that lasts for months.

Have you ever had the feeling that you can accomplish anything? That’s what I get out of NaNo. This is my 8th year, and I’m excited like a little child. Tell me about you. Do you have something lined up that excites you? Share it in the comments.

The Power of Fairy Tales

Fairy tales have been around for centuries, yet somehow they’ve never lost their power to enchant us. What is it about these stories that continues to capture our imaginations?
Some scholars have made attempts to dissect fairy tales down to their basic elements, labeling characters and situations as particular archetypes and distilling the whole thing down to a single plot called The Hero’s Journey. While these discussions may be interesting or even useful for some people, I find them dry. Examining a fairy tale this way takes most of the magic out of it for me.
But there is something to be said that these stories, if not perfectly universal, do have elements that many people can relate to. The longing to find someone to love, the fear of monsters in the woods, the darker emotions of greed and jealousy and hatred. In versions rewritten for children, fairy tales are molded to teach moral lessons and always end with good rewarded and evil punished. But many of the original versions of fairy tales are much darker, and sometimes even the good heroes are killed or scarred by their ordeals. It’s not surprising that fairy tales inspire not only modern children’s movies but also terrifying horror stories.
I think the thing that draws me the most to fairy tales is the otherworldly atmosphere that they create. From the moment we hear the words “once upon a time”, we know that we’re in another time and place where the normal rules don’t apply. It’s not unusual for animals to start talking or a girl to learn how to fly. We get the sense that anything could happen, and it opens the realms of imagination.
The fun thing about fairy tales is that it seems I will never run out of new stories to discover. There are always new modern retellings and imaginings of the favorites, while there are also thousands of old fairy tales and folk stories from virtually every culture in the world. There’s everything from light-hearted children’s versions to dark originals and adult-oriented new versions, and even humorous parodies. It seems they’re not going out of style any time soon, and that suits me just fine.
It’s my hope that as a writer, I can capture some of what I love about fairy tales in my own stories to inspire others. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’ve always liked “The Princess and the Glass Hill”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “The Little Mermaid”. Do you have a favorite fairy tale?

Author Spotlight: Meredith Pritchard and Authtoberfest

October is upon us and you know what that means; fall leaves, steaming cups of coffee, tea, cocoa, sweatpants, blankets and fires, and… dead things. Ghosts and Zombies and the Apocalypse align. Droves of the undead, aka real live humans, line up to devour it all with a ferocious appetite. I’m no exception. All of my favorite books, TV shows, and movies tend to release in October. I’ve long been a fan of The Walking Dead and my love of that series has impacted my book blog Secret Life of a Townie. What began as a zombie apocalypse discussion blog has turned into a book review and author interview blog, infused with apocalyptic and zombie themes. I’ve used this platform to discuss the books I love and gather interviews from authors of all paths of publishing; debut and tenured, indie and traditional and hybrid. I usually post one interview a week, but after a surge of reaching out and getting encouraging responses from the gods of publishing, I suddenly had a handful of interviews from some of my favorite authors. I really wanted to get these interviews out into the world and I knew that during the fall my blog gets the most traffic. So what began as a scheduling conundrum turned into “Authtoberfest.”

October Author party-4

“Authtoberfest” is a month of author interviews from horror, sci-fi & fantasy authors. The questions are Halloween and Zombie themed. The authors discuss their favorite books, the ability of their fellow authors to survive the zombie apocalypse, and advice for aspiring writers. With 31 authors there are a lot of great book suggestions and some awesome tips to keep writers motivated.

The event started on October 1st with Peter Heller. Peter wrote an amazing novel, The Dog Stars, and has an impressive CV that makes me feel like I’ve done absolutely nothing with my life. He’s a super nice guy who took time out of his busy schedule to answer my emails and impart his words of wisdom upon the world.


Isaac Marion’s interview is schedule for October 9th. Isaac wrote the hilarious yet profound novel Warm Bodies, it was a major motion picture and my favorite read of 2013. My Goodreads review went a little like this: “This started off really fun, really funny, and then turned super deep. So here I sit, book finished, a bottle of wine gone, and I’m still trying to figure out what the f–k I just read…” Isaac had a ton of great tips, book suggestions, and a playlist that gave me nightmares. If you loved Warm Bodies, check out his latest release The New Hunger. Isaac Marion never disappoints.


Peter Cawdron, The Behrg, Ernie Lindsey, R. E. Carr, Nick Cole, and Josh Malerman will also be featured. Josh’s interview brought back all the scary crap from my childhood that I’ve spent the past 30 years forcing myself to forget. I had to sleep with the light on a few times after reading that interview but his thoughts are quite amazing so it was worth it. Josh’s interview posts Oct 31st. Bird Box was an amazing read, if you haven’t read it yet make sure you pick it up.


I had a wicked ton of fun preparing these interviews for everyone. Check out the author interview schedule or stop by daily. Like, comment, Tweet and share. And have a Happy Authtoberfest!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

MRPritchardM.R. Pritchard is a lifelong inhabitant of upstate NY. She lives near the shores of Lake Ontario where she spends her days reading and writing and watching the snow fall. When she is not writing she is a NICU Nurse, wife, mother, gardener, aquarist, book hoarder and science geek. M.R. Pritchard holds degrees in Biochemistry and Nursing. She likes books, coffee, and rum.

To receive updates on new releases sign up for her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/TXnkL.

Visit her website MRPritchard.com or her blog http://secretlifeofatownie.blogspot.com/where she writes about all things books.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Be sure to stop by Authtoberfest on October 15 when fantasy author Debbie Mumford (aka Deb Logan) will be the featured author!

DebbieMumford Authtoberfest-2

You’re late …

… seems to be my theme these days. I keep forgetting appointments, fall asleep on the sofa, stare at my manuscript unseeing, forget blogposts :D . All in all, I’m not happy with this. So, I decided to challenge myself.

From now on, I shall increase the amount of sports I do. Beside going Nordic Walking once or twice a week, I shall use our rowing trainer. Way back, when I met my now-husband, I was quite good at rowing. Yesterday, I barely managed 5 minutes. Therefore, I aim to get 20 minutes of rowing done by Christmas, and I’ll report here every once in a while to let you know how it goes and how much it interferes with my writing.

Anyone out there joining this challenge?

The End of Summer

maple leavesLabor Day has come and gone, signaling the end of summer. Granted, the season doesn’t officially end for another couple of weeks, but functionally, summer is over. Kids are heading back to school and adults are settling into their work-a-day worlds, thoughts of vacations and get-away weekends having been wrapped in gossamer and stored for next year’s use.

Autumn is upon us, and far from feeling nostalgic for the loss of summer’s heat and sense of possibility, I’m looking forward to crisp, cool weather, tart red apples, and a kaleidoscope of fall colors as Mother Nature changes her garb. bigleaf maple

Fresh pressed apple cider. A drive in the hills to admire the red, gold, and bronze foliage. Soft blue skies with scudding white clouds and just a breathe of chill. The honking of a chevron of geese overhead.

These are the delights of autumn and I’m looking forward to experiencing each and every one!

Farewell, Summer. You’ve been awesome. Welcome, Autumn. I’ve missed you, my favorite season, and I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted!

Getting Back in the Groove

I’m sorry that I’ve had such a long absence. I really appreciate my fellow authors of this group for being patient with me while I was gone, and for keeping the blog running. I’ll try to be more active now with writing, both blogging and stories, so look for more from me in the future.
I had eye surgery that took a long time to recover from. In fact, I’m still recovering my full vision for at least another month, and I also have to limit how much screen time I have in order to avoid eye strain and headaches. It’s been a frustrating time for me because I can’t write on my computer or read on my tablet. Electronics have been both helpful and hindering in this process because I could increase the font size to make everything easier to read, but then I could only use them for a little while at a time.
It was hard not being able to see anything or do much for several months. Although I had limited vision even immediately after the surgery, it surprised me how difficult it was to do even common tasks. For a while, I was very sensitive to light and had to wear sunglasses all of the time (even indoors, which looked strange). Later, when my vision started to recover, I still had problems with depth perception and I was cross-eyed when one eye healed faster than the other. Even just walking outside in public became difficult since I was constantly worried I was going to bump into someone else. I’m so fortunate that I only had temporary vision loss because now I can appreciate what I have even more. I can’t imagine what life is like for those people who have permanent visual impairment, partially or totally. Although there are some accommodations out there, most people do take it for granted that you can see, and I needed a lot of help to get by.
The one thing that I rediscovered during my recovery is audiobooks. I listened to a lot of books on tape as a child, but I’d stopped when I got older. I was delighted to find that audiobooks are even bigger now and easier to get with the internet, and I can load them onto my phone to listen instead of lugging around giant cases of cassette tapes. It’s a very different experience to listen to a masterful narrator read aloud a story instead of reading the words. I enjoyed closing my eyes and being transported to another world. I know some of the other authors here on IB already know the joys of audiobooks and have even produced their own, but this was new for me. Now I look forward to hearing more audiobooks.
Now that I’m recovering, it’s taking me some time to get back into writing. I have to take it slow without pushing myself too hard. I was also in a “groove” last year where I was writing and publishing new stories every month, and once I slipped out of that, it’s been tricky to get it back. I might have something new by the end of the year, but I’m not making any promises right now. Please be patient and keep an eye out for more news from me in the future. There are a few projects percolating at the moment, but it’s hard for me to estimate when they might be done.

Your Timeline

timelines ImageOne of the biggest issues I have come across in writing Fantasy is the timing within the storyline; and in the case of a novel with multiple storylines, how these different storylines relate to each other within the timeline of the overall novel. These problems are not as magnified if you are writing a single storyline from a single Point of View or a very linear storyline, but they still exist nonetheless.

In my first novel, Fire of the Covenant, I didn’t worry about this until after I completed the First Draft. Actually I didn’t think about it at all as I was writing the draft. I went with the philosophy that you just sit and write until you are finished and then go back and fix the crappy draft. The fact that I actually published Fire proves this strategy works. However, I spent a lot of effort fixing timeline problems during Revision that I could have avoided with just a little forethought and minimal effort.

When I was going through Revision on Fire I struggled when I tried to match up the storylines. Now, you have to understand I thought I had created the storylines so they would just fall in line with each other. So you can imagine my surprise, and detoursubsequent depression, when I found that I had a major disaster on my hands. The storylines didn’t line up at all and even the scene sequences within most of the storylines didn’t make sense. The biggest surprise I discovered was that the scene sequence in one storyline could impact the sequence in a different storyline. The end result was that after a lot of fiddling with chapters and timelines, I ended up throwing out ten chapters and created twelve new ones to replace them. I also had to rewrite a number of other chapters once I realigned everything so that the timelines made sense for all the storylines. This little process took me weeks to sort everything out before I could even start writing the new chapters and to revise the mis-aligned ones.

You might be saying to yourself “I only have one storyline so this isn’t a problem”. If you answer yourself then there may be more issues here than I can resolve. I would disagree with you, both the you asking questions and the one answering. Getting the timeline correct early on is just important in the single storyline manuscript as it is in a multiple storyline book. If you are like me you have read a novel where some character does something in one scene then the next thing you read is that the character rode their horse to another location, overnight, and a hundred-and-fifty miles away. Unless it is a magical horse, this would be pretty much absurd. You can pick your own unbelievable location/incident vs time availability, but it happens in all forms of fiction and in every sized book.

The other benefit of having a good understanding of your storyline/timeline relationship is that it helps you grasp where you are in the manuscript and what you still need to write. I know some people like to outline their entire novel before they start writing their first words, what are known as Plotterswriter_panster_plotter1what we call “Pantsers” – you write by the “seat of your pants”, or if you are like me, are somewhere in between. I have one pant leg on when I start writing my First Draft. When I began Fire, I knew some of the main scenes that the manuscript must contain, but many of the intervening scenes were just a wisp of random thoughts floating somewhere in the back of my mind and didn’t come out until I was far into the book.

I had started the draft for Betrayal with the intention of writing it like I had Fire. I just kept writing, going from one scene to the next. Which I admit is a little difficult with multiple storylines, but thought I could untangle any issues during Revision. This worked fine until I had written a big chunk of the draft, then I was having a little trouble figuring out some of the remaining scenes. What exactly did they need to cover and where did they go in the sequencing? I also wondered exactly how much more I needed to finish the draft.

blank flowchart or timeline on blackboardI started going through the scenes and quickly realized that not all the storylines aligned (this created a terrifying flashback to what I encountered during Revision of Fire). I also noticed that there were some holes in the storylines that I had not expected. Looking at my scene list in Scrivener, and trying to juggle the sequencing in my mind, only bewildered and frustrated me. I decided I needed a way to identify the individual scenes in each storyline and align them along the same overall time line. But how?

Writing is such a creative process, as they say “right brained”, but my problem required a “left brain” solution. Luckily I had my past experience to fall back on. Much of my career had been spent in the business world with my forte being in organizing data. So I drew upon this experience to tackle my problem.

I tried to think what could help solve this problem and let my mind drift back to my time as a project manager. I remembered how I tracked the different tasks and the sequencing of the tasks. What I did to manage the tasks was create a Pert Chart. Pert stands for Program (project) Evaluation and Review Technique. These Pert Charts are a standard tool for analyzing a projects progress and also to plan and schedule complex tasks. It relies upon CPM, Critical Path Method, which list of all activities required to complete a project, time duration for each activity and the dependencies between the activities.

Okay, enough business talk. What this all means is that thinking of my scenes as activities, something similar to a Pert Chart would allow me to figure out what scenes I had already written, how they fit within the novels overall time line, and how the scenes interacted with each other.

I used a software program, not one designed for project management, but something I could bastardize to give me what I needed. However, it would be a lot easier, for this post, if I describe what I did as a manual process.

I started by creating 3×5 cards for every chapter/scene I had 3x5 cardalready written and the ones I thought I still needed to write. Each card contained the tentative chapter name and number, the character(s) whose Point of View is used in the chapter, the storyline it belonged with, and a short description of the scenes in the chapter. Then I laid them out on the floor by storyline so I could check the sequence of each storyline. Next I aligned the 3×5 cards for the different storylines with each other (I have five storylines in this book). The other issue I had to deal with was how did these sequenced 3×5 cards align to the overall timeline for the entire manuscript?

I know some authors who put the timeline day on the top of the 3×5 card and then just put them in order by this date. This provides some degree of alignment, but for me it doesn’t provide the overall big picture of the manuscript and doesn’t provide the necessary relationship between storylines.

The easiest way to resolve the timeline and storyline relationship issue was to lay out big sheets of paper, possibly blank newspaper sheets or poster board. If you have a lot of chapters like me, you might even need to put a couple next to each other to make it big enough. Then I wrote the days for the timeline across the top, then laid out the 3×5 cards, by storyline, under the timeline written at the top. As you would expect, they didn’t quite align and the other big thing I discovered was that there were entire scenes missing. In fact, rather than needing twelve more chapters to finish my book, as I originally thought, I needed twenty-three. So after creating 3×5 cards for the “new” chapters; which I colored in blue to distinguish them from existing chapters, I drew lines between the cards for each storyline and also lines where the storylines interacted. The below image is a digital representation of what this might look like, though I changed some of the information so I don’t give away the story :-)

timelineThis helped me to see where the relationships were and also I was able to adjust some of the chapters to better fit with the timeline.

In contrast to the weeks I spent during Revision with Fire, I did the above in a day-and-a-half. Not only did I complete the process quickly, but having this all mapped out has allowed me to write quickly and with a lot more passion. I knew where I was going and how to get there.

Not that this is a perfect process. I have found that as I continue to write the missing chapters, I am still moving the cards around a little and have added at least one more new chapter… so far.

I could never be an “Plotter”, as I really have no idea exactly how the manuscript will flow when I start it. As I mentioned, I have a few scenes in mind and know where I want the book to end up, but most of the scenes come to me as I write them. Using the above process I was able to use my “Pantser” mentality until I got to a point where I could use my bastardized version of a Pert Chart to figure out how the rest of the manuscript would turn out.

The manual approach I used above was how I figured out the timeline alignment for Fire of the Covenant during Revision. Again, it took a couple of weeks. Not because it was a manual process, but because it was after-the-fact and rather than planning how I was going to finish the First Draft, I had to tear apart work that was already written. I am a digital type of person, so for the current book, Betrayal of the Covenant, I am using a software program to perform this timeline/storyline process. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a software program that did exactly what I wanted, so I used a “freeform” program, Scapple, that I made work. Below is a major portion of the timeline I created (manipulated via Scapple).

The outgrowth of being a “Pantser/Plotter” is that I discovered the shortfalls quicker than I did in my last book, and I will be able to cut my Revision time by more than half – remember the ten chapters I wrote that I had to trash and all the rewriting to make a number of other chapters align between the storylines? I already know what chapters I need and as I write them, I will know how they align to the overall timeline.

I am always open to new ideas, so I would be interested in how you deal with timelines and their relationship to the storylines.


realife-a-titisAs you might have noticed, over the summer things have gone a little quiet over here. That’s not due to a loss of interest but to a wave of realife-a-titis. Several of our regular members have been extremely busy or are coping with personal disasters, so much of what we usually do falls to the wayside.

Take Will for example. I hoisted my middle daughter onto him, and now he’s doomed to live with a teen in puberty who can’t even speak the language properly for a fortnight. That’s taxing (although I have to admit, she’s a rather nice teen).

And I’ve been struggling to get my eldest prepared for her first ever job, and my youngest needs to be taken places so she won’t be jealous that she couldn’t fly to America too. Others are struggling with their health or with novel-birthing pains.

However, we will be returning to our regular schedule soon.
Don’t give up on us.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,354 other followers

%d bloggers like this: