Robin Layne's Blog: From the Red, Read Robin

April 6, 2018

New Novel Taking Shape Before Your Eyes!

I have joined a contest on (which is both a website and an app), serializing a novel you can read as it takes shape! Please don't wait to check it out, because the contest ends on the 19thof this month (April). Here is the direct link to the story: Against Heaven and Hell

If you think the story has merit, please join the site and subscribe to it before April 19. A subscription does two things: It allows you to read the whole story easily after I post it every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, and it is a vote toward making it the readers' choice winner.

"Against Heaven and Hell is a horror story that takes place in 18th Century America--a story of the younger years of the character I like the best among those I have created so far, Lucas Fleeland (Luke). (You can also read about Luke in the vampire interviews on my other blog, Robin Layne Author .)

After exploring the experiences and processes that make Luke a complex and secretly rebellious young man (and something more than that), the novel intricately weaves in an often misunderstood historical figure, General Benedict Arnold, in ways I hope you will find both informative and entertaining. According to my fiction, Luke meets Arnold when working as a surgeon's mate (medic assistant) in the Revolutionary War, and attempts to mold the heroic general into someone he can better relate to.

I originally wrote "Against Heaven and Hell" as a novella I submitted to a collection called "War is Hell." It was not accepted for the anthology but the editors liked it enough to say they might want to use it in another publication. I was wasn't satisfied with the story as it was; I wanted to expand and deepen the plot, possibly making it a stand-alone novel that is a prequel offshoot to my AVS series. And here I am doing so at last!

I started rewriting the story after I heard about the contest, which started March 19 and goes on for just a month. Just last night, the artwork was completed, and this morning I posted the new banner. I have just less than two weeks to attract a following large enough to win the readers' choice award or to interest the judges enough to win by the second option.

I don't expect to finish the whole novel by the deadline, which is okay. I'm working hard at the new parts and even the old parts require editing for improvement and consistency with the new version. On top of that, I must return to the historical research needed to recreate the time period and historical figures accurately. I WILL finish it, though! I just may not post as often because I don't want the quality to suffer (the quality either of the novel OR of my life).

So far, 4 installments are available for your reading pleasure. More to come tonight! At least 10, probably more, will be completed by the April 19 deadline.
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Published on April 06, 2018 09:26 Tags: 18th-century, benedict-arnold, contest, fiction, lucas, luke, novel, revolutionary-war

February 19, 2018

The Richest Hidden Treasure (Finally in Print: My Article in the War Cry)

It wasn't until late January of this year that I received news that my article, "The Greatest Hidden Treasure," was published in War Cry, magazine of the Salvation Army. It's in the December 2017 issue. I wish I'd been told in November or even December so that I could have told everyone to get themselves a copy. Truth is, I waited so long without any response from the magazine that I was almost sure they had changed their minds about printing the story, even though they paid me $421.05 in July 2016.

It's by far the most I've ever been paid for my writing, and I was tickled pink at the article's acceptance. The editor said she wasn't sure which issue would feature the story, but I thought it would be December 2016, because it was chiefly about Christmas 2015. It concerns my adventures as a Salvation Army bell ringer. Because I didn't receive further correspondence after that hefty check, I called two Salvation Army offices before I found one that had the latest issue of War Cry, then I asked a worker to look through the magazine for my article. No dice.

I tried calling the female editor and only got the recording of a man's voice, and no callback. I emailed the editor, and also used the only online channels I could to reach someone in the organization. Nada.

I had been elated to mention the acceptance of my article by this famous magazine in my bio for The Writers' Mill Journal Volume 5. But for Volume 6, I had the editors remove that information. I had experienced a magazine acceptance in the past that was never printed "for lack of space." This could be the same thing all over again, though I thought it strange in this case because they paid me so much. (The other magazine only "paid in copies"--and it didn't help me to get paid in copies my work didn't appear in.) I didn't think an organization like the Salvation Army would throw money away. But to hear nothing from them... ? Was it possible the editor had been changed and my article and information lost?

Then, in winter of 2017, I received a round cardboard envelope addressed to "Robin Layne," which is my pen name (different from the name I use as a kettle worker). It was from Salvation Army national headquarters, a totally different address from the magazine's. Inside was a Christmas music CD.

I wrote a letter thanking the unnamed people at that office for the gift of the CD and then telling them of my problems regarding the article that was accepted. I went on with my bell ringing and my other job that is on Saturdays, trying not to wear myself to a frazzle making some extra money I needed.

Finally, in late January, I received a letter thanking me for my inquiry, apologizing for the lack of communication but not explaining it, and telling me the article was published in the previous months issue. The manila envelope included 5 sample copies of that magazine. It's a beaut! I'm happy with the presentation, but unpleasantly surprised to face the same problem I faced on staff of my college newspaper back when articles had to be re-typed by a typesetter who added technical errors to my article. Yep, even War Cry has them, including taking out some commas that changed the meaning of one passage. Their version: "People gave me some new nicknames this past season: Christmas angel even dwarf." What I'd written was, "Christmas, angel, even dwarf." Yes, there were kids who called me "Christmas."

I have been a kettle worker nearly every year for so many years I can't quite remember when I started. Although I got cold a lot, I love contributing to a cause that so many people believe in, greeting and cheering people up, and seeing how they feel about giving. Most of all, I love my own special touch: singing carols, hymns, and other songs as I ring. God has blessed me with an enjoyable voice, and generally that voice improves as the season wears on and I reacquaint myself with the songs. I sing a lot about the God I love, and to my delight, others love it. Normally I'm pretty shy and fearful when it comes to sharing my faith with people I don't know, a fact I am not proud of. But something in the music of Christmas turns the tables; I am at home beside the kettle, bundled up and belting it out.

The winter of 2015 was especially magical for me. On Christmas Eve, I learned something especially valuable was secretly dropped in my kettle. I held back tears of joy as a shopper showed me the news clipping on the front page of a local newspaper, and I thanked the Lord for His kind answers to prayer for the Salvation Army of my county, and for giving me this favor among generous people. I could scarcely believe that one of three gold coins was in my kettle!

The precious coin was not the main point of the article, I wrote, however. It became a metaphor for something much greater: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (2 Corinthians 4:7 KJV) God is in me! Not because I've done anything to deserve it by any means, but because He invited me to ask Jesus in, and because He continues to fill me with His Holy Spirit.

The power of God isn't just latent in every follower of Christ; it is active and miraculous and transformative by nature. What else can you expect of God Himself? God is very much alive, and He is who He is!

God the Father is on His throne in Heaven, overlooking all that goes on in His beloved creation, it's true, but through God the Son He sent His Holy Spirit to earth, to dynamically change our world--in and through US! We need to have the courage to believe it and act accordingly. Only as we do so do we become His hands and feet on this earth and answer the prayer, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10 KJV)

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV)
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Published on February 19, 2018 21:14 Tags: article, christmas, coin, gold, salvation-army, treasure, war-cry

November 13, 2017

Writing about the Dark Side

Good morning! I just read a great blog post that reflects the sentiments I have been trying to express. S.D. Grimm (dig the darkish fairytale name!) writes her guest commentary for Morgan Busse on Enclave Publishing's blog. I'm excited to discover Enclave, a Christian publisher of edgy speculative fiction.

Why write about evil, as a Christian? WHAT to write about evil as a Christian? What is the relationship of evil to good? Is it possible that experiencing evil can make the light show all the brighter?

Here's the link to The Dark Side of Fiction:
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Published on November 13, 2017 10:00 Tags: christian, evil, paranormal, s-d-grimm, writing

September 26, 2017

Why Vampires? In Defense of a Dark Symbol

I wrote the following article for “Robin’s Nest,” my web domain of “Den of Insanity” (later called “Artisan’s Republic”) many years ago. I have made just a few changes to update the progress of the manuscripts in progress. Today the issue it discusses is more pertinent than ever. Picture, if you will, a mob of villagers armed with torches and pitchforks, chasing a “monster” down in the dark of the night. The monster? A writer of fiction.

The writer takes a stand in front of the old, creaking windmill. This is what she says—or tries to, before they cast her down from her pedestal and burn her to death:

Some of my Christian friends don't seem to understand what I am doing in writing my AVS fiction series. It's true we say people don't understand us if they disagree with us, but most of the people who disapprove of my writing about vampires haven't even heard me explain my story and its purpose, much less read a word of it. All they have to do is hear the word “vampire,” and they think I'm doing something terrible. One of them went so far as to inform me, “Don't you know God doesn't want you to write about vampires?” It's interesting that she knows better than I do what God wants me to do, especially when I have been working on this story for years.

Why do I care what people think? These people are my brothers and sisters in the faith. I need their prayers and encouragement over a work whose main idea, I believe, was inspired by the Lord himself. It's hard enough that this is a crossover novel that may be hard to place with a publisher. I need all the moral support I can get. And I love talking about my writing because, second to God Himself, it is my greatest passion.

It has been hard having my various subject matters rejected by fellow Christians over the years, anyway. Fantasy? No, it has to be realistic. Romance? That's naughty. Do any characters cuss? Do any characters have sex? Even think or talk about sex? Then forget it! Some people—not all—are quick to condemn everything they possibly can. They seem to think it is their ministry to discourage people like me.

My AVS series has a few scattered cuss words in the mouths of my characters. Shocked? I cuss myself sometimes, mostly when I'm really angry. God hasn't hit me with a lightning bolt yet. I know that doesn't prove He approves, but I just don't feel it's such a terrible sin to let each character talk in the way that is natural for him or her. I think it would bring more attention to cussing if I censored them each time by always saying “she cursed.” There is a meaning to their words; it's not just cussing for no reason. They are not the kinds of people who cuss all the time so that their words lose meaning. These characters do not start as Christians, but the stories do have a Christian message. When a few of my characters get involved sexually, it is not on camera, as it were. By letting them do that, I am also letting them be themselves, not condoning their activities but instead showing some possible consequences. What is wrong with presenting human beings realistically? Because of the existence of vampires in my stories, they are a type of fantasy, but when I write fantasy, I work all the harder to keep all mundane details as mundane as possible, to create the illusion that such an event could really happen and to express the realities of human life.

What is it that bothers many Christians about vampires? I'm not entirely sure. For one thing, I think these people make assumptions. Does my writing glorify evil? No. The Bible speaks of evil, including Satan himself. It doesn't condone evil but instructs in fighting against it. I'm doing the same thing, and in a similar way—through the lives of imperfect people who struggle with difficult issues. Am I claiming vampires are real? No. There are real people who drink blood but not who grow fangs like dogs and live on blood indefinitely. And there are still some people today who believe the undead exist (like Montegue Summers, who wrote books about vampires), but by writing fiction that uses some of these ideas I am not proclaiming my own belief in vampires any more than Tolkien claimed he believed in the reality of elves. My Christian friends may assume that I am trying to copy Anne Rice or some other vampire writer. I couldn't even if I wanted to. I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't think it was a fresh approach for a worthy cause. Least of all, I'm not copying any vampire movies.

Disclaimer: It is possible to dwell upon evil too much, and I have sometimes done so while writing about my vampires. It harmed my mental, spiritual, and even physical health. I learned from that and sought out greater balance in my life. But you can't write a story about the battle between good and evil without some evil in it. And what subject is more worthy than good verses evil?

I didn't think of vampires as a subject for some of my writing until a certain dream suggested a particular story—the one that started it all. But the more I've thought about it, and the more I've researched the subject, I've found many good reasons to write about vampires. This being represents a lot of things that touch us at a deep level, and it can be used to teach us a good deal about life, death, and ourselves.

In Bram Stoker's Dracula, the Count said, “The blood is the life.” This quote comes from the Bible. God required the Israelites to drain the blood out of all their meat and give it to him as an offering. He did not want them to partake of the blood of animals. This prohibition shows the vampire as particularly evil in a tragic way; he is driven to break this law and cannot find sustenance any other way.

Jesus said, “He who has the son has life; he who has not the son has not life.” What was he referring to? He spoke of people who did not believe in him as being “dead in their sins.” He said that to enter the kingdom of God, one had to be “born again,” or “born from above.” If, as he said, the road to life is narrow and the road to destruction wide, most of the human race is spiritually dead. That is not an idea that most people choose to believe. Why, then, are undead creatures such a popular fiction, and why do many act as if vampires are real? Could it be related to some innate sense of not being fully alive?

Traditionally, the vampire is undead. He is a corpse animated either by some altered form of the original soul or by a demon. This is a gruesome counterfeit of the Resurrection. Christ is the first example of what the resurrected righteous will be like in the end. Most people today are probably not aware that God promises a physical existence beyond the grave. But I think we all have a craving for immortality. In a world devoid of belief in an end-time Resurrection, the lure of immortality attracts people to the vampire. Why not let them learn that it is those who are born again spiritually, not those fictional beings who are re-animated supernaturally, who will live forever?

The vampire represents a neediness that takes and never gives. He is appetite run amok... guilt, addiction of any kind, seduction, rape, violence, and murder. He is the bitterness that lingers in the victims of such crimes and urges them to be too much like their abusers. He is the darker side of all of us, something so bad that we sometimes cannot face him except in nightmare or horror story. In the largest application of the idea, vampirism is sin. In a sense, we are all vampires.

If God doesn't want anyone to write about sin, then why did he inspire the Bible?

If all I wrote about was the dark side, from its own point of view, there would be reason to question it. Yet even the noted Christian writer C.S. Lewis' famous novel The Screwtape Letters used a demon's point of view to cleverly communicate Christian truths. My book doesn't even dwell on the darkness as much as his does. Question if you will, but don't come to conclusions based on nothing but the word “vampire.” That would be as shallow as a vampire who shies away from a cross without any knowledge of what the Cross means.

For you readers of “Den of Insanity, Robin's Nest,” I write this. For my Christian friends, I have fallen into a more comfortable tactic. Now if they ask what my story is about, I tell them it's about a teenager who has prophetic dreams. I get glowing encouragement for that. And really, Mary Lodge needs more attention than her enemy, anyway. A commentator on the “Blade” series complained that in other vampire stories the vampire is the most interesting character but always ends up with a stake in the heart. I want my main character to be at least as interesting as her nemesis. People do like Carletta already. Whether she ends up with a stake in her heart is more than I will reveal here. The novels will also reveal more spiritual truths than I have in this article. Hope you will read the books when they’re finished and published! And if these books are not your cup of tea... at least pray for the many people who will develop a relationship with the living God through them. The world is a large and varied place, and God is much bigger. There is no room for fighting against those who serve Him in a little different way from you.
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Published on September 26, 2017 16:14 Tags: books, christian, christianity, christians, criticism, defense, symbolism, vampires, writing

January 15, 2017

Been SOOO Busy...

Hi, I have an apology to make. I've been sooo busy with writing, publishing, trying to publish, and editing, that I haven't had time to write here. I suppose I could have made time, but I strangely hold sacred the late hours of night, when I relax with Facebook, playing games and talking to people, sometimes reading other people's posts, and sometimes posting and commenting myself. Do you think that's lame? Maybe. But I seem to need downtime. You know what they say about all work and no play.

Anyway, I just submitted some poems to "Rattle" magazine and website, and I gave my Goodreads address as a contact point, because my website needs work, isn't what I'd like it to be, and is a big pain to correct and update. Why? Long story I may get into another time. But I haven't made that site much of a priority. I had no paid freelance editing business in 2016, but I have been busy editing another book with Barking Rain Press. As of yesterday, I completed my part in the copyedit. Whew! What an accomplishment!

The past year saw many new, exciting activities and progress. Some of them came about because I'd been part of a critique group that met in a local library, which went over my vampire novel chapters 1 or 2 at a time and looked at other stuff, too, like my first sonnet (Shakespearean style; it was hard to take in the rules, but once I got that down, the structure helped me compose). A lady named Minnie showed up one time and not only continued coming but got me interested in another group, The Portland Writers' Mill, which has about 20 people attending each time and keeps me busy with monthly contests and annual anthologies. I helped edit The Portland Writers' Mill Journal Volume 5, 2016, and contributed far more writing than I've ever published in one place before: 17 poems, 7 fiction short stories, and 12 pictures, including photographs, drawings, and paintings. The book was broken up into categories, mostly based on the subjects of the monthly contests. Being a newcomer, I only had a few contest entries, but I also submitted material I'd written earlier. The book is available on Amazon, which is also a first for me. It's $7.95, and proceeds go to the Cedar Mill Main Library in Portland, Oregon, where we meet.
Writers' Mill Journal (Volume 5) by Sheila Deeth

As if that weren't enough, we published a second book right on the heels of the first: a thin volume of animal stories called Zeus and Bo and Fred and Jo and Co. This kid-friendly book features fan fiction about Sheila Deeth's animal and human characters from her "Tails of Mystery" series, plus other animal stories and poems. My contribution is "A Dog's Eye View," which tells about life in my family when I was still living with my parents, from the point of view of my beloved Mitsie, the only dog I ever owned. It's $5.95 or less. Zeus and Bo and Fred and Joe and Co A Collection of Animal Writings from the Writers' Mill by Sheila Deeth

I've placed in the monthly contests three times so far: 2 3rd places for the essay, "Home Was Where They Never Let Me In" and the fiction snippet, "As in Identical" (which you can read here: (it's the last story under "Showcase: Prompt Contest Winners"); and 1st place for the flash fiction story, "The Duprass" (named for a term coined in Kurt Vonnegut's book, "Cat's Cradle"). Winners are chosen by popular vote, ranked by each member after we read them on the website and comment on them as we feel moved. The group also has guest speakers and usually a critique, and a snack break, all packed into the hours 1-3 on the third Sunday of each month. I don't know how we manage to do so much every time. Must be a touch of magic!

I also had an article accepted by "The War Cry" magazine of the Salvation Army. It's a story about my adventures as a bell ringer, especially the winter of 2015. I was paid very handsomely. Also the same month, July, received decent pay for a story I provided for the "Miracles of Kindness" iPad book--now also available on Kindle and Nook, I just found out!-- (My contribution is "Kindness from the Christian Writers' Group" in the section, "The Congregation Sings.") I expected to see my War Cry article in the 2016 Christmas issue, but, alas, it did not appear! And my inquiries about it have met quiet dead ends. I don't know how to find out what happened or will happen.

I'm happy to see that my career as a WRITER is taking off, although still frustrated that I haven't managed to put much work into, or get much help with, my vampire novel series. It's always been my dream to be a novelist. The critique group at the library stopped when the librarian who led it retired without prior notice. I kept the group going with Minnie and another friend from the Writers' Mill, but once a month critiques feel like they will take forever. I thought I would have to put in most of my time as an editor to survive financially. Although I am far from making a living wage from my freelance writing, I made more on writing than editing this year.

The same day I got the check from "The War Cry," I got an invitation to subscribe to "Poets and Writers" for only $9.95. I read most of my first issue of this semi-monthly magazine; with the second one, I got smart and read the classifieds first--the publishers with deadlines coming up--and that is how I discovered Rattle, which pays $100 per poem for its magazine, and $50 per poem for its website, and also has some other contests that pay great. And I'd been taught in college, "There's no money in poetry... but then, there's no poetry in money." I wrote a poem about money a while back, so I guess both parts of this saying are wrong! And that's good news for me, because I've written so many poems and continue to write more. Rattle likes a variety of subject matter and style, too. So do I.

My increased financial success began with a scary occasion: My rent went sky high at the beginning of 2016. I got desperate and got myself a job that was nothing like I or anyone else thought I'd find. Since May, I've worked most Saturdays in a posh theater, showing people private views of unreleased movie trailers and getting their opinions. It's fun. There hasn't been much work for me in December and early January, but it's okay, because the housing department changed its rules and my portion of the rent went WAY DOWN this year. Also, a cousin who likes my writing helped me out a lot financially. In addition to sending me some gift cards and lots of stamps, he also paid for a new computer when my laptop got a terminal problem. And I should be starting a second job soon, providing some meals and other household help for a young adult neighbor. I have been blessed in more ways than these. 2016 was a challenge, but a wonderful year for me ultimately, and 2017 looks great, too.

I'll probably think of more to say after I've posted this. But there's only so long you can sit in the same chair, and this is enough for now!

May you be blessed in every way, every day!

--The Red, Read, Robin
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Published on January 15, 2017 22:28 Tags: books, editing, publishing, robin-layne, the-writers-mill, writing

March 26, 2016

New Addition to my Vampire Interviews

In 2013, a friend on this site, Francis Franklin, started The Vampire Lover Blog Award--a chance for people to write the questions they were dying to ask vampires. Bloggers like me let their vampires out to respond to 11 questions of their (or the blogger's) choice. Because we were expected to include the nice graphic for the "award" with the blog posts, and Goodreads doesn't have an option for a separate pictures on blog posts, I started a second blog on Wordpress, Robin Layne, Author: Welcome to the AVS. I had five vampire characters answer the most appropriate 11 of the questions asked, including the one I submitted, in separate interviews that August. But some of my vamps could provide interesting answers to more than 11 of the questions, and, inspired by an interview Francis wrote, I decided to let two of these characters answer the rest of the questions in a descriptive scene instead of just quoting the questions and having the vamp simply answer each in written form. The setting for the dual interview is a Starbucks. I'm the uneasy interviewer, and the vampires, Luke and Carletta, don't like each other. In the interview posted on October 3, 2013, Luke helped interview the 16-year-old beauty Carletta--using psychic manipulation and bribery to get her to answer honestly questions she wanted to avoid. We left the post with the promise that Carletta would help interview Luke next. Now, after 2 years and over 5 months, the I have at last finished and posted Luke's second interview! And in the interim, guess what? Several MORE questions were posted to the Vampire Lover's Blog Award site. So Carletta had to answer those along with Luke.
Please consider all the time this literary meal has been on the loving backburner and go enjoy At Last--Luke Answers the Rest of the Questions!
I had a lot of fun writing it, and every project I do with my characters helps me know them better, adding to the depth of the books I've been working on since about 2000. It will be a whole series (AVS:The Anti-Vampirism Society). I'm thinking of 6 books at this point. Later, I'll post notes on what it's like to envision and put together a series of novels. I'm learning as I go along. It's harder than I thought it would be, and I'm taking longer than most writers seem to. But why boast about how LITTLE time it takes to write books, when life increases the meaning and skill that go into them?
I think you'll enjoy the whole blog, if you haven't read the other parts yet.
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October 30, 2015

No! I DID NOT write that book!

I may be a lady in red, but I do not write erotica. The book, "One of my Sordid Affairs" is not mine, although someone has put it on my page.

When I chose to used my first and middle name as my pseudonym, I didn't suspect that I would ever be pursued by an "evil twin" of the same name who tells sexual secrets true or false. I did find out there was a musician (a percussionist, to be exact) named Robin Layne who also showed up on a Google search, so I was careful to name my Wordpress blog "Robin Layne, Author," for clarity's sake. But yesterday I discovered someone has added a book to my profile page that I did not write.

I don't want this other writer's reputation, and I suspect she doesn't want mine. I don't choose to publish my own sordid affairs (which are all behind me), and I don't go into detail about the private details of my characters', either.

One good thing has come out of this event so far: When I looked up Robin Layne on Amazon, I found out that "A Medley of Fiction" is available there for purchase. That is an anthology I contributed a poem to "Eros at My Window." It is the single book that created. I used to be active on that site in its heyday, back when it was among Writer's Digest's 100 best websites for writers. AbD, as we called it, awarded me three different awards (two for short horror stories, one for persistent posts in it's own NanoWriMo-like event). For a time, I was moderator of its "Grammar Grapplers" thread. Alas, even after an attempt to revamp and resurrect the site, it has died--leaving the book and a few scattered members and what they choose to do with their works as the only survivors. Who knows--the book might be worth some money someday. It is certainly worth a good read. I just didn't finish it due to other priorities, and so for now it is listed as a book I'm still reading. One of the stories that won an AbD contest (and a contest at an anime convention as well) is on my profile: "Blood Ties."

I have written to the moderators about the unwanted book on my page. I shall be thinking about an alternate pen name that will be unique and characterize me. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

There is more I want to say about other things, but I have no time right now. Blessings to all! And friends--send me a message now and then, okay?
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Published on October 30, 2015 10:44 Tags: a-medley-of-fiction, abd, authors-by-design, book, books, eros, error, poem, wrong-book

September 30, 2015

Never Again--at least this year--can you get such wonderful books at such prices

In my last post, I told you how excited I was to be editing Heather Starsong's "Never Again," a beautiful science fiction approach to the theme of the fountain of youth. The book is done, and you can get it for half off this month--and here it is the last of the month! I am so sorry to be let you know this late in time. Everything's been happening. Now I am still getting over being sick, but I'm doing this so you can take advantage of Barking Rain Press's 4th Anniversary Offer. (I tried to put a picture of the book on here, but I couldn't find it by title and the program doesn't allow me to use the ISBN.) You can get half off on any of Barking Rain Press's books when you use the code BRP4YEAR when ordering any version from their website or the electronic version anywhere.
Secondly, I want to tell you about another great book from Barking Rain that I had the privilege of working on--this time as a co-editor. It's called "The Stage," by Catherine Russell--a new twist on the vampire romance genre that has the capability to be a bestseller. And it's the first in a series. I'll tell you more here when I'm feeling better, but you can read recommendations on my website, and order them on BRP's site: for "Never Again,"
--and for "The Stage,"
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April 28, 2015

Persectives on Youthful Beauty

When people learn I’m writing vampire fiction, many say, “Good for you, that’s a very popular subject right now.” And they’re right. Vampire books abound, you can take your pick of vampire shows and movies, rock artists sing about them, and the web abounds with them.

Why are people so interested in vampires today?

One reason is that the vampire holds time still, freezing youth in its place. The fountain of youth holds such an appeal that some people, fictional or real, will pay any price for it—even blood. Even their souls.

Read the rest on my other blog:

The Vampire's Lure of Youthful Beauty

The blog post introduced here was inspired by the blog of someone writing something quite different from my vampire series. I am very familiar with her soon-to-be released science fiction novel, "Never Again," because I have the wonderful fortune of being its editor.

While reading submissions soon after joining the staff of Barking Rain Press, I fell in love with Heather Starsong's manuscript. Written in poetic prose, her charming story of an 80-year-old woman transformed by compassionate extra-terrestrials. It made me cry, and still does. I told the publisher I wanted to represent it, so I have been working with Heather on every stage of the process. We are wrapping up the copyediting today. We await the cover art, and in July we bring in the fresh eyes of a proofreader to help us catch any last-minute mistakes.

The book is slated to come out this August. Here is the link to Heather's information about it:

And here are her reflections about youthful beauty, which inspired my own post on my vampire series blog:

The Lure of Youthful Beauty

Beauty is Dangerous

Beauty is Power
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Published on April 28, 2015 18:34 Tags: book, editing, heather-starsong, never-again, novel, vampire, vampires, youth, youthful, youthful-beauty

August 14, 2014

Third-Time Charm: Summary of a Writers Conference (Part 1)


I was super privileged to attend the Willamette Writers Conference this year. It was my third such conference, and I think my last was in 2009. This year it was easier to reach because it was held at the Doubletree Inn by Portland’s Lloyds Center, right along the Max lightrail track.

The first event, Pitch for the Prize, was Thursday night of July 31, and I was so excited I couldn’t even pack a dinner—or do anything else. So I left as soon as I could and enjoyed a big steak salad at Denny’s along the way, where I flipped a quarter to help me decide which workshops to attend that were slated for the same time slots as others I wanted. My quarter would insist I take one workshop—then I would think I wanted the other.

Entering the hotel was pure pleasure. I looked for Willamette Writers nametags everywhere, seeking other crazy people driven to create via the written word and spread their creations throughout the known universe. It still amazes me how many of us there are, because outside such events, writing for publication can be a lonely venture. Most of my friends and family members aren’t writers. My mother didn’t encourage my passion, and although my father did, he insisted I would have to always sell shoes or something for a living. I still believe him, although I’m no good at selling shoes. Is that why I’m still poor?

I picked up my nametag and folder early, so I had plenty of time to look at the Barnes and Noble corner that featured books on writing and other titles, the silent auction area that was just being set up (it was hot in there at the time), and the information table to learn more about Pitch for the Prize and Manuscript ER. In the first event, writers chosen randomly to give a three-minute pitch of their manuscripts to a panel of editors and agents paid $5, got advice from the judges after their pitches, and the writer whose pitch was deemed best took home all the entry money. I didn’t have a manuscript ready to pitch, but after a while I wished I did. I learned a lot. I took notes, and I might write more later about my experience either here or in the Authors by Design blog. But first I will blog about conference details that are more applicable to what I am doing now. These posts are certain to interest other writers who are in the formulation and writing stages of their creations. They may also interest readers who want to understand what moves them and why, how stories work, and how writers make the kinds they most enjoy.


Friday, I missed the workshop waiting for Manuscript ER and then getting the advice of “ER operator” Cheri Lasota of Stirling Editing. I was told we would have 15 minutes together, but we must have had well over half an hour. She taught me what I need to do to convert my too-long novel into two separate stories, and revealed the importance of making my whole series have its own story arc. She gave me some tips on how to do that, and recommended I learn more from Larry Brooks, who was teaching three workshops at the conference. She referred me to a blog post by Susan Kaye Quinn to help me brainstorm the rest of my series. The link is>. Lasota’s website is
Waiting for Manuscript ER was no chore. While I did so, I began meeting interesting writers, some whom I would run into later throughout the conference. Like Brittany “Bri” Maresh from Alaska, who, when I told her I was writing a vampire series, said, “We love you!” and named me some books she said I must read (Demon in My View by Amelia Atwater Rhedes Demon in My View (Den of Shadows, #2) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes , Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black , and Sunshine by Robin McKinley Sunshine by Robin McKinley ).
I’m so glad my drive to finish what I was first inspired to write some fourteen years ago didn’t let me stop when some “experts” in publishing told me “Vampires are dead” (no pun intended?) I don’t chase trends. I write what God gives me to write and what speaks to me, what I hope will speak to others, whatever people might think of the subject matter. I don’t copy other’s work. I almost cringe when anyone responds to me by saying, “Oh yes, vampires are so in now,” or “Of course you write about vampires. Ever since Twilight…” FYI, I got the dream that started me writing my AVS stories before there was a Twilight, and when I started reading the thing and heard it was a bestseller, I was heartbroken and scared. Is this what the audience I’m aiming for likes? I thought. Drivel by a person who breaks every writing rule I was ever taught? Do I have to be compared and contrasted to this amateur? The only really good thing about those books, I thought, was the cover art, and that was only for the original hardbacks. I thought it might be death to my dream. But this Willamette Writers Conference included the videoed opinions of actual high school students, one who said she was sick of vampires because of Twilight. That quote mostly encouraged me; they are not looking for a duplicate. I just have to make my stories different and better. My vampires are not like Stephanie Meyers’s, and my stories are fresh.

From ER, I ran quickly down to the big, crowded room where Larry Brooks taught Story 101: The Three-Way Collision of Idea, Concept, and Premise. He also talked about theme but for some reason didn’t include it in his title. He challenged us to define “story.” One single word that epitomizes a story: Conflict. “Without plot,” he said, “the exploration of a character is a biography of a fictional character, not a story.”

Lunch followed. Having the deluxe admission, I got to hear a speaker with each lunch as well as meet more wonderful fellow writers. Friday’s speaker was Gayathri Ramprasad, who wrote Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within Shadows in the Sun Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within by Gayathri Ramprasad . I wish my camera was working, because Ramprasad was drop-dead gorgeous in her purple sari, all her jewelry, and her black hair piled high on her head. When she read that as a child she was "a princess," I could believe it. Later, mental illness and abuse drew her down into a deep chasm. But getting locked up set her free to learn they couldn’t lock up her spirit. She found love, acceptance, courage, and compassion among the mentally ill. Yet she discovered that they are misplaced and mistreated in prisons and asylums around the world. Overwhelmed, she was comforted by the words of Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things. We can do small things with great love.” (This saying also spoke to me on a special occasion, just two days after Mother Teresa went to Heaven.) Ramprasad formed ASHA International ( to spread understanding about mental illness and to reduce stigma against this cluster of diseases that one out of four people experience sometime in life.

It was at one of these lunches I met Paula Blackwelder (from Florida), who is working on a documentary about a trapeze artist she knew while performing for the circus herself. I was to run into her several more times (who could miss her long, straight, black hair?), and hear more than one person encourage her to write her own story. If interested in her projects, check out Circus Nation TV Network at

Next I attended Gordon Warnock’s workshop, An Agent Explains Author Platforms. I had high hopes for this one, but it was the one event that didn’t help me much. It seemed most helpful for non-fiction writers. Other than attending horror conventions, I couldn’t think what real organizations to get involved in to draw attention to my vampire books. I couldn’t even think of any questions to ask.

My next workshop more than made up for that. Laura Whitcomb, author of the YA love stories A Certain Slant of Light A Certain Slant of Light (Light, #1) by Laura Whitcomb , Under the Light Under the Light (Light, #2) by Laura Whitcomb and The Fetch The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb , taught Magical Worlds and Real Romance. She said that you can make any world seem so real and down to earth it becomes like magic. She gave us several writing exercises (some which I will continue for some time to come), to help us establish the rules of our magical worlds and to inspire us to believe for the best and keep on writing until we achieve it.


My first Saturday workshop was helpful, but I can’t do it justice without sharing a lot of pictures. The subject was Cover Design Secrets You Can Use to Sell More Books, by designer Derek Murphy. It would take me a long time to post a small portion of the covers he showed us, and here they would appear awfully small. His website, will give you some good examples. Here are some highlights of his advice: It is the job of the cover to tell readers what’s in the book. A cover should not so much explain as attract. There are conventions for each genre that help readers find what they want—for instance, vampire books are black, red, and maybe white, sometimes with blood splatters on them. Spirituality is purple or blue. Covers for fiction should make an emotional connection, nonfiction more of a cognitive one. Consider how your cover should look when it’s really small as well as up close. Contrasting colors make a good cover “pop.” The cover should not be crowded but have lots of space. Murphy provided a number of web addresses for stock photography and text, but if you use stock pictures, be sure to change them enough that they don’t look like every other book using that art. If you want to know more from my notes of this workshop or my others, just comment below or message me. It will help me decide what to publish, and if I don’t post about the event you want more info on, I will send you the info personally.

I showed Murphy my sketch for the cover of my first AVS book. Like I thought when he was teaching, it’s too busy. I had Mary, my main character, looking into a dream catcher (because she has prophetic dreams) and behind the dream catcher my vampire girl luring her boyfriend away and the boy approaching her with interest. Murphy advised just featuring Mary behind the dream catcher with her distraught expression. I don’t know if I like that idea as much, but he said that the best cover often isn’t the author’s favorite. At least a front view would show her silver heart locket, which is an important to the story.

I then went to hear Larry Brooks again. In Story 202: Discovering Story Through Structure, he said a great story is about something happening in the pursuit of a resolution to something. A story has four parts: set up (introducing the hero); response (the situation grows darker, the stakes bigger, and the hero becomes a “wanderer”); attack (the hero becomes a “warrior” and has some effectiveness with the problem); and resolution (in which the hero must be a primary catalyst). The setup contains one or more inciting incidents—parts where the conflict becomes apparent. The most important part of the story is the first plot point, which happens between the first and second of the four sections; this event launches the hero’s journey and what he/she needs to do. Between the response and attack is a second plot point (there can be more), which makes the journey different or new. This midpoint a good place for revealing secrets. Between the attack and the resolution is sometimes a lull—a place of despondency for the main characters. If this leaves you scratching your head, please realize I’m giving a quick outline and I’m just learning this stuff. It helps to note examples and figure out how the model fits your own work or those of others who have succeeded before you. Brooks gave many examples from movies and books.
The man gave out so much information in so little time that I found his workshops confusing. But I was sold on his idea that understanding how the elements of story work as soon as possible saves huge time and effort in writing. Because the first story in my vampire series is so long I’m trying to turn it into two books, I went up afterwards and asked Brooks, “Is The Lord of the Rings one story or two?” He said, “That’s why I clarified ‘modern book.’” In other words, what I could most easily do is not allowed today, though it was in the ancient days of J.R.R. Tolkien. I told him of my dilemma—that I feel like I may be forcing a long tale into two separate boxes. He said, “If it won’t work as two stories, you’ll just have to write it as a 70,000-word book and let the editors help you hone it down.” Actually, I don’t know how many words I have in all. I know I have over 500 pages, mostly single-spaced, and that the draft isn’t finished. I question whether a publisher would accept a manuscript that long from a first-time author and go through all the trouble it would take to shorten it. And I don’t have the money to pay a freelance editor to do that for me. So for now my story is in limbo again. It’s time for faith to carry me and my project through another crisis.

I would miss Sunday’s Story 303 because of another workshop in that timeslot, but I bought Brooks' book, Story Engineering Story Engineering Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction by Larry Brooks . He signed it, “Robin—One book or two? Go for it … and enjoy!” I will be writing more about Brooks’ model of story writing in one of the blogs as I study my notes and read his book. I may also consult the diagrams on his website.

Rushing Ahead to Great News

This brings us to about midpoint of Saturday in a description I wanted to keep much briefer. Since my text in Word is over four pages long in 11-point type, and since the conference ended 11 days ago, I’m going to stop here and take up the rest of this story in my next blog. Because this post is more biographical and informational than a structured story, I don’t have a problem with cutting it in half—or in more parts, if need be. But before I stop for today, I’m going to rush ahead and tell you the big perk of the whole conference for me: Sunday, as the conference was wrapping up, I sat at a very lucky table. I say that tongue-in-cheek, as I really don’t believe in luck. Maybe I should say a blessed table? The guy next to me won a book when his returned nametag was drawn at random. Then the guy next to him won a book the same way. Lastly, I won one of the raffles to “Hobnob with an Author.” I had paid $10 for 15 tickets and, because I couldn’t decide which author on the list I wanted to spend an hour with, I specified some for mystery writer April Henry and some for playwright and screenwriter Cynthia Whitcomb (Saturday's lunch speaker and sister of Laura Whitcomb). I won the opportunity to meet with Cynthia Whitcomb. I will be having coffee with her tomorrow morning, and I’m still not entirely sure what I will ask or say. Stay tuned and you will find out how it went.

To Be Continued…
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Robin Layne
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