Tag Archives: novelist

Sam Searches – III. The First Chapter

Advice for writing the first chapter

This search is a little different from the others. Less about a particular topic that might be useful to your writing, I figured I’d compile some resources on writing that dreaded first chapter.

Every author, every story, is different. These are more like “guidelines” than rules, but they should help you better explore the beginning of your work.

If you have more resources to add, please comment below! Thanks for reading and sharing.


What to Do

What to Avoid


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Free eBook Covers for a Limited Time!

Graphic design has always been a little hobby of mine.

Recently, I’ve put my Photoshop skills to use in designing a book cover for my upcoming NA Fantasy, “Relic,” and have volunteered to create eCovers for a few others in a handful of Facebook writing groups. I do it because it’s fun, I can justify to myself that I’m doing something “productive” for my craft without actually having to write or edit anything, and it gets me connected to authors and stories I may have otherwise not known of.

But with enough praise and demand, I thought maybe I could start charging. I’ve seen others shell out creations for $25-$50 a pop, but I just couldn’t stomach charging up-and-coming writers so much for something I’ve been doing for free for so long. So, I thought I’d start at $2. That’s right. $2. Of course, that’s for “the basics,” but my maximum price is $15 for two complex covers to choose from. Sound too good to be true? My hope is that enough people will feel that way to really give me a wave of business to ride. If not, then I’ll hopefully make a few bucks with another very-part-time hobby. Not so bad.

And while I build my portfolio a bit more, I’m still offering one FREE basic cover to new customers. So what do you have to lose?

If you want an eCover for your latest novel, or for your very first Wattpad creation, or anything in between, why not give me a shot? And tell your friends! I’m no professional, but I think the work speaks for itself. Check out my Facebook Page for more information.

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God’s Out Sick: Excerpt I

This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, “God’s Out Sick,” the project I’ve been working on for Camp NaNoWriMo.

This, as all other works posted here unless otherwise noted, is © me, this blog, S.Rae Meisinger and is not to be reposted, recreated, altered, or used anywhere else without permission. Contact me for more information if you would like to use it.

Constructive criticism always welcome.

This is real life.

The words gorged themselves on the pause’s antipathy, growing larger and more fearsome by the moment. Before he could even gasp, Adam had lost his breath under the weight of the phrase. A swelling heat licked his cheeks crestfallen-red. Smiling diffidently, he rolled his shoulders as though he could cast the implication away like a stubborn shiver. He swallowed past his bloated tongue.
“I guess you just don’t get it,” he snickered to cover the breathless hitch in his voice. “I already know this is ‘real’ life. It’s been real for me for a long time.”
Before he had even finished the thought, Penny threw his hand from her own and stood up, turning her back on him. From paces away, Adam could hear her still exhaling her exasperation. He rolled his eyes and leaned back in the chair, causing the wicker to creak. It was impossible to keep from falling into the same mechanical routine with this Penelope as he would have with his own so many years ago. They may as well have been fighting about too many late nights, or her favorite dress ruined by careless paint spatters.
“We’ve had this conversation before, Adam,” she sighed at the wall.
That was news to him. He ran his hand down the length of his beard, stopping just before the end to tug the skin of his chin to a small, fleshy peak before releasing it to snap back into place. “Oh, really? When?” 
Indignation and doubt painted those words with sarcasm and that automated response at once made him feel disconcerted. Eerie familiarity broke in cold sweat across his forehead. She wasn’t his person. Not really. She looked and sounded and even smelled the same, but she wasn’t his Penelope. Interacting with this version was never supposed to have happened. It was as unnatural as talking to a clone created postmortem and yet it felt as ordinary as kissing the woman he loved good-bye as she left for work each morning. Once upon a time…
Adam stood at the precipice of truth and looked deeply into it. He remembered what “crazy” felt like, but the room around him, the thick, lifeless clay walls, the stagnant, dusty smell, what was happening just beyond the protected neighborhood, the circumstances that led him to not-Penelope, the friends he’d made, the people still facing persecution, the cause he fought for– none of it was a mere product of a broken mind.
Penny wheeled around, her temper pinching her eyebrows together in deep wrinkles. Her fists started as white bludgeons, then opened to pale and deadly talons sinking into her waist where they perched, poised for attack.
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess it was maybe six months ago?” She squeezed her hips, digging fingernails into the fabric of her dress. At every pause and questioning inflection, she shrugged and shook her head exaggeratedly. “Do you remember that, hmm? Just before we admitted you. Wouldn’t that make sense?”
Adam licked his bottom lip, avoiding looking directly into her eyes. His were searching the floor while he picked through the files of his own mind, thumbing through for proof of his sanity. Six months prior, he guessed he had been on the plane where he buckled under drug addiction at age seventeen, just before his initial leap into this strange future. Explaining that to her would amount to nothing, but it was enough to ground him once again.
Tongue still pressed wetly to the pink corner of his lip, Adam looked up at Penelope, exposing the lower whites of his eyes, wringing his hands together to squeeze relief from the reflection. His head swiveled slowly to sling the word “No” around the entire room, to coat her in the elongated vowel. The hesitation he felt began to lift, resolve taking its place. With a modest cluck of laughter he rose from the chair, a groan of friction vibrating through the small, dark space as the chair’s feet slid noisily across the smooth floor. The impatience on Penny’s face diminished into suspicion as Adam took long strides to meet her.
“It doesn’t make any sense. If I could count every day on the time-line of my consciousness, as I am now, my relationship with Penelope would have ended five years ago.” The corners of his lips turned up into a cordial smile. “Give or take some. Time isn’t as cohesive as it once was for me.” 
Penny frowned. Only an inch or two in front of her, he watched her pupils dilate and constrict as she digested the notion, trying to dissect what he said. While she calculated, he imagined he could hear a machine-like whir governing the eyes’ movement– anything to make her seem less real, less intimate than he perceived her. 
Then she broke. The butts of her palms slammed into his chest, thrusting him backward. One step was due to her force, the other for the sake of distance. He threw his hands up in surrender.
“Five years ago? You mean when we started our family? You’re a bastard. A sick, Godless bastard!” By “Godless,” her tone had become shrill and loud and Adam’s small smile had spread to a reactive grin. Penny’s long white neck pulsed, one vein bulging blue while red heat spread from her exposed collar bones to her cheeks. Her lips quivered and her talons fell limp at her sides, no more than a fragile girl’s fingers. Like a popped balloon, she had one vicious outburst and then deflated into her overwhelmed emotions.
Adam shrugged, allowing his defensive palms to drop as well. “That’s what they keep telling me.” He approached her again, understanding glazing him in empathy. Collecting her hands in his, he watched disheartened tears well and spill.
“Why do you hate me?” She muttered, blinking hard and sending more rivulets down her face. “Why do you hate the life we built, our kids?” Penny’s voice was a croaky whisper, but the guileless tone shocked his heart.
“Now, hey, I’m sorry this is happening to you. But I don’t hate you. Hell, I don’t even know you.”
She sobbed hard, slumping forward as though he’d dealt a deliberate blow.
“Listen, damn it!” Adam squeezed Penny’s fingers, the twinge of pain sending her gaze wide-eyed back to his. She sniffled. “I am not who you think I am, I may not even be what you think I am. You have children, but they’re not mine, you have memories, but they’re not with me. You have a life, but I’ve never been a part of it until now.”
She shook her head in denial before he had finished speaking. Adam released his hold on her, but did not retreat. “I left my Penny years ago. We lived together for a few months, but we fought all the time. One time because she didn’t want the baby we were going to have together. That was the last time. Did you fight with your Adam?”
Penelope’s eyebrows slanted, her mouth opened and closed a few times as though trying to dislodge the right words. Finally, she rasped, “No… Not really. Not until–“
“He started going a little nuts?”
She pressed her lips together and nodded. Adam nodded with her.
“I get that it doesn’t make any sense, but you gotta help me out. I need to get back to my friends and I need no one who ever interacted with your Adam to know I was here. Can I leave and trust you with this secret?” 
Another nod.
“Good.” Adam smiled, this time genuinely and without the pretense of simple habit or self-preservation. All at once, he wanted nothing more than to kiss her, but there was no time for that kind of confusion. She would be all right. Everyone was always all right. 
In the next moment, he was already across the room, slinging his bag over his shoulder. The soles of his shoes slapped against the concrete floor with renewed vigor and the pack’s weight felt like the embrace of an old friend. He reached the brass handle of the basement door and turned it halfway.
“Adam?” Penelope’s voice echoed. He turned, releasing the knob with a metallic click. “I’m sorry that I– that she–“
Adam held his hand up to gesture a halt. “Those memories are somewhere else in time, now. We only have this very instant. Let’s do something good with it.” With a smirk, his backpack, and no idea how to become reunited with Molly and Anna Lisa, he left Penelope Clark with the kind of resolved conclusion he’d craved over an infinite span of space and time.
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God’s Out Sick: Poem II

The second in a series of poems to be featured in my upcoming novel, now titled “God’s Out Sick” (at least for the time being).

This, as all other works posted here unless otherwise noted, is © me, this blog, S.Rae Meisinger and is not to be reposted, recreated, altered, or used anywhere else without permission. Contact me for more information if you would like to use it.

Constructive criticism always welcome.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the Reform King!
Peace for none and mercy lost,
you’re not a person, you’re just a cost.”

They’ve put the pennies on our eyes to keep us blind, to keep us numb.
They’ve put the pennies on our eyes to take them back once we succumb
to death or our fellows’ devil tongues, when it suits their wallets best,
when we have nowhere else to run.

And the cool of the copper is better than the scrape of the wool,
except one is meant to send us to the grave, the other to use us as fuel
to make an example of ignorance to the ignorant masses,
to use as a crutch,
to save their asses.

I proclaim to you now, we don’t need that wealth.

We need our minds, our bodies, our souls, and their respective health

We need what freedom used to be, or at least should have been
We need what freedom meant to me, when thinking wasn’t sin
We need to stand together, hand-in-hand, skin-on-skin
We need to make ourselves better
with every mind corrupted,
every child abducted,
every wall within
and without our haunted cities, derelict and forsaken.

Because our world can’t stand divided, it’s already begun to fall
“streets paved with gold” doesn’t have the same ring
when it comes down to “all for one and none for all”
no matter how loud and proud those dulcet angels sing

So, “Glory to the Reform King,” his filthy bribes, shining smile,
and our fractured dreams.

Glory to the pennies gleaned from cold dead eyes, to the government On High, the extreme Right-wing.

And if that glory would make you sick before you scream
I mean sing,
stand with me and make demand,

“We want free thought, and God be damned!”

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Camp NaNoWriMo – Week 1

I don’t know about you, but for me camp has already been ridiculously helpful.

Notoriously, I’m a pantser. Meaning (for those of you who don’t participate in the NaNoWriMo fun) I fly by the seat of my pants when I write. I kind of just compile character composites I enjoy, have one main plot point, and write it out by allowing my characters to tell the story for me.

I’ve realized in this first week that my usual method won’t work for this one.

My initial goals in starting were to complete 25k words (probably not gonna happen), create an actual outline (probably gonna happen), and to come up with a more suitable working title than “Untitled Religious Apocalypse” (definitely already did happen).

With one goal down, another developing each day, and the other just waiting to happen, I’m feeling rather successful though my word count is still at the big goose egg.

“Untitled R.A” has become “God’s Out Sick.”

3k words I’d written when this novel was nothing more than a concept will not have to be discarded as I’d originally thought.

Two more characters have developed integral roles.

My plot has gone from one centered around my own personal beliefs and has exploded into one with multiple facets and more substance than I even really know what to do with.

And I’ve done more research on multiverse theory than I ever thought I’d do in my life.

Slowly but surely, I’ve been working on writing down major plot points. I will not physically begin writing again until these plot points successfully lead me from opening page to conclusion. This has been the most challenging thing for me.

However, as an author, as a NaNoWriMo “winner” in years past, as a reader, I know that I need this step before I can begin. I can reach word count goals by the seat of my pants, but I can’t construct a world, a Universe, where multiple characters are all tied to the fates of each other and to each ripple in the story. 

So far, with each plot point I’ve written, I’ve discovered a new connection, a new twist, a new setting, a new fuse to light, more characters, more problems, and more answers.

Outlining isn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever done for a NaNo Project, but it’s already been the most productive.

What struggles are other Campers coming upon? What little moments or changes in routine have already surprised you? How’s the first week going, over all?

I’d love to hear from other WriMos!

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Character Depth– What Really Works?

I’ve seen it hundreds of times over the course of my many years writing:

Character building in the form of “Interview Sheets” or “Character Charts.”

You know the drill; you have this wonderful little application for you as the narrator or you as your character to fill out for an in-depth study of history, quirks, personality, thought process, appearance, and more.

But my question always ends up being: How much does this help? I’ve tried it and found that I end up just wasting time on trying to flesh out characters who would rather add skin to bone in their own time.  Of course, these character “cheat sheets” are only supposed to provide an outline, some inspiration, but I’ve yet to find any.

For me, my characters become rounder as I write. I’ve yet to have any sort of problem with this style and have often found it preferable to the reader. If your character is narrating in the first person POV, why would she comment on her long golden-brown hair in the first five pages of the novel? I know when I tell a story, what I was wearing or how my hair looked become totally unnecessary details in the telling. If an omniscient is telling the story, why would the narrator need to convey your character’s happiest memory if it will never have any impact on the story at hand?

In this way, writing for myself is easier because my characters unveil themselves slowly– and as a reader, I appreciate the same.

I will go out of my way to find fitting names for each character. Oftentimes, they denote something in personality, history, or main objective, even if the correlation is a small one. I like to create pathways (something tangible I can reference later) from one character to the next and their impact on the story. I will give them age ranges, base descriptions, and occasionally will outline certain personality aspects. Beyond that, it all comes out in-text.

In that case, though, what else can be done to help make a character more “real?”

More importantly: What do YOU do to help make your characters more real?

I’d love to hear some input. Especially if you have a really rockin’ alternative to the character chart.

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Selling LOTS of Books and Why Bright Ideas Can Go BADLY

A wonderful reminder for anyone who struggles with “Beginning, middle, and end” at all in the writing process. Simple, clean, and with an easy-to-follow structure, most readers would rather indulge in a book they know HOW to read than one they have to TRY to read. It’s something I need to pull into my own writing regimen, so I thought I’d share it with you all, too.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

The Reliant Robin: Image via "Top Gear" The Reliant Robin: Image via “Top Gear”

Writers must understand structure if they hope to be successful. Yes, it might take five years to finish the first novel, but if we land a three book deal, we don’t have 15 years to turn in our books. And the key to making money at this writing thing is we have to be able to write books…the more the better. If we can write GREAT books quickly? WINNING!

Understanding structure helps us become faster, cleaner, better writers.

Plotters tend to do better with structure, but even pantsers (those writers who write by the seat of their pants) NEED to understand structure or revisions will be HELL. Structure is one of those boring topics like finance or taxes. It isn’t nearly as glamorous as creating characters or reading about ways to unleash our creative energy.

Structure is probably one of the most overlooked…

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Untitled RA: Poem I

This is to be the first of multiple poems featured in my upcoming novel, called for now “Untitled R.A.”

This, as all other works posted here unless otherwise noted, is © me, this blog, S.Rae Meisinger and is not to be reposted, recreated, altered, or used anywhere else without permission. Contact me for more information if you would like to use it.

Constructive criticism always welcome.

We used to sit together under stars with spiderwebs of connection in our eyes,

now we sit alone in the light with spiderwebs in our minds,
and spiders on our hearts, biting hard until they dry,

blacken, wilt, and mummify.

We fill that desolate chamber with the corpses of our thoughts,
constructing and standing on porches built to rot.

There we squat, in a putrid fortress of “I will not!”

But I wish you would, and so will you

when we can recall what our intellects could do,

and will do
and still do
and cannot be forced not to
because we cannot be subdued
with only spiderwebs to cut through
and the power of not one, but two

or three or five or one million and one.

Because what’s been done can be undone-
spiders’ threads can be unspun.

Soon we’ll sit together under stars with the web of connection in our eyes.

Just remember: we’re suited to be the spiders, not the flies.
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Relic Preview: I

I’m going to go ahead and start posting previews of my latest novel Relic here for my own personal reference and for anyone browsing the world wide web to enjoy. All text is © me, this blog, S.Rae Meisinger, and cannot be copied, redistributed, or utilized in any way without my permission. Hit my “Contact Me” page if you would like to use the work for any reason. Above all else, don’t claim it as your own.

Thank you, and enjoy!

Constructive criticism always welcome.


“Relic,” she said, the inflection leading to the question capturing my interest. Part of me wanted to laugh at the sweet way she used my title to address me while another part wanted to burst into tears. “If I were pure enough,” she hesitated and sucked her lip into her mouth, turning the pink flesh white with the pressure of her teeth, “do you think you could see into my memories?”

I’d seen the mess of remembrances accumulated by the human mind once before– a sludgy substance of grey and noise, faces hardly capable of being called such, feelings so confused and muddled one could barely be differentiated from the other. But in order to answer truthfully, I nodded. If anyone were pure enough, comfortable enough with the life the way they witnessed it each day, I could tap into those memories just as well as those of something wholly organic. Probably even better.

“Relic,” she asked again, this time leaning forward to close the gap between us but averting her eyes to stare at her hands which were wrapped calmly around her crossed ankles. “If I asked you to,” suddenly she gawked at me with cool doe eyes, “would you try?”

Something in the energy around us sparked into a flame. I felt electrically charged and completely numb at the same time. I hadn’t the slightest inclination as to why anyone would want another to probe through their personal recollections, but I wasn’t opposed to the idea. Clearing my throat, I nodded then swallowed the strange feeling building up underneath my heart. Immediately, Pia stood in her spot and I followed her lead. She dusted the dirt from her backside and legs and looked into my eyes with the most honest of appeals, reaching out for my hand. In response, I simply lifted my hands to cradle her cheeks and pressed forward into her mind.

Abruptly, a scream flooded my senses. My hands flew from the girl’s face and my eyelids snapped open, my gaze meeting her narrowed pupils in a flurry of confusion. She was searching me for an answer just as well and it was then that I grasped it– the scream hadn’t come from her or from within; it was echoing through the cavern. Time passed too quickly, or perhaps just painfully slow, and when Pia’s expression widened in terror she grabbed my hand and pulled me deeper into the caves, into the darkness. I pulled my arm back, trying to free myself. Going toward the sound seemed like the last thing we should be doing, especially with the whole island mere feet away from us.

Pia released me momentarily, but then grabbed me by the wrist for a better grip.

“Listen, we need to go this way,” she all but begged, standing still and pleading at me from her eyes. We stood frozen in the center of the cave’s mouth, but Pia’s fingers had no intention of letting up, instead boring into my skin with renewed fervor. “We need to find Damara. Now.”

The memories evoked at that name weren’t comfort enough to ease my hesitations. I shook my head again, remembering the man aboard The Discordia, the pendant around his neck, the reason I had come to the island. I continued to deny her prompt and touched my fingers to the hand she held at my wrist, an aching plea of my own. Pia looked frantically over her shoulder, then over mine, combatting within herself the possible consequences of my petition against her own. When her grip loosened, I immediately switched roles and threaded my fingers through hers before leading the way back out onto the hill-face.

The calm was surprising given the circumstances and the previous onslaught of rain and suddenly I found myself wishing the torrent would begin again. The way Pia herself had hesitated at fleeing from the source of the scream made me question whether or not she understood it as a danger at all. It was possible that it was custom for these people, or as she put it, “ritual”, to bring the dead back to life, but the implication of it seemed too inherently evil for me to blindly accept.

I led us swiftly down the treacherous mound, throwing all caution to the wind. The sand so thoroughly soaked with rain felt good on my feet, but the relief was fleeting. As we neared the forest line again, I caught of flash of something between the trees, moving rapid and foreign. Pia’s fingernails dug into the back of my hand and when I looked back at her, I saw nothing more than a fearful warning of danger. Her silence was enough to convince me– whatever it was out there, shuffling through the underbrush, it was a death trap. I let my hand go limp, let her take control, wanting her to lead me once again to safety.

But Pia didn’t take control. Instead she stood as dead-still as I had, both of us waiting for something to make sense and set us back on a rational timeline. The split-second decision took hold of me, tightening its grip in my chest and I pulled Pia forcefully into the maze of trees. As we went, I touched bark and branch just long enough to seek through their immediate memories, mimicking Pia’s tactic. I had never been prompted to use my gift in such a harried way before, always serving a more far-sighted purpose, but the flashes were more than enough. Often, heading back the way we came almost precisely, I saw the recollections of us as perceived by the forest, dawdling through the foliage, me following Pia like a lost dog.

Other touches gave way to memories significantly more sinister: a dark figure moving quickly and fluidly through the vegetation, seldom standing still long enough for a memory to form in the slow-feeling trees. Those memories I learned from, following them as a guide to stray from our path just slightly, avoiding any sign of the recent threat.

She must have understood the method of my madness. She held my hand firmly in her own and watched patiently, following diligently and without any question. As intrigued as she had appeared to be back in the cave when she found out about my origins, her silent admiration was almost palpable in the way she conducted herself on our trek back to the waterlogged village. She was reverent, something I was entirely unaccustomed to. Standing in that position of leadership, however, having someone follow me and rely on my better judgment without threatening harm or death felt extraordinary. In that fleeting, cognizant understanding, I almost appreciated why power-hungry men existed the way they did.

And then I fell.

Hit with a running force, I toppled forward, at first pulling Pia with me but quickly having enough sense to let go of her hand so as not to drag her along. She let out a gasp loud enough for me to hear over the din generated by our crashing through the brush. In the seconds that followed, I felt hands prodding and groping my body, heard the sound of jaws snapping. Had I been capable of a scream, one surely would have burst forth from my lungs. My heart pounded hard, resonating in my ears so I could count each beat.

I grappled with my assailant, jutting the butt of my palm forward to make contact with a thud against the man’s ribcage. Influenced by the blunt trauma, he fell backwards, tripping over his own legs, and slammed with the full force of his body against the thick trunk of a tree. While he struggled to regain control, Pia stood between us, blocking my line of sight. In the next moment, he was slumped forward, lifeless and still.

Pia turned to me, her chest heaving with gulping breaths, face rosy.

In her hand was another necklace, another pendant. Viatite.

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Love in the Stacks

I am very honored to know so many fantastic artists and creators in my close social network. From musicians and photographers to painters and bakers, my circle is absolutely plump with beautiful imagination.

Today, HEA (Happy Ever After) published an interview with my very good friend, Sean Gilmartin– an aspiring novelist and winner of the Romance Writers of America Librarian of the Year Award.

Check it out for a little inspiration regarding romance as a genre and where it fits in our libraries. Rest assured when he finally has been published, you’ll be hearing all about it from me. For now I must simply give him the most amazing commendations. I had the privilege of working with this man in his element, collaborating on teen and tween activities, participating in the programming he created, listening to children and adults alike sing his praises, and I have never met anyone so deserving of an award for outstanding service.

Keep your eye on this one: I swear you’ll be glad you did.

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