Night Falls on Solstice by Janine M. Donoho


Our sun hovers over lush Tropics.

The coy North Pole

Tips away.

Luminated hours shrink to an octet in


Weather forecasters assess

Winter an infant,

Newborn upon December’s inception.

The bewildered prepare for end times while

Ancient rituals evoke

Natural connections—

Brief day

Morphs into prolonged night.


My Bliss Meter by Janine M. Donoho

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet me admit that vortices of ‘why bother’ have been known to draw me into their gyrations. With a throbbing knee keeping me from decades-long walking meditations over the last month, my outlook has swung wildly into Danger-Will-Robinson-red before bumping into cautionary yellow.

Even so my thanks-o-meter has begun to migrate into the sweet green zone again as I enjoy moments of gratitude so richly textured that the sky actually opens and celestial beings pour through—although decidedly not of the religiosity variety. Instead my unnatural immobility focuses me on what registers with both normal and extrasensory perceptions—an indulgence and a categorically unscientific way of viewing the world. It does speak to an integrated brain, however.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today I’m enthralled by the fire in our soapstone stove. Within the temperature registers a balmy 60+ degrees Fahrenheit rather than the double-digit minuses outside. Our basking hounds sigh and groan, adding a joyful dimension. Beside me are stacks of books to read. Bliss.

Travel stickersA handwritten letter from a best friend included these inspiring stickers of maps you might expect to see on old steamer trunks—along with beautifully rendered birds. Then there’s my Wacom tablet, which required a year of scrimping to buy. The tablet works brilliantly with Corel Painter 12—a promise of exhilarating skills to gain and visions to liberate.

Can I even joke about the uninhibited delight I find in MSOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA writing programs? Especially when compared to typewriters with carbon copies and the ancient Commodore 64 on which I wrote my first novel, losing chapters at a time when the system burped. I simply love my artful pens, too—gifts received with each published novel. Another two for CHOSEN BY MIST (Book 3 of MISTBORN CHRONICLESand SOUNDINGS (Water Elemental) will be joining the medley of five this month. What writer can resist a fabulous pen?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally this Tuesday I look forward to getting both cortisone and hyaluronic acid injections into my aching joint. By the end of next year, I may while away the winter months recovering from a more permanent fix. Exuberant dancing, extreme hiking, and other endorphin-crazed activities could fill my life again. On, on!

Another gift? Some communities translate well into electron clouds, especially when you connect with those wild ones who will howl at the moon with you. They can loft you into the stratosphere when other means fail. So thank you to those unconventional, big-brained creatives on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. You expand my horizons from isolated to ecstatic herd member.

Let’s start a conversation. What gets you over the bumps and pegs out your gratitude meter?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How Natural Settings Double as Character by Janine M. Donoho

Ponderosa pine forest. Kings Canyon National Park, California, USA.The boundless wild has always called to me. Growing up in, then choosing to live in rural high desert brings primitive territories into focus. With critters ranging from scorpions to rattlers to black bears, I’m reminded that we humans are only one among a vast suite of species—all subject to catastrophic events

Daily serenades by coyotes punctuated by rarer wolf howls add to the sense of being a part of this greatness. That awareness leads me into ongoing studies of biology—literally ‘study of life’. Thus when I write, the natural world takes precedence.

While finishing yet another edit, this one epic fantasy, I noticed again how nature intrinsically evolves through story. Then I strengthen those components through sensory detail beyond the visual. What does Natural granitegranite smell, taste, and feel like? When you crush a jaffafruit, what do you smell, taste, and feel? Confronted with a clowder of mekesh, how do they smell, feel, and look? For me the quality of setting begins with detailed natural elements as filtered through my characters’ emotional responses.

For instance, Elishandra ser Dancheʹ serves as a trained observer in an unfamiliar world. When voids spring up from the rift between, she recognizes their wrongness, then extrapolates what causes them and how this incursion affects natural systems. She takes personal responsibility for the degradation and commits to stopping further invasion. Most other inhabitants simply see ruin where thriving systems once lived. Fear, anger, and confusion drive their responses with nuances specific to each.

Sun superstormGauging these changes over cyclic time also informs story. For instance, out-of-sync seasons reveal Morchem’s effects in two ways. First otherworldly beings rush through the widening rift. These exotic beings have no natural predators in this world and many find the existing natural systems ill-equipped to meet their needs. They cause havoc. Then Morchem corrupts life energies, exposed by huge shifts between extreme conditions and growing pockets of devastation. Again perceptions and emotional reactions differ according to which person’s point-of-view carries the scene.

Understand that each character’s history colors their view of their surroundings. The warrior Galena ben Inees is more likely to kill a predatory lifeform first, then ask questions later, while the Zinolian Culturist attempts to accommodate lifeforms unless they place her charges at risk. Having retained clarity throughout her studies of various worlds, Lisha tends to analyze before acting. For others, the choice is simply the difference between yum and yuck.Yuck or yum

Taking this deeper yet, setting in terms of time and place varies dramatically with each viewpoint. Multiple viewpoints actually strengthen setting, since each imbues the environment with that person’s emotional memory. While Ambassador Anmir reacts with deep shock and mourning at his civilization’s ruin, Galena chooses culturally prescribed defensive strategies first, then progresses to offensive mode when that proves inadequate. Lisha attempts to understand the destructive mechanism even as she searches for a remedy.

To my eyes, the natural world displays a layered richness missing in human contrived settings. What may appear to characters as chaotic often equates with too narrow a view—or lack of knowledge. Besides when it comes to raising the stakes of your story, what works better than placing entire worlds at risk?

Sending love deviant artists

Sending love deviant artists

Irresistible Magic by Janine M. Donoho

Crepuscular rays illuminating deer skullEven when you grasp the science,

Magic persists.

Light and shadow bending through a natural spectrum as

Crepuscular rays illuminate a snag.

A deer’s skull–

Past meets present.

Brocken spectrum lighting the trees behind meBrocken spectrum casts silhouettes against a fogbank–

The legerdemain of branches like fingers.

Ridgeline trees materialize. 

 What lies before you?

Prismatic light shining on Egyptian Goddess Ma'atEgyptian Goddess Ma’at in prismatic light–

Winged to balance feather

Against soul.

Take her into yourself.

Medusa snag in light fogMedusa snags reach out to

Sustain you in


Embrace the enchantment of

Circadian glamours.Fog illuminating snag with deer skull

Highland Autumn by Janine M. Donoho

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOkay, I admit to going all geeky on you last week with not one, but two posts about points-of-view and how to incorporate them into story. So this week—a respite.

As we put our gardens to bed for winter and I finish my edits on CHOSEN BY MIST, the 3rd and final installment of MISTBORN CHRONICLES, you’re invited into this pictorial journey of our highland fall. I hope you come away refreshed. As you might guess, I draw my inspiration from this wild beauty. Where do you find yours? 


11 Points of View & What to Do with Them – Part 2 by Janine M. Donoho

Change your point-of-view

Since my last post, I’ve had several writers asking for the final six POVs. It turns out you’re a voracious crew needing little time to digest what you learn. Since withholding wasn’t my intent, here they are:

6. Detached autobiography = writing about past events with a change in perspective

Up until I learned my lesson in a very bitter way, I never had more than one friend at a time, and my friendships, though ardent, were short….After the scandal died down, I got into the Campfire Girls. It was through pull, of course, since Stella had been a respected member for two years and my mother was a friend of the leader….Even Muff did not miss our periods of companionship, because about that time she grew up and started having literally millions of kittens. (From “Bad Characters” by Jean Stafford)

7 . Memoir (observer narration) = imitation of first hand reporting

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. (From “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe)

8. Biography/anonymous narration via single POV = physical vantage point & personal perception of events

As soon as he and Patricia and Edith set off for the park, it began to snow. Big flakes unexpectedly fell on the rocky hill, and the sky grew dark as dusk though it was only three in the afternoon. (From “Patricia, Edith, and Arnold” by Dylan Thomas)

9. Anonymous narration via dual POV = inner life of two characters

The thoughtful serious state of mind in which Mary found herself had been induced in her by a conversation had with her father on the evening before….In the road stood Duke Yetter…‘She doesn’t want to be seen walking with me,’ he had told himself, ‘that’s all right. She knows well enough I’ll follow…’ (From “Unlighted Lamps” by Sherwood Anderson)

 10. Anonymous narration via multiple POVs = POVs as framed by the author’s

Mrs. Mooney: counted all her cards again before sending Mary up to Mr. Doran’s room to say that she wished to speak with him…..Polly knew that she was being watched, but still her mother’s persistent silence could not be misunderstood….Mr. Doran: All his long years of service gone for nothing! (From “The Boarding House” by James Joyce)

 11. Anonymous narration via no character POV = no inner life presented (e.g. fairytales, legends, myths)

The sexton stood in the porch of Milford meetinghouse, pulling busily at the bell rope. The old people of the village came stooping along the street. Children, with bright faces, tripped merrily beside their parents, or mimicked a graver gait, in the conspicuous dignity of their Sunday clothes. (From “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Now go play with POV, you wild creatives. Allow me to wish you joy in your journey.

Point of View (1)

11 Points of View & What to Do with Them – Part 1 by Janine M. Donoho

Point-of-viewLet me share a joyful secret from my romp toward my biology degree. Peripheral coursework fed my spirit even as I stuffed my brain with cool science. Classes on writing craft counted as my favorite tangents.

One of those traversed the intricate dance of point of view (POV). With my core curriculum overfull, Carol Orlock’s offering cemented POV as one of the most important choices a writer can make. Here’s why.

POV: 1. A manner of viewing things; an attitude. 2. a. A position from which something is observed or considered; a standpoint. b. The attitude or outlook of a narrator or character in a piece of literature, a movie, or another art form.

What this tells us? Characters emerge dependent upon their vantage point and perceptions of events. Who decides what POV to use? Why, we writers do.

Drumroll please!  Now the first 5 POVs complete with short story excerpts that show them in action.

1. Interior monologue = overhearing the writer’s thoughts

I knew it. I knew if I came to this dinner, I’d draw something like this baby on my left. They’ve been saving him up for me for weeks. Now, we’ve simply got to have him—his sister was so sweet to us in Longdon; we can stick him next to Mrs. Parker—she talks enough for two. (From “But the One on the Right” by Dorothy Parker)

 2. Dramatic monologue = overhearing someone speaking to another person

Eleven o’clock. A knock at the door.…I hope I haven’t disturbed you, madam. You weren’t asleep—were you? But I’ve just given my lady her tea, and there was such a nice cup over, I thought, perhaps… (From “The Lady’s Maid” by Katherine Mansfield)

 3. Letter narration = a collection of spontaneous letters

September 16th, 1879

My dear Mother

Since I last wrote to you I have left that hotel, and come to live in a French family. It’s a kind of boardinghouse combined with a kind of school; only it’s not like an American boardinghouse, nor like an American school either. (From “A Bundle of Letters” by Henry James)

4. Diary narration = writer reacting to events as they happen

Dr. Strauss says I shud rite down what I think and evrey thing that happins to me from now on. I dont know why but he says its importint so they will see if they will use me. I hope they use me. (From “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes)

5. Subjective narration = told by characters after events (e.g. an untrustworthy narrator)

I know what is being said about me and you can take my side or theirs, that’s your own business. It’s my word against Eunice’s and Olivia-Ann’s, and it should be plain enough to anyone with two good eyes which one of us has their wits about them. (From My Side of the Matter” by Truman Capote)

Yes, I’ve served up a geek’s view of POV—deeper and more detailed than many how-to versions. Once you play with these and learn how varied and unique they can make your tales, you may succumb to spontaneous laughter, dancing, then invite them into your story process. Don’t be shy and please share your ah-ha moments. Next week we’ll cover the final six POVs.Point of view

That (@*#^ Edit Cycle by Janine M. Donoho

A few editing books that help

A few editing books that help

Let’s start with a confession–of sorts. My greatest joy in writing comes with the hot, fast gallop of first drafts. By then the story’s bones and sinews have developed enough so that each session equates with a joyous fleshing out of details. During this phase I can’t wait to leap from bed each morning–and hit the pillow enthralled by story each night.

Then looms the dragging, nagging edit. Some otherworldly creatures find this stage fun; I find it excruciating.

This is different than the macro-edit housekeeping accomplished while writing draft. Reviews of previous day’s work cover structure, plot, tone, pace, etc. I almost wrote ‘theme’, but that’s not always clear in the early stages. Along the way, I deepen conflict and sharpen reversals.

Worse yet, my après draft edits rarely clear the high jumps, much less the double ‘oxers‘, although I do fine over ditches and logs. What’s missing? Well, the heart pounding excitement’s gone, baby, gone. Only a plodding satisfaction remains. Which should be enough, right?

Self talk: “This isn’t my first rodeo. I’m disciplined and well-read. Both sides of my brain receive high quality nourishment and play well together. I can do this.”

Beyond the analysis of editing books, then applying what I learn, I’ve tried other ballyhooed remedies to make this work. The manuscript, hereinafter known as ‘mss’, rests like a freshly broasted chicken while I work on other projects. I do yoga–breathe–meditate–breathe–take long hikes–breathe. Then I go through the mss and ruthlessly scribble editing and proofreading marks learned in the aforementioned tomes. At that point I return to my computer and make these changes.

Then it’s time to surrender fully to the left brain for reviewing content, consistency in style, clarity and flow. I crawl ant-like over scenes for grammar, word usage and accuracy. Finally I read it aloud–or try. After a few pages, I realize I’ve gone silent again–and again–and again.

Cactus prickly pearBy this time I find nothing to like about my story and would rather walk barefoot in a prickly pear patch than read through it once more. My aversion signals the next stage. The mss goes to one or two first readers–published authors with whom I trade this boon.

They always find misspellings and points of unintended confusion. Yes, actual gnashing of teeth and clenched jaws transpire. How did I miss these obvious errors?

So I put on my big girl panties and fix them. The story’s deemed the best that it can be. It’s released into the world.

Then I swear, a few days, weeks or months later? A misspelling here, verb confusion there, dropped words, a formatting error that slipped beneath the motion-activated fence. Dissatisfaction plagues me. For what good is editing if it fails to make your story the best that it can be?

So next time I complete a new project, I’m considering a professional editor–one worthy of manna, dark chocolate, and ambrosia drenched in morning dew from hummingbird wings. Oh, and one who won’t break my fragile piggy-bank.Editing

Build the Foundation & Story Will Come by Janine M. Donoho

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince joining online communities, then enjoying the first steps of writers new to their craft, I delight in their growth. The freshness of their vision and their infatuation with words reveal elements leading to stories I want to read.

I suspect that’s how many of us writers begin. Then if we want to publish, we dig deeper and learn more about craft. One of my early ‘ah-ha’ moments occurred thanks to seasoned critique partners and great library systems.

With that in mind, let me share a simple technique for building story foundations. Since many grandmasters have gone out-of-print and indeed, gone elsewhere, here’s what I distilled from their works. Prepare to be dazzled:

Goal, Obstacle, Resolution.

Okay, dazzled may be too strong a word. Yet on longer projects, applying this method calmed my pre-project jitters so I could begin. Often I view story as scenes leading to chapters leading to a completed novel or even as scenes leading to acts with a progression of rising and falling actions. Here’s how I apply necessary groundwork:

MB Bk 1 Kindle Cover w. Ctr. LtgTake the first chapter from Book 1 of MISTBORN CHRONICLES*, Borne of Mist:

Goal: Introduce the world’s increasing strangeness via Zenadon MelʹChaime, who must accept the challenge to save his world.

Obstacle: Zen doesn’t want to believe that what’s happening has anything to do with him–he’s happy and comfortable as Master Merchant.

Resolution: He chooses to meet with the Mist-Spawn.

I know, I know. It’s clunky. That’s not the point. After beginning, then finishing a dozen novels, this process alleviates my boggles. Boggles, you ask? Well, the trepidation that there’s not enough story to grow a novel, a series–or even a short story, for that matter.

You can also use this technique for developing character arc. Here’s an example for Elishandra ser Danche′ sere Jillian:

Goal: Her survival depends upon placing Morchem on the defensive, then neutralizing him.

Obstacle: He’s stronger than she and obsessed with her; their last conflict ended with her teacher dead and Lisha crippled.

Resolution: Motivated by her commitment to this world and others, she discovers the strength to rebuild her magic within the confines of the world’s natural systems.Forged Cvr. 4

Don’t judge me. I lifted these directly from my early visions of MISTBORN*, circa 1998. With the series complete, it’s surprising how much of the original structure endured–a matter of modifying framework versus carving stone.

Here are a few keepers from my private shelves: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print and Spider, Spin Me a Web by Lawrence Block, Story – Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee, Writing the Short Story by Jack M. Bickham. Yes, yes, lots of boys in this club–but also master storytellers. You can take what you choose from them and crystallize your process.

Let me know if this helps or hinders you in your quest for story. I wish you joy in your writing.

*Caveat: I originally called my series MISTBORN TRILOGY, which my then-agent sent to TOR, who had another series in the pipeline and passed on mine. Lo and behold–Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN TRILOGY, which except for the series title is nothing like mine. So there.


Adjust Your Mind & Own Your Title: Author by Janine M. Donoho

Lazy Bastard Edition of Publishing Pt 1Read this great blog ‘25 Steps to becoming a Self-Published Author’ from Chuck Wendig via Delilah S. Dawson and her mighty unicorn. It covers ‘self’-publishing, adjusting your mind to rock the process, and how we own our ‘Author’ title. Here’s the link and I wish you belly laughs, insightful chuckles and renewed joy in your writing adventures.

Lazy Bastard Edition of Publishing Pt 2

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27, 2015
The big day is here.

Newsletter signup

Join in and receive a FREE short story as my gift to you. Exclusive promos, book deals and contests available only to subscribers.

%d bloggers like this: