“Look” Challenge

James from The Written Word issued me this challenge, which sounded like a ton of fun. Please, excuse the mistakes and awkward constructions. I haven’t gotten to editing yet.

The Challenge:

It’s for authors who are writing or who have written books and is a way to let others sneak a peek at their work. It’s called The Look Challenge. Here’s how it works. You search your manuscript for the word “look” and copy the surrounding paragraphs into a post to let other bloggers read. Then you tag five blogger/authors.

From my tentatively titled novel, “November Nights”:


Coming home never infused Zola with a rush of warmth and nostalgia. Rather, a coldness settled around her heart the moment she stepped onto the driveway. Since she’d left home at eighteen, it seemed to her that Kylene had made it her personal mission to ensure that Zola felt as alienated from her family as possible. First she lost her room. Then pictures of her had disappeared from around the house. Now she’d even lost her chair at the dinner table.

“It doesn’t make sense to leave out five chairs, when one is almost never filled,” Kylene had explained, when Zola had had the misfortune to bring it up one Thanksgiving. The stool that lived next to the fireplace, more decorative than functional, had been brought into the kitchen for her to sit on.

“November still has a chair,” she’d remarked, sullenly.

“Four is an even number,” her mother retorted. “Three would look odd”.


“I didn’t expect anyone to come walking out of there.” His face was flushed pink from the exertion and the summer heat, setting his green eyes even more aglow.

    “I should have been paying more attention.” Lucy picked at the back of her dress, pulling the white cotton linen away from where it was sticking to her skin.

    “What’s in your pocket?”

    She hastily withdrew her hand. “Nothing.”

    “Really?” There was a slight challenge in his voice.


    “Can I see it?”

    She hesitated, wanting to resist further. But she could tell by the look on his face he wouldn’t let her go until she showed him. Reluctantly, she pulled the skull out of her pocket and held it out for him to see, the yellowed bone making the pink and white skin of her palm appear that much whiter. Braden carefully took it from her, holding it with both his hands. The thumbnail of his left hand was bruised and angry looking.

    “What is it?” he said.

    “A skull.”

    He glanced at her, checking to see whether she was making a joke or not. She wasn’t.

    “I meant, what kind?”

    “A mouse I think.”

From my Honors Thesis/novella/soon to become a novel (maybe):

The girls picked wildflowers from the roadside, gathering them into purple and yellow bundles. Dandelions, pansies, and johnny jump ups grew in abundance. Alice liked the sunflowers best of all, but they were usually swarming with bees. Angela led the way through the little black gate while Tom trailed behind with Mary. The youngest had stopped to inspect a horny toad lounging in the sun. Its skin was brown and grey and covered in spiky nubs. Its fat belly spilled out from between its legs.

            “What did you find?” he asked.

            “This lizard.”

            “You mean horny toad.”

            “It looks like a lizard to me,” said Mary.

            “It is a lizard. But it’s called a horny toad.”

            “Why not call it a horny lizard?”

            The lizard scampered back into the brush. Tom picked up Mary and set her on his shoulders. “Maybe when you get older, that can be your job. Giving everything the proper name.”

I’m can only think of three offhand, but I know there are more of you!

1. Renee at A Quick Red Fox

2. Corey at Corey M.P.

3. Amanda at Rewriting Amanda

If you are writing a novel and would like to take this challenge, send me a link in the comments section!

Fiction, Personal, Writing

In Which I Attempt Not to Kill, Maim, Injure, or Otherwise Inflict Bodily Harm on the Horse

When I tell people I love horses and that I ride and that I have one, they often ask me I’ve read ___________ ( insert title of classic work of horse literature here). I usually say no. When people go on to tell me why they love/loved it, I usually respond with something like:

“Well, I couldn’t get past the horse dying. Or being injured. Or crippled. Or beaten. Or abused.”

This seems to be a persistent problem in horse literature. I’ve been told other animals fare similarly well. But I’m pretty sure your iconic work of dog literature is not Black Beauty. And the contemporary movie icon The Horse Whisperer.

War Horse came out this past winter. I didn’t see it. All I really needed to know was that it involved a horse and WWII and knew there was no way in hell I was seeing that. Though I’ve been told it has a happy ending or whatever, someone also told me there’s a scene where the horse gets tangled in barbed wire. Barbed Freaking Wire.

While not every book is so bad, there are more than enough of them to make me gun shy.

The horse canon counts among it works such as Equus, Black Beauty, The Horse Whisperer, The Red Pony, The Black Stallion, The Misty of Chincoteague books and others. The film horse canon includes Seabiscuit, National Velvet, War Horse, and Dreamer.

People often ask me why I don’t write more horse stories.

It’s hard guys.

One of the big problems is the amount of jargon that goes into the equestrian vocabulary. When we write, we often try for some sort of authentic voice. It’s really hard to define all the horse stuff and write authentically. Like, stupidly hard.

I discovered this the hard way when I wrote a piece for my non-fiction class about my horse. Mainly I realized this: people knew even less than I thought they did.

So, for years I’ve hung back on really doing anything with my pool of knowledge. I wrote a story called Winter’s Cry which was published by The Copperfield Review. Now, you guys are going to read that story and go, Shannon, you’re a hypocrite. To which I reply, the events of the end were heavily inspired by a true story that was told to me. Heavily.

But I’m changing that. I’m writing a series for middle-grade readers about horses. In the same vein as The Saddle Club and Thoroughbred series, but with much less dying and maiming. Also, I’m not planning to write near that many books. Sheesh.


Uncategorized, Writing

Walking Your Way to a Finished Novel

I’ve already blogged about the effects of health and fitness on writing here. But today, I have some additional thoughts to share.

I adopted a dog from the animal shelter last week. His name is Elliot, after T.S. Elliot. So far, he is turning into the world’s most awesome dog.

Fortunately for me and my writing projects, I was fortunate to snag a dog who’s super mellow in the house, but loves to go on long walks. And he’s great on the leash! He plods along at an even pace, doesn’t bark or lunge at other dogs, and basically allows me space to zone.

The con to all this awesomeness is that it’s still hot in southern California, I often walk Elliot at night. My preferred writing time is in the late afternoon or early evening. Which is fine, because I can just throw down all the ideas I just brainstormed on the walk, for the next time I want to write.

I’m not a biologist, so I can’t tell you what’s so awesome about exercising and brainstorming. Lots of writers and creative people I know use exercise as a way to help them with their work. Whether it’s jogging, swimming, biking, or walking, something about the combo of exercise is really good for your creativity. (I’m not a biologist, you guys come here for the books and the writing advice remember?)

For me, walking helps remove the fog that surrounds my brain. I can focus on the larger themes of my story and look at it from a more outside perspective. I can see the overarching plot arcs and where I need to up the conflict and where I need to spend more time on the characterization. When I’m writing, I get so focused on the words, the sentences, the grammar, that sometimes I forget where I’m going. Exercising helps me hold both in my head at once, so I can look at things from both the micro and macro level.

Exercise is also really effective against writer’s block. Just keep moving until you get unstuck. And even if you don’t, you just got a really great workout.

You’re welcome.