Get Writing! Warming up…

The winter weather was brutal at times this year. It felt like the clouds would never part, the sun would never shine, the dirty snow piles would never melt… But, finally, the sun started to peak out more and more, and spring finally arrived, bringing with it new buds and greener landscapes.

Spring 2

Spring is the season of birth and revitalization, and that doesn’t just apply to your garden. The air is full of ideas and inspiration, all you need to do is take the time to look for them. But ideas, like your garden, need tending to.


Since writing requires talent, skill, and constant practice, we’ve decided to launch a new series of posts for inspiration and cultivation.

So throw open the windows and let the fresh air and inspiration in, as, first up, we have a warm-up exercise…

Spring 1

Write a conversation between two people, where they each find a way to tell the other one they love them, without actually saying anything that could be found in a Hallmark card.


No “I love you”s, no generic flattery. So, although, yes, this is probably the greatest love you scene in cinema…

I love you I know

… you have to do it without using those words! Just make sure your characters know by the end of their conversation that they are truly seen and cared for like no one else has cared for them.

Get writing!

Things We Like: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

Was there ever any doubt?


Well, sure, OK, a little. We didn’t know for certain that JJ Abrams was going to deliver an extraordinary and beautiful cinematic experience. We thought he would. We hoped.


[insert Poe Dameron whoop of SHEER UNSTOPPABLE JOY]

… JJ gave us the Star Wars movie we wanted and needed. The Star Wars movie we dreamed of. The Star Wars movie that we deserved.

Yeah, JJ nailed it.

From the glistening Lucasfilm logo, to that gorgeous blue “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” to the BLAST of John Williams’ iconic theme as the crawl begins… JJ nailed it and then some.


Along with writers Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) and Lawrence Kasdan (the grand master behind The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi), Abrams has crafted something wonderful and exhilarating, moving and hilarious, devastating and thrilling, all in equal measure.

This will be spoiler free, but it’s not spoiling anything to let you know that BB-8 is a more-than-worthy addition to the droid-you’re-looking-for crew. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is an extraordinary bad guy, full of resonance, hurt and rage. John Boyega’s Finn is a joy to watch and the source of much of the movie’s off-kilter but brilliant humor. And, in Daisy Ridley’s Rey, we have one of the greatest characters in the Star Wars universe.


Ridley, who only had a handful of TV screen credits prior to this, plays Rey with heart and nuance, giving us loss, hope, bad-assery, ass-kicking, wise-cracking… and many more things we can’t share with you (spoilers!). Ridley’s story mirrors Rey’s in a lot of ways, and Ridley uses her natural energy to really bring Rey to crackling life.

Adam Driver, so volatile and uncontrollable on HBO’s Girls, dials that up even more here. He’s the only person who could have played Ren, and he brings a tremendous energy to it all. Boyega, who was SO GOOD in Attack The Block, kills it as Finn — he’s hilarious and heartbreaking —  while Oscar Isaac is in the ZONE as the chilled-out greatest pilot in the galaxy. Bodega and Isaac make you root for them immediately, as does Ridley.

And that’s what’s at the heart of this extraordinary journey — you are invested emotionally from the very beginning, and even more intensely as the movie goes on. The story is powerful, and the movie is shot beautifully, unafraid to linger on stunning vistas and bustling scenes of alien life. But it never feels slow. This thing reaches hyperspace right out of the gate, and drops out of it only at the dizzying, thrilling end.

Throughout, this is great storytelling, with wonderful, fully-realized characters, shot in a gritty, intense way, that gives you the feels. All of them. All the feels. #feels

Finn and Rey

It’s exhilarating, mind-blowing, full of danger and threat, and, gloriously, joyously, wonderfully… it just feels like Star Wars.

Because, also: John Williams.

We have new John Williams Star Wars music on a Star Wars movie. And it gives you chills to hear it. As the story flows, so does his music.

The story ends where it needs to, and opens up the door to the next two movies. The blend of the old and the new is seamless, naturalistic, and provides the perfect hand-off to what is to come. We get all our Original Trilogy feels, and plenty of new trilogy feels alongside.

In short, The Force Awakens is nothing less than the reawakening of something powerful, a new force in the universe. It’s everything you want it to be. 


Random awakenings:

  • The sound of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber is basically the most bad-ass thing in cinema history
  • Han and Leia’s theme will MAKE YOU CRY SON
  • Captain Phasma is cool
  • “Chewie, we’re home…” 
  • When the credits roll, this is how you’re going to feel:

Ridley Abrams Boyega


On working: Short story published, movie script written, novel almost done!

It’s been a busy ol’ 6-8 months here in writerland. At the end of last year, we were humbled and honored when one of our YA short stories, The Place That Will Keep Us, was published in the 2013 Momaya Annual Review. Not only that, they were lovely enough to give us the third place prize! Most of the time you feel like you’re writing in the dark, not knowing AT ALL what anyone thinks of what you’re doing, whether anyone will like it or respond to it. So getting published in Momaya was a wonderful feeling. When you’re a writer, these kinds of moments form the string of lights that help you through the darkness.

The story is set in the southwestern U.S., and focuses on the son and daughter of a guitar player who are forced to go on the run and fend for themselves as they travel up into the midwest. So naturally, when we decided to adapt it into a movie script, we set it on an alien planet. With aliens. What else were we gonna do?! 🙂 We finished the script a couple of months ago, giving it the full YA sci-fi polish, and we’ve been sending it around. Fingers crossed!

Fear not, we’ve also been working on the sequel to ALTERED. Which, as of right now, is *this close* to being finished! It’s going through final edits now while we get the cover design finalized. This is always an exciting time — editing is when a book truly comes to life.

Once you’ve gotten into the actual editing, that is. Staring at the completed manuscript for the first time can be a bit nerve-wracking. In fact, the moment between the end of the first draft and starting editing is totally that bit in Empire on Dagobah where Luke faces his deepest fears and sees Darth Vader.

Facing your unedited manuscript. Scary, it is.

Facing your unedited manuscript. Scary, it is.

However, fortunately, then comes the actual process of refining, honing, cutting, adding, excavating, elevating, and many other “ings”, the end result of which is a book that you feel hopeful and excited about (as much as your writerly neuroses will let you, anyway).

So it’s all systems go right now; because, of course, book three is already calling!

Influence Is Bliss, episode three: Laini Taylor

It’s sometimes said that people look like their scripts/resemble their writing. It’s often true. In Laini Taylor’s case, with her awesome bright pink hair, she could be the long lost sister of the blue-coiffeured Karou, hero of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE and DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT, two of the most stunning YA genre novels ever published.

Laini Taylor. Pink Hair.

Laini Taylor. Awesome Hair.

Taylor is a HUGE inspiration to us. And not just because we admire her hair (although, A really does). She is one of the most extraordinary storytellers out there, not just in YA, but in fiction, and even beyond. If you put together an elite band of the greatest storytellers from the realms of novels, TV and movies, like a superhero team up (Marvel’s Writers Assemble?), Taylor would be one of the first writers you would choose.

Her storytelling is a thing of wonder. It’s robust, muscular, epic, capable of soaring into light and diving into darkness; it’s visceral in the most emotional of ways, which are the ways that really count. But plot counts too. Her books are not just character studies. They are deeply, thrillingly plot-driven. They achieve the perfect harmony whereby character and plot are the same thing. That’s the holy grail of great writing. Karou’s emotional journey in book one is the driver of everything that happens. In book two, Taylor expands to include much more of Akiva’s story — action and character are simultaneous in his chapters too.

Her situations challenge the characters in deep, testing ways, driving them beyond their ability to cope and into that exciting, edge of your seat realm of not knowing what the hell they are going to do, or what the hell is about to happen. That’s the essence of the greatest drama, in any format: testing your characters beyond their endurance. Taylor puts her characters through unimaginable stresses and horrors, situations that are emotionally intense, and emotionally devastating. They are also situations that do not allow the characters to dwell or wallow, even for a second. They are situations that demand further action. Taylor’s worlds are kinetic on every level — there is always forward motion, which is the first law of awesome writing. Motion can be emotional, physical, plot-related, atmospheric; however it manifests, it needs to be there. And boy, is it there in Taylor’s writing. She has a beautiful understanding and grasp of advanced narrative mechanics, and she wields her characters and stories like blades in the hands of an angel.

It’s as though she’s in a simultaneous state of nithilam and sirithar.

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone

Any writer of any kind would learn much from these two books. SMOKE AND BONE is a masterclass of character-grounding, scope-expanding narrative flights. Taylor sets up a complex array of characters, both human and otherwise, and also complex worlds and societies. Read this book closely; it’s impossible to see her doing it. Her lightness of touch is remarkable; the worlds illuminate the characters, and the characters illuminate the worlds.

BLOOD AND STARLIGHT rapidly expands its core cast and develops an array of new characters, all while driving forward a terrifyingly inexorable storyline that, somewhat amazingly, makes the events of book one seem small in comparison.

It’s a masterclass in how to write a sequel.

Days Of Blood And Starlight

Days Of Blood And Starlight

Sequels are notoriously tricky. It’s genuinely rare to find a sequel that is even as good as the original. They exist. But sequels that dwarf the preceding book, eclipse it, go supernova on it… those are like goddamn unicorns. BLOOD AND STARLIGHT is one of those unicorns.

It happens in movies slightly more frequently; a subsequent installment that goes harder, does it differently, expands its universe while still retaining the spirit of the original — ALIENS, THE DARK KNIGHT, TERMINATOR 2, J.J. Abrams’ STAR TREK (technically it’s STAR TREK 11), THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Just a few examples at the highest end of the quality spectrum.

DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT is in that company.

SMOKE AND BONE got progressively bigger emotionally and plot-wise, then exploded in a mind-blowing, stunning revelation that took us literally up to the skies at the end. BLOOD AND STARLIGHT made that ending look like a grainy YouTube video on a flip phone compared to its VAST, gorgeous, perception-altering, universe-expanding IMAX scope of emotion and action. That’s how you do it.

With just these two books, Taylor has made her way to the very top of our inspiration list. We devoured both books; and they consumed us. That’s the most beautiful kind of reading experience. And as writers, we bow down to her. She’s the standard we want to reach, the stars we aim for; even if we don’t always get there, we’ll be much further along that we would have been otherwise. This inspiration really is bliss; her writing is incredibly gorgeous, wild and dangerous, entrancing, stunning, exhilarating.

It’s writing you lose your head to; writing to lose your soul in.

Not only that, she writes more perceptively, intelligently and inspiringly about the act of writing than almost anybody. Just spend some time on her site at and you’ll see what we mean. She’s so open and honest about the whole messy, thrilling, terrifying and wonderful process of writing. Her words are always encouraging, like beacons of light in the dark night of the soul that all writers face at some point.

Thank you, Laini. For all the above.

We can’t wait for book three.