Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Make Your Own Voracan: A Fun and Easy Craft for Kids

Want your own voracan from Monster, Human, Other? Making one is easy. 


  • Styrofoam balls, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. These can be found in the floral arrangement section of craft supply stores. The smooth surface type is easier to paint.
  • Toothpicks.
  • Paint. You'll need black paint, as well as any other colors you want for the eyes. 

  1. Stick toothpicks into a Styrofoam ball.
  2. Paint your voracan. 
  3. Wait for the paint to dry.

An adult should provide supervision and select paint that is appropriate for the age of the child. Beware of choking hazards for very young children. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Working From Home: the Good, the Bad, and What I've Learned

By laundry day, I don't have much left to wear: just my nice button-up blouses and stylish slacks with no hint of elastic or stretch. That's rightwhen laundry day rolls around, I'm left with nothing but my old work clothes, a reversal of what many people experience. It's a strange side effect of working from home, where my standard uniform is either clothes that resemble pajamas orlet's be honestmy actual pajamas. 

I love working from home. The best part about it? That's got to be my coworkers. 
Aren't they cute? 

I also like being able to make a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, or being able to take a break to do choreslike laundryif I need. Not having to drive to work is also a definite bonus, especially when the weather's bad.

But there are downsides. 

I work from home, but I do work. I have a lot to get done, often on deadline. Time management is essential.

Separating work life from home life is another challenge. I often work on the weekends, and in the evening. Sometimes it seems like I'm always working.

And then there are the stretches of days when I don't step outside my front door. I try to prevent this by at least going on walks occasionally, but that becomes difficult when it's been raining non-stop.

Working from home isn't for everyone. Some people need more structure, more socialization. Personally, I love it, despite the minor issues.

Whether or not you're a writer, if you work from home, here are some tips I've learned from my experience. I may or may not be good at following this advice myself. 

1. Make a schedule. Even though you're not clocking in at the office, you need to know when you're working and when you're not.

2. Get organized. Time management is essential, so you need tools like to-do lists and calendars. 

3. Create a work space. This can help you separate your work life from your home life and keep you organized. It's also necessary if you're hoping to deduct a home office on your taxes. (This is not tax advice. Talk to a tax expert for that.)

4. Get out of the house. At the very least, use your lunch break to go on walks or run errands. You can also do some of your work at a coffee shop for a nice change of scenery. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

How Not to Become Super Lonely as a Writer

Author Lee Child once said that writing is show business for shy people. 

It's true. A lot of writers are naturally shy. It doesn't help matters that writing tends to be a solitary activity. Some people may like this, but even the most introverted individuals can get lonely occasionally. The loneliness can become depressing, too, especially when you're not achieving your writing goals and it seems like everyone is getting a book deal except you. 

But it doesn't have to be this way. There are lots of writers out there, and regardless of what their social media updates might suggest, most of them are experiencing the ups and downs that come with writing.

If you don't interact with other writers, you should start. Here's why:

  1. You'll get to talk to other people about writing and those people will actually be as interested in the conversation as you are.
  2. You'll be able to vent about writing to people who get it. 
  3. You'll be able to share small victories (like a personalized rejection) with people who understand why you're so happy. 
  4. You can share tips. 
  5. You can find critique partners.
  6. When your book comes out, you'll know people who want to come to your release event and maybe even buy your book.

Writers are everywhere, so finding them shouldn't be hard. And if you feel nervous and putting yourself out there, remember that a lot of writers are shy. They'll understand how you feel.

One of the easiest ways to find writers is through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Keep in mind, though, that the sheer number of people on this sites can make personal interactions difficult. Also, people often post good news, not bad news, which can give you the false impression that everyone's doing better than you. I'm not saying that you should avoid social media. It can be helpful, and it is possible to make real connections. I'm just saying it shouldn't be your only way of meeting other writers. 

Try to meet writers in real life.

  • Attend writing workshops.
  • Attend book launches.
  • Join critique groups.
  • Attend group writing sessions.
  • Join organizations for writers. 
  • Join book clubs. Not everyone there will be a writer, but since readers and writers tend to overlap, there's a good chance there will be a couple of writers in the group. 

To find events, go to your local library, bookstore, or college. You can also check for local events. And if there's nothing around that suits your needs, consider starting something yourself. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

My Writing Goals That Definitely Aren't New Year's Resolutions

In 2012, I resolved to prevent the 2012 Apocalypse. The world didn’t end that year, so, uh, you’re welcome. A year of two later, I resolved not to become a zombie, another complete success. My winning streak ended, however, when I resolved to be perfect and failed miserably. But hey, most people pick New Year’s goals they never achieve.

As you may have noticed, I don’t take New Year’s resolutions very seriously.

It’s not that I’m against personal goals and self-improvement. I love those things, really. As a writer, I know I always need to be pushing myself to refine my skills and produce more manuscripts.

But I’m also impatient, and if I make up my mind to do something, I’m not going to wait for a new year to begin. I’m going to get started immediately.

I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions, but as I head into 2018, these are some of the writing goals I'm working on.

1. Finish my work-in-progress and start a new manuscript. I try to finish at least one novel a year, as well as multiple smaller projects. This isn’t a New Year’s resolution, I swear.

2. Do more events. I’ve done several events this year, including one that took me to Canada, multiple events in the Pacific Northwest, and a couple of Skype visits. This year, I’d like to do more, especially in terms of school visits. (Are you a teacher who's interested in a school event? Let me know!)  

3. Be more active online. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s had a hard time tweeting about writing with everything else that's going on in the world. I want to be accessible and to reach new readers, though, so I need to maintain an online presence. 

4. Maintain a set schedule. Now that I work from home, it's sometimes hard to stick to real schedule. I think having one can help with productivity, though, so I'm trying to force myself to do it. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

How to Tell Whether You Should Dump Your Manuscript

I didn't finish the first novel I tried to write. Looking back, I'm confident this was the right decision. The manuscript was a mess, and even if I'd revised it until it was unrecognizable, it still wouldn't have been very good. It was flawed, fundamentally and irreparably.

I don't feel I wasted my time on it, though. By writing half the manuscript, and then by analyzing what had gone wrong, I learned a lot. I finished the next manuscript I started, and it was better for everything I'd been through. (Though it still didn't sell, nor did it deserve to. But that's another issue.)

Since then, I've set aside a few more manuscripts. Some of these unfinished manuscripts may be finished eventually. Others probably won't. I don't think this is a problem. There are plenty of manuscripts I have finished, so I don't mind that there are some I haven't—but this isn't the case for everyone.

Knowing when to give up on a manuscript can be a difficult thing. On the one hand, you don't want to waste more time on something that you know isn't going anywhere. Stubbornly sticking with it just because you've already invested so much work may be a sign that you're falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy.

On the other hand, if you never finish anything, that's a problem, too. I've heard of writers who have dozens of manuscripts they've started but no finished work to show for it.

So how do you decide whether to quit or to push forward? I think it comes down to two questions you need to ask yourself.

Questions One: Why do you want to quit? 

Is it because you've discovered your manuscript is fundamentally, irreparably flawed, have learned from your mistakes, and are ready to apply your new knowledge to a superior project? Or have you realized that writing a complete novel is hard work and you'd rather play with a shiny new idea?

If it's the latter, yeah, writing a complete novel is hard. Suck it up and finish the manuscript!

Question Two: Have you done this before? 

If you've fallen into the bad habit of not finishing any of the manuscripts you start, you need to figure out why. Maybe it's that you have a hard time focusing and need to force yourself to stick with the project. Find a way to motivate yourself to finish: join a critique group, set a deadline, pick a reward for yourself—whatever it takes.

Alternatively, the problem could be that you keep writing yourself into a corner. If so, you might need to scrap this manuscript, or at least a big chunk of it. To make sure this doesn't keep happening, though, seriously consider adjusting your writing process for your next project. Pantsing works for some people, but maybe you need to be more of a plotter.

If you do decide to abandon a work in progress, remember that you can always return to it later, whether it's to finish, revise, or completely rewrite the manuscript. Sometimes, you don't need to give up on a project. You just need a healthy break from it. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Facing our Fears and Scary Children’s Books

Moths. Hippos. Broken glass. Heights. Bleach. The list of things I’m afraid of is a long one. Despite this, I enjoy scary movies and books. And I'm not alone. Many people, both children and adults, enjoy being scared.

Which may make us wonder: Why? Why do we seek out scary experiences in things like roller coasters, haunted houses, and books?

I think there are several possible reasons.

They’re safe frights, first of all. When we go on a roller coaster, our hearts pound and we scream, but (assuming there are no engineering issues) we are in no actual danger.

Books are especially good at letting us experience frightening situations in a completely safe environment. While roller coasters give us an adrenaline rush, books provide entry into an entire world of thrills, full of complexity and consequences.

And while some adults may be tempted to shield kids from all things frightening, this isn't always a good idea. Exploring scary ideas is the first step to conquering them.

With books, we can face a wide range of fears, from everyday issues, like bullying, to extraordinary ones, like shape-changing monsters that curse people. While reading, we can think about what we would do in similar situations, and whether those actions would be good. We can learn from the characters’ mistakes and apply this insight to our own lives. We can see that we’re not alone, that others struggle with the same fears we do.

Books let us be brave. I wouldn’t want to face a dragon (or a moth
) in real life, but I’m always ready for an epic battle on the pages. 

As G.K. Chesterton is often quoted for saying, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

As much as we may want to shelter children from everything bad that could ever happen, they already know that scary things exist in the world. Books help us show them that they can persevere.

Books let us be brave.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Problem with Setting Goals

Before my second book came out, I decided that I wanted to get 1,000 Twitter followers before the release date. It was an achievable goal, but I didn’t achieve it. The reason is simple. I knew what I needed to do—tweet more, follow more, and interact more—but for a long time, I didn’t actually do it.

That’s the thing about setting goals. It’s not enough. In fact, without a plan, it’s meaningless.

I’m not normally so bad about goals. I wouldn’t call myself ambitious, but I am pretty motivated and determined. I think everyone who's ever finished a book, not to mention published one, has to be.

See, a lot of people talk about writing a novel, but they never actually do it. Or they write a few pages and then give up. They have a goal, but they don’t have a plan. They’re not willing to put in the work day after day after day. 

Without a plan, a goal is just a wish. It's nice, but it's not very practical. 

This is the mistake I made with Twitter. We all make it at some point or another. We want something, so we wish it were real, when what we actually need to do is take daily steps to make it real. 

So how can we achieve our goals? I think these four steps are important.

1. Create a realistic timeline. This should include the ultimate goal as well as key milestones along the way.

2. Focus on things you can control. Many things are out of our control. When we obsess over those things, we aren't accomplishing anything. We need to concentrate on the things we can actually do. 

3. Decide whether or not to share. Personally, sharing goals stresses me out, but for some people, it's a great motivator. Think about whether it will help you.

4. Reward yourself for your achievements, even small ones, but don’t be too hard on yourself for your setbacks. You can always try again.

P.S. I'm up to 1,000 Twitter followers now. Thanks for follows!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Making Time to Write a Novel

I've written about making time to write a novel before. There are a lot of smart things you can do, like getting up early or deleting those time-sucking games from your smartphone. You can try to carve out short writing sessions, during your lunch break or while you're riding the bus, or you can try to dedicate entire days to writing. 

These are all good ideas, but the truth remains: finding time to write a novel is hard. 

If you're struggling to find time to write, you might get a kick out of these more extreme tips.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I Have Another Book!

I’m so excited to talk about my new novel. It’s called Monster, Human, Other. I love the cover.

Here's a bit about it:

Wren is human. Isaac is not. Having switched places at birth, they now live with each other’s families. Growing up among a different species is difficult—for Isaac, who has to keep many secrets, and for Wren, who is teased for her lousy human senses. They’re told it’s necessary, though. The exchange is the first step in an ambassador program meant to ensure peace.

But not everyone wants peace. There are creatures that live deep underground, coming up to the surface to feed. They have a plan to stir up trouble, and so far, it’s working. In the end, it’s up to Wren and Isaac to prevent a looming war and to save both their kinds.

The book is recommended for children ages 8 to 12, but I officially give permission to older people to read it, too. 

You can order it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or your local bookstore.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Get a Signed Copy of Monster, Human, Other: Pre-Order Offer

What's better than books? Signed books!

To get your own signed copy of Monster, Human, Other, pre-order the book through Vintage Books by September 18, 2017. Please mention this offer when placing your order. I can personalize my message if you include the name you want me to sign the book to when you place your order. 

If you pre-order the book elsewhere, you can still receive a signed bookplate. (This is simply an adhesive label you can put in the book.) Read the full rules and complete the form here on or before September 18, 2017, midnight Pacific Time.  

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Monster, Human, Other Release Party

When: September 23 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Where: Vintage Books, 6613 E Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98661

Who: Monster, Human, Other is a middle grade novel aimed at children ages 8 to 12, but everyone is welcome at the release party. 

"Sympathetic and winning, Isaac and Wren star in alternating, fast-paced chapters until they come together for the exciting conclusion." — Kirkus

Laurel Gale is the author of Dead Boy and Monster, Human, Other. She lives with her husband and their ferrets in Vancouver, Washington. You can visit Laurel online at or on Twitter at @Laurel_Gale.