Last Call to Sign up for Anthropology, Archaeology, and Romance Workshop!

Join me in a fun writing adventure!


Dear Writer,

Are you writing characters you love that grow and have fascinating lives?

Are your worlds unique?

Do you want to write an anthropologist more fascinating than Nora Robert’s Callie Dunbright in Birthright? [I love this book!] How about Kathy Reich’s Temperance “Bones” Brennan?


Do you want to create an alien culture that is cool and plausible? Want to know why aliens can’t mingle with humanity (without serious genetic intervention)?

I can help you do that.

Anthropological Science Fiction Romance

This is my target – where I write.

I’m Darlene. I’m a writer, editor, and anthropological renaissance woman. I studied anthro at Pacific Lutheran University where I graduated with honors. I’m here because I want to help you make your worlds unique and your characters shine even more. I do what I do because I am a bookworm who wants to read your work – step into the shoes of an Earth girl and fall in love with your hero.

I do what I do because of that passion – I write at the convergence of anthropology, archaeology, romance, and science fiction. And I want to share my expertise with you.

I’ve hung out with, studied with, and learned about anthropologists, archaeologists, and cultures the world over. While there, I learned specific details that will make your characters unique.

By speaking in the lingo of the anthropologist and exploring their world from an insider’s point of view, you’ll get insight into witty, fun characters like my Gaea Jackson who grew up traveling from dig to dig.

The Four Fields of Anthropology

This is a fun writer workshop geared to bringing history, future history, and awesome insights into your work to crank up cultures and meaning. We’ll:

  • explore the connection between adventure and romance
  • get to work with interesting writing prompts
  • create a unique world and culture
  • learn about the unique aspects of interesting cultures
  • do an anthropology exploration online – let’s dig!
  • play with the connection of humor and reading

By the end, you’ll understand why anthropologists laugh when they hear about the Nacirema study, know the anthropology song [a rite of passage], and walk away feeling confident in your skills.

My workshop, Anthropology, Archaeology, and Romance is about helping writers create developed worlds and characters by using the four fields of anthropology. Attending to the societies in your work will make characters richer.

Want more details? Check out these posts:

Top 10 Reasons to Take the Anthropology Archaeology Romance Writer Workshop at the FF&P Blog – the fun things we’ll cover and the type of humor I go for – I love good anthropology jokes…it’s humerus!

A Funny thing Happened on the Way to Writing is a  fun post that explores the start of my side trip into anthropology.


Let’s build stuff!

Build it to Last.

Sunday is the last day for sign ups, so if you’ve meant to sign up, please do so here: Anthropology, Archaeology, and Romance.

I hope to see you there!

Write on,




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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Writing

Hey, writers.

I’m guest-posting about anthropology and research at AR DeClerck’s blog, Amy Reads and Writes.

Come check it out: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Writing.

Write on,



Posted in anthropology, creative writing, research, Writer Visits, Writers, Writing Secrets | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Things Times Three by Veronica Scott

I’m excited to announce a new guest post by Veronica Scott. Thanks, Veronica for sharing your insight in this wonderful article!

 Three Things Times Three

I’m honored to be one of your first science fiction romance guest authors! Thanks for inviting me to stop by and talk about writing. I pondered what might be a good topic for today and I decided to go with three things, as in “Three Things about my journey to publication, three things I wish I’d known before I was published and three things I offer as advice to new authors (or anyone really). Plus three random factoids about me!

About my journey:

  • I’ve always written, and still have my first ‘self-published’ book from when I was seven years old, illustrated by me too. There were princesses, cats and flying horses, and the hero was a riverboat captain (NO idea why!) Thankfully I gave up trying to do the cover art at that early age.
  • My Dad was a huge science fiction fan and so I imprinted early on scifi classics. Andre Norton’s Catseye was the first scifi I ever read. The first movie I remember seeing (on the late show) was “Forbidden Planet,” which may I point out, has romance. Ta da! I was also addicted to the 1930’s Flash Gordon serials, which our local TV station played every afternoon at 4PM. Also a romantic element there.
  • I started seriously working on writing to today’s standards in late 2010, Carina Press plucked my Priestess of the Nile from their slush pile and I received The Call from Angela James in mid-2011. That book came out in early 2012, and coincidentally I also self-published my first scifi romance in March 2012. I did try submitting various manuscripts kind of half-heartedly to various publishers from high school onwards, so I have those rejection slips, but I have a business degree and had a day job at NASA/JPL to pay the bills. But there’s never been a time I haven’t been writing and thinking about my plots and characters. It’s just much more fun now that I’m published.

Three things I wish I’d known:

  • How much promo and social media an author has to do! Books don’t sell themselves and the publishers can and will only do so much. And if you self-publish, which I have exclusively since 2013, all the promo is on the author. But I love blogging and I love twitter, plus we have some great scifi romance groups on Facebook, so I stay very active on social media and on major platforms like USA Today Happy Ever After. Engaging with readers and other authors is important. But pick the social media that you enjoy and feel comfortable with.
  • The importance of a newsletter or at the very least a list of dedicated followers on your blog, so you can communicate new releases and sales, or other news, to your readers yourself. A list you control yourself. I have one now of course but I should have started it up a long time before I did.
  • The publishing business is always changing these days and you have to stay up with the latest twists and turns. What worked even six months ago may not work now.

Three pieces of advice:

  • Write the next book! The next book is what helps sell all the earlier books as readers discover you. There’s nothing sadder to me than seeing an author still doing promo and obsessing over the ranking of their first book a year later when they haven’t published anything else. After a certain point you just have to let go and get the next books out there.
  • Get words on the page every day, even if you can only write a few, and don’t strive for perfection on the first draft. Don’t self-edit as you go and paralyze yourself. Every book will have more than one draft and various edits later when you can fix errors or tighten prose.
  • Get into a writers’ group on Facebook (or elsewhere if you’re not a FB fan). Especially in the romance world, which is the only one I can speak to, authors are so helpful and the advice and answers to be had in a group can save you many false steps on the business side of being an author. Plus you’ll be amazed at how not alone you are in your experiences and questions as an indie author. Two groups I especially recommend are Marie Force’s Author Support Network and Susan Kaye Quinn’s For Love Or Money.

Three random factoids: Tea not coffee. Cats over dogs. Left handed.

Before I talk about my latest book, one final piece of advice – indie publishing is very much a business so try to adopt that mindset going in and you’ll do fine.


Danger in the Stars is my current new release. The story:

Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.

Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.

The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?


The nausea was always the worst part of emerging from cryo sleep. Miriell fought her confused thoughts and the incipient headache, trying not to throw up. She curled into a ball on her side, hands fisted on her unhappy stomach and bit her lip to avoid moaning.

A rough hand on her shoulder shook her. “Come on, you know we don’t have time for this sick act of yours. Snap out of it. The client’s waiting to see what you can do.” Jareck’s voice became more congenial, placating almost s he shifted his focus to someone else. Clearly, he was no longer speaking to her. “These performers, as my boss calls them, don’t do well with cryo sleep, but she’ll be on her feet in a minute or two, I promise. Then we can be on our way.”

“Good. The boss is getting impatient, waiting in the limo. She doesn’t spend much time in cargo warehouses.”

The new voice was deep, and although the tone was rough and the words clipped, Miriell felt as if a warm blanket had been placed over her shoulders. Intrigued by her own reaction, she forced herself to sit up on the floor, bracing herself against the cargo container that had been her prison. Blinking to focus, she turned her head, searching for the owner of the new voice.

Jareck grabbed her elbow in a bruising grip and yanked her to her feet. He must have removed the shackles while she was still unconscious. Giving her a shake, he said, “I swear, every time we travel for a job, you act as if your sweet time asleep in the cryo unit was torture.”

Maybe because for me it is. Swaying, balance still off, she couldn’t resist Jareck as he tugged her close to him, the smell of his cheap cologne another assault on her overloaded senses. Her stomach heaved, and she had to make a conscious effort not to throw up all over him, slapping her free hand over her mouth.

“Do I have to carry you?” His voice was low, and she knew it was a threat. He’d make her pay later.

With painful effort, she straightened her spine and stepped away, brushing one hand down her plain gray tunic in a vain attempt to smooth out the wrinkles. “I can walk.”

“You don’t look like it.” As their new companion voiced his opinion, she realized he was no one she’d ever met before. Tall, with broad shoulders and well-defined muscles, he had black hair and gray eyes that were almost silver. She was mesmerized by his eyes. Miriell wished she dared to engage her gifts, get a sense of this person, maybe figure out why he made her feel safe, when clearly, she was anything but.

Jareck stopped to pick up his kit bag, never releasing his hold on her. “Conor’s right, we’ve got to be going. You’re ready to behave, right?”

Submissively, she nodded, bottling up her anger and hatred. Someday I’ll get my chance and you will die.

Buy Links:

Amazon      iBooks    Kobo     Barnes & Noble




Veronica Scott square photo250

Veronica Scott

Best Selling Science Fiction, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author, as well as the “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.


Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”







If you like this blog post, check out:

Piercing the Shadows of Cyberpunk

The Stones of Kaldaar Review

Cynthia Sax’s Insights For New Writers


If you loved this post, please subscribe to my blog to get insights and inspiration!


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3 Awful Truths About Being a Beginning Writer

3 Awful Truths About Being a Beginning Writer @DarleneReilley

3 Awful Truths About Being a Beginning Writer by Darlene Reilley

Dear Writers,

This week is hard.

I mean hard.

I’m in week ten of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.  If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a book that helps creatives jump-start their souls and reconnect with who they are as artists. I highly recommend it—I’ve been through this thing three times and each time I go deeper into what it means to be a creative being. Then again, some moments are just plain scary. Like right now, this moment.

This is the week where we bare our souls to our journals…and do exercises like telling “the awful truth.” Each time I start this book as a creative journey, I forget this part…I think it is selective memory or a block of some kind. If you’ve read it…you know what I mean.

This is the week where we share the real, dirty, no-holes-barred, honest true truth…about our habits and why we let ourselves get away with things.

Prepared for an unscripted moment.

So that’s what I’m doing in this post. I’m telling “the awful truth” about my top 3 mistakes I made as a budding writer…in the hopes that you will see the landmines and avoid them in your own writer journey.

Ready? I’m sure this will be fun for you and torture for me…let’s go.

Awful Truth 3: The Freelance Client from Hell

Why, oh, why didn’t I see the signs?

I knew the twisting feeling in my gut should have been a warning, but it was early in my freelancing career and I didn’t know better.

So the details: I took a client on…and I was excited because I thought the work could lead to other work later. I started out with the general questions about his site and what his goals were. Everything was going smoothly…until the moment came when I delivered the content he agreed to and then head me revise it three times without remuneration. That in itself should have been a hint, but I was happy to have work and it was an okay fee for the time, but then he did it again.

And he baited me…asked me if I could work on two other projects…and I delivered as he agreed to the same pay schedule as the first.

And he never paid for the two additions. Despite several requests for payment, once he got his content he pretended as if I didn’t exist. This is the reason I have a strict payment policy now.

Takeaway: always research your fees, set up a payment policy, and always have a contract in writing. You are a working writer. You are not doing this for kicks – this is how you make your living. When people steal content from you, it’s theft. And that’s not okay. Would Nordstrom’s let someone run out the front door without paying? Of course not. Keep a record of some sort of your projects…and feel free to email the delinquent ones…I do.

Awful Truth 2: The ER Visit & TMI 

The night/day when I signed up for too much work, homework, and mainlined three energy drinks while sitting in the ER and ended up reading it out loud to edit it and so the sleeping person on the bed would go to sleep…while nurses and interns listened in on the other side of the curtain…I hoped they liked what they heard…

Enough said.

Awful Truth 1: The First Novel

Okay, here’s my biggest skeleton.

Although it’s not really a skeleton.

And it has my favorite character ever – and I mean she can take out Thor or Iron Man and still get home in time for dinner.

The awful truth is, I published Zombie Slayer too soon. The problem was a combination of hope, edits, and naivety. Ready? I’m shaking because to admit this means to admit I made a mistake…although I learned a lot from that mistake.

Zombie Slayer

Zombie Slayer by Darlene Reilley

Zombie Slayer by Darlene Reilley. This novel is the story of Julia Maraton, who woke up to a living nightmare. The streets of Seattle are crawling with the walking dead. In order to survive, she must band together with a rag-tag group of survivors to formulate a plan: head North to Alaska and Julia’s family home. Escaping Seattle is only the beginning; now they must deal with desperate survivors and zombies running amok. Zombies are on boats, in the water, and on land. They must also deal with a murderer in their midst. The survivors join forces with a boat of surviving Navy Seals and the few survivors they find along the way to the fortified shelter of Julia’s childhood home. Julia risks the fate of humanity as well as her heart to ensure there is a future for the human race, and ultimately makes a decision which effects everyone. Julia Maraton is the Zombie Slayer.

Here’s the thing: it wasn’t my first novel…the first one is still locked in a computer file and probably will never see the light of day. It was the first one I felt confident enough in that I thought someone else would like to read it.

It was the first one I felt confident enough in that I thought someone else would like to read it.

So I edited it to the ability I could at the time. I had a writer friend edit it too…at the time I don’t think either of us knew what “beta readers” were. As a fledgling writer, I put my heart and soul into that novel. It was a novel – it had a beginning, middle, and end. There were character arcs. People grew. It was about zombies so lots of people died…and I loved every minute of writing it.

Julia Maraton, the Zombie Slayer, is and will always be my favorite character. She actually lives in my writer cave and helps me wrangle waylaid characters (and the villains who don’t quite want to cooperate).

I’m not biased about the work. It was good. The best I could do at the time. And at that time, I couldn’t do better. But in 2014, I had a moment where I went back and revisited the story – I read it again with fresh eyes. And I saw plot holes. I saw big loose dead ends. I saw grammar errors and other things…and I cringed. Here was this beautiful thing that I thought was gorgeous, but to everyone else probably looked like a wailing kid throwing a tantrum.

What was my payoff for holding onto that? I worked myself up to be something huge in my mind – I wanted to be this fantastic writer who wrote every day and published five times a year. I didn’t know my craft…and I was okay with working for it – I worked my way with As straight through my college writing classes. But the payoff holding onto it left me that day. I couldn’t see justifying keeping it on the market when there were so many other babies out there who were gorgeous.

So I stopped promoting it…and eventually took it off the available lists.

And that’s hard to admit. It’s really hard when the thing you love the most – the thing you’ve worked hours and weeks and months on…that it’s not a shining star, but rather a lump of coal. But there were things I learned from that black lump that I couldn’t have any other way.

I learned to love my first drafts.

I learned to love the flow of words on the page.

I learned to trust my instincts.

I learned that it’s okay to kill zombies and almost destroy the world as often as you want…as long as it was in print.

But I did get a payoff of writing and publishing that novel. Looking back knowing what I know now, I cringe, but I made art. I tried. I had to put the words on the page. It helped me level up my craft. I learned character creation and scene dynamics. It helped me get to the next step.

Takeaway: Love your writing. Treat it like the gorgeous baby it is. But don’t publish sooner than it’s ready. If you’re serious about being a professional writer, the awful truth is our drafts aren’t ready for publishing. The first things you write may not be ready for the light of day. But with work, and I mean hard work, both learning your craft and implementing it, you can do this. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take effort. But it’s worth it – what we want to do is publish the good stuff – the things that make others sit up and look and reflect on. We write to connect with readers…quietly…from our desks.

I wrote Zombie Slayer. I loved the story. And the awful truth is I still do…quirks and all. I’m proud of what it was – I may one day revisit it and edit it. But for now, it sits on a shelf…because I’m not the writer I used to be. And I’m okay with that.

Julia Maraton kicks butt…and I’m okay with that too. Sometimes we writers need a Zombie Slayer.


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Darlene Reilley: wordsmith and geek

I am Darlene Reilley. I’m a writer and teacher. My hands-on experience can help writers find inspiration and purpose. My love of adventure and well-traveled boots help readers find new best friends! I’m a humble writer who dreams of living on the bookshelf between Reichs and Riley. Come join me in my writing adventure at DarWrites.

Posted in How To, Zombie Slayer, NaNoWriMo, Horror, creative writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#beingthemoment – words and mindfulness

Theresa Barker - Lab Notes

I sometimes doubt my words.

I started a story this morning that turned out to be about a magical tree.  A magical tree?  Hasn’t that been done already?  Done and done, as they say.

Almost before I had written the first sentence a little voice in my brain said, “That story’s been told.  You are not doing anything new.  Who’s going to care?”


All I have are words.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl, in her wonderful book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater, says this:

If it is true that there is nothing new under the sun and that there are only two or three basic human stories worth telling, then the contribution of the playwright is not necessarily the story itself but the way the story is told, word for word. (p…

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Piercing the Shadows of Cyberpunk

Dear Writers,

I’d like to introduce you to a fantastic sci fi writer who loves the genre! JC Hay graciously volunteered to write a guest blog when I told him about a friend of mine who loves the genre and wants more details about writing cyberpunk. Thank you, JC! Take it away.

Piercing the Shadows of Cyberpunk

I love Cyberpunk, and have loved it since I first picked up a copy of William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Neuromancer.jpg And while it’s safe to say that the technology we expected to see in our 1980s vision of the future has changed (smartphones, anyone? How about augmented reality?) there’s still a lot of life that can be breathed into these tales of high-tech lowlifes. After all, sci-fi doesn’t just have to be about far-away planets or shiny silver spaceships. But how do you world-build for a cyberpunk story?

When I started to write my Corporate Services book, I wanted to tell love stories for people who weren’t just on the fringes of society, they were effectively outcast from it. Cyberpunk, with its focus on the lawless underbelly of a corporate dystopian future, seemed the perfect place to approach these characters. People who weren’t traditional romance heroines or heroes, but still deserved their own happily-ever-after.

That’s the “punk” element of the genre in a nutshell – none of the heroes are squeaky clean. They’ve got baggage, and even those forced to work within the system hate it and are trying to undermine it. There’s an element of the transhumanist in that punk ethos as well – characters who invasively modify their bodies because it makes them better than human, rather than because of medical need.

As for the “cyber” side of the coin – that’s easier and harder at the same time. Our perceptions of how AI might work, of how cybernetic limbs and organs might function, and even how money worked in the 80s is being turned on its head every day. A quick stop by provides a near limitless supply of articles about advances in organic printing, limb augmentation, and transportation that are only a few years from being commonplace. Knowing what’s coming helps bring the world to life, and staying up to date on advances is vital to writing near-future science fiction. Some of the genre’s tropes go hand in hand with this – body modification, hacking, and the blurred line between what’s artificial and what’s real.

Finally, the themes in the stories that define the genre tend to borrow heavily from noir and hardboiled detective fiction (Look at the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner, for example, or the Phillip K Dick novel on which it’s based – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep). Add in the overload of data, and the inescapable hyperurbanization, and the breakdown of governments in response to climate change and overpopulation, and the setting becomes ripe for stories about the questionable things people do to get by.

That’s where I found the characters and settings for my own cyberpunk series, Corporate Services. They’re the people on the margins, or under the thumb of the system; people who find someone to care about at the worst possible timing, and who endure a crucible to come out transformed. If you’ve not read any cyberpunk, I hope you give it a chance. And if you love cyberpunk like I do, share some of your favorites in the comments. I’m always looking for more to read, and happy to discuss!

About Corporate Services


Dubai Double-Cross

A high-tech thief gets framed for murder and finds herself on the run with target she was supposed to deliver instead:


Mumbai Manhunt

A corporate cleanup man heads home to finish one last job, and finds the one woman he could never forget and who may never forgive him:


About JC Hay

JC Hay writes romantic science fiction and space opera, because the coolest gadgets in the world are useless without someone to share them.

In addition to Romance Writers of America, he is also a proud member of the SFR Brigade (for Science Fiction Romance), the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance chapter, and a proud member of RWA’s PAN (the published authors network).

His Corporate Services series, a set of connected cyberpunk romances set eighty years in our future, follow desperate couples finding each other in a future where the limits of humanity are being stretched and tested.


Newsletter Sign-Up (get a free Corporate Services short story!):

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Top Links of the Week


Dear Writers,

I’ve been all over the map this week, because it’s spring and it’s where the research takes me. It’s rainy in the Pacific Northwest, but when the sun comes out, I go check on the pansies and tulips. I’m dreaming about canning and gardens. I have to share a few links that I’ve fallen for. Here are my top links of the week.

 If I could I would share every single blog post I’ve read on Jeff Goins’ blog, but his interview with Jerry Jenkins was so inspirational, I had to share it.  

I did something I shouldn’t have this week. I looked in the canning cupboard…and saw how much jam we have from last summer. My mom loves to can and that usually means we have jam coming out of our ears, but I’ve needed to find new ways to explore the apricot, strawberries, raspberries, and other fruit spreads…and I ran into this awesome site: 50 Ways to Use Preserves, James, Jellies, Marmalades & Fruit Butters. Apparently we aren’t the only ones with this issue. I feel blessed to call this an issue. I love jam…

And then because I wasn’t finished with the idea of canning, I toyed with the notion of using the empty jars for fun things around the house. For ten whole minutes, I imagined all the cool things I could do with jars…and then reality hit – we actually do use all the jars in our house. Then I saw this by P. Allen Smith and fell in love with the idea of pickling peppers.

While I was researching this week, I found something interesting on Pinterest – it led me to a hole of writing research, but near the end, I found 9 Things I did to Become a Full-Time Writer by Carlos Cooper. This was a revelation to me because I’ve been exploring my writer path and where I want to go with my writing. #6 and #7 were helpful.

And of course because I write science fiction, I get inspired by all things NASA and found a cool post on Pinterest which pointed me to A Village in Orbit: Inside NASA’s Space Colony Concepts. I noted that for later.

Hopefully these links will inspire you as they did me.

Write on,






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Do You Write for Readers?

Dear Writers,

I’d like to introduce you to DL Fowler, author of Transform Your Fiction: Essential Tools and Lincoln Raw. Take it away, DL!

I get inside people’s heads and invite readers along for the ride. DL Fowler

Do You Write for Readers?

Another book on writing. Just what the world needs. How many ways can you say draw three-dimensional characters, create conflict, don’t let the action lag in the middle of your story, no passive voice, … blah … blah … blah? By the way, are we ever going to settle the character-driven vs. plot-driven debate?

Take a breath. Answer me this. Not why do we write, but why do people read? Hmm … that question reminds me of a story—but then again, most questions remind me of stories.

Ned lived for the day he could step out from his father’s shadow and chart his own path to success. That dream hit a roadblock when the old man died unexpectedly, leaving Ned at the helm of a highly successful drill bit manufacturing company that had been in the family for two, now going on three, generations. On his first day as CEO, Ned called his father’s key employees into “the boss’s office” to find out what kind of team he’d inherited. When he got to the last interviewee, his father’s right hand man and national VP of sales, Ned’s hopes were sky-high.

For the first ten minutes of the interview, Ned’s liked everything he heard from the VP. Then Ned asked, “Where do you see the company in ten years?”

The VP tugged nonchalantly at his monogrammed shirt cuff. “We’ll be the biggest drill bit manufacturer in the world, just like we are today.”

Ned glared at the VP. “Are you telling me the star of this company doesn’t know what we’re about?”

The VP stared back at him blankly.

Ned leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “People don’t need drill bits, they need holes. Ten years from now, when everyone is making holes with lasers, you’ll have us making drill bits?”

People read for a reason. Before we focus on writing tools and techniques, we must understand why people read. What do readers need that attracts them to books?

After World War II, Abraham Maslow explained human motivation with his Hierarchy of Needs. He said that meeting certain physiological and security needs doesn’t motivate, but failure to satisfy those needs demoralizes people. Once those threshold requirements are met, however, people awaken to the motivational power of higher level needs like belonging, esteem, and actualization.

People read stories in order to achieve the sense of fulfillment that Maslow called actualization. They either need to grow psychologically or to validate growth they have already achieved. Regardless of genre—whether our stories are short or novel length, memoirs or narrative non-fiction, or poems—readers pick up books to discover memorable people wrestling with compelling problems. They don’t want simply to be told about those journeys. They want to experience them. The rhythm of our stories and the intimacy we create determine how deeply readers become engaged in our characters’ journeys.

Characters, journeys, rhythm, and intimacy make up the Hierarchy of Readers’ Needs. Satisfying those needs is the key to masterful storytelling.

A story’s arc is the path characters take through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in order to achieve actualization. A writer’s job is to help readers vicariously pursue the characters’ journeys. We do that by meeting particular needs readers bring to the experience of reading. Characters, journeys, rhythm, and intimacy make up the Hierarchy of Readers’ Needs. Satisfying those needs is the key to masterful storytelling.


The Hierarchy of Readers_ Needs

DL Fowler


The pyramid above shows the relative importance of each need. Understand what that means. We can’t simply skip the first three needs and give our readers only intimacy. Each need builds upon the foundation of those beneath it.

Without characters and journeys, readers don’t even have a story to follow. When we make characters memorable, journeys compelling, and add engaging rhythms, readers are drawn deeper into our stories for intimacy. Intimacy happens when readers find themselves walking in a character’s shoes, pursuing the same goals, facing the same obstacles, and experiencing the same emotions.

Trust is the key that unlocks intimacy for readers—trust that we will not hold back any necessary element of the journey, trust that the characters will share the most secret parts of their souls, trust that we will bleed on the page.

A few talented authors appear to fulfill the Hierarchy of Readers’ Needs intuitively. Seemingly with little effort, they create memorable characters, journeys toward goals readers want to embrace, rhythms of conflict that evoke empathy for their characters’ growing pains, and intimacy. The truth is that intimate fiction happens the same way intimacy is achieved in real life—with intentionality. To be intentional we must study and understand the techniques of our craft, but always apply these techniques with a focus on the reasons readers pick up books in the first place.

How do you intentionally help readers share your characters’ emotions? What do you do to show readers that your stories are written for them, or is your writing mostly about you?



DL Fowler is the author of a book on writing craft, Transform Your Fiction and shares his tips on writing through workshops for new and experienced authors. He lives in Gig Harbor, Washington and has authored the critically acclaimed biographical novel, Lincoln Raw, as well as two suspense novels, Ripples and Lincoln’s Diary.



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Top 10 Reasons to take the Anthropology, Archaeology & Romance Writer Workshop

Have you always secretly wanted to be Indiana Jones? Lara Croft? How about Temperance “Bones” Brennan? Today I’m on the FF&P Blog!


Come and check out my Top 10 Reasons to take the Anthropology, Archaeology, & Romance Writer Workshop. This is a fun read – and promotes a workshop I developed as a choose-your-adventure!

Write on,




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The Stones of Kaldaar Review


I received The Stones of Kaldaar by Tameri Etherton in exchange for an honest review. And I’m so glad she messaged me because the story hooked me from the start!

First, a bit about the author: Tameri Etherton is the author of the Song of the Swords fantasy series. She also writes steamy romance under the name Tameri Tiara. Tameri writes “kickass heroines” and “hot heroes” (my favorite romantic combo!)

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Author: Tameri Etherton

Title: The Stones of Kaldaar (Song of the Swords #1)

The Stones of Kaldaar is an epic fantasy about a woman named Taryn and her role in Aelinae’s future. She was raised on Earth without knowledge of who or what she was. She and her guardian traveled to her birth planet. Between the dark and light, one woman needs to decide who she is and what she stands for.

I loved this story.

About Aelinae – and one of the reasons I’m ranking this as a 5 star – is because of the maps and details in the novel and online. You can find Aelinae World Maps on her website. Call me a dragon geek, but ever since the Hobbit, I have a fondness for tracing character movements through maps and create my own maps for my universes. It adds something concrete to the fantastic and makes it feel more real.

If you love fantasy because of the deep world building and the fantastic characters, go read this book.

My rating: yellow-star-hiyellow-star-hiyellow-star-hiyellow-star-hiyellow-star-hi

Five stars. Epic fantasy with romance and an whole new world to explore! I will read this again!



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