Author Archives: ashkrafton

Grand Launch BlogHop – Broken words whispered in the Dark

Grand Launch BlogHop – Broken words whispered in the Dark.

Join the Kintsugi Poets as we celebrate dark poetry…the Kintsugi Poets Society is celebrating our grand launch with a poetry blog hop. Enjoy!

The society welcomes dark poets to join…check the blog for information.

via Grand Launch BlogHop – Broken words whispered in the Dark.

Local Author Event: Schuylkill County

Mahanoy City, PA: Speculative fiction author Ash Krafton will be appearing at a book talk at 1 PM Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at the Mahanoy City Public Library, where she will share her work, sign books, and announce the release of her second urban fantasy novel BLOOD RUSH.

BLOOD RUSH: BOOK TWO OF THE DEMIMONDE continues the tale about a woman who finds herself inextricably submerged in a world of demivampires, werewolves, and mystical oracles. Set in fictional Balaton, a city in southeast Pennsylvania, Blood Rush follows an advice columnist-turned-oracle named Sophie whose empathic talents have earned her a revered place within Demivampire society.

Krafton first began the Books of the Demimonde with BLEEDING HEARTS (Pink Narcissus Press, 2012), a story that combined vampires and ancient Egyptian mythology. The story follows the race of demivampires, whose origin lies with the Egyptian god Horus, the falcon-headed god of the sky. The demivampires aren’t the only supernatural beings with divine ancestry–Horus is also the forefather of Werekind. “There is a long-standing tension between the demivamps and the weres in my story,” Krafton says. “Despite their common ancestry, there is a lot of misunderstanding and prejudice. Sophie finds herself in the middle of the two races and learns that the demivamps aren’t the only ones who depend upon her for a little bit of redemption.”

Krafton also explores the demivamp equivalent of drug abuse and its consequences. Consuming blood for pure thrill is a misuse of the resource and is called “blood rush” for the high it creates. Illicit use can further a demivamp’s change into full vampire, the change known to the DV as “evolution”. Unfortunately, it’s also the only available treatment for a certain DV condition, one that has afflicted a close friend’s daughter. Sophie finds herself playing a dangerous game with Rodrian, her ex-lover’s brother, when he gets hooked on blood rush–and her.

BLOOD RUSH: BOOK TWO OF THE DEMIMONDE (Pink Narcissus Press) is available May 14, 2012 in trade paperback and e-book formats.

Pushcart Prize nominee Ash Krafton is also the author of a growing list of novels, short stories, and poetry. She resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region with her family and bossy German Shepherd dog.

The book talk is scheduled for 1 PM on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Junior high to adults are welcome to attend the session. Books will be available for purchase and the author will be holding a raffle.

Using Writing Contests to Improve One’s Game

Long before my first book was published, I was hard at work, putting the manuscript through some very vigorous paces.

Since it was my first book, I wanted a litmus test before I started flinging it at agents. I wanted to toe the waters of publishing before plunging in. I wanted to feel my way cautiously through the dark instead of bumbling through it.

Publishing had become my sport. Was I ready to query agents? Was my manuscript ready? I ‘d be going up against some pretty tough competition. I couldn’t go out on the field unprepared so I practiced…by competing.

Confused? Don’t be. What I mean to say is I entered my manuscripts into writing contests.

Entering contests helped me to do all that and more. Besides learning the rules of formatting and preparing submissions, besides the dubious joys of preparing several synopses, I received invaluable critique, peer-based feedback, and lessons in surviving rejection. These experiences helped me to grow from an amateur hobby writer into a more polished professional who had her eyes on the prize.

Once I had completed the first draft, I decided to spend a full year entering every competition that fit my manuscript. As a result, my synopsis and first chapters were submitted to perhaps a dozen different novel writing contests. Several contests—especially those offered by writers groups whose main objective is to help writers improve their craft and get their writing up to publishable standards—returned entries with heaps of comments on the pages as well as score sheets that provided me with the litmus test I wanted. (Houston Writers Guild and our very own Pennwriters are both excellent examples.) While other contests offered critique for a fee, I was able to avoid extra cost by simply choosing the right contests.

Contests also provided great feedback. Currently, my “betas” are readers, not writers or others in the publishing business. While reader feedback is very valuable, it lacks the aspect of knowledgeable constructive criticism. Back when I was a newbie writer, I had zero access to a writer’s critique group. When I began competing, the judges became my circle of well-meaning peers. Thanks to the feedback , I made some excellent revisions. (I also ignored a lot of personal opinion, just like in a real group.)

My favorite “feedback” example: I failed one contest quite miserably because my formatting stunk. While the formatting kept me on the sidelines, I got the opportunity to be evaluated by a third judge who spent a great amount of time commenting and suggesting ways to improve. She admitted the formatting mess was too great to ignore but said I was so close—I had a real chance with this book. That encouragement was my candle in the window.

Best of all, participation in writing competitions steeled my heart against the slings and arrows of rejection. I failed to place in many of the contests. Not seeing my name on some of the results letters was a little disappointing. However, actually seeing my name on a few of the results letters was a huge boost.

I started with honorable mentions. I made recommended changes and revisions and tweaked my synopses. I earned a second place, complete with a gorgeous ribbon and—gasp!—a check. Eventually, I won first place and grand prize overall in a contest I never dreamed of winning.

Grand prize. Say it out loud. I do, whenever I need one little victory to heal the sting of a rejection. Dealing with anonymous judges is far less personal than dealing one on one with agents. Writers new to the game may find it easier to hear a “no” from a contest before they hear one from their dream agent (mine rejected my query twice. I guess once wasn’t enough?)

Perspective. That’s how I would sum up my entire contest experience. In 2007 I had much to learn about writing, and thanks to the critiques, I knew what direction to follow. I needed peer review; many writers and editors gave me the feedback and encouragement I craved. I won some, I lost some, and I learned the rules of the rejection game. It made querying a lot less abrasive.

A writer who is unsure if that manuscript is ready for an agent would do well to take a chance at entering a contest or two. If you want to play the publishing game, you need to practice first—and a writing competition may just be the perfect scrimmage for your manuscript.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash’s blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her newly released urban fantasy “Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde” (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).

This article first appeared on the Query Tracker blog.

Headlines and Hooklines: Writing a Press Release

Yesterday morning I thought I’d do something nice for my book…so I sent out my press release to almost a dozen newspapers around my area, hoping someone will pick up my story and run with it.

I know this sounds a little intimidating to novice writers (and perhaps a few not-so-novice ones as well.) Press releases sound like terribly official and extremely elevated forms of publicity. Celebrities and experts and gala events get press releases…not us.

But did you ever try writing one? It’s really not that bad—and it can do your book a world of good.

A press release is free publicity.

Reporters for media outlets love them because they provide content. You, as a writer, should love press releases because they tell the audience exactly what you want them to know.

Even if you don’t need a press release yet, it’s a good writing exercise. We’ve practiced writing log lines and queries and elevator pitches. With that practice came ease and familiarity with simmering our 90k word masterpiece into pure concentrated glory. Use this as another writing exercise so, when the time comes to finally make an announcement, you can rip out a press release and send it to your editor so fast her head will spin.

Exercises like these often help writers find new focus in their manuscripts, as well. Writing a press release provides a sort of goal for the work-in-progress—how you want your book to be viewed once it’s released into the world.

A Press Release is NOT an Advertisement.

The key to writing an effective press release is to keep in mind who your target is: the journalist.

Weird, right? It’s not necessarily the publication’s audience. Just as a query letter is designed to snare the agent, a press release is meant to snare the journalist and get him to explore your story further. A press release is a huge billboard that says THERE’S A GREAT STORY HERE! and it lures all the news-hungry journalists over to see what’s going on.

Advertisements are for customers, not for journalists. Journalists aren’t looking to shop—they are looking to write articles for their publication.

Never exaggerate or hard-sell your book. Write the press release as if you are an objective reporter who found a news-worthy topic. Share an overview of the book and a general bit about the author. Keep it clean, keep it short, and keep it sharp. Don’t give a journalist the excuse to skim or, worse, pass on it.

Anatomy of a Press Release

Traditionally, a press release has a few main sections: the headline, the lead paragraph, the body, the boilerplate, and the close.

Headline: the title of your press release. This is the eye-catcher, the sparkling summary, the hook. Write it as you would a hook sentence. Inspire curiosity and an intense need to read further. You can also add a subhead, which is in smaller type below the headline. It’s another sentence or two providing more information—and more hooks. They aren’t always included but since this is an exercise for some of you, go the distance for extra credit. Make those hooks sharp.

Lead Paragraph: This should be informative, nothing more. This is the spot for the who-what-where-when of the press release. If you’re promoting fiction, you have a little wiggle room. Make it interesting but make it tight.

Body: Use this paragraph to elaborate and support your news. Provide examples and author quotes and remember: you are still trying to sell this story to a journalist so write like one. Keep it clean of adjectives and sales pitches and puffed-up claims.

Boilerplate: otherwise known as the biographical section. Write a bio for yourself, much the same way you’d write in an agent query letter. Say good things about yourself, your accomplishments, or your relevant qualifications. Direct the audience to a website or point to other resources that might elaborate on the subject of your book. Again, keep it short (but make it sweet.)

Close: Your contact information. That way a reporter knows who to call to get his next story.

Additional Essential Elements

The press release also has two more details to include in order to maintain proper structure. I’ll list the parts we already discussed and slip in the missing lines in bold face.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Headline

Subhead

Lead

Body

Biography

# # #

Close

Release Information: generally written as “for immediate release” but can also be altered to fit your needs by writing, for instance, “for release after XXX date”.

# # #: Tells the reporter this is where the printable text ends.
That’s all there is to it, folks. Use this template to plug in your information and away you go. You and your book are newsworthy!

Helpful Tips

There’s a few extra nuggets of wisdom to remember.
• Use your headline as your email’s subject line.
• Keep it to one page– 400 to 500 words is the sweet spot.
• Write it in third person.
• Research your target publications and tailor the release to keep it audience-specific.
• Keep it factual. You sell yourself by giving the facts and making them interesting. No one wants fluff unless they are shopping for pillows.
• Cast a wide net—approach newspapers, online news publications, and radio stations. Can you think of other places that might promote you by reporting about your book?

That’s really all it takes to write a successful press release. It’s a unique writing exercise that gives us the opportunity to create another effective marketing tool for our books. There is a world full of free press out there—and now you know how to grab some of it.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash’s blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her newly released urban fantasy “Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde” (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).

This article first appeared on the Query Tracker blog.

Conquering the Cliche

Whether a plotter or a pantser, a novice or a pro, every writer will eventually do the same exact thing—and that’s stare at the screen, fingers poised over keyboard, planning a character’s next move.

How you handle your character’s next move will set you apart from the rest of the writing masses. Genre matters not; length matters not. What matters is whether or not that next move is a cliché.

A cliché is any expression, idea, or element that has been overused to the point of losing its original intent or effect. There are the obvious clichés, namely those turns of phrase that get used over and over (whoops, that was cliché). They are comparisons and references and descriptions that are so overused that they render the very language empty and boring.

While clichés are most often recognized as those annoying catch phrases, they can also relate to larger things like character and dialog and plot. Clichés are wicked little buggers that weaken our writing and writers should do their best to find them—and fix them.

Do The Unexpected

Clichés are often found hiding in plain sight (another cliché) whenever we let our characters act naturally—and these are the clichés that doom us to failure (probably cliché).

By acting naturally, I refer to the character doing what feels perfectly natural to us. I like to call it “First Response Syndrome”, an unhealthy story condition wherein the character acts upon his/her first—and therefore natural—response to a situation or stimulus.

When a character does exactly what we expect them to do, remember this—every other reader on the planet (cliché) is expecting them to do it, too. And that’s kinda boring.

Say your character is waiting for a bus that doesn’t seem to be slowing down for her stop.

• The natural response is to let her wait safely on the curb so she doesn’t get flattened.

• The unexpected action would be if the woman takes off her shoe and throws it at the bus, cracking the windshield. That’s more interesting.

• More interesting, still, would be if the character jumped into the middle of the street and made the bus driver slam on the brakes (technically a cliché but you know what I mean).

Do the unexpected.

Of course, there’s a difference between unexpected and ridiculous. You wouldn’t have an arthritic ninety-year old grandma jump into the street to stop traffic. (Unless, of course, we only thought she was a ninety-year old grandma but was instead an escaped acrobat who’s on the lam (cliché) and wearing a disguise. That is so not cliché.)

But, as I said–ridiculous is not a good thing and you don’t want to pull the reader out of the story. You just want to keep them on the edge of their seat (cliché).

Actions aren’t the only things that can be cliché in this fashion. Dialog can be cliché, too, even when it doesn’t contain any overused expressions. Any character who says what we expect them to say suffers from First Response Syndrome and is in dire need (cliché) of a rewrite. Don’t allow your teen protagonist to be a carbon-copy (cliché) of every other teen you know. Forbid your villain the pleasure of twisting his mustache and howling his favorite mu-hahaha laugh (no matter how cool it sounds, it’s cliché.)

Breaking The Habit

It takes effort to break a bad habit (cliché) like writing in cliché. However, the story will reap the rewards (cliché) if you can train yourself to spot them and fix them by doing the unexpected.

For instance, doing the unexpected may cause your character to come to a realization about themselves or someone else. An unexpected response may lead to heightened emotions. An unexpected response may tell the reader something about a character’s makeup that would otherwise take pages of description—in short, an unexpected response would show a quality that the writer might otherwise be compelled to tell.

Try this exercise: select a portion of your manuscript and print it out. Using a highlighter, mark everything that seems it might be cliché—look for those expressions that are done to death (cliché), scour your dialog for trite or dull responses, and mark off every reaction to a stimulus.

Then, evaluate each instance of highlighted text. Think of a different way to write over those overused phrases. Add color to dialog using emotion and fresh language. Make your character do the exact opposite of their original response.

Do any of the rewrites heighten tension? Make the character seem more interesting? Take the story in a new direction? If it’s more interesting to you as the writer, it’s going to be more interesting to the reader, as well.

What a lot of us fail to realize is that sometimes our stories get rejected not because our writing is bad but because our work is clichéd. Good isn’t acceptable anymore—our work has to be great.

Our characters need dialog that is fresh and original and our characters have to be ready to do the unexpected. Thinking past the first response will add an element of surprise and excitement to your work—and a reader who has to keep reading to find out what happens next is the reader that stayed hooked.

A hooked reader—that’s not a cliché… because that never gets old.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash’s blog for news on her newly released urban fantasy “Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde” (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).

This article first appeared on the Query Tracker blog.

Social Networking For Writers

It’s not going to do you any good to write an amazing book if you aren’t going to do anything to promote it.

Writing is a solitary effort, right? But networking is a team sport all the way. When you emerge from your writing cave, shiny manuscript in hand, you should already have a plan on what you’re going to do with it. Hopefully, it’s not meant to sit in a drawer or in a computer file. You want that book out there, in the hands of hungry readers. That book was meant for the world.

And the world is not a solitary kind of place.

Odds are you aren’t a famous authority on a huge platform of wisdom and fame. You may be more like me—a working mom who is trying to turn a hobby into a second job. Everyone starts small and so should we. First-time queriers agonize over the lack of an impressive bio in their query letter but few realize that often a solid online presence is enough to let an agent know you mean business.

Ever Google yourself? You should. If an agent is thinking about reading more of your work, she’s definitely going to do it. You should, too. Your online presence may be one of your first impressions.

Of course, one way to build your online presence is to get published, but that starts the whole chicken or egg type of quandary. There’s a simpler way to start…and you are probably doing it already without realizing it.

It’s called social networking.

Networking is key to the success and survival of your book. But it’s a scary prospect for an emerging writer. You’ve written your first book, have no other publishing credits, don’t have an agent or an inside track with a best-selling author, and have absolutely no courage to attend a conference…you’re as good as anonymous. Who’s going to listen to another faceless writer?

Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to remain faceless. You don’t have to remain friendless, either.

Twitter:
Can’t deny that I have been pulled into the Twitterverse, kicking and screaming. Unlike regular space, Twitterspace is not a vacuum. It’s a human soup of news and interaction and connection. I also contribute to the Query Tracker blog and, thanks to dedicated readers like @PorterAnderson, the blog gets tweeted with links and quotes to readers who may not be aware of our site.

Once I tweeted (from @ashkrafton) a shoutout with the question: What’s your #networking magic bullet? I sent it out using Lazy Shout Out, a tool that helps me get a message out to all tweeps in a certain list. (Sounds like cheating but it’s just good social media management.)

Here are some of the answers:

@eslarke Just being active on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. I interact with others and take part in discussions.

@Bri_Clark I know my platform and it’s natural for me to utilize it. I’m the belle of boise.

@nancynaigle Friends like you are my #networking magic bullet 🙂 I love meeting new people and gaining new perspectives!

@jim_devitt there is no magic bullet, you’ve got to be hitting on all cylinders, that and have a good book!

@wickedcoolflght …one of my best networking tools is @Paperbackdolls.

@heidirubymiller reciprocation and interaction

Guess what? They are all right. Read that last tweet again: reciprocation and interaction. You can’t network without putting some effort into it.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to follow each of the tweeps mentioned above. Once you do that, you can congratulate yourself for networking.

Shoutouts aren’t the only cool aspect of Twitter. You can retweet interesting tweets, too. I often pass on links to articles or inspirational quotes, anything I think my followers might find interesting. Sharing information is networking.


Facebook
is another great way to network. Visit your friends’ pages and add friends from their lists. Worst thing they can do is not accept your request, right? Visit the sites of writers who write like you do and add from their friend list as well. Also, when responding to friend requests, click the link that allows you to see “all requests.” Often it opens up the friend requests to reveal a few of *their* friends. Add them, too. You’re building bridges to other people—and bridges form the structure of a network.

If you have an account, you already know it can be used to interact with friends, acquaintances, and peers, but don’t forget the other kinds of pages.

You can start an author page (mine is http://facebook.com/AshKraftonAuthor) and invite friends to “like” your page. (The invite link is on the right side.) There’s an opportunity to buy an ad but I feel the potential bill would be too costly for an emerging writer like myself.

You can also participate in groups and perhaps start one for your own writing. Make the group reader friendly and participate regularly. You’ll be networking in no time at all.

Blogging is a quick and easy way for us to express ourselves outside our formal writing. Originally designed to be journals, blogs (short for web log) quickly evolved into an effective means of sharing information to a variety of audiences.

Blogging platforms have evolved, as well, enabling us to connect with readers using friending and following functions. Blogger.com, WordPress, and Livejournal are three of the biggest blogging platforms and can get you up and blogging in no time. I love how the blogs, in turn, offer RSS feed capabilities as well as Facebook’s “Like” and Twitter’s “Tweet This” buttons for easy sharing.

You shouldn’t stop at writing a blog; you need to read them—and comment, too. When you comment, you have the opportunity to provide a direct link to your website or blog that other readers can follow. More readers, more friends, more connections.

Blog hops are a fun way to find new blogs that focus on your interests. I participated in the Coffin Hop Horror Web Tour (October 24-31, 2011) along with a bunch of great horror writers. Readers could view a huge clickable list of different blogs and hopped (okay, it’s a Halloween hop, so I guess readers lurched or staggered) from blog to blog. The bloggers offered prizes for commenters as well as showed off their writing chops.

What do writers get out of all of this? Exposure, of course. And exposure brings new readers and new connections to the other bloggers and all of it is (say it with me) networking.

According to an article from Author Marketing Experts , blog commenting doesn’t need to turn into a time suck. Set a goal to leave a certain number a week. You may be surprised to hear that certain number doesn’t need to astronomical, either—you can gain significant exposure by commenting on as few as three to five blogs per week. And set a time limit, too. I use a kitchen timer to limit how long I fool around network via blog comments.

Goodreads, anyone? You can link your blog to your Goodreads page and Tweet your reviews. My favorite part of Goodreads is the giveaway program. I held my first giveaway this summer; I offered an anthology from my publisher, Pink Narcissus Press, in August and every day I logged in just to see how many people entered. My giveaway ended up having several hundred entrants, which really had me chuffed. Even if only a small percent of them went back to check out the book, that’s still more traffic than the book had before the giveaway. Several of the entrants made friend connections to my profile, as well. And that, friends, is networking.

Of course, these websites are the basic, most popular ones, but there is no reason you can’t use them to your advantage. The “basics” are used by millions of people around the world—and that’s a pretty big potential audience.

You don’t have to be a Wizard of SEO or a nationally-known keynote speaker. Successful networking begins at your fingertips with a click of the mouse or a Tweet of an idea. Give your book the biggest chance to succeed by reaching out to new readers, one step at a time.

Networking really is that easy.

Bio: Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer whose work has appeared in journals such as Absent Willow Review, Expanded Horizons, and Silver Blade. Ms. Krafton resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in a frame over her desk. Visit the Spec Fic Chick website at http://www.ashkrafton.com for updates on the release of her debut novel, Bleeding Hearts, forthcoming in 2012 through Pink Narcissus Press.

This article first appeared on The Query Tracker Blog.

The Writer’s Portable Brain: Keeping an Idea Notebook

I was a pharmacy intern in the early nineties, long before the digital age bloomed. My kids still can’t believe an age of paper resources ever existed (apart from dinosaurs, at least.) But yes, kids, once upon a time, people went to college without iPads or netbooks. We just had to memorize entire textbooks because it wasn’t convenient to carry around forty-five pounds of knowledge.

Trouble with being an intern was, well, being an intern. We were students who didn’t know everything because memorizing entire textbooks was a very difficult feat. I mean, a brain can only hold so much. So, we spent fortunes on pocket-sized manuals and stuffed our white coats with them and prayed that the question that got fired at us during hospital rounds would be one that had an answer in one of those books.

We also carried little notebooks inside which had clips and notes and other sorts of valuable information. Every time we heard or read something useful, we’d tuck it away in the notebook. Those little books became known as our portable brains.

A few decades later, I barely think about those stacks of textbooks and pocket references. I’m comfortable in my practice and, thanks to innumerable digital resources, I can easily look up anything I don’t know. One thing I never gave up, however, was my portable brain.

It just has different wrinkles in it, these days.

My portable brain no longer contains pharmaceutical nuggets or body surface area calculation shortcuts. It’s become somewhat more eclectic…and a lot more fun.

The Writer’s Portable Brain

One thing is still true today: my brain can only hold so much. I’ve got kids’ band practices, dentist appointments, and work issues clogging up my grey matter. (And I thought I had it bad in college. Oh, to be a kid again.)

While I am inextricably connected to my smartphone, I’m rarely seen without a notebook–much to my tech genius-husband’s chagrin. I’m the Analog Kid to his Digital Man. I like paper: the touch of it, the feel of it, the smell of it.

My notebook holds more than just words, those hastily scribbled lines that come to me when I’m on the way to work. It’s got song lyrics and photographs. Web links and museum tickets. I think it may even contain a playlist for every story I ever started. Every time I come across something inspirational or relevant, it goes into the portable brain.

After all, I never know when my muse will need a boost.

Random Access Memory

We write what we know–but we can’t know everything. That’s discouraging, to pharmacy students and writers alike. A portable brain can give us the confidence we need. There are answers in there, ones we might need in a pinch.

As the months went by in my internships, I refined the contents of my portable brain. I learned to organize it for fast reference. I removed bits that I’d memorized and ditched things that weren’t as critical as I’d originally thought. It became a lean, mean, knowledge machine.

My current PB is so much different. It’s a right brain-left brain thing, I guess.

The notebook isn’t divided into neat sections, photos in one spot and poetry lines in another. It’s a lot more linear. One thought leads to another, and that stream of thoughts is reflected in the way my pages look. It makes sense to no one but me.

And that’s okay. Every brain is different—and our portable brains are as individual as our organic ones. There is no single right way to keep a portable brain. We have the freedom to create it in our own style. After all, our muses want to have comfortable digs, don’t they?

For me, inspiration may be born in an architectural pattern or a grassy patch or a scattering of beads in a bowl. A photograph, easily captured with my ever-present phone, catches the muse and traps her—mine for future tapping. Analog Kid that I am, I like to print those photos and tuck them away inside the PB.

Sometimes, a song sets me off on a tangent. A line or two, tucked away in the brain, accompanies the thought I’d stumbled across. I can go back to the muse when I have time.

Most often, though, the notebook is there for moments I can’t write. It’s true that writers do most of our work without writing down a single word. Stories brew in our minds while we are busy doing other things—washing laundry, driving the kids to school, getting our day jobs done. We never really stop writing. There’s always a plot we’re following. A flash of dialog that works itself out. And sometimes, our computers are nowhere to be seen. Can you bear to lose those words forever?

I can’t. Portable brain to the rescue.

Paper or Plastic?

Of course, not everyone is as attached to hard copy as I am. Smartphones make it easier than ever to serve as our portable brains. You may already have the start of a splendid portable brain in your hand right now. Use it. Develop it. Fill it with muse food, everything you come across that may stimulate your writing later on.
A digital portable brain can easily bookmark websites and hold photo galleries. You can connect with Google Docs or Skydrive and tap your forebrain into them.

I use those things, too. But my sentimental attachment to papery things means my notebook still holds a place in my tech case.

Maybe one day I’ll open a Portable Brain Tea House, where writers can meet for Darjeeling and cookies and a chance to swap notebooks, just for a chance to share and show off our muses. Kind of like scrapbooking for brains.

They are scrapbooks of a sort; they are tiny chronicles of a writer’s journey, the paths our minds wander when left to their leisure. Like any scrapbook, they should be filled with the places our muses would most like to visit again.

We can all use an extra brain once in a while. A portable brain may be the solution—and, at least this one, you don’t have to keep in a jar. Bonus right there.

Speculative fiction writer Ash Krafton resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in a frame over her desk (because of its sheer awesomeness.) Visit the Spec Fic Website at http://www.ashkrafton.com for updates on the release of her debut novel, Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde, forthcoming in 2012 through Pink Narcissus Press.

This article first appeared on The Query Tracker Blog.