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When Characters Exercise Free Will

Fate is a theme that comes up in my work. The question arises whether characters have free will or if they have only one predestined choice. I would like to say they are free but sometimes in the process of writing I find only one choice can be made. I’ve had characters act outside the predetermined plot changing the entire story. One such instance a brazen character named El brought a dragon to battle which changed the plot of two books in two separate series. Originally I thought El was an enemy of all dragons. The story proved me wrong and grew more interesting as now I had factions amongst the dragons for and against El.

El is a character in my series multiverse that shows up in various stories. I have three separate series that refer to him and one in which he is a main antagonist. He is a good example of how characters can change plots because he consistently acts in unexpected ways. I write my fiction but my fiction also has its own voice. I look forward to discovering more about my book’s world and sharing that world with you.

What characters have you read about that shaped a story in unexpected ways?

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My Dreams Inspire Stories

The current story I’m writing is based on my dreams. They are highly inspirational. Often I’m able to do things I can’t in real life, like fly or attack someone with energy shooting out from my hands; I’m the hero trying to save lives or running from an enemy. One dream from years ago stands out to me. My consciousness was traveling through space and brought me to a station with a forcefield. On the other side of that forcefield was a vampire who wanted to get through the defenses so she could feed on the human that was there. A change in the field gave that vampire access she ran right past me to find and attack the person on board. I tried to run past her to get to the person but the vampire was faster. In that dream I failed to protect the innocent.

A dream like that makes me think of a horror story set in space where a person is sharing a ship with a deadly vampire on board. It could definitely get some reads. Especially because the vampire is a predator and not a romantic interest. I feel like some people would find that refreshing. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a good vampire romance, The Black Dagger Brotherhood comes to mind, but there is also a group of people who want to see the horror side of the vampire. They drink blood and threaten humanity’s existence with their superior skills (depending on the story).

What kind of vampire stories would you like to see? Share in the comments below.

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I’m Back, Check Out What I’m Writing and Reading

After a hiatus since 2018 I’m finally returning to share my thoughts and stories with you.  Today I’m 45653 words into my book. 

I’m writing a fantasy story about a call center agent who discovers she is a goddess. Andara’s journey is a dark tour through the underworld and an isolated view of heaven. Readers will sympathize with her while also hating what her enemies have done.

I’m always reading while writing and the Dark Swan, an Urban Fantasy series, by Richelle Mead was a fun adventure. I found the Dark Swan series intriguing for the travel Eugenie made from human earth to the otherworld beyond it. Two worlds so close to each other yet home to completely different cultures and people. From Shaman to Fairy Queen you follow Eugenie the main character into the fairy realms where she has to fight to protect the people she loves. I love the character arc where you watch Eugenie’s identity and worldview change. I also like the romantic element of the series where the main character falls in love with two men. I like to write stories where the character’s romantic interest is more than one person.

In my story the main character has to combat her own feelings about certain people from her past. Further she is surrounded by options for her romantic interest. Sometimes the best a character can do is not give into temptation. Andara needs time to heal and adjust to her new world.

Share what your favorite books are in the comments below. I’d love to hear what series you like and what you like about them.

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The Dragon Writers: First Prompt

  The Sci-fi/Fantasy Writers’ group I founded is The Dragon Writers, to honor Anne McCaffrey, who wrote both Fantasy and Science Fiction. The title of the group is a nod to her story The Dragonriders of Pern.


  If you haven’t read the series I recommend reading the first book. I became so immersed in her world I started role-playing as a dragon rider. That’s the kind of writing we want to do, the kind that builds a loyal fan base.


  The standard writing sample for the group is 2 pages double-spaced. Writing a short vignette for the group allows members time to go over each story and obtain individualized feedback. The advantage of getting used to writing short stories is that you learn to write concisely and to cut out what isn’t relevant.


Remember, you can follow the prompt or if it strikes your imagination do something of your own.


The prompt is “Robot” and the following is a series of questions you can use to jog your creativity.


  • Is your robot sophisticated or simple?
  • How intelligent is it?
  • What is it made of?
  • What is your robot’s purpose?
  • How are robots used in your society?
  • Is your robot’s society technologically advanced or magical?
  • How do people define robots in contrast to the native species of your world in your story?
  • How do people relate to robots?


If you need ideas for this topic Isaac Asimov is one of the foremost authors known for compelling stories featuring robots. His world building is also fantastic.


(The original prompt was given to the live group in April 2018.)

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Working Towards a Finished Story: The Dragon Writers Way!

  Becoming a published author is hard work, but there are ways of making the path work for us. I’m still working towards finishing, The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, and took conscious steps towards improving my writing. I took a writing course, which helped me gain the contacts needed to found a writers group, The Dragon Writers.


  People from my writers’ group tell me what I need to work on to make my writing stronger and vice versa. Even better, working with other writers forces me to focus on specific creative projects. As a group, we discuss our writing goals and hold each other accountable. Sometimes other writers can help us think of solutions we never thought of to our dilemmas. You can learn about that first hand by joining a writers’ group yourself!


  If there are no writers’ groups in the area you can still get prompts here on my blog. I’m going to share my writing prompts for The Dragon Writers with you. Follow my blog and once a month you’ll receive a writing prompt. The monthly posts will give you time to write, edit, and share the prompts with other writers for feedback. You can get access to the first prompt here.


  What helped you improve your writing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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The Heart of Your Story

The Heart of Your Story: Finding your drummer’s beat, the song your stories tell.

If you`re confused about what direction to take your writing or are unsure about where to go with your blog there is a solution. The answer to where to go with your writing is where your writing comes from. You may be thinking, ‘but, Laura, my writing comes from my head and I am confused’– hear me out. I came to this idea from reading Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. I was trying to figure out what my business would be. I knew I am a writer with many fiction ideas, but how would I marry my fiction to a non-fiction blog? I was so arrested by notions of how I would move forward with business and writing, I forgot my motivation for writing itself. Why do I write? I thought I knew the answer. I said to myself I have cool dreams and ideas for stories I want to share. No, that wasn’t the core drive behind my writing. Sharing cool dreams and ideas was a reason I could write and share that writing but not my motivation for writing. Maybe for you, there is the same block; you don’t know the core drive for your writing and therefore can’t find direction.

Here is how I found my reason for writing:

I sat down with Carl Jung’s concept of shadow work and thought about my deepest and darkest self. What is the ugliest part of who I am and what bad things does she do and why? It was not easy because the shadow self is the self we repress and hide from. This article on shadow work from the blog, High Existence, will help bring you some clarity in regards to what shadow work is and why it is important.

When I met my fear and pain I began to see what was at the core of what I truly want out of life. My why, the core of all I do, also touches my writing. My stories are written to create a home, to create a path for my characters to grow into themselves, and into a community. That why is the same for myself; I am here to build community, to share stories, to grow as a person, and to find my tribe. Home is about living in safety and according to my personal truth. I want to live authentically, comfortable with my tribe who shares my values and to grow a community built from love and in the pursuit of self-betterment. Self-betterment and building home isn’t always a pretty journey, but it is a goal worth pursuing. I share this deeply personal truth with you to help you understand how to confront your own true motivation.

No one person can give you the magic answer of your ‘why’; it is in you, the answer to your personal truth. Ask yourself why do I write and what do I want to truly achieve? The motivation within is beneath surface motivations and lodged deep within your psyche.

Home as a growing into self, with others, and a community was such a powerful drive for me and such a powerful concept that it changed the way I write. Everything I do has renewed purpose and I feel more connected to my readers than ever before. I know I can make fulfilling business and write more purposefully now that I have my ‘why.’ What is your ‘why’?

Feel free to leave comments or questions below.

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The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, Chapter 4.2 by Laura Zabala



 Two cops escorted a woman with her hands bound behind her back. Flashes went off as cameras took pictures of the 6’2, skinny, dark-eyed criminal. The reporters standing at the scene asked questions.

 “Why did you do it?”

 “Why did you burn them?”

 “Are you a paranormal?”

The scene cut off. A woman and man dressed in suits behind a desk came into view on the television. “It turns out the criminal known as, Soul Eater, who had captured women and burning them in ritualistic killings, is, in fact, a woman herself. As of yet, there is no explanation for her motivations–” Tanaka shut off the television. It had been a few weeks since Zara went to the Rosario facility. The date of her release was still undetermined. Izzy was sitting at the armchair one of her legs folded up casually. They had watched the television in 2D just to catch the news.

 “So one of the first questions they ask is, ‘are you a paranormal?’ Do you think the cops in that district will keep her identity classified?”

Tanaka put a hand to his temple briefly before resting his hands on his legs formally, “Ryan was worried about this precinct. I don’t trust them to keep her information under wraps.”

 “It would be too much to hope for some secrecy. I’m sure soon enough everyone will know she’s paranormal. But, a woman doing all that? I mean women can lift other women sure, and this chick was big. However, why?”

 “Yes, statistically these crimes are mostly committed by men. Then again, statistically paranormal investigators are most likely men and look at Zara. Be upfront with me, Izzy, do you think she’s it?”

Izzy locked eyes with Tanaka, “I don’t doubt this woman killed some, but the big fish, the one who hurt Zara, is still out there.”

Tanaka stood, “I had a feeling. Are you going to come with me to the meeting?” He held out his hand and Izzy took it. She stood and immediately released his hand. The touch felt odd to her. Rarely did they ever come into physical contact. In a way, she felt almost like she was touching a part of Zara. Tanaka turned without a second glance and she followed him out of the house. They walked to the docking station to catch a car to the Food Tier. They were going to have dinner with Ryan.


 “Zara, would you like to continue your EMDR therapy this session?”


Zara’s psychologist, Ms. Biswani asked every session whether she was up to it. Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, or EMDR, was a way of forcing the brain to process traumatic memories. When Zara went through her trauma she dissociated and her memories did not go through her brain the way they normally would. That’s why the emotions, sensations, and visions of the memory were so strong and could come back with no warning. By using EMDR, Zara had to relive the emotions, feelings, and sensations of her trauma to force her brain to process the memory, which was done by stimulating both sides of her brain. Ms. Biswani would ask her to tap her feet in time while listening to a specific set of tones to carry out the process. EMDR was exceedingly exhausting on Zara’s body and mind. However, she never denied a session because she wanted to get out of the Rosario facility and prevent anyone else from suffering at the hands of that monster. Although there were times she simply crawled into the fetal position unable to do anything at all. A part of her argued she didn’t have to do a thing. She could go back to her life and completely restart it, pursue a different career. Zara would be more than justified to do so, but then could she trust anyone else to do what was necessary? Who would take her place?


Ms. Biswani prompted Zara to think about a certain set of vulnerable emotions and memories to process. Zara’s body shook in pain as she processed the scene she picked. She could feel the pain of her wounds and the overarching terror. Zara tried to maintain her breathing and the rhythm of her tapping movements. As the highly charged sensations and memories passed through her body and mind she began to feel them flow away. For now, she could power through the scene and process that particular set of feelings: guilt, helplessness, and physical pain; however, once Zara finished her session more memories and emotions would crop up. She would be apt to have more panic attacks. Zara would be sensitive. Not that she wasn’t already struck by terror at random. Zara also had night terrors that made her body sweat. When she woke sometimes she was out of breath and barely able to move. Her body lost the majority of its energy even now with the process. By the time she was done she would barely be able to walk back to her room.


 Ryan sat drinking a hot chocolate with whipped cream. He had a bagel with cream cheese toasted to pair with it and some scrambled eggs. So what it wasn’t breakfast-time? That’s what Jersey diners were for. It was 11 pm when Tanaka and Izzy ambled in. Izzy walked behind Tanaka and Tanaka didn’t offer for her to sit first like he would with Zara. He simply shoved in and Izzy ended up sitting opposite Ryan at the booth. Ryan recalled the one other time he met her, Tanaka waited for her to sit too, but that was when Zara was around. It didn’t sit right with Ryan, a lady should sit first, it was a tradition in his family. Granted, there were plenty of gender types that weren’t in common nomenclature when the tradition started. Maybe he should let tradition go, it just didn’t fit in the world anymore.

“Hello Izzy, Tanaka.”

“Ryan,” they said in unison. They awkwardly looked at one another before grabbing the menus the server left for them.

Diners were such a sensation with real cooks and servers like the old days before technology took over everything. The fact that the job even existed at all was because the cook wanted to cook with real people to work with. The servers wanted to be there and he paid them so they did not need tips. The price to eat out at a place with real humans serving was not as high as one would expect given the novelty. People also liked the novelty of giving tips.

“To think some of these people might make more than me in my government-funded job.” Ryan was a cop because that was the only job he wanted to do. Besides, it was a way of protecting his wife and child.

Tanaka watched the server approach, she wore an apron with a pocket. She pulled out a pad and pen, such materials were costly and part of the mystique of the diner. Zara would love this place.

“What’ll it be?” The server said, leaning back on one leg. Her lipstick dark, she was chewing gum.

“I’ll have a hot chocolate and pancakes,” Izzy folded her menu and put at the end of the table.

“Did you want toast or eggs with that?”

“No, thank you.”

“Bacon or sausage?”

“Sausage, sure.”

The server faced Tanaka and Izzy looked as well.

Tanaka put his menu down, “I’ll have the fish with rice and vegetables. And a hot tea to drink.” He cringed knowing the tea would come in a packet and most likely be microwaved, but he also knew he didn’t feel like having an iced drink.

“I’ll be right back with your drinks.” The server left, the smell of menthol lingered. Smoking was an unhealthy habit that was not outlawed though largely frowned upon.

Tanaka ignored the smell though Ryan noted that Izzy crinkled her nose.

“So onto business,” Ryan paused to take a sip of his drink, “the damage to the bodies changed with this most recent series of attacks.”

Tanaka leaned forward, “that would make sense if the most recent attacks weren’t carried out by the original.”

Ryan nodded and put a napkin to his mouth before setting it down on the table.

“The burns had a trail up from the navel but they were wispy looking,  not as strong a line. The face had burned but no intense charring. If the woman captured was responsible she didn’t have the same, ‘appetite.’”

Izzy put her hand on the table, “I know this isn’t much consolation, but the fact that it went public will mean people will be more apt to wear protective nano-skins, which would aid in slowing down the process and minimizing damage.”

Tanaka crossed his arms, “but, that won’t stop people from dying and we won’t be able to catch anyone in time– unless we have someone who can see the criminals and catch them.”

Izzy rubbed her arms, “These criminals aren’t hiding so yes. I have a list for Ryan. The problem is will the police force believe they are easier to track? Or will they think paranormals were covering the criminals from the beginning?”

Ryan held up his hand, “wait a minute. You’re telling me there are more imitators that are going to show up?”

“Yes,” Izzy’s eyes were troubled. Tanaka looked at her his eyes concerned, but he didn’t move to comfort her.

Izzy opened her flimsy and pulled up a file. “These are my visions and I am submitting them formally as a witness to you. The file includes descriptions of locations and criminals.”

Once the file was uploaded to Ryan’s flimsy, Tanaka put his hand on the table.

“Do not let the media paint all paranormals as corroborators or terrorists.”

Ryan sighed and looked down. The server arrived with Izzy and Tanaka’s food and set it down quickly.

“Need anything else?”

“No, we’re fine,” Tanaka said. Izzy immediately started eating her food.

“I can’t promise things will work in our favor with the public, but I will find someone to be your voice. A non-paranormal ally to defend your group, if I can’t.”

Screams from outside the diner could be heard. Ryan motioned for Tanaka and Izzy to remain seated. A bar next door had a group outside yelling.

“Paranormals kill our women and dare to breathe our air!” A single rage-filled man was yelling.

A man was crumpled on the ground and the woman with him was too. People threw their drinks at them.

“How dare you take our lives?”

Ryan pulled out his police flimsy and activated the alarm, “stand down. Police, freeze!”

The people who he saw attack the victims, and the speaker inciting violence all had their flimsies active. Ryan tethered their flimsies to his own to report the incident. Even if they ran away the cops would track them down. If he needed he could send an electric shock through their devices. So everyone carefully put their hands up and turned. The people on the ground stood carefully. They would be expected to make a statement about the incident.

“For your information,” Ryan said addressing the disgruntled drunks, “all of the victims were paranormal, not standards.” The onlookers made hushed sounds of surprise. Apparently, the news had left that detail out. Izzy explained everything that was happening outside to Tanaka because she had seen it already.

“It looks like we have another problem on our hands,” he said, exasperated. They would have to set extra security measures for the Paranormal Investigation Task-Force and home. Violence was not above people even in this century.


Journal Entry, Rosario Facility, Date Unknown


I can’t say what I am feeling– the drugs blacked out that part of me. Broken, my feeling-self is huddled somewhere beneath chemicals and apathy. After the most recent panic attack, which left me almost bedridden for a day – I decided being tranquilized was better than rejecting my medicine. The nurses and my counselor asked if I wanted to take visitors yet – my answer is still ‘no.’ I am the only patient who is rejecting visitors. I do not want them to know me as the broken vessel I have become. I know the business will survive without me. A small part of me hopes it will fail. I don’t want to see the “monster” again. By monster, I don’t mean literal and I haven’t reduced my attacker to some nightmare. I know he is very much human. What I mean is, I have known that place where free will dies and my body is no longer mine. Any person or practice that can impart the knowledge of that helplessness and savor it – in my opinion, is a monster. My agency hunted people who stole, did wrong, ran way, committed crimes of abuse, but this person who takes everything. This person who would damage a body so, and can kill without remorse such as I have known, within inches of death after hours of torture– well, I had thought comfortably I would not face such a monster among paranormals. We a people, very much discriminated against have that sense of powerlessness, but to meet one of my own who would torture me in such a way. Well, I can say, such an experience was beyond my understanding before now– as it would be to anyone who has not known the weakness of flesh so intimately. When you have no way to defend, protect or stand up, but someone else holds all the access to your most vulnerable self– violently taken, there is no return from that place to who you were before that moment. It is hard for me to hide in my skin now. I can’t bear to live in this body so violated. My consciousness hangs just outside of myself watching– wishing this body weren’t mine. I can’t face Tanaka and Izzy, let alone myself.


Zara stood on the cold tile floor. She wore no socks against the nurse’s wishes. She huddled against a wall where a shadow was cast just out of sight. A smile on her face, claiming her feet in this act of rebellion.

 “–But, she is so coherent and well spoken.”

 “That’s when she is on the medicine. Without it, she is a quivering ball. She keeps trying to go off of it.”

 “Her chart doesn’t give details. All we can glean is someone attacked her physically, possibly sexually. That’s why she is so unstable.”

 “How was she attacked? By who?”

Zara stopped listening. She happened to catch them talking about her case again. She walked out from the shadows. They felt comfortable continuing their conversation because of her vacant gaze as she walked. No one mentioned her bare feet. They probably felt she was a lost cause at that moment. ‘I should fake my way out of here.’ Zara realized, she was paying for help they couldn’t give. None of them had ever been broken like her as far as she could tell. Nor, could they avenge her. She was here to become “normal” again and as her time in the ward waned on, Zara realized she would never be, “normal” again. Funny being paranormal she thought she was weird. That difference was nothing compared to being one of “them” — the broken ones. Zara found herself relating more to Betty, the schizophrenic woman who wet and shit herself often. Betty had moments of clarity when she knew the staff and who she was. At those times she was coherent enough to know the staff complained about her. Zara felt her humanity. Though at times Betty couldn’t even figure out she was 35 now with kids. She was lost in some other world where the demons were. The staff had a way of favoring the more “normal” people. Zara had been teetering between Betty’s lost mind and star patients who just got in the ward by a “lapse in mental judgment.”

Yet, Zara felt safe in her small, no privacy world. Maybe she should stay where reality couldn’t eat her.


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Rantings of a Busy Writer

Hey, everyone,

So I know it’s been a while since I posted. I recently had an increase in work hours and some personal life stuff that got in the way of the blog. I apologize for leaving you guys hanging with The Alter Mysteries. I’ve had the next post for a few weeks and just couldn’t seem to get it right. I now feel comfortable with what I’ve come up with so I’ll make a post to share it on my site. I’ve recently been debating changing the theme of my blog and wondering where I am going with my brand. So there has been a lot on my mind about making this blog and my writing more accessible. You may see me experimenting a bit with different things to see what sticks.

My writing tends to have a paranormal or fantasy element to it. That is the most consistent thing across the board for all my stories. Most of my stories originate from my dreams, which are quite fantastical. So I’ve been thinking about revitalizing the blog in that direction. I follow podcasts that talk about writing being a business and branding. For people like me that want to self-publish establishing a brand is super important. So I’m trying to learn what I can about marketing. I’m trying to find my main outlet for sharing, podcasting, videos, writing blog posts? I’m not quite sure what approach works for me. Some authors find membership in certain sites helps them to spread the word about their books. I feel like in the early stages of developing my brand this is so hit and miss for me.

Busy season at my job is coming up and all I can think about is how it runs right through  Nanowrimo and makes writing/marketing myself even harder. I like participating in Nanowrimo every year because I feel like it helps me to reinforce a healthy writing regimen – you can’t edit or market a book that hasn’t been written. You need a product in order to have something to offer. For me, my writing is more than a product though, it’s a part of me. So wrapping my head around putting my work out there it’s like putting myself on display. Anyone who publishes a book is putting themselves on display, now I just have to figure out how to arrange my display.

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The Alter Mysteries flash fiction post, The Table, is up free and, Doll, is available on Early Access.

Hello everyone,

The most recent post of The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, The Table, has been up free since Sunday. TRIGGER WARNING alert for the post, The Table, because someone goes through some pretty horrible events in the scene. We get up close and personal with The Agent, which may be too much for some though by no means the most gory stuff out there. Today the next post in the series, Doll, is up on my Patreon for early access. Doll, shows you some of the aftermath of the attack and how it impacts characters’ relationships. Each post of The Alter Mysteries flash fiction is about 1500 words in length so you can read it in flash fiction format from the first post here. Or, if you prefer to read consolidated chapters check out this link.

For those of you who are new to The Alter Mysteries, it is a speculative flash fiction set in the near future that follows the Paranormal Investigation Task-force while they hunt down paranormal criminals. The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow follows the paranormal investigator, Zara, while she pursues a serial killer that threatens the safety of paranormals in society.

I’ve been having fun playing with present tense in the series to get more inside the head of the killer and Zara at times. I’ve been wondering if I should just leave the entire series consistently in past tense. What do you think based on the scenes you’ve read?

Remember, if you want to tip me for my work you can become a patron on my Patreon. Thank you for following the series guys, please share and comment below!

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The Alter Mysteries Free Post and Early Access Warning for 3.3

Hello everyone,

Last week’s post, Priviledge Gained, is now up free. The newly free post follows Izzy and Zara’s date. I love seeing them together they’re so cute. Although that doesn’t mean its all rainbows and sunshine on their date—they are a poly couple in the real world. Today’s free post is a little break from crime before your thrust violently into the post released on early access today, The Table, which will be free on Sunday. If you would like early access ($3 tier and above patronage) and want to tip me for my hard work you can become a patron on my patreon (where you can also get access to all previous, The Alter Mysteries, posts free).

  Trigger warning for anyone with trauma experience the early access post, The Table, that is going up free next week is gritty. I dissociated like three times, had to force myself to live in it to write it. The scene from post 3.3 is important, which is why I suffered through writing it. I won’t say why, instead I hope when people read it they can see for themselves. The early access post, 3.3, is three times the normal post size in honor of July 4th. Though the content itself has nothing to do with Independence Day, or the United States specifically, but about the human condition and the realities of trauma.

Thank you for following my blog guys! What do you think of Izzy and Zara’s date?

—Laura Zabala