Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Killing Darlings

In writing, the term "kill your darlings" refers to a writer's ability to cut contenteven the content they love the mostto serve the overall story.

In fiction, I think I'm okay at doing this.

For example, did you know there's an entire draft version of Starbreaker where one of the main POV character's is Wanda?

Oh, the stuff she shows you! And her hilarity is its own brand.

But 100% of it got cut to serve the overall storyas were the Jack and Kali POVs throughout the main body of the story.


Wanda's POV got cut because it raised far more questions than it answered, all while distracting away from the point of the actual story.

Jack and Kali's POVs got cut because they bogged the pace and reduced tension with their interruptions.

Was there stuff in those points of view I wanted to keep?


Was there stuff in there you would have liked to read?

I like to think: Also, yes.

But a storyteller's job is to tell a story, not include chapters according to what their favorite parts are.


Every day, great lines get cut from productions, awesome scenes get removed, and pivotal exchanges stay behind the scenes.


Because that's how magic works.

I know a few magicians who are moving from the realm up up-close magic to full stage productions. Uncounted hours of work and meticulous setup, all in the name of pulling off 15 minutes of entertainment.

And there is constant editing and cutting in the name of making future shows better and better.

Why am I talking about this?

Well, because life is a lot like art. Some might say life IS art.

And, sometimes? We have to kill our darlings in real life.

Not people, of course, but what we consider to be our best ideas ... those thoughts that charm us and whisper that they have the potential to be great, even though their final trick is something no one would line up to see.

Sometimes, our darlings are life hacks so nerdy that people don't even know what they supposed to see when you say, "Ta-da!" to draw attention to what you've revealed miraculously.

You just pulled off a trick to such a degree that everyone watching is like, "Wait ... what? I'm confused. What am I supposed to see?"

That's when you're reminded that there's a difference between "looking" and "seeing."

Because we all have things we see where we can't help but think, "Am I the only one seeing this?"

The list of things we see through diverse eyes is pretty endless. But, going back to the idea of killing darlings, focusing on these things we see (and how we see them) and trying to get others to see like that shouldn't necessarily be a narrative that makes it into our life's final draft.

I'm learning (a bit late, I grant you) that it might just be that those things stay in the realm of "magic."

For example, someone might have a knack for always seeing if pictures are hung crooked...

... but not many people are all that interested in someone who lectures about straightening pictures. That said, most people also don't mind if their pictures are miraculously straightened while they aren't looking. (Or they might not even notice.)

That's because some things in life are better left as being known as your personal magic than your personally branded lecture series.

Life's just more fun that way, and life is more fun for everyone when we find ways to turn hard work in to play.

Why am I saying all this?

Well, because it's time for me to kill a darling, and I guess I'm feeling a little melodramatic about it.

You see, I've been working on deconstructing a very specific magic trick over the past 3 years, or so. And I've put a ton of time into itdefinitely more than 3 years worth of part-time jobs.

So I'm investedjust like anyone is when they go all-in on trying to fix a problem ... and try and fail. And try again. And fail again. Then quit only to reconsider ... and try again. And fail. Again...

... until one day a base recipe underscoring all the iterations suddenly starts to appear: My very own personal recipe for spotting metaphorical crooked pictures, with detailed instructions on how to straighten them.

Gosh. Who wouldn't want such a recipe? amiright? ;)

I can tell you from personal experience that when you discover the linchpin of a magic trick all on your own, in that celebratory moment of discovery, that thought makes perfect sense.

Once I had my recipe, my inner-nerd was like, "THIS IS GREAT! EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW THIS!"

But guess what?

Sometimes it's great that you've learned to spell out a thing, but the price you must pay is that your demand for a solution was always, basically, a party of one.

Because, in business, there's whole thing called "demand." And if your great idea has no existing audience, you can either go-for-broke trying to create one, or you can accept the fact that its time to kill a business darling.

That's where I am.

And the darling I must leave on the cutting room floor (for now) are the 8 Major Conversational Tones.

I am, of course, primed to reverse this decision at any time. But the fact is that I can count the interest-level for this "picture-straightening course" on one hand, and I'm a grown adult who has to make a living.

So, for this phase of my life, the 8 Major Tones goes to the cutting room flooreven though I've been ramping up to launch it this week for an all-in shot ... sometimes you've just got to read the tea leaves and move to the flow that isn't going to leave you high-and-dry, playing King of the Hill out in the middle of nowhere while clinging to your own, personal lecture series.

It's not a winning look.

If you find yourself on that path, I'd have to say that it's worth sitting down with yourself and taking an honest personal inventory about why you feel the need to do what you're doing.

I had to.

In my case, the aftermath of how social dynamics changed during and after the 2016 election was insanely disruptive to me. And my motive in creating my system was to show people how it happened the first time and how it's ramping up to happen againlike an aftershock that may or may not be as disruptive as the first one.

I may not be able to change WHAT happens, but I can highlight the HOW of it by revealing how the "magic tricks" are done.

But lives are busy, and even the high IQs I know found the content I was presenting steep, so... yeah...

Steep Learning Curve + Emotional Content = Maybe Not A Winning Recipe

So I'll be pressing pause on the 8 Major Conversational Tones, while creating an introductory page to how I was thinking to pull the concept off before moving on to other things.

If my little eulogy for this particular darling has caught your interest, you can see the concept page with the basics of the 8 Conversational Tones concept and how I was planning to roll it out here.

Feel free to check it out!

The 8 Major Tones might be some of my best work, but in the realm of real-world darlings, it's about to become a casualty ... because maybe art and life aren't as different as we'd like to think.

And that's today's update.

Also, a reminder that all 3 Pimpernel books are available in ebook and paperbacks, and free reads on Kindle Unlimited.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019 Forecast

I actually wrote a whole other post for you today, but then I realized that I was just spelling out things I needed to see myself, and that you didn't really need to read any of it.

So I'm starting fresh.

The reason I wrote that first draft is because things are changing in my neck of the woods, and I'm the type of person who likes to think things through before I act.

I can be quite the thinker when it comes to change ... like, the analysis-paralysis type ... that person who freezes at the sound of porch chimes whenever there is a shift in the wind.

And I sense a change in the winds heading my way. Quite a bit of a shift, if my inner-chimes are to be believed.

Sensing such an approach is a bit like watching an incoming tsunami and trying to plan your triage of the aftermath in advance.

On one hand, such well-intentioned earnestness in the face of such intensity is adorable; on the other hand, it is an exercise of naïve futility to pretend you know the first thing about what will come next after an ocean over-runs you.

The good news is: It all feels like it's going a good direction.

The unsettling news is: Unforeseen change is involved. *cue: control issues*

Now, while I can't predict anything in advance, I do like to be a good neighbor and send out a public notices when it comes to things like this so that no one is surprised who doesn't want to be.

So here's my DISCLAIMER for the upcoming year: 2019 may see you seeing different things from me.

Some of the changes I see coming are:

  1. Platform shifts
  2. Experimentations with style 
  3. Lots and LOTS of research

And here's my super-vague, wish-I-could-triage-in-advance-but-this-is-all-I've-got look at what's to come:

Per #1 (Platform Shifts), I've felt for a while that I need to do a podcast. It's an idea that hangs out with me daily and it's growing more and more specific in its focus.

The focus that is calling to me is to have honest conversations with people.

Nearly everyone I know is so stressed and feels like people once close to them can no longer be spoken to. It's kind of amazing how much the results of the last presidential election impacted day-to-day relationships around me.

Once fast-friends are now distant, formerly distant friends are now rhetorical allies, and everyone is stretched thin and emotionally exhausted.

Nearly every time I hang out with someone, it's made mention that they don't feel they can speak their thoughts honestly anymore for fear of losing work, reputation, or relationships.

And it's a two-way street. No one on either side of the political aisle is free in this divide. All are taxed in stressful ways.

So I think it would be fun to have a podcast of honest conversations and see if maybe there is a way to find some healing.

Per #2 (Explorations in Style), this is actually the topic I wrote that whole big blog about before pressing delete and cutting it down to saying this:

The more I write these days, the more words want to come out a new way that seems a bit odd to me. Sometimes I write it read it back and am left wondering if I actually said what I thought I said, or if I'm taking a giant step back in my delivery.

In many instances, I honestly can't tell.

That said, it's a style I want to explore. So you'll probably see me start sharing things soon that read a bit differently than you're used to seeing from me.

One sure sign I'm playing in new waters is the koi fish, KOI PHILO, a friend illustrated from my design to give me luck and flow along my way.

So if you see KOI PHILO looking at you like this:

... that's definitely me exploring and trying new, concise deliveries to see if I can execute them with success.

Feedback (and sharing) is welcome--especially if your feedback is related to whether you get what I'm saying or not.

You see, I had a bit of an eye-opening revelation as I was poking around with a research side-project (my 8 Major Communication Tones system). One thing I learned while developing it is that I have demonstrable gap between what I am able to see and what I convey when trying to communicate a process I'm creating to others.

While I was grappling with this, someone who was giving me feedback on the project reminded me of two words I've never really used before, but are about to become my theme-words of this upcoming year.

And, since we're all bibliophiles here, I'll share them with you:

Perspicuity - the ability to be clear or precise in presenting a thing (ability to explain)
Perspicacity - perception or insight into a topic (ability to understand)

What I have discovered in this new writing style that wants to come out is that there is a delicate balance between being able to do something and being able to teach the same thing--like someone who naturally sings Aretha Franklin trying to break down what she's doing and teach others her natural technique.

Both the performance of skills and the teaching of them require their own type of practice. Neglecting one in favor of the other is basically like being the writer-version of that buff dude who always skips leg day.

And I don't want to be that guy in this arena. This is a skill I want to teach, which means I've got to go to work--not with weights, but with balancing my input and output.

The hard part for me is embarking into such a learning curve publicly (because I need feedback to learn myself) ... giving myself permission to screw up and laugh, and posting things common sense tells me to treat as a gaffe.

The point is to learn how to be precise in presentation of potentially intricate things, and reason stands I won't get things right out of the gate every time. I get that.

But it's Learning Curve time and I would love your feedback on 3 questions, in particular:

  • How's my perspicuity doing? 
  • Do you understand what I'm saying, even if you don't agree? 
  • Can you see where our thoughts converge or diverge, or am I losing you in oversaturated obscurity?

This new style I'm trying for is a bit swooping in its delivery so it stands to reason that I might try to pack too much into one punch, only to have the end-sentence crumble under its own weight.

If that happens, feel free to let me know.

If I nail something, feel free to let me know that as well.

It's all a journey to try to write better and better stories.

Per #3 (lots and LOTS of research), well, this aspect of the upcoming year is going to be all over the map.

There's the podcast I mentioned. That will require research, as will the 8 Major Tones (which is a study of scoring language a bit like music). Then there's more transient projects that pop up on top of that.

I'm thinking upcoming research will also include travel (book 4 of the Pimpernel has a whiff of big city, East Coast). So one change I definitely hear in those metaphorical porch chimes is a call to travel a lot this year and meet tons of new people.

So if you see an excuse for me to head your way, please give me a heads up. I can be a bit of a workaholic, and sometimes I need help looking up from a computer ;)


So there you go.

This post is less a blog entry and more a disclaimer for future updates.

If 2019 doesn't look like an exploration of new potential whenever you look my way, then I'm doing something wrong. But here's to getting as much as I can right while building a treasure trove of knowledge for future books.

Hope to see you somewhere along the way!

In the meantime, thanks for the reads, reviews, shares, and support. I love sharing this ride with you!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Going Into the Eclipse

I took some pictures going into the eclipse to celebrate Starbreaker's birthday.

Photoshop isn't my thing, but you can see the progression I got to see below.

Hope you enjoyed the eclipse.

Hope you enjoy the book even more! :)

Pictures by Sheralyn Pratt

Words by Sheralyn Pratt

Friday, January 18, 2019

Starbreaker Gets Ecliptic Release Date

It’s time for a new book.

“When?” you ask.

Oh, in two days.

I hope you’re ready.

I’ve kind of been terrible at the whole marketing and building anticipation thing. I was focused on writing and, I have to say, that when a book is in my brain, I don’t multi-task well.

At all.

And Starbreaker was a bit an intense creation process for me.  I actually wrote it eight times.

Yes, eight.

Terribly inefficient, I know. Even more so since these weren’t drafts of the same, but completely different takes on the arc.

And version 8 is the one you will get in your hands this Sunday.

Why, Sunday? That’s an odd day for a book release, right? I was going to be traditional and do it on Tuesday, but then I saw something.

The last total lunar eclipse of this decade is on Sunday.

There are some other cool celestial happenings that day, too, and those prompted me to move the day up by two because there are characters in the series who are very into the stars and celestial events—one of which you’ll meet Sunday.

So I went with the sky for a release date on this one, and I really, really, really hope you like the book.
A few things to know about the moon:
  • The moon is 400X smaller than the sun but 400X closer, making them appear the same size when overlapped
  • If the moon was not tilted, there would be an eclipse every month
  • Lunar eclipses can be seen by half the earth (where it is night when the alignment takes place)
  • Lunar and solar eclipses often take place 15 days apart (not always, of course, but if you are lined up for a casted shadow on one side you are likely lined up on the other side)
  • Lunar eclipses always happen on a full moon, solar eclipses always happen on a new moon

There you go! A few fun facts to remember about the moon and lunar eclipses.

Hope you enjoyed the random tidbits, and that you enjoy the book even more! This one was a doozy to write, but I hope it all pays off as a reading experience in the end.

Hugs, and thanks for reading!!!


Friday, December 7, 2018

STARBREAKER Synopsis, Book 1 FREE for 2 Days

For those of you who have been waiting with extreme patience, PIMPERNEL: STARBREAKER is finally up on Amazon.

Release Date: January 20, 2019

It was going to be the 22nd, but then I saw there was a total lunar eclipse on the 20th and I had to go with that day.

Are you ready for the synopsis? (Of course, you are!)

Vic Davalos is one of the most successful models of her generation. She's also scheduled to be taken out by a hitman by the next new moon. 

Jack Cavanaugh, also known as the Pimpernel, has less than a week to change the woman's fate. The Cupid who brings Jack this news insists he must save Vic so true love can succeed in bringing two soulmates together who will change the world for the better. 

While Jack is always happy to stop a murder, his personal motive is to catch the Starbreaker that's been hired to make sure Vic Davalos doesn't survive past the new moon. Statistically speaking, saving Vic and catching the Starbreaker is an impossible feat. If historic lore is to be believed, no one has caught a Starbreaker since the 1700s. They are notorious for never leaving fingerprints on their handiwork and, therefore, leave no trail to follow.

A Starbreaker has to be caught in the act, or not at all.

The chances of Jack succeeding with an extemporaneous plan and only the assistance of his new Shade, Kali, are so close to zero they aren't even worth calculating.

But he has to try.


Can't wait to get this book into your hands!

To celebrate the release date, Book 1 is FREE on Amazon today (Friday) and tomorrow. If someone you know has yet to pick up a copy, now is the perfect time to get it in their hands, so feel free to share!

Get Pimpernel FREE for the next 2 days here.

Pre-order Starbreaker here.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Cover Reveal: Pimpernel Book 3

Are you ready for a new Pimpernel book this fall?

Because it's coming!

Get ready for Pimpernel: Starbreaker

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Preacher and The Pundit

One of the most viral news interviews of this year was the interview between Jordan B. Peterson and Cathy Newman. (I'd like to thanks Chris for asking me to analyze it because this is a fun one.)

If you missed this interview somehow, or need a refresher, you can check the video out above.

Jordan B. Peterson is a Canadian professor who gained fame for opposing Canada's new laws of compelled speech. The law in question deals with issues like mandating transgender individuals be referred to by their chosen pronouns.

But Peterson claims he doesn't care what the intent of a compelled-speech law is. His stance is that a government that seeks to control the words its citizens must speak, with legal recourse, should be opposed.

Taking this stance destabilized his job security and made Peterson a figure of controversy both in Canada and abroad.

This interview with English reporter Cathy Newman took place expanded his exposure immensely.

The consensus of many is that Peterson not only held his own in the interview but emerged victor in the interview-turned-debate.

To see if there is some science behind the general impression, let's take a look at how their conversation plots out in my system.

In this conversation, Jordan B. Peterson scores as a Pundit (this type presents insight on a specific topic with the inherent bias of presenting themselves as accurate and contenders as less informed.)

and Cathy Newman scores as a Preacher (this type places all information into an ongoing narrative they maintain we collectively share, whether we know it or not.)

So what do all those colors mean?

Think of them this way:

  • Green invites a response from the other person
  • Purple shows collaboration of ideas
  • Red indicates asserting ideas
  • Yellow shows where objective information is introduced
  • Orange reveals where information is being framed within the discussion
  • Grey squares indicate prompted responses that are discounted in scoring

You can see that Newman asks more questions than Peterson does, which is appropriate since she is the one conducting the interview.

In an ideal world, Newman would score as the polar opposite of her current score by providing the information and research she wants to discuss with Peterson and walking through/challenging his responses.

No interviewer can go wrong scoring as an Explorer

The path she took instead was to make assertions and frame her conclusions as definitive while speaking with a subject matter expert.

This led to a conversation where Newman sought to assert her thoughts as a framework of facts, to which Peterson responded with actual facts/statistics and reframes of her assertions. His reframes and statistics came across as well-informed enough to make Newman's assertions seem wobbly to anyone who wasn't in Preacher mode with her.

Throughout the entire discussion, Newman fights to frame her claims as both accurate and aspirational, but Peterson doesn't let her walk away with either trophy. In American-speak, there is "reasonable doubt" as to whether or not she is correct in her assertions when faced with Peterson's counter-claims.

Newman goes all-in putting Peterson on trial for his stances, and not only does she not get him to move, she often proves his points in her eagerness to gain traction.

Peterson's main weapon in making Newman's claims slippery is all the yellow you see on his chart. Peterson walked into the interview with facts he could frame, and Newman walked into the interview with frames she presented like strung-together, cherry-picked correlations.

The result was that Newman likely converted no one in this interview while Peterson demonstrably gained more followers and attention in the aftermath.


To get a better idea as to why his approach to hot-button topic resonated with so many, look at the flow of conversation one more time and let the colors do the talking.

Green and Yellow open up the conversation.
Purple shows attempt at collaboration
Red and Orange narrow and direct the conversation

Looking at the graphs alone, can you see why most people come out of the interview viewing Peterson as the victor?

Have any questions or angles you'd like me to address?

Thoughts welcome!

Feel free to tweet me ideas and requests @SheralynPratt.