Don’t Believe These Lies About Medieval England

Don't Believe These Lies About Medieval England #Middle Ages #history #fantasy #writing research

A character in one of my works-in-progress right now is an English knight from the early 1400s. Because of that, I’ve been doing a lot of research about England in the late Middle Ages, just so I can understand what he does and doesn’t understand about the modern world. I know lots of writers of sword-and-sorcery fantasy study of medieval England, too! I’ve learned that some things I believed about the Middle Ages, because I’d heard them said a bunch of times, weren’t true at all.

Don't Believe These Lies About Medieval England #Middle Ages #history #fantasy #writing research

Girls had to get married when they were 12 or 13.

When we’re learning about history, we always read the most about the ruling classes, and this skews our perspective. Royal and wealthy families often arranged early marriages between their children because they were political and economic alliances.

Even then, 12 or 13 wasn’t average. This blogger looked at 66 aristocratic marriages in England and France from 1180 to 1423, and the average age of the brides was 17. That’s young, but not shockingly young, to my mind — my own parents got married when they were both 19. In the present-day United States, 18 is the legal age for marriage, and in most states, a person can get married at the age of 16 or even younger with parental consent (I personally think this should be changed). The average age for the grooms in these upper-class medieval marriages was 23.

A lot of women from poorer families didn’t get married until they were in their twenties.

Here’s something I find interesting about medieval wedding: you didn’t need a church, a priest, or even witnesses, though those could be a good idea. You could just say, “Hey, I marry you!” (in middle English, of course), have the other person say, “I marry you too!”, and that was that.


Everybody drank beer because they couldn’t find clean water.

I think this is the most counter-intuitive myth I ever heard about medieval England. Why would they have trouble finding good drinking water while people in other places and eras did just fine? They had fresh streams in England, didn’t they? They did drink a lot of weak ale, but they drank water, too. This myth is debunked here and here.


Swords were big clunky things that weighed about twenty or thirty pounds.


Don't Believe These Lies About Medieval England #Middle Ages #history #fantasy #writing research

Absolutely not. You can read about this in detail on the website for ARMA (Association for Renaissance Martial Arts — nice acronym, no?) Between the 10th to the 15th centuries, the average sword weighed about 2.87 pounds, or 1.3 kilograms.

I’ve seen this misconception echoed in fantasy fiction, where someone tells a boy he wouldn’t even be able to lift a proper sword. In reality, a thirty-pound sword would be too heavy for most guys to fight with. There are documented historical accounts of European women picking up swords and doing battle in the Middle Ages as well, which would be unlikely if swords had weighed that much.

Incidentally, armor wasn’t as heavy and clunky as many people imagine, either.


They burned a lot of witches.

People often think of the Renaissance in England as beginning in 1485. If you go by that, witch trials were much bigger in the Renaissance. The infamous book The Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch’s Hammer), which I’ve blogged about before, was published in 1486, and it fueled many witch hunts. Most of the executions for witchcraft in England were much later than that, in the 1600s. Many executions were by hanging.

In medieval England, church officials didn’t necessarily like “cunning folk” who supposedly practiced helpful magic, but people rarely did anything about it. Witchcraft wasn’t even outlawed until 1542.



 There were zero people of color.

Not according to Arthurian legend or to the artists of the time. Check out this tumblr (you can select the century of your choice on the sidebar on the right.) I think the important thing to remember is that some people travelled huge distances even during ancient and medieval times. They built empires, fought Crusades, and went on business trips to other continents. While medieval Europe must have been very white, it wasn’t exclusively so.


Everyone had disgusting table manners.

Don't Believe These Lies About Medieval England #Middle Ages #history #fantasy #writing research

I had to research this one for a particular scene in my story. In medieval England they used knives and spoons, but not forks, other than a two-pronged thing to hold a roast while you carved it. But even if they did eat with their fingers, the nobility, at least, weren’t super gross at the table. Everyone washed their hands first, and they tried not to stuff their mouths, spill things, or make loud smacking noises. They wiped their mouths on napkins, and they didn’t drink broth out of a bowl — they used spoons for that.


If you know about some other misconceptions about England in the Middle Ages, let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading!


Free Gifts: Random Acts of Kindness That Cost Nothing

Free Gifts: Random Acts of Kindness That Cost Nothing #love #positivity #good deeds

One of my goals on my list of 101 Life Goals is to do a random act of kindness every week. I keep sticking with it for a while, and then a week rolls around and I forget to do something, and then I have to start all over again. It’s like a factory going back to “Zero Days Without An Accident,” except it’s fine because it just means I’ll do more good deeds and nice things.



I made random acts of kindness a goal because I think the world could use more love and positivity. To be honest, it’s a totally selfish goal. I truly believe that what goes around, comes around. Besides, doing something nice is the most reliable way I know of to get in a good mood. It’s amazing to realize that we have the power to make someone’s day, or even make the world a better place.

Some of the things I’ve done have involved money: buying boxes of breakfast cereal for the community food pantry along with my grocery shopping, for instance, or buying a stranger an item off her Amazon wish list. (When I do that one, I always make sure it’s something the person has added within the last few days.)

Some random acts of kindness are free, though. Here are a few ideas! I’ve done a few of them already. I know that some of these are things that not everyone can do, but who knows… maybe one of them will inspire somebody.


Free Gifts: Random Acts of Kindness That Cost Nothing #love #positivity #good deeds


Donate blood.

This is not only a fantastic thing to do, but also about the only time that medical professionals will urge you to eat cookies.

Check in with someone who lost a loved one weeks or months ago.

Grieving can be a long process, and it might mean a lot to someone to have you say, “Hey, I’m still thinking about you.”

Write a letter or email to an author telling them how much you enjoyed their work.

If you love to read, this is a fun one. And if you’re a writer yourself, you know how this could make somebody’s day! Along the same lines…

Call or email a company telling them how much you liked their product or service.

Customer service is a tough gig, and there so many people out there only speak up when they have a complaint. You could also give a business a positive Yelp review! A lot of Yelp reviewers sound like the grouchiest, hardest-to-please people imaginable, so you’d be restoring some balance.


I don’t have kids, and I can’t imagine how people who do ever get anything done. Give a parent a break! Or for an over-the-top act of kindness, pet-sit for somebody for the weekend.

Put in a good word for a co-worker.

If someone’s done a great job, tell their manager. If you know someone’s work well, you can even write them a recommendation on LinkedIn.

Make encouraging comments on 10 people’s Facebook or Instagram posts.

Tell them they look great in their new profile pic, you hope they feel better, their dog is cute, that sandwich looks delicious, that’s a really interesting think piece they just shared, or they’re awesome for running a 5K.

Compliment 5 people in “real life” in one day.

It’s okay if it’s a little out of the blue. Tell your brother he’s a great dad. Tell a stranger you like her outfit. If you’ve got something nice to say, say it.

Volunteer at a food bank.

I always like volunteer opportunities where I feel like I’m actually doing useful work, you know? Some food banks just need people to sort donations of food, which sounds both simple and necessary.

Volunteer at an animal shelter.

The chances of this one making your day are outstanding.


If you have any ideas for random acts of kindness, I’d love to hear about them… I always learn so much from the comments. And thanks for reading… it’s very kind of you!






Autumn Bucket List: Fun Things to Do in the Fall

Fall Bucket List: Fun Things to Do In the Fall #midwest #kansas city #ways to enjoy fall #celebrate

Fall is my favorite season of the year. It seems like here in Kansas City, right in the middle of the U.S. Midwest, autumn is just about everybody’s favorite. On Labor Day weekend, Mr. Donovan and I – along with many other people – celebrated the beginning of the season by visiting a local sunflower farm.


Fall Bucket List: Fun Things to Do In the Fall #midwest #kansas city #ways to enjoy fall #celebrate


Fall Bucket List: Fun Things to Do In the Fall #midwest #kansas city #ways to enjoy fall #celebrate


This Saturday, Mr. Donovan and I are going to go pick apples. And on Sunday, if it works out, a friend of mine may come into town so we can make jelly together, because she’s an expert. I really want to enjoy and celebrate the season, so I decided to do this “bucket list” of all the fun things to do in the fall.



The term “bucket list” usually refers to things to do before you die, or “kick the bucket.” This “fall bucket list,” though, is all about things to do before fall is over and gone.

I’m not going to do all of these things this season. (I personally can’t go to a haunted house, though I know people who love them. Even though I’ve written a couple of ghost stories, I get too scared!) But the list is here to inspire me and anyone else this year, and years to come as well.


Fall Bucket List: Fun Things to Do In the Fall #midwest #kansas city #ways to enjoy fall #celebrate


Visit a sunflower farm.

Pick apples at an orchard.

Make jam.

Drink a pumpkin spice latte.

Drink apple cider… or hard cider.

Make pumpkin bread.

Bake a pie.

Take a walk in the woods when the leaves are red, orange, and yellow.

Dip leaves in melted paraffin to preserve them.

Walk in a corn maze.

Go on a hayride.

Decorate for Halloween.

Visit a pumpkin patch.

Carve a Jack-o-lantern.

Roast pumpkin seeds.

Put together a Halloween costume.

Trick-or-treat… or give people treats.

Eat miniature size candy bars.

Take a ghost tour.

Take a walk in an old graveyard.

Go to a haunted house.

Watch a scary movie.

Read a ghost story.

Spend a whole rainy day reading.

Light a candle for departed loved ones on Day of the Dead or All Soul’s Day (November 1.)

Make chili in the crockpot / slow cooker.

Go to a fall festival.

Collect buckeyes… or black walnuts.

Put mums outside your front door.

Watch football.


Build a bonfire.

Go to a sanctuary to see eagles and migrating birds.


Is autumn your favorite season? What are some of your favorite things to do in the fall? If you’re in a part of the world where September, October, and November are very different than they are in the Midwest, I’d love to hear about that, too. Thanks for reading!

50 Spooky Writing Prompts for Horror, Thriller, Ghost, and Mystery Stories

50 Spooky Writing Prompts for Horror, Ghost, Thriller, and Mystery Stories #plot generator #plot ideas

If you’re looking for idea starters, writing prompts and plot ideas for a mystery novel, a horror novel, a thriller, or any kind of spooky screenplay, you might find what you’re looking for here! These are also great for creative writing exercises, especially around Halloween.



If you are easily scared and have an over-active imagination, just skip this one. If you do get a little creeped out by it, just remember it’s all nonsense that I made up while I was exercising on the treadmill or sitting in bed.

Some of these are skeletal (ha) plot ideas (or master plots), while others are images or suggestions. And I’ll be sharing a spooky music playlist in my next newsletter for writing… or just for getting into the Halloween spirit. (If you don’t get my newsletter, you can sign up here!)


50 Spooky Writing Prompts for Horror, Ghost, Thriller, and Mystery Stories #plot generator #plot ideas

  1. A musician practices. When she finishes a piece, she hears someone clapping for her, although she lives alone.


  1. Frightening events in a small town lead its citizens to dig up the grave of a deceased inhabitant.


  1. Someone gets on the elevator by himself and is never seen by his friends or family again.


  1. The Furies—the vengeance deities of classic mythology—are back in business again.


  1. A collector buys an unpublished manuscript by an obscure writer that describes a terrible historical event a year before it occurred. The collector learns the writer wrote many unpublished stories…


  1. Creating a hybrid of a human and this particular animal turns out to be a bad idea.


  1. A person has the ability to make other people very ill.


  1. The dead walk out of the sea.


  1. An individual begins seeing and hearing from someone who looks just like her – and learns she had a twin who died at birth.


  1. A killer places an advertisement for a willing victim and finds one.


  1. A basement contains jars filled with unusual specimens.


  1. A person finds new photos of herself on her cell phone that she didn’t take.


  1. The spirit of a brutalized slave or prisoner of war wants revenge on his tormentor’s descendants.


  1. A couple vacationing in a remote area begins having the same nightmares.


  1. All of the circus performers were killed in the train wreck.


  1. The television switches to another station of its own accord and plays footage of something horrible that happened long before the technology existed to record it.


  1. A spouse or sibling dies. He or she begins to take over the body of the surviving spouse or sibling.


  1. Weekend adventurers explore a cave and can’t find their way out again. Then they encounter something terrible…



  1. Authorities go through the cluttered apartment of a deceased man who lived alone with no known friends or relatives for decades and find something disturbing.


  1. A group of teenagers trolls everyone else in an online group by telling made-up stories about terrible things they’ve done. Things then get out of hand.


  1. It’s bad luck in the theatre to call the Shakespeare play Macbeth by name, but someone in the company keeps doing it anyway… and the superstition proves true.


  1. Every exhibit in this carnival sideshow is fake. Except this one thing.


  1. An individual develops a terror of water – drinking it, touching it, or even being near it. There’s actually a good reason why.


  1. The grandfather clock starts running backwards.


  1. People in this neighborhood begin having freak accidents that involve normal appliances and machinery, such as blenders, weed whackers, and garage doors.


  1. The cure for a new deadly epidemic is almost scarier than the disease.


  1. He locked the doors and shuttered the windows; it came in through the roof.


  1. A woman is happy when her dead loved one comes back to life… but he’s changed.


  1. This centuries-old beauty secret is effective but horrifying.


  1. A killer toys with his victims by orchestrating a series of false hopes for them.


  1. She wakes up in the middle of the night and runs out to a certain tree.


  1. Tourists on a ghost tour, along with their guide, fall into the hands of an evil presence.



  1. A young woman is impregnated by her handsome new boyfriend, who turns out to be something other than human.


  1. The empty swing is swinging.


  1. A bride on her honeymoon discovers she’s not her new husband’s first wife… not even close.


  1. Long ago, when he was a baby, a man’s parents made an unwise deal in order to bring him back from the dead.


  1. Members of a family or people in a town begin sleepwalking and doing strange things in their sleep.


  1. A young man confesses to a killing that hasn’t happened. The murder he describes takes place while he’s in custody.


  1. Grisly events happen after the arrival of a hypnotist in Victorian London.


  1. An author’s fictional villain stalks him.


  1. Fraternity hazing goes way too far.


  1. It always happens when he’s alone in the car.


  1. A patient in a mental hospital encounters a malevolent ghost, but nobody believes her.


  1. A mother’s young child may or may not be a changeling.


  1. Swarms of insects appear in various places in a town, always followed by an untimely death.


  1. The ghost at the movie theater wants everyone to watch one particular snippet of film.


  1. A child’s imaginary friend starts to cause real trouble.


  1. When putting together a slide show for a wedding or funeral, someone notices that for decades, the same man, dressed in the same fashion, has been appearing in the background of photographs taken in public places.


  1. A politician, religious leader, or celebrity exerts mind control over the will of his or her followers.


  1. The fairy godmother isn’t the good kind of fairy.


I hope this list was useful! If you don’t want to miss future posts about writing, follow my blog, if you aren’t already — there’s a place you can sign up on the lefthand side of the page. Happy writing!

Stay Motivated With These Word Counters for Writers!

Stay Motivated With Word Counters for Writers! #word trackers #NaNoWriMo #daily word counts

Many writers love setting daily word count goals. It’s not for me, because days can vary so wildly. On one day, I might get a ton of writing done. On another day, I might have to drastically rewrite something, or take my dog in for emergency surgery, like we had to do last week. (He’s making a good recovery!) I like to look at my progress month to month.



No matter how you feel about word count goals, tracking your progress can be really motivating! I think making your progress public on your blog or website, or sharing it on social media, can be especially inspiring. I talked about mine on the last WIP Wednesday, and some people wanted to know where to get one. Here are four word counters available for free. See if one of them works for you!


Stay Motivated With Word Counters for Writers! #word trackers #NaNoWriMo #daily word counts


For your blog…

The Author Wordcount widget.

This is the one I’ve added to my blog (you can see it near the bottom on the lefthand column on this page.) It’s only an option if you have a blog on, but it’s pretty handy.

For your blog or other website…

Sarra’s Word Meter.

This gives you an html code that you can paste onto your website. If you have a blog, for example, you can paste it into a text widget and it’ll look great. Bookmark the page. When you need to update your word count, you can do it on this web page and your word counter, wherever you put it, will update. You don’t need to paste in the code again.

Here’s how it looks!

Stay Motivated With Word Counters for Writers! #word trackers #NaNoWriMo #daily word counts





There are actually a lot of word counters like this out there, but I like this one because you can change the colors however you like.

Stay Motivated With Word Counters for Writers! #word trackers #NaNoWriMo #daily word counts




For your iPhone…

If you track your daily word count on Wordly, it makes a graph that you can send to Facebook or Twitter. And if you are the kind of person to set daily word goals, Wordly will give you prompts, and it will also give you stats. (I for one do not want to know how many words I write per hour, but some people might!) Although I haven’t tried out Wordly myself yet, it looks like it’s worth checking out.


For your computer…

Justin McLachlan has made a pretty sweet spreadsheet with NaNoWriMo in mind, but you can adjust it to any word count goal for the month. It’s color-coded (green means you’re doing great, yellow means you’re doing so-so, and red means you’re behind.) Check it out here, and check out his great blog!


Stay Motivated With Word Counters for Writers! #word trackers #NaNoWriMo #daily word counts


If you have a word tracking method or app that you love, or you want to chat about word count, please share in the comments. Have a great week, and happy writing!



Internet, I’ve Had It With Your Snark.

Internet, I've Had It With Your Snark #online bullying #kindness #civility

A while back, someone on Twitter publicly shared an image of someone else’s book cover with a comment to the effect that it was a really bad cover design. I responded by saying, “This is mean,” and then immediately deleted my reply. I figured that I was just causing more negativity. They are probably a cool person in general, and people do stuff like this all the time. It’s the fact that we do it all the time that I want to talk about.



When we make fun of people for things that do no harm—their clothing, their weight, their amateurish book cover designs, their unbearable lack of awareness to their own flaws and failures—we call it snark. Many of us proudly self-identify as “snarky,” as if it means we are clever, rebellious, and keen observers.

What we call snark went by a different name when we were in grade school: being mean. Some kids were mean in inventive ways, and it didn’t make it any better.

Snark is in a different category from direct attacks on social media. People target women in particular, and if a woman expresses a strong opinion that gets shared widely, she’s likely to be the target of vile name-calling as well as numerous threats of death, violence, and rape (some of them, I’ll add from personal experience, horrifically detailed.) Some people also threaten women’s children, and in one case, someone threatened a mass shooting if the woman spoke in public. Some women get targeted with vicious attacks for being the wrong color or body type and having some success, or for having a famous father who committed suicide.

Snark obviously isn’t as bad as that. But it is more pervasive. “Nice” people do it. Lots of people do it.

Snark isn’t inherently clever.

I’ve worked with talented professional humor writers for years and years. It’s difficult to make a great joke that’s goofy, insightful, or makes a leap of logic you didn’t expect.

Saying something mean about someone is the easiest thing in the world. Everybody who can talk or type can do it. You can find something mean to say about anyone or anything. The people you can’t stand, the ones you believe are Bad and Hateful People, are awesome at this.

Snark is rarely rebellious.

The internet runs on contempt. It’s the most conventional tone you can take. Moreover, snark tends to be in the service of upholding conventions: either those of society at large, or those of your own peer group.

Snark isn’t a product of keen observation.

“Look!” it says. “I found someone failing!” Well, everybody is failing and messing up and falling short, everywhere, every day of their lives. It wasn’t that hard.

When we’re snarky on the internet, the target of our contempt may never know that we are inviting others to have a superior laugh at his or her expense. (Or they might find out! Maybe they’ll find out about it at what was already one of the worst times of their lives. Maybe it’ll go viral, and hundreds of thousands of people will join in on mocking them. LOL!)

Even if they don’t, the internet atmosphere of scorn and derisive laughter hurts lots of people. It makes them feel worse about their bodies, their status as a single person, their unpopular faith that brings them comfort, their stupid mistakes, and hundreds of other things that are a part of who they are.

It makes them feel scared to share their art, singing, songwriting, or poetry with the world. Finished work is open to criticism, of course. But where creativity is growing, snark is the herbicide threatening to stamp it out.



I’m not writing this because I’ve never been mean on the internet. No, it’s the opposite of that. I’m writing it because I’m trying not to do it any more, and despite my conscious effort, I might do it again! Maybe writing this will help me live up to what I think is right, because nobody likes to be a hypocrite, and we liking people finding out that we’re hypocrites even less.

I’m a social media addict, and I’m determined to pull way, way back on the time I spend chatting back and forth online. (Obviously, the blog is the exception, haha.) It’s time that could be better spent on my other goals, and a steady stream of contempt (mixed in with outright hate and doomsaying in a poisonous stew) doesn’t help with those goals, either. Spending less time on the internet in general will make it easier not to fall into bad behavior.

I think snark does damage to the person dispensing it – the snarkoteur, if you will. If you mock those around you, it’s difficult to have a generous view of yourself.

On the other hand, if you stop making fun of people, it’s going to be harder and harder to ignore the fact that you, yourself, are actually fine as you are and deserving of respect and love. That might be a deeply uncomfortable concept for some people to deal with at first, but I think it’s worth it in the end.

WIP Wednesday — Share What YOU Are Up To!

WIP Wednesday Bryn Donovan

Hey, it’s time for WIP Wednesday, when I share a little from a work in progress, and you do the same if you want to! Don’t critique anyone’s stuff, because that’s not what this is for — it’s just for inspiration and fun. But if you want to leave someone an encouraging comment, that’s great (and good writer karma!)

First, I want to talk a little bit about goals. At the beginning of the month, I often plan to work on one project at a time, setting a word count goal for myself. Then I wind up flitting between two or three projects anyway. I’ve decided to just go ahead and embrace the fact that I’m always going to multi-task, and I’m just going to write for a set amount of time during the week.

I’ve added a word counter to the blog (down there at the lower left) to keep me motivated! Here’s where my word count was on Sept. 1, and next month I’ll post where it is on Oct. 1.


WIP Wednesday Bryn Donovan #paranormal romance #manus sancti


This month I’m sharing a scene from The Phoenix Codex, a paranormal romance. It involves a centuries-old secret society that fights modern-day supernatural evil. I’m rewriting the completed novel from 1st person to 3rd person in alternating points of view, because it’s the first of a trilogy and I realized the whole trilogy is not going to work in 1st person. The switch is making book one a lot better — it’s  been really great to get the guy’s experience and feelings in there.

In this scene near the beginning, Jonathan West has gone into the psyche of Cassie Rios, whom he wrongly believes to be a murdering witch.



Jonathan stood facing Cassandra Rios. The scents of creosote and ozone, smoky and fresh, surprised him. It wasn’t a bad smell at all: the desert after rain.

Around them, many-armed ocotillo cacti, fuzzy teddy bear cholla, and rough shrubs dotted a rolling plain. No roads, telephone poles, or other signs of human habitation marred the landscape. No sound intruded upon the silence. Cobalt blue and bright pink streaked the sky, and near the horizon, the clouds glowed like orange flames. Near his feet on a prickly pear cactus, pink-red fruits ripened. They reminded him of hearts.

Doubt coiled in his gut. This wasn’t the soulscape of a killer. At least, it wasn’t like any he had ever seen. He’d expected ugliness inside her, even if it didn’t show on her outside.

In her photograph in her file, she’d struck Jonathan as more attractive than the usual target. She had big brown eyes, a prominent nose, and long dark hair, and in the picture, she was laughing and full of life.  A pretty woman is just as likely to be evil as anyone else. He’d reminded his younger brother that, on the drive from the middle of New Mexico to Phoenix.

Of course, it had been an imagined conversation, the only kind he could have with Michael now. His brain kept playing tricks on him, though, making him think he would see his younger brother again, as if he were merely outposted in Manila or D.C.

Cassandra Rios’s soulscape wasn’t perfect. Scarred black trunks of trees covered one mountain. A wildfire had blazed through. But even that looked like damage, clean and simple, more than anything else. What had hurt her?

Wrong question. He had to find out how she’d caused the animal attacks. They couldn’t be a coincidence.

Far in the other direction, about a dozen horses grazed. No saddles, no bridles, some of them tawny, some extravagantly spotted. They threatened no one.

She’s a bruja. This is a trick. He had never heard of anyone being able to conceal the truth of their own psyche before… but after hundreds of years’ worth of carefully documented missions and the study of ancient and obscure lore, Manus Sancti still occasionally encountered something new.

“You killed me?” Cassandra demanded. “This is heaven?”

“If this were the afterlife, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I’d still be alive.”

“True. And I’m pretty sure you’d go somewhere worse than this.” If she’d been innocent, he would’ve admired her spirit. “How did you get me out here?”

“It’s not out anywhere. We’re inside you.”

“What?” She closed her eyes as though willing reality to return.

“This is your psyche. It feels familiar, doesn’t it?”

Her brow creased. “You gave me some kind of drug.”

“You know I didn’t.” This conversation was pointless. With most targets, just asking them a few questions while inside their psyche proved their guilt. In her case, he’d been assigned to go through her memories first to understand exactly how she was doing the spells.

One of the horses spooked and ran away, and the others followed him in a panic, rumbling toward the far hills. The saturated colors in the clouds tumbled and shifted in a rhythm like music: sapphire, tangerine, fuchsia. A dark hawk cut across the swath of color, not hunting, just flying. He couldn’t remember when he had been in a more beautiful place.

She said, “You have no right to be here.”

Maybe she was right. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was trespassing on sacred ground. “It isn’t what I expected.”


WIP Wednesday Bryn Donovan


If you’d like to share a paragraph of your work, or even a page or two, go right ahead in the comments section. Either way, thanks for reading, and happy writing!

My Novella WICKED GARDEN Is Out… THANK YOU For Supporting Me When I Was Writing It!

Under Your Spell #romance boxed set #paranormal #bryn donovan #wicked garden

I am super proud that my Southern gothic romance novella Wicked Garden released last week. If you’ve liked my author page on Facebook or you get my newsletter you already know that, though!


Under Your Spell #romance boxed set #paranormal #bryn donovan #wicked garden

It’s part of a boxed set of ten novellas called Under Your Spell: Masked Balls, Haunted Gardens, Magic, and More. For now, it’s exclusive to Amazon Kindle and it’s only 99¢, which is almost free, though I think that’s going to change later.

Wicked Garden is a romance and a ghost story with a high heat level. I’ve already gotten some great feedback! One reviewer said she

just could not put it down!!! I was in love with the mc the moment i began reading

And another said:

Amazing H/h – great writer to make me feel a connection so strongly from the first. H had major issues but overcame them.  Great ghost story, which says a lot because I don’t care for these stories. This surprised me that I enjoyed it so. Amazing lovemaking, full of passion.

Check it out if you want to! Or if you already bought it, thank you thank you!

I also owe gratitude to a lot of you who participate in WIP Wednesdays, because I shared a couple of scenes from this story in rough draft form and you were so encouraging! Thank you so much for reading this blog. I really appreciate you!

Have a great week, everyone!






Friday Happy Hour: What Toy or Game Did You LOVE When You Were Little?

Hi friends, happy Friday! This is another open thread, so if you want to ignore the conversation starter and talk about something in your life, that’s fine, too.

This past week, Mr. Donovan and I had Mr. Donovan’s brother, our sister-in-law, and our niece who’s in 2nd grade come to stay with us for a few days. We love them like crazy, so it was great to have them here!

Because my niece was coming, I bought two things I loved to play with when I was little…


colorforms / Friday Happy Hour








and Legos!

Friday Happy Hour / Favorite Toys from Childhood / legos









My niece liked doing them with me… But I might have enjoyed them even more.

I’ve written a little before about how being a kid was rough going for me, like it is for many people, and I haven’t written about the worst of it. There is something really nice and healing about re-connecting with the kid inside yourself in a totally positive way. I wonder if that’s one reason why adult coloring books are so popular?

Along this same theme, this week at work I watched the Disney classic Cinderella at work over lunch with Mr. Donovan, my boss, and two other writers. One of the writers had found out I’d never seen it before and she was shocked, so that’s why I set it up. It really changes your frame of mind to watch something like that in the middle of a workday.

What toys or games did you love as a kid? Or do you ever indulge in kid things as an adult? Let us know if you want to. I hope you have a great weekend!










How to Write a Great Sex Scene: My Personal Advice

How to Write a Good Sex Scene: My Personal Advice #how to write a sex scene #tips on writing a romance novel #erotica

A couple of times, I’ve gotten bad reviews from people who are mad that my romance stories have sex scenes in them. Some readers love explicit scenes, some readers hate them, and that’s fine!

However, editors and beta readers who enjoy steamy romance in general rarely have complaints about the way I write sex scenes, even when they have great constructive criticism for me about other things. That’s why I feel like I can write this post, even though, naturally, people’s preferences with sex scenes can vary wildly.

Here’s my advice, and I would love to hear what other people have to say, too!



Make sure the scene moves the story forward.

If you’re just writing a story with regularly scheduled sex recesses, readers are more likely to find the sex scenes gratuitous or silly. A sex scene may move the external plot forward: now she’s definitely going to refuse the other woman who asked her on a date, or now he’s going to have to resign from his job, because this kind of thing isn’t allowed between a boss and an employee at their company and he has no intention of stopping it.

The scene may also move the internal plot forward. Maybe she’s seen another side of him that makes her trust him after all, or maybe he realizes he’s in love with her, even if he’s not ready to say it yet.



Reveal more of the characters as you reveal more skin.

Sex scenes are a wonderful opportunity to show more character depth. Characters may be more raw and vulnerable, or they may reveal a side of themselves that they don’t often show to others.

A confident man may have a moment of awkwardness or doubt. A shy woman may turn out to have a mischievous side. Revelations like these can make your readers love your characters even more. In a love story, this higher level of honesty brings your two lovers closer together emotionally.

Stay in one person’s head at a time.

“Head-hopping” is frowned upon in fiction in general, and it’s especially jarring in a sex scene. If in one sentence, he’s thinking about how beautiful a part of her body is, and in the next sentence, she’s thinking about how good something feels, your reader will have a hard time getting swept up in the scene.

It’s fine to make one point of view switch in the middle of a sex scene as long as you make it clear that there’s been a shift. Many authors put a space break (without asterisks) to indicate a point of view shift mid-scene.

Concentrate on all five senses.

Describe sensations, physical reactions, sensual visuals, and sounds, scents, and tastes. When you engage more of your reader’s senses, they’ll be more wrapped up in the scene.

Make sure all of the action is believable.

A sex scene may be idealized, particularly in the romance genre, but there are still limits to credibility. Sometimes I’ll be reading an explicit scene and something in it contradicts what I know about the characters’ height, people’s average flexibility, human physiology, or gravity.

Don’t censor yourself in the first draft.

You can always pull back later if you feel something’s too over the top, but in the first draft especially, just go with it. Keep in mind that if you think something is hot, chances are pretty good that some other people out there will, too.

If you don’t feel comfortable reading them, don’t write them.

Writers can get caught up in chatter about “what sells,” and some might get the idea that sexually explicit material is a ticket to immediate riches. Um, if only. It’s really not, and if it’s not for you, don’t let anyone tell you that means you’re a prude or old-fashioned or anything else. If you’re true to yourself, it will make your unique style so much stronger.



In addition to all of these things, there are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself about the scenes you write. They are:

Is clear consent important to you as a writer?

In my own writing, I like to make it obvious that both participants are 100% into what’s happening. This is different from many romances written in the 1970s and 1980s, which often featured the hero raping the heroine. Themes of rape and questionable consent have made something of a comeback in the genre. If depicting clear consent is important to you, that may affect some of your choices when you write a scene.

Do you want to handle safe sex and birth control realistically?

This question, of course, only pertains to characters who could conceivably (heh) get pregnant. Personally, I have my characters use condoms if they haven’t had the chance to have The Talk. As a reader, unprotected sex throws me out of the story and gives me a poor opinion of the characters’ judgement. However, not all readers react that way.


By the way, if you struggle with vocabulary for a sex scene, you might like to check out my posts 500 Great Words for Writing Love Scenes and Synonyms for Intimate Parts of the Body.

Do you have advice or questions about writing sex scenes? Or do you just want to chat about how you write them (or don’t write them)? Let us know in the comments! And if you want to get updates on posts about writing, follow the blog, if you aren’t already — there’s a place you can sign up on the lefthand side of the page. Happy writing!