Monday, March 1, 2021



Very excited! Today is the big Cover Reveal for the Pikes Peak Writers' first anthology, Fresh Starts. I'm honored that my essay, After Grandpa Died, joins other creative pieces with that theme. We can all use the hope of a fresh start right now. Release date is April 9th!

And here is the front and back:

Gorgeous right?

Stay tuned!

from the Inkpot

Sunday, February 28, 2021


Very excited! Tomorrow is the big Cover Reveal for the Pikes Peak Writers' first anthology, Fresh Starts. I'm honored that one of my essays, After Grandpa Died, joins other creative pieces with that theme. We can all use the hope of a fresh start right now. Release date is April 9th!

Stay tuned for the cover!

- from the Inkpot!

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mu Shu Mac & Cheese now available!


I'm thrilled to announce the birth of my new book, Mu Shu Mac & Cheese. "It interweaves the subtle relationships of family with food and Chinese culture, with liberal dashes of humor." 

You can order it here. 

I hope readers will find it to be a lighthearted escape from the trials we're living through during this pandemic.

More on the book:

With her household the focus of a TV reality show, food writer Elaine’s professional dreams are about to come true. But her dominating Chinese mother-in-law's unexpected arrival blends the filming with more than a dash of culture clash. All too soon, Ma wants to chaperone Elaine’s son to prom and otherwise brings the household's pot to a full boil.

Mu Shu Mac & Cheese explores how far a corn-grown foodie will go to save her family's happy life from being sliced and diced. It’s Julia Child meets My Big Fat CHINESE Wedding.

It was inspired by my marrying into a Chinese family.       

Having two books out in one summer is remarkable. It took me a long time to decide to self publish. Now I'm happy I did!     

You'll find a photo of my mother-in-law in the book, an inspiration for this story.  If you decide to read it, please let me know what you think!  

Thank you to my son, Zach, for designing the cover for both of my novels!

            Love from the Inkpot!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

My Book Out and the Question: Should I Write Different Genres?

My book American Moon: A Chinese Immigrant Story is now for sale on AMAZON!!!

Writers say that the more books they have, the more they sell.  Their fans are often hungry and will even go back and buy previous books they've written. 

Then there's the writer like me who write in different genres.  It's not as easy... someone like me has to build different fan bases.  Those who like American Moon won't necessarily enjoy Mu Shu Mac-N-Cheese and vice versa.  Then there's my literary cookbook that will be more for foodies and people who love folktales from around the world.  Sure, food runs through all of them (guess that might be considered my brand) but different genres have different fans.  And I won't even discuss my screenwriting. So my enjoyment of writing different types of books is fun for me but a self-sabotage in a way.  I'm not down because of it, just aware of it.

Funny,  I even started a screenplay that takes place on a cruise ship that has the same characters on board but goes piece by piece (about 10-15 pages each) in a variety of genres,  a section that's a romance,  another that is horror etc.  It's super fun for me, but it may be a turn off to others because those who like the horror section may not like the romance part.  So again, no clear fan base.  I'm not sure anybody else has gone this route with any success without an already established fan base and, even those, without using pseudonyms. 
 I did make use of it for a long time in my paid BTS Book Reviews column entitled Karen’s Writing Detours

Silly me... but writing in different genres was my instinct/natural inclination.  For now, until something takes off so big I can't resist continuing with it, I'll let it be what it is.

I'd love it if you'd give my novel a try.  It was inspired by my husband's family's experience escaping Chinese Communism, his father's time on death row, a life of poverty in Taiwan until the family makes its way to America where they find the moon isn't always brighter as they thought. I'd love to have you as one of my readers! And to hear your honest thoughts about the book!

From the Inkpot 

Karen Albright Lin

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Elevating to the Profound

I nightly enjoy another episode of Outlander and I'm awestruck by its brilliance (except for one or two episodes out of dozens), about how they lift the everyday into the extraordinary. They’re always elevating things to the profound by invoking standing stones, oceans, the passage of time, life and death, etc. There’s also a lot of blood (because she’s a surgeon, and because of battles) and sex, which seems to ground everything into the most basic and relevant things. I am daily humiliated by the brilliance of what Diana Gabaldon has done, and I think every day. Ditto The Weight of Ink, the book that Unlocked might have been.  I can either give up and feel bad that I’m not as talented and skilled as those authors are, or I can make it happen with the best I’ve got. That’s how I get back to my desk every day.

In other words, feeling your pain, and seconding it.

I’m also really aware that it’s not appropriate for all works to constantly hark back to that level of the elements, eternity, profundity, etc. Every work is different, so there’s plenty of room for us to create our own blend of brilliance... :-)

Strength, patience, and perseverance to us all!

Storm Petrel

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Four Primary Reasons Characters Don't Work

Sometimes a book falls flat.  We read for emotions...which means we read for character.  When editing for my clients, I notice a few things about characters that don't quite work.
I found 4 main reasons characters don't work for me:

- Generic action that could be performed by any character.
- Average dialogue.
- Slow opening scene.
- Uninteresting situation/premise.
Check for these things and maybe it will help improve your chances for a great sale, screenplay or novel...!


Monday, July 1, 2019

Subplots: Intersect and Complicate

By: Karen Albright Lin
Subplots are secondary stories intertwined with your main plotline. They’re necessary in longer works such as novels and feature-length screenplays. They add depth to your story by complicating and advancing your plot. They are not little extra stories thrown in for fun. They’re interconnected. They can be about evolving relationships, personal growth, tied-in events, anything that complicates your plot.  

As your antagonist overcomes obstacles to reach a consequential goal, the stakes are made even higher when other situations or characters becomes involved, ones that matter to the main character or to the world. Each layer of conflict must impact your lead.  When it doesn’t we are disappointed. In the 2013 The Purge, we have a main plot reminiscent of Soylent Green, Logan’s Run, The Hunger Games, and The Lottery—involving a state-sanctioned “healthy” purge of the population. A daughter has a boyfriend who wants to be accepted by her parents who happen to be under siege by envious neighbors on a sanctioned night of murderous rage. Though he got in the house in some unknown way, he is kind to his girlfriend, even resisting sex, wanting to first get her family’s blessing. Then out of nowhere he shoots the girl’s father. Which wouldn’t endear himself to anybody. It is never brought up again. Why did he do it? Why didn’t it play into the overall plot? Especially after he’s shown himself to be moral. For the rest of the movie, I was distracted by this, wondering when I’d learn how this had any influence on the main plot. I was disappointed.     
If you have a bigger-than-life main plot, subplots can be used to make it more relatable. In The Purge, the boyfriend/girlfriend interaction was one we’re familiar with, unlike government-prodded murder sprees. It could have been put to good use, but the subplot was squandered.

Subplots help us understand character better. Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon is despondent after his wife dies. We understand, then, why he goes on what seems like a suicidal mission to thwart the bad guys. Coming to terms with his pain is a backstory subplot enlightening us on character, making us care.  
Even if a subplot primarily acts on a secondary character, it should still have an impact on your protagonist. The mother in my favorite movie, Harold and Maude, has her own superficial relationships and diversions separate from the life of her son. And yet, in large part, her material and snobbish distractions help form Harold into the dramatic “emo-wanna-be” that he is. She is germane to what drives him, yet she seems peripheral to the main plot, which is an unlikely love story.
A subplot can even drive the main plot forward. Young boy Cole sees dead people in The Sixth Sense. His struggle is the vehicle by which Bruce Willis discovers that he’s dead. Cole has a separate plot of his own in exposing the poisoning of a young girl. Bruce Willis’s character also has a jealousy subplot in which he thinks his wife is having an affair.

Think of subplots as goals. You have long term goals such as becoming a senator. You have medium term goals like getting a degree in political science. You have shorter term goals like convincing a professor to hire you on as an intern. There are also those very short term goals like dressing smartly for the interview. For this reason, it would ring untrue if your secondary plots all lasted exactly the same length of time. Your main plot is typically the last or next to the last to be resolved. Bang, it is solved… plus there may be a subplot resolved quietly in the dénouement, like a tender moment of redemption or reconciliation or renunciation. The possibilities are endless, but do make each relevant.  
Subplots justify otherwise extreme or inexplicable behavior. My favorite movie backstory subplot is from Air Force One. Poor president (Harrison Ford) has to go up against the unstoppable hijacker (Gary Oldman). Why would a bad guy do what will likely leave him dead in the end? We learn that his Russian family and friends have died in what he believes is an American made war. He has revenge and the release of a compatriot hero as his goals.  He is the hero of his own story. Without that subplot we wouldn’t buy into what would be a ruthless cardboard antagonist. Building backstory subplots serve another purpose.  The best antagonists are ones that we like or empathize with on some level—think Hannibal the cannibal in the brilliant Silence of the Lambs; he’s smart, intuitive, and cultured.    

Hannibal himself is motivated by getting out of prison. His mini-story is a perfect example of how a great secondary subplot can take your novel to the next level, IF it makes the conflict for the main character all the more difficult.  
Complications are key to successful subplots. A love interest being taken hostage as the bad guys head toward an Ebola-contaminated village will certainly complicate what might have otherwise been simply a plot about preventing the outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Subplots thwart problem solving, making goals harder to reach, better yet, seemingly impossible.      

Successful subplots enhance theme.  In my suspense novel in progress, isolation plays a role for a few of the characters. It is a blatant diagnosis in one: an agoraphobic secondary character. It is a toxic time bomb in my antagonist. It is a backstory requiring personal growth in my protagonist. Isolation is damaging and critical to the resolution.  
Subplots are not detachable stories.  Test each subplot to see if its progression interacts with your main storyline. I find it useful to imagine each plotline as an undulating line with points of intersection with the other plots.   

It can be especially powerful if the subplots all come together at some point. For example, imagine a main plot line of saving Chicago from a renegade group with a nuclear bomb.  But we’ve been developing a cop-partner relationship subplot along the way: the obstacle to our heroin taking the marriage plunge is her personal baggage from a failed relationship. Let’s hit the main plot climax at the same moment she realizes she needs to let go of her painful past and accept her beau’s proposal.  In the same scene, there’s an external resolution as they disarm the bomb, an interpersonal resolution when she accepts a lifelong commitment, and a personal resolution as she comes to terms with her past.

What I like to do is make a timeline for each of my plots, how it waxes and wanes, its climax.  Then I make note of where each intersects with the main plot. This helps keep chronology straight, gives me a clear idea of where a subplot should begin and end, and points out how it adds to the overall conflict and complexity.  
Our lives are multi-layered. Our stories should also be. Subplots can offer up allies, foils and opposing viewpoints. Subplots can be funny or otherwise entertaining, but they must be more than that. Unlike life’s unpredictable and unrelated diversions, subplots shouldn’t feel thrown in. Have them intersect and complicate your main plot. They will add important dimensions to your story.
The Inkpot