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    Sundays ~

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Favorite Books – by Tara Rane



I was given marching orders to submit a blog post about my favorite book in the genre I write in. That sounds easy enough. However, I ended up struggling for days.

The biggest challenge is that I write in a genre that doesn’t exist. My genre is a place where horror, paranormal romance, sci-fi, and urban fantasy make out in the backseat while YA/new adult steers wildly behind the wheel. I haven’t come across many books that are mashups like the ones I write and that’s a damn shame.

So I’ll cheat and pick a favorite book or series from each of the genres that influence my writing.

Horror: The Stand by Stephen King. It’s a fantastic apocalyptic tale filled with rich and compelling characters that stay with you. Even though it has been years since I’ve re-read this book, I still think of Stu, Larry, Frannie, Nadine, and the Trashcan man often. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing out.

Paranormal Romance: Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. With the interesting spin on Greek mythology and the combustible sexual chemistry between the tortured alpha male heroes and the take-no-shit heroines, these are fabulous reads. Speaking of Sherrilyn, I might just pee myself with excitement when I meet her at Phoenix Comicon in a few days.

Sci-Fi: Frank Herbert’s Dune. This book rocked my world when I read it over two decades ago. It still remains one of my favorites for its superb world building. Herbert went into such exquisite detail on the history, culture, and ecology of his world that you almost believe the planet Arrakis exists. True story. On our first date, my now husband confessed he’d never read this book. Can you guess what I gave him on our second date?

Urban Fantasy: Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. I love these books because of the evolution of the main character. She goes from immature teen to badass hybrid vampire killer over the course of series. Jeaniene also manages to accomplish what few authors have. She keeps the sexual tension going between the heroine and her master vampire lover throughout the seven book series.

YA/New Adult: Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. Don’t let the movie sour these books for you. The series is awesome. The heroine’s journey from a mouthy Dhampir student to a battle-honed killing machine takes you on a wild ride. It takes skill to buckle the reader into a roller coaster that spans six books, and keep you somewhere between gasping for breath, grabbing the tissue box, and fanning yourself much of the time.

I’ve shown you mine, now show me yours. What are your favorite books?

Like this post? Check out my website (www.tararane.com) and my blog (www.tararane.com/blog/)

Creating Interesting Characters: Part 2 By Tara Rane

interesting character

I love book and movie characters with surprising twists (see my latest blog post about this at www.tararane.com). In my opinion, the best kind of characters are complex and anything but stereotypical.

A common trap that writers often fall into is having one dimensional heroes and cardboard cutout villains. For example, the heroine is sweet/sassy nurse or teacher, while the hero is a stoic alpha male working in some branch of the military/law enforcement. The villain spends all his time harming innocents, and plotting the end of the hero. These characters (and the books they appear in) are often generic and forgettable.

My previous post provided some suggestions for developing interesting and believable character personalities. The next challenge is getting away from the default characteristics associated with the roles of our characters. In a recent writing workshop, Mary Buckham (a USA bestselling author of an exciting urban fantasy series and several outstanding books on the craft of writing), offered some tips on how to do this.

Mary proposed creating a list of characteristics often associated with disparate roles. For example, let’s take engineer, rock star, nurse, and escort. Below I’ve listed several attributes that came to mind when thinking about these roles.

Engineer Rock Star Nurse Escort
Nerdy Dramatic Caring Desperate
Analytical Self-Absorbed Hard working Risk taker
Antisocial Rebel Nurturing Materialistic
Intelligent Charismatic Generous Damaged
Focused Social Empathetic Uninhibited

engineer rock starnursesexy woman

The next part in the exercise involved flipping the roles. Also, if there is a stereotypical gender associated with the role, you can switch that too. What you end up with is a template for interesting and memorable characters. Who wouldn’t love to read about a nerdy, highly intelligent male escort or a desperate, risk taking female engineer?

Escort Nurse Rock Star Engineer
Nerdy Dramatic Caring Desperate
Analytical Self-Absorbed Hard working Risk taker
Antisocial Rebel Nurturing Materialistic
Intelligent Charismatic Generous Damaged
Focused Social Empathetic Uninhibited

Another exercise I enjoy doing (especially for my villains) is taking the stereotypical attributes associated with two (often) opposing roles, and mixing them. For example, let’s take the characteristics associated with clowns and psychopaths.

Clown Psychopath
Flamboyant Violent
Jokester Bold
Zany Cruel
Self-depreciating Lack of Empathy
Entertainer Amoral

If you created a character possessing both types of attributes you’ll have brought to life the nightmares of millions of children throughout the world. We don’t expect the evil villain to come cartwheeling into the room. Nor do we expect the bad guy (or girl) to wear a friendly face. There’s a reason why Joker in the Batman comics and the clown from Stephen King’s It stick out in our minds as the creepiest villains of all time.joker

You can create al kinds of  interesting character mashups. Stay at home mom and serial killer. Veterinarian and mad scientist. Sunday school teacher and cyborg. Play around. Mix and match. The combinations are endless and the results are unique characters that stick with readers long after they finish your book.

Creating Interesting Characters: Part I


This weekend, I attended a writing workshop led by Mary Buckham, a USA bestselling author, who feels that having interesting characters is the key to writing books that readers can’t put down. Since I was already mulling over the main character’s role in eliciting emotional reactions from readers and viewers (see my latest blog post on my website), I paid close attention to what she said.

Initially, she had us take a personality test (similar to this one). The point of the exercise was that we needed to understand ourselves before we create characters. If we don’t do this, we run the risk of creating characters just like us. How many times have you read books by authors whose characters are essentially the same in every book? The likely problem is that the characters are just extensions of the authors.

My personality type came back as Helper/Giver (no surprise to me). And upon reflecting, I’ve found that there are pieces of myself in all my characters. Since they came out of my head, there is no getting around that. But, overall, I hope I’ve done a good job of separating my characters from myself. From the beginning I understood that they needed to be internally consistent and true to themselves. My emotionally scarred rock star heroine couldn’t react like I would under pressure. And my alpha male hero sure as hell couldn’t think like me during an intimate moment with that rock star.

I’ve used personality types in character creation since I first started writing. Understanding the different personality dimensions is an excellent way to flesh out protagonists and antagonists and make them interesting. Some good ones to check out include the Myers-Briggs and the Keirsey personality types. I’ve also gotten good ideas from going through the different characteristics associated with astrology signs.

You can mix and match personality characteristics to make fascinating characters. Maybe your Scorpio (INTJ) villain is a rational thinking perfectionist type whose idyllic vision of the future is a great one (if only she didn’t go about killing people to obtain it).

Once you’ve decided on your character’s personality, put them in situations designed to challenge them. For example, throw your Pisces (ISFP) Artist Type heroine into a war zone and hand them an M16.

Conflict is at the heart of good stories and what better way of stirring things up than throwing together two characters with diametrically opposing personality types. For example, toss your Pisces (ISFP) artist type into a life or death situation with a Leo (ENTJ) commander type and watch the sparks fly.

These are just some initial ways to create interesting characters. In my next post, I’ll go through a fun exercise I learned through Mary’s workshop on bucking character stereotypes.

How to Avoid Pissing Off Readers

angry woman

As I mentioned in this week’s post on my personal website, inaccuracies and factual errors in stories upset the most tolerant of us. Fortunately, there are numerous things we writers can do to avoid ticking off our readers.

Internet Research

The world is at your fingertips. You are writing a fight scene that takes place in a Russian bath house, but you’ve never been to one. Never fear. Google it my friend. You will find enough photos and videos of bath houses to be able to describe them in exquisite detail.

If you were to look at my Google searches for today you would find:

  • What does gun oil taste like?
  • What’s the Spanish word for skull?
  • How many people fit in a military helicopter?
  • How long can you live with a stab wound to the gut?

Don’t worry. These searches were for my zombie urban fantasy series. No need to put me under psychiatric evaluation….yet.

The internet isn’t perfect and you should always fact check the information you glean against other sources. However, it does provide a wonderful place to start.

Field Visits & Interviews

Visiting the locations featured in your novels, and interviewing people who are similar to your characters are excellent ways to improve the realism of your stories. If your main character is a Funeral Director, try tracking one down and seeing if they will answer some questions. Better yet, ask if they can give you a tour of their mortuary (fun for the whole family).

Don’t be shy. Take advantage of opportunities to spend time in places (and with people) that will star in your stories. For example, when Dreamer Dwarf was stranded in the vehicle repair shop, I jumped at the opportunity to join her. One of the scenes I was working on took place in a similar location. After dumping my dwarfing at her feet, I ran up to the harried looking store manager and started peppering him with questions about his shop.

As soon as he found out that I was writer, he was thrilled to talk to me. He answered all of my questions and he even pointed out specialized tools on the service floor. Of course, as soon as I asked him if he thought a horde of zombies could break through the bay doors, he suddenly got too busy to chat. Even still, I left with enough information to take my auto shop scene to the next level.

Write What You Know

This is standard advice doled out to writers like toothbrushes at the dentist’s office. There is no denying the advantage in being able to describe, with rich authenticity, the places you’ve lived and the experiences you’ve had.

I spent nearly nine years of my life working for a law enforcement agency. If I ever decide to write any crime fiction or feature police officers in any of my books, I’ll bet dollars to donuts (cops hate that association by the way) that I’ll probably have an edge over someone who has never set foot in a police station.

These are just a few methods I use to strengthen the validity of my stories. What other suggestions do you have for preventing inaccuracies and adding realism to stories?

To Each Their Own


As I was writing the blog post for my personal website this week, it struck me that one of my favorite quotes, “There is always more than one right answer,” also applies to writing.

This was never clearer to me than during last week’s write-in with Kinetic and Dreary dwarf. At one point, I asked what software they were using. Surprisingly enough, it turned out that we were all writing in Scrivener.

We flipped around our laptops and showed each other how we use the program.

Kinetic was rocking the meta data features and demonstrated how she used cork boarding to help her in her process.

Dreary had designed a comprehensive Scrivener template with two chapters per act that he applied to all his novels. Having this structure was critical to his process.

I showed them how I use the color-coding features in organizing my scenes and the research folders for storing images of places/people and cover ideas. Being a visual person (and a nonlinear writer), these features were key to my writing process.

The take home message was even though we were using the same software to write novels, we were using it completely differently. We also had divergent processes that were working for each of us.

I found this discovery affirming.

Over the years, I’ve been to countless writing classes and some of those instructors have touted that their way was THE WAY.


There are no absolutes in this business other than you must write. We all have to discover the unique process that works best for us. Learning what works for other authors, especially successful ones, can be enlightening and another tool you can add to your arsenal. On the other hand, it may not jive with your style of writing.

Maybe you need to write outdoors. Maybe you need to shorthand everything on yellow legal paper. Maybe you can’t write until your novel has first been dictated to you by your cat. Whatever floats your boat and gets the story written.

What’s unique about your writing process?

Waving the White Flag


Around this time of year I become the Tasmanian Devil. Zipping around like a whirling dervish, I try to meet the seemingly endless holiday demands. Battles need to be had with mobs at the grocery store. The house needs a spit shine because friends and family are descending. Gift shopping needs to get done. Food needs to be prepared. Undoubtedly, I’ll have to tear apart the newly cleaned house trying to locate Grandma’s handwritten sweet potato casserole recipe.

There are holiday parties, potlucks, and birthday celebrations to plan and attend. On top of this, someone in my house invariably gets sick. This Thanksgiving my son came down with a bad cold while my husband ended up with the flu.

The end result is that my carefully structured writing schedule goes out the window. I know I’m not alone in this. The holidays have a negative impact on the productivity of many writers.

In the past, I’ve fought back by sacrificing sleep to regain my writing time. Unfortunately, I usually end up looking and acting like the zombies in my novels. Stumbling through my son’s second Christmas wasn’t a proud moment.

So this year, I’m waving the white flag. The holiday madness wins. The word count loses. But come January, game on! I’ll be making up for lost time.

Do you have any strategies for writing through the craziness of the holidays?

If you get a chance, check out the latest blog post on my website (www.tararane.com).

NaNoWriMo & Infidelity



Since I bashed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last week, it’s only fair to write a positive post.

First, a confession. Up until my first NaNoWriMo, I suffered from a crippling affliction that many authors share—story infidelity.

I’m ashamed to admit that my writing process would invariably unfold the same way. Initially, I’d be super excited about a book concept. For weeks, I’d do nothing but worldbuild. Then I’d develop my characters and their backstories to the point that they felt like real people. I’d even have conversations with them (it’s one of many traits shared by writers and the mentally ill).

After all this prep, I’d gleefully skip to my computer, sit down, and write. And write. And write. Until I got to the 40% mark in my book. At that point, I’d slam into a brick wall. Writing stopped being fun… It became work.

My characters would start to annoy me. They were no longer exciting and compelling. I knew exactly where they were going and I didn’t care if they got there any more.

Suddenly, I’d find any excuse not to write. There would be an irresistible need to watch videos of cats falling on toddlers for hours…

Then, a new book concept would come to me. It would be so much sexier than the first idea. It boasted that it was a best-seller and spoke in an thick european accent that sent goosebumps across my skin.

I’d try to resist.

I must finish the first book, I’d tell myself. So what if sitting down to write it is as fun as getting a root canal. How can I be an author if I don’t finish this book?

But the characters from the second book would invade my dreams. They’d whisper their backstories to me while I was working on scenes from my first book. They’d flash me an enticing glimpse of their world. Soon, I’d fantasize about them and their exciting story arcs.

Not too long after that, I’d give into temptation. I’d shelve the first book and start worldbuilding the new story.

Rinse and repeat.

By the time I accepted my first NaNoWriMo challenge, my hard drive was filled with dozens of partially written manuscripts.

NaNoWriMo changed all that.

The rules of NaNoWriMo are simple. You must write 50,000 words in a novel or fail.

So that November, I sat my butt down in the chair and wrote. As anticipated, a brand new story idea started whispering seductively in my ear in mid-November. But this time, I couldn’t afford to be distracted. I refused to answer the phone. I ignored it’s texts. And when it invaded my dreams, I jotted down a few notes, and told it I’d get back to it later. Then I re-focused and kept writing.

Something really strange happened after I did that.

The story I was writing became interesting again. The magic and excitement swung back like a boomerang. And I finished.

Even though that NaNoWriMo novel may never see the light of day (see my earlier post), I finally learned how to write through the temptation. I was able to finished the next book. And the next.

NaNoWriMo cured me of my story infidelity and I’ll be forever grateful.

For a laugh check out Chuck Wendig’s blog for some off color NaNoWriMo tips (staying faithful to the story is number #9 on his list).

If you have time, check out my blog post on my recent interaction with an angsty fox.


NaNoWriMo And Cupcakes


NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is like baking cupcakes. If you don’t have a recipe (outline), or the right ingredients (craft), you can bake yourself fifty thousand of those suckers and they’re all going to taste like crap.

I know this from painful experience. During my first NaNoWriMo, I was swept away. I couldn’t stop the intense writing. The holidays couldn’t derail my passion. I spent every free moment glued to my computer. I kept writing and writing until the beginning of April when I finally wrote those magical words—the end.

I celebrated for a week. The chocolate and wine flowed freely. Then, I took a deep breath and started the editing process. I imagined this would be a bit like decorating cupcakes. Just add a sprinkling of commas and a few descriptive words and I’d be ready to send my gorgeous book baby off to meet the world. Quivering with excitement, I started back on the first prologue (of course my book had several prologues). By the time I got to the end of chapter five, I wanted to puke.

I couldn’t even make it through to the epilogues (of course I had several of those too). Tears prickling in my eyes, I had to face the painful truth that I’d just spend six months of my life writing 300,000 words of pure unadulterated sewage. All those hours of sleep I’d scarified. All that family time I’d missed. All those books I could have been reading. All those TV shows I could have been watching.

And for what? A train wreck of a book that belonged in the bottom of a file drawer for all eternity.


Many writing classes, conferences, workshops, books, and critique groups later I’ve come to the realization that without direction and skill drumming out words on a keyboard is about as productive as having deep conversations with a goldfish.

I don’t want to give NaNoWriMo a bad rap. It can help you learn self-discipline. That’s a critical skill to master for any successful writer. However, it will not teach you how to write well. And quality will always win over quantity (for both books and cupcakes).

So I will bow out of NaNoWriMo this year and focus on improving the quality of my writing. What about you? What has been your experience with NaNoWriMo?

If you have time, check out my blog post on happy endings: http://tararane.com/2014/11/13/happy-endings/

My First Time…

Greetings. My name is Tara Rane, and I’m an author living in the Southwest. I have a hubby who worships Apple, a spirited toddler with a death wish, a hairless dog, a cat who wears diapers, and a fish with attitude. I write dark urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Since I’m baring my soul, I have a confession to make. This is my first time blogging. Ever.

Up to this point, I’ve managed to avoid social media like the bubonic plague. But when my mother is the one lecturing me about internet presence (cue the theme song from the Twilight Zone), I know it’s time to join the 21st century.

Of course, if I’d lived a hundred years ago, I probably would have grumbled, “We don’t need no stinking automobiles. We have perfectly good horses.” Then I would have sashayed my corset-wearing self into the outhouse to pout in the dark (because indoor plumbing and electricity were the devil’s magic).
Being a technophobe growing up in the 80’s and 90’s meant that I fought the upgrade from my Apple IIc like a honey badger on crack. My desk drawers are still filled with floppy discs that, hopefully, I’ll be able to access again. Someday.

Embarrassingly enough, I still have a tape deck in my car. And the tapes to go along with it. It’s a fabulous anti-theft device, by the way. Thieves will actually stick their business cards in my windshield offering me a good deal on a better stereo system.

It took my hubby (a technophile) holding me down and prying the flip phone out of my white-knuckled grip and replacing it with a smart phone to get me to upgrade. He has gotten wise to my Amish ways, and often sneaks in computer updates and new technology at night while I’m asleep. It figures I’d marry an IT guy. *Sigh*

A funny thing happens once I get accustom to the change. I find there’s no going back. Right now, I’d rip out the jugular of anyone who dared try to separate me from my newfangled devices. And such will be the way with blogging.
Since I’m new to this bright and shiny world of blogging, I’d love hearing from you. What do you like and dislike seeing in blogs?

And if you have a chance, check out my first blog on my website. There I explain why I use ‘Death is the beginning’ as my tagline.


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