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    Sundays ~

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It’s coming…HUNTED BY THE PAST is just about to arrive! #MuseItUp #newreads #PNR

huntedbythepast

Phoenix in July. People called it Mother Nature’s rendition of hell on earth.

They were wrong. Hell existed on the other side of the world, in a much more treacherous desert. If it let you go, you ran, long and hard and as fast as you could.

You couldn’t hide, but you could try. I’d been running for six long months, jumping from one remote place to another, chasing wildlife with a camera for a paycheck. A safer endeavor than chasing two footed monsters.

Unfortunately, there was one thing I couldn’t outrun, family. Or the closest thing to it in my case, Kelsey. Sister by circumstances, not blood, and the only human on this planet I’d come back to civilization for, she should’ve been on her own plane with a group of fellow lawyers for some boring-ass conference. Her words, not mine. Instead, she’d managed to get a message to me, even out into the wilds of America’s last frontier. Someone had been asking questions about me, and watching her.

And so it begins, HUNTED BY THE PAST, the first in my Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, The PSY-IV Teams. In five days you can be the proud new owner of a copy. If you want to pre-order it while it’s at $2.99, please do! Here, I’m going to include a link–click on the cover above or the image below, both will get you there.

MuseItUp

If the that first tidbit wasn’t enough, what about what others are saying…

“I was hooked from the first word read. I had a very hard time putting the book down and when I did, I couldn’t wait to come back to it.” –RomCon Reader  9.35 rating

“Hunted By The Past is fast-paced, quick witted, and Ms. Gray can surely spin a fascinating paranormal story.” –Catherine Constantine, Goodreads rating 5 stars

“…this author has grown characters rich in personal history who are willing to risk everything for love of each other and their duty.”–Mona Karel, Goodreads rating 5 stars

 

Learning Lessons from the Greats

I’ve just started reading Stephen King’s novel On Writing. It is a fascinating and well-written book that has the feel of an autobiography, with writing advice if you pay close enough attention. However, what I really love about this book is that it is inspiring. I just finished the section of the book where he discusses getting Carrie published. Through his recollection of this, I learn a lot about his life, but also about how the publishing process worked at this time. But even more than that, I learned something I felt I could apply to my own writing.

Stephen King mentions that the first version he wrote of Carrie wasn’t very good. He throws it away, only to later be inspired by his wife’s interest in it. The problem is that he knows very little about high school girls and doesn’t feel particularly connected to his main character. He goes on to explain how he “fixes” this problem.

I think we’ve all had a character or a situation we tried writing about, even though it wasn’t in our comfort zone. Just recently, I really pushed the boundaries of what I write, to see what I am capable of creating. But I think I learned the same lesson Stephen King learned, although I didn’t get a multi-million dollar book out of it. It is fine to write about things we are unknowledgeable about, but until we do some research, and find a way to connect personally with our characters and topic, the piece will never live up to its full potential.

Have you ever written something that was out of your comfort zone? And if so, what did you do to better understand and connect with your topic or characters?

I Really Liked It, But…

I joined the Dwarves just over a year ago and they were my first experience with a critique group. Luckily they seemed to like me and have kept me around even though I moved across the country. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first met up with the group but I was pleasantly surprised overall. The first meeting I went to I was given the option as to whether or not I would like to give critiques to the other members. I thought it was a test, so I did them.

I am still not sure to this day whether it was an actual test, but my critiques failed miserably. First of all I had never met these people and I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I believe that I started every criticism with “I really liked it, but…” I recall feeling rather flustered when Snarky snorted around the fifth time I said this. Luckily Snarky has grown on me and I no longer hold it against her (or do I? All those murder plots we sit around and talk about? Bet you never knew you were on my list Snarky! Bwahahahaha!). Seriously though, I deserved the snort.

Now I am at a point where I can tell my group, hey guess what ya’ll I didn’t really like all of it. Mind you this was a year ago and if you asked me whose I really liked and didn’t,  I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that, just like when you’re reading books, you’re not going to like everything you read to critique. Now comes the hard part: do you not like it because it’s not your genre of choice? Do you not like it because you’re not a fan of first person?  Do you not like it because if you read another book about demons/vampires/Aunt Flo/Steve/zombies/BDSM you’re going to scream?

All of these are valid feelings to have about a book but then you have to ask yourself if it’s relevant. I myself don’t read a ton of Science Fiction. So if I’m critiquing SciFi I have to question if the reason it’s not clicking for me is because it needs work or if it’s because it doesn’t have the same flow as an Urban Fantasy (of which I read a lot). If there are more holes in the plot then a colander then my input is valuable. If I dislike something because it’s not my bag it’s not helpful to the writer.

Another thing I brought up is not liking something because of the choice of POV. Not enjoying a certain POV is fine, but again unless the POV makes it impossible to get into, it’s a style choice. The one I would argue not to use is first person present tense. I write in first person past tense, and I have never met a reader who enjoyed present tense. It’s jarring. Not to sound too PC but if that’s your style choice you can tell me to shove it where the sun don’t shine and I will accept that as your choice.

The last example I used is probably the hardest to tell someone. Clichés! Dum, dum, dum! (dramatic music). When a person is writing commercial fiction it is hard not to fall into a cliché because we are often writing to a formula. I myself could read a million books about demons/vampires/Aunt Flo/zombies/BDSM as long as there is a good twist to the story. The dwarves are a very talented group but there are times when we all need to be reminded to spice it up.   

Personally I think that joining the critique group has helped me tremendously not only as a writer but also as a reader/critic. It is easier to find flaws in your own work when you are able to see it in others. The key to getting the most you can out of a critique group is to put your big girl (or boy) britches on and be willing to listen and implement. If you are unwilling to do so or if the people in your group are unwilling to do so it’s probably not a good fit. That is not to say that you should take every piece of advice, you are the creator of your own world and you have total control over said world. What it is saying is that nobody has the perfect manuscript, and if you’re unwilling to offer or receive productive feedback a critique group would be pointless. So remember don’t feel the need to sugarcoat everything. People want honest opinions, that is not to say being a total dick is appropriate either because I’m sure your mama raised you better than that.

 

Disclaimer: Dwarves, despite the fact that many of us write about zombies, vampires, demons, etc. I was not passive aggressively calling anyone out so when my spies tell me what ya’ll talk about at the next meeting it better not be me. Okay, I know the rules, if I’m not there I’m fair game, but it shouldn’t be about oh “that bitch hates zombie books,” because we all know that isn’t the case. 

Rate My Coworker

Wouldn’t that be nice? Suzy (fake coworker) would get ten different reviews from ten different coworkers. Even if she was the best worker ever she likely would have rubbed someone the wrong way, and gotten a bad review from that person. Of course after that the working environment between those two would likely be icy. We see reviews in corporate America and even in the education system. Still most of the time we are not rating someone who has the same job as us, we are rating someone in a position of authority i.e. manager, professor, and those reviews are likely anonymous.

So to get to the point as writers we have a fairly solitary work life. We don’t have coworkers as we are likely independent contractors. Huzzah, I don’t have to wear pants to work! Back to the point, the closest thing we have to coworkers are other writers independently contracted as well. Yet unlike in other occupations you will often see other writers reviewing books in the same genre they write. So my question is: is this appropriate?

For me it’s not. I want to build a network of both writers and readers and I think that reviewing leads to ostracizing potential allies and readers. Fact is I don’t like every book I read and I don’t expect everyone to like what I write. I’m not saying I’m against reviews, reviews help authors but I’m not going to take a shit where I eat. I’m classy like that. I leave reviews to the readers. So what do you guys think?

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