• Who We Are

  • Schedule

    Mondays ~
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Naughty
    Fridays ~ Dreary
    Saturdays ~
    Sundays ~

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Kinetic’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

InstaFreebie and Bitly

There are so many incredibly useful resources out there for authors, just waiting to be explored. Just this week, I finally took the plunge and checked out InstaFreebie and Bitly. I’ll share general information about these great sites below, as well as, my experience using them.

InstaFreebie

This is a website that is mainly used by authors who want a simple and safe way to give away free copies of their books. A few fellow writers recommended it when I asked about giving away copies in exchange for honest reviews. So far, I’ve only sent this link to a couple of reviewers, but this is what I noticed right away:

  • It is extremely user-friendly. It takes just a few steps in order to get a book giveaway up and running.
  • You have to have an ePub file, while I’ve never used before. I was able to get a free trial of a program (ePub Converter) in order to convert a word document into an ePub file.
  • When I opened the book on their site, the formatting was off. I resubmitted it with my CreateSpace formatting (which is my stripped down copy of my work), and it still had a space between each paragraph. I’m not sure how to fix it, but I’ll play with it some more.
  • The other thing that I couldn’t seem to figure out was how to view a copy of my book without actually going in and requesting a copy through the giveaway. I’m sure there is a way, but I may need to explore the site more.

Bitly

This is a website that takes links and shortens them, but it is so much more than that. This site also tracks how many times someone clicks on your shortened link, so you can monitor how useful your different advertisements are and how many people you’ve reached with them.

For example, here are two links that go to the exact same page:

The second link is the one that took me less than a minute to shorten using Bitly. Having a shorter link is nice, but what’s even nicer is that after I run this blog, I can go to Bitly and see how many people clicked on it.

Like my post?  Check out my personal blog: Lisa Morrow

Favorite Books – by Tara Rane

Meme

 

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/)

Reading as a Writer

Blue Colors

When I first started writing, I never thought it’d impact the way I read to quite the extent that it has. But it did. Now, I find there are books I absolutely cannot stand, simply because of the way they’re written… novels that, as just a reader, might not seem that bad.

For example, I recently started reading a new romance series. I was really enjoying the creativity of the world and the depth of the characters, until I realized the plot seemed non-existent. The more I paid attention to the plot, the more I was aware that there was no plot. Nothing drove these characters or challenged these characters, beyond the complications that just sprung up from chapter to chapter.

I still enjoy the series, but I find myself constantly thinking, my writing group would never let me get away with that.

But now, let’s talk about books I love even MORE as an author. Of course, my mind immediately snaps to Harry Potter, but I’d rather discuss a less well-known novel. Namely, Dragon’s Winter by Elizabeth A. Lynn. It is an absolutely amazing book! I think it’s the first novel I read where I realized it was possible to love and empathize with a character who may do some things that, by all logic, are unforgivable.

She spins the story of man who is unable to transform into a dragon, because his younger brother has stolen his amulet. He seems to have a great reluctance to confront or harm his brother, because he feels guilty for something that isn’t his fault… that he has inherited the ability to transform, while his brother did not. I empathized with both characters until his younger brother crosses a line, bringing cruelty on a level that is unforgivable on every level.

This book captured me, not just because of the unique world, but because of its main character, a complicated man who is riddled with flaws. I think it takes an incredibly skilled writer to create a character who crosses so many lines, but who the reader can’t stop rooting for.

What are some books you absolutely love?

Like my posts?  Check out my books available on Amazon: Lisa Morrow

Or, check out my personal blog: Lisa Morrow Author Blog

The 7 Evil Dwarves are back with a new Swamp! #7EDs

On the tail end of our journey through the writing workshops over the last month, I wanted to see if you all have checked out the reswampped home of the 7 Evil Dwarves (www.7evildwarves.com)? We’ve added some new stops.

Since I spent most of June doing writer marketing stuff, release stuff, and setting things into place for the second PSY-IV Team book, I also threw in remodeling my site, which in turn bled over into reswammping the 7ED site. We’ve let the mud creep up over the last few months. Some of the dwarves have huddled inside their shacks refusing to venture out into the common areas, so we as a group decided it was time to get ourselves back in shape. (Okay, yes, maybe I pushed…a little…with a bulldozer…but the results are worth it, right?)

To ensure we stay on track, we set up a new blog schedule. Every day a dwarf will post. Doesn’t matter how long or short, they will post so our visitors know we aren’t a ghost swamp.

We added a page listing all our author interviews (in alpha order, because my CDO kicked in). These interviews are us asking writers we admire questions, so check out the list and feel free to spend some time in the Swamp Guest Archives tab.

You’ll notice we number a bit more than 7, but we have a couple of dwarves who hold honorary positions, so we’re not kicking them out. We each have a page, so take the time to give the hairy eyeball to each one.

There’s a tab–Writings of the Dwarves–this is a must see. Here you will find all our literary accomplishments, along with links to access them. Our goal, to add a few more names and titles by this time next year.

You’ll notice there’s a tab titled, SWAMP TALES. This requires constant checking because we have gathered around the campfire and began a story–just for you readers. Each of us takes a piece in round robin format. Of course, at the time of writing this post, it’s a bit snarly, but I’m sure we’ll find our way out…soon…or else!

Then there’s another page for all those writers out there who are looking for some helpful sites and communities. Doesn’t matter your genre, feel free to click and play.

Take your time, mosey around my place (www.jamigray.com) and check out the first chapter of each book, sign up for my newsletter. (So far, I’ve only sent out one and I’ll probably send one more out later this year, which means, that’s what? Two a year. Shouldn’t crowd your in-box too much.) Then check out the nooks and crannies at the Swamp.

Let us know what’s working, what isn’t, and what you might expect but didn’t find.

 

Urban Fantasy vs. Fantasy or Girls vs. Boys Phoenix Comicon panels part duex #writingtips #rogues

Welcome to part deux of my ventures into Phoenix Comicon writing panels. I saved the best for last. The panel was titled “Writing Rogues” and man, the panelists fit that description to a ‘T’.  Recognize these names: Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles), Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles), Pierce Brown aka Pretty Boy (Red Rising Trilogy), Sam Sykes (The Aeons’ Gate series), and Scott Lynch (Gentleman Bastards series). If you read fantasy, you know at least one of these. And yes, it did not escape my notice there were no females present (but more of that later).

This workshop focused on the role of the rogue in fantasy series.  You know the ones: Han Solo from Star Wars, Lynch’s Locke, Harry of Jim Butcher fame, Atticus from Kevin’s series, these male characters know how to work that line between bad boy attitude and hero.

They started off with what makes a rogue–flaws, moral grayness (morally transgressive), never sure if they’ll side with you or leave you hanging in the wind, ambivalent, never committed to any cause, unless it’s themselves. They’re the characters you aren’t sure will show up, and when they do, you still aren’t sure what they’re going to do. They break the boundaries of their worlds, have to fight themselves before they fight their antagonist.  Want more examples? Think Snake Eyes from GI Joe, Stryder from LoTR, Cpt. Kirk of USS Enterprise–each one of these is what is described as a “chaotic neutral”.

The panel was an hour long and these guys are high caliber smart asses, witty without trying, and awesome to listen to. Then one of the audience members got up and asked a question.

“Why aren’t there any female rogues in fantasy?”

Silence descends for a moment, then Patrick dares to address the 15 minute rambling that I managed to get down to 8 words.  Because part of that rambling question were comments, such as “why does a female rogue have to be attractive, but a male one doesn’t?”, and “why are female rogues considered $itches”, and “how come its an all male panel?”, and so forth.

It was a big room with lots of people. My heart went out to the panelists. This is a minefield question. The questioner was on the younger side (no offense meant, but it may give insight into the whys behind the questions).

I won’t go into the debate that broke out, but I will boil some of it down:

1. In Fantasy, the world settings tend to model on medieval, which then extends to your world’s attitudes on genders. Patrick posed an interesting question, “If a fantasy author wrote a book where the lead was a mother, who decided to leave her hubby and kiddos, to undertake a heroine’s journey, would the readers be sympathetic?”  My answer as a reader–not me. First, I’m a mom and a wife, and somehow leaving behind the important peeps in my life to undertake some journey to find a magical object, would require serious incentive. Patrick pushed it further. “So say this mom does leave it all behind to do this journey, and say the sexual mores of this world were less puritan than ours, so she can now hook up with males through out her journey without worry of negatively impacting her family behind, would it still work for you?”  Again, me as a reader–um, yuck.

My take away from this one:  Fantasy is based on historical mores/values/cultures, and women, unfortunately did not play dominant roles in those, which is then reflected in high fantasy.

2. Many, many, MANY (did I say many?) times, each of the authors on the panel brought up woman writers who have kick-ass female rogues: Carrie Vaughan, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Laurell Hamilton, Elizabeth Hand, etc.

After much back and forth, guess what I wanted to yell at the minor demon of debate castigating the panel: Yo, honey, you want rogue females? Then PICK UP A DAMN URBAN FANTASY BOOK!  Rogue female characters work in UF because it’s fantasy set in contemporary times, where moral trangsgressiveness is gender blind. You want to know what happen to rogue female leads, yeah they’re kicking ass a few hundred of years after the bad boys of fantasy.

Besides, you tell me, don’t Granuaile from Hearne’s novels, or Karen in Jim’s novels, nail the female rogues roles?

So I refrained from violence, barely, but I still had to vent a bit on this.

Tell me, as I haven’t read the newer High Fantasy lately, are there women rogues in lead roles? Ones that aren’t portrayed as hardened $itches?

“Write with the door closed…” Stephen King

“Write with the door closed…” Stephen King

 

We were discussing the other day the importance of writing with the door closed. How we need to not only shut out the daily distractions of life, but those voices in our heads. Those wee little creatures that tell you it’s not good enough. That tell you that last sentence you wrote was incomplete. Those people who look down their long pointed noses to remind you that your chance of success is nil.

Well, I say not only close the door, but slam it shut.

Write for yourself. Tell that story that only you can tell. We are all unique, and trying to be anything else is a waste.

Below is a poem from one of my favorite poets and creative genius, Shel Silverstein. It helps me remember “Anything can be.”

LISTEN TO THE MUSTN’TS CHILD.
LISTEN TO THE DON’TS.
LISTEN TO THE SHOULDN’TS.
THE IMPOSSIBLES.
THE WON’TS.
LISTEN TO THE NEVER HAVES,
THEN LISTEN CLOSE TO ME…
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN CHILD.
ANYTHING CAN BE.

 

Anything can happen child

Soldiers vs. Aliens…it’s Phoenix Comicon panels! #milspecfic #writingtips

The wild and strange phenomena whipped through Phoenix a few weeks back under the guise of the Phoenix Comicon. The Knight managed to snag a family photo op with the legendary Nathan Fillion, which we have since decided to use for our next Christmas Card. Seriously, we have NEVER taken such a great family pic. I’m going to have to insist Nathan be in EVERY family photo from here on out.

But I digress.  The Prankster Duo, the Knight and I did not don our costume apparel, but did wander the wild paths of comicon for hours marveling at other’s apparel. It’s a visual feast, one I firmly believe every individual should indulge in at least once. While we were there, I snuck into some writing panels, because, yes, that’s what I do. I haunt/stalk other writers hoping their genius shall some how drift along the winds of creation and flutter down upon me so I may enjoy the wonders of their creative minds.

I sat in two panels: Writing Rogues and Military in Spec Fic.

I’m going to hit the Military panel in this post. Check in next week, because I have a huge discussion point for Writing Rogues for next week. I just didn’t want to keep you here for hours. Again, we’re going off my notes, which were jotted down so they may be a bit scattered.

I picked the Military in Spec Fic because I’m getting ready to start the second PSY-IV Teams book and no matter how many times I grill…errr..ask politely, of my military friends, I’m always seeking more information. The panelists were: Daniel Abraham, John Scalzi, Myke Cole, Ty Franck, Weston Ochse.  Just so you know, until this panel I had read Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series, had heard of John Scalzi (who hasn’t? Old Man’s War, Hugo winner for Redshirts…overall smart ass, in a good way), Ty and Daniel write as a team, and my note taking sucks because I don’t have their titles down, and Weston, well, he does SEAL Team 666 and his latest is Grunt Life.

I knew going into a series revolving around military I’d be taking on certain story elements I was going to screw up. After listening to these guys, I’m even more certain of it. But I’ll figure it out as I go along.

Myke is active Coast Guard reserve, Weston actively served, just recently got out to write full-time, Daniel and Ty have immediate family (lots of) who are active military, and so does John. It’s not like they’re unfamiliar with the world, and it’s filled with rules that have their own rules.  That being said, research is key if you’re going to write any story with military ties. It’s vital.

But more than research, you need to listen. Listen to those who’ve walked the walk, take the time to really listen to the stories they tell. Read between the lines at what is not said or how something is said.  Serve as a witness.

All of these writers weave the military with speculation on what happens when we run into an alien force more disciplined, more powerful, more massive than ours? How do the lowly humans survive?

They spoke to characterization, specifically what drives an individual to serve their country. How character decides their loyalty–to the authority, to their team, to those they protect. In actuality most soldiers are loyal to the man/woman fighting next to him, not for the country that sent them out unprepared, or the lofty ideals that won’t save an innocent, not the money or power. If you do a stereotype, you’re doing your writing a disservice because soldiers are just individuals who chose to serve.

The one thing that sung deep for me–there are no right answers to moral dilemmas. There is an entire universe in gray. What’s considered the right thing in an extreme situation varies on the point of view of the person making that choice–the Allied solider, the alien invaders, the officer, the lowly grunt. Each one will face the same situation differently.What you think is the “good” guys, may actually be the “bad” guys. Can a character be a traitor and hero at the same time–yes. Making a moral choice comes down to the individual and what they are willing to do/sacrifice for that choice.

These men were great, and I can’t express how much I appreciated hearing their take on this, because one of my biggest challenges is making sure each member of the PSY-IV comes across as an individual. As much I’d like them all to resemble GI Joe, it ain’t happening, and it would make a damn boring story if it did.

If you love Speculative Fiction with your military suspense, I would recommend any of these authors.

Do you have any others to add to the list?

Ms. Author, how does your book grow? #writingtips #RT2014 #wcgoals

During the Romantic Times convention, I had a chance to sit in on numerous workshops. One of my favorites was titled, “The Tortoise and the Hare”.  For once the title actually matched the discussion points. It centered on the writing routines of the gathered authors. To get an idea of who was on this panel, the lovely and talented, Charlaine Harris (of Sookie Stackhouse fame), Angie Fox (Accidental Demon Slayer), Darynda Jones (Charlie Davidson series), Suzanne McLeod (Spellcrackers series) and Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires). Impressive, no?

We got settled in and Leigh Evans of the Shifter Justice novels and moderator, started the ball rolling.

The question every writer asks: what’s your word count like?

D. Jones–outlines, does a fast first draft, takes maybe 2 weeks   (Yeah, I’m gasping for air on that too!) Daily word count= 500, EVERY DAY, which gives her 2 books per year. (In case you didn’t know, she also holds an outside full time job, and is a mama). Generally makes deadlines early.

S. McLeod–small outline, writes one, pretty clean draft,  3-9 months depending.Word count = 1000K/day, maybe 3K on weekends

A. Fox–has an idea sprinkled with character motivation gets through 4-5 chats, then outlines. First half of story takes 4-5 months, during which she will hit a panic point, then story topples into last half, which speeds by. Writes from 8 am to noon, no word limit. Generally hits 5-7 pages/day. Sets time limits, not word count.

C. Harris–sets a word count, which could render 10 pgs of crap or 3 pgs of great. Doesn’t outline, because she gets bored, she knows her key scenes, mid-point issue. Generally rubs right against the deadline.

C. Neill–needs a motivation for her story, then does synopsis (close your mouth, I’m with you!) Putting together the mystery elements of story is full time job, writes during evenings and weekends, averages between 2-2 and1/2 books per year and maybe a novella or two. Word count = 6-8 pgs/day. Doesn’t do much editing.

Next question: How do you get unstuck?

C. Harris–kill someone (my kind of gal!)

C. Neill–take a walk, get out away from computer, but always come back. No matter what, good or bad, sit your ass in the chair and write. You can’t get better if you don’t write.

A. Fox–never knows how her stories end. Every time she worries, “This is the book that will suck, my readers will hate me/it won’t sell”, has to set it aside for a couple of days to get distance.

S. McLeod–generally if she gets stuck it’s because she’s trying to make her characters do something they don’t want to do. So she steps away, a week/days/hours, let’s subconscious mull it over and comes back.

D. Jones–if she get stuck, it’s because she did something wrong, so she’ll have to go back, find it, and fix it before moving forward.

And lastly: Do you use critique partners? Beta readers?

C. Neill–no crit partner, have great continuity editors, time editors and they hold it all together. If my editors says “Nope, not working”, then I listen, go back and figure it out.

A. Fox–1 crit partner in a different genre, allows a wider view on work, which also results in arguments, but it works. Beta readers are great–identify throw away lines and those who know your universe are the best for helping when you need that little something.

D. Jones–no crit partner, relies on her editors and beta readers to keep continuity, Okay to disagree with editor, but pick your battles wisely. Plus, doesn’t have time to run WIPs through crit partners to make deadlines.

C. Harris–2 beta readers, no crit partner, relies on betas and editors to help keep it all together and catch what she doesn’t.

S. McLeod–1 crit partner, and they exchange work.

So there you have it, a fantastic cross section of NY Times authoresses and how they spin their magic. Realization from workshop: write your damn story, whatever you have to do to do it, DO IT. What works for you, works for a reason so stick with it and don’t worry what the others around you are doing.

Want to know mine:

Six days a week I try to hit between 1200-1500 words, generally at night when the Prankster Duo and Knight are busy defending their computerized worlds from domination.

What works for you?

 

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?

Writing Masters: Stephen King

What would a series on writing masters be without Stephen King?

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOf course, I first have to recommend his book, On Writing (Amazon Link)

Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing

I also, just found another book by Stephen on writing, Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing (Amazon Link)

      Haven’t read it yet, but I just bought it, woot!

 

So what links to great gems of knowledge did I find?

Google Search Link: https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=stephen+king+writing+tips

 

1) Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writing (Barnes and Noble Blog, surprisingly)

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/stephen-kings-top-20-rules-for-writers/

My favorites are #7 (Read, read, read) and #12 (Write one word at a time). I need to be better at #9 (Turn off the TV) and #13 (Limit Distraction).

 

2) 7 Invaluable Writing Tips From Stephen King   

     http://www.policymic.com/articles/64509/7-invaluable-writing-tips-from-stephen-king

 

 3) Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes

https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/135/King_Everything.html

 

 4) Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/07/why-stephen-king-spends-months-and-even-years-writing-opening-sentences/278043/

 

Some of my Favorite Writing Quotes from The Master (you can find a ton on Goodreads here)

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

“you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

“Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”  

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”  

 

And, just because it’s fun

“Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not so, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?”

 

Q4U: Which Writing Masters do you get inspiration from?

 

Enjoy

~ Amber Kallyn

 

 

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