• 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

NaNoWriMo & Infidelity

 

peeking

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.

 

I ain’t got no time for cupcakes!

I’ve written two books for NaNoWriMo. Both were ‘wins’ in the NaNo World. I hit 50K words during the month of November, but neither will ever see the light of day.

I love NaNoWriMo because it gave me a win. As a new writer, still wondering if writing was something I could even do, I needed a win. I needed to accomplish…something…but I knew that I wasn’t going to write a best-seller on my first go-round, or second or even third. I needed a goal. Something to shoot for. NaNoWriMo gave me that goal.

I went into them knowing fully well they were practice books. Little foothills on the climb up the slope. Try/fail cycles if you will. I needed to tell myself that yes, I can sit down, start a story, and finish it. I can see a character or two through a journey. Yes it will suck and no, my wife can’t read them because I’m too embarrassed, but they accomplished the intended purpose that I had laid out for them.

So what about this NaNoWriMo? Being my fifth book I’m still dubious that it will be publishable, but I can see a vast improvement in my own writing over the last four to five years. This might be the one, or the next one might be the one. I don’t know, and I don’t much care right now. I do know that I don’t need the ‘win’ like I did in years past, but I still like this time because it’s my ‘winning’ time. It’s become somewhat of a tradition. It also helps that this year I planned on writing a 50K word book…coincidence? I also outlined a ton, more than I’ve ever done before…but more on that next week.

Some things I keep in mind while doing NaNoWriMo:

First off, realize that this month of furious writing is really just a fun way for a bunch of people to get together and get their Great American Novel written. That’s it. Don’t read into it too much. It’s fun.

It’s a tool, one of many, to help schedule your time and focus your energy. Talk to your loved ones, explain your goals and that, even though you might be missing a lot during this time, you’ll be back in December and life will get back to…more normal.

Write. This, obviously, is important. You carved out that time, you’re missing your loved ones, do them proud by actually completing the project. No wasting time on the internet, playing games, etc. Write. Turn off the damned WiFi if you have to.

Don’t edit. Bar yourself from fixing misspelled words if you have to. Yes, to that extreme. I see you hitting backspace to fix that word! Don’t do it!

Your goal is to finish the book. Not fix words or ‘tweak’ anything. This is a chance to actually complete a book. So complete it.

You will have to edit, probably edit a bunch, but you will edit in December and January. Embrace that and be okay with the fact that you might actually say “I don’t know what to put here.” Into your text. Seriously, type that over and over so you don’t break your rhythm. I have done that. It’s amazing what your mind comes up with after writing that line four or five times.

But most of all, have fun. Enjoy it. Relish in the lack of sleep for a month as you pound out 1000 words an hour…You are writing a thousand words an hour aren’t you? Alright mister, time to take the backspace key off your keyboard…

NaNoWriMo And Cupcakes

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.

Ouch.

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/

Are you ready for Nano? #AmWriting #NanoWriMo

 

National Novel Writing Month.

November.

Write 50,000 words in one month. Around the holidays.

That’s an average of approximately 1, 667 words per day.

I’ve attempted Nano three times, and succeeded twice. The first time, well, lets just say the results weren’t pretty. What helped me win was preparing before the month began – but then, I’m a plotter, LOL.

What I like best about Nano, though, isn’t whether I hit the word count or not, but diving into the habit of daily writing with specific goals in mind.

This year, I have a small goal. Write every day except for Sundays, and Thanksgiving. I’m not concerned with making the 50k, but I’m going to try for it 😀

With the last few months researching and building a new world and a new series, hopefully I’m prepared!

So, who’s doing Nano this year?

Have you done it before? How do you get ready for the push?

 

And if you’re interested, I’m higleyb on the Nano website if you’d like to add me as a friend

😀

~Amber Kallyn

Equinoxes and Godesses and Autumn Creativity

This weekend everyone’s talking about it being the first day of fall. And their lovely weather.Free Danish Autumn Stock Images - 870214

Sigh.

Here in Arizona, we’re still hitting over 100 degrees during the day, but I’m (im)patiently waiting for cooler temps. Send em on over 🙂 I love sitting outside and writing in the cool air. And reading on the back porch, the kids hanging out around the trees, is a blast 😀

For some reason, this time of year–fall, cooling temps and Halloween just around the corner–makes me feel more creative. I love planning new worlds, and for some reason, I get more ideas during September through October than any other time a year. 

Of course, once November hits with the holidays, I get no ideas LOL so maybe it all balances 😀

Since I’m in the middle of such world building and researching mythology and recently came across this again, I thought I’d share this tidbit (From a post in 2012)

***

In the pagan religion, the autumn equinox (the time of year when day and night are equal), is September 21st, and is the celebration of Mabon, or the first day of fall.

Mabon is named after a Welsh god who was stolen from his mom when he was barely three nights old.

If you enjoy Greek or Roman mythology, there are similarities between Mabon and Persephone, both being taken captive to the underworld during the autumn equinox, only to be rescued and allowed to come back during the spring equinox every year.

But the main theme of the celebration was that of thanksgiving.

In older ages, this was the time of the fall harvest, and the gods were thanked for the bounty of food to see the village through the oncoming cold winter.

***

 

I love fall, we don’t get the pretty leave turning or even much of a transition here (we go straight from way-too-hot, a few days of just-cool-enough, then straight to get-out-the-jackets weather) but it does mean cooler temps finally:)

So my Q4U: What’s your favorite time of year and why? And for writers, when is your most creative season?

~ Amber

Writer Driven Writing

Last night I stayed up ridiculously late writing a short story. When I was finished, I felt a huge sense of relief. Sometimes when I get an idea, it takes months to finish, which can be stressful. I’m left with a constant sense of a story still waiting to be told.

This morning, however, someone asked me what the purpose of the story was and what point it was trying to make. I froze. There wasn’t really a purpose. Just an idea. A character. A world.

I re-read the story and still enjoyed it, but started wondering what a reader is looking for when they pick up a short story. Do they have the same expectations as when they read a novel? Are they just hoping to be entertained for a shorter period of time?

Honestly, I have no idea. Some short stories definitely send a message. They leave you wondering for days. While others keep you on the edge of your seat. And when you’re finished, you put it down feeling strangely satisfied.

But after a morning of reflection, I came to a startling revelation. I didn’t really care. When I started out writing the story, it wasn’t with any other purpose than wanting to get my idea on paper. And, I think, sometimes when I focus too much on my readers, the story I want to tell gets lost in what I believe others want to read.

So, my new plan is:
• To make sure everything I write is for me first
• To try to drowned out the voices of others, so my voice isn’t lost
• To write with no other purpose than to write

I hope that by keeping these goals in mind, my writing will be stronger, but also I’ll keep enjoying writing. No one wants their dream job to start feeling like a nightmare.

Welcome Home, Anna Conda

hwabutton

Greetings and Salutations honorable readers of the blog,

I hope you didn’t miss last week’s blog, Robert Louis Stevenson came for a visit to discuss The Body Snatcher, and The Strange Case Of Dr. Jeckyll And Mr. Hyde. It seems that doctors in fiction are much maligned. There was Dr. Moreau;  from The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G.Wells; Dr. Frankenstein; from Mary Shelly’s, Frankenstein; Dr. Herbert West; from H.P. Lovecraft’s, Herbert West Reanimator; and who could forget Dr. Hannibal Lecter, from The Silence of The Lambs, by Thomas Harris. These are but a few of the more renown doctors of horror. There are countless tales of doctors whose experiments have ended badly for people. Sometimes the balance of the world is at stake. That is not to say literature presents all doctors in a negative light, but in the realm of horror when a doctor enters the scene, it’s time to duck and cover. 

Speaking of doctors, please welcome one of the Swamps more celebrated residents Dr. Anna Conda. Anna has starred in such films as Anaconda, Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid, Anaconda 3: The Offspring, and a myriad of National Geographic’s specials. Harvard Law has just bestowed her with an honorary degree for her contribution to maintaining the reputations of snakes everywhere.

“Hey Anna, welcome home. Will you be staying a while or do you have to jet off to another thrilling film location?”

“Thanks for that warm welcome everyone. No Eerie, I won’t be leaving for a while. I’m taking some time off to recuperate.”

“Great, it will be a pleasure having your smiling face around the place for a change. What can you tell us about this honorary degree?”

“I don’t know that much really. My agent called and said something about Harvard Law’s alumni working in Washington D.C. as politicians and lobbyists. Then something about me being a famous snake. The next thing I know, I’m staying in a beautiful suite at The Charles Hotel in Boston.”

“So this had something to do with politicians, lobbyists, and snakes. I see the connection now. Will you be called on to perform any public speaking engagements?”

“My agent said anything of that nature would be negotiated by him. Have you met my agent King Cobra?”

“I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure.”

“Well King, made sure I was treated like royalty during my stay in Boston. They gave the cutest little hat with a tassel and everything.”0511-0703-2014-1738.jpg

“I’m very happy for you. What are you plans for your stay at home?”

“I thought I’d catch up on my water colors. I can never find the time to paint when I travel.”

“I heard they’re having a welcome home party for you over at The Slice Your Own Deli tonight.”

“Yes, I’m very excited to see everyone. I’ve missed you all so much.”

Mischievous Raven appears in a noisy rustle of ebony feathers. “Hey Anna, How you doin‘?” Mischievous tries to arch his eyebrows. (Which is comical if you’ve ever seen a raven be seductive.)

“Hi Mischievous,”Anna, all but purrs, (can a snake purr?) “Are you coming to my party tonight?”

“Wouldn’t miss it, Baby. Maybe you and I can get a little alone time later.”

Anna moves close and wraps around Mischievous. “I’d like that Sugar.”

“Not to tight baby.” Mischievous squirms.

“Sorry Sugar, sometimes my passion gets away from me.”

“Save it for later. I heard Maggot Brain is performing tonight in honor of your return.”

“That’s wonderful. I love their song I”m infected for you? It’s a real mood setter.” Anna puts another wrap on Mischievous.

“I know the one.” Mischievous does a little grind.

“Hey hey, this is a family show, You two ought to get a room.” I use my hat to conceal my eyes.

“I’d better go shed my skin so I’m ready for tonight.” Anna, slithers off.

“Whew, she’s hot.” Mischievous shakes out his rumpled feathers. “I better go.”

“I thought you were going to tell our guests about your visit to the Left Coast?”

“Later, I got things to go, places to see, and people to do, my man. Later.”

Sorry folks, it’ looks like it’s that time again. As is our custom, I leave you with Prince.

“There’s a dark side to everything.”
Prince

Write On,

Eerie Dwarf Aka Dave Benneman

Haunted By Literary Ghosts of Horror

Greetings and Salutations noble readers of the blog,

Tonight we are in the unconsecrated graveyard of the old Catholic Church. If you’ve accompanied me to this location before, you know you are in for a special treat. Tonight’s guest is not specifically known as a horror writer. His vast body of work includes, travel logs, poetry, historical observations, letters, novels and short stories. His best known work is Treasure Island. With no further ado, please give it up for, Robert Louis Stevenson.

“Welcome Robert, please make yourself comfortable.”

220px-Robert_Louis_Stevenson_Knox_Series

Our guest Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson's Grave on Mt. Vaea Samoa

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Grave on Mt. Vaea Samoa

 

“Thank you so much for having me. My impression was you wanted to talk about my more fanciful work.”

“That’s true, but I can’t begin without first telling you what an impact Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Black Arrow had on me as a boy. I’ve fancied myself a ‘Young Jim Hawkins’ on more than one occasion. Hiding in the apple barrel, or keeping a weather eye out for a seafaring man with one leg.”

“It’s kind of you to say sir.”

“To your point, we here are most interested in your tales as they relate to the unexplained. The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde for example.”

“A most interesting tale of a good man, who in the name of science, commits atrocities.”

“The doctor over reaching is certainly a recurring theme in literature. Mary Shelly’s Dr. Frankenstein is possibly the most well-known.”

“Quite, Mary’s concept of man subjugating the Creator has always been one of my favorites. How I would have relished a summer on Lake Geneva with the likes of Percy and Mary Shelly, Lord Byron, Dr. Pollidori.”

“The good Doctor Jekyll creates an elixir that separates good from evil in a man. Is this a discourse on the dual nature of man?”

“Exactly, it illustrates how our good, tempers our bad, by showing what our natures are like when isolated.”

“Some will point to this story as an example of an individual suffering from mental illness. Dissociative Identity Disorder, Manic Depression, Schizophrenia, and Psychosis are the most closely related diagnosis. Did you know someone who suffered from any of these illnesses?”

“Of course, we all encounter people in our lives who suffer from disorders of the brain. The earliest physicians recognized that there are illnesses that they could label, but not treat.”

“Speaking of doctors.  Dr. Jekyll is not the only antagonist doctor you’ve written about. Of course I’m thinking of Dr. Toddy Macfarlane. The Body Snatcher is one of my favorite short stories. One I often read  when the I’m moved to scare someone.”

“I too, am quite fond of that tale.” His broad smile reaches past his eyes lighting up the night. “‘Did you think me dead? We are not so easily shut of our acquaintance.'”

“Very nice Robert, I don’t suppose you’ve memorized every line of every thing you’ve written.”

“Hardly sir, but at least one telling line from all the fiction to be sure. And much of the poetry. It seems in my current state my faculties have remained sharp. Oh, but if I could only write something from grave, the stories I could tell.”

“What keeps you from it?”

His countenance darkens at my question. “There are powers to be reckoned with. Formal Federations that must be abided. They do not take kindly to one who would disregard their authority.”

“We had a visitor who simply walked away from here into the world of the living. That must be against the rules.”

“Yes, quite, to remark that the regime was distressed by that act of indifference would be to understate the obvious.”

“I’m getting the wrap it sign Robert. Can you stay a while after my guests have gone?”

“I’ll stay until I get the hook as they say on the stage.”

“Wonderful, give me a moment.”

“Folks I suggest you make your way from the cemetery while the spirits are protecting us. Mr. Stevenson has agreed to hang around a while for those who are willing to risk it.”

Next week I expect Mischievous Raven will be back from his business meetings on the left coast. in the interim be safe.

As is our custom, I leave you with this quote.

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”
― Van Morrison

Writ On,

Eerie Dwarf, AKA Dave Benneman

P.S.

Mr. Stevenson kept us through the night until dawn broke telling tails of his life on Samoa and sailing the South Pacific. I say this as an explanation as to why this did not get posted last night. My apologies for any inconvenience.

E.D.

 

 

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?

What do you need in your office space? #AmWriting

Desk Area What’s your writing area like?

I have to admit that it took me longer than it should have, but finally this summer I set up my “Office Area”, LOL. First time in my life I have a dedicated space for writing 😀 even if it is in my bedroom.

One day, I’ll have a whole room.

Writing bookshelves and wallThe first picture is my desk area. It’s not full at the moment, but it will get filled up with notes and scraps and stickies soon!

The second picture is the wall right next to my desk. Pictures for inspiration, and shelves for… erm, *most* of my books on writing/time periods/civilizations for research.

I figure some things will be moved around as I settle in, and that’s okay. I’m going to love digging in 😀

 

So, my Q4U: What is at least one necessity you NEED in your office space?

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