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

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

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New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions

What is it about the new year that makes us want to create goals for ourselves?

For a long time I’ve been hesitant to create resolutions every time the year rolls over. If I really had something in my life that I wanted to change, or do better, then why wait until the new year? Why not do it now? Because of this I would generally avoid resolutions every year. Too often they get forgotten about, or you work really hard in January and slack off after that. To me the word resolve just doesn’t seem to have enough punch, enough measurement built-in to be worth using. For this reason I avoided new years’ resolutions for a long time.

I’ve changed my tune a little bit though. I still don’t do resolutions, but I do set goals.

Goals are things to reach for, I know fully well going into the year that there’s a solid chance I won’t complete all my goals, but they are there and at the end of the year, or other times when I feel I want some self-reflection, I can look over those goals and see how I am doing.

So what goals did I set for 2014, and did I achieve them?

Reading: I always set a reading goal, last year it was 100 books. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 71, which I think is fantastic. 2015 I again set a goal of 100 books and I will mostly likely set that as my goal for the foreseeable future. I am a bit of a fast reader, when I’m not sucked into some other media (cough video games cough), but two books a week for me seems pretty do-able.

Writing: My goal was to finish two books last year, and I “did”. Technically. Neither of them are edited, but I did at least complete them. Working on editing one of them now. I also wrote a few short stories last year. I’m currently toying with the idea of setting a goal for short stories this year, but for now I’ll leave it as-needed.

So there are my goals, at least when it comes to writing/reading. What goals do you set and why? Do you prefer resolutions or goals, or some other word, and why?

Above all, Happy New Year from the Evil Dwarves!

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Writers…

Change has come to stalk the Wicked household, or more specifically, for Wicked herself. It’s a good thing she has three books out this year, because getting two more out next year is going to test her time management skills.  And here’s why…after many, many, many (add thirteen more) years of being blessed with a telecommuting position, Wicked has decided to take a newly opened path of gainful employment. Not that she strayed far from her original path, just laddered up to the parent employer and new challenges. Including the one where she has to dress like an adult and leave the house to pursue said challenges.

What this means, is now for an hour, one-way, Wicked and her brand-spanking new filly, must brave the crowded roadways, dodging carts and overdrawn carriages (no, that’s not a mis-spelling), stop at the new giver of pay’s offices, toil away for a set number of hours, re-brave the clogged travel arteries, and then kick off the torturous devices known as “heels”.  While on one hand, this is wonderful, on the other it meant re-organizing a writer’s schedule.

Most writers hold day jobs while they craft their art. It’s not easy and something always has to be sacrificed (sleep, time, chocolate, homemade dinners, handcrafted gifts).  In this case, it meant the every other week meeting of like minds of the Evil 7’s critique group. A decision not easily made, mind you. After seven years with the Evil 7, I must take a reluctant step back.

There is no magical potion to imbue when trying to balance work, family, and writing, it comes down to your personal goals/needs. While I am behind on my writing counts for the last month due to all the upheaval, my overall plan has not changed.

One book from each series each year. That won’t change because I am a writer and this is something I’m willing to sacrifice for, to keep to.

While I’m uncertain how well my plans will be carried out, I’m determined to make it work. So it’s:

Monday through Fridays, get up, get the Prankster Duo out and Knight out and running, then gallop away.

Fulfill my contractual obligations for my pot of gold at the end of working person’s rainbow.

Come home, touch base, check in, ride herd over the three males and one fur rug.

When everyone’s settled in fighting off ogres, snipers and various other individuals of coded fame, I shall plant my butt in chair and pound out words of fancy while they battle in the background.

Saturdays shall become days of Writer Biz–marketing, blogs, and various sundry items that come with being a writer.

Sundays are mine–for family or writing or both, they are all mine.

So if I seem a bit quiet, don’t worry, I’m still here, just a tad busy settling into my well laid plans, and you can keep up with me at www.jamigray.com where my personal blog is updated each Wednesday. I’ll keep you posted on just how well it works out though. Maybe I’ll be able to give up the 8-5 to peddle my own magic formula.

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?

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?

Next Step

Figuring out my next step is a constant part of my life. Sometimes I feel the smartest thing to do is to keep writing, plunging myself into my novel and pushing myself, no matter if each word feels like another splinter being removed from my brain. Other times, I think I should wait until inspiration strikes and sentences, paragraphs, and pages flow like my thoughts to paper (minus the middle-man). Still, other times I think it’s more important to get my name out there. I don’t want to just be a tiny voice screaming out into the writing world, only to be heard as a whisper, when the time finally comes for me to send out query letters.

My “definite” answer to this conundrum changes on a week-to-week or sometimes a daily basis. More often than not, it’s influenced by what I “need” that week. Sometimes I need to accomplish something, anything, so I create short-term goals that are reachable. It gives me, perhaps, an undeserved joy, knowing something is done. Still, other times I need to keep progressing in my novel. I need to put all the ideas, thoughts, conversations, motivations, and page turning plot twists from my head onto paper.

Lately, I’ve been doing a little of everything. Some days two sentences are added to my novel. Other days, a short story is composed. And still others, chapters and series are mapped out in excruciating detail. There is a strange joy and agony to my career. Writing is in my blood. I need it, not like air, but like I need human interaction. For those nerds who get my reference, I’m an artistic Sim. Yes, I need to bathe, eat, work, sleep, and socialize, but I also need to create. Therefore, I enjoy this strange hacking away at a tree that may never fall. I like the feel of my fingers on the keyboard, and even the glow of my computer. As painful as some sentences are to write, especially when they’re deleted the following day, I couldn’t be fully complete without writing.

The organized side of me is always trying to plan my next step, even if there is very little logic to what I do. It gives me peace to have a plan, even if it goes terribly array, and even if the plans come on a day-by-day basis, as long as writing is always a part of my life.

Life Happens

There is something strange that happens to me after a major change in my life.  I get this itch to go out into the world and relive some of my favorite past experiences.  I dream of walking through a gentle rainfall in England, laughing with friends, and walking among massive trees and ancient buildings alike.  I dream of late nights at clubs with music that pumps through your veins, and the surreal sense that life could never be more real than in that moment.  And then, I look around me with a mixture of overwhelming feeling.  That part of my life is over.  And at the same time, new, even better moments are sure to come.

Still, those thoughts seem to combat each other, warring to overwhelm me, to either make me sad, or make me feel pleasantly content.  But to be honest, I sometimes feel sadness begin to win out, that is until I remember I’m a writer.  Then, without fail, the feelings of contentment win, because as every writer knows, nothing can be entirely lost when you can write about it.  You can revisit places you’ve seen and experiences you’ve had, immortalizing them forever through your words.  You can also use those experiences to create completely fantastical experiences, or even make things happen the way you always wanted them to.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is that my life is changing a lot, but my writing makes all these changes just a little bit easier to enjoy without hesitation.

Problem Between Muse and Keyboard…

What do you do when your plot backs you to the crumbling edge of your story?

Do you throw your hands up and wave them like you just don’t care? (Sorry, the 90’s were visiting this week!)

Do you wrap your rappelling rope of character motivation around your leg and step back, praying it holds?

Do you scream like a little girl and jump?

Or do you push back?

Unfortunately, my storyline took me to task the last couple of weeks.  I’d get a couple chapters ahead, then she’d slap me back a chapter and a half.  I’d dodge around her, when she wasn’t looking, only to find myself face first in the dirt.

How did this happen to me? Well, it’s not because I’m a panster, because I do have a general outline of where my story needs to go, I know my characters and what drives them, and my world is very, very familiar. 

Nope, can’t pin it on any of the normal suspects.

So who was the culprit?

Um that would be the person between the Muse and the keyboard.  Will call her ‘The Operator’.  Seems The Operator decided we needed to do an entire scene of Q&A’s in this Paranormal Suspense. No matter how much the Muse or the characters threatened bodily harm, horrific turns of fate, The Operator determined a long, drawn out Q&A needed to be RIGHT HERE.

So Muse and the characters got together and managed to infect The Operator with a lovely serum of Second Guesses.  Since The Operator refused to listen, they decided to skew her POV. They sent her out on a ‘was’ hunt, because we all know ‘was’ is not a verb

Battered and bloodied, The Operator made it back to the dreaded chapter of contention. Tired, she decided she needed a shower to wash all the gore off.  In the midst of washing the was right out of her hair, a brilliant idea formed. 

Why not skip the Q&A? Why not just recapped it in a paragraph and move on.  Since it’s first person POV, readers could discover the information with the main character.  Besides, most of the characters’ pulses had leveled off, it was time to get their adrenalin pumping and move to the next BIG THING. 

Ecstatic, The Operator, dashed out of the shower, careful to keep a protective hand over her eyes, fumbled for a pen, jotted the idea down and realized the inside of her head had finally fallen silent.

Muse and characters didn’t let her hear their cheers, but they’re ready to proceed now that The Operator stop being a boob!


Feel free to share your trembling moments of impending disaster and how you escaped!


Writer research…AKA–getting to live other people’s lives…

What do you think of  when you hear the words ‘writer’ and ‘research’?  When I first began to seriously pay attention to the necessary skills inheritant to a writer, I had this vague image in my head of an investigative reporter in a fedora and topcoat skulking around dark corners, spying on nefarious types.  Unfortunately that’s not the way it really is. My reference library of actual books has increased exponentially over the years with such titles as: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, The Search for ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, Monsters and Demons, Letters of Enoch, Navaho Indian Myths, Conflict, Action & Suspense, The Scene of a Crime,The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, Werewolves, The Book of Everything Feckin’ Irish, and so on.

It’s varied enough, the titles are housed in my  bedroom closet so the impressionable minds in the house have limited access.  Trying to explain to a teacher why my sons understand how to tell a were from a shifter and what weapon is easily modified to take out hearts is not a conversation I want to repeat.

But, as much information as you can gain from various books from a wide range of subject experts, nothing beats expierecing it for yourself or talking to those who’ve already been there and done that. Granted, for Urban Fantasy, finding a reliable source who’s fought off a werewolf or back a slavering vamp down is a bit hard to find, but there are ways around such things.  For example, in SHADOW’S MOON, most of my research circled around wild wolves and their behaviors.  Not because the story is packed with information, but because I needed my characters reactions to read true to their animal natures.  Conversations with my brother in law who enjoys spending time dressed like a tree, helped me consider how a human hunter’s mind could work in conjunction with a wild predator’s intellect.  Viola! Alpha werewolf in human skin.

In my current work, I’m pulling on other sources. Sources Knight and I have known for years, and we’re lucky enough to still have in our life considering their chosen lifestyle revolves around repeated tours overseas to keep me and mine safe.  Not to say I’m not pouring through various texts on military tactics or the psychology of special forces, but those can’t show me the depth of courage and honor it really takes to face something that most of us (thank goodness) never have to face.  Not only has our friend been a great resource in the creation of my characters, but the more I talk to him, the more I realize how lucky we are to have him in our lives.

Despite my anti-social, watch from the sidelines typical reserve, I’m discovering just how much more beneficial it is to go and start a conversation with those in my life.  All those personalities, all those stories, it’s a treasure trove out there.  Each person has stories that boggle the mind, each of them have something to contribute  to my growing mental library of character motivation, scene creation and plot devices.  More than books, there is no better research tool than the world we live in, because more time than naught, it’s the unexpected realities that make heart pounding adventures we writers depend on.

What are some of your best research tools?



PS  Join us next week when LIV RANCOURT comes for a visit….


I’ve been trying to stay motivated with my writing lately, especially when everything I read basically tells me that “you’ll never have more time to write than now.”  But, I’m not sure if that’s true.  Life is so crazy right now that I have to believe I will eventually have more time to write than now.

Someday, I imagine, I’ll sit in a coffee shop all day and just write.  Instead of writing feeling like something I do in stolen moments, it will have an important place in my daily life.  Now, I’m sure a lot of people feel this way, which is probably where the above saying came from, but I honestly believe I’ll achieve this dream of mine.

Until then, however, I am going to continue striving to make writing a part of my life, even if it falls to the background sometimes.  I’ll take pride in the one or two pages I get written each day, because at least it means I haven’t given up.  Even if my writing isn’t always at the level I want it to be at, and even if I spend half the time I have for writing re-reading what I wrote the day before, I’ll try to be proud of myself.

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