• 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

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  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

Editing Tips- After You Think You’re Done

paper and pencil

You write something awesome, reread and edit it multiple times, maybe get an editor, and you think you’re done, right? Wrong. After being in a critique group for four years, I’ve learned some invaluable things that every writer should consider.

  1. The first time you introduce a character, use his or her name.
    1. Example: “She rolled and struck him in the chest. Hot blood oozed down her hand as his screams filled the air. Heather smiled.”
    2. Instead: “Heather rolled and struck him in the chest. Hot blood oozed down her hand as his screams filled the air. She smiled.”
  2. After that, you can mostly just use pronouns (he or she), unless there are other characters, and it’s getting confusing.
    1. Example: “Heather liked to watch people die. Heather waited until the life drained from their eyes, then went on with her day, feeling like she’d had a dozen cups of coffee.”
    2. Instead: “Heather liked to watch people die. She waited until the life drained from their eyes, then went on with her day, feeling like she’d had a dozen cups of coffee.”
  3. Put down your work for a minimum of a few weeks, so you can read it with fresh eyes.
    1. There have been COUNTLESS times I’ve received feedback and disagreed with it. Then, week or months later, I read my work again and realize I was wrong. When you are too “close” to your work, it’s hard to see the truth.
  4. Read through your work, look specifically at the adjectives and adverbs to see if you are over-using them or could remove them and use a better word.
    1. Example: “She spoke loudly.”
    2. Instead: “She shouted.”
  5. Don’t forget your character’s thoughts and emotions. Without them, you have more of an outline of a story rather than a story.

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8 Reasons to be an Indie Author

Girl and Dog

  1. You have control over your own cover designs.

 I remember going to a writing conference where the author said she cried when she saw  the cover designed by her publishers. She’d written (I believe) a historical romance, but the cover looked like it was for an action movie.

It took me awhile to get covers that I love. But now that I have them, I’m beyond proud. And as an indie author, I didn’t have to settle on what someone else wanted for my book.

  1. You get to create your own timeline to finish your work.

I once heard a very popular writer speak. It was surprising when someone asked her about how she was able to write so many books. She said she was given deadlines by her publishers, and whether or not her books were always well-written, they had to be turned in by a certain date.

I’ve had periods of time when I could write a lot, and other times when I had no time to write. And when I’m not yet making a living wage off my writing alone (like most authors), it’s nice not to have to follow someone else’s timeline. It is also really nice to not have to publish subpar work, just for the sake of meeting a deadline.

  1. You can monitor your sales on a daily basis.

I check my author KDP sale’s page at least a couple times a day. It is beyond thrilling to see, right away, what is selling and how much is selling. When The Sea Goddess first came out, it wasn’t uncommon to see ten downloads in a day. Now, most days, I see an average of two sales. Then, almost randomly, I’ll suddenly see a huge spike in sales. Realm of Goddesses is purchased less often, but it costs more. To Kill a Wizard sees the least sales (at $2.99), but because it is on KDP Select, I see profits from pages read. That is so cool! When a person picks up my book and reads the entirety of it in three days, I feel awesome! And as an indie author, I can see exactly how many pages my readers read each day.

  1. You can write according to whatever inspires you that day.

Everything I’ve published is in the young adult fantasy genre, but I’m currently writing in a number of genres. I’m almost finished a new adult short story for an upcoming anthology. I’m working on an adult fantasy romance. I finished an anti-utopian new adult short story. And recently, I wrote up an idea for a sci-fi romance. As an indie author, I’m able to write whatever I want.

  1. You have the ability to work with other authors on different projects.

I work with several different authors, who write in different genres. Our first anthology will be coming out soon, but I predict there will be many more anthologies in the future.

  1. You can choose the different platforms to make your work available on.

I’ve used Smashwords, which makes my work accessible on: Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, B&N, Aldiko, and others, as well as (of course), Amazon.

  1. You are able to price your work the way you want.

Making my first short story free has led to a number of sales on my other two works.   I’m sure a lot of traditionally published authors wish they could do the same.

  1. In other words, you have almost complete control over your work.

From covers, to hiring your own editor, to following your own timeline, indie writing offers you the control to complete your work just the way you want. So that project you’ve spent weeks, months, or years writing, can be handled just the way you wish.

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Critique Groups

critique group

A critique group can be defined as a lot of things, but to me, it’s simply a group of people who get together to go over their writing. If you are a writer and you aren’t in one, I highly recommend either joining one or creating one. I spent years writing on my own, working my hardest to reach my goal of becoming a published author. Yet, it wasn’t until I joined a critique group that I not only grew a lot as a writer, but had the confidence and knowledge to become a published author.

But what makes a successful critique group?

  • The most important thing is that all the members have personalities that work well together. If everyone can’t get along, they can’t work together.
  • Trust is equally important. If you don’t trust the members of the group, it’s hard to accept and give critiques. The whole experience leaves you pretty vulnerable, which means you need people there you know want the best for you.
  • Depending on your groups goals, the members should always be thinking, “what can we do to improve their story so it can be published?” If the members are just trying to tear apart your work, the group isn’t helpful for anyone.
  • Keep the group small. More than ten members would make it very difficult to have time to read and review people’s work (well). I actually think five or so members is plenty.
  • Meet regularly. Every two weeks seems to work well for me, but each group will have different needs.
  • Submit each meeting. The only way you’ll see a lot of growth is if you have regular feedback. Each meeting you’ll try to apply the comments from the last meeting so that your problems change and minimize. This really helps your growth as an author.

I asked my fellow critique group member and friend Aeon Igni her thoughts about the benefits of a critique group, and I think her response was brilliant:

“If you’ve ever read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, you know that much of business success comes from individuals grouping together to accomplish greater tasks than any one person could accomplish alone. A good writing group gives an author this power. With several minds focusing on their process, product, and career rather than their single mind, it is almost assured that the end product will be exponentially greater than what the author could create without this feedback.

Critique groups share information, techniques, tips and tools of the trade, as well as powerful brainstorming sessions and constructive criticism. We can see the power of critique partners and critique groups among published authors today – many authors I follow reference each other on social media and post pictures of themselves dining out or taking cruises together. 

For me personally, it is comforting to know that I don’t have to go it alone – that there are others to turn to when I am struggling or need advice. Even a simple text with an article to read or asking how my writing is coming along can be powerful motivation to keep moving forward. I expect that I will always be part of a critique group, and I can’t imagine a writing life without one.”

So if you aren’t in a critique group yet, find one or created one. It may be the single most important thing you do as a writer.

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.

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Plotter verses Pantser

autumn-sky

Some writers plot out each detail of their books long before they’ve even started writing. Other writers don’t plot a thing. They just let their characters guide the story. Still others, like myself, are somewhere in the middle. I’ll share the way I typically write my stories:

  1. I come up with an idea and type up a brief summary.
  2. Immediately, I start writing the first chapter.
  3. Usually I get a few chapters in before I realize I need more guidance.
  4. I go and expand my summary and create sections about the “world” of my novel and the “people” in my novel.
  5. Next, I go and write down the names of each character, find a picture that suits them from the internet, describe their personalities and their physical aspects.
  6. Then, I continue writing.
  7. I usually get a few more chapters in before I realize I need to do a short summary of each chapter.
  8. And that’s it! I keep writing, expanding on the document about my book, so I have it for reference.

Important things I’ve realized:

  • If I plot things out too much, I don’t enjoy writing the story.
  • If I don’t plot out anything, I end up wasting a lot more time.
  • I HAVE to have a word document specifically dedicated to important information about the world I’ve built and the people in it.

So I think I’m somewhere in-between a plotter and a pantser. What kind of a writer are you?

Book Covers and Blurbs with that Extra Something

Creating a cover is such an emotional process. “They” say the two things that help to sell your book the most are the cover and the blurb. It’s heart-wrenching to create a book that makes you sing with pride, but worry that no one will ever read your story if the cover and blurb aren’t good enough.

Luckily, I have a friend who has some computer magic and was excited to use it on my book cover. It was awesome to sit down together and come up with an idea of what I wanted it to look like, but then to actually have him create it. Because the truth is, I have some skills, but creating an amazing cover is not one of them.

I also luckily have an amazing group of writers, the 7 Evil Dwarves, who were willing to look at my blurb and help give it that extra something. Most people have no idea how hard it is for a writer to try to sum up their book in just a few paragraphs, but trust me, it’s painful. A special thanks to Jami Gray who sprinkled some writer-magic on it.

After several drafts, and countless hours spent constructing my vision, here is the cover to my first young adult fantasy novel, along with the blurb:

Book- Without Back Cover- 1500Pixels

When eighteen-year-old Rose is chosen to join a mysterious order of women known as The Protectors, she hopes to escape a forced marriage and a miserable life. Instead, she unveils the dark secrecy surrounding The Protectors, and uncovers the horrific truth behind their power source. With her loyalty in tatters and her best friend’s life held hostage, she must learn to unlock the powerful magic slumbering deep inside her.

But time is running out.

The Undead Wizards, a dangerous enemy, have re-emerged from the Underworld, plunging The Protectors and the kingdom into a brutal war. Unfortunately, The Fates decree that Rose is the answer to the war may cost her more than she ever imagined. To win, she must decide whether to join them and betray the man she loves, or risk the annihilation of all she holds dear.

What are some of your favorite blurbs or covers?

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Books by Lisa Morrow: Lisa Morrow Author Page

Navigating Kindle Direct Publishing

KDP

Learning to use Kindle Direct Publishing to publish my novel To Kill a Wizard wasn’t nearly as hard as learning to properly format my book for Kindle readers. Both, however, had their challenges, which I’ll share here, as well as, some tips on how I formatted my novel.

Things I learned:

  • First, I uploaded my book and made sure there were no basic issues.
  • After that, I looked at how my book actually appeared on my Kindle Previewer. I found I needed to adjust my spacing, indents, and font size, depending on what I thought looked best.
    • In “page setup,” I changed the page size to be six-by-nine.
    • Then, I had to select a “custom margin” based on the size of my book. I believe I went with the “top,” “bottom,” and “outside” being .5, the “inside” being 0, and the “gutter” being .75.
    • I selected “mirror margins” and applied it to the “whole document.”
    • But these numbers vary based upon the number of pages in your book.
    • A lot of writers also choose to space their lines by 1.5, but I found that it looked like way too much, so I played with it until I found the perfect number (for me) 1.35.
    • I finally changed my “style set” to “simple.”
    • (For more information on formatting these areas for Kindle, check out: Createspace Help.)
  • Youtube was my friend for the next step in formatting. Creating a table of contents within the novel, with links to each chapter in my book, sounds like an easy process, but it wasn’t. I used buttons in Microsoft Word that I’ve never used before. I’ll sum it up below:
    • I changed the “style” of my document to “simple.”
    • Then went to “Insert” and “Table.” It then warned me “No Table of Contents Entries Found.”
    • I highlighted each chapter title, clicked “Heading 1” under the “Home” menu in Microsoft Word.
    • When I was done highlighting each chapter, I hit “Update Table,” and it all showed up.
    • Finally, I highlighted “Table of Contents” and made a “Bookmark” (Found under the “Insert” menu). When the box pops up, name it “toc” for table of contents.
    • And that’s about it!
    • (For more information on formatting your table of contents, check out: YouTube Video.)
  • Finally, I uploaded my cover. The first time, I included the entire cover. But then, I realized that the image people saw when searching for my book was the entire cover, including the back, so I had to reload my image with just the front of the cover.
  • After that, I had to determine the cost for my book, the channels I wanted it distributed on, and whether to join KDP Select. I think these options are personal choices, so I won’t go into that.
  • One thing I will say, however, is that because I was setting things up for pre-releasing my book at the end of June, it seemed I had a lot of options. Most everything appeared like it could be adjusted up until right before the date the novel would be available. So, I selected July 4th as my release date, thinking I could change it later. Turns out that’s a big no, no. I contacted Amazon who explained I could move it up once, without penalty, but not back. Next time, I’ll make sure I am 100% sure about my date before I choose it.

So overall, Kindle Direct was really easy to use, but it did require some internet research, random texts to my good friends Amber Kallyn and Aeon Igni, and picking the brains of several other writer friends. I’m sure many people have done this completely on their own, but there is nothing better than an assortment of awesome people to help make the process easier.

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Publishing My First Novel, Using CreateSpace

Amazon CreateSpace

Publishing a novel really does take an entire team, or a writer willing to learn a lot of new skills. Recently, I published my first novel (which is available for pre-order): To Kill a Wizard, through Amazon. Even though I’m definitely not an expert, I thought others might benefit from my experience with CreateSpace.

CreateSpace:

  • This is an author friendly program, if you know how to use it. Otherwise, make sure you’re a member of some author groups where you feel comfortable asking questions.
  • Youtube is your friend. After reading a number of step-by-step guides, I found it so much easier to visually see what I needed to do.
  • Use their cover creator program. I uploaded a completed cover and struggled with why it wasn’t meeting their requirements, because I couldn’t actually view the issues with it. In the cover creator, they have a template for covers that are completed. It was much easier to use. I will say, however, I still had my cover rejected twice, before one was accepted. Each time it took about a day to discover if I’d been approved, so leave yourself some time.
  • The inside of the book requires a certain structure, including making sure you have mirror indents, so it actually looks like a “real” book. You might also need to spend some time messing with the font size and spacing. After asking a number of authors, I realized everyone sets their books up differently. Some people use size 14 font, others use size 12. Some people insist it must be double spaced, others use single space, and still others use whatever looks right. But playing around with everything takes time. And sometimes everything looks perfect to your eyes, but it won’t pass review for one reason or another. I know I uploaded at least ten different versions of my document before everything “looked” right and passed their requirements.
  • After you’ve created your book, you can order a proof. This was the most exciting part for me! I’m still waiting to actually be able to hold the book in my hands, but I’m beyond excited about it. This is the moment when everything becomes real.

I’ll continue to share my experiences with the publishing process, even though right now I’m working on the two short stories I plan to release before my novel is available to order at the end of June. If all goes well, I’ll have my hands full with a lot of fun projects!

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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?

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Rogues

Rogue

The world is not all black and white, at least not for every author. There are those authors who see a whole spectrum of grey, and try to create fascinating characters who exist in this grey zone. Recently, I finished reading a collection of short stories about rogues, which I found absolutely fascinating.

I’d assumed characters who existed in this grey zone were those who failed to live by any code of ethics. However, after reading these stories, I’ve realized I’m wrong. Rogues aren’t characters who lack a moral compass; instead, they are characters who live by their own standards of right and wrong.

Some of the characters did things that I wouldn’t personally consider the right thing to do. They might have been cowardly, selfish, gluttonous, or have any number of other poor character traits. But they were also loyal, hard-working, or followed a certain code of how they lived their lives.

In my own writing, I usually have an easy time creating a protagonist who has flaws, but is wholly good. My antagonists I usually like to make a little more complex, showing that even though what they are doing is wrong, they don’t see it this way. When we can see things through their eyes, we may also understand where they are coming from, even if we still think what they are doing wrong. These stories, however, inspired me to try to create a protagonist who exists in this “grey zone.” I think it’d be a bit of a challenge to create a rogue, with questionable behavior, but that special something that still draws a reader to them.

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