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Back to school anyone? #AmWriting

Back to schoolYup, its that time again.

School supplies, school clothes, school schedules… (x 4 kids) LOL

It also means days that are more open. Time to get back to BICHOK.

(Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard)

And this summer, I’ve finally accompished finishing/organizing/setting up my office space (See HERE). Back to my writing goals.

So, my Q4U: Do you enjoy the hectic rush that is back to school, or does the calm later in August seem too far away? ūüėÄ

~ Amber Kallyn

2014–It’s going to be a BIG ONE! #newreleases #pnr #romance #goals #coverreveal

And now for our regular programming…

Dr Who 2

Before we get into the swing of 2014, here at the Swamp we do the annual creation and review of writerly goals for the Evil 7 (or 8). This means we’re trying to hold ourselves accountable while grasping for our writer dream.

For me, the last few months have been a hectic whirlwind.

My NaNo attempt fell short (hit 39K out of 50K)

My EDJ (Evil Day Job–a nifty new term I’ve learned and come to adore) has been undergoing a flux like the Time Vortex under the stunning gaze of our endearing Time Lords (yes, most of my holidays were spent with the Prankster Duo and a marathon of The Legendary Dr. Who),

Black Opal’s THINGS THAT GO BUMP FOR THE HOLIDAYS came out in December, including my Kyn short: WRAPPED FOR THE HOLIDAYS. Having all those great authors come visit was fun, but now I have to clean up the place.

The shack has become Grand Central Station during the end of year celebrations.

I had multiple offers for my new Paranormal Romantic Suspense series and after whirling like a dervish, I finally, FINALLY got to put my name to paper with an awesome house… (insert name here), so now I can officially say I’m multi-published.

Which means 2014 will be mad, I tell you, absolutely MAD, because:

SHADOW’S MOON, the third book of the Kyn Kronicles will be out in Spring/Summer 2014 by Black Opal Books. And here is the COVER:

JamiGray_ShadowsMoon1400

In May the Knight and I are joining Might Dwarf at the 2014 Romantic Times Reader Convention in New Orleans. ((mad dancing abounds)). For those who don’t know about this conference, it’s like a Red Carpet event for writers and readers. Since I can technically claim both statuses, and it’s in a city that’s on my bucket list to see, I’M EXCITED!

Then we come home, and, if my current contract negotiations go well, HUNTED BY THE PAST, the first book in my Paranormal Romantic Suspense, Psy-IV Teams series will release in Summer 2014. Once the ink is dried on the contract, I’ll tell you who I’m lucky to be publishing with, so stay tuned.

Then, then, as if that was not enough for any writer to giggle manically about, my fourth Kyn book is coming in Fall 2014 from Black Opal, SHADOW’S CURSE.

So because I have so much going on, I decided it is time to create a….NEWSLETTER.

See that nifty link over there in the upper right corner, you can click there and sign up. I’m hoping to have my first one out in Feb/March. ¬†It may only come out a couple of times a year, but still, I wanted a way to reach out to my awesome audience.

Don’t worry, I don’t share your emails with anyone, not even under threat of death, so you’re safe.

I’ve got a couple other events throughout the year planned, but I’ll keep you posted as they come up.

Now, last year we had some of the most fabulous author interviews, and this year is looking just as exciting. Check out the Where Am I? Who’s Here? tab. Kaylea Cross, Deborah Cooke, Martha Bourke, Melissa Groeling, Mona Karel, Pamela Cross, Cynthia Eden and OH SO MANY MORE! (think Despicable Me “It’s so fluffy!” voice).

((big gasp of air))

And all of this would not have been possible without all of YOU! Thank you, all of you, sincerely, for following my blog and continuing to follow–through the interviews, rambling, chaotic writer posts, and blog hops.

Here’s to a rousing 2014!

Character Therapy…When they’re too messed up… #writing #characters

Confused 1

Last week Eerie gave us some insight into why we use flawed characters. ¬†Of course, me being me, I had to point out the only interesting character is one who is flawed. C’mon, no one likes reading about Perfect Polly and her Awesome, Astounding Life of Ease. ¬†Yet, can a writer hobble their character with¬†too¬†many flaws?

Our motley group of eight (because why have seven if you can do more?), we’ve considered numerous challenges to place before our various protagonists, be it a solid box where magic can’t operate, a juice mixer that only works with certain souls, or a snowy day in New Orleans. ¬†The whole point of telling a story is to take your character, give them a few hurdles, some hidden pits with stakes, and shiny pot of gold at the end of the wacky rainbow and see how they turn out. ¬†Are they better? Worse? A little more colorful or holey? ¬† It’s one of the more fun aspects of being a writer, coming up with some great challenges that utilize creative thinking to get around or under.

Yet the goal of these challenges is to shine a great, big spotlight on our character’s flaws (or give it a steroid shot). ¬†There is a fine balance a writer must navigate–creating a likable, flawed character a reader can connect with. ¬†That’s a great deal more difficult than it sounds.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been puttering along, my Muse occasionally sticking her foot out so I trip, then snickering at me, when I suddenly realize I really don’t like my characters all of sudden. ¬†Why? They’re just too…too…good. ¬†They aren’t suffering enough or they’re not asking enough questions or they’re playing way too nice with the other characters. ¬†That’s when I know, my character is becoming well adjusted…NOOOOOOO!

I don’t have a magic formula or chart (especially since Math is not my forte) on how many flaws or how deep those flaws have to be for a character to work, but think about it. ¬†How boring is it if we aren’t challenged through out our life? ¬†Same with our characters. We’re picking up a book so we can jump into the most exciting point in a character’s life, therefore as writers, we must make sure that the challenges and flaws they must face will keep a reader hooked for the entire story. Readers (and I say this since I, too, read) want to see the main character emerge triumphant over evil and themselves at the story’s end. ¬†Or if not exactly where they should be, pretty darn close.

However, I have read some books when I hit the end, I need some serious therapy. The character faces such overwhelming odds from themselves and their world that it’s all I can do not to hand them a gun and just nod sadly.

So, is it just me or have you read something similar? Can a character be too flawed to read?

Flawed

SIGN HERE…and here…and here… @JamiGrayAuthor #NewRelease #UF #PNR

*flopping into chair on porch of rickety cabin* ¬†Feeling as exhausted as me yet? I swear, we’ve been running non-stop the last couple of months–blog hops, interviews and giveaways–it’s been busy. ¬†Then add in the Prankster Duo gearing up for the Challenge of Educational Endurance, a celebration of 50 years of wedded garden bliss for the Garden Gnomes, finding out I needed a refill of iron to chase away the blahs, practicing the application of facial paint for the illusive professional head shot, and I’ve been looking forward to this small break.

I’ve plans, that’s PLAN with an S on it, for the upcoming months. ¬†I’m considering actually getting a Newsletter together? What’s your take on Author Newsletters? I’m considering only doing one every four months because as much as I wish I could be a jumble of excitement all the time, it’s just not happening that often. Sorry. ¬†Please share your opinion below, I promise it will help me with my decision.

I’m two-thirds done with my current Work In Progress (WIP). Nope, it’s a whole ‘nother series, nothing to do with Raine and company. ¬†I’m hoping to have it finished and out into the big, bad query world by October. ¬†Now that I’ve shared that with you all, I have no option but to do what I said I’d do.¬†

NANO 2013, it’s closer than you think. ¬†I have declared I shall begin a new story for NANO this year (see below for hint of which title it will be!)

¬†Before we clean the place up in preparation for next week’s visit from the astounding Nana Prah, a fellow Black Opal Author by way of South Africa and her steamy tales of love, I wanted to share some awesome news with everyone!

Ready? 

FIRST…SHADOW’S MOON was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Claddaugh Contest for unpublished Paranormal Romance. ¬†

SECOND…as mentioned above, I really do have an actual picture now. You can see it on my ABOUT page or even out on my Amazon author page, or any place else I’m out there (Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Google+)

THIRD…we’ve made it through half the year with a ton of great guests, but we’re not done. We still have¬†Nana Prah, Elle Kennedy, J.D. Tyler, Christy Reece, and¬†Cindy Gerhard¬†all coming this year, so keep on stopping by. These are fantastic writers you don’t want to miss out on.

FOURTH…As for moi, I’m over at Fiona Skye’s place on August 20th and on September 12th I’ve been invited to Suzanne Johnson’s blog,¬†Preternatura. I’m doing giveaways, so don’t miss out. ¬†Plus September we’ll be joining The Romance Reviews for their Fall Into Romance Blog Hop and I’ll be helping The Romance Studio celebrate 10 awesome years! ¬†Run over to the Where Am I? Who’s Here? link above to see all our dates!

FIFTH…Near Christmas time, Black Opal Authors are gathering together to give you a book packed full of Holiday Short Stories, and yours truly will be in there with a lovely little tale of Raine and Gavin’s first case titled WRAPPED IN SHADOWS. ¬†Want to see the first line? Hmmm….okay since you’ve been so good to keep visiting, here you go:

“Damn shame death can’t respect the holidays.”

I’ll leave it up to you on who you think is saying this one!

FINALLY…I am thrilled to announce I have signed my name in necessary fluids on a contract with Black Opal Books for¬†SHADOW’S MOON¬†and¬†SHADOW’S CURSE, the third and fourth installments of the Kyn Kronicles.¬†

I will announce release dates as soon as I have them, I promise.  

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this little teaser for SHADOW’S MOON:

As the Northwest Alpha wolf, compromise isn’t in Warrick Vidis’s vocabulary, but when his reluctant mate, Xander Cade, refuses to leave off the hunt for the one threatening their pack, will he be able to bend before they both break?¬†

A blonde, a brunette and a monster walk into a bar and all hell breaks loose.

It should have been the start of a bad joke, but days from a full moon Xander Cade, Tracker for the Northwest Motoki Pack, finds nothing funny about confronting an enraged Shifter in a crowded Portland nightclub filled with unsuspecting humans. The resulting carnage begins to fray the thin veil of secrecy shielding the supernatural Kyn community from public scrutiny. It also ensures there is no escaping the one man she’s been determined to avoid, her Alpha and mate, Warrick Vidis.  Dominating, protective and compelling, Warrick threatens her individuality like no other.

Warrick Vidis has no qualms using whoever or whatever necessary to protect his Pack, or his very reluctant mate. A series of unusual deaths involving lone wolves and anonymous threats against him and his Pack jeopardizes his normal steely control. Add in Xander’s continual reluctance to fully accept their Soul bond, and the line between intellect and instinct begins to blur leaving him wondering if one woman’s love and acceptance will be enough to save both man and wolf.

As the danger escalates, threatening not just their Pack but those closest to them, Warrick and Xander must find a way to trust each other and accept their rare bond or risk losing everything-their pack, their friends and each other.

 

Come back next week so you can meet Nana Prah! You will love her, promise!

—Jami

Reality in Fiction

Realty isn‚Äôt so simple.¬† A lot of time is spent on making decisions, neither of which is clearly the ‚Äúright‚ÄĚ one.¬† Most of the time when someone opens one door, they close another, and there is a certain amount of regret when that door is closed.¬† Sometimes fiction makes choices far too easy.¬† There is always a right choice, and once it is made, the characters can live happily ever after.¬† This lack of reality can sometimes frustrate me.¬† But at the same time, if I wanted to read something realistic, I would simply read non-fiction.¬† The question of how much reality to incorporate in fiction is still very important though.¬† Fiction can‚Äôt be completely unrealistic; it needs elements of reality for us to connect with it.¬† I just feel fiction allows us to touch upon reality without having it banged over our heads.

I write mostly fantasy.  One of things I like best about fantasy is that characters are often placed against nearly impossible odds, but are given tools to fight those odds.  A skinny, little boy can hold incredible power, enough to combat even the most frightening enemy.  Whereas sometimes in our world, no matter how big or small someone is, impossible odds are often crushing.  This means, I guess, that I love happy endings.  I wish they happened more in real life, but I certainly happily anticipate them in the books I read.  I would feel really disappointed to read a book without a happy ending, but I also don’t want the happy ending to come too easily.

So how do you find the right balance between a fantasy world with a happy ending and reality?  In truth, I’m still not entirely sure.  I guess I just feel that if I read the book and believe the characters struggles, the book has enough reality for me.  What about for you?  How do you know when you’ve found the right balance?

And you’re doing this why?

Although I’m out on the road with Knight and the Prankster Duo visiting Grandma’s House, over the hills and through the snow, I wanted to share a very short blog post with you all.¬† Plus, I have to let you all know that the awesome Faith Hunter, author of the Jane Yellowrock novels will be visiting us next week, so mark your calendars and come help us welcome her to our lovely and slightly noxious Swamp!

While we traveled over the roads and pathways, I began to ponder some of the reasons behind the “why”s of my fourth of novel. Things in the Kyn world are a bit unsettled at the end of Shadow’s Moon, so now we have to fill in the blanks.¬† One of the things I’ve learned from the first three books, as the writer you best know the “why”s behind the story.¬† Why are your characters acting this way, why do they need to address these questions, why are they doing what they’re doing, why, why?

Once you have an idea of the answer, then you can start your story.¬† I know where I want to start the fourth book, I know who the main characters are, I know what problems they are going to face, I know why they act the way they do, but this time, I need to know what they’re going to do to solve these problems and why.

Character motivation and character evolution is critical to a good story. Your characters, especially in a series, have to continue to grow and evolve. Not just in an emotional sense, but in the challenges they face and how they triumph over said challenges. Sounds easy, right? It’s not.¬† For me, my characters have become real people, and rarely does a person have just one reason behind why they do something.¬† There are always a multitude of factors involved no matter how complex or simple our decisions. Getting this across in our writing, that’s true talent.

For the writers out there, how do you figure out your character motivations? Do you do interviews, use worksheets, just know because your crystal ball has fantastic reception? I’d love to hear.

For readers out there, how complex do you like your characters? Do you enjoy it when there are multiple factors playing part in their decisions and actions or do you like things straightforward and simple? Share, please.

Since I have to pay attention to the road as I’m the one in control of the vehicle, I guess I’ll let you go until next week.¬† Remember, Faith Hunter is coming, so make time and visit with us!

Wicked

It’s Time for the “G” Word!

It’s that time again, when blogs across the blogosphere tout the joys and agony of setting those “G” words.¬† Oh yes-GOALS.¬† The one thing my mom always told me about goal setting was to WRITE IT DOWN.¬† Something about putting it to paper makes it all too real.¬† Then when your faced with the evidence, there is no squeaking out of it.

Wait!¬† Don’t run and hide! I’m way too tired to chase you down!¬† I swear, no preaching from this choir.¬† Look, we’ll even review those pesky things I set for 2012.¬† I’m not sharing the non-writerly ones, oh heck no.¬† That would be way too depressing.¬† So focusing on my creativity goals for 2012, we had:

Finish SHADOW’S MOON by end of year.

Status Check: ¬†DONE! Yes, indeed, we finished our first draft just before the holidays! Which means it got shipped off to the other Evil 7 for evisceration. Now I can remind the Prankster Duo and my Knight in Slightly Muddy Armor that, yes, they do have a wife and mom living with them–somewhere!

   Blog every week for both Jami Gray and 7 Evil Dwarves

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Status Check:¬†¬† We’re going to call this one good.¬† I think I may have missed a total of two weeks, but only because I was recovering from the TKO life had decided to lay on me.¬†¬† DONE!

        Concentrate on getting out in the world of the internets

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Status Check:¬† Okay, I am now the proud mama of a website, Facebook page, Facebook Author page, Twitter account, Goodreads¬†account and author page, Amazon author page and I remember running around to various blogs through out the year, trying to come up with entertaining answers to questions or picking juicy tidbits from SHADOW’S¬†EDGE and SHADOW’S SOUL to share.¬† Done!

Grow enough that writing career can replace job-that-pays-the bills

Status check:¬† Umm, yeah…still working on that one.¬† Seems to be a bit harder than anticipated.¬† Guess it will graduate to the 2013 list.

I’m thinking 3 out of 4, not so bad.¬†

Want to share how your list looks? Come on, we’d love to celebrate with you!

You Survived NaNo…now what?

So we’ve survived the madness that was NaNo and we actually did it! Consider it a major miracle.¬† I know the whole point of having this in November is to test your ability to meet your goal under severe duress, but seriously, folks? I think you’ve gone beyond severe, into freakin’ terrifyingly horrendous…but now that we’re done, what happens next?

Well there’s this minor celebration involving an overly decorated tree, hastily wrapped packages (some reappearing from last year), and a never ending stream of family and friends just “popping by” to get through.¬† If you could find the time to write during the wild halycon days of November, I promise, you can find the time in December.¬† Now, whether or not your brain is able to focus and make sense, well that’s another story.

I have to credit NaNo with getting me through SHADOW’S MOON’s mid point and well on the speed track of the last handful of chapters.¬† The goal is to have this first draft done by (what month is it or yeah…) December, get it out the other Evil Ones for dismemberment, then it’s onward to the polishing stage.¬† By end of January it should be winging it’s way out into the query world.¬† I will keep you updated.

Apologies ahead of time but my posts this month will be embarassingly short as something has to give and my family has already started to wonder who I am. 

So to keep the conversation going, what all do you guys have planned for this holiday season?   For me and mine, much celebrating with loved ones has the starring role!

Cooking , however, is no where on my list unless it’s a move to invite the local fire department over.¬†

Until next week…

Wicked

NANO- National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month!  We Evil Dwarves are proud to say we are participating this year (and November is ALMOST here).  I have prepared my blogs ahead of time with a plan, so I can spend November working on the second novel in my new series.  But, I do have some reservations.

First of all, you have to understand my writing process to understand why something like NANO could get me a little stressed, so here it is:

  1. Wake from an intriguing dream.  Write it down.  Mull it over.  Write it down again, with some of the weird that doesn’t make sense when you wake up stuff, gone.
  2. Start writing.  Understand my character and my world.  Adjust how the character changes what I originally thought.
  3. Stop writing.  Create a general outline for the remainder of the book.
  4. Start writing again.  Make it to about the halfway point in the book.
  5. Stop writing again.  Go back and edit/revise the first portion of the book.
  6. Rewrite the outline with more details, adjusting for the changes that have occurred during the writing process.
  7. Start writing again.  Write until the end of the book.
  8. Finally, the hardcore revising begins.

Okay, so I never claimed my writing process was neat and organized.  What is your process like?  Also, this is why I fear NANO so much.  I am expected to go against my obsessive writing behaviors and just write for an entire month.

I don’t know how successful I will be in this process.  Our expectation is to write 50,000 words in one month, BUT it has taken me three months to write the first 50,000 words of my current novel.

So, wish me luck!  I hope I can proudly say, come the end of November, that I accomplished my goal, but if I end up mumbling something less than 50,000 words as my accomplishment, don’t judge me too harshly.

Also, does anyone else plan to participate this year?

Prepping for NaNo…

Welcome back, Swamp visitors!¬† I hope you enjoyed last week’s jaunt into the wonderful world of new writers.¬† I hope you found something wickedly cool to add to your reading lists!¬†

In honor of the looming presence of NaNo, I thought I’d share a bit of my prep experience for this year with you.¬† Yes, I know, a pantser who preps? What an oxymoron.¬† Except I’m finding it necessary before I dive head long into the roaring abyss of NaNo next week.¬†

Writing by the seat of your pants is not only a creative whirlwind, but it’s terrifying.¬† Here’s why:¬† when you get stuck, you get stuck and sometimes you can’t tell up from down and start digging deeper into the mire of fragmented concepts and useless plot points.¬†I call myself a pantser, but in actuality, I cheat because I do plot out the major plot points.¬† You know the ones, this happens in the first third to start the ball rolling, this happens in the second third because this is where everything is going to change for the characters, and this has to happen in the last third because now that my characters have a new reality, this is how it will solve the problem.

Since I’m stuck just past the first third of Shadow’s Moon, I have been paying attention to various blogs about structure and plot and planning.¬† I know, I know, I can hear the screams of denial from my fellow pantsers–but really, what else can you do if you want your story to work?

As I continue to write and improve my craft, I’m discovering that the OCD that rules my life in every other aspect, is starting to bleed over.¬† Not as much as it can, but enough so that yes, I am preparing for NaNo to make sure I can get unstuck and tuck Shadow’s Moon under the “completed” section of my writing checklist.¬†¬† I am going back to make sure that I have down my characters’ motivations, what’s driving my protagonist and why, where is the central conflict (romance or mystery?), what other conflict layers are there (and there are more than one!), what are my three major turning point that change my characters’ goals/motivations, drive their darkest moments, and then enable them to beat the bad guy.¬†

Do you see how the picture is starting to form.¬† Not really an outline per se, but more of road map.¬† I’m hoping it will allow me to keep my pantser identity, but I have a feeling no successful writer is really a true pantser, because at some point we all have to plot.

Because I’ll be swimming with the NaNo sharks all of November, my blogs will just be a word count with maybe one or two sentences (if I can form them) on what’s happening.¬† Keep your¬†fingers crossed I survive NaNo and bring forth some awesome habits and new writing skills!¬†

Now onto NaNo!

PS: If you want to add me to your NaNo buddy list, feel free! I’m at NaNo Wrimo under Jami Gray!

–Wicked

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