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  • Schedule

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

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

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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.

“To Kill a Wizard” is Available on Amazon

I know I just published my first short story on Amazon, introducing people to the world of Tarak, but now the first novel in the series is also available. It is absolutely amazing to see two and a half years of work finally being “completed.” So much about being a writer is working alone, just hoping that someday, someone, might see your work. To be at this point feels even more incredible than I ever imagined.

If you’d like to check out my book, here is the cover and 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.

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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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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Books by Lisa Morrow: Lisa Morrow Author Page

Creating Interesting Characters: Part 2 By Tara Rane

interesting character

I love book and movie characters with surprising twists (see my latest blog post about this at www.tararane.com). In my opinion, the best kind of characters are complex and anything but stereotypical.

A common trap that writers often fall into is having one dimensional heroes and cardboard cutout villains. For example, the heroine is sweet/sassy nurse or teacher, while the hero is a stoic alpha male working in some branch of the military/law enforcement. The villain spends all his time harming innocents, and plotting the end of the hero. These characters (and the books they appear in) are often generic and forgettable.

My previous post provided some suggestions for developing interesting and believable character personalities. The next challenge is getting away from the default characteristics associated with the roles of our characters. In a recent writing workshop, Mary Buckham (a USA bestselling author of an exciting urban fantasy series and several outstanding books on the craft of writing), offered some tips on how to do this.

Mary proposed creating a list of characteristics often associated with disparate roles. For example, let’s take engineer, rock star, nurse, and escort. Below I’ve listed several attributes that came to mind when thinking about these roles.

Engineer Rock Star Nurse Escort
Nerdy Dramatic Caring Desperate
Analytical Self-Absorbed Hard working Risk taker
Antisocial Rebel Nurturing Materialistic
Intelligent Charismatic Generous Damaged
Focused Social Empathetic Uninhibited

engineer rock starnursesexy woman

The next part in the exercise involved flipping the roles. Also, if there is a stereotypical gender associated with the role, you can switch that too. What you end up with is a template for interesting and memorable characters. Who wouldn’t love to read about a nerdy, highly intelligent male escort or a desperate, risk taking female engineer?

Escort Nurse Rock Star Engineer
Nerdy Dramatic Caring Desperate
Analytical Self-Absorbed Hard working Risk taker
Antisocial Rebel Nurturing Materialistic
Intelligent Charismatic Generous Damaged
Focused Social Empathetic Uninhibited

Another exercise I enjoy doing (especially for my villains) is taking the stereotypical attributes associated with two (often) opposing roles, and mixing them. For example, let’s take the characteristics associated with clowns and psychopaths.

Clown Psychopath
Flamboyant Violent
Jokester Bold
Zany Cruel
Self-depreciating Lack of Empathy
Entertainer Amoral

If you created a character possessing both types of attributes you’ll have brought to life the nightmares of millions of children throughout the world. We don’t expect the evil villain to come cartwheeling into the room. Nor do we expect the bad guy (or girl) to wear a friendly face. There’s a reason why Joker in the Batman comics and the clown from Stephen King’s It stick out in our minds as the creepiest villains of all time.joker

You can create al kinds of  interesting character mashups. Stay at home mom and serial killer. Veterinarian and mad scientist. Sunday school teacher and cyborg. Play around. Mix and match. The combinations are endless and the results are unique characters that stick with readers long after they finish your book.

Ideaifying Pt 6: Side-word on process

I wanted to have an aside on what it is I’m doing here, and a little thought about how long writing can take.

Normally this entire brainstorming process takes place all in one day. I generally sit down for about an hour (for a short story), and just dump down words on the page until I have nothing more to say. Novels are far, far longer. For this blog, however, I’ve been breaking them up each week, and giving myself some time to ruminate on the things I did the week prior.

This doesn’t mean that I take all of my stories from a single word to a full outline in one day. Far from it. Ideas need to percolate to allow the cream of the crop to rise to the surface. I’m actually enjoying having this semi-force gap in between brainstorming sessions, it’s giving me a different perspective each time I sit down.

I’ve heard it said before that an overnight success takes ten years to obtain.

What does that even mean? Here is my thought; it means that the author has poured over their work for ten years, ideas mulling in their head, jotting down things on the train or the middle of the night. Spending sleepless nights re-reading over old notes to put them all into one place, then writing the product.

And that’s just draft 1. They edit and edit, agonizing over every chapter, paragraph, phrase, and word. They fix commas, delete entire chapters, re-write the ending four times and the beginning ten times. Then, they delete the first four chapters and re-do them from scratch.

They cut entire characters. They take one character with too much going on and split them into two.

This is all a lot of work, and many published authors, from what I’ve seen, talk about their process much like this.

Only then do they sell their book to a publisher and “suddenly” come up with a half-million dollar publishing deal.

The rest of the community may have just heard this new author’s name for the first time when they got their deal, but for them it’s been a long journey. And this is just one of the many stories. Some authors have written 7-13 books by the time they sell their first one. Others sell that first book that took 10 years to write. For every possibly scenario, there’s a different author with a different story of how to make it.

So buckle in, fair reader. Tis a bumpy ride where we go.

Ideaifying Pt 5: Concatenating

This week I promised to take the last few weeks of posts and re-iterate what we have come up with. So here we go!

We started with the word Evanesce.

I then ruminated on what that word meant to me, and came up with a few phrases and other definitions that resonated with me:

Fade Away

Angels

Screaming Masses

Which led to this singular phrase:

Mass of Angels, screaming as they fade into nothing.

This really felt right to me, and has been the phrase I come back to when I think about this world.

We then started with a character, given the angels motif we named him Peter. Then we started brainstorming.

Here are all the things I liked about the brainstorming:

Peter can see angels. The angels help people. They save lives. Unseen heroes.

When he was 15, these angels disappeared. Without their protective detail, crime has increased, death rates by accidents have skyrocketed, disease spreads much more virulently. Social order has taken a hit.

Peter is now twenty years old. He sees himself as the Black Angel. He is trying to fill the void left behind with the angels no longer around to protect humanity.

Peter also still sees angels, but they are just out of his peripheral vision. And they scream. They scream all the time.

One day Peter meets Celeste. Celeste is a little younger than Peter. While he’s around her, the screaming stops. Celeste can also see angels, but they are calm. They don’t scream. When she’s around him, the angels scream.

Both our heroes have “powers”. In addition to being able to see the angels just outside their vision, they have slight precognition to keep them out of trouble, faster reflexes than an average human, and don’t tire as easily.

Turns out Peter and Celeste are Nephilim, as mentioned in Genesis 6:4. They are two halves of a whole. Peter is the demi-spawn of a demon and human, while Celeste is Angel-Human.

Demons, after being cast from heaven have always lacked corporeal bodies, being relegated to spirits. Other than possession, they have never managed to truly own a body here on Earth.

There is one such demon here now known as Bael, who is related to why the angels suddenly went missing.

Peter and Celeste need to go on a mission to kill/banish him, and hopefully bring the angels back to earth to help restore balance.

So there we are! All the details that our brainstorming has come up with, all in one place. Now I have a lot more brainstorming to do, but I’ll do that off-screen from now on, unless my readers really want to see my brain-dumps.

What we need to do here though, now that we have our main characters, and the main “goal” of the story, is to start fleshing out, well, everything. Some people are outliners, some are free-writers (aka pantsers), I’m somewhere in the middle. I come up with ideas by free-writing. I then take a break and put it into a basic outline, which I call a proto-outline. It’s basically a brainstorming exercise in the form of a story start-to-finish. But before we get that far, there are a lot of details that need to be figured out:

These are: the magic, the world, Bael himself, Peter and Celeste and how they fit into this plot, and specifically how their opposite nature makes them the two best suited, or solely suited to resolving this problem.

That’s it for now. Do you have any specific questions you want addressed while we finish up brainstorming? Anything you want to see added to the story, anything you don’t like?

Till next week!

Ideaifying Pt 4: Brainstormening 3

After two weeks of brainstorming, I think I need to do one more in order to flush out what the overall conflict here in the world is. Here goes:

***Beginning of brainstorming dump***

So what am I going to do for the conflict? I think the natural inclination would be that I need these two to team up and go on a bit of a quest to find out what happened to the angels. That’s really the crux of the problem here, not really solving shorter things, but the larger picture. The more I think about it in this light, the more I think this is the story that I want to tell, and the questions that I want answered.

So there I go. I need to know what happened to the angels.

I guess this boils down to two main questions.

What exactly happened to the angels.

Why are these two the ones that will be able to figure it out?

Let’s work on the second question:

1. They are both half-angels. This is exceedingly rare, it’s possible that there actually other half-angels out there, (I really should come up with a name for them, which should be Nephilim.)

2. They are opposites. One hears the screaming of the angels, the other never hears them unless the two of them are near each other, and I’m talking physically.

3. What I can gather from this is that they are two halves of a whole. Obviously I could go with some kind of sexual encounter, but I’m not sure that is where I want this story to go for now, but I do need to explore more options related to how these two could “come together” and join forces somehow to fix the problem.

4. This means that they need some kind of alternating powers that can be combined to do something.

Which of course leads to the big problem, and I’m not entirely sure how I want to handle it.

How did we get here to begin with? The writer portion of me wants to not go down the thought process right now because I feel I need to keep it secret. I’m also a bit of a discovery writer in that I don’t always know where I’m going. I’m trying to do better, but since this entire project is being up online for everyone to see, I think the best course of action is for me to just bite the bullet and spill the beans.

Here is my thought. Peter is actually not half-angel. He’s half-demon.

Celeste is the true half-angel. Angels and Demons are basically two halves of the same coin. They are pretty much the same beings, but one is light, the other dark.

How about, when God cast out 1/3 of the hosts to become demons, he prevented them from ever having a corporeal form. Demons themselves could never become corporeal, but their children could. This is why Peter is like this. How about a demon finally managed to get a body, thus locking out the angels from being on this earth until his body is destroyed.

This would give Peter and Celeste a goal. Kill the big-bad demon guy that is now inhabiting the world. I want the fact that peter and Celeste are here on this earth to be something of a mystery, and anomaly.

Perhaps, nephilim don’t really gain any divine powers until they mature. They hit puberty. This is when their modest powers manifest. Angels notice this and destroy any demon-spawned nephilim when they kids hit puberty, in fact maybe they destroy both of them. Peter and Celeste were under the radar when this happened. It’s still exceedingly rare that this would happen, but when it does happen, divine decree requires that they have to be destroyed. It sucks, but it’s the law.

But, with no angels on the earth anymore, Peter and Celeste haven’t been found out and thus were kind of grandfathered in. This makes them literally one of a kind on the earth and the only two people alive that can possibly stop this.

So Bael, we’ll call him, the big-bad guy that finally managed to find himself a body host, and we can figure out exactly how he came into the world, has been running the mob for the last few years now that he’s here. He has a ton of powers, granted to him as a full=fledged demon. He’s also working on preparing hosts for more.

Ooh, he actually managed to grab a body and cast some kind of spell to banish the angels. We’ll have to figure this one out later, but I’m thinking they are banished to some kind of third dimension. Not heaven, not hell, not earth. Some other dimension, purgatory we can call it? The waiting room for the dead. They don’t belong there and shouldn’t be there. Maybe this is also causing a bit of a back-log in the dead being processed or something, but he’s thrown the balance off real bad this time and he’s working on paving the road for more demons to make it onto the world. Maybe he already has some of this guys already through to this side.

So all I need to figure out now is:

1. How exactly did Bael manage to accomplish this feat.

2. How will Peter/Celeste be able to use that knowledge to get out of it.

Stay tuned next time while we work on that solution!

***End of brainstorming dump***

So this was a little longer of a brainstorming exercise. I still think I came up with some really cool ideas.

Next week I will concatenate everything that we’ve assembled into one post so all the pertinent information is in one place, then we start start work on actually writing something. I will bring that up more next week though.

Till then, let me know what you think about where we are going with the plot and how you like the world and the characters!

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