• Who We Are

  • Schedule

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

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Kinetic’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

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.

Non-Writing Responsibilities of an Indie Author

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The next couple of months are going to be a little crazy for me. The plan is to release two of my short stories, in the world of Tarak, before releasing the first novel in the series To Kill a Wizard. So far, I’m running a bit behind in my “schedule,” because all of the non-writing stuff that goes into self-publishing is getting in the way.

These are some of the things that have been driving me crazy, that I had no idea would take up so much of my time:

  • Creating a marketing “plan”
  • Converting all my books to the proper format for each retailer. (Right now, I’m working on Smashwords.)
  • Making sure I have the right cover for each work, and that they are formatted correctly.
  • AND making sure all the information I provide actually shows up accurately at each place.

I will say, after the past couple of months working with all these programs, I can see why established writers pay someone to do a lot of these things. It kills me to spend so much time on all of this stuff when I could be writing. Even though I enjoy the control publishing as an indie author gives me, I can see why one of the reasons people go traditional is to avoid having to spend their time on all this non-writing stuff.

A fellow author of mine pays someone about thirty dollars to put their book in each format for them. At first, I thought this was crazy. Now, I plan to keep a special account of anything I make off my first works, so I can hopefully pay someone to do the formatting next time.

What do all of you think? Does the formatting get easier? Or is it smarter just to pay someone?

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.

Like my blogs? Follow my personal blog at: Lisa Morrow

Books by Lisa Morrow: Lisa Morrow Author Page

Writing a Winning Blurb

A blurb is the description of your book, found on the back cover. Marilynn Byerly,a best-selling author, says that “Blurbs are the second most important selling tool you have for your book, so you want it to grab the reader’s attention” I realize how incredibly important a blurb is for enticing people to read a book, so I’ve been obsessing over my own. After struggling with it for weeks, I finally turned to the internet for advice. I thought I’d share some of the things I learned.

As my story is a YA Fantasy with romance, I looked at how Marilynn Byerly suggested creating a blurb for a fantasy story. What I gathered, she recommends the following:

  1. Setting First
  2. Plot Set Up
  3. Main Character Emotional Involvement and Exterior Conflict

Amy Wilkins, who writes blurbs for Harlequin, suggests hooking your reader with your protagonist by asking yourself what the reader needs to know right away. Or, to focus more on your setting, if it is unusual.

She also discusses something called “shoutlines,” which I’ve never heard of before. They are the bolded text between paragraphs or at the start of a blurb that grab your attention. But, she emphasizes that you need to ask yourself if it is needed or adds anything by having it.

One thing Amy really focused on is finding that balance with how much plot to involve. If your reader doesn’t need to know it, or it gives your whole plot away, it’s probably best to leave it out. She suggested picking a spot a quarter or a third of the way through, and not telling anything after that point.

Another thing she suggested, which I hadn’t thought of, was to us a line from your own book. She says it should set up something and can really covey the author’s voice.

Her final suggestion was to end with conflict. That way, you leave the reader wanting more.

I really found these tips useful, but I think it is still a really difficult thing to try to find that balance between hooking your reader with your characters and plot, yet not giving too much away. It also seems so easy to fall into using cliques to make my points. I must avoid them, no matter how tempting!

Any suggestions on how to write a great blurb? What completely turns you away from a book, after you read the blurb?

Websites on writing great blurbs:

http://www.marilynnbyerly.com/blurb.html#SFANDFANTASY

http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/5-tips-on-how-to-write-a-blurb-for-your-book/

http://romanceuniversity.org/2011/11/23/5-top-tips-for-writing-a-compelling-book-blurb-by-amy-wilkins/

Finally, I’m Finished!

My young adult fantasy novel was “finished” more than six months ago, maybe a year ago. Since then, I’ve been editing. Giving up. And editing some more. Last night at a ridiculously late hour, I finished.

Finished!

I am elated beyond belief. The next week or so I plan to go through and just read it as a reader, while still keeping an eye out that my changes have been implemented well.

Then the next step: sending it to my writing group.

In the last few years, I’ve read a handful of completed novels from my writing buddies. Every time, I feel a strange surge of pride and envy that they’ll actually finished something, that all their work is there in front of me. And now, finally, I’ll have something to hand over to them.

I know there will be more work to do after they give me their feedback, but I’m excited to focus on my next step. Even though, they’ll be lots of new questions I’ll need to figure out the answers to. For example:

If I go the self-publishing route:
• Should I create my own cover or pay to have one designed?
• How in the world do I create my own blurb?
• And then the even shorter/more difficult tagline?
• Do I hire a copy editor or hope that after a handful of eyes have reviewed it, it’ll be clean?

If I go the publisher route:
• Do I go to an agent or directly to a publishing company?
• What angle should I take with my query letter?

There’s a ton of other things I’ll need to figure out, but I’m so excited to be taking this next step. Wish me luck!

RT Will Be Here Before I Know It

I missed everyone last week, sadly I was busy working. St. Patty’s is a pretty big deal if you work in the bar industry…even if you work at a Tequila Bar. That and a girl’s night out left me wrecked. My father and  uncle were also in town this week. They came just in time to see me with strep throat. I know, I know, this has been the fourth time I have been sick this winter. I am not actually a sickly person by nature though I obviously don’t have the constitution to deal with these winters. I need to get better though because I need to be on my A game at work so I am all set for New Orleans. I am getting really excited for RT.

RT for those that don’t know is the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention. It is a huge conference that has tons of classes, lectures, parties. All of it relating to writing. Needless to say I am super stoked to be going. At the same time I am a bit daunted by all that needs to be done before hand. I made a list a few months ago on the blog. Things are coming together but being sick four times in the past five months certainly has not helped.  With all the things piling up I decided to add something else to the pot. I am going to enter the American Idol Writing Competition at RT. It’s a bit nerve wracking but I did say on my writing goals for the year that I would enter a contest.

I am surprisingly unworried about the contest. It would be amazing to win, but even getting three chapters to agents and editors is a step in the right direction. So I will be plenty busy these next few weeks. Sometime in there I really want to see the new movie Authors Anonymous. It’s about a writers group whose most recent member has sudden success and makes all of the other writers go a bit nutty. It is obviously going to be overdone but I think it’s something most writers can relate to. We all want our peers to be successful but seeing someone ink a six figure deal overnight might make us a bit jealous. I want to see how the film takes on those feelings and their eventual resolutions. 

Just Surviving

Sometimes life is more about surviving than living. Has anyone else experienced those times? Things are just so busy and chaotic that there really isn’t one moment to just sit down and relax. Not one. I have something close to twenty-three messages on my cell phone, and I’m sure a significant amount of older ones to delete before I can hear the new ones, but I honestly can’t seem to find a moment to check them. This moment, as I type this, might be the first time in nearly a week, where I can hear my own thoughts.

So right now I am surviving. Breathing in and out. Trying to keep everyone happy. And trying not to ask myself whether others have it easier, or if other people are just better at hiding that they too are struggling. My writing is all but forgotten. Occasionally, I reread what I’ve already written, amongst the chaos, just to assure myself that I did once have time to write.

I’ve also been trying to hold onto the shreds of empathy and understanding that I usually value so dearly, but I’ve been slipping more than a bit. When a friend complained about her bad haircut, I forced myself not to yell. But I did give myself the small satisfaction of an unkind thought: I’d give almost anything for time to get my haircut. Someone in a little car cuts me off and takes my parking spot, then sprints out, completely unencumbered by car seats and kids to carry. I fantasize about all their tires going flat, as I park a gruesome distance from the store. And at those rare times I complain to someone, I try really hard not to hate the people who suggest that I’m the one who chose to have kids. (Helpful, huh?)

Instead, I try to just survive, because if I set my goals low, little things delight me. A baby cooing, a toddler speaking a new word, a husband saying I look beautiful, even when I don’t. These are the things I hold dear to me now, as I survive. Because I know at the end of all this, I will miss these strange days. I won’t miss the lack of free time, but I will miss so many other things.

I know this is more mom related than writing related, but this is what is going on in my crazy world right now.

Procrastinating in the Writer’s Domain… #writerslife #writerselfie #writerdesks

IMG_1108

Because I’m procrastinating on finishing up my current WIP, as I’m tackling the ending for a THIRD time, I thought I’d share a peek into my cavern of creativity.   Above is a snapshot of my writer’s corner.

Let me break it down for you.

Front and center resides the jewel–my pretty, pretty Apple, keeper of all things.  Pictures, research, secret character facts, they all have their own little spots here.

To your left you will notice quite a few objects.  Mr. Depp keeps a wicked eye on things from his perch.  Below him is my collection of awesomeness from Eerie–my own Voodoo doll, my Mardi Gras Mask, and a card that helped me keep Xander and Warrick in perspective.

Below that treasury is my version of Harry Dresden’s Bob–my skull of knowledge, let’s call her Lulu, sitting on my coveted box of red pens (and purple and green).  Currently she’s supporting the Kyn Bible.

To Lulu’s left, we have posted words of wisdom from the ever so clever pen monkey, Chuck Wendig and the 10 Rules of Writing a First Draft all crowded around a reminder from my BFF, Ang, on why friends are such a great concept.

Now down on the surface of what was the very first kitchen table Knight and I ever bought we have a spread of randomness. There is the treasured Synonym Finder, a thesaurus must have, and a pile of papers. In this lovely pile you would discover the unique requirements for various blog hops in October, a blue notebook containing various story line options (sometimes it’s easier to write out where the story is going vs. typing it out), and a list of my latest Twitter followers to thank at a later date.  Crumpled in front is what happens when you suffer from the dreaded allergies.  There are pens everywhere.

Tucked under the precious Apple are the epitome of stereo surround sound-my headphones, a gift from Knight. Not only does it allow me to immerse myself into my chosen soundtracks, it blocks all those pesky outside noises.  You know the ones, “Mom, when’s dinner?”  “Honey, what happen to/where is/when are we/…” that will suck your creativity into a little black box.

Yep there are two other speakers as well, when I want to share my pulse pounding musical tracks with whoever may be around (or just drown them out).

A coffee mug (filled) and a glass of my preferred other drink (watered down lemonade). Both are essential in refueling both the writer and the muse.  Huddled behind those is the mini Apple,  my tool for traveling or when I must escape this writer corner. 

More papers on that, I think it’s an unpaid bill, another notebook with various information they tell you never to write down, (but who can keep it all straight unless you write it down?), a list of editors and agents for the next query, an a copy of my contract for WRAPPED IN SHADOWS, part of Black Opal’s Winter Anthology coming out in December.

Two mice (mouses?) and a keyboard and tucked behind the screen is my very first iPod (U2 version from like 10 years ago), for some reason I just haven’t given it up yet.

And there you have it, my writing cave, and since I’ve managed to burn through a few minutes, I guess it’s time to stop whining and get to writing.  Two weeks and this piece must be done and out so I can begin prepping for NaNo and SHADOW’S CURSE….

Now, I’ve asked this question of every guest I’ve had, so I’m throwing it out to you guys this time…

What is the strangest thing on your desk?

But Is It Fried?

So,  I had a surprise test at work the other day. I ended up getting a high score but when my boss went over one of the questions I got wrong, it got me thinking. The question was simply: describe the chile relleno. I described it is as a chile stuffed with cheese, breaded, and then deep fried. Apparently by describing something accurately, I had made it unappealing. My boss informed me that it was best to describe it as “egg washed” because it sounded “lighter” and “fresher.”

Now I will agree that describing something as egg washed as opposed to breaded does make it sound light. On the other hand if you stuff something with cheese and deep fry it, it’s not light, delicious yes, but certainly not light. Like they say if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s  still a pig.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself, but Camille, what does this have to do with writing? Let me tell you. When I write my characters I tend to love them, as I should, in this I find it very easy to “egg wash” their issues. By that I mean that in describing a character, I can make them more appealing to the reader, whether they deserve my discretion or not. Many authors do this because hey, that bad boy alpha male isn’t so attractive when he’s just a jackass. Now if he has some redeeming qualities perhaps we can overlook the fact that he’s filled with cheese and deep fried.

Here’s the problem, egg washing doesn’t work if there isn’t really a lighter side to the character. Saying a character is sensitive or has a good side doesn’t work if it doesn’t actually exist.  So let’s keep it simple. If something is heavy, it’s heavy. Not everything about your characters needs to be likeable, in fact it’s unnerving when your character is a child of the corn. 

I Have to Do What?

So, I have hit the quarter mark in my third rewrite of my WIP. Huzzah! I know it’s early but I finally feel like the book is going in the right direction so I’m pretty stoked. I have a self- imposed deadline to finish this sucker by the end of September, because I have a list. Ugh, lists are the devil but they are often necessary. Why, you may ask, is the list necessary? Because finishing the book is only the first step in what I hope will be my grand career. So here goes:

1. Finish novel by the end of September.

2. Edit said novel.

3. Send to critique group.

4. Edit said novel again.

5. Write a kick ass query letter. Send out, and repeat as necessary.

That is only one list in the grand scheme of things. On top of trying to finish and send out this manuscript I also have some plans with Wicked aka Jami Gray. We are going to New Orleans in May for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. My hope is to have a contract by then but we’ll have to see what happens. Now in anticipation for the Convention and hopeful publication I have another list.

1. Start writing on my own personal blog.

2. Create website, which includes bribing my more tech savvy friends to help a girl out. In essence I know what I want for a banner but I need someone who is more skilled than I to make that happen. Also, there’s all that setting crap up, thing.

3. Get headshots for said website. Luckily on that front I know a guy (my dad enjoys photography in his spare time).

4. Get business cards (who knew a writer needed business cards).

5. Work enough to pay for all of the above and still have time to write.

I think all writers know that the yesteryear of writing a book in seclusion and then sending it out to a publisher and moving on to the next one is sadly gone. We need to promote ourselves and build an audience. We all hope that our book will go out and become an instant bestseller. Reality is rarely so kind, recall my previous post about dumb questions “Why don’t you just write the next Twilight/Harry Potter/ 50 Shades?” It is important to look at publishing as a business. I would write even if I didn’t plan hope that it would be my career, though in all honesty I would write less because it would be a hobby without deadlines.

The goal is to work sans pants so everything I am doing right now is to reach that goal. I’m hoping it will be fun along the way but it may be a hot stressful mess. I’m okay with that as long as everything gets done. It will, I am determined.

 

 

 

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