• Who We Are

  • Schedule

    Mondays ~ Kinetic
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Wicked
    Fridays ~ Eerie
    Saturdays ~ Mighty
    Sundays ~ Swamp Tales

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

The Story is Key

The actor Kevin Spacey spoke at a marketing convention in Cleveland recently. And even if people wondered why he was there, they still showed up. Heck, it’s Kevin Spacey. Reading over his address is made me realize that whatever medium you create in, whether it be acting, storytelling, marketing, song writing, or comic books, there are some truths that are universal.

“It begins with knowing what story you want to tell,” he said. “Everything else will follow.” He went on to discuss the importance of conflict and authenticity in storytelling.

This was also reiterated to me today as I was chatting with a friend about Marie Force, a successful self-published author. Marie reminded us that while, self promoting, facebook, twitter, and webpages are essential to surviving the indie-industry, “the book is king.”

And while we all get caught up on ratings, sells, and hits on a blog, it is nice to remember why we do this. “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Walt Whitman

Got Plot? #AmWriting #AmPlotting

Business man writing plan ABC
When I first decided to try to make a living doing this thing I love called writing, my first step was to learn as much as I could about anything writing or publishing.

One of the biggest helps  when I was starting out were the online workshop/classes hosted by RWA, among others. Authors teaching authors. This community is kind, helpful and always willing to share knowledge :D

After a ton of blog reading, I settled on my first topic to study and improve.

Plotting.

I still enjoy the book, 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias (I have the 2003 edition, there’s a new 2012 edition now). Even Tobias states, though, that no one knows how many types of master plots there are (his guess is not 20, he only gives you an overview of different plots such as Revenge, The Quest, Adventure, Love, ect.)

Okay, I thought. *I think* I can work with that, LOL.

 

Next step, plot elements.

Free Rollercoaster Track Royalty Free Stock Photography - 6322557And this is where it got really interesting.

 

3 Act Structure

5 Act Structure

 I even heard of doing an 8 Act once.

 Spider web plotting

Storyboarding

Snowflake plotting, and on and on.

 

Yup. I read books and/or took classes on them all.

Guess how many worked perfectly for me?

ZERO

 

But it was definitely worth it. Because I took away so much information from each and every step, that I was able to form a mutt-mix bastardization method of elements from them all into my own questionable path to plotting.

Since I’m at the beginning of creating a new world and series for the first time in a couple years, I decided to revisit some of them.

It’s always interesting what new information I find, now that I have more writing under my belt.

 

So, my Q4U: How do you plot? Or, how do you pants it (no pre-story/outline writing)?

 And, how did you learn or decide on your method?

Two deceiving devils: Lie and Lay

At group the other night, we were discussing those fun joyous verbs lie and lay. Those two little devils have derailed the mightiest of writer. Personally, I have a sticky on my desk to keep them straight. I wanted to provide a small chart to print for those writers who battle with them as well. Good luck!

Lay
Definition To put something down. It always needs a direct object.
Simple Present: lay(s)
Simple Past: laid
Past Participle: have/has laid
Present Participle: are laying
Lie
Definition To recline. I remember this definition because both have an “I” in them.
Simple Present: lie(s)
Simple Past: lay
Past Participle: have/has lain
Present Participle: are lying

 

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Writers…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Three Truths and One Lie –Characters that are Believable

Do you remember the game three truths and a lie? It is a group game often played to get to know one another. A person tells three truths and one lie, and the other people have to figure out what is the lie.

This game is a great example of creating believable characters. In the game people try to create truths that may appear out of character and a lie that is ordinary.

As authors we can often create truths for our characters that don’t align with the world we have created for them. I currently am struggling with one of my characters that feels flat in my story. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

*Character’s Journal. I have to go beyond the standard character questioner we often see, and write in their voice. Even if the story is not from their point of view, I write a scene or more in the character’s point of view.

*Motivation: Know your character’s motivation. Not only the motivation that drives them to accomplish their goals, but possible unconscious motivation that drives their personality, speech, and actions.

*Avoid Stereotypes: Most characters can be easily categorized-which is fine. Go beyond the stereotype though. Make yours unique. Make them real by giving them a history, a motivation, and a voice all their own.

Delve into your inner Freud and create characters that are complex and interesting. And just for fun I added below my three truths and one lie. Feel free to join in the fun.

  1. I am prepared for a zombie apocalypse.
  2. I find being underwater peaceful.
  3. I have eaten a cricket.
  4. My first pet was a five foot snake.

Need new read? It’s HERE! HUNTED BY THE PAST has arrived! #newread #PNR

The first in an exciting new Paranormal Romantic Suspense series-HUNTED BY THE PAST is now available from Muse It Up Publishing

When facing danger, some situations require a unique skill set. Come meet the men and women of the Psy-IV Teams…

huntedbythepast

HUNTED BY THE PAST: PSY-IV Teams book 1

Sometimes death is the only way to out run the past… 

A reluctant psychic who can relive the past, a man well versed in keeping secrets, and a psychopathic killer enter a deadly game where the past determines the future.

Changing the past is an impossibility ex-Marine, Cynthia “Cyn” Arden, understands all too well. Struggling in the aftermath of a botched mission, which cost her two teammates, her military career, and a fledging relationship, she’s brought home by a panicked phone call. The psychic killer behind her nightmares has escaped military custody to hunt down the remaining teammates, one by one. Next on his murderous list–Cyn. Her only chance at survival is to master the psychic ability she’s spent years denying.

The killer’s game brings her face to face with the one person guaranteed to throw her off kilter—the unsettling and distracting man she left behind, Kayden Shaw. Once she believed he’d stand by her side, until he chose his job and his secrets over her. A choice that’s left the scars of the past etched deep on her mind and heart.

To survive this twisted game, Cyn must risk trusting her heart and accepting who and what she is, or lose not only her life, but the man she loves.

Available at:  MUSEITUP Publishing  in all digital formats!

READ AN EXCERPT

Since I didn’t want to touch him, much, I poked a finger against his chest, ignoring the unexpected zap of awareness. “I don’t know how you found me or why, but right now I have other, more important things to do. So, why don’t–”

The ringing of the phone interrupted my tirade.

I shot a look at the phone sitting on the counter to our left, and then narrowed my gaze at Kayden.

He quirked an eyebrow.

The phone rang again.

“You going to answer it?” he drawled.

Stepping back, I plucked the receiver off the cradle. “Hello?”

“Cyn?” What do you know, it was Thomas Anderson Gunderson, A.K.A. Tag.

I stared at the man standing across from me. “Yeah.”

“Where have you been? And why the hell won’t you answer my calls?” Despite his questions, there was a thread of relief in my friend’s voice. Ex-friend, I reminded myself.

“Why would I?” I gave my answer absently, watching Kayden make his way over to the other side of the counter and take a seat on a barstool.

In my ear, Tag cursed. “Dammit, Cyn. I don’t have time to explain shit now— ”

“Why are you calling me?” I cut him off, ice coating every word.

“Why are you in Sedona?” he shot back, his voice hard.

“I’m more concerned with how you got this number and why everyone seems determined to turn my cabin in to Grand Central Station.”

Momentary silence filled the line. “Shaw’s there?”

“Got it in one.”

“Thank God,” Tag muttered. “Be as bitchy as you want, Cyn, but tell me you’re okay. You ran away—”

“I didn’t run from shit, Tag, I was kicked to the fucking curb as soon as you and everyone else got what you wanted.”

“That’s not what happened.”

“Really? Because from where I stood, it sure as hell looked like it.” Silence answered. Turning away from Kayden’s too avid gaze, I tried to regain control so I could kick both of these men back out of my life. “I’m fine, but I’m little busy dealing with my own situation.”

“What kind of situation?” It actually sounded as if he gave a damn.

Closing my eyes, I tried to shove aside the urge to bang my head against a wall at the single minded intensity of the male gender. “My sister is AWOL. Now, can we just focus on why you’re bothering me and Kayden has decided to pursue a career in B&E?”

“How long has Kelsey been missing?”

The urgent note underlying Tag’s question reignited my earlier sense of unease, as if there was something bigger at play here. Worry about Kelsey trumped hurt feelings, so I answered. “Not sure, a couple hours maybe. Her car is here.”

The string of oaths spewing over the line from Tag proved no one could swear like a Marine. “Son of mangy bitch,” he muttered, then he took a deep breath. “The cabin’s an hour and half outside of Phoenix?” He didn’t wait for my answer. “I’ll meet you up there. Stay with Kayden.”

“Tag,” his name came out as a warning of my waning patience. My fingers tightened around the phone, and it took an amazing amount of will-power to not share my own colorful vocabulary. “You need to tell me what’s going on. Right. Now.” The last two words emerged around gritted teeth.

“It’s about Flash. His killer is out.” His unexpected answer stabbed deep, drawing blood under my skin. Brutal memories boiled up and I almost missed his, “Stay with Kayden, Cyn.”

The drone of a dial tone filled my ear. My world spun. I concentrated on setting the phone back in the cradle. My legs were doing a great impression of spaghetti noodles, so I let them fold under me and sat on the cool tile. Six months, I’d run as hard, as fast and as far as I could, but in a matter of minutes I was right back where I started, trapped in a never-ending nightmare.

You have to wonder which fickle fate decided to dump everything on me at once. If I ever got my hands on her, I’d beat her to a pulp. Damn, damn, and triple damn!

The past surged, breaking through to rise in a swamping wave of ghostly screams and the stench of burnt flesh. I dug my fingers deep into my thigh muscles in a desperate attempt to stave it off. No such luck. Greedy memories sucked me down.

My kitchen disappeared, replaced by a fetid alley behind a dive in Where-the-fuckistan. Sprawled on the ground, my head spinning with dizzying sickness and my leg screaming with agony, all I could do was watch and listen. Watch the spreading pool of blood and brains seep from Ortega, his sightless eyes staring past me. Listen to the snap and crackle of a raging fire hissed through the night while the smell of burning flesh wrapped around me. Behind me, someone screamed, his wail high-pitched and full of hopeless agony.

I knew that broken voice.

Even as excruciating pain beat inside my skull, I turned my head, recognizing the figure in the midst of the hellish scene. Searing loss, rage, and fear rose to a scream. My mouth opened and the stench coiled down my throat, blocking the air in my chest. No, no, no!

The shocking feel of hands against my face snapped my paralysis, bringing a touch of the present into the past. Desperate to escape, ignoring the pain radiating down my leg and through my head. I struck out, my hand connecting with flesh. “Don’t touch me!”

Harsh breathing filled the air around me. It took a few seconds to realize it was coming from me. A few more before the low soothing voice penetrated the layers of the past. “Come on back, Cyn. You’re safe.”

 

Now available at: MUSEITUP Publishing

 

Jami Gray Small

Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. Her latest release, SHADOW’S MOON  was a Golden Claddaugh Finalist, and the first in her newest series, HUNTED BY THE PAST, hits shelves in July 2014. She is surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and a male lab, who masquerades as a floor rug as she plays with the voices in her head.

Come stalk Jami at any of these fine locations:

Website  /  Facebook  /  Twitter  /  Goodreads  /  Google+  /  Amazon 

 

Multitasking to the Extreme

Right now I’m working on several things. Jumping between projects is either going to keep me focused on my writing, or drive me absolutely nuts, but I decided to shake things up a bit.

One night last week, I had a great idea for a short story. It started with an idea to create a character who lacked one of the five senses, so I’d have to push myself further with her other senses. Then, I created a “world” in which lacking this sense was actually safer than having it. From there, I tried to write a short piece with high tension. I have no idea if I succeeded, but I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when it was done.

During the week, I’ve been working on my “completed” young adult novel. The first forty-percent makes me so proud. The rest of it… well, I’m still editing… slowly making my way through it. The major things I’m still trying to work out are to make sure the timeline works, the romance makes sense, and still keep the tension high.

In the evenings, I’ve been working on my urban fantasy romance. I’m new to writing in this genre, so I’m excited to be trying something different. This is also a novella, which adds a new challenge. I’ve got to create a world, characters, and a fascinating plot with high tension, all in around forty-thousand words.

Now, I wish I could say I’m just one-hundred-percent focused on my writing, but I’m not. Life, my family and friends, still always comes first. I’m just trying to cut out a few minutes here and there whenever possible. I realized a long time ago that I’m a lot happier when I take this “me” time to get my ideas out on paper.

But all of this has made me curious; do you work on one piece at a time or multiple pieces? And whatever you do, why do it this way?

YA is Not Just for the Young

Often in the swamp we are recommending books and swapping paperbacks. Like most readers, when you find something you love, you want to share. And as I feel the young adult genre is at times underrepresented in the swamp, I thought I would share some of my young adult fantasy favorites.

 The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black  Holly Black is one of my favorites. Great vampire novel where those infected are quarantined in “coldtown.” Tana races the clock to save those she loves, but once inside is there any chance for escape?

Graceling by Kristin Cashore    Action. Romance. A word where the color of your eyes can show the deadly gifts one holds within. Epitome of strong female character with an attitude.

The 5th wave by Rick Yancey  Aliens have attacked the planet. With rotating POVs Yancey, weaves a masterful tale of survival. I already have book two pre-ordered.  “Only the unlucky survive.”

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers  French medieval time period. Ismae escapes an arranged marriage and flees to the convent of St. Mortain, where the “god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts and a violent destiny.” Robin excels at creating characters you don’t want to leave.  I’m reading the second book for the second time and loathed to put it down to blog.

The young adult genre does not lack suspense, action, or romance. Look at many of the latest movies that originate from this genre. So grab a chair, crack and book and enjoy.

What are some of your favorites?

 

It’s coming…HUNTED BY THE PAST is just about to arrive! #MuseItUp #newreads #PNR

huntedbythepast

Phoenix in July. People called it Mother Nature’s rendition of hell on earth.

They were wrong. Hell existed on the other side of the world, in a much more treacherous desert. If it let you go, you ran, long and hard and as fast as you could.

You couldn’t hide, but you could try. I’d been running for six long months, jumping from one remote place to another, chasing wildlife with a camera for a paycheck. A safer endeavor than chasing two footed monsters.

Unfortunately, there was one thing I couldn’t outrun, family. Or the closest thing to it in my case, Kelsey. Sister by circumstances, not blood, and the only human on this planet I’d come back to civilization for, she should’ve been on her own plane with a group of fellow lawyers for some boring-ass conference. Her words, not mine. Instead, she’d managed to get a message to me, even out into the wilds of America’s last frontier. Someone had been asking questions about me, and watching her.

And so it begins, HUNTED BY THE PAST, the first in my Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, The PSY-IV Teams. In five days you can be the proud new owner of a copy. If you want to pre-order it while it’s at $2.99, please do! Here, I’m going to include a link–click on the cover above or the image below, both will get you there.

MuseItUp

If the that first tidbit wasn’t enough, what about what others are saying…

“I was hooked from the first word read. I had a very hard time putting the book down and when I did, I couldn’t wait to come back to it.” –RomCon Reader  9.35 rating

“Hunted By The Past is fast-paced, quick witted, and Ms. Gray can surely spin a fascinating paranormal story.” –Catherine Constantine, Goodreads rating 5 stars

“…this author has grown characters rich in personal history who are willing to risk everything for love of each other and their duty.”–Mona Karel, Goodreads rating 5 stars

 

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