• 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

Writer Driven Writing

Last night I stayed up ridiculously late writing a short story. When I was finished, I felt a huge sense of relief. Sometimes when I get an idea, it takes months to finish, which can be stressful. I’m left with a constant sense of a story still waiting to be told.

This morning, however, someone asked me what the purpose of the story was and what point it was trying to make. I froze. There wasn’t really a purpose. Just an idea. A character. A world.

I re-read the story and still enjoyed it, but started wondering what a reader is looking for when they pick up a short story. Do they have the same expectations as when they read a novel? Are they just hoping to be entertained for a shorter period of time?

Honestly, I have no idea. Some short stories definitely send a message. They leave you wondering for days. While others keep you on the edge of your seat. And when you’re finished, you put it down feeling strangely satisfied.

But after a morning of reflection, I came to a startling revelation. I didn’t really care. When I started out writing the story, it wasn’t with any other purpose than wanting to get my idea on paper. And, I think, sometimes when I focus too much on my readers, the story I want to tell gets lost in what I believe others want to read.

So, my new plan is:
• To make sure everything I write is for me first
• To try to drowned out the voices of others, so my voice isn’t lost
• To write with no other purpose than to write

I hope that by keeping these goals in mind, my writing will be stronger, but also I’ll keep enjoying writing. No one wants their dream job to start feeling like a nightmare.

The 7 Evil Dwarves are back with a new Swamp! #7EDs

On the tail end of our journey through the writing workshops over the last month, I wanted to see if you all have checked out the reswampped home of the 7 Evil Dwarves (www.7evildwarves.com)? We’ve added some new stops.

Since I spent most of June doing writer marketing stuff, release stuff, and setting things into place for the second PSY-IV Team book, I also threw in remodeling my site, which in turn bled over into reswammping the 7ED site. We’ve let the mud creep up over the last few months. Some of the dwarves have huddled inside their shacks refusing to venture out into the common areas, so we as a group decided it was time to get ourselves back in shape. (Okay, yes, maybe I pushed…a little…with a bulldozer…but the results are worth it, right?)

To ensure we stay on track, we set up a new blog schedule. Every day a dwarf will post. Doesn’t matter how long or short, they will post so our visitors know we aren’t a ghost swamp.

We added a page listing all our author interviews (in alpha order, because my CDO kicked in). These interviews are us asking writers we admire questions, so check out the list and feel free to spend some time in the Swamp Guest Archives tab.

You’ll notice we number a bit more than 7, but we have a couple of dwarves who hold honorary positions, so we’re not kicking them out. We each have a page, so take the time to give the hairy eyeball to each one.

There’s a tab–Writings of the Dwarves–this is a must see. Here you will find all our literary accomplishments, along with links to access them. Our goal, to add a few more names and titles by this time next year.

You’ll notice there’s a tab titled, SWAMP TALES. This requires constant checking because we have gathered around the campfire and began a story–just for you readers. Each of us takes a piece in round robin format. Of course, at the time of writing this post, it’s a bit snarly, but I’m sure we’ll find our way out…soon…or else!

Then there’s another page for all those writers out there who are looking for some helpful sites and communities. Doesn’t matter your genre, feel free to click and play.

Take your time, mosey around my place (www.jamigray.com) and check out the first chapter of each book, sign up for my newsletter. (So far, I’ve only sent out one and I’ll probably send one more out later this year, which means, that’s what? Two a year. Shouldn’t crowd your in-box too much.) Then check out the nooks and crannies at the Swamp.

Let us know what’s working, what isn’t, and what you might expect but didn’t find.

 

Welcome Home, Anna Conda

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Greetings and Salutations honorable readers of the blog,

I hope you didn’t miss last week’s blog, Robert Louis Stevenson came for a visit to discuss The Body Snatcher, and The Strange Case Of Dr. Jeckyll And Mr. Hyde. It seems that doctors in fiction are much maligned. There was Dr. Moreau;  from The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G.Wells; Dr. Frankenstein; from Mary Shelly’s, Frankenstein; Dr. Herbert West; from H.P. Lovecraft’s, Herbert West Reanimator; and who could forget Dr. Hannibal Lecter, from The Silence of The Lambs, by Thomas Harris. These are but a few of the more renown doctors of horror. There are countless tales of doctors whose experiments have ended badly for people. Sometimes the balance of the world is at stake. That is not to say literature presents all doctors in a negative light, but in the realm of horror when a doctor enters the scene, it’s time to duck and cover. 

Speaking of doctors, please welcome one of the Swamps more celebrated residents Dr. Anna Conda. Anna has starred in such films as Anaconda, Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid, Anaconda 3: The Offspring, and a myriad of National Geographic’s specials. Harvard Law has just bestowed her with an honorary degree for her contribution to maintaining the reputations of snakes everywhere.

“Hey Anna, welcome home. Will you be staying a while or do you have to jet off to another thrilling film location?”

“Thanks for that warm welcome everyone. No Eerie, I won’t be leaving for a while. I’m taking some time off to recuperate.”

“Great, it will be a pleasure having your smiling face around the place for a change. What can you tell us about this honorary degree?”

“I don’t know that much really. My agent called and said something about Harvard Law’s alumni working in Washington D.C. as politicians and lobbyists. Then something about me being a famous snake. The next thing I know, I’m staying in a beautiful suite at The Charles Hotel in Boston.”

“So this had something to do with politicians, lobbyists, and snakes. I see the connection now. Will you be called on to perform any public speaking engagements?”

“My agent said anything of that nature would be negotiated by him. Have you met my agent King Cobra?”

“I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure.”

“Well King, made sure I was treated like royalty during my stay in Boston. They gave the cutest little hat with a tassel and everything.”0511-0703-2014-1738.jpg

“I’m very happy for you. What are you plans for your stay at home?”

“I thought I’d catch up on my water colors. I can never find the time to paint when I travel.”

“I heard they’re having a welcome home party for you over at The Slice Your Own Deli tonight.”

“Yes, I’m very excited to see everyone. I’ve missed you all so much.”

Mischievous Raven appears in a noisy rustle of ebony feathers. “Hey Anna, How you doin‘?” Mischievous tries to arch his eyebrows. (Which is comical if you’ve ever seen a raven be seductive.)

“Hi Mischievous,”Anna, all but purrs, (can a snake purr?) “Are you coming to my party tonight?”

“Wouldn’t miss it, Baby. Maybe you and I can get a little alone time later.”

Anna moves close and wraps around Mischievous. “I’d like that Sugar.”

“Not to tight baby.” Mischievous squirms.

“Sorry Sugar, sometimes my passion gets away from me.”

“Save it for later. I heard Maggot Brain is performing tonight in honor of your return.”

“That’s wonderful. I love their song I”m infected for you? It’s a real mood setter.” Anna puts another wrap on Mischievous.

“I know the one.” Mischievous does a little grind.

“Hey hey, this is a family show, You two ought to get a room.” I use my hat to conceal my eyes.

“I’d better go shed my skin so I’m ready for tonight.” Anna, slithers off.

“Whew, she’s hot.” Mischievous shakes out his rumpled feathers. “I better go.”

“I thought you were going to tell our guests about your visit to the Left Coast?”

“Later, I got things to go, places to see, and people to do, my man. Later.”

Sorry folks, it’ looks like it’s that time again. As is our custom, I leave you with Prince.

“There’s a dark side to everything.”
Prince

Write On,

Eerie Dwarf Aka Dave Benneman

Urban Fantasy vs. Fantasy or Girls vs. Boys Phoenix Comicon panels part duex #writingtips #rogues

Welcome to part deux of my ventures into Phoenix Comicon writing panels. I saved the best for last. The panel was titled “Writing Rogues” and man, the panelists fit that description to a ‘T’.  Recognize these names: Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles), Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles), Pierce Brown aka Pretty Boy (Red Rising Trilogy), Sam Sykes (The Aeons’ Gate series), and Scott Lynch (Gentleman Bastards series). If you read fantasy, you know at least one of these. And yes, it did not escape my notice there were no females present (but more of that later).

This workshop focused on the role of the rogue in fantasy series.  You know the ones: Han Solo from Star Wars, Lynch’s Locke, Harry of Jim Butcher fame, Atticus from Kevin’s series, these male characters know how to work that line between bad boy attitude and hero.

They started off with what makes a rogue–flaws, moral grayness (morally transgressive), never sure if they’ll side with you or leave you hanging in the wind, ambivalent, never committed to any cause, unless it’s themselves. They’re the characters you aren’t sure will show up, and when they do, you still aren’t sure what they’re going to do. They break the boundaries of their worlds, have to fight themselves before they fight their antagonist.  Want more examples? Think Snake Eyes from GI Joe, Stryder from LoTR, Cpt. Kirk of USS Enterprise–each one of these is what is described as a “chaotic neutral”.

The panel was an hour long and these guys are high caliber smart asses, witty without trying, and awesome to listen to. Then one of the audience members got up and asked a question.

“Why aren’t there any female rogues in fantasy?”

Silence descends for a moment, then Patrick dares to address the 15 minute rambling that I managed to get down to 8 words.  Because part of that rambling question were comments, such as “why does a female rogue have to be attractive, but a male one doesn’t?”, and “why are female rogues considered $itches”, and “how come its an all male panel?”, and so forth.

It was a big room with lots of people. My heart went out to the panelists. This is a minefield question. The questioner was on the younger side (no offense meant, but it may give insight into the whys behind the questions).

I won’t go into the debate that broke out, but I will boil some of it down:

1. In Fantasy, the world settings tend to model on medieval, which then extends to your world’s attitudes on genders. Patrick posed an interesting question, “If a fantasy author wrote a book where the lead was a mother, who decided to leave her hubby and kiddos, to undertake a heroine’s journey, would the readers be sympathetic?”  My answer as a reader–not me. First, I’m a mom and a wife, and somehow leaving behind the important peeps in my life to undertake some journey to find a magical object, would require serious incentive. Patrick pushed it further. “So say this mom does leave it all behind to do this journey, and say the sexual mores of this world were less puritan than ours, so she can now hook up with males through out her journey without worry of negatively impacting her family behind, would it still work for you?”  Again, me as a reader–um, yuck.

My take away from this one:  Fantasy is based on historical mores/values/cultures, and women, unfortunately did not play dominant roles in those, which is then reflected in high fantasy.

2. Many, many, MANY (did I say many?) times, each of the authors on the panel brought up woman writers who have kick-ass female rogues: Carrie Vaughan, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Laurell Hamilton, Elizabeth Hand, etc.

After much back and forth, guess what I wanted to yell at the minor demon of debate castigating the panel: Yo, honey, you want rogue females? Then PICK UP A DAMN URBAN FANTASY BOOK!  Rogue female characters work in UF because it’s fantasy set in contemporary times, where moral trangsgressiveness is gender blind. You want to know what happen to rogue female leads, yeah they’re kicking ass a few hundred of years after the bad boys of fantasy.

Besides, you tell me, don’t Granuaile from Hearne’s novels, or Karen in Jim’s novels, nail the female rogues roles?

So I refrained from violence, barely, but I still had to vent a bit on this.

Tell me, as I haven’t read the newer High Fantasy lately, are there women rogues in lead roles? Ones that aren’t portrayed as hardened $itches?

“Write with the door closed…” Stephen King

“Write with the door closed…” Stephen King

 

We were discussing the other day the importance of writing with the door closed. How we need to not only shut out the daily distractions of life, but those voices in our heads. Those wee little creatures that tell you it’s not good enough. That tell you that last sentence you wrote was incomplete. Those people who look down their long pointed noses to remind you that your chance of success is nil.

Well, I say not only close the door, but slam it shut.

Write for yourself. Tell that story that only you can tell. We are all unique, and trying to be anything else is a waste.

Below is a poem from one of my favorite poets and creative genius, Shel Silverstein. It helps me remember “Anything can be.”

LISTEN TO THE MUSTN’TS CHILD.
LISTEN TO THE DON’TS.
LISTEN TO THE SHOULDN’TS.
THE IMPOSSIBLES.
THE WON’TS.
LISTEN TO THE NEVER HAVES,
THEN LISTEN CLOSE TO ME…
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN CHILD.
ANYTHING CAN BE.

 

Anything can happen child

Haunted By Literary Ghosts of Horror

Greetings and Salutations noble readers of the blog,

Tonight we are in the unconsecrated graveyard of the old Catholic Church. If you’ve accompanied me to this location before, you know you are in for a special treat. Tonight’s guest is not specifically known as a horror writer. His vast body of work includes, travel logs, poetry, historical observations, letters, novels and short stories. His best known work is Treasure Island. With no further ado, please give it up for, Robert Louis Stevenson.

“Welcome Robert, please make yourself comfortable.”

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Our guest Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson's Grave on Mt. Vaea Samoa

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Grave on Mt. Vaea Samoa

 

“Thank you so much for having me. My impression was you wanted to talk about my more fanciful work.”

“That’s true, but I can’t begin without first telling you what an impact Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Black Arrow had on me as a boy. I’ve fancied myself a ‘Young Jim Hawkins’ on more than one occasion. Hiding in the apple barrel, or keeping a weather eye out for a seafaring man with one leg.”

“It’s kind of you to say sir.”

“To your point, we here are most interested in your tales as they relate to the unexplained. The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde for example.”

“A most interesting tale of a good man, who in the name of science, commits atrocities.”

“The doctor over reaching is certainly a recurring theme in literature. Mary Shelly’s Dr. Frankenstein is possibly the most well-known.”

“Quite, Mary’s concept of man subjugating the Creator has always been one of my favorites. How I would have relished a summer on Lake Geneva with the likes of Percy and Mary Shelly, Lord Byron, Dr. Pollidori.”

“The good Doctor Jekyll creates an elixir that separates good from evil in a man. Is this a discourse on the dual nature of man?”

“Exactly, it illustrates how our good, tempers our bad, by showing what our natures are like when isolated.”

“Some will point to this story as an example of an individual suffering from mental illness. Dissociative Identity Disorder, Manic Depression, Schizophrenia, and Psychosis are the most closely related diagnosis. Did you know someone who suffered from any of these illnesses?”

“Of course, we all encounter people in our lives who suffer from disorders of the brain. The earliest physicians recognized that there are illnesses that they could label, but not treat.”

“Speaking of doctors.  Dr. Jekyll is not the only antagonist doctor you’ve written about. Of course I’m thinking of Dr. Toddy Macfarlane. The Body Snatcher is one of my favorite short stories. One I often read  when the I’m moved to scare someone.”

“I too, am quite fond of that tale.” His broad smile reaches past his eyes lighting up the night. “‘Did you think me dead? We are not so easily shut of our acquaintance.'”

“Very nice Robert, I don’t suppose you’ve memorized every line of every thing you’ve written.”

“Hardly sir, but at least one telling line from all the fiction to be sure. And much of the poetry. It seems in my current state my faculties have remained sharp. Oh, but if I could only write something from grave, the stories I could tell.”

“What keeps you from it?”

His countenance darkens at my question. “There are powers to be reckoned with. Formal Federations that must be abided. They do not take kindly to one who would disregard their authority.”

“We had a visitor who simply walked away from here into the world of the living. That must be against the rules.”

“Yes, quite, to remark that the regime was distressed by that act of indifference would be to understate the obvious.”

“I’m getting the wrap it sign Robert. Can you stay a while after my guests have gone?”

“I’ll stay until I get the hook as they say on the stage.”

“Wonderful, give me a moment.”

“Folks I suggest you make your way from the cemetery while the spirits are protecting us. Mr. Stevenson has agreed to hang around a while for those who are willing to risk it.”

Next week I expect Mischievous Raven will be back from his business meetings on the left coast. in the interim be safe.

As is our custom, I leave you with this quote.

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”
― Van Morrison

Writ On,

Eerie Dwarf, AKA Dave Benneman

P.S.

Mr. Stevenson kept us through the night until dawn broke telling tails of his life on Samoa and sailing the South Pacific. I say this as an explanation as to why this did not get posted last night. My apologies for any inconvenience.

E.D.

 

 

Soldiers vs. Aliens…it’s Phoenix Comicon panels! #milspecfic #writingtips

The wild and strange phenomena whipped through Phoenix a few weeks back under the guise of the Phoenix Comicon. The Knight managed to snag a family photo op with the legendary Nathan Fillion, which we have since decided to use for our next Christmas Card. Seriously, we have NEVER taken such a great family pic. I’m going to have to insist Nathan be in EVERY family photo from here on out.

But I digress.  The Prankster Duo, the Knight and I did not don our costume apparel, but did wander the wild paths of comicon for hours marveling at other’s apparel. It’s a visual feast, one I firmly believe every individual should indulge in at least once. While we were there, I snuck into some writing panels, because, yes, that’s what I do. I haunt/stalk other writers hoping their genius shall some how drift along the winds of creation and flutter down upon me so I may enjoy the wonders of their creative minds.

I sat in two panels: Writing Rogues and Military in Spec Fic.

I’m going to hit the Military panel in this post. Check in next week, because I have a huge discussion point for Writing Rogues for next week. I just didn’t want to keep you here for hours. Again, we’re going off my notes, which were jotted down so they may be a bit scattered.

I picked the Military in Spec Fic because I’m getting ready to start the second PSY-IV Teams book and no matter how many times I grill…errr..ask politely, of my military friends, I’m always seeking more information. The panelists were: Daniel Abraham, John Scalzi, Myke Cole, Ty Franck, Weston Ochse.  Just so you know, until this panel I had read Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series, had heard of John Scalzi (who hasn’t? Old Man’s War, Hugo winner for Redshirts…overall smart ass, in a good way), Ty and Daniel write as a team, and my note taking sucks because I don’t have their titles down, and Weston, well, he does SEAL Team 666 and his latest is Grunt Life.

I knew going into a series revolving around military I’d be taking on certain story elements I was going to screw up. After listening to these guys, I’m even more certain of it. But I’ll figure it out as I go along.

Myke is active Coast Guard reserve, Weston actively served, just recently got out to write full-time, Daniel and Ty have immediate family (lots of) who are active military, and so does John. It’s not like they’re unfamiliar with the world, and it’s filled with rules that have their own rules.  That being said, research is key if you’re going to write any story with military ties. It’s vital.

But more than research, you need to listen. Listen to those who’ve walked the walk, take the time to really listen to the stories they tell. Read between the lines at what is not said or how something is said.  Serve as a witness.

All of these writers weave the military with speculation on what happens when we run into an alien force more disciplined, more powerful, more massive than ours? How do the lowly humans survive?

They spoke to characterization, specifically what drives an individual to serve their country. How character decides their loyalty–to the authority, to their team, to those they protect. In actuality most soldiers are loyal to the man/woman fighting next to him, not for the country that sent them out unprepared, or the lofty ideals that won’t save an innocent, not the money or power. If you do a stereotype, you’re doing your writing a disservice because soldiers are just individuals who chose to serve.

The one thing that sung deep for me–there are no right answers to moral dilemmas. There is an entire universe in gray. What’s considered the right thing in an extreme situation varies on the point of view of the person making that choice–the Allied solider, the alien invaders, the officer, the lowly grunt. Each one will face the same situation differently.What you think is the “good” guys, may actually be the “bad” guys. Can a character be a traitor and hero at the same time–yes. Making a moral choice comes down to the individual and what they are willing to do/sacrifice for that choice.

These men were great, and I can’t express how much I appreciated hearing their take on this, because one of my biggest challenges is making sure each member of the PSY-IV comes across as an individual. As much I’d like them all to resemble GI Joe, it ain’t happening, and it would make a damn boring story if it did.

If you love Speculative Fiction with your military suspense, I would recommend any of these authors.

Do you have any others to add to the list?

What do you need in your office space? #AmWriting

Desk Area What’s your writing area like?

I have to admit that it took me longer than it should have, but finally this summer I set up my “Office Area”, LOL. First time in my life I have a dedicated space for writing :D even if it is in my bedroom.

One day, I’ll have a whole room.

Writing bookshelves and wallThe first picture is my desk area. It’s not full at the moment, but it will get filled up with notes and scraps and stickies soon!

The second picture is the wall right next to my desk. Pictures for inspiration, and shelves for… erm, *most* of my books on writing/time periods/civilizations for research.

I figure some things will be moved around as I settle in, and that’s okay. I’m going to love digging in :D

 

So, my Q4U: What is at least one necessity you NEED in your office space?

The Monastery of The Werewolf Monks

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Greetings and salutations distinguished readers of the blog,

Please keep your voices down some of the intrepid visitors who joined us last week for our adventure into the Impenetrable Forest are still recovering. Sadly some did not complete the trip, but that’s what we call acceptable losses. If everyone made it through it wouldn’t really be dangerous.

last remains of one of our followers after the piranha hummingbird attack.

last remains of one of our followers after the piranha hummingbird attack.

This is the famous monastery of the monastic order of The Werewolf Monks. They have made us feel very welcome. As to the reason we’re visiting, to be honest, they weren’t as much help as I’d hoped. They won’t help with the horde of hungry, shambling, zombies. (I know too many adjectives, but every once in a while you have to cut loose.)So rather than go home to a bunch of angry neighbors, I thought we’d hang out here for a while. Brother Lawrence has agreed to give us a tour.

“Grrrreetings folks and welcome to the monastery, if you’ll all follow me. I hope you don’t mind stairs we have many of them. We’ll start with one of Eerie’s favorite places.”

At the top of the stairs Brother Lawerence opens a narrow wooden door banded with iron straps. Once inside the guests are treated to the stunning three-story library.

“We have books, manuscripts and scrolls that date back to 1,200 years BC. This room for example contains the renaissance period. A most prolific time for men to put their ideas down on paper. For instance we have the largest collection of Leonardo Da Vinci’s work including diagrams of machines that wouldn’t be built for two more centuries. Through that doorway is Eerie’s favorite room of study. It contains writings about vampires, witches, fairies, dragons, trolls, leprechauns, elves, dwarves, and all the creatures that are today thought to be mythological.” 

10404508_814719525212964_1708668224599247983_n“Excuse me Brother Lawrence, but shouldn’t you share these precious works with the rest of the world,” a guest asked.

“Grrrrrrrr, the rest of the world does not deserve these works. Nor would they take them seriously. You would do well to remember you are a guest here.” Brother Lawrence salivates.

I move quickly insinuating myself between my visitor and Brother Lawrence whose nails have already begun grow. “Sorry Brother Lawrence, they mean no harm they are only human. Allowances must be extended.”

“Of course you right, Eerie, but it’s been a while since I’ve fed, and I have no patience for such impudence!”

“Why don’t I finish showing them around?”

“Very well, keep them out of the basement. We’re pressing a fresh crop for the new wines.”

“Yes of course. No basement.”

“Bother Lawrence comes from a long line of Werewolves, his family name is Talbot.”

Folks if you’ll follow me, I show you to the chapel. Down that corridor are the monks sleeping quarters and the room where they take their repast. Silence once we enter the chapel. I’ll answer any questions you have when we leave.” The smell of incense is strong when we enter the chapel. The light passing through the stained glass windows is diffused into rainbows. The altar is simple and dominated by a stone carved into a large table with a depression designed to drain fluids to the end where a collection barrel sits.

“I hope you got a good look at the windows. Each one depicts the many stages of the moon throughout the year. Of course the best known panel is the Blood Moon that dominates the chapel at the center of the altar. The stain glass work dates back to the 12th century.”

“What was that table for on the altar?”

“That is where they prepare the Eucharist.”

“Which is what exactly?”

“You would have to make an application to become a monk and go through years of training before you will learn the secrets of the Holy Sacraments.”

“It looks like–“

“Like we’re almost out of time. This way. Come along. No stragglers please. This is the complimentary wine tasting area and gift shop. Please sample some wines and browse as long as you like. You can purchase any of the wines to take home with you. I’ll see you all next week.”

Whew, I thought that guy would never shut up. It’s been a long day, I think we better wrap it up and I have a wrap it up quote ready for you.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.” H. P. Lovecraft

Write On,

Errie Dwarf  AKA Dave Benneman

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Author, how does your book grow? #writingtips #RT2014 #wcgoals

During the Romantic Times convention, I had a chance to sit in on numerous workshops. One of my favorites was titled, “The Tortoise and the Hare”.  For once the title actually matched the discussion points. It centered on the writing routines of the gathered authors. To get an idea of who was on this panel, the lovely and talented, Charlaine Harris (of Sookie Stackhouse fame), Angie Fox (Accidental Demon Slayer), Darynda Jones (Charlie Davidson series), Suzanne McLeod (Spellcrackers series) and Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires). Impressive, no?

We got settled in and Leigh Evans of the Shifter Justice novels and moderator, started the ball rolling.

The question every writer asks: what’s your word count like?

D. Jones–outlines, does a fast first draft, takes maybe 2 weeks   (Yeah, I’m gasping for air on that too!) Daily word count= 500, EVERY DAY, which gives her 2 books per year. (In case you didn’t know, she also holds an outside full time job, and is a mama). Generally makes deadlines early.

S. McLeod–small outline, writes one, pretty clean draft,  3-9 months depending.Word count = 1000K/day, maybe 3K on weekends

A. Fox–has an idea sprinkled with character motivation gets through 4-5 chats, then outlines. First half of story takes 4-5 months, during which she will hit a panic point, then story topples into last half, which speeds by. Writes from 8 am to noon, no word limit. Generally hits 5-7 pages/day. Sets time limits, not word count.

C. Harris–sets a word count, which could render 10 pgs of crap or 3 pgs of great. Doesn’t outline, because she gets bored, she knows her key scenes, mid-point issue. Generally rubs right against the deadline.

C. Neill–needs a motivation for her story, then does synopsis (close your mouth, I’m with you!) Putting together the mystery elements of story is full time job, writes during evenings and weekends, averages between 2-2 and1/2 books per year and maybe a novella or two. Word count = 6-8 pgs/day. Doesn’t do much editing.

Next question: How do you get unstuck?

C. Harris–kill someone (my kind of gal!)

C. Neill–take a walk, get out away from computer, but always come back. No matter what, good or bad, sit your ass in the chair and write. You can’t get better if you don’t write.

A. Fox–never knows how her stories end. Every time she worries, “This is the book that will suck, my readers will hate me/it won’t sell”, has to set it aside for a couple of days to get distance.

S. McLeod–generally if she gets stuck it’s because she’s trying to make her characters do something they don’t want to do. So she steps away, a week/days/hours, let’s subconscious mull it over and comes back.

D. Jones–if she get stuck, it’s because she did something wrong, so she’ll have to go back, find it, and fix it before moving forward.

And lastly: Do you use critique partners? Beta readers?

C. Neill–no crit partner, have great continuity editors, time editors and they hold it all together. If my editors says “Nope, not working”, then I listen, go back and figure it out.

A. Fox–1 crit partner in a different genre, allows a wider view on work, which also results in arguments, but it works. Beta readers are great–identify throw away lines and those who know your universe are the best for helping when you need that little something.

D. Jones–no crit partner, relies on her editors and beta readers to keep continuity, Okay to disagree with editor, but pick your battles wisely. Plus, doesn’t have time to run WIPs through crit partners to make deadlines.

C. Harris–2 beta readers, no crit partner, relies on betas and editors to help keep it all together and catch what she doesn’t.

S. McLeod–1 crit partner, and they exchange work.

So there you have it, a fantastic cross section of NY Times authoresses and how they spin their magic. Realization from workshop: write your damn story, whatever you have to do to do it, DO IT. What works for you, works for a reason so stick with it and don’t worry what the others around you are doing.

Want to know mine:

Six days a week I try to hit between 1200-1500 words, generally at night when the Prankster Duo and Knight are busy defending their computerized worlds from domination.

What works for you?

 

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