• 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

Favorite Books – by Tara Rane

Meme

 

I was given marching orders to submit a blog post about my favorite book in the genre I write in. That sounds easy enough. However, I ended up struggling for days.

The biggest challenge is that I write in a genre that doesn’t exist. My genre is a place where horror, paranormal romance, sci-fi, and urban fantasy make out in the backseat while YA/new adult steers wildly behind the wheel. I haven’t come across many books that are mashups like the ones I write and that’s a damn shame.

So I’ll cheat and pick a favorite book or series from each of the genres that influence my writing.

Horror: The Stand by Stephen King. It’s a fantastic apocalyptic tale filled with rich and compelling characters that stay with you. Even though it has been years since I’ve re-read this book, I still think of Stu, Larry, Frannie, Nadine, and the Trashcan man often. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing out.

Paranormal Romance: Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. With the interesting spin on Greek mythology and the combustible sexual chemistry between the tortured alpha male heroes and the take-no-shit heroines, these are fabulous reads. Speaking of Sherrilyn, I might just pee myself with excitement when I meet her at Phoenix Comicon in a few days.

Sci-Fi: Frank Herbert’s Dune. This book rocked my world when I read it over two decades ago. It still remains one of my favorites for its superb world building. Herbert went into such exquisite detail on the history, culture, and ecology of his world that you almost believe the planet Arrakis exists. True story. On our first date, my now husband confessed he’d never read this book. Can you guess what I gave him on our second date?

Urban Fantasy: Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. I love these books because of the evolution of the main character. She goes from immature teen to badass hybrid vampire killer over the course of series. Jeaniene also manages to accomplish what few authors have. She keeps the sexual tension going between the heroine and her master vampire lover throughout the seven book series.

YA/New Adult: Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. Don’t let the movie sour these books for you. The series is awesome. The heroine’s journey from a mouthy Dhampir student to a battle-honed killing machine takes you on a wild ride. It takes skill to buckle the reader into a roller coaster that spans six books, and keep you somewhere between gasping for breath, grabbing the tissue box, and fanning yourself much of the time.

I’ve shown you mine, now show me yours. What are your favorite books?

Like this post? Check out my website (www.tararane.com) and my blog (www.tararane.com/blog/)

Reading as a Writer

Blue Colors

When I first started writing, I never thought it’d impact the way I read to quite the extent that it has. But it did. Now, I find there are books I absolutely cannot stand, simply because of the way they’re written… novels that, as just a reader, might not seem that bad.

For example, I recently started reading a new romance series. I was really enjoying the creativity of the world and the depth of the characters, until I realized the plot seemed non-existent. The more I paid attention to the plot, the more I was aware that there was no plot. Nothing drove these characters or challenged these characters, beyond the complications that just sprung up from chapter to chapter.

I still enjoy the series, but I find myself constantly thinking, my writing group would never let me get away with that.

But now, let’s talk about books I love even MORE as an author. Of course, my mind immediately snaps to Harry Potter, but I’d rather discuss a less well-known novel. Namely, Dragon’s Winter by Elizabeth A. Lynn. It is an absolutely amazing book! I think it’s the first novel I read where I realized it was possible to love and empathize with a character who may do some things that, by all logic, are unforgivable.

She spins the story of man who is unable to transform into a dragon, because his younger brother has stolen his amulet. He seems to have a great reluctance to confront or harm his brother, because he feels guilty for something that isn’t his fault… that he has inherited the ability to transform, while his brother did not. I empathized with both characters until his younger brother crosses a line, bringing cruelty on a level that is unforgivable on every level.

This book captured me, not just because of the unique world, but because of its main character, a complicated man who is riddled with flaws. I think it takes an incredibly skilled writer to create a character who crosses so many lines, but who the reader can’t stop rooting for.

What are some books you absolutely love?

Like my posts?  Check out my books available on Amazon: Lisa Morrow

Or, check out my personal blog: Lisa Morrow Author Blog

Ideaifying Pt 3: The Expandening

Last week we explored a few ideas around a word that we picked in Pt 1. That word is Evanesce. This week I’m going to take an idea and expand upon it, starting to coalesce (another fantastic word, btw) into a story idea.

Last week, two things stuck in my mind. Fade away, and Angels. I’d like to use these two words to come up with a story idea.

What is is about angels that fade away? My first thought is they just got killed. This has a double bonus of giving us some conflict right off the bat. Why did they get killed? What killed them? Can angels really be killed or just sent back to the heavens? So many questions flooding my mind from this and I do like where it’s going, but let’s stop and go back to the other phrase: Fade away.

Angels fading away doesn’t seem as violent, at least compared to what we were just thinking about, instead it has more of a “It’s a Wonderful Life” quality to it. Angels can fade away for a couple reasons, one being they are killed, or forced. Another is that they are no longer needed here and are fading away to head back to their home.

My next thought is…Okay, how do we know that angels fade away? Are they visible by all humans, or only some? If the latter, then why? Also, what are angels doing here on earth? Are they good or bad angels? I say let’s stick with good angels. And maybe they do normal angel things, like help people out, nudge people out of dangerous situations, and overall protect the population.

So what if we have a main character that can see angels? Let’s say that he is the only one that can see them. Why? Maybe he’s half angel, product of an angel and a human copulating. I don’t write romance, so I will leave that up to other writers on this blog to flesh that story out. I’m the Dreary Dwarf for a reason, so let’s take a sadder storyline.

I feel like my protagonist should have a bit of a biblical name in keeping with the angels theme, let’s call him Peter. Peter is sixteen years old and has been able to see angels wandering around the Earth his whole life. One day he wakes up and they are gone…no…no…they Evanesce. Peter is waiting on the subway one dreary morning when all the angels around him suddenly evanesce into mist. They all disappear.

This is when Peter realizes something has gone terribly wrong. Maybe someone gets hit by the subway train since an angel wasn’t there anymore to save him. (I am Dreary Dwarf btw, so yes. I can/will go there.)

So what do we have so far?

We have a protagonist, Peter. He’s 16 and he can see angels.

One morning while waiting for the subway, all the angels world-wide suddenly fade away.

Peter is the only one that notices this happening. Suddenly, bad things are happening all around the world and no one knows why. Death and accident rates skyrockets, as does crime, plunging the world into a gritty, grim-dark world.

Wait, pause! These ideas, while cool, could fill a book. We could explore Peter going on an epic journey to make his way to the land of angels to find out where they all went, and somehow bring them back. We could have this as simply backstory to a world plunged into death and depravity—a world without angels to protect us anymore. We would find out where they went, and, more importantly, why. Was it God that pulled them back, if so, why? More importantly, can Peter do anything about it? Perhaps the devil came in, or some other cosmic entity or event. Like I said, these ideas could fill a book, or more, depending on how grand you want your story.

I’m not really interested, at least with this exercise, to write a book. I was shooting for more of a short story (and content for the blog). Next week we will take these expanded ideas and solidify them into a core conflict that needs to be addressed in the confines of a short story. Spoiler: I’m leaning toward angels disappearing being part of the backstory to Peter’s life and this opens up a whole host of things that could be smaller conflicts in Peter’s life.

Ideaifying Pt 2: The Brainening

Last week I talked about ideas and waxed a little poetical about how easy they were to come up with. This week I want to continue on a short series I’m calling “Ideaifying.”  For the next few posts I want to take a small nugget of an idea and flesh it out until we have a story. In doing so I hope to shed a little light on how I come up with ideas, or at least one method I employ to come up with said ideas.

Last week I also pulled up a website and looked at the word of the day. That word was Evanesce. I want to take the word and flush it out into more of a fully-formed idea.

From Dictionary.com:

Evanesce means “to disappear gradually; vanish; fade away.”

I love this word. I really do.

Obviously gradually vanishing is a strong image. There can be many reasons why you would vanish. Quantum Leap comes into mind. But it also brings up questions, like why gradually? Are you doing it for effect? Are you trapped somehow and slowly fading away from existence? What does this life really mean if we are all but a tiny blip in the timeline that is the universe…er um..Ahem. Evanesce.

The first thing I thought about when hearing this word is the band Evanescence. I saw them in concert in Mesa many years ago, the first concert I ever saw in fact. My wife and I were two of probably one-hundred adults in a screaming throng of teenagers, only we weren’t there as chaperones.

Amy Lee, the lead singer, is incredible. Her voice is sublime and I love the juxtaposition of such an angelic voice with a hard-rock sound. The band themselves even played into this a bit with some of their music videos, particularly  the song “Broken” by Seether who had Amy on to do vocals with their band. She wore dirty and broken angel wings while they sang in a desecrated landscape…takes me back…

“Whoa Tom, I thought we were talking about creating an idea here? Why the sudden music critique? Are they even relevant anymore?”

Well, good reader, I thought I should take a second to explore what this word means to me. (And yes, they are totally relevant).

I do not have a very large vocabulary. I find myself using the dictionary function of my kindle more often then I would like to admit, but this word I did know, and it was only because of the band. I remember being in my 20’s when Evanescence’s first big hit “Bring Me to Life” hit and was blown away by Amy’s powerful yet sweet voice. This word evokes emotion in me that not many words do. There is a history, a backstory for me with this word that goes beyond the simple definition. Sometimes what a word means to you is more important than what the dictionary says it should.

This is why I giggled like a school-girl when I happened to pull up the website and saw it as the word of the day.

But this is step one. Looking at this single word and thinking about it more. Fleshing it out. What does it mean to you? What does it mean to other people?

So how can we flesh this word out to a story? Let’s do some brainstorming by jotting down words that I thought of.

Evanesce:

Fade Away

Disappear

Angels

Angelic Voice

Youth

Screaming Masses

Mass of Angels, screaming as they fade into nothing.

Of course I’m now going to have their songs stuck in my head all day, which isn’t a bad thing, but I also have some ideas forming in my mind as to where I want to go with a story.

Today we have spent a little bit of time looking at a word and exploring the meaning, both official and personal, to me. I am curious what the word Evanesce means to you? Next week I plan on expanding the initial nugget of an idea into a phrase that we can use to start working on a story. A word is great, but a phrase can be so much more. A phrase can introduce conflict!

Ideaifying Pt 1: The Ideaifying

In this mini-series, I plan on taking a word through the world-building and idea phase, and flesh it out into a short story to be published on this site. Hang on, it will be a bumpy ride!

 

Story ideas.

 

I love listening to them when other authors tell me them. I love reading about new ones I hadn’t thought of while I’m reading, and I love coming up with them.

I especially love how easy ideas are to come up with.

What’s that? Easy?

Yes, I did say easy. I truly think ideas are free. Not open and willing to try things in college free, I mean truly free from an economic sense. Ideas are literally a dime a dozen, if not cheaper than that.

Ideas are everywhere. They are there when you walk down the road in your neighborhood. They are there when you overhear someone’s conversation while you stand in line at the checkout. They come from the frustrated looks of the cashier as she checks stretches her back from soreness while simultaneously smiling at the next one, all the while worrying about the look she’s getting from her boss behind her. Why does her back hurt? Why is the manager giving her the evil-eye? Is that smile sincere or half-hearted? Is she secretly a sleeper-agent from the ninja assassin guild of Greater Boise waiting to be activated and fulfill her mission to bring flowers to the cancer ward at the children’s center?

Ideas are beautiful, they are fleeting, and they are simple. You forget them if you don’t write them down. They come at the most inopportune moments. When you are driving, showering, bored in a meeting at work, or bowling with your family on a Friday night.

I have a document filled with hundreds of ideas for stories, characters, background, religions, and settings. I could spend the rest of my life writing book about just the stories I have already and never finish them, let alone all the ones I would come up with while I wrote those.

Ideas are magical, but it takes still to implement them, and this is the crux of the matter. Ideas are easy, the execution of the idea is the tough part to accomplish.

Today I will leave you with a single word, which I will discuss next week as an example of how to take a nugget of an idea and turn it into something you can work with.

Evanesce (as taken from the front page of Dictionary.com).

Digging for Gold? Idea dumping can help.

At a recent write-in, a couple of us needed to work on world building. In my case, I was working on names for magic ceremonies, events in the past, that sort of thing. One technique that worked well for us was what I call idea dumping (aka brainstorming).

I’m not talking about the old style of brainstorming: grabbing a pen and staring at a blank page for an hour until the perfect idea comes. I’m talking about dumping all the ideas out of your mind−good, bad and ugly—until you find what fits. We pulled up a thesaurus, and I wrote down everything that was said. My paper was a mess, cramped full of notes.

I can’t lie and say magic poured out of our mouths, but as we batted around ideas they morphed into something great. So when you’re searching for that perfect name for your next goblin or handsome hunk remember a couple of things:

*Write every idea that comes to mind, even the crappy ones.

*Write at least ten if not twenty. I find my first three ideas are generic, and middle five to ten suck. Yesterday, it was not until at least twenty or more names had floated around until I found one I loved.

*Keep the list for a little bit, percolation helps sometimes. One dwarf thought she had a name, but it wasn’t until we moved on and were talking about something else did she realize the perfect one hit.

 Idea Dumping can be used for book names, magic systems, upcoming plot twists, and more. Sometimes our creativity is laying on the service and other times we have to dig a little for that golden nugget.

New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions

What is it about the new year that makes us want to create goals for ourselves?

For a long time I’ve been hesitant to create resolutions every time the year rolls over. If I really had something in my life that I wanted to change, or do better, then why wait until the new year? Why not do it now? Because of this I would generally avoid resolutions every year. Too often they get forgotten about, or you work really hard in January and slack off after that. To me the word resolve just doesn’t seem to have enough punch, enough measurement built-in to be worth using. For this reason I avoided new years’ resolutions for a long time.

I’ve changed my tune a little bit though. I still don’t do resolutions, but I do set goals.

Goals are things to reach for, I know fully well going into the year that there’s a solid chance I won’t complete all my goals, but they are there and at the end of the year, or other times when I feel I want some self-reflection, I can look over those goals and see how I am doing.

So what goals did I set for 2014, and did I achieve them?

Reading: I always set a reading goal, last year it was 100 books. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 71, which I think is fantastic. 2015 I again set a goal of 100 books and I will mostly likely set that as my goal for the foreseeable future. I am a bit of a fast reader, when I’m not sucked into some other media (cough video games cough), but two books a week for me seems pretty do-able.

Writing: My goal was to finish two books last year, and I “did”. Technically. Neither of them are edited, but I did at least complete them. Working on editing one of them now. I also wrote a few short stories last year. I’m currently toying with the idea of setting a goal for short stories this year, but for now I’ll leave it as-needed.

So there are my goals, at least when it comes to writing/reading. What goals do you set and why? Do you prefer resolutions or goals, or some other word, and why?

Above all, Happy New Year from the Evil Dwarves!

NaNoWriMo & Infidelity

 

peeking

Since I bashed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last week, it’s only fair to write a positive post.

First, a confession. Up until my first NaNoWriMo, I suffered from a crippling affliction that many authors share—story infidelity.

I’m ashamed to admit that my writing process would invariably unfold the same way. Initially, I’d be super excited about a book concept. For weeks, I’d do nothing but worldbuild. Then I’d develop my characters and their backstories to the point that they felt like real people. I’d even have conversations with them (it’s one of many traits shared by writers and the mentally ill).

After all this prep, I’d gleefully skip to my computer, sit down, and write. And write. And write. Until I got to the 40% mark in my book. At that point, I’d slam into a brick wall. Writing stopped being fun… It became work.

My characters would start to annoy me. They were no longer exciting and compelling. I knew exactly where they were going and I didn’t care if they got there any more.

Suddenly, I’d find any excuse not to write. There would be an irresistible need to watch videos of cats falling on toddlers for hours…

Then, a new book concept would come to me. It would be so much sexier than the first idea. It boasted that it was a best-seller and spoke in an thick european accent that sent goosebumps across my skin.

I’d try to resist.

I must finish the first book, I’d tell myself. So what if sitting down to write it is as fun as getting a root canal. How can I be an author if I don’t finish this book?

But the characters from the second book would invade my dreams. They’d whisper their backstories to me while I was working on scenes from my first book. They’d flash me an enticing glimpse of their world. Soon, I’d fantasize about them and their exciting story arcs.

Not too long after that, I’d give into temptation. I’d shelve the first book and start worldbuilding the new story.

Rinse and repeat.

By the time I accepted my first NaNoWriMo challenge, my hard drive was filled with dozens of partially written manuscripts.

NaNoWriMo changed all that.

The rules of NaNoWriMo are simple. You must write 50,000 words in a novel or fail.

So that November, I sat my butt down in the chair and wrote. As anticipated, a brand new story idea started whispering seductively in my ear in mid-November. But this time, I couldn’t afford to be distracted. I refused to answer the phone. I ignored it’s texts. And when it invaded my dreams, I jotted down a few notes, and told it I’d get back to it later. Then I re-focused and kept writing.

Something really strange happened after I did that.

The story I was writing became interesting again. The magic and excitement swung back like a boomerang. And I finished.

Even though that NaNoWriMo novel may never see the light of day (see my earlier post), I finally learned how to write through the temptation. I was able to finished the next book. And the next.

NaNoWriMo cured me of my story infidelity and I’ll be forever grateful.

For a laugh check out Chuck Wendig’s blog for some off color NaNoWriMo tips (staying faithful to the story is number #9 on his list).

If you have time, check out my blog post on my recent interaction with an angsty fox.

 

I ain’t got no time for cupcakes!

I’ve written two books for NaNoWriMo. Both were ‘wins’ in the NaNo World. I hit 50K words during the month of November, but neither will ever see the light of day.

I love NaNoWriMo because it gave me a win. As a new writer, still wondering if writing was something I could even do, I needed a win. I needed to accomplish…something…but I knew that I wasn’t going to write a best-seller on my first go-round, or second or even third. I needed a goal. Something to shoot for. NaNoWriMo gave me that goal.

I went into them knowing fully well they were practice books. Little foothills on the climb up the slope. Try/fail cycles if you will. I needed to tell myself that yes, I can sit down, start a story, and finish it. I can see a character or two through a journey. Yes it will suck and no, my wife can’t read them because I’m too embarrassed, but they accomplished the intended purpose that I had laid out for them.

So what about this NaNoWriMo? Being my fifth book I’m still dubious that it will be publishable, but I can see a vast improvement in my own writing over the last four to five years. This might be the one, or the next one might be the one. I don’t know, and I don’t much care right now. I do know that I don’t need the ‘win’ like I did in years past, but I still like this time because it’s my ‘winning’ time. It’s become somewhat of a tradition. It also helps that this year I planned on writing a 50K word book…coincidence? I also outlined a ton, more than I’ve ever done before…but more on that next week.

Some things I keep in mind while doing NaNoWriMo:

First off, realize that this month of furious writing is really just a fun way for a bunch of people to get together and get their Great American Novel written. That’s it. Don’t read into it too much. It’s fun.

It’s a tool, one of many, to help schedule your time and focus your energy. Talk to your loved ones, explain your goals and that, even though you might be missing a lot during this time, you’ll be back in December and life will get back to…more normal.

Write. This, obviously, is important. You carved out that time, you’re missing your loved ones, do them proud by actually completing the project. No wasting time on the internet, playing games, etc. Write. Turn off the damned WiFi if you have to.

Don’t edit. Bar yourself from fixing misspelled words if you have to. Yes, to that extreme. I see you hitting backspace to fix that word! Don’t do it!

Your goal is to finish the book. Not fix words or ‘tweak’ anything. This is a chance to actually complete a book. So complete it.

You will have to edit, probably edit a bunch, but you will edit in December and January. Embrace that and be okay with the fact that you might actually say “I don’t know what to put here.” Into your text. Seriously, type that over and over so you don’t break your rhythm. I have done that. It’s amazing what your mind comes up with after writing that line four or five times.

But most of all, have fun. Enjoy it. Relish in the lack of sleep for a month as you pound out 1000 words an hour…You are writing a thousand words an hour aren’t you? Alright mister, time to take the backspace key off your keyboard…

NaNoWriMo And Cupcakes

Cupcakes

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is like baking cupcakes. If you don’t have a recipe (outline), or the right ingredients (craft), you can bake yourself fifty thousand of those suckers and they’re all going to taste like crap.

I know this from painful experience. During my first NaNoWriMo, I was swept away. I couldn’t stop the intense writing. The holidays couldn’t derail my passion. I spent every free moment glued to my computer. I kept writing and writing until the beginning of April when I finally wrote those magical words—the end.

I celebrated for a week. The chocolate and wine flowed freely. Then, I took a deep breath and started the editing process. I imagined this would be a bit like decorating cupcakes. Just add a sprinkling of commas and a few descriptive words and I’d be ready to send my gorgeous book baby off to meet the world. Quivering with excitement, I started back on the first prologue (of course my book had several prologues). By the time I got to the end of chapter five, I wanted to puke.

I couldn’t even make it through to the epilogues (of course I had several of those too). Tears prickling in my eyes, I had to face the painful truth that I’d just spend six months of my life writing 300,000 words of pure unadulterated sewage. All those hours of sleep I’d scarified. All that family time I’d missed. All those books I could have been reading. All those TV shows I could have been watching.

And for what? A train wreck of a book that belonged in the bottom of a file drawer for all eternity.

Ouch.

Many writing classes, conferences, workshops, books, and critique groups later I’ve come to the realization that without direction and skill drumming out words on a keyboard is about as productive as having deep conversations with a goldfish.

I don’t want to give NaNoWriMo a bad rap. It can help you learn self-discipline. That’s a critical skill to master for any successful writer. However, it will not teach you how to write well. And quality will always win over quantity (for both books and cupcakes).

So I will bow out of NaNoWriMo this year and focus on improving the quality of my writing. What about you? What has been your experience with NaNoWriMo?

If you have time, check out my blog post on happy endings: http://tararane.com/2014/11/13/happy-endings/

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