• Who We Are

  • Schedule

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

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

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/

Are you ready for Nano? #AmWriting #NanoWriMo

 

National Novel Writing Month.

November.

Write 50,000 words in one month. Around the holidays.

That’s an average of approximately 1, 667 words per day.

I’ve attempted Nano three times, and succeeded twice. The first time, well, lets just say the results weren’t pretty. What helped me win was preparing before the month began – but then, I’m a plotter, LOL.

What I like best about Nano, though, isn’t whether I hit the word count or not, but diving into the habit of daily writing with specific goals in mind.

This year, I have a small goal. Write every day except for Sundays, and Thanksgiving. I’m not concerned with making the 50k, but I’m going to try for it :D

With the last few months researching and building a new world and a new series, hopefully I’m prepared!

So, who’s doing Nano this year?

Have you done it before? How do you get ready for the push?

 

And if you’re interested, I’m higleyb on the Nano website if you’d like to add me as a friend

:D

~Amber Kallyn

Equinoxes and Godesses and Autumn Creativity

This weekend everyone’s talking about it being the first day of fall. And their lovely weather.Free Danish Autumn Stock Images - 870214

Sigh.

Here in Arizona, we’re still hitting over 100 degrees during the day, but I’m (im)patiently waiting for cooler temps. Send em on over :) I love sitting outside and writing in the cool air. And reading on the back porch, the kids hanging out around the trees, is a blast :D

For some reason, this time of year–fall, cooling temps and Halloween just around the corner–makes me feel more creative. I love planning new worlds, and for some reason, I get more ideas during September through October than any other time a year. 

Of course, once November hits with the holidays, I get no ideas LOL so maybe it all balances :D

Since I’m in the middle of such world building and researching mythology and recently came across this again, I thought I’d share this tidbit (From a post in 2012)

***

In the pagan religion, the autumn equinox (the time of year when day and night are equal), is September 21st, and is the celebration of Mabon, or the first day of fall.

Mabon is named after a Welsh god who was stolen from his mom when he was barely three nights old.

If you enjoy Greek or Roman mythology, there are similarities between Mabon and Persephone, both being taken captive to the underworld during the autumn equinox, only to be rescued and allowed to come back during the spring equinox every year.

But the main theme of the celebration was that of thanksgiving.

In older ages, this was the time of the fall harvest, and the gods were thanked for the bounty of food to see the village through the oncoming cold winter.

***

 

I love fall, we don’t get the pretty leave turning or even much of a transition here (we go straight from way-too-hot, a few days of just-cool-enough, then straight to get-out-the-jackets weather) but it does mean cooler temps finally:)

So my Q4U: What’s your favorite time of year and why? And for writers, when is your most creative season?

~ Amber

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.

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

hwabutton

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?

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