Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z: Zone

Every runner and writer has experienced it, being in 'the zone.'  For the runner, everything is easy.  Your breathing is in perfect rhythm to your steps.  Your legs feel strong and your feet seem to bounce off the ground.  Your body feels like it could run forever. 

For writers, it's those times when your fingers can't keep up with the thoughts tumbling from the bottomless well of creativity in your mind.  You always come up with the perfect verb and not one adverb sneaks its way into the prose.  Scenes come alive on the computer screen with descriptions better than a picture.  This is the zone and if you're lucky it could last for days.  Even a few hours of the zone can produce thousands of words.

How does one find the zone?  For runners I believe training and pushing yourself each time you tie on your sneakers can lead to those workouts where your slip into the zone.  For writers?  I think knowing where your story is going, knowing your characters and finding enough hours to write can take you to the zone.

Have you ever found the zone while writing?  What the best production day you ever had writing?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y: Yahoo: Book Release

Yippee, my book is available today. Tiger's Mate is the sixth fantasy romance I've released.  I thought about trying to publish this one myself through some of the new programs, but I'm very happy with my current publisher, New Concepts Publishing.  They do a great job editing and on the covers for my books. One of my covers missed the mark but the others were pretty great.

My first writing love if pure sword and sorcery fantasy but I dabbled in writing romance before I sold that first fantasy book.  Why?  I like a good love story as do many people.  Many, many people.  Romance outsells all other genres of commercial fiction.  I write romances to make money.  But when you read my romances, you'll see my love of fantasy there.  Probably the fantasy elements in my romance novels take up a greater share of the plot than some typical romances. 

In my Tiger's of Salubria series, the Tigers are legendary race of warriors.  In the distant past, a curse was put upon these warriors so they have to form a magical bond with a person of magic when they reach maturity or they will die.  The person of magic then has some control over their fierce will.  You can believe these proud men of war resent their magical tethers as they move through society unprepared to meet them. 

The first book in the series, To Tame a Tiger, begins the tale and gives some background as to the origin of the curse.  It's available in print and ebook.  The book released today, Tiger's Mate, follows another of the swordsmen as he fights his way toward his lost homeland.  Please take a chance by entering this medieval world of sorcery, adventure and of course, love. 

I hope you don't mind my unabashed self-promotion but I have two kids and college.  Very expensive investment, those offspring. 

Will I make any money on these books? Every little bit helps.  I'm a long way from quitting the day job.  How about you? Can you or are you close to making a living off your writing? Do you think you will sometime in the future or is it a rewarding past time for you  and the money doesn't matter?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X: X Marks the Spot

In the third and perhaps the best Indiana Jones movie, Jones and his friends are searching for clues in a historic library and they find a large roman numeral ten, X, on the floor.  Jones observes, 'X marks the spot' in his wry way.  It was funny in the movie and was quite clever but when writing a book, X usually shouldn't mark the spot.

Hopefully as I write my fantasy novels, I include many twists and surprises.  The answers sought by my characters need to be difficult to find.  Victory must be earned and not by something so easy as finding the X marking the spot.  Wrong turns must be taken along the incorrect fork in the road. 

I'm sure you've read books or watched movies where the hero stumbles on something way too conveniently.  I remember a scene from one of the CSI shows where one of the investigators is buying a cup of coffee from a street vendor and a crow flying over drops an eyeball in her cup.  Of course, this leads to the discovery of a body and the show goes on.  What are the chances such a coincident would occur?

Can you give an example where a mystery was solved without the hero working for the answers? Or have you read a book or seen a movie recently where the story ending was so obvious it seemed marked with a big X?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W: Wild Wednesday

It has been a month of wild Wednesday from the weather to challenge of blogging six days a week. 

The weather caused a number of changes in some athletic schedules so every day the evening events were up in the air until the last moment.  The torrential rains also sent some surface water into our basement.  It rained so hard the water ran in around the sliding glass door.  We save one section of carpet but the other needs replaced.  I know parts of the country have suffered much worse so I'm going to stop whining about it.  I only hope we go an entire day without thunderstorms for this wild Wednesday.

Blogging has challenged me.  Though I had almost all my subjects selected ahead of time, I didn't have all of them written when April started.  So each weekend has been busy as I make sure everything is ready for the upcoming week and try to catch up on commenting on other participants' blogs.  Wildly busy.

I've also had a wild time trying to prepare for Friday's release of my next fantasy romance, Tiger's Mate.  Today I'm participating in a chat at my publisher, New Concepts Publishing, as a way to promote this book and all my back list.  This live chat is a first for me, so I don't know what to expect.  I also have no idea how effective it is as a promotional tool. 

Have you ever participated in a chat as a promotional tool for a book with as the author or a reader? Do you think it has promotional benefits?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V: Vanguard

Not long ago my daughter and I were watching a movie and someone was being honored by riding in the vanguard.  She didn't know what a vanguard was and we had a long discussion about it.  Later I thought about some of the trail blazers who were the vanguard for today's popular fiction in books and movies.

No doubt JRR Tolkien led the way for many of today's fantasy authors.  JK Rowling did the same for the upsurge in YA fantasy.  I believe she inspired an entire generation of eager readers.  Nora Roberts set a standard for prolific and versatile writers of romance and suspense, earning success and fame beyond most who came before her.

The original Star Wars began a new era in movie series. The Superman movies of the late 70's revived the super hero genre and we're still enjoying that today.  I would call both those franchises the vanguard of their genres.

What book or movies would you say led the way in their field either today or yesterday?

Monday, April 25, 2011

U: Unrepentant

It's been so much fun on A to Z this month but this week, starting today, I need to do some unrepentant self-promotion.  My sixth published fantasy romance will be released Friday, April 29th.  Tiger's Mate is the second book in a series that started out with one publisher but I moved the second book to a different publisher.

New Concepts Publishing contracted my first four romance novels and now are taking on Tiger's Mate.  NCP is one of the oldest ebook publishers out there.  They've been successful for a long time when many other smaller publishers have folded.  Lately they've been doing more and more to help their authors with promotion unlike so many big publishers who promote only the big names at their houses.

But all authors, especially me, must still do our share of shameless, unrepentant self promotion.  I'm not a shy person but I don't easily speak and write loudly to put my work forward. Like most writers, I'd rather just write.  But I also want to sell my books.  I want people to read them.  Therefore they must know about them.

So today at my publisher, New Concepts, I've the featured author on their Manic Monday Promotion.  From noon until midnight,  all my books are 30% off.  A good price on what I think are good books, perhaps even excellent books.  How did I do with shameless?

How good are you with self-promotion? Does your publisher help you?  What kind of things has your publisher done for you?

Saturday, April 23, 2011


We've all seen it on TV or at the movies.  Someone is home alone and hears a sound in the house, perhaps the basement.  They go to investigate, try the light switch and it doesn't work, or course.  Our intrepid hero or heroine doesn't let that stop them.  He or she continues down the steps, calling out 'Who's there?'  Can they be any dumber.  Dumberer?

The soon to be victim has become someone who is TSTL.  That's what authors call it.  Too Stupid To Live.  In that movie or TV show, they probably will die a gruesome death by a mass murderer, supernatural horror, or something evil and ugly.  We expect it even as we watch and think why would any one be so stupid as to go down those dark steps or into the water at night or into the woods on a moon less night.

The movie people get it right when they knock off those idiots and we as writers have to learn from this.  Sure our protagonists have to stumble and get into trouble, but they can't do so because of complete incompetence or lack of common sense.  Readers want to like the characters in our books and if we're lucky, they'll love them.  But most of us won't fall in love with a fictional character who is 'too stupid to live.'

I've put books aside because I didn't care about the characters.  Sometimes they were whiny or selfish and they did things I couldn't fathom.  And I make a point to figure out how I would have made the character different.  I want my character to be lovable.

So have you read a book with a TSTL character? What behavior by a character in a movie or book puts them in the TSTL category in your opinion?

Friday, April 22, 2011

S: Series, Gotta Have Em

Fantasy lovers, readers and writers, expect series.  Between world building, invented civilizations, and the never ending battle between good and evil, fantasy stories have trouble staying between the covers of a four hundred page novel.  Fantasy fans want a story rambling and running through many books.  My first fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, is four books long.  I like a series of three or four books but I've enjoyed many that are ten or more books long.

Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series is still going strong after a dozen heavy tomes. The late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is being finished by the super talented Brandon Sanderson.  I think that series is at number fifteen.  The final installment will hopefully be released at the end of this year.

Harry Potter is YA's answer to fantasy lovers.  I took my second son to at least six midnight release parties for those books.  He was old enough to drive to the last one by himself but I went along anyway.  Fantasy lovers can't wait for the next book in their beloved series to come out.

Romance readers also enjoy series but the stories are different.  Usually, but not always, romance series are stories set in the same place or world but with different protagonists in each book.  Often the couple in a second book is introduced as secondary characters in the previous book.  Couples sometimes make guest appearances in new books in the series, fulfilling a reader's believe in the happily ever after of favorite characters and their relationships.

Readers pick up a second book in a series because they trust the author to create an engaging tale based on the content of the first book.  The author has a responsibility to ramp up the intensity and preserve the integrity of the characters.  The author and publisher also must deliver the series in a timely fashion.  If the reader has to wait to long for the sequel, they can lose interest and find something else to read.

What is your favorite series?  Have you read a series that disappointed after the first few books?  How long have you waited for a sequel and how much time is too long?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R: Runes

Languages in fantasy and science fiction can be a tricky thing.  Most of us are not JRR Tolkien and willing and able to invent our own.  It's easier to invent a world if everyone speaks the same language and of course, for most of us, the words spoken are English.  An author can call the language something else, Hoochamochocha, if they want, but the words on the page are still English.

Sometimes, though, a writer can invent words and the new language is a device to convey something in the story.  For instance, in my book, Beyond the Gate, the hero, Cage Stone, has struggled all his life to learn writing and reading.  But on his journey through the mysterious caves beneath the mountain, he encounters words carved into the stones offering warnings.  The words are written in runes, a language unknown to humans.  But Cage is half elf.  After years of being embarrassed by his inability to read, he easily interprets the words written in the language of the elves.  During this time in the story, Cage is struggling with accepting his heritage for reasons you'll have to read the book to understand, and the relief he experiences in finally understanding written words in one more nudge down the path of acknowledging his mother's people.

Why other ways can an author use language as a device or plot point in a book?  Have you invented words or even more for something you're written? Do you enjoy reading books with invented words in and when does it become distracting to you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q: Queen of the Possums

Not many of us personally know a queen.  Homecoming queens don't count.  My good friend, Ava Quinn, is serving as this year's Possum Queen.  If you know nothing about this royal position, please read on.  If you want to meet a woman of genuine, original humor, read on.  If you would like to learn something you didn't know about my part of the world(and maybe don't want to), please read on.  Ava is a writer and after reading her interview below, I know you'll be smiling and wishing for more.

Not everyone is familiar with the versatile creature we in PA call possums. Can you tell us why this nocturnal animal is honored in your part of the Penn Woods?

The Pot Bellied Processed 'Possum Products Company canning factory is a large source of jobs in our county. Because of the integral part the canned 'possum products have in both the fiscal and culinary parts of our lives out here, the PA Possum is an honored symbol of our community.

What is the process of being elected Queen?

Every year around October, the Pot Bellied Processed 'Possum Products Company sponsors the Moonshine and Fried Possum Carnival. Think Oktoberfest with moonshine. But with less oom pah pahs and more dueling banjos. The three day festival's exciting culmination is the crowning of that year's 'Possum Queen.

First there's the talent competition. That can get pretty fierce. Between the bologna frying and the goat yodeling, well let me tell you it's not a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination.

The swim suit competition can get pretty hairy as well. Especially with the true backwoods contestants.

Finally, the beer guzzling and 40 yard stumble results can really make or break a 'Possum Queen contestant.

Once all the contestants have competed and mingled each day with the crowds, visited the moonshine stills and sampled all the different vintages, the entire Moonshine and Fried 'Possum Carny crowd assembles at the Pot Bellied 'Possum Pavillion to show their support for the contestant of their choice.

How this is done is through a careful and scientific selection process. The previous year's queen holds the coveted crown (a taxidermy dream of an opossum mama with her babies embellished with rhinestones- lots of rhinestones) over each contestant's head. The woman to receive the loudest round of burps from the crowd is then crowned that year's queen. For full details on last year's competition see here .

What are your duties as Queen?

I swore the oath to do my darned tootin-est to represent the entire line of canned Pot Bellied Processed 'Possum Products to the best of my ability. From Creamed 'Possum to 'Possum Roadkill Stew. From hash to grits and all affiliated 'possum gravies and desserts in between. And I do it with 'possum pride in my heart.

Also I am to promote all 'possum products in the best light possible. You can check out some of those products here .

How do you prefer to be addressed?

Your Majesty, My 'Possum Liege or Hey You

Your friends and enemies know about your kick-ass ninja skills, do you have occasion to use your marital arts to defend yourself and your queendom?

Well, I don't want to badmouth anyone, but many of your readers will remember that in Punxsutawney, PA there's another famous mammal who garners the spotlight every spring. Many of the locals in that area of Pennsylvania talk smack about the opossum, yet it's never come to blows. But I'm ready to defend the reputation of my trailerhood with my karate skills. Don't you doubt it!
How do you fit writing into your busy schedule of royal duties?

It isn't easy. What with the all the trailer park grand openings and redneck yachts to coronate with jugs of moonshine, my time to write gets really truncated.
Tell us about the royal carriage?
Ah, my pride and joy, as Stevie Ray Vaughn would say. My Kawasaki Ninja is still in hibernation in the barn, but it won't be long before the weather is nice enough to get out on it again.

You won't believe this but the name of Ava's blog is 'Tongue in Cheek.'  I hope you enjoyed her visit as much as I did. Thank you for visiting, Ava.  Can you think of a royal position they should invent for your neck of the woods?  And please tell us if you've ever eaten possum.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P: Plotters versus Pantsters

If you've talked to other writers you've probably heard from fans of the plotting method or creating a novel and proponents of the pantsters method. 

Plotters outline their story, chapter by chapter and scene by scene.  When they sit down to write, they have a fully designed path to follow from beginning to end.  It's not that they don't let their story meander off that pathway when it decides to take a turn but they plot for a purpose.  To get their story from point A to the predetermined point B.

Pantsters on the other hand usually have a general plan, a big picture so to speak, before they start.  Then they sit down at the keyboard and start typing away.  They fill in all those pesky details as they go.  Often people who write by the seat of their pants will use a 'go-edit, go-edit, go-edit' method where they write a bit and then go back and do some fix up before going forward.

I'm a bit of a combination, light plotting and then filling in most of it as I go.  Talk to a gathering of authors and you'll find both types of writers and receive pros and cons of each.  Many will be a bit of both like me.  How about you?  Plotter or pantsters? Why do you think one method is better than the other?

Monday, April 18, 2011

O: Out of Print

I've known authors who have had book rights returned to them and been informed the book is now 'out of print.'  At one time this might have brought sadness and tears.  Today having an older book returned to an author's power can be a cause for rejoicing.  A writer can use the many self-publishing venues on Amazon to make more money from a book already completed and edited.

Most new contracts have clauses claiming every possible type of right for a book and with the shelf life of ebooks being forever, publishers want to keep those rights for just as long.  But many authors are making the decision not to sign on the line and extend their contracts for their books published before the ebook surge took off.  Why give their rights back to a publisher who will take a huge chunk of the profits and do almost no promotion for the book? 

Out of print doesn't mean the end of a book anymore.  Very often a book is not going to print at all and will be offered as an ebook only.  As more authors get the rights returned to them for their backlists, they'll make them available for reasonable prices in the ebook market.  When a reader discovers an author new to them, they'll have easy access to all the author's past works.  It will be great.  Out of print will not mean unavailable.

Have you or an author you know made an out of print book available by self publishing?  How do you think this will influence the publishing industry and the wording of their contracts? 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N: Not the News

I have some movies I really like and watch them over and over again.  One of my favorites I found on TV last week.  'You've Got Mail' with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is a silly and sweet romance with the classic romance plot of rich boy and poor girl forming a bond without realizing who the other person really is.  If you haven't watched it before you should give it a try.  But...

If you know the movie, you can guess the but part.  The movie was made during a time when AOL email was the big technological means of communication rocking the world.  The main characters meet in a chat room somewhere and start up a pen pal type relationship using email.  Today with all texting being the latest way to keep in touch, immediate and cheap, the plot using email at the center is very, very dated.

Almost everything else in the movie fits fine into the modern world, even the clothing style.  The health club scene, the coffee shop and the plot device of big package store bankrupting the little family-owned business works in a nearly timeless fashion.  But...that one little technology thing.

I don't write contemporary but I read lots of contemporary suspense and mysteries.  I think all writers hope their books live forever and authors of contemporaries must be careful how they weave scenery and objects into their story so they don't date it.  Even books written a few years ago are behind on the capabilities of cell phones without even considering advances like iPads.

On the other hand, if your characters are as clever and engaging as Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, maybe it won't matter if the rest of your world is ten or fifteen years out of date.  If you use a news event as a background event or perhaps even the inciting incident in your novel, you will put a block in the way of your story not being as timeless as you'd hoped. Unless it hangs around long enough to become a historical rather than contemporary tale.

Have you read a novel recently where you found the technology outdated?  If you write contemporary how do you handle the difficulty of keeping it real but designing to still be relevant in a few years?

Friday, April 15, 2011

M: Music to Write By

My daughter did a psychology project linking learning and music.  Many studies show students retain more information when they study with ear buds gently carrying their favorite tunes nearly directly into their brains.  This didn't surprise me as I'm someone who works best with some background noise such as TV, a movie or music playing.  I almost never write in silence.

I have to wonder if the type of music matters.  I really don't think I could write a fight scene for my latest series with a polka tune bouncing off the walls.  On the other hand, the soundtrack to The Last of the Mohicans might be just the thing.

While I wrote the last book in The Futhark Chronicles, due out in 2012, I had the soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings or the movie itself playing most of the time.  It's great for inspiring my muse to create heroic battles and tragic loss of life. 

Some of you who know me know I have three different DVD versions of Pride and Prejudice on my movie shelf.  While writing my upcoming fantasy romance release,  Tiger's Mate, I watched all three of them and mixed in some time for Happily Ever After to help keep the mood light.

My iPod contains a little country and a lot of alternative rock.  Lots of loving to put me in the right mood as well as a few melancholy tunes to cover the emotional spectrum I hoped to infuse my novel with. 

Do you listen to some tunes while working?  What are your favorites? Do you prefer silence while you write?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L: Loglines

Loglines, or one sentence pitches, are a challenge to write.  How can you sum up a four hundred page novel in one sentence? How can you write one sentence and show off your unique voice?  How can you sell your block-buster plot in one sentence?

I don't have a magic formula but I do have some suggestions that have helped me.  These are not guidelines I've come up with on my own, but a compendium of articles, classes and advice I've picked up from many different sources.

What kind of things need to be in that sentence?  Start with the inciting incident which is likely your opening conflict in your story, add the obstacle, the main character and the quest.   Some people call those the 'who, what, where and why should I care?' 

Be prepared to write and rewrite your sentence.  Sometimes I start with two or three sentences to get all the things listed above included.  Then I pare a word here, change a verb there, cut out anything I can and try to make those multiple sentences into one clear one.  Don't be vague or coy.  Make each word count and try to showcase your voice.

I like to come up with three or four versions of my one-liners and then combine them or settle on one I really like.  If you're going to pitch to an agent or editor at a conference, work out your logline before you go.  They will ask you what your book is about and you should be able to tell them in a concise powerful sentence.  This also helps if you bump into an agent or editor at the bar or in the elevator.  Be ready.

What advice would you give to someone trying to create their first logline? Where do authors use one-liners?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K: Kelley and Other Pen Names

Pseudonyms and pen names are common in the field or writing.  I suppose there are many reasons to use one and I'll speak of only a few. 

An obvious reason not to use your real name would be another, perhaps more famous, author with the same name.  The name, Gourley, though well-known in my little corner of the universe, isn't a concern from me as a writer.  I warn any one with the same name not to write books under this famous moniker.  Just kidding.

Writers of erotic romance might use a name other than the one on their driver's license if their day job might frown upon their work. 

Some authors, like moi, write in more than one genre.  I use the pen name, Susan Kelley, for my romance novels and my real name, Susan Gourley, for my epic fantasy series.  I wouldn't want a writer to purchase one of my fantasy novels expecting a love story or even a 'happily ever after.' 

I won't tell how I decided on the pen name, Kelley, but there is a definite reason.  It's not my maiden name though I know authors who use their maiden name for their pseudonym.  Do you use a pen name?  Did you pick it for a certain reason?  What other issues might drive a writer to use a name other than their own?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J: Justified

I'm not a big fan girl for movie stars or shows on TV, but the FX show, Justified, has really captured me.  I can't put my finger on what exactly has earned my love about the show.  Sure Tim Olyphant as Marshal Raylan Givens is a great looking guy but that alone doesn't have me setting my schedule to never miss the show. 

The show is set in the red neck counties of Kentucky and the main protagonist is a federal marshal who dresses like a cowboy and dispenses justice like the marshals of the old west.  He's surrounded by complex characters, fellow marshals, childhood friends who are now enemies, family feuds, a criminal father and an ex-wife he's not quite over.

Some of the bad guys in this show are so thoroughly nasty I can't look away from them.  Others are sympathetic and so much fun I don't want them to ever get caught.  The economy of the area plays into the plots as motivations and the sets showing the living conditions of the population creates an atmosphere I assume is very realistic.

As a writer, I love interwoven relationships of the people on the show and the way the characters are driven by their histories.  Raylan Givens is raised by his outlaw father and becomes a lawman.  His childhood friend is raised in a law-breaking clan and becomes a criminal himself.  It's a wonderfully designed conflict that leads to all kinds of internal angst and external confrontations. 

Is there a TV show or movie you admire because of the character intricacies? 

Monday, April 11, 2011

I: Issues

Issues.  We all have them in many forms.  Some are contemporary.  'Can I pay the bills this month?  Will my day job still be here next week?' and a rash of other problems facing us every day.  Some have been with us since childhood such as relationships with parents, siblings and friends.  Some we've added in our adult years with interactions between us and significant others and perhaps our careers. 

We all have issues and deal with them in our own ways.  But as writers, it's important our characters have issues.  The most interesting protagonist has a history and it shouldn't be all silver spoons and rose beds.  Past experiences mold people.  These experiences may strengthen a person or instill them with their greatest weakness.  Sometimes our characters are aware of the issues driving them and creating a great story for the reader.  Perhaps our characters aren't aware of their motivations and the issues behind them.  A writer can weave an complex tale and slowly reveal a character history.  A character without issues, perfect and without fault, is boring. 

 Antagonist need a history too.  They can't be totally evil.  A great story has a complex bad guy with issues of his or her own. 

Issues.  Everyone has to have them, especially our characters.  Did you ever read a book where the hero or heroine was too perfect?  How about a bad guy too perfectly evil?  Have you read a book where you've admired the weaving of a character's issues with the plot of the novel?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H: Hungry

If you've ever been to a writing conference and heard an inspiring speaker, you know what I'm talking about. If you're lucky enough to have face to face networking opportunities with fellow writers, you understand.  If one of your friends experienced a big success in their writing career, you've felt it.

I'm talking about that hungry feeling.  Hunger for success.  A drive to finish that story, promote your work and make contacts inspired by your inner drive and the support of other writers. 

Sometimes a set back can depress that drive and perhaps even tempt a writer to quit and hang up the keyboard.  Frustration can kill the appetite to continue and do better.  Everyone has an occasional doubt but those with that hungry fire for success burning inside their writing soul will bounce back.  Their inner desire to create will reignite their imagination and words will flow from their minds through their fingers to the keyboard a work will be born.

So stay hungry like you were when you first started.  Keep working at it.  What gets your drive going in high gear? Are you still as hungry as when you first started or are you more driven to continue?

Friday, April 8, 2011

G: G-2 and Other Tools

I bet some of you writers out there know what a G-2 is.  For those who don't, it's the slickest, smoothest writing pen ever.  It comes in a multitude of colors and all glide across the page with such ease one looks for reasons to write something more. I keep a G-2 beside me on my desk at all times and intend to invest in more as soon as I get to an office supply store.

Office supply stores are my weakness so I should avoid them.  They always have something cool or new on sale but they're especially dangerous during those weeks of back-to-school sales.  Spiral notebooks for half a dollar, packs of cheap pens and pencils, note cards, sticky notes and all kinds of cute, clever clips.  The temptation to stock up is beyond my powers to resist. 

At the bookstore or craft store, I usually find some inexpensive journals which I already have a stack of at home.  And the craft store has reading glasses for as little as two dollars so I have to make sure I have enough pairs to have two or three in nearly every room of the house except my children's bedrooms.

Like most of you, nearly all my writing work is done on my computer.  So why do I need all those pedestrian tools like pens, notebooks and pencils? I don't know.  They're really cool though. 

Do you have a fondness for any of those 'old fashion' tools of the trade? Do love cruising the aisles of the office supply stores?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F: Fame and Fortune

Some days I wonder why I write.  I'm not getting rich.  Actually I'm very far from it and only my day job feeds the family.  I guess I don't write for fortune.

My family is proud of my success as a writer.  Many of my students are impressed by my 'other' job.  Writing something longer than a twelve page research paper astounds them.  I probably felt the same way at their age.  I've received some very kind remarks from readers by email and at book signings.  Fellow writers have offered encouraging and kind words about my books.  But I've yet to be stopped on the street because someone recognized me as an author.  My writing hasn't brought me fame.

At times I feel my writing career is moving forward at a snail's pace.  Yet it keeps me so busy I often put aside my other loves like reading, baking and lately hiking.  But I stay at it. Like so many authors I write because I can't imagine not doing it. It may never bring me fame or fortune, but I believe I will always do it

Do you expect your writing to bring you fame and fortune?  Have you had a pleasant experience when fame touched you even for a brief moment? What keeps you writing?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E: Envy Versus Energy

Be around enough writers and you'll find some you envy for various reasons no matter how successful you are yourself.  Nearly all of us know a writer who has found more success, more books published, more money made, better agent, successful booksignings and name recognition.

I envy fellow bloggers who have large followings and always seem to have something clever to write about and get dozens of comments each day.  I wish I had half the knowledge and understanding of the murky waters of promotion using social networking as some of my fellows. 

Often I've read novels with such gripping plots and memorable characters I wish I could have written or perhaps someday can write such a book.  I envy them but I use it to inspire me.

Envy can goad us to greater effort but it can also drag a writer down.  Instead of turning creative energies to our own work we can waste time wondering, 'why not me?'  Jealousy is seldom an attractive emotion and it can slow down a writer's career if one spends time wishing instead of working to achieve the highest level of success possible.  Don't let envy drain away your energy away.

What traits do you envy in other writers? Does envy inspire you or have you suffered frustration viewing others' successes?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D: Demons Among Us

I'm talking about the real live poisonous fell beasts causing problems in fantasy novels both urban and epic.  The wonderful thing about using demons as antagonists in a book is the endless possibilities of what form they'll take.  Will they be clever, plotting powerful beings like we see on the show, Supernatural?  Will they take human form or will they take over the body of person and replace their soul with their evil natures? 

Will they be hideous to behold or ungodly handsome and beautiful?  What will their powers be?  Will the demons be fire-breathing soul-less and mindless creatures capable of only destruction and following the commands of some under worldly lord of darkness? 

Among the possibilities with demons I like is all the reference material available.  You can research them  and even find artwork to help you create your own unique evil beast or you can use a demon from legend or mythical history to bring hell to your fantasy novel. 

So how do you like your demons? The handsome evil ones of urban fantasy or the ones resembling Satan with his demonic hell hound sidekicks?

Monday, April 4, 2011

C: Conflicts

Conflict can make or break a good book or a good movie. Great action movies have big external conflicts driving the plot forward. The list of conflicts is long including wars, money, politics, religion, the clash of

cultures or class or something less global like divorce, job or money issues. Lots of suspense and thriller fiction works focus on the external conflict. I enjoy many books of this type. I've read all Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels where the protagonist forms only temporary relationships with other people and the plot is usually about Reacher facing down some bad guys. It's all action but so clever and fast moving I don't mind there's little internal conflict.

Internal conflict though can leave a lasting emotional impact on the reader. The depth of the characters' struggle to overcome their inner demons and reach their dreams can leave a reader with a good feeling so hopefully they will buy another book by the same author. Or the failure of the characters to fulfill their secret most desire may keep the reader up at night, recounting what went wrong and the choices made by the protagonist.

I try to do this in my fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles. Inner conflict propels the hero forward into greater danger and involvement in a war he never wanted anything to do with. I try to balance both types of conflict to create a story that appeals to everyone who enjoys epic fantasy.

Do you like watching movies and reading books with more of external or internal conflict? What book or movie kept you up at night wishing you could rewrite the unforgettable ending?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B: Back Lists

I have a new fantasy romance coming out at the end of the month.  My publisher is doing a promotion the week leading up to this release by featuring discounts on my back list.  Hopefully some new readers will try my books on sale, like them and buy the new one.  I have some great hopes for this promotion because I've been guilty of buying an author's entire back list when I discovered one of them and then eagerly awaiting the release of their newest. 

I discovered Preston and Child this way.  John's Marco's book The Devil's Armor caught my eye and since then I've read everything he's written. 

So on April 29th my latest, Tiger's Mate will be released by New Concepts Publishing, and hopefully some readers will find it because of my back list or will find my back list because of the new release.

Is there an author who won you over with one of their books and inspired you to read their entire back list?

Friday, April 1, 2011

A: Animals In Fiction

The first books I fell in love with were all animals.  I read Walter Farley's Black Stallion series over and over again along with many favorite dog tales.  I fell in love with fantasy during my early teens but I never forgot my love for those magnificent horses and heroic dogs. 

When I first started writing, I thought I wanted to write books like the ones I enjoyed so much in my elementary years.  That didn't work out.  Instead I started out with a fantasy romance series with very few animals involved.  My second romance series is a different matter.  More about that in a later post.

My epic fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, features humans and elves as well as all types of demon creatures.  But I couldn't stop myself from writing a wonderful horse into the novels.  Bayard is the name of a horse of legend known for adjusting his size to carry his rider and also being able to understand human speech.  The horse in my novel only understands the speech of his half-elf master and he can't adjust his size but he is trained in battle.  He has a great personality and I think my readers will love him as much as I love the Black Stallion.

Do you enjoy animals as characters in books you read or write?  Did you read animal centric stories when you were younger?