Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fifty States of Pray

Mark Koopmans is one of those people. Those people who are generous, kind, creative and so very thoughtful. In a moment of brilliance he came up with the blog hop called Fifty States of Pray. This adventure calls for a short post thanking, wishing, remembering anything you might have want to give a prayer and thought to during this wondrous time of year. Mark is hoping we have bloggers joining in from all fifty states and many, many countries besides the good ole US of A. Thanks Mark for organizing this idea. Visit his blog for the others on the list. And because it's the holiday and family time, take your time and spread the visits out over the next few days.

Though it seems like a clichĂ©, I pray for world peace. Think what it would mean if no one had to spend money on wars. All those funds could go to health care and education. All that research done on weapons could be spend in the medical fields, working for cures. All those people fighting in foreign lands could be home with their loved ones. World peace would solve every problem mankind faces or at least give us a better chance at conquering them.

And a special thought today for my very close friends who lost their twenty year old son to cancer a few months ago. I can't imagine what this holiday will be like for them, but I wish them some moments of peace and comfort in the love of their family and friends.

Merry Christmas to all my blogging and reader friends. I hope the holiday brings you peace and joy in your heart. No comments are necessary. I know you're there.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Always Something

I know some of my blogging friends work in a field where they have to use technology everyday. I had to use it as a teacher, and my knowledge and experience sufficed and even surpassed many of my colleagues. That's not really something to brag about.

I continue to learn. I recently bought a Kindle Fire and am working on ways to get the most out of it. But sometimes something happens and I just can't figure it out. Last spring I finally bought a new laptop. A nice, thin lightweight model that is so portable and easy to use. I also bought a new printer at the same time. A multi-tasking wireless model. I've really enjoyed the ease of use. Except, about a week ago, my printer and laptop stopped talking to each other.

They say they are, but they're not. I've done all the easy checks. Wifi is working fine but the message just isn't getting through. I've tried everything but can't get it to work. I get so frustrated when I have to spend time on that when I'd rather be writing. I like to print off the first draft of my WIP and then use it as the outline for the second, cleaner version. Now I'm at 63,000 words and no printer. Arrgh!

I know many of you are taking some holiday blogging vacations. I'll be posting again on the 24th for Mark Koopmans's Fifty States of Pray but skipping this Friday.

So has technology ever stumped you? Any new tech you've learned lately that makes life easier? Are you going on 'blogging' vacation?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Best Christmas Ever

As the big day nears, I start to worry a little bit that my children will have a good, or better, a great Christmas. The past few years, even when the budget was tight, have been filled with fun as the family just enjoys the time together. Our three oldest sons live on their own now, one with a wife, one with a daughter and one with his girlfriend. Because they now have other families to consider during holiday celebrations, we started having our big family get together the day before Christmas. The gifts exchanged don't even matter. We just have a great six hours or so together. Then Christmas morning, we exchange gifts with the three children still living under our roof and eat leftovers from the day before.

Those of you who have children know that as they get older, they have very specific requests for holiday gifts. I still try to surprise them with something I know they'll love even if they haven't asked for it. Usually it's not something that expensive. I hope as they start their own families they remember Christmas days that were unforgettable.

As a child, our large family worked hard on a family farm. Money was tight but my parents managed to pay for our college with all of us doing our share of the farming. Usually for Christmas, we received mostly clothing and one gift that was a toy. The best Christmas ever for me as a kid was the year my parents bought my little brother, my very best friend at the time, and me Red Ryder BB guns. I can't tell you the hours we traveled the farmlands and woodlands hunting with our BB guns. We never shot anything except targets but we felt like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, tracking and sneaking around. I'll never forget that time.

What makes your current Christmas celebrations unforgettable? What was your most memorable Christmas as a child? Have you started or continued any family traditions at your house? Don't forget to visit IWSG today and check out the winners from the contest.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Smaug the Terrible vs Kerik the Conflicted

Today one of the most famous dragons in fictional history takes to the big screen. Smaug the magnificent, terrible scourge of death and destruction. The epitome of greed and self-centered existence, Smaug lives in infamy.

Kerik, my dragon, is a more complex character. Not that he doesn't feel many of the same things as Tolkien's scaly creature, but he fights against his dragon nature. As a dragon, Kerik knows he's a superior being compared to mere humans. But because of his upbringing, he cares for some of those puny humans. The dragon Kerik knows that humans are his only natural enemy, yet he takes a side in the human war.

What are the chances more people read about my dragon in the next year than will read about Smaug? Probably about as much chance as me running a 5:30 mile today. But I'm still hoping a little dragon love will spill over to my book, First Dragon. It's had a little sales bump this past week, so I'm hoping.

Are your heading out into the next winter storm to see The Desolation of Smaug in its opening weekend? Did you buy any Tolkien books for gifts this Christmas? Don't forget, today is the last day to get your name in for the wonderful contest at the IWSG site.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Where Are You, Christmas?

I'm getting pretty good at setting writing goals for myself and reaching them. But this is a busy time of year for most of us. In between sessions of writing and keeping up with my blogging, I've been shopping online, addressing Christmas cards and decorating. And finding myself with a definite lack of Christmas spirit.

I love this holiday and the time together with family. But my brain can't quite get around the idea that it's only two weeks away. But starting today, I'm going to indulge in some of my favorite Christmas movies, one per day until I start to feel the warmth of the holiday. There are a very large number of movies to select from.

George C. Scott in A Christmas Carol is probably my all time favorite. As a family, we like to watch the first Home Alone and of course, A Christmas Story. My daughter and I enjoy Prancer together at least once per season. My husband enjoys an annual showing of Jingle All the Way, corny but funny.

So for the next two weeks, I'm going to try to find that lovely anticipation for Christmas and still reach my writing goals. Is there a favorite holiday movie that you watch every year? What gets you in the holiday spirit? Have you set your writing goals aside for the next few weeks or do you keep pounding away at the keyboard among the wrapping paper and ribbons? Don't forget to sign up for the contest on the IWSG site.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Against the Big Boys

I do love football. My sons played in high school and one played in college. Those years were fun and I miss watching them play. This year I've had the pleasure of watching my oldest son coach high school football. They had a great year and on Saturday they played in the state semi finals for AAAA football, which of none PA fans means the big school division. Our high school, the one I recently retired from, is the smallest school in the state in the big school division so our playoff run was very unexpected.
Cold and snowy in Altoona
They didn't even clean the bleachers.

To make the football story short, our beloved Falcons had to play against a huge private school from the city of Pittsburgh. We lost. By a lot. It was sad for my son, the coach, and for our hardworking players, most of them boys I've had in class in the past few years. It was a heart breaking loss to end their season. But today or the next day when the bruises fade a bit, they'll take a look back on the season and know they had a great year. Considering the size of our school, they had a great run.

Doing a little Christmas shopping, in a bookstore of course, it's difficult to miss the 'bestsellers' and 'big name' books being promoted. There are entire tables with Hobbit trinkets and dozens of possible selections of paperback and hardback copies of Tolkien's books. Then there are the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones tables. I'm sure you can name a few. Big revenue generators. Lots of money spent in bookstores at this time of year. Will anyone be spending it on my books?

After Christmas, there will also be a lot of gift cards waiting to be spent. There will be new tablets able to easily download and purchase books. New laptops and smartphones. Will any of those buyers look at my books to purchase or will they mostly buy books from those big names with all their promotions?

The playing field isn't necessarily fair, but sometimes the little guy, or girl, does win. I'm hoping I'll find the magic I did with The Marine's Queen that sent it to the top of the list, ranked above some of the big boys even if only for a while. Like our little football team, I'll work hard with the skills I have and believe it will pay off with a good run or success.

What displays have you found front and center in the bookstore lately? Tired of seeing Duck Dynasty everywhere? Did the snow storm interfere with your weekend plans? Have you signed up for the contest over at the IWSG blog yet?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Are We Reading?

As the year nears its end, the stats will start to come out in many writing magazines, telling us how many books are being sold. What genre of books are being sold. What format books are being sold in. Google it and you can find all kinds of graphs and numbers.

One of the thing all book buying research agrees upon is what gender buys the most books. Some articles claim as much as 58% of the money spent on books comes from the purses of females. Women buy and read more books than men.

Some romance writers feel a need to defend their genre. Criticism of romance writing and reading is rather common but why should a romance writer feel the need to convince other writers or readers of their genre legitimacy? The numbers alone validate the genre. I love writing and reading fantasy and science fiction, but I make my writing money on my romance. Or you could go here and buy more of my fantasy to make that statement a lie. LOL

As a teacher (now retired) and the mother of some very successful students, parents often ask me about reading material for their children. I've always answered that what is important is that their children are reading. If the young ones fall in love with the written word early on don't stifle it by forcing them to read something they're not interested in. Read anything!

But are we as a people reading? I saw a disturbing statistic about reading among adults in the USA. In 2008, just over half of all adults had read at least one novel, short story or a poem. One. In 2012, less than 47% of adults claimed the same thing. Can you imagine not reading? It's so difficult to believe that when my house is so full of books and readers.

I'm sure there will be more articles referencing buying and reading stats in the course of the next two months. Do you have any expectations of what the stats might tell us? Do you see proof around you that supports the fear that people aren't reading as much as they did a few years ago? Did you join the contest at the IWSG yet?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

IWSG: Join Us in a Contest

The first Wednesday of the month is always special as hundreds of bloggers join each other in support in the IWSG bloghop. The brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, this wonderful, knowledgeable group help each other out with small tidbits of wisdom. Not long ago, Alex took the group one step further with the formation of the IWSG website. The pages of that site contain links to nearly everything a writer needs to know to make their way in this business. And I'm not just saying that because I'm part of that website. By joining the IWSG website and the IWSG Facebook page, you'll not have to take your writer's journey alone.

And to add to the many benefits of belonging to this wonderful group, today we're running a contest of prodigious proportions. Please join us and maybe take a bit of the generosity home with you.

And now to share a little wisdom and insecurity today I wanted to talk about failure. Everyone who has ever tried to be a writer has experienced failure of one sort or another. Rejected stories, published stories that don't sell well or receive negative reviews, and don't forget those book signings where no one shows up but your family. But each failure can teach a writer something. Without failure, there would be no drive to improve. The more we fail as writers, the more we write and try again. Don't take failure to heart, but use it as a step up to the next level.

So please visit the IWSG blog and join up today. You could win!!!! Also like our Facebook page. It's a pretty busy place.

Have your failures helped you learn something? Care to put a number on your rejections? Have you joined the IWSG blog or Facebook page?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Plan Your Work

I spent Black Friday visiting family and definitely not shopping. I have a very short list of gifts to buy and most of them will be done on this machine I'm preparing this post upon. I miss that special joy of surprising my children when they were little on Christmas morning. But now that they're older, the enjoyment comes from spending time in each other's company. It saves me money and shopping time.

On the other hand, usually right before Thanksgiving there is something I start searching for. The exact, perfect planner for on my writing desk. This isn't the calendar I put on the wall in the kitchen to mark dentist appointments on but the one I use to jot down all kinds of things related to writing. Book releases, promo ideas, blog post ideas, writing meetings, and any other bit of info I might sometime need.

As I look over last years, I find something written in for almost every MWF as I planned blog posts. April was really full with the A to Z craziness. The first Wednesday of every month reminds me that it is IWSG post time. I haven't missed one in a long time, maybe never. Don't forget it's post time on Wednesday.

I like a planner that has a spiral binding so it lays flat on my desk and if it has pretty pictures in like my Audubon Society one did in 2012, so much the better. 2013's model was plan but I had to go cheap last year. This year I spent only a few dollars more and picked up The Old Farmer's Almanac. It has lots of cute tidbits and recipes scattered among the pages. I'll probably share some of those with you. This is the perfect time or year to find the perfect planner. Of course, if you wait until after Christmas, you might score a really cheap price though the selection might not be great.
January, 2014

I wanted to suggest a visit today to Mark Koopmans' blog to hear about 50 States of Pray. This is a terrific idea so check it out.

So do you use a planner for your work and/or your writing? Do you keep your schedule on a digital device or rely on pen and pencil like I do? Make sure you visit the IWSG blog and check out something special happening this Wednesday.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Give Thanks

I usually dedicate my blog to subjects about writing but today is too special. No one gets through this life without lose, sadness and disappointments. If we're lucky, we have people around us to remind us of happiness, successes and what we still have no matter how much we've lost. There are so many things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for my faith, which I seldom mention online, that has helped me sleep many nights. I'm thankful that I live in the USA where I have the freedom to work, to criticize our politicians, and where I believe there is a chance for my children to thrive. Though that one had worried me more in the past year than ever before. I'm thankful for the close family I grew up in and for the one I've made with my husband. I have two wonderful stepsons, three sons of my own and a daughter. With the beloved extras they bring with them, we'll have a full house today. And I'm thankful we'll be warm and have lots of food. I'm thankful for the friends I have, in person friends and online friends.

I've been a little frustrated lately with something in my writing career, but for today, everything I have that isn't about writing is more then enough. I'm happy and contented. On the first Thanksgiving, they were thankful for so what would seem like so little today. But it was enough. I hope you all have enough to be content and thankful today. And that you get a nap. God bless all of you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

When You're Famous...

I recently participated in an online class about self promotion and the use of social media to do so. What did I learn? Not that I'm not really good at it. I almost never ask anyone to mention my books, cover reveals or releases. Though I am deeply grateful that some of my friends do. I don't know what I don't ask, something in my upbringing, because I like doing the same thing for other people.

Touting my books on twitter or Facebook isn't in my comfort zone though in this class I took, the message was to hit those venues really hard and often with promotion. So I try to do a little. I wouldn't miss tweeting or updating my status on Facebook of those two sites disappeared suddenly.

Blogging might be the only social media I would miss if I suddenly stopped. Though I have family I would keep up with on Facebook. No tweeting ever again for me. And that brought me to an article I read about a famous author who stayed completely out of the public eye. He avoided all interaction with his readers and fans. He was very, very successful, beyond even what I've dream of.

So my question in this short post, if you were really famous would you quit promoting online? Would you stay in touch with fans you've met on Facebook or Twitter? Would you put yourself out there with appearances and readings? Or would you stay at home, doing nothing but writing and reading your reviews?

If you want to touch base with me on those media spots I avoid most of the time. Here's my Facebook page and here I am on Twitter. Maybe I'll see you there.

Friday, November 22, 2013


What writer doesn't want to see their names one of those iconic bestseller's list? New York Times or the USA Today? Wouldn't it be wonderful? What does it mean to you as a writer? What resources are used to determine those rankings?

I did some research on this and let me put it this way. It's complicated. Those two big name lists figure their rankings differently which is why their lists don't always match. This post would get very long even if I wrote about in even the most general terms. The USA Today lists seems to take ebook sales into account more but from my research its seems there are some mysteries involved in how exactly the numbers are arrived at. But one thing for certain about both lists. They measure the sales for one week, as one source called it, the velocity of sales.

For instance, a highly promoted book might sell like crazy on its release date. But if poor reviews come in the sales might drop off sharply. So a book that never makes the top of the lists but sells steadily over a period of time may out sell and out earn a book that hit the top ten for a week or two.

Many publishers, like mine at New Concepts, have a bestsellers list on their website. New Concepts sell a lot of books directly from their website which not all publisher do, so being on their list helps with sales.

And what talk of bestselling numbers would be complete without talking about Amazon ranking? Being on one of their top 100 lists gives an author a reason to tweet about. Getting one book on the top will lead readers to other of the author's books.

Have you been on a bestseller list? Do you buy books that are recommended by such lists? Have you ever investigated how those lists are determined?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Serious Series Staying Power

There are different ways to do series. Some suspense and mystery writers have central characters, detectives or investigators, who solve the crime of the particular novel. Some romance novelists base a series on a particular town and focus each novel on a different couple within the unique and attractive setting. When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, usually the series is bound together by a created world or universe. Sometimes the same characters appear in each novel though not always.

It's up to the writer to find the right technique to bring readers back for more. I read a lot of suspense and mystery. Jonathan Kellerman brings me back for more and more in his Alex Delaware series because the protagonists are so interesting and each novel has complex psychological mysteries. I can seldom figure out the twists when they come. Science fiction writer Alex J. Cavanaugh used a complex, interesting character as a continuing thread in his Casa... Series and drew readers back because they wanted to know the rest of the story about that central character.

Sometimes romance novelists introduce a secondary character in the first book of a series, making the character interesting enough for the reader to care about them. But then the writer sets the secondary's story aside, hoping the reader will want to know what happened to him or her and thus buy the next book. I used this technique in my most recent romance series. In The Marine's Queen, Vin, a secondary character suffers a tragic loss and goes off on his own. The book ends with his fate unknown. Much to my delight, a few readers of The Marine's Queen emailed me and asked me if I intended to write Vin's story.

In fantasy series and other suspense novels, though there might be a pause in the action at the end of each novel, the writer needs to leave unanswered questions or unresolved dangers. With each book, the stakes have to grow in importance and the road to solve the problems or the mystery has to grow steeper. The world can't be saved or the evil completely defeated until the last book in the series.

In my most recent fantasy series, The Morbunda Saga, the war is just getting started in First Dragon, the kickoff novel. Disasters and losses pile up as I introduce the reader to the Morbunda fantasy world. The complexities of the characters are revealed over the course of the novel. Hopefully readers will want to know what happens next.

What techniques work best for keeping you involved in a series? What tantalizing hooks do you use to keep a series successful? What series of books have you really enjoyed as a reader?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sharp as a Bowling Ball

Sharp as a bowling ball. My husband uses that expression a lot, usually when teasing one of our kids when they've done or said something exhibiting little of the good sense we know they have. Most of the time.

But I read a disturbing article while I was doing some research for this post that our brains will start to slow down at age 30 if we don't keep it young. I was only looking for research to backup what I thought I already knew about the brain, but I didn't know that. I'm sure lots of the readers of this blog are over that bench mark.

So let's think about brain food. What should you eat to provide the best nutrition for a healthy brain. Blueberries in any form. Wild salmon for those important omega-3s. Nuts and seeds for the vitamin E. Avocados which are nearly as good as blueberries. Add some whole grains and you're eating lots of foods to keep the gears turning. Drink green tea once per day though a cup of any kind of tea can benefit. And keep cholesterol levels down.

Physical exercise has been proven to improve brain function. Combination workouts with weights and aerobic components are best. Watch nature documentaries if you're going to watch TV. Watching such shows are also likely to reduce stress. There are video and computer games designed specifically to stimulate the mind and keep it sparking. Perhaps you've heard by now that good oral health is important for good cardiovascular health, the inflammation issue, but it also is important for good brain health. I picked some of this out of this article by the Alliance for Aging Research.

Reading has long been an ingredient in keeping the mind sharp and some recommend crossword puzzles, but some recent studies show that more areas of the brain are stimulated by writing by hand than either of those activities. So put some pen to paper and keep the neurons firing. Or really challenge your brain and write with your non dominant hand.

Does your family use any silly sayings like my husband if fond of? What healthy brain habits do you practice?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Stress Kills ... Creativity

Recently I read many blog posts from writers who are dealing with difficulties, some of the personal and some of the professional kind. You can probably think of three or four people you know from blogging right off the top of your head who are dealing with a health issue of their own, an ill family member or worse. Some have had to seek different employment that interferes with their writing. Some are dealing with some stress that doesn't have a terrible source like a new child. Even success creates its own breed of stress such as promotion, checking those sales numbers, facing the reviews, and trying to write the next novel and make it better than the one before.

Most people know how bad stress can be for your physical and emotional health, but it also affect your creative abilities. A number of articles I read put forth the idea that stress strikes us with tunnel-vision. Stress thinking is narrowed thinking.

Though lots of people believe that writing out feelings help with stress, that same stress might make it impossible for a fiction writer to work through a scene. The creativity takes a hike when the blood pressure is up.

Now Dr. Susan here doesn't offer a cure for when stress bogs down your writing output. I can only repeat the known courses of action. Physical exercise is a proven reducer of stress symptoms. Talking to someone or writing out the problems. And don't beat yourself up if your creative output drops off doing stressful periods. It's to be expected because you're human.

How do you deal with your stress? Have you have a time when you just couldn't work on your writing because of what life threw at you?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Creating a Dragon Mythology

When the idea for a dragon fantasy series came to me, the first thing I did was decide what kind of dragon would be in my novel. What powers would he have? What would he look like? What would he eat? What was his temperament? How intelligent would he be? What kind of moral and ethical ideas would drive his behavior?

I've read some dragon novels, many of them where the dragons worked in concert with humans, letting riders on their backs or somehow sharing magic with humans. Of course, there's the Smaug from The Hobbit and his greed and cleverness. Check out Wikipedia's long list of dragons and their descriptions. Dragon myths have been with us for a long time. They're found in the tales of ancient Greece. Stories of dragons have been interlaced with other legends in many cultures for over four thousand years. There are websites that described facts about dragons as if they're real creatures alive in our world today. I won't even mention dragons in the gaming world.

But I want my dragon, Kerik, to be unique. I made Kerik smart and armed him with the memories of his ancestors. He understands more of war than any human general with the experience he can call on. He's secretive, mostly to preserve his own life. He doesn't want to share anything with humans that could be used against him. He doesn't trust humans, but against his dragon nature he cares for some of them. And how he looks? He's black with golden eyes and a graceful body. I don't want to give away more of his secrets. You'll have to read the book but you can see what he looks like. Taria Reed at Crescent Moon Press caught him perfectly.

Have you ever created your own mythology about a land or a creature? Are you looking forward to The Desolation of Smaug? Any favorite dragon myths come to mind?
You can find First Dragon at:
Amazon Print
Amazon Kindle
B&N Print
Nook coming soon.
Add First Dragon to Goodreads List

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Few Good Men

I've always loved Veteran's Day. When I was a child and lived a bit north of where I am now, I always marked it as the day we would definitely have snow by. Now that I'm old enough to not love snow quite so much, I don't care about that marker. Now I love the holiday for what it is. A time to thank and remember those who have served the country.

Please check out my post on IWSG blog about ways we can honor them and support some great causes. My father has been gone for almost twenty years. He died a relatively young man after his second bout of cancer. Cancers I really believe resulted from his service in Japan after the bombs. Like so many men of his time, he signed up after Pearl Harbor and went off to defend his home and the young wife he left behind. I'm so grateful he came back.
My dad on the right

My father never spoke of the war except when he was with his older brother, who had also served. My uncle was a hero at the Battle of the Bulge and had many medals. My father and uncle never attended church though they were both very religious men. My uncle would visit my dad on Sunday mornings when everyone else was at church. Except for a little girl who would pretend she was sick every once in a while so she could stay home and listen to their stories. They were amazing remembrances of heroism, fear and the true chaos of war.

We're often told to write what we know. I know I've met real heroes. Men who fought because they must. If I could capture the humble tones in their voices as they spoke of bravery, regret and sorrow and the true costs of war, I'm sure I would be a bestseller. If I could write of such heroes, farmers, factory workers, family men, who risked everything to fight, what a book that would be.

How do you honor on this day? Have you met real heroes? Did you visit IWSG yet?

Please take an extra moment today to visit Kyra Lennon. Many of you have heard of the passing of Andrew, fellow blogger, Nick Wilford, stepson. Kyra is organizing a way to honor Andrew during this difficult time for the family.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Oh, How I Miss You, Stephen

Another clever idea from some of the wonderful, ambitious bloggers in my sphere of cyberspace. Alex Cavanaugh, Andrew Leon, and Matthew MacNish organized this blogfest where one can mention a blogger they've missed or would miss if they should drop out of this strange blogging life.

I don't remember how I first met Stephen Tremp, but I immediately began following his blog for a number of reasons. First of all, he often writes about science, sharing facts in ways anyone can understand without oversimplifying things. Also, he writes action filled suspense which I like to read. Add to that how Stephen is a very generous, kind person. He's also a committed family man and that's a fine quality in a person. I've missed Stephen's blog posts a lot lately. His blog moved around for a bit and somehow I kept overlooking his new residence when I visited blogs and I would only find him on occasion. I think I have finally put his blog back on my sidebar, I think, and removed his old address. I've missed him, but I'm not missing him anymore.

Did you check out the other participants in this blog hop? You might meet some people you want to never miss again. Do you know Stephen?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG: The Writing Life

Much thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for being the creative mastermind of this wonderful, very active group called the Insecure Writer's Support Group. You'll find lots of support, advice and the chance to offer support to other writers. Also, you can join the blog or facebook group belonging to the IWSG.

Most writers also hold days jobs, busy earning money to pay the bills. A few of my writer friends are stay at home moms which is a very demanding job choice. I've been fortunate to take on the title of full time writer for the last few months. It's the best job I've ever had. And like most careers, the longer I'm at it, the better I get at it. I'm not talking about my writing, though I hope it is continually improving.

One thing I've learned to do is set personal goals. I've never participated in NaNo and probably never will, but I set writing goals for each week and determine an end date for each project. Sometimes a deadline from one of my editors determines my goal. Having a very specific goal insures I'll sit down and write because that is my job.

I've learned that despite all the actual time I get for writing, I can still resent interruptions. But I've also learned to fit many other chores in while I'm writing. I can toss a load of laundry over to the dryer at the end of a page. I run the vacuum when I'm working through a scene that's giving me fits. I ponder my promotional efforts while I'm jogging. And I have all day.

When I first started writing and dreamed of doing it full time, I entertained fantasies of what that would be like. A pot of tea at my elbow, just me and the computer, perhaps in a cozy cottage in the woods with gardens of flowers lining the bricked patio. Well the pot of tea sometimes sits on my desk. But the flowers surrounding my sprawling country home need weeding. And my office sometimes looks like a bus depot there are so many people walking through. But it's still wonderful.

What expectations or dreams did you have of the writing life that have not come true or that have? Is it better than you hoped or hasn't it measured up to those early fantasies? Do you set personal goals or do you prefer something like NaNo that challenges you to  a level of achievement? Have you visited other IWSGers? Did you check out the IWSG blog?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dragonfly Warrior by Jay Noel

You all know I love dragons but today I'm using my blog to introduce Jay Noel's upcoming release. I still haven't figured out if dragonflies are actually creatures who dared to drink the blood of dragons like horseflies bite horses. Dragonflies are beautiful, exotic looking insects though and a warrior named after them really catches my interest. And steampunk  in the wild west is one of my favorites. Check out Jay's blurb and add this one to your wish list.

Dragonfly Warrior Blurb:
The Mechanica Wars: Savage Machines Are Afoot...
At the age of twenty, Kanze Zenjiro's bloody footprints mark the bodies of those who stood in his way to protect the throne of Nihon. Now, the tyrannical Iberian Empire is bent on destroying his kingdom, and they send their steam-powered giants and iron spiders against him.
Zen embarks on a quest that takes him on the most dangerous journey of his life. To succeed, Zen must live up to his nickname, the Dragonfly Warrior, and kill all his enemies with only a sword and a pair of six-guns. He is called upon to somehow survive a test of faith and loyalty in a world so cruel and merciless, it borders on madness.

Book Information: Dragonfly Warrior is a steampunk adventure like no other. It's a dynamic mix of Asian and European mythology, the Wild West, martial arts, traditional fantasy, and high powered steam action that will keep you turning the pages.
Dragonfly Warrior is the first book of The Mechanica Wars, and will debut on January 6, 2014.

Author Bio:
After doing some freelance writing and editing for more than a dozen years, Jay decided to stop procrastinating and pursue his dream of being a novelist. He's been blogging for over eight years, and even had a comedy podcast syndicated all over the internet. All of that was fun, but all the steampunk-inspired stories in his head just wouldn't leave him alone. Jay spends his days working in medical sales, but he can be found toiling over his laptop late at night when all is quiet.
He draws inspiration from all over: H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, and Isaac Asimov.

And Jay loves cookies.
Jay on Facebook
Jay's book is out in January, a perfect time to add it to your new tablet or ereader you're getting for Christmas. His cover caught the eye of my youngest son. I'm always looking for reads for him.
Have you seen Jay's cover elsewhere in the last week? Can you believe he has time to write with everything else he does? Have you liked his facebook page and followed him on twitter yet?
Don't forget IWSG tomorrow.

Monday, November 4, 2013

That's a Wrap

My daughter and I have had some great conversations over the years about books and movies. Sometimes we're on the exact same wavelength and enjoy the ending of a movie or series and sometimes we have greatly varied levels of satisfaction at the outcome. Perhaps because of our age difference, we have different expectations.

In my recent release, First Dragon, the novel is the first in a series. Without giving everything away, at the end of the book, everything isn't exactly 'happily ever after.' It's a fantasy world, a vicious war going on, and people get hurt. People die. Battles are lost. There is no wonderful, magical or heroic balm to heal all wounds in the war torn world of Morbunda. Though the last words on the last page are 'The End,' the reader knows it's not the end for the characters who survived so far.

On the other hand in my upcoming science fiction romance, The Marine's Heiress, the readers expect a better outcome for the main characters. Many people, writers and readers, expect a happily ever after ending for a book to be considered a romance. That doesn't mean it's all sweet tea and cupcakes within the book's covers but when the story wraps up, romance novels should have that satisfying ending. The reader imagines the characters going on with their lives and find emotional fulfillment.

When mystery novels or suspense novels end, readers expect all their questions to be answered with no loose ends. Nearly every genre has certain conventions that readers believe will be met when they read a certain kind of book.

Sub genres within genres can have quirks that draw faithful readers to their offerings. Some fantasy lines are darker with more death and anti hero protagonists. Some science fiction lines are known for what we call hard science. Romances get categorized by heat levels, how graphic the sex scenes are.

Don't forget this Wednesday is the first hump day of the month and that means IWSG posts. Find the list of over 300 participants right here.

What conventions do you equate with certain genres? Have you read a book recently that surprised you in a good or bad way at the end? Do you consider genre expectations when you write?

Friday, November 1, 2013

First Dragon TODAY

I'm very proud to announce the release of the first book in my newest epic fantasy series, First Dragon, book #1 of The Morbunda Saga. You can purchase in most online retailers in print or digital edition.

As you can see, the cover my publisher, Crescent Moon Press, designed it perfect. If you read the book, you will love it even more. I've hinted at the story line of this book in some earlier posts, and I intend to continue that today with a little more of the dragon lore I've invented for Morbunda, my fantasy land.

In the ancient history of Morbunda, dragons were common and fed mostly on wildlife though they wouldn't pass up a fat domesticated animal either. Men were multiplying quickly and as their population grew so did their competitiveness. As with many human societies, civil war between rich landowners broke out as their greed overtook their humanity toward their neighbors. The war escalated until the first power hungry man took a dragon into his service. His enemies had no choice but to make similar fool-hardy alliances with the fire breathing creatures. But dragons are clever and soon they learned all they needed to know of men and their weaknesses. That, of course, didn't turn out well for humans. Enough history.

First Dragon takes place many generations of men after that first deadly war ended. Though the book is titled, First Dragon, Kerik actually is the last, true dragon. But he's so much more than that. A dragon at war with his nature and trying to be at peace with men. But again, men have coerced a dragon into their conflicts. Is history repeating itself? I hope you'll check out First Dragon and find out.

All the different buy links are found at Crescent Moon Press.

On another note for today, David Powers King and four other authors are releasing an anthology, The Spirit of Christmas, in honor or NaNo and will help writers reach that amazing goal this month and in years to come. Check it out and help them out.

Did you start NaNo today? How are your word counts adding up on this first day? Need a dragon book to warm up the coming winter months?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

To The Victors Goes The....

I remember a line in the movie, The Dark Knight, where Batman says you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain. Or something like that. I've always loved that idea for a novel plot.

In my upcoming release, First Dragon, war is spreading across the land of Morbunda. Long ago in the history of Morbunda, a war was fought that resulted in great loss of human life and the apparent annihilation of all dragons. It took generations for civilization to recover. Now war is coming to Morbunda again, and this time the aggressors are the former heroes of the first war. Just like Batman said would happen!

In most fantasy novels, war is part of the plot line. In the best novels, each side in the war believes they are fighting for what is right and best unless they're purely evil. I hope the readers of First Dragon see the issues driving both sides of the new war.  And I hope lots of people read First Dragon when it's released this Friday from Crescent Moon Press.

Do you agree with Batman? Do you think wars happen in cycles? Have you read any good fantasy novels where you couldn't really tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are?

I might be a little late getting around to your blogs today. I'm helping my son move across the country this week.

Monday, October 28, 2013

One of a Kind

This Friday, my newest epic fantasy, First Dragon, will be released from Crescent Moon Press. I'm beyond excited. I wrote this book almost two years ago, polished and found a home for it last year. At the time, I wasn't aware of many dragon books on the market. Now that my book is about to hit the bookstores, I see dragon books everywhere.

I'm hoping readers will appreciate my unique take on dragons, dragon magic and dragon relationships with humans. At the same time, I wanted to keep some commonly accepted characteristics of dragons as part of my protagonist. Dragons are arrogant creatures, proud and certain of their superiority to men. Dragons are cruel and clever, able to trick humans. Dragons know of war and take advantage of man's greed to further their own agendas.

So how do I make my dragon protagonist different? Kerik didn't know he was a dragon as a child. He grew up among loving friends until his heritage was discovered. Kerik battles his greedy, arrogant nature but it's always there. He's secretive and dangerous. Kerik is constantly torn between what his nature drives him to do and what he should do to help his embattled human friends. He truly is a dark hero.

Can you think of a fantasy character that an author added a unique twist to? Do you have a favorite dragon character in a movie or book? Have you visited the IWSG blog today to sample some sage words?

Friday, October 25, 2013

So You Call Yourself a Writer

I've mentioned before that I'm not above cruising the writing magazines in the bookstore and skimming articles before I decide to invest. There are lots of them out there, just check out the links on the Publication Page of IWSG. But I also gather ideas for my blog during those peeks between the covers.

Recently I skimmed an article about a man who had quit his teaching job, took off for a remote village in Europe and sat down to write the next bestseller. Should you quit your day job? Check out what others say about quitting the bill paying job.

I don't remember the genre or even the author's name, but he lived in a falling down cottage for six months until his money ran out. He was so proud of the 100 pages he wrote during that time, what he consider a great start to his book. Really!

Now that I'm a full time writer, I spend lots more hours in my comfy office than when I held my full time teaching job. I still have lots of things that keep my busy. We have a six bedroom house and lots of outside area that needs care. My husband and I, now that our children have or are preparing to take flight from the nest, are fixing up here and there in preparation of selling the homestead. I'm glad I have time for that and to visit my elderly mother, but I still consider myself to have a full time job. Would I feel that way if I wrote one hundred pages in six months?

If one is working at a full time job, writing in the evenings and on weekends, one hundred pages could be pretty good. If one is in the midst of child rearing, one hundred pages is quite an accomplishment. If you think you're busy when they're infants, wait until the teen years. But if I left everything behind and had nothing to do except feed myself, do occasional laundry and walk on the seaside, would I be thrilled with one hundred pages in six months? I don't think so.

Are writing retreats good ways to get the creative juices flowing? Is surrounding oneself with nothing but the book the way to get that novel done? I'm sure it is for some people. I've read other stories of writers who retreated to quiet and isolation when creating their jewels. As NaNo approaches for many people, not me, I'm sure lots of the participants will be pounding the keyboards at lunch breaks, while fixing dinner, in between loads of laundry and perhaps even while working on the treadmill. And some of them will produce jewels, maybe still unpolished, but rich just the same.

If you had the chance to isolate yourself and write without any distractions, how much would you expect yourself to produce? Have you ever taken a writing retreat? Where did you go and how much did you get done? Have you ever considered taking the plunge, quitting the day job and trying to make it as a writer?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What Makes a Monster?

I'm not a big fan of Halloween. We lived miles from anyone when I was growing up and we never went trick or treating. Not even once. As a mother, I never gave my children candy when they were little, and none of them developed a taste for it. Still I took them around the block to trick or treat but most of the candy ended up at school, given to my students. Costumes were always a chore for me, probably because I have no enthusiasm for the holiday. I played the good mother and tried to make sure my kids found costumes they'd like. They always wanted to be heroes, nary a monster or goblin among them. Ninjas, Power Rangers, Batman, Superman, whomever the hero  de jour.

Zombies are a popular choice for monster apparel in recent years and I expect we'll have some of them knocking on our door next week. And other monsters. As I prepare for the release of my fantasy novel, First Dragon, I've taken a bit of time to think about what really makes a monster. The second novel in The Morbunda Saga delves into that question as the characters in the series are forced to fight battles that seem to have no winner and sometimes no clear sides of good and evil.

What monsters are scariest. Physically imposing predators, without mercy for their prey? Beastly killers with no capacity for humane mercy? A being with unstoppable magical powers? A technology with cold, superior intelligence and no warmth of emotions? Are monsters ugly or perhaps possessed of a beautiful exterior hiding the evil within?  Is a great white shark a monster because he kills without mercy, driven by instinct? Or is a human killing with forethought and planning the monster? Is what drives the monster the measure of his evil?

In First Dragon, monsters of many types make an appearance. Some know they are monsters and others fear that they are. Some behave as monsters and believe themselves heroic.

I think I would find a magician who could do mind control to be a very, very frightening thing. What kind of monster do you think would be scariest? What Halloween costume was your favorite or your children's favorite? Do you have a favorite monster movie?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Inspiration and Comfort

I opened my email yesterday to a big surprise. The ARC of my upcoming release, First Dragon, was in my inbox for a last read through before its November first release from Crescent Moon Press. I've been expecting it, but not on a Sunday.

I'd planned a trip to the local BAM to relax in the café, plan my blogs for the week and work on War Dragon, book #2 in The Morbunda Saga. Instead, I had an ARC to read. I warned the my husband and son not to bother me as I settled myself at my writing desk and went to work. The two men headed out to a local sports bar to watch football and leave me in peace.

And peaceful it was. I couldn't help but notice as I stood up to walk around every so often or to refill my coffee all the things I gathered around me in my writing for comfort. Things given to me by my supportive family. Some assist me and some just make me smile and keep on working.

My oldest son bought me this cool ceramic jar when he was a student at Gettysburg College. I use it to keep paper clips of all sizes and styles.

My daughter made me this ceramic cup I use to keep my glasses in. Yes, I have way too many.

My youngest son gave me this little speaker set for my iPod so I can listen to some tunes when I write.

My daughter gave me this really cool feather quill that I still can't write with, at least not very well.

My middle son and my daughter gave me these cards, one inspired by Dr. Who and the Wonder Woman in thanks for doing so much for them. I keep those where I can see them all the time.

Besides the comfort of their gifts surrounding me, the ARC itself inspired me to work for ten straight hours. The font selected by the editors for the chapter headings and page headings was so cool, I can't wait to share with everyone next week. The work the editorial staff did on the book was top notch. It was exciting.

Other things inspiring me everyday I sit at the computer are the people I know in the blogging community. Two great places to share and receive wisdom are the IWSG blog and the IWSG Facebook Page.

What things give you comfort in your workspace? Is your family supportive like mine? Have you visited IWSG today? Is your desk home to some beloved things or do you keep it bare and clear? What is the longest you've spent at your writing desk in one day?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Readers Have Feelings Too

It would be difficult to find a person who would argue that reading is bad for a person, at least in the civilized parts of the world. I know there are parts of planet Earth where certain persons prefer the population remain illiterate and ignorant. But most people know that reading is a good thing.

Most parents know they should read to their children from an early age, perhaps even before birth. Some studies say it doesn't even matter that much what you read to them. As children get older and become full grown adults in love with reading, they select what they want to read. The benefits are life-long. I came across, thanks to an RWA newsletter, another side benefit of reading.

This results of this study, published in The Atlantic, link what people read with their social abilities. Things such as skills in reading emotions in other people and sensitivity to other people are linked to what they read. Readers of fiction are more emotionally sensitive than readers of nonfiction and readers of romance are the most likely to read other people correctly.

The study does pose the question of the chicken and the egg. Do sensitive people read more fiction or romance, or do they become more sensitive because they read fiction?

What do you think, chicken or egg? Did your parents read to you or did you read to your children? Do you agree with The Atlantic?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Dark, Dark Night On a Dark, Dark Street

When my boys were little they asked my husband to read and reread this little book. I wish I still had it. It was about a father and son skeleton going out on the town. I can only remember the start, "It was a dark, dark night on a dark, dark street in a dark, dark town..." You get the idea. My husband would read it to them in his dark, dark voice.

I always think of that book for some reason when people talk about the dark moment in their novel. Movies and TV shows have dark moment too. You know that point in the story when despair and desperation sets in. Everything that could go wrong does and maybe a little bit more. There's no way out for the good guys. The best dark  moments have physical and emotional dangers ready to pull the protagonists into the abyss of failure. The dark moment can only be conquered only by the hero or heroine making a decision or taking a chance that requires sacrifice of some sort.

I'm in the middle of writing the dark moment in my current WIP, War Dragon, the sequel to First Dragon. In a series with an ongoing saga like my current works, there's a dark moment in each book. But each book also builds toward the greater dark moment of the series. The good guys are losing ground in each book. Which brings me to the next point.

The main characters have to be tortured, hurt, trapped torn apart or something equally terrible to create a compelling dark moment. I'm cringing as I type in the horrors visiting my characters in the next 15K of manuscript. They won't all survive.  Now that's dark.

Do you have fun writing the dark moment or does it hurt you to hurt your characters? Have you ever watched a TV show and guessed at what time the dark moment will occur? Usually about 45-50 minutes in, I think. Have you read books where the dark moment was too easily solved?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Everyone Has One

Last week I raved about the getting back in the loop with my local chapter of RWA. A lot of things happened at the meeting and I came away energized. While there, I was fortunate to have some time to speak with a few members and share our publishing battle stories.

My writer friend had just had her one publisher close where she had a series of mystery books. The publisher was the first she'd worked with and she had a great relationship with the owners and editors. Though saddened and upset by the news, she immediately went to work and found a publisher, a bigger one, who wanted to take on her series. Out of the ashes rose a bigger, shinier opportunity.

We talked about working with our small presses, what we liked, what we didn't and where we hope our careers go. Both of us have similar plans and hopes though we're working with different publishers and don't write in the same genres. Both of us have a history that includes a publisher going out of business.

Another thing we shared was a story of an editor who was very difficult to work with. Though we both managed, having an unpleasant editor can really take the joy out of getting a book ready to be published. As we sat together and shared, I realized that despite the different types of writing we all do, most of us share the same experiences and the same goals. We all have stories of failure and stories of successes. Get a bunch of writers together and they have a story.

What story can you share of a success or failure? Bad publisher or editor? An agent who didn't do much for you? Do you work with more than one publisher? Are you friends with  other writers contracted by the same publisher as you?

Don't forget to stop by the IWSG blog and see what's happening there?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nobody Knows

About five years ago at a writing conference, I attended a workshop led by an editor from a major publishing house. His focus was on fantasy and science fiction. During the question and answer period, someone asked him what the next craze would be after vampires died out. (not that they every die, right?)

The editor laughed, pretended to look into a crystal ball and predicted zombies. He completely didn't mean it, but his educated guess was right. Who could have known that the TV series, The Walking Dead, would be such a hit? How about World War Z? Zombie books are everywhere.

I'm sure no one predicted the vampire rage five years before it stormed into our lives. And the Game of Thrones TV show is certainly helping elevate that genre also. Who could have predicted that?

No one. Nobody knows what the next craze might be. Fairy tale characters because of the TV show, Once Upon a Time? Heroic teams of crime fighters like the Agents of Shield? If you write books relative to the 'next big thing' your career could be ready to sky rocket. But no one knows what it is, so you have to just write the story that speaks to you. Write your thing as best as you can without trying to catch a trend.

Two years ago I started writing a dragon series for the epic fantasy market. First Dragon is coming out shortly. I never thought about The Hobbit when I wrote that first book, but I'm really, really hoping that Smaug will inspire readers to want more dragon in their lives.

What is the next big thing in your opinion? Are you looking forward to the next installment of The Hobbit? Do you think vampires have run their course?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bad Guys Have Feelings Too

As I plow through the third draft of War Dragon, the second book in my Morbunda Saga, I'm making sure I add depth to my bad guys. My villains are sure they're the good guys. They're waging war to right a societal wrong.

As I weave more background into the novel, the reasoning of my villains makes more and more sense. They're still ruthless bad guys, but the reader will understand where they're coming from.

One of the things I love about writing fantasy novels is how fantasy readers expect to see into the heads and hearts of multiple characters. This current novel reveals the plot through the eyes of six different characters.

Another thing I'm enjoying is the redemption of one villain from the first book in the series, and the descent into evil by one of the heroes.

One of the reasons I enjoy the show Once Upon a Time, is the complexity of the characters as their back stories are revealed. Everyone makes mistakes and they do regretful things. But most of the characters also do good things or think they are working for good. Captain Hook is one of the characters I hope is redeemed and perhaps he'll find his happy ending. And not just because he's a cutie.

Do you sometimes like the villains as much or more than the heroes? Do you enjoy writing them? Who is the most interesting bad guy you watched in a movie or read about in a book?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Writing Groups

The past Saturday was a special day for me. I mentioned in September that I rejoined RWA, mainly so I could rejoin the local chapter, CPRW. I finally attended a meeting with those wonderful people.

Not only did I see many familiar faces, I met many new additions to the group I'd been away from for a while. I'd kept in touch with a few people from the group and only realized just how much I missed them when I saw them again. But much had changed.

My wonderful friend, Ava Quinn, sat in the President's seat. She rules with a velvet covered glove. It's not easy to gather all those personalities onto the same track and keep the train moving forward. Lots of ideas for future events came up and discussion flew about the room. Ava gathered the threads together and gave them some direction so the actual exciting programs could happen. And reminded us why some couldn't. I seriously don't know how Ava finds the time to do everything she does, not just for CPRW but in her real life too. She's amazing.

To my extreme delight, I found a seat beside the past president, Misty Simon. If you have never read something by Misty and you like to grin and laugh when you write, check out her books. And she's as funny in person and so energetic there's nothing she won't take on.

Between the new members and the veterans, the mix of the group is quite diverse. Diversity means each person comes to the group with different needs and expectations. Companionship is nice, but there has to be more. On Saturday the talented Natalie Damschroder gave a mini workshop on how to use Track Changes. I really could have used that when I first had to work with an editor. As it was, I really only had one questions about Track Changes. And Natalie answered it!

If felt so wonderful to write down my goals again and know they'll be published in the newsletter so more than thirty other writers will know my plans for the month. I savored the segment of the meeting when people were honored for their recent successes and consoled for their rejections. I signed up for an online workshop the group is providing.

I could say more, but I feel like I'm gushing. Oh, and nothing to do with nothing, but look what interrupted me while I was writing this blog. This huge turtle was crossing my front yard. He paused for pictures but moved along pretty good when he thought we weren't looking.

Do you help turtles off the road? Have you taken any online workshops lately? Have your worked with Track Changes?

And don't forget to check out the new post at Insecure Writer's Support Group blog from none other than the Captain himself.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reading On the Cheap

I finally made the decision and bought a tablet. I couldn't help myself when Amazon offered the latest version of their seven inch HD Kindle for only $139. I have a ten dollar gift card, so it made it an easy choice. It arrived yesterday, a day earlier than predicted shipping date as often happens when dealing with the retail giant.

I haven't explored all the possibilities with my cool little tablet but it sure is fun to read on. It's easy to get to my Facebook and email accounts. I'll be able to use it to access my blog during my travels as well as Netflix and my Ultraviolet account. How fun is that?

Would I have preferred an iPad? Maybe, but I do have my iPhone for my music and a few games. There are so many options for tablets, but so far I'm happy and I didn't have to spend too much money.

In my Kindle account, I have lots of books I bought for free and others I bought for only a few dollars. There are lots of selections out there and you can bet I'll be searching for even more now that I have my lovely little Kindle.

Also on my desk is a stack of hardback books I borrowed from the library. Though I like to browse in the library, I often use the online catalog to request books by favorite authors including new releases. The wonderful library people pull those books off the shelves for me. Sometimes the books aren't in the local branch of our county wide system so another wonderful worker puts them on a truck and ships them to my local library. I can walk in the door, pull them off the special shelf and check out. So easy and quick, and cheap.

Do you download free books onto your eReader , computer or smartphone? Do you have a tablet? What kind? Is your library as terrific as mine is? Wasn't the kickoff of the IWSG website amazing?