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?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Insecure Writers Support Group Welcomes You!

Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh has had some great ideas in the past few years. If you've read his books, you know about some of them. Unless you've been writing on an island using squid ink the last two years, you've probably heard of his brainy idea called the Insecure Writers Support Group. Alex gave birth to this tiny genius and nursed it along on his blog. Like all healthy newborns, it grew and grew and grew, maturing until it was ready to move out on its own. Today the IWSG opens the doors of its new home to everyone interested in looking for support, offering support, or just having some interaction with other writers.

I'm thrilled to be part of the new blog. You can get all the details on the site and read the introduction penned, well typed, by our captain. What can you learn from the IWSG blog about writing? Everything. Anything. That would take thousands, millions maybe, of pages. What you will find are resources, links, lists of places to look for the answers you need.

You know the smartphone ads that say 'there's an app for that.' Well on the IWSG blog, we have a link for that.

Who are we? Alex J. Cavanaugh, Joy Campbell, Michele Wallace, Joylene Nowell Butler, L. Diane Wolfe, Lynda Young and me. We've all had a part, but I've been amazed at the expertise and hard work already contributed by my partners in this endeavor. We're all people like you, writers making our way through the complicated world of publishing. But none of us have to do it alone. Join us at the new blog. Follow us and put us on your favorites list so you can come back often.

Have you followed the new site yet? Do you know my partners in crime?