It was a dark and stormy night…

I’m glad to say that I’ve survived the mutant vampire zombie invasion. October has become an excuse for programmers to parade out all manner of horror flicks. Break out the crappy special effects and pull up a bowl of popcorn. Unfortunately, vampires are out of season, zombies are so yesterday, and the favorite Halloween costume for the year is Charlie Sheen, the poster child for drugged up wackadoodles. Are we seeing the birth of a new horror genre?


It was a dark and stormy night. Matt tried once again to start the engine, but it refused to turn over. “I’m sorry,” he said to his cast of college companions, “but we’re going to have to walk. Maybe there’s a spooky old mansion nearby where we can split up and get picked off one by one.”

“Hooray!” Came the chorus from the back of the van.

They got out and started trudging up the street, when a sudden flash of lightning showed the unmistakable outline of a mansion. The garden was choked with weeds, and the mutant topiary zoo animals had branches sprouting at all angles, making them look like mutant topiary zoo animals.

“Spooky!” Wendy whispered, as they stepped up on the porch. The door opened before they could knock, and there stood a 20 year-old goddess wearing nothing but a lace teddy and a wicked grin.

“Ooh! You must be cold,” she said. “Come in so we can pick you off one by one.”

“Hooray!” they shouted.

Just then, a figure appeared at the top of the marble staircase. His hair was wild, his eyes were bloodshot, and there was a dusting of white powder around his nose. He was brandishing a machete and swigging from a bottle marked “Tiger Blood.” “You can start worshipping me any time now,” he slurred as he staggered down the stairs.

They watched in horror as he tripped and tumbled down the last three stair steps. The machete clattered to the floor, skittering past the goddess.

She picked it up gingerly, and said, “Looks like you lost your poker again. Don’t worry, baby. It happens to the best of men sometimes.”

With a muffled curse, the man lurched to his feet and lumbered toward the girls, his arms outstretched. “I have Adonis DNA,” he shouted. “They can’t make me wear the ugly shirts anymore!” With an ungainly leap he grabbed the machete from the goddess and began brandishing it in the air. “I’m winning!” he cried.

Suddenly, the lights went out, there was a great deal of shuffling and banging, and the college girls screamed. In the flicker of lightning, the doors flew open, and there stood Alan and Jake.

Jake stepped between the terrified co-eds and the machete wielding madman.

“C’mon, man. Isn’t it enough that we had to go all Ashton Kutcher on your ass?”

The Adonis wannabe dropped the machete and threw his hands over his ears. “La-la-la-la. I can’t hear you.”

Matt turned to Alan. “If he bites us, do we turn into arrogant wackadoodles too?” The other co-eds looked worried, since they were extras and more likely to be infected with the Adonis DNA.

“Don’t worry. We’ve put up with him for eight seasons, and we’re still normal.”

“C’mon guys.” Matt signaled to his friends. “I’m soooo going to talk to my agent. I think I’ll stick to zombie flicks from here on out. This guy makes the walking dead look normal.”

“Hooray for zombies!” they all cried, because sometimes, having your brains eaten isn’t such a bad thing.

Crossing Over: No, Not The Show With The Fake Psychic

William: Crossing over. It’s done from time to time with television shows, even with different production teams. Characters cross from one format to another, usually as a two part episode. It can also be useful if characters, institutions, or even references cross over between authors. And so it is that Norma and I have been talking recently about the subject.

Norma: Yes. Years ago, some of my author friends and I did crossovers–we featured each other’s characters in our books. I came up with a tabloid in my Silhouette Romance Something Old, the International Intruder. I lost track of how many books in which it appeared. We got letters from readers who’d picked up on the connection. “You all know each other, don’t you?” they’d ask in their letters.

William: It’s a fine way to give your readers a treat!
Norma: More recently, I decided to bring back characters from past novels for the Chasing the Wind series. Alexander Kiriakis from Dance of the Gods had his international conglomerate headquartered at the World Trade Center–the events of 9/11 opened up a new storyline for him and his family. Jaime Lynde of A Time for Legends (soon to be re-released as The Unicorn’s Daughter) is also returning–the recent events in Libya inspired a new direction for that character. And Collin and Ashley Deverell (Angels at Midnight) and their children will also have a new storyline.
William: Having had enjoyed Collin and Ashley in particular so much, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with them at this stage in their lives. And A Time For Legends/The Unicorn’s Daughter is certainly timely again with the Libyan revolution. It’s handy to write, even if you’re using different genres, for a shared universe. It makes that kind of crossover possible.
Obviously, a crossover requires some common traits. A novel that falls into the romantic comedy category wouldn’t mesh very well with another novel from the dystopian future. In our cases, though, that we both write in a real world setting. Characters like Collin and Ashley could conceivably be mentioned, for example, in one of my novels, for example, or in our joint work in the Same Time Tomorrow follow-ups. In fact, we’ve decided to start our own crossover with our male lead in Same Time Tomorrow, Gabriel Miller, meeting one of my characters, Tom Stryker, in my next book, Sword of the Faith.

Norma: You know, Collin and Ashley and their particular, uh, talents could indeed work in your books. Feel free to use them, partner!
William: I have considered using a jewel thief in a book…. or bringing in consultants in a future novel….
Norma: I thought from the beginning that there could conceivably be a link between Gabriel and Stryker. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do there. Also, I mentioned to Beth that I’d like to create a connection between our Same Time Tomorrow protagonists and her main characters from Wildflower, Sandy and Nick.
William: The shared universe keeps growing and growing that way! And with the Lynde family you’ve used in A Time For Legends, that genre is the same as Heaven & Hell, which gives the idea of a crossover a smooth, natural feel.
The idea we have at the moment is that Same Time Tomorrow and Heaven & Hell roughly overlap. Same Time Tomorrow begins in the early spring, and runs through to late summer. Heaven & Hell starts in February and goes until late April. We’ve decided that we can make an indirect note in Same Time Tomorrow about the events happening in Heaven & Hell. And down the line, with Sword of the Faith, it takes place a year earlier. Stryker is an archaeologist on a dig in Egypt. Gabriel, a photographer, meets him while on a photo assignment. And one of the benefits of writing a series is that we can have them meet again… which we’ll do in the follow up to Same Time Tomorrow, when Gabriel comes across a man he met a couple of years earlier…
Norma: I’m looking forward to that!
Readers love to see characters return, and this is a great way to do it. When I began to consider bringing back characters from twenty-plus years ago, I quickly saw how profoundly their lives had changed. Alexander, for example, lost his wife in a terrorist attack. He’ s raised their three children alone and now, in the years following 9/11, he’s dealing with resurrecting his conglomerate as well.
William: It’s an ideal way of revisiting old friends.
What sort of ground rules should there be in place for a crossover? I’d say that borrowing the character or characters requires that nothing out of character be done with them… that any participation in another book must be plausible and true to who they are. The timing of the character’s appearance in another writer’s book can’t conflict with anything the originating writer has in mind for them. And the originating writer ought to have a veto. If they feel the passage doesn’t suit their interpretation of their character, they have the right of first refusal.
Norma: I agree on all counts. I would only “borrow” characters from an author who’s a personal friend. Likewise for loaning mine out. For example, I have no doubts at all about letting William use any of my characters, because I know he’ll treat them with respect.
Does that sound corny, or does that sound corny?
William: Not at all!
Norma: I’ve written brief summaries of what my backlist characters have been up to in the years since their books were published and found they each have a lot of options open.
William: It’s a small world… and as long as it feels plausible that characters might cross each other’s paths, it can be a real source of fun to make use of someone else’s creation, to, in effect, play with someone else’s toys for a little while.
Norma: I also enjoy seeing how another author sees my characters!
William: Definitely! It’s a chance to see a character in a situation you might not otherwise put them in.
Norma: For example, I’m looking forward to seeing Gabriel as he was before he met Chloe.
William: Me too!
Borrowing characters from authors who trust that we’ll play nice with them is a rewarding experience. It exposes our readers to someone they might not have met yet, gives our fellow author some exposure, and creates the sense of a shared universe. Just as long as it doesn’t get silly. Such as something like, oh… Archie Meets The Punisher.

Norma: Yes, that would be stretching it a bit too far!

Writing: Creating Memorable Villains

            You don’t necessarily have to have a  traditional villain in your story. Sometimes the antagonist is a force of nature, or even something within the protagonist himself. (I don’t mean literally, although – have you seen Alien?)

            But if you’re going to have a villain, make him a great one. What makes a memorable villain?

            Darn good question. Although a one-dimensional villain can work (Terminator),  you usually want to avoid the trap of a cackling, mindlessly cruel, cookie-cutter bad guy (unless you have a specific reason for that – there are always exceptions). In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West was a fun villain, but she didn’t quite reach the great category because she was all evil. We know she wants her sister’s slippers because they hold great power, but she doesn’t seem all that upset about her sister being killed. How did she come to be in charge in the Winkie country? In the book version, how did she lose her eye?

            She becomes more interesting – although no longer quite the villain – in Wicked, the love it or hate it reimagining in which we learn how she came to be in that castle in the first place.

            So the first lesson of creating villains is to make them real people. Give them a reason for what they’re doing, a background, and more qualities than just a desire to blow up London. Speaking of London, an example can be found in Ernst Blofeld, from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

            Blofeld is the leader of an international criminal organization but also, we learn, an economist and political history buff, former stockbroker, and turncoat war hero. He also doesn’t smoke, drink, or have sex, which perhaps explains his general bad attitude. There’s something going on in his brain beyond “Must get richer” and “Don’t tell Bond your plans next time”.

            So, your bad guy has to be well rounded, and it might be good to give him a sense of humor: Hannibal Lector was scariest when he was being witty.

In addition to that, if you want to take your villain from good to great, remember this one rule: Bad guys don’t think they’re bad.

            The really interesting villain in The Wizard of Oz is the Wizard himself, a feared and fearful legend who never leaves the palace and is never seen. Despite the fact that he’s a dictator who committed fraud against an entire nation, not to mention (according to later books) plotted to kidnap and hide the true ruler of Oz, he insists he’s not a bad man at all – just a bad Wizard.

            The moment that curtain is knocked over, and the Wizard is revealed to be a timid little circus performer from Omaha, he becomes a character so interesting that fans eventually convinced L. Frank Baum to bring him back to Oz in a sequel.

            Which brings us to Darth Vader.

            Like the Wizard, Darth Vader is mysterious, powerful, and scary. That voice, the outfit, choking a guy with his frakking mind … wow. But, like the Wizard throughout most of Baum’s first book, he’s strictly one dimensional. At the end of the first Star Wars movie most fans were probably thinking more about the neat ships, lightsabers, and whether Leia would ultimately go for the good guy or the bad boy, than about what went on in Vader’s brain.

            Aren’t we glad Leia chose the bad boy?

            In the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, something seems off. Granted, Vader must be upset about losing the Death Star, but why is he so intent on capturing Luke alive? How did he even find out Luke was involved in that battle? Why put so many resources into chasing down one guy and his arguable unimportant band of allies? Vader’s still two dimensional, but getting interesting. We knew he’d killed Luke’s father, and was once the student of Luke’s Jedi Knight hero. There was a history. What was it?

            You see, it wasn’t Vader’s villainy that was fascinating, it was those unanswered questions. How the heck did he end up in that cool black mask, anyway?

            Then – spoiler alert, for those three people in Dubai who don’t know – everything changed. At the end of Empire, Vader said one line that turned him instantly from a memorable bad guy to one of the greatest movie villains of all time:

            “Luke … I am your father.”

            I was fortunate enough to be in the theater at an early showing, before everyone got spoiled. Talk about a communal gasp. In the words of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama: “Whaaaaa?????”

            By the end of the third movie we saw an entirely different Vader: Still strong, skillful and ruthless, certain he’s in the right (“together we can bring order …”) but now conflicted, and with a past that showed he used to be one of the good guys, but got turned around. Whether you liked or hated the later prequels, all Star Wars fans were looking forward to finding out what happened along his journey.

            That’s a well-rounded character.

            Of course, your character will be on the page instead of the screen (unless you’re writing a screenplay), so the black suit won’t be nearly as effective. A better example might be Severus Snape, from the Harry Potter books.

            Talk about a rotten person. He’s an egotistical teacher who bullies his students and plays favorites, he absolutely despises little twelve year old Harry Potter for no good reason, and he kills one of the main good guys!

            Ah … but (spoiler alert!) as time goes by we get suspicious, and at the end comes one of the greatest twists of any book series ever: Throughout it all, the evil Snape has been protecting our hero, despite working for the enemy and despising Harry’s father. Why?

            Because as a boy Snape loved and lost the girl who married James Potter … and Harry has his mother’s eyes.

            Just like that, Snape become a flawed, haunted human being, dedicated to protecting the child who reminded him all too much of his past.

             You could argue that in the end Snape was a hero, rather than villain. Still, the rules apply:

            Give your villain a reason for doing what he does, so he’s not just some random maniac. (On the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike loves killing, but is also on a mission to restore the health of the woman he loves.)

            Give some insights into the bad guy’s past. If he’s stalking teenage coeds, maybe he was bullied in high school. If he’s ruthlessly trying to get rich, maybe he grew up poor and hungry. If he’s just plain crazy, explain how he got to be that way – but insert your back story in little bites, and don’t overdo it. Nobody said it was easy.

            If he has a good side (most people do), show it. On the TV show Glee, the vicious cheerleader coach suddenly lets a girl with Down’s syndrome onto the squad. Everyone assumes she’s up to some evil plan – until she’s revealed tenderly caring for her own Down’s stricken sister. She didn’t get less nasty, but she did become more human.

            And that made a great villain.

Writing Do’s and Don’ts

When writing, it can be integral to write so that you capture the readers’ attention.  Keep your writing as interesting as possible, but without too many ‘fillers’ (sentences that repeat, words that aren’t additionally needed to express what you’re getting across in your works), and write with the readers in mind, as though you are reading the words you are writing as you write them.   This can help keep your words written in such a way that can be read with ease.  Also, write without making everything too technical and drawn out when writing, focusing only on what you are trying to get across in your work, plus write with passion.  Then work on the revising and editing after each chapter, piece, etc. that you are writing, later on.  Doing this will help make your writing flow, more easily and more freely, plus, it will make a world of difference in your writing when you do this, and will capture and hold the readers’ interests, easier.

When writing the details of your characters or of situations in your works, put in your all.  What I mean by this is to write with everything you have of your thoughts, feelings, and passion.  The characters and situations will be sharper, seem more real, and it could then be easier for readers to identify with the characters and the situations.  And, the readers’ interests can be captured and held, easier.

When writing poems or prose, the style in which you write can make all the difference.  If you have a narrative you want to express, writing in prose can be better than writing a poem.  Writing in traditional style of poetry can work well to express about love, lost lost, desires, or about feelings.  But it might not work well if you are wanting to really want to make your words ‘speak.’  What I mean by that is that writing about love lost could work better in prose if you want the main focus on the piece to be solely about the subject, itself, and want to emphasise the piece, more strongly.  Prose can be a good form in which to do exactly that.  Plus prose pieces are often spoken at Spoken Word events because of the rawness in which subjects are written and expressed.  Poems can also show rawness of the subject written about, as well, but not necessarily as strongly as prose pieces.  And prose pieces can actually be easier to write than traditional forms of poetry because it doesn’t focus on iambic pentameter that is so common in traditional poetry, nor on grammar so much as just the narrative aspects of writing.  Additionally, writing with feelings, first, no matter in what form of poetry you are writing, is key.  Here, too, writing with feeling does help, immensely.  And, writing with pure passion and completely from feelings with feeling is key to completely get across whatever it is about that you are writing.  Again, it is best to focus on the grammar, revision, and editing after you are finished writing what you want to express because focusing on it before finishing writing your work can interupt your thought processes, and, therefor, can create writer’s block, however temporary that may be in duration.

If writer’s block does happen, it can be okay to take a break for a bit and then come back to writing whatever you were working on, previously.  Meditation, listening to music, or just clearing your thoughts for a bit can help relax you.  And when that happens, sometimes, your mind and thoughts goes back on track, again, or can be put back on track, again, well, to what you’d been writing about, and continue forward.  Writing can then sometimes be continued at this point when this happens.

If writing novels or something where you aren’t trying to express about sad experiences, situations, or subjects, adding humour into your work can really be positive and keep the reader upbeat while reading your work.  Additionally, in some cases, such as in stories, articles, etc., adding humour or writing with humour can make a piece or story that is sad or that has sad parts within it seem a little nicer, more positive, and easier to read.  Adding humour can make all the difference in pieces and stories.  It might not work as well, though, within poetry.

Writing with time can be an issue for many writers.  Deadlines can come up, which, in turn, can make stress happen.  Writing something when you have a deadline for it to be finished can be stressful.  How do you write something, well, when you know you have a deadline?  By following the following tips:

  •  Don’t fret.  Just do.  Worrying about deadlines can actually clutter the mind, thereby, making writing with ease more difficult, and can cause writer’s block.
  • Take deep breathes, count to ten, and clear your mind (if practised, enough, clearing one’s mind can be done quickly and effortlessly.  So, if you aren’t used to clearing your mind, getting into practise, now, could help you get used to doing so.  And then, doing so can get easier to where you can do so, quicker, and with much more ease).
  • Take a five minute break, if need be, then get back to work.  But keep to a schedule, even if you have to add into that schedule of taking a 5 minute break every two or three hours.  Taking a short break every so often from working can help to destress.  Stretch your legs during that break, or go get a low cal snack as that can also be good for the body to keep your nutrition up.
  • Don’t forget to eat.  I’ve found while in college, that I often had forgotten to eat while I was studying so much.  Not eating can affect how well we do things (studying, writing, etc.).  So, keep up your nutrition, often.  Even schedule that into your schedule to remind yourself to eat, if you need to do so in order to keep up your nutrition.
  • Don’t rush through your writing.  Doing so can affect how well your writing is.
  • Relax.  This can help, especially if you don’t work well under pressure.  Relax and writing can then come to you, more easily, hence, making more writing get done, which can make beating that deadline, easier.
  • Keep a schedule.  Keeping a schedule can help keep one on track.
  • Keep organised.  A messy desk might not help in trying to get writing done.

Another writing tip is to use Microsoft Word 2010 of Microsoft Office (2010) if you can afford to get it because it has a lot of features that some other programmes do not have.  Plus, converting Word files you have into PDF files can be more easily done without any issues using this programme.  And, links added into files that are of PDF files do work and can be clicked on.  I know that some other programmes didn’t allow for this.  But, this particular programme does without any functionality issues of that type.  The Font and number of options of things you can do with this programme are numerous and wonderful.  The Windows Live office is also a good programme to use for writing.  I’ve used that in the past, as well.  Google Docs is another programme writers can use that I recommend because it can also be used for free and it allows you to save your documents to your hard drive.  I also recommend another programme called ‘QuiteWrite”  Its editor is out of the way, which allows you to completely focus on your writing that way.  Plus, your writing is automatically saved as you write, so that you don’t lose anything you’ve written before your current part that you are writing.  Additionally, you can share your work you’ve written on this with others, and export them to your WordPress blog if you want any of your writings exported to your WordPress blog if you have a WordPress blog.

Writers’ sites can help in your writing.  They can help you to gain critiquing of your writing, there, gain friends, plus interact with other writers about writing and subjects related to writing.  Plus, you can gain experience in sharing your work.  Occasionally, these types of site have writing contests to which you can enter.  A writers’ site I recommend to which I, myself, belong, is Writer’s Digest (

Gain feedback for your work. Gaining feedback for your work can be a real help when writing because it can catch any errors you’ve made and help you to know what works, better, well, or of what doesn’t work better or well. Also, gain feedback for style and structure of your work , and use Beta readers (readers who read and then give feedback about grammar, spelling, characterisation, format, etc.; a reader who critiques writer’s writings (Mike Saxton, a wonderful writer and another member of Writers of Mass Distraction, came up with this piece of advise, which is really good advise).  Thank you, Mike, for mentioning about these pieces of advise.

Research what you write.  It can be good to research what you write to ensure accurate details about the facts in which you are expressing when you add the facts into your writings.  If writing on subjects into poems, prose, or any type of poetry, research might not be needed.  But, using the experiences you’ve gone through, or that you’ve seen, heard, or learned of others having gone through about that you are writing can then be what to write about when writing poetry, and can be sufficient, enough.

Use a ‘Persuasion Map’ (  A Persuasion Map’ is a tool writers can use to map out their aurgements of their thesis to help them write their thesis.  But, I’ve found that it can help writing for other types of writing, well, and for helping me to organise, better, my writing, and help me in reasoning to myself how is the best way to write my pieces.  It can be a useful tool.

Use a tool called a ‘Notetaker’ (  It can help you take notes on what you read, help you organise, revise, and plan out your writing, which can help you when your pressed for time while writing.  If you’re a first-time writer, or if you are pressed for time, this can be a helpful tool.

Even after having taken everything else that has been stated, above, into account, the most important thing in writing can be to have fun.  Have fun writing, cus, even if nothing else is done, this can make a difference.  It will show within your work when you have had fun writing your piece, stories, poems, etc., and that can still keep readers’ interests.  That, plus having fun writing can be uplifting for those who write.  Have fun, and happy writing!

April Morone

Marketing to Other Authors

We hear it and read it all the time. “Being an author is 10% writing and 90% marketing” or “The majority of the marketing is done by the author, no matter who the publisher is” or other such sayings. Pretty much, they’re true, or at least as close to the truth as we can realistically get. I’ve already discussed such topics as getting dazzled by numbers or book trailers. The next thing I want to discuss is marketing to other authors.

If you go to various online communities with fellow authors, you’ll typically find a certain camaraderie (with some exception, there are jerks in every group) where authors are helping out other authors. Actually, that’s pretty much the foundation for the Writers of Mass Distraction. Authors support each other in numerous ways including marketing tips, review exchanges, and even purchasing each other’s books (especially when they’re available cheaply in eBook format). This is all valid. Strength in numbers. Also, there is nothing like getting a thumbs up from a fellow author on your own writing. It’s done all the time whether it be the unknown author or the bestselling author.

One thing we need to watch, however, is the trap where we focus too hard on marketing our books to fellow authors. Here’s an example. You’re new book was released today. You’re real excited (and who wouldn’t be). You’re a little nervous (or a lot, like I was). The first thing you need to do is remind people that it’s out. So you log into Writers Digest, the Book Marketing Network, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. and start posting. There’s a problem though. You just found half a dozen ways to send the message to the same group. Why?

Well, the Book Marketing Network has many of the same people as Writers Digest. On top of it, what I have seen with many authors is that the majority of their “friends” and “followers” in Facebook and Twitter are fellow authors. The same thing with other social media sites. I’m actually no exception to this. To top it all off, we then go into the chat forums on Amazon, Shelfari, and Goodreads and into the discussion groups where authors are allowed to plug their books. The problem with these discussion groups is that they’re frequented more often by authors than by readers looking for the next book. Readers go to each other’s discussion groups to find out the latest scoop. Of course, if you decide to start plugging yourself in those areas, you’re probably going to get ridiculed and tossed out as a spammer.

Another issue I’ve noticed is marketing firms who build marketing networks of pretty much nothing but authors. So now you’re paying to advertise your work through this firm who has built their social media and email distribution list of almost entirely other authors who also paid for the service. When signing up for such a service, first check how many followers or friends they have (depending on the site). Take a look at the profile of them (random spot checks are fine) to see how many are other authors (one particular agency I looked at boasted about their social media networks and had numerous accounts but in total had no more than 300 followers, all authors). I can tell you that your average reader has no need to sign up for the mailing list of a book marketing firm as they are not into book marketing, they’re into book buying. They are more likely to sign up for review publications. Along with that, beware of email blasts. The last statistic I saw is that less than 1% of emails sent this way actually lead to a sale.

Is this to say that you shouldn’t send notice of your new release through your social networks of author friends? Not at all. I love seeing when an author friend or acquaintance comes out with a new book. Matter of fact, I’ve reviewed several of these and will continue to do so. Many other authors feel the same way. It’s good for us to support each other. Also, an author who likes your book will probably share the recommendation with non-author friends, the same way any other reader would so marketing to authors is still marketing and spreading the word. The thing is though, we are a small community so if you are looking for wider distribution, diversify. Spending exorbitant amounts of time or money on marketing to fellow authors is just unneeded. Your friends and acquaintances will probably buy your book the first time they see it listed, especially if you have done the same for them (some don’t but very little is 100%). The other side of this is to be weary of paid for services that use our camaraderie as a way to make money off of us. No need to hand over your hard earned cash for an outsider to do something it would have taken you five minutes to do yourself.