Distractions: to a writer they can come in all sorts of things, good as well as bad. To me it means … Well, come to think of it, to me it means getting involved in things that have to do with writing, at least sideways, but it means I then do a lot less writing than I should/could. Hey, I’m not complaining, because those distractions are no more than exercises in writing.

How else would you call squeezing a full, head on, in your face marketing of your book in a mere *scurries off to check* Yes, just 140, one hundred and forty, characters to use in an eloquent way telling readers they should really buy our books.

Or keep up a consistent stream of entertaining blog posts that not only show how well you can write, but invites people (read potential readers of our books) to join our blogs and have our network of fellow indie authors on the ready to do the same. Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy giving other writers a platform onto which they can showcase themselves and their books, but it is mighty distracting, not to say time gobbling.

And then I haven’t even mentioned the Book of Faces. Yes, my friends that one place where I seem to land in jail time and time again for being too friendly/connecting/sharing, while that is the reason I signed up on there. Good thing too, since I’ve found you bunch there. 🙂

Anyway, distractions or the digital kind aren’t all bad, but they can get the writer’s mind, not to say the panties, in a twist and the flow of the writing pace halted.

Shoot! I’ve not even mentioned real life! Can we just do away with that? Why do we need to go out and get groceries or prepare meals, or sleep, for that matter? Right, because if we let the body perish the mind shrivels too and no writing gets done at all. And let’s not forget about those surrounding us writers telling us not to spend all those hours on the computer, wanting attention and things done. Distracting us from what matters most when the story is on a roll and words are flowing freely.

Writing is what matters, but distractions aren’t all bad. There’s parties and nice conversations, which spark new ideas for stories. And there is the very human need to be distracted every now and then. At least I need those delightful distractions to keep me going.

Anyway, there you have it. A lot of words on a topic one can never get a single minded solution for. Because let’s face it, I can be hammering away on my keyboard while music blasts through the house while you might just need peace and quiet.

There is however probably one thing most writers seem to need, or rather two if I may believe my fellow Distractees, and that is coffee and chocolate. 🙂

Happy distractions and I’ll see you all while you’re distracted from writing. Right?


A Celtic Tapestry: Mist And Magic

celtic tapestry

Hunter S. Jones has been busy as of late, collaborating with seven fellow writers on A Celtic Tapestry, an anthology of short stories. Moon Rose Publishing will be releasing the book on the 21st of March, and you can find details on the release through her blog http://www.thehuntersjones.blogspot.ca/.

Here’s a taste of what you’ll find it’s about:

The wheel of the year turns, bringing the joy of spring, the warmth of summer, the richness of autumn, and the merriment of winter. But eight Celtic festivals link these seasons together, bringing with them romance, lust, danger, and even magic. From a city under threat from night-time creatures at Ostara, to a selkie caught by the light of the Lughnasadh moon, to a writer caught in the flames of a fiery goddess at Imbolc.
Eight authors have come together to give their own twist on these festivals, weaving each story with a blend of myth, magic, and contemporary telling…to create A Celtic Tapestry

                                                             Livia Ellis
                                                         Hunter S Jones
                                                         Laura De Luca
                                                         Elodie Parkes
                                                          Elle J Rossi

                                                        Miranda Stork
                                                        Carolyn Wolfe
                                                   Tara Stogner Wood

Lorelei Bell: Vampire Nocturnes And Giveaways

Vampire Nocturne, by Lorelei Bell

Vampire Nocturne, by Lorelei Bell

Sabrina is becoming a magical creature—not just a clairvoyant with a ring that thwarts a vampire’s thrall. In this exciting third installment, Sabrina learns how to travel the ley lines, and travels to another world called Beyond the Black Veil ~ a world where vampires outnumber humans ten to one, and humans are merely blood donors and objects of their sexual desires.

The Dagger of Delphi becomes her weapon of choice. And what becomes of Dante Badheart, whose spirit essences is contained in the stone he gave her when last he spoke to her from the dead, is another mystery that intrigues her.

Sabrina Strong’s cousin, Lindee, has disappeared, and when she goes to the last place Lindee was seen, she finds herself transported to another world and century, where vampires rule. While trying to solve the mystery of where Lindee could be in this world, Sabrina encounters Drakulya—the real-life Dracula—a.k.a. The Impaler—who has somehow managed to become a vampire living in this strange world, and rules as King.
The brief take from Lorelei Bell on her book Vampire Nocturne. This weekend, Lorelei is marking the release of her book with a giveaway at her blog. For three days starting tomorrow, she’s marking the occasion with four copies for your perusal. Go on over to her page at http://loreleismuse-lorelei.blogspot.ca/ for the details!
And it doesn’t involve sparkly vampires. All the better.

Preplanning your novel

Okay, so you’re ready to start your novel …

Aren’t you?

I started one on January 2nd, with the goal of writing around 5,000 words a week and having the first draft finished by spring. But I’ve been planning that start for weeks. Let’s take a look at planning that might – or might not – work for you.

Which comes first, character or the plot? Well, you can’t go far without figuring that out, but the answer is a matter of opinion. I start with a plot idea:

“What would happen if a photographer from California arrived in rural Indiana predicting an oncoming storm, only to lock horns with a cop who hates photographers – and Californians?”

That one sentence began a yearlong project that eventually turned into my first published novel, Storm Chaser. For the sequel, I started out with another basic question:

“What if the photographer’s infamous ne’er-do-well brother heard about his sister’s new relationship and determined to be her wedding planner as a way of making up with her, despite having absolutely no experience in wedding planning?”

(Oh, come on – Storm Chaser is a romantic comedy: Surely it’s not a spoiler to say the story ended with a new relationship?)

In the end, plot based stories often begin with “What if?” followed by “What then?”

Character based stories, on the other hand, often begin – wait for it – with a strong character:

“Fran Mendoza-Vargas is a no-nonsense cop who worked her way past sexism and racism to become a young Indiana State Police detective. A third generation Mexican-American, she’s become popular around town for her cheeriness and optimism, but has sacrificed her personal life in favor of her job.”

Okay, we have the basics of our character. What then? Maybe the next step will be to ask, “What would happen if the straitlaced Fran encountered legendary bad boy Ian Grant, who seems determined to screw up the life of her new friend, the photographer?”

There, in two sentences, you have the base of my entire Storm Chaser sequel, despite the fact that I then fill it out with a three page long (single spaced) outline.

Oh, yeah … the outline.

To outline or not to outline? There’s a question that could cause fist fights at writer’s conferences. “Pantsers” are loud and clear: Outlines constrict them. These writers simple start out, and see where the path leads them.

I tried that approach. If you want proof, I give you an entire box full of half-completed manuscripts.

However, for some people it does work, and more power to them. If you decide to outline, how should you do it?

Any way you want. I don’t have roman numerals, capital letters, and so on. I just jot down the events of the story in order, sometimes throwing in specific scenes and even quotes, sometimes leaving it very spare and basic. You don’t have to use some specific format; this isn’t going to be turned in to your English teacher – it’s just for you. If a page of scribbling works, fine. If you like a detailed, numbered, scene by scene breakdown, that’s fine too.

It’s just a guideline, and my stories frequently stray from it as the characters come alive and new ideas pop up. (Where the heck did that horse come from, anyway? No idea.) But even if I decide to choose a different path entirely, the finish line is there to guide me on my way.

Speaking of characters coming alive, I like to fully create my characters before I start on the outline, in case they grab me by the short hairs and tell me they’re not going the direction I planned. Some writers say they have complete control over their characters at all time; but if I do my job right they come alive for me, and sometimes they’ll tell me they just wouldn’t do what was in my original plan. Thus the fight at the end of chapter one, which surprised me as much as them.

What do I know about my characters before I start? Their looks, all their family and friend relationships, their job, past jobs, past loves, pets, desires, dreams, fears, favorite and least favorite seasons, foods, cars, books, TV shows, movies, hobbies …

Well, the list goes on and on. Do a search for “creating characters”, or get a good book on characterization, and you’ll find all sorts of good lists. By the time you’re done, you should know not only what they look like and how they’d react in any situation, but every little thing about them, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Most of which your reader will never learn about. Research should be like an iceberg, with most of it never seen. Just the same, research the heck out of each and every person in your story unless they’re a very minor character, and sometimes even then.

So, you’ve got your plot idea, your characters, and your outline. What else? That’s the big stuff, other than stocking up on caffeinated drinks. For Storm Damage most of my characters were already created, but I went back and looked through their files. I also had to keep a timeline and a separate page of clues, because there’s a bit of a mystery involved in this one.

Since it’s set in my home area I don’t have to do a lot of location research, but be prepared to have a file (computer, print, or both) to keep any information you need to have on hand. When I set my novel Radio Red in northern lower Michigan – a six hour drive away – I collected all the information I could on the area, up to and including maps, tourist flyers, photos, and even video, as well as making several trips up there.

Research has to include your characters’ jobs too, of course. I immersed myself in studying weather for Storm Chaser, and used my experience as a part time radio personality to create a main character in Radio Red.

This is far from a complete list. There are issues of naming your characters, for instance – that could make for a whole piece by itself. But planning ahead a little, even if you don’t want a complete outline, can make the writing itself go a lot faster.

Remember, though: Your rough draft is allowed to stink. If you miss something along the way, or decide you’re writing in the wrong tense, or the story goes off the rails, just take a step back (or go for a long walk, or scream into a pillow), then come back and fix things. That’s what rough drafts are for.

The More Things Change…Well, You Know the Rest

I’ve been a published author for almost twenty-four years now. A lot has changed since I started out. I’m an old-school author. When a friend and fellow writer told me the freelance editor she’d hired had pitched her manuscript at a writers conference, I was amazed. I already had an agent and a publisher before I attended my first conference, but I knew from writers who had made the rounds that if they didn’t show up in person for the meetings, they were out of luck. It took me a while to figure out terms like beta readers and steampunk. These things didn’t exist when I was being groomed for literary stardom back in the mid-eighties.

Seriously. The words “We’re going to make you a star” were uttered. Many times. And they wondered why I developed such an insatiable ego.

We didn’t have Facebook or Google or Amazon back then. We didn’t have the luxury of promoting our books online via Skype. There was no such thing as social networking or blogging or e-mail. Authors didn’t have websites. There were no e-books and the only form of self-publishing–a vanity press–was for writers content to pay a lot of money for a few boxes of books that were usually only read by friends and family. Publishers had to type press releases on paper, of all things. They had to use Snail Mail to send out bound galleys to book reviewers and media people who might be interested in doing an interview with the author. Author tours always involved air travel and hotel rooms.

But some things never change. If you want to be reviewed by the major book reviewers, you have to get your ARCs (advanced reading copies) to them one to three months prior to publication. The mainstream media will not interview an author until they actually have a book to promote.

Dance of the Gods Cover

Berkley Books bought my first novel, Dance of the Gods, on April 26, 1985. It was published on May 1, 1988–three years later. The publicity department did not schedule me for a single interview prior to May 1, 1988. Why? It would have been pointless. Doing publicity too soon would have been counterproductive. I was a new author no one had ever heard of. Since I wasn’t yet a bestselling author or a celebrity and didn’t have a large following for some other achievement, had I done interviews months prior to publication, book buyers would likely have forgotten who I was by the time my novel was in the bookstores.

Today, an unpublished author can build a following–to an extent–through blogging and posting updates on Facebook. But don’t expect Today or Good Morning America to book you for an appearance until you have a book in print.

Yes, My Protagonist Can Take Things Seriously

I suppose I have my mother to thank for getting me to love the classic era of movies. That, and Saturday Night At The Movies, which, when I was growing up aired classic black and white films, hosted by a fellow who knew what he was talking about. Between the two, I’ve gotten to find a wealth of terrific films that most people would easily ignore. And by most people, the sort who think that real movies started in 1975, and everything that came before was boring.

Among the actors of the classic era were two who worked together many times, William Powell and Myrna Loy. Six of their films together from the 1930s and 1940s are a single franchise: The Thin Man series. The characters Nick and Nora Charles were created by Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon), and the films got quite an audience at the time. These films are detective thrillers with more then a dash of humour, centered on the husband and wife pair, whose banter and chemistry are smart, sharp, and playful. Nick, an occasional detective who married into money, spends his time overseeing his wife’s financial interests and pursuing the ideal recipe for a vodka martini (often more of the latter). He seems to know an awful lot of people who are, well, disreputable. The films start out with a murder (and usually more before each is done). Nora likes to push Nick back into investigating the case. Nick would much rather finish his drink.
Yet in each film, there’s always a moment when Nick changes priorities; he starts taking the case seriously, and you see his detective’s brain at work, sorting out the case. You can usually tell when it is by the fact that Nick stops drinking (or at least cuts down). Nick proceeds to methodically work things out, bringing together the suspects, and unmasking the killer in a dramatic way (incidentally, if you haven’t seen the second in the series, After The Thin Man, you might be startled by James Stewart’s character).
Now then, before I go off on a film history talk, I thought I’d come to the point. Awhile back, during one of my writer’s group meetings, I was reading a passage from Heaven & Hell. The passage is from the point of view of Stavros Maras, the counter-terrorism unit commander. In it, he’s watching my protagonists and three of his team members get ready for an night time operation against the Covenant. He muses that he sees in the others the exact same professionalism as he does in his own team. That kind of surprised me (and I’m the guy who wrote it, mind you). Why?
It’s one of my lead characters, Stryker. Professionalism doesn’t seem to be a word I’d use to describe him. He’s casual and sarcastic early on in the book- getting this particular spy into a suit is like fingernails on a blackboard for the man. He doesn’t seem to take much seriously. Part of that is that there’s a lot of me in him. And in addition, I have to say he’s influenced by Jack Higgins’ character Sean Dillon, who has been described as the sort who thinks of life as something of a bad joke, so why take it seriously?
That got me to thinking. Late in the book, the wisecracks are muted. Like the good Mr. Charles, Stryker is taking things seriously. His priorities have changed. I think that in part, the terrorist attack at the heart of the book mutes his natural tendency to be sarcastic. He and the others witness the cataclysmic event, see the impact and the death in its wake, and it must have an effect on all of them.
As writers or readers, we all see it in characters when they have that moment when things change; their priorities or their status quo must adapt to the changing circumstances around them. Sometimes it’s a gradual process; other times the turning point is crystal clear, and who they were before is gone, perhaps forever.
Have you ever had that moment with one of your characters when you realize how fundamentally different they are from where they started? Or brought them through that proverbial point of no return?

An Interview With New Author, Lisa Olsen

I’ve never done an interview before, but I decided that we have a lot of amazing talent at the Facebook WMD! We have so many new faces, new authors and best-selling author’s there that we all should get to know. Who knows, you might even learn something.

Today I’m interviewing Lisa Olsen. She is a new author within the past few years and obviously has the heart to write. She is an active member of Facebook WMD, a wife, mother and author. Let’s find out more about her.

1. What or who inspired you to start writing?

I’m not sure what triggered it really. I didn’t write much as a child or a young adult.  I was more into music, (I actually recorded an album at age 7!) but performing scares the bejeezus out of me, so it made singing a gut wrenching experience all through my formative years.  Writing satisfies that same need to perform I suppose, but I can maintain a level of comfort while I do the actual writing.  As for what inspired me to actually complete a novel, NaNoWriMo was the catalyst for me two years ago.  It helped me get past my inner editor and complete my first novel, and I haven’t looked back.

2. I’ve had a Paranormal experience, and I wrote about it. You write about the Paranormal. Have you had any paranormal experiences, and did you write them into your stories?

I love reading about the Paranormal, but I haven’t had many personal experiences myself.  The closest was my husband stayed on a haunted ranch in Australia when he was a small boy.  They would find random items under the bed from time to time, left by ghosts.  I incorporated that into The Touch.

3. How do you juggle family life and writing?

I’m very lucky because my kids are pretty self sufficient these days.  I don’t know how people do it when they have kids under ten.  It’s rough on the kids sometimes when I’m in the middle of a project and I don’t have time to help make cookies or dye someone’s hair purple, but I tend to write in bursts, so I try to make time to do fun family stuff too.   Learning to find balance continues to be something I struggle with, since ALL I want to do is write sometimes.

4. You’ve just participated in NaNoWriMo and you’ve succeeded in getting a full length novel written in a month. Have you done this before? Did you already have the idea ahead of time or did the book just sort of “come” to you?

Yes, This is my third NaNo and I’ve also successfully completed a WriDatNoJun (write that novel in June) which gave me Pretty Witches All in a Row (98,500 words) and SeptNoWriMo (September Novel Writing Month) which gave me Angel of Mercy (78,000 words).  I very much like the deadline, and I can handle 50k in a month no sweat, but I tend to want to finish the WHOLE book, and completing it all in a month can be rough.  My preferred pace is to keep it between 2-3k words per day, and write every day barring illness or catastrophes and just power through it until it’s done.

I’m definitely a planner instead of a “pantser” when it comes to writing.  When I’m heading into a writing project, I go through a list of ideas (I’m a HUGE believer in lists. I even have a list of lists!).  Because I am constantly writing down book ideas, I whittle down the list of potential ideas and pick out the one that speaks to me the most.  I take about a week to flesh it out,sometimes a few days extra if it needs some research, and get my outline done.  Then instead of starting, I go back through my outline again. If I don’t start hearing the characters talking to me for different scenes and capturing bits of dialogue, then it’s not a good project to begin. So I’m pretty prepared when the actual writing begins, I’ve got most scenes sketched out in my head with at least the bare bones of what I want to happen.

5. What kind of support system do you have?

My husband is fantastic!  He formats my books for e-book and print, designs my cover art, helps me coordinate the advertising, he’s my sounding board for ideas and phrases and he makes a mean cup of cocoa!  My mother helps me with editing and my oldest daughter is an amazing proofreader (I can’t believe what she finds after it’s already been through four pairs of eyes!).  They’re all fantastically supportive and give me the space I need to write… most of the time. I’ve also found a great group of writers online (you know who you are!) who have been tremendously supportive and that is so buoying, especially as a self published author.  It’s great to hear positive feedback from people who aren’t genetically linked to me, you know?

6. Do you work outside the home as well? If so, what do you do?

Boy do I!  I work full time as an auto insurance medical adjuster which means I talk to people who are hurt in car accidents all day long, helping them understand their coverage and trying to get medical providers to bill me.  It’s amazing to me how many hoops I have to jump through just to get a bill sometimes.  Hello, I just want to give you money!!!  It’s incredibly stressful and time consuming, especially when half of our department are deployed across the country to assist when hurricanes or storms hit hard and we have to pick up their work too, but it pays well and that gives me the ability to self publish without having to stress over much on every expenditure since I am just starting out.

7. How long have you been writing?

Hmmm, I learned to read and write when Iwas three, but that’s not what you’re asking is it?  I’ve been an avid online RPG writer (that’s role playing games for the uninitiated) for about fifteen years, writing everything from Buffy, Star Trek, and Lost fandoms to original sci-fi and fantasy stuff.  Before I started writing books, I juggled up to twenty games at a time, writing for multiple characters several times a day.  Right now I’m pared down to a single game because of time constraints (though I do play about 5 or 6 characters there, not all at once).  Some of my favorite characters have been in writing back and forth with my husband.  We’ll be inspired by a movie or TV show and just start writing together, it’s very relaxing and some of what we’ve written has turned into book ideas.

I’ve been writing novels for about 2 years. Before that I’d started and discarded project after project for a decade or so.  I published my first book this past June.  I also write fan fiction for Vampire Diaries and True Blood on fanfiction.net under the name Mystewitch for about a year and a half.  I love the instant feedback from the reviews there, and it’s neat to see I have readers from all around the world!

8. Tell us about what you’re working on now?

I’ve just finished my first draft of my new vampire series, Wake Me When the Sun Goes Down.  I knew I wanted to do a vampire project for this NaNo because I love vampires and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to do one (for my first book I literally flipped a coin – vampires or werewolves, and werewolves won out), and I knew I wanted to do an origin story for a girl who wakes up in a morgue as a vampire with no memory of how she turned.  I had this idea about an Order of vampires that polices the general vampire population who’d come knocking to check her license and registration for being a newbie vamp, and the story grew from there.  I’m about a third of the way through edits now and hope to have it out later this month.  Here is the blurb:

“It was ironic that this happened to me; I was never a night person at heart.  So you can see right off the bat why a vampire was the very last thing I would have chosen to be.”

Anja Evans wakes up in the morgue with a helluva hangover.  It takes almost eating her best friend before she figures out… she’s a vampire!  When a dark and dangerous vampire shows up at her door asking to see her license and registration, Anja assumes Bishop is a regular cop.  But breeding among vampires is strictly controlled, and her unlicensed status makes her an enemy of the Order.  Struggling to find a balance between her former life and her undead one, Anja tries to blend school and living up to her new identity, all while searching to find the elusive Viking whose blood gave Anja the strength of a vampire hundreds of years old.

9. What else would you be doing if you couldn’t write, and why?

Wow, I actually can’t really picture what else I’d be doing at this point, writing has been so integrated into my life now.  Like I said before, I get too much stage fright to pursue any singing anymore.  I’d love to open up a little curio/bookstore/coffeeshop I suppose, but only so I can write when it’s not busy.  So damn, that fits writing back into the picture again!

10. What kind of books do you like to read, and do you write reviewsfor them?

I have so little time to read anymore!  I know I probably should, but I seem to be always writing when I have free time.  I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse books quite a bit, and I loved Anne Rice’s vampire and Mayfair witches series.  I’m also a huge fan of some older classics like Gone with the Wind, East of Eden and To Kill a Mockingbird.  I am guiltyof not leaving a review for the last book I read, but I was only lukewarm about it, so I decided it was best not to review at all.  I plan to read Mark Hunter’s Storm Chaser next, hopefully when I’m done with edits for Wake Me When the Sun Goes Down. 

Thank you, Lisa for your candid answers. I really think that you will go far with your writing. I thoroughly enjoyed The Touch and you can read my review of this book at www.writersofmassdistraction.com or at www.shamelessreviewsandpromotions.blogspot.com. You can also view Lisa’s web site at http://www.lisaolsen.net/.