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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Me & Chi—How to become the heroine of your own exciting writing life!

By Pat Hauldren

Gravity is a selfish bitch.

I wish I had the Gravity God’s stamina. Gravity never stops, going 24/7 (much like we wish we could, write 24/7!). Gravity will endure long after you and I, and probably longer than people in general, will ever exist.
For us writers, gravity is the antagonist in our very own real life story. And, I want to help you defeat the Evil Gravity Antagonist!

OK, we will never quite defeat gravity until we destroy the Earth’s mass. If you remember your physics or chemistry (brush away those cobwebs), you’ll recall that E=mc2 . And I’m here to tell you that if you don’t square those shoulders and straighten that back, if you don’t move those muscles as much as you muscle-up your writerly brain, gravity will be more than an equation, more than a mere balancing act, it will very possibly be the instigator of your Earthly demise.

“Whoa, those be some strong words there, lassy!” you might exclaim indignantly (purple prose intended) while sipping your ice cold venti caramel Frappuccino with extra caramel and cookie crumble sprinkles. (slurp, slurp)
But aren’t strong words what our lives as writers are all about?

You’re probably wondering who the you-know-what is this crazy woman talking gravity and that four-letter word that starts with an “m” which we shall not name?
I’m a writer, like you, and my occupation requires me to spend many, many hours in one position, usually in a chair, usually at a desk, usually at a computer, usually meaning I cannot jog and write (not yet, but hey, somebody put a bug in Jobs’ ear), nor can I swim and write, nor kickbox and write, and so on. One often excludes the physical act of the other.

Not that we can think about our stories while we’re pumping iron, or record our thoughts as we jog, or pretend we are our very own kick-butt heroine while we kickbox our Xbox. Writing or doing all those things that we do as a writer are not impossible while we get physical (Don’t say your male protagonist’s name during an intimate moment with hubby. Even the saintliest husband in the world will begin to question your sanity, at the very least.), but exercise is more than just moving muscles, just as writing is more than typing words.
I’m banning the “e” word right here, right now. I don’t like it. Makes me think of Jack LaLane and jumping jacks and changing into a crotch-too-tight blue short/top uniform in a stinky gym and wishing I could just fade into the lime-green wall. (If LaLane is too far back for you, think Richard Simmons).

Physical is good. Gravity, although not always, is as far as our sedentary profession is concerned, not our friend.

But we’re writers, right? We are the epitome of all that doesn’t exist, of sizzling synapses firing on all cylinders, of frontal lobe gone postal. We are imagineers, and sometimes, we need to reboot our brains. (OK you FF&P writers, “brains” as in everyone has a brain and more than one person is reading this blog, not “brains” as in you have more than one brain. That’s just for the likes of Bruce Campbell and bitchin’ B movies.)

See, I know you because I know me. I know I’m passionate about my writing, that I do it beyond all sanity—too many hours at the desk/computer, too many hours planning, too many hours editing and rewriting, too, too many hours staring out the window at the squirrel chasing my cat across the fence and wondering how I can work that into my space opera.
Remember when you began learning about magic systems and how to develop your magical world building? Did anyone mention “equal and opposite”? (Oh no! She’s gonna do more “m” word stuff! No, shsh, it’s “m” word safe now.) Remember the advice that magic has a cost? One doesn’t make unlimited magic with no consequences.

And no one sit-eth unlimited hours without consequences.
For me, I’m like butter. I just spread so easily all over my office chair.  Wasn’t a quick process. Took years, decades if truth be told. But it was all my own fault. Can’t blame it on anyone or anything else.

But I said I’d tell you more about me.

Besides being a writer, I am an instructor-in-training in Taoist Tai Chi. If you ever saw me, you’d wonder what kind of magic mushroom I put in that Frap. The word “athletic” is so far removed from my life, at least now, at 56, after two bouts of chemo, several surgeries, and given just 3 months to live eleven years ago. Wore me out, to say the least.
Afterwards, I had to pick up my life and it was like starting from scratch—I had to learn how to reuse my right leg muscles and figure out how I would get my stamina and energy back. I started tai chi classes.

I’m not gonna say tai chi is gonna cure all you ills. It’s not. I am gonna say that my upcoming class—Me & Chi—will help you, as a writer, learn how to improve your stamina through stretching and gentle moving, most you don’t even have to get out of the chair if you don’t want to, and freshen up the blood supply to your brain, helping improve your thinking and creativity.
The class is actually very simple. I will provide you with suggestions that you may be able to ease into your writing habits. It’s up to you, as always, how you use, or not use, these suggestions.

My goal is to improve circulation, posture, and focus without removing you from your work for more than a few seconds at a time, if that long.
Some say we are what we eat. I go further than that. We are what we think. And I want to help you become a better thinker (yes, even on the throne) and a better writer.

Becoming a better writer is often more than studying writing as a subject, sometimes it’s about becoming a better person, especially in the small ways, ways that change us from the inside out.
Your goal, if you decide to take the class, and I hope you do, is to try it out. Defeat that Evil Antagonist Bitch called Gravity and become the heroine of your exciting, and successful, writing life.

I hope you’ll join me in my upcoming class, Me & Chi: Increase your creativity and health with Tai Chi and mediation for writers scheduled here in July.

Bio: Pat Hauldren writes speculative fiction in Grand Prairie, Texas, and has just returned from a conference with 4 out of 4 agent requests on her current urban fantasy. She’s training to become a tai chi instructor and has taken tai chi training around the world. She enjoys chanting and meditation as well. And don’t ask her about hockey if it’s off-season, she goes into hockey withdrawal. Learn more about Pat Hauldren at www.pathauldren.com.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Don't get Over-Exposed

By Lex Valentine

I spent last year recovering from and weaning myself from overexposure.  You see, my first couple years in this business I spent feeling driven to turn out more and more work. I had multiple releases in the same month with different publishers. I struggled to figure out how to do any promo and keep it fresh and relevant because I had sooo many releases.

And then I looked at my sales in months with multiple releases. What I discovered told me it was time to slow down. Like way down. My editors told me my work was still strong but despite their assertions I wondered if the readers weren't thinking I must be lacking in quality because I was turning out so much stuff in so short a time.

Perception is a big thing. I don't actually have to be turning out bad work for people to think that it must be bad because I had so many releases in a year, sometimes two in a month, once two in the same week. So I decided that multiple releases in the same month were not for me. Based on the few times it had happened to me in the past, I could see that sales on one of those books invariably suffered.  That’s when I started to wonder if fans assumed it wasn't a very good book because I’d put it out so quickly. And honestly, when it came to my sales, I think some books just got lost in my deluge of releases.

With a full-time, very demanding job, I live with a lot of stress and the pace I set for myself early in my career made it worse. When I crashed, I crashed hard and I had to take a good long look at what I was doing and whether I was helping my career or killing it by overexposing myself.

Initially, I didn’t like going a month without a release. I feared people would forget about me. Which is crazy. When I looked at it all logically I realized overexposure was more likely to turn people off me. When I allowed myself to take a step back and analyze whether putting out so many books in a year was really worth it, I discovered that I felt overwhelmed. And if I felt overwhelmed by my volume maybe my readers did too.

I realized I was doing too much. I couldn’t keep my promo dates straight without a calendar to tell me which book I was talking about and where. I had never ending edits and had to start calendaring when I got edits, when I sent them out, when I got them back…and I had to put a lot of time into planning promo so I wasn’t duplicating my efforts or wasting my advertising dollars. I was out of control and had to put on the brakes.

So I slowed down my frenetic pace of writing and promo. And having the time to build up a little suspense in my fan base over my next release has turned out to be a good thing. The buzz J. R. Ward builds among her readership between releases is amazing. Could she do this if she released so many books in a year that she had multiple releases in a month? No freaking way. Like Ward, I want readers to anticipate my next book and get a buzz going about it. I want them to throw a party when it does come out. And I want them to sigh with joy when they finally have their copy.

I'm not going to stop writing. If I happen to go through another driven phase, I'll just hold onto those manuscripts to help space out my releases. No more multiple releases in a single month. (Unless it's Christmas. Christmas shorts are one of those things that just have to come out in the holiday season no matter what!) In fact, no more releases every single month. I've decided that 4 or 5 in a year is my absolute maximum in order for me to concentrate on judicious promo of those books. This will make my advertising dollars have the biggest bang for the buck too. I won't be competing with myself for the time and money of readers. It's a win-win situation for me.

Will I be the next J.R. Ward. Not likely. But I will be able to spend time on building a buzz and a community of fans which is something I've always wanted to do but never had time for. Planning my career instead of letting the releases drive it, puts me in control. And I'm never, ever going to let overexposure happen to me again. I care too much about my writing and my readers for that. 

To find Lex on the web:   http://www.lexvalentine.com/

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tips For Worldbuilding

By Michelle Miles

Hello, all! I want to thank the group for inviting to blog here today. I’m excited to talk about one of my favorite subjects: worldbuilding.

Whether you’re creating an exotic city for your action/adventure or you’re making up a new fantasy realm complete with magic, worldbuilding is an important part of the story. I’m certainly no expert, but here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way and to keep in mind when building your new world.

Set up the rules and stick to them. Ask yourself these questions: What are the exceptions? Is there magic? What are the rules of magic? Once you set up the rules, don’t break them unless you have a really compelling reason. Make sure it’s not a plot device and you’re breaking the rules because you can’t figure out how to get your characters out of a jam.

Study other cultures, past and present. By studying how other cultures live, their religion, their traditions, their exchange of goods and money, you can learn a lot about who they. How do they talk? Dress? Do they have any sacrificial rites? When do they worship? What do they worship—one god or multiple gods? If you know this, you can start building the foundation. Other things to consider: politics, military, art, marital customs, education, monetary system, sporting events.

Draw a map of your world. I think this is my favorite thing about writing fantasy. When I can envision my world, I start to draw maps. Coastlines, mountains, forests, towns, the center of the ruling king or queen. It’s great fun. I just get out my map pencils and grid lined paper and draw what I think it should look like.

Decide the history and mythology of your world. Because your world wouldn’t exist without this. We all have history and learn from it, so what history do your characters share? What is your world’s timeline in relation to the characters? Maybe you want to call them “years” or “eras” or “ages”. The most important thing is to decide what it is, and write a brief history. It sounds like a lot of work upfront, but it’ll help when you’re ready to write the story.

This is only scratching the surface of what you can do when you create a world. These are things I take into consideration when I begin a new project that involves worldbuilding.

If you’d like a list of questions to ask yourself when beginning a new universe, you can find them at SFWA’s website by clicking here: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/. This is a lengthy, informative list that will aid in beginning your new frontier.

Another great resource is Holly Lisle’s website: http://hollylisle.com/index.php/Writers/forward-motion-for-writers.html. A wealth of information for writers!

Happy worldbuilding!


Michelle Miles writes contemporary, fantasy and paranormal romance for a variety of publishers. She is currently working to submit her latest, a fantasy romance that includes elves, dragons and faeries. For more information about her books, you can visit her website at http://www.michellemiles.net, follow her on Twitter @MichelleMiles or visit her fan page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MichelleMilesRomance.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

World Building

Please welcome guest blogger Cynthia Woolf

First I want to thank FF&P for having me on their blog today.  I like to reward my readers, so I will be giving away one copy of my CENTAURI SERIES: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION  to one lucky commenter.  Be sure to comment in order to get the entry.

One of my critique partners asked me about world building.  How do I do it?  I answered her that I didn’t know.  I just built it and they came.  

Seriously, I never thought of it as world building.  That has such a forbidding connotation to it.  All I did was decide that I wanted this planet to use higher technology than we do.  Especially since in my world they’ve been able to build spaceships that go faster than the speed of light.  That has become a given in science fiction, thanks to Gene Roddenberry and  Star Trek with the warp drive.

I also decided that this world would have a monarchy, that is always passed through the Queen not the King.  But it would also be a British style monarchy with a senate.  However, any change must be ratified by the Queen and she can make anything she wants into law without the Senate’s approval.  She can request their input but doesn’t have to pay any attention to it if she doesn’t want to.

In my world, there are air cars which work like silent helicopters without the blades.  Why?  Because I can.  It’s my world.

I discovered that I was creating lots of words for things and would get several pages in and say to myself, “What did I call rabbits in this world?” and have to go back and try to find the passage where I referred to the rabbit type animal.  They are wheebee’s by the way.  So I made a bible.  I use this to keep track of every word I create and what it means in English.  For instance, Hell is Ashara.  God is Krios.  These are things I need to remember especially if my character is going to swear…which they do periodically.

I discovered that I don’t need to change the name of too many things or I lose the reader.  They are trying to understand what I’m calling what.  I change just a few, just enough to give the flavor and not too many so as to lose the reader.  I don’t want to pull them out of the story, trying to figure out what the thing is that I’ve named something.  It should be seamless.  It should be obvious from the sentence what the English word would be.  If it’s not then I didn’t do my job.

I’ve discovered that I don’t have to change everything for the flavor of the change to be there.  I want to give my readers just enough to give them the flavor of my world.  I don’t write hard science fiction.  I don’t concentrate on the workings of the warp drive.  Other authors have already paved the way for me in that arena.

No matter what I decide my world is going to have, going to be like, I have to remain faithful to that decision.  I have to be consistent, or I’m going to lose my readers and that’s the last thing I want to do.

Cynthia Woolf was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden.  She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.

Their closest neighbor was one quarter of a mile away, so her little brother was her playmate and her best friend.  That fierce friendship lasted until his death in 2006.

Cynthia was and is an avid reader.  Her mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week.  This is where young Cynthia first got the storytelling bug.  She wrote her first story at the age of ten.  A romance about a little boy she liked at the time.

She worked her way through college and went to work full time straight after graduation and there was little time to write.  Then in 1990 she and two friends started a round robin writing a story about pirates.  She found that she missed the writing and kept on with other stories.  In 1992 she joined Colorado Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America.  Unfortunately, the loss of her job demanded the she not renew her memberships and her writing stagnated for many years.

In 2001, she saw an ad in the paper for a writers conference being put on by CRW and decided she'd attend.  One of her favorite authors, Catherine Coulter, was the keynote speaker.  Cynthia was lucky enough to have a seat at Ms. Coulter's table at the luncheon and after talking with her, decided she needed to get back to her writing.  She rejoined both CRW and RWA that day and hasn't looked back.

Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends she's made at CRW for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity. Find her books on Amazon

Centauri Dawn

Audra is a normal grad student in law school in Boulder, Colorado. Until the day she finds out she isn't. She's a princess from the planet Centauri. Her mission, whether or not she chooses to accept it, is to marry an alien and save the world, in order to save her family.

Darius is charged with delivering his brother's bride home to Centauri, ready to be queen. Falling in love isn't just forbidden, it's a death sentence for him and for his world.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reviews: The good, the bad, and the ones that make you crawl into a corner and hide!

Please welcome guest blogger Stacey Kennedy

Today I’ve decided to finally step away from my hiding spot and talk about reviews. I will totally admit that the subject unnerves me. I know we’ve all seen those battles online that happen when a reviewer and an author get into an argument, and then it explodes all over the web.

It’s pretty obvious when you receive a negative review the best thing to do is simply ignore it. But I can sympathize with the author. Sometimes reviews feel so personal, so it’s hard not to be offended.

On the other side, I can understand the reviewers’ position, too. I don’t like every book either, so it’s all personal preference. Anyone is allowed to voice their opinion. And sometimes when I read a review I can tell it’s just a giant venting session where someone was so bothered by a book they just have to get out how they felt.

And that’s exactly why I do NOT read negative reviews. It was a hard lesson, but I eventually learned it. Do I still look at reviews? Of course! It’s wonderful to read about someone who loved your story. But I always look at the stars first. I never read a three star review or lower. Ever!

Now I know three star reviews aren’t necessarily bad, but for it not to be a four star it means there is something going to be in that written review that is negative. Not always, of course. Sometimes three star reviews are fantastic, but I’d rather not chance it.

When I was first published I read every single review. I found it very hard to distance myself and not let it affect me. So, yeah, I just avoid reading anything under three stars to keep myself confident and moving along in my writing.

Now up until a few weeks ago, I felt like I understood what was best for me when dealing with reviews. But recently I read something that totally threw me for a loop. It came to my attention that some reviewers don’t like to be thanked for a review. And to say I was shocked is really putting it lightly.

Maybe I had it drilled into my head as a child, but I was always told to have good manners. And it shocks me silly that somehow saying thank you is a bad thing. For me, I can’t imagine not telling someone I appreciate that they took the time to read my book, good or bad review. It just goes against everything I believe in. But what’s an author to do? By thanking them, am I actually doing something wrong?

Leaving names out, some weeks ago, I read a post of a reviewer who touched on this and said that she thought it was rude that authors didn’t thank her. And it just confirmed how confused everyone is over the issue. It honestly seems like no-one can do anything right. Where authors are afraid to say thank you for backlash, some reviewers can’t understand why they’re not being appreciated, while others are perfectly happy to be left alone.

When did reviews get so complicated?

I can honestly admit that the whole reviewing process confuses me. I’m worried to visit a blog in fear I’m going to step on someone’s toes. I’m now apprehensive to thank someone because I have no clue if they’ll frown upon it. But by not thanking them, are they going to think I’m rude for not acknowledging they took the time to read my book? Confusing, right?!

I recently saw another author say that she emails the reviewer directly or responds on Twitter, and since then I have used this method to thank reviewers. But I’d love to hear your opinions on reviews and how you deal with them.

Stacey Kennedy’s novels are lighthearted fantasy with heart-squeezing, thigh-clenching romance, and they even give you a good chuckle every now and again. But within the stories you’ll also find fast-paced action, life-threatening moments and a big bad villain who needs to be destroyed. Her urban fantasy/paranormal and erotic romance series have hit Amazon Kindle and All Romance eBooks bestseller lists.

Frostbite Book Two

Tess Jennings, now a member of the Memphis Police Department, is on her first cold case. The suspected suicide of Lizbeth Knapp ten years ago isn’t a theory her family accepts—they believe she was murdered.

But the case is only one of Tess’s worries. Ghosts are talking, and word of her abilities rapidly spreads. A dark ghost is terrifying the spirits of Memphis, and she must force the entity to cross over.

Tess doesn’t have to do this alone. Not only does she have her ghost-lover, Kipp McGowen, but the department has brought in a medium. Dane Wolfe might answer all her questions, but he also brings a world of trouble. Will Tess finally have all she’s ever wanted, or will everything she’s vowed to protect be ripped away?