Archive for May, 2010



Release week!
by Jessa Slade on May 31st, 2010

First of all, today is Memorial Day here in the USA.  I hope everyone celebrating has a good BBQ, safe travels, and a chance for a quiet moment of remembrance.

Currently working on: Almost release day!
Mood: Whee!

This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is “the hardest part of writing.”  But I’m hijacking the thread, because this is a celebration week for me.   Book 2 of the Marked Souls, FORGED OF SHADOWS, comes out tomorrow, June 1, 2010!

978-0-451-22977-9_ForgedOfShadows.indd

The war between good and evil has raged for millennia, with the Marked Souls caught in the middle, but the new girl doesn’t play by old rules…

Liam Niall never meant to be a leader. Barely surviving the horrors of the Irish Potato Famine with body and soul intact, he escaped to Chicago…where he lost half his soul and gained a wayward band of demon-possessed warriors. Now, as the talyan face a morphing evil, Liam grows weary and plagued by doubt-until a new weapon falls into his hands. Her name is Jilly Chan. To save her demon-ridden soul, Liam must win her to his battle…and his bed.

Waging a one-woman war against the threats to the street kids she mentors, Jilly won’t be any man’s woman or weapon. But Liam-with his hard eyes, soft brogue and compelling hands-is a danger to her rebellious independence…and her heart.

These two halved souls sharing one fierce passion will sear a fresh scar across the city. Who’s in danger now?

“[F]or readers who love J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, the Marked Souls series will hit the spot.”
–4 Stars RT BOOKReviews

This is only my second book, but so far, it seems to me that release week  is one of the EASIEST parts of writing.  Because by the time release week rolls around, it’s too damn late.  Everything has been done.  The story is written, edited, wrapped in a manly chest — or backside, as the case may be — printed, and shipped to the stores (hopefully) to appear on shelves.  From thence to fall into book baskets everywhere (again, hopefully).

Sure, there are other things for me to do: Bite my nails, obsessively click refresh on the Amazon ranking page, self-medicate with chocolate syrup (I already ate all the cookie dough).  But the story itself is done.  All that remains is for someone, somewhere, to read it.

If YOU want to read some of it, you can:
Check out the first chapters here.
Or read the alternate beginning here.
Or even buy it.

This is the moment (okay, months) of truth for a story.  I’ve heard of writers who say they write for themselves, but I write to share.  The release of the book into the wild is my chance — finally! — to share.

I sincerely hope you like it.

To celebrate, I’m giving away a $25 bookstore gift card this week.  Just tell me which of the two beginnings to FORGED OF SHADOWS that I posted in the links above you like better, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win.  Tell a friend about this giveaway, and have the friend enter your name in her comment, and you’ll both be double entered for a chance to win.  Thanks for celebrating with me!

Need for Speed
by KimLenox on May 30th, 2010

Oh, yes. FEAR can really make me, Kim Lenox, write faster. As a writer, the fear comes from deadlines, but there is also a fear of letting someone down. Before you get a contract to write, you just write for yourself. You suffer your disappointments alone, with the kind support of your critique partners, family and friends. But once you have a contract, there are people depending on you to write, and to write well. You have an agent, and an editor, and the art department and the copy editors. You don’t want to be the weak link in the chain to producing a good, solid book. It’s an awesome feeling to be part of such a team, and you want to keep your place in the mix!

What else makes me write faster? I tend to take months to write my first 3-4 chapters, and then I speed (as much as a “slow” writer can speed) through the rest. Until those first couple of chapters are right, I just can’t move forward. To do so would be like taking a wrong turn, and just continuing to drive. So I guess knowing the story, and being on the right track.

When I’m in the last stages of a deadline, I also usually start doing timed writing jags. I’ll give myself 30 minutes to write two pages, then I can check email or surf the Net for five minutes. Then it’s back for another 30 minutes of writing.

Tomorrow is the day we in the US observe Memorial Day, and honor those who have fallen while serving in the Armed Forces. I’d like to send out a very heartfelt, personal thank you to all members of the services, past and present.

Just put down the gun, and I’ll surrender the book ….
by Sharon Ashwood on May 26th, 2010

Topic of the week: What makes us write faster?
Answer: Deadlines!!

Okay, so I’ve a book due May 31 (actually June 1, but I count ALL of May 31 as available) for my fourth book in the Dark Forgotten series. This means I have no usable brains, because they’re splattered all over my keyboard from the eight hours of work I’ve done so far today. So instead of words, I offer pretty pictures.

Ta-da! Here is the brilliant book trailer from UNCHAINED, which is out on July 6!

Fast, Faster, Fastest
by Annette McCleave on May 25th, 2010

I once wrote a first draft in six weeks. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to duplicate the effort. In fact the manuscript I wrote immediately after that one took me six months to finish. But the notion of writing a book in six weeks has continued to intrigue me—writing fast is a great skill to have—and I’ve tried a variety of methods to speed up my writing. So far, to no avail.

But there is something that keeps me steaming along at a good clip—preparation.

I’m a plotter, which means I prefer to have a map of where I’m headed before I start writing. As you might imagine, one of the items I prepare beforehand is the plot map. But I also do several other things to prepare:

1. Interview the characters. My character sheet describing height, weight, and family background only tells me so much. Asking pointed questions about why the character did XYZ in his past gives me a lot more to go on.

2. Explore the world. Some time ago, I discovered a wonderful set of world-building questions developed by Patricia Wrede, and from that I created a smaller set that works for my purposes. Answering the questions helps me add depth to my world.

3. Plan the number of pages needed each week to meet the deadline—factoring in holidays, sick days, emergencies, etc.

4. Research. I research the elements of the story that I need to know up front. A career choice for a main character, the types of weapons that character might use, the locale for specific scenes, etc.

5. Think. I spend a lot of prep time on this one. Is the conflict big enough? Is this the right place to start the book? Would that character really act that way? And a thousand more questions, some of which the answer is NO. I never cover off all the questions, and that’s really not my intent—it’s to roughly shape the story so I don’t get stuck on a big problem halfway through.

lucky

If I’ve done my homework, the writing goes along at a brisk pace—until I hit the first stumbling block. And there’s always a stumbling block. But the more advance work I do, the easier it is to recover and get back into the writing.

I’m still looking for ways to speed things up, though. If anyone has found the magic elixir to writing fast, please let me know.

Speed angel
by Jessa Slade on May 24th, 2010

Currently working on: Book 3 edits
Mood: Persnickety (Am I even spelling that right? I thought I was in editing mode?!)

When I’m writing, I’m a speed angel.  Which, sadly, is the opposite of a speed demon.  Yes, I write demons, but I write them slooooow.

Over the years, I have gotten somewhat faster.  Well, actually, lots faster.  It took me about, oh, five years to finish my first manuscript.  In my defense, the story was really long and traversed several major landmasses and various time periods. (No, it wasn’t a time travel; it was just very, very confused.)  Plus, I spent a lot of time describing the hero’s lovely eyes.

Here are a few tricks I learned that helped me write faster during the seven manuscripts that followed:

  • No one cares how polished your first draft is, so feel free to write crap.  You do have to polish later, but that’s later.
  • If you keep writing past it, crap is often less crappy after it ferments awhile.
  • Know what you are writing; you’ll get there quicker.  Disclaimer: Pantsers (writers who say they like to be surprised by their writing as it happens) say they get bored if they know where they are going.  I say, I challenge you pantsers to a duel.  But I don’t have to worry about you ever showing up at the duel site because if I tell you where it is beforehand, you’ll go somewhere else.

The single most important trick I learned to writing faster was — and I realize this sounds stupidly obvious — holding myself accountable.  Deadlines — whether externally or internally imposed — are like the salt in a recipe: Too much can make your blood pressure spike, but a pinch/dash/sprinkle gives the flavors a zing they’d otherwise be missing.

Knowing when I have to get something done, I can track my progress.  I track in an Excel spreadsheet of daily word counts.  “Over/Under” is the number of words I’ve written above or below my daily goal.  As you can see by the red, I spend a lot of days behind because — as I mentioned — I’m a speed angel.  But I aspire to speed demon-hood.

tracking

Sure, I’m not there yet.  But I’ve shaved five years per books down to about five months.  A definite improvement.  Although you might have noticed the last comment in my spreadsheet: Sometimes I still don’t know where I’m going.

shortsIn Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, which character did you relate to?  And do you think the tortoise would’ve been faster if he’d been wearing shorts instead of a shell?

Balance
by KimLenox on May 23rd, 2010

Sometimes it’s hard to balance the writing life with “everything else”. Writing is a very solitary activity, and it’s difficult for me, as a writer, to focus the way I need to if I feel like “everything else” is spinning out of control.

When I’m not working or writing, I’m spending time with the family, and with friends. Mundane daily events like sit-down meal time with the whole family and bedtime with the kids are precious events that keep me centered.

I also find that nature has a very balancing effect on my state of mind. I work full time, and nearly every evening the first thing I do after taking off the high heels is go plant my bare feet in the cool, green grass of the back yard. I go sit on the pier at the back of our property and throw bread (wheat, not white) to the fish. I especially love the big catfish and silvery carp that twist and turn under the surface of the water. BTW, this is where I’d hoped to insert a picture of my favorite catfish, coming up for a bite, but something is wonky with McAfee today. It’s refusing to let me visit many of my regular sites.

Back to topic - these daily habits are very comforting to me. How about you? Do you have any daily habits that, if absent, throw you off kilter?

The Draw of the Dark Side
by Our Guest on May 20th, 2010

Note from Jessa: When Elisabeth Naughton told my writing group about her first adventure romance trilogy, she called it “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone,” which is like saying chocolate ganache meets dark chocolate.  And now she has a new series paranormal romance starting, which is like saying chocolate ganache meets dark chocolate with chocolate sprinkles.  And she’s giving away a copy today, so read up and leave your comment.

elisabeth-naughtonThanks so much to the gang at Silk & Shadows for inviting me to be with you all today! 

If you’ve read any of my previous books you know that I’m a romantic suspense author who has recently shifted to the dark side and is now writing paranormals as well. The first book in my Eternal Guardians series – MARKED – released this month. Someone recently asked me, “Why the change?” and I thought about the question for a minute, but couldn’t answer. It’s a simple question, I know, but the only answer I could come up with was not one I knew the questioner wanted to hear. I mean, authors are supposed to know why they do everything they do, so to have an author say, “I dunno. I just write the books that come to me,” I knew my answer just wasn’t gonna cut it. 

That, of course, is a cop out answer (even if it’s true). And since readers seem to want to know why things change (as my editor says… “Okay, why is this happening again?”), I’ve decided it would be in my best interest to have a list of answers ready and waiting for just such a question. 

So here it is, my top ten list for shifting to the dark side. 

marked-final-400x60010. Look at that cover. Do I need to have another reason for wanting to write paranormals?!

9. Special powers come in really handy in the climax of a paranormal book. As an author who ALWAYS gets stuck here trying to make everything work out, I can tell you it’s much easier to throw in an electrical storm or zap someone with lightning fingers to get out of a bind than it is to save the day with plane ol’ Tom, Dick & Harry. 

8. Superhuman sex. (I do write romantic paranormals, after all.)

7. I get to write about snarky gods. They seem to be able to get away with anything they want. Who knew? 

6.   Looking for a little danger? You don’t need a serial killer on the run to amp up the tension. That’s sooo over done. Throw in a seething daemon instead. Seven feet tall, horns like a goat, face like a cat, ears off a dog and lots of claws? Oh man. So much more fun! 

5. Sure, romances are great, but when the two main characters are fated to be together and hate each other at the same time? That just adds an extra level of tension that makes the whole romance that much more interesting. 

4. The fact I can throw in a Fury (or two or three) whenever I feel like it (Yes, I am Fury obsessed). And this time they’re real winged creatures with snakes in their hair, razor sharp teeth and a rabid need for blood, not simply stone carvings of the creatures. 

3. I can write really twisted scenes and blame the genre. (“What? You think that’s too sick? Yeah, but it’s a paranormal. My readers will expect it.”) 

2.  Superhuman sex (did I say that before?) 

And the number one reason I decided to write paranormals: 

1. They’re just plain freakin’ fun! 

I never expected I’d have so much fun writing this series, but every day I’m excited I get to take my world one step further. While I love romantic suspense and don’t plan to give up writing in that genre (as soon as I turn in TEMPTED, book 3 in my Eternal Guardians series, I’m jumping back into a romantic suspense novella for Kensington), I’m thrilled I get to write about heroes and gods and prophecies and soul mates. The possibilities in a paranormal are endless, the danger is epic and the romance seems a thousand times more intense when other-worldy dangers are lurking around every corner.  

So why did I shift to the dark side? The answer is clear: Why the heck wouldn’t I?   

What do you love most about paranormal novels? What draws you to them again and again? I’ve got a copy of MARKED to give away to one lucky commenter today! 

***

 

Your browser may not support display of this image. A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, Stolen Fury, heralded by Publisher’s Weekly as “A rock-solid debut,” was recently nominated for two prestigious RITA® awards by Romance Writers of America in the Best First Book category and the Best Romantic Suspense category. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures. Learn more about Elisabeth and her books at www.Elisabethnaughton.com.

Home, sweet crypt
by Sharon Ashwood on May 19th, 2010

The best non-writing thing I do that helps me write is really quite boring. Eat well, sleep well, and exercise. If the body’s not working, the rest of me can’t, either.

Of course, here in the Castle of The Dark Forgotten, common activities take a slightly different turn. Warm up with a little hellfire, get some cardio swordplay with the trolls, lift a few boulders, and after that, a little stretching on the rack. Ninety minutes of that, and I’m ready to hit the showers.

Yes, it’s easy to live the simple life here. A simple mattress in a stone cell offers few distractions. One can drift off to sleep to the gentle howling of the hellhounds, and then wake to the morning screech of the gargoyles. In between, eight solid hours of tomb-like silence. If that appeals to you, it is possible to upgrade to the mausoleum suite, which offers a luxury coffin plus a small sitting area with genuine Victorian stonework decor.

crypt

Dining opportunities are varied. Given the wide range of species resident in the Castle, food services here are necessarily talented and, dare I say it, athletic. Fast food still has to be caught—and let me assure you everything is absolutely fresh. If you prefer to dine out, there are a variety of fine restaurants and bars mere steps away from the Castle door. My personal favourite is the Empire Hotel, where the lounge is run by the so-friendly bartender, Joe. Just don’t go during a full moon as some of the customers prefer take-out.

Yes, as I say, it’s important to take care of your personal health while doing anything creative. Health equals energy equals the kind of spirit capable of seizing on inspiration. It’s true that writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, but without that 10% leavening the rest, anything you do will come out reading like an instruction manual.

And you really don’t want the instruction manuals from the Castle.

I just wonder what they might be???

Refilling the Well
by Annette McCleave on May 18th, 2010

Writing is creatively draining.

I don’t mean that in a bad way—just as an honest assessment of the flow of creativity within me. While I love to write and can’t imagine ever not writing, I need to step away from the computer and renew myself on a daily basis. I fear that if I continually empty the well and never pour anything back in, one day I’ll wake up to find I’m burned out.

Renewal comes in a variety of forms. To charge my creative battery, I can read, watch TV, go for a walk, or simply sit and think. It has to be an activity I find inspiring. Books by authors I love are an easy choice. But so are books on improving my craft or research books. Movies and well-written TV series work, too, because I can’t help but analyze why certain plot elements work for me and others don’t and applaud when the writers surprise me. Exercise of any kind gets the blood pumping and increased blood flow to the brain is always helpful. :wink:

But interacting with the world in a calm, leisurely way works best for me. Watching the ducks in the park, savoring cream cheese and lox at the bagel shop, discussing the weather with my neighbors, enjoying brunch with family members, or sucking in a deep breath of cool, spring air–all of them can rejuvenate me and send me back to the key board with fresh enthusiasm and new ideas.

The important part is refilling the well.

Getting back to craft books for a second, the book on my shelf with the most worn pages is Dwight V. Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. There’s yellow highlighter on almost every page. Who wants to share their can’t-live-without-it writing skills book?

Winner of A Breath of Magic
by Sharon Ashwood on May 17th, 2010

Congratulations to Julianne!