28 November 2013

Author Crazy-What Causes It?

Have you ever noticed that most writers are a little…off?  Not stark raving mad (most of us anyway), but just not quite connected to reality in the correct fashion.

I may have figured out why.

As an author, I’ve created worlds, histories, religions, characters, backgrounds, plots, intrigues, rivalries, love triangles, magic systems, technology that probably can’t actually exist and names. Lots and lots of names. Some people create whole languages (go them).

With all of that rattling around in your brain, no wonder writers get a little twitchy.

But, I came up with a reason for the author crazy. One that I feel is pretty close to the mark. Well, close to a mark. There are several marks. But I digress.

I was listening to the radio on the way home tonight, and there was an author on the program pimping his book. At some point he mentioned that some faction of the novel was racist.

Now I know people who are racist. I know people who think women are inferior. I know people who think religious followers are foolish dreamers.  Everyone is some sort of an “ist”. Don’t deny it.

If you want to go all the way here, just say what a guy at my work says, “You bet I’m racist, I hate all people equally.”

It works.

Back to writing. Sorry.

An author has many duties in a story, but the most intense is getting into your characters heads. Which means that if you have a killer in your story, you’d better start thinking like a killer. If you’ve got a love-sick teenager then you’d better start watching teenagers—in a non-creepy way of course. If you’ve got a racist in your story, you’d better figure out how deeply your character can hate someone for no better reason than they are different than the character. If you’ve got a geek hanging around, you’d better brush up on the difference between a geek and a nerd, and dive into comic books.

It’s exhausting!

I especially hate it when the grouchy characters demand more one on one time because I try to keep them in the background because, well, they’re not entertaining. They’re grouchy.

And I believe that this is why authors are all just a little, uh, special from time to time. That’s a lot to keep running around in your head.

Anyone agree? Disagree?


24 November 2013

Why Do I Hate The Hunger Games?

No really, I’m trying to figure it out.

Caution: Spoilers ahead.

Let’s start from the beginning. (Because it’s a very good place to start.) Drat, now that song is going to be in my head. Figures.  And it doesn’t really mesh with The Hunger Games.

There, we’ve come full circle.

I really liked the first two books in The Hunger Games series. The author is brilliant at #BeMeanToCharacters. Honestly, maybe the best that I’ve read. I spent the entire first two books flinching for Katniss at least every other page. Even I, as a reader, thought “It might be easier if she just dies.”

But of course I didn’t mean it. Because I LOVE stories and heroes and everything that goes along with them.

Allow me to take a deep breath.

Let’s talk Lord of the Rings for a second. I didn’t read the books until after the first movie came out. I had NO IDEA that Frodo didn’t march up the side of Mt. Doom and toss the ring in like a good little hobbit.

Now that I’ve had some time to digest it (and the movies showed it better than the books) I get it. The One Ring drew Frodo down to depths that he could not get out of no matter how big his heart was. It literally consumed him.

My problem was, when I read the books, I never caught that. Not enough of it to justify Frodo’s actions at the end. If I remember right, the third book is mostly from Sam’s point of view, so the reader only sees what Sam see’s not what Frodo is feeling.

Then, after the One Ring is destroyed, Frodo can never go back to who he was. No, the problem is that he can’t heal until he after he leaves.

That’s lame. It goes against my personal belief system and will always bug me.

BUT, I still love the story of The Lord of the Rings.  Why? Because there are other heroes. Other characters that find their own way, their own courage and face their fears.

Katniss and Frodo have too much in common. They both volunteer for something they’re pretty sure they won’t live through. The odds are NOT in their favor. Powers bigger than the characters are using them as pawns, and they are forced to make decisions that no sane person should have to make. People betray them. Their lives really, really suck. They both survive for different reasons—Katniss is tough as nails and is used to being a few days from death, where Frodo’s compassion carries him to the gates of hell and beyond.

So why do I love LOTR but despise THG?

I think I’ve finally found an answer.

In LOTR, at the end of the story, Frodo can’t take it and has to leave. But Sam stays. Sam comes back from the adventure changed in too many ways, but he stays. He goes after his woman, they have a family and he runs the Shire for ages. Aragorn takes his destiny by the horns. Other people survive—although they are all changed—to carry on in the new world.

At the end of THG, no one is okay. Katniss is insane, Peta will never recover, Gale can never see Katniss again because of “What he did”, and no one is actually happy.  Not to mention that everyone else we ever knew is pretty much dead. The world goes on, a better place we hope, but THEIR world—the character’s world—is sad. More than sad, they are still only just surviving.

There’s no Sam to live in the new world. There’s no Aragorn to keep the peace.

I think that’s why I hate The Hunger Games. Katniss is not the typical hero. I’m kind of okay with that. But without someone to be my hero, I can’t love that last book.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Whether you loved the books or hated them or you sit somewhere in the middle.

21 November 2013

Writing Retreats (Round 2)

Here are the last three questions you should ask yourself before going on a writing retreat:

4) What is the expectation on accommodations/transportation for the weekend?
5) What is the expectation on food/money for the weekend?
6) How is the rest of your life going to suffer while you're gone, and are you prepared to weather the consequences on your return?

These may seem silly, but I have some good stories to support the fact that you really should think about this before you start.

4) Accommodations and transportation

Seems basic, right? Here are a few issues I’ve had at different retreats.

The place only had a handful of parking spaces, and about 15 people coming. You get there late and you’re out of luck. No parking spot for you!

I once carpooled with someone who suddenly wanted to leave early. Ugh. That didn’t make me happy.

One time I didn’t carpool with someone because she had a sick baby back home. That worked out because she did end up having to leave, but I didn’t have to. So we communicated and all was well. That made everyone happy.

If you carpool, establish the “rules” for the car.  A few weekends ago “Lola” (name changed to protect the “innocent”) drove, and told me up front that if I wanted to do something she didn’t that I was more than welcome to take her car and go do it. Those things are nice to know up-front. I also asked about the rules of eating in the car. Little things like that will keep the irritation level down.

As for accommodations, Lola and I were considering a different retreat, but found out that while the place was big, it was going to be crowded, and there would be a bunch of rules around quiet times and areas and sharing room and stuff. This sounded like more stress than either of us were willing to deal with, so we went our own way. I know for a fact that this other retreat was awesome, but I think we did the right thing for us.

This year we got a condo with two bedrooms, so Lola and I didn’t even have to talk if we didn’t want to. Lola locked herself in her room for the first five hours of each day. For me that was strange—and creepy—but that’s what she wanted, and I had the whole rest of the place to do whatever I felt like doing. Which consisted of writing.

We’ve both been to other retreats, shared rooms, met people and had both good and bad times. But this year our goals were aligned to spit out a lot of words, and this is what we did to make it happen.

Know yourself, find out as much as you can about the location of the retreat, and figure out if you’ll thrive or die in that environment. One time I ended up in a room with about seven girls in their early twenties. So pretty much teenagers. They had a great time…I used my earplugs a lot.

5) Food and Money

Talk about this beforehand and get it out of the way. If you’re organizing something big, you may want to get the money for the accommodations beforehand.

Lola and I have this worked out. I pay for the hotel, she pays me back half and we pay for our own food.

But let’s talk about food for a minute.

So last year Lola and I did a retreat and went out for each meal.  This year Lola decided to change the rules without telling me first. When she started to unload a small tote of fruit, bagels and other healthy items, I got suspicious.  So I started asking questions, and after a few seconds spit it out.

Apparently she doesn’t do breakfast and rarely does much for lunch. (She’s got 4 boys, who would even have time to eat???) So last year, going out for each meal was way too much for her.

I eat every meal, and get grouchy if I don’t.

She, as I already mentioned, offered the car to me, but I’m not really the go out and sit in a restaurant by myself kind of girl. Luckily I’d brought a few things and between the two of us I had enough for breakfast and snacks. We drove through for lunch on the way to the library, then as a reward for a job well done, we got a big dinner.

While this was no more than a funny inconvenience for me (I’m pretty easy going most of the time), it would have been nice to know beforehand. Especially with a condo. I could have brought plenty for breakfast and lunch.

Now I know. And I know to ask the questions.

6) Real life

You just spent from 1-3 days away from home. Are you prepared to go back to the mess? What about work? Spouse? Kids? Neighbors?

This is something to ignore while you’re gone, but should be addressed before you leave and as you’re driving home.

Steel yourself. It’s pretty rough getting tossed back into the real world. You’ve just enjoyed a HUGE creative outlet, while those around you have been making lists of things they need from you when you get back. They probably won’t appreciate that you’re mentally exhausted. They probably won’t understand that you just want to either watch TV or go write some more.

Remember, they’re not you. They love you and need you, but they’re not you, so they  may not get it. Love them anyway, and do your best to be gracious about getting back to your regularly scheduled program.

That’s pretty much it for now.  If you ever get the chance to go on a writing retreat, take it. You probably won’t regret it!

18 November 2013

Writing Retreats (Round 1)

Writers speak about retreats in hushed tones, where no one else can see and where no one else can hear. Every author longs for a writing retreat, but alas, real life is persistent, and generally gets in the way.  Most of us have to go sans retreat.


What if you are one of the lucky few? What if somehow all of the stars align and you are able to get away for a few days?

What if???

Having been single until just a few months ago, I've had the opportunity to do quite a bit of retreating.

Not running away...wait, it is sort of like running away—from life, from responsibility, from family, from TV, from chores and most of all, from your normal, everyday activities.  This is where the writing usually comes in.

Since I've done this a few times, I thought it might be nice to give some advice (from my limited experience) to anyone who may want to read it.

Before going to a writing retreat, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Why are you going?
2) Who are you going with?
3) What are your goals?
4) What is the expectation on accommodations/transportation for the weekend?
5) What is the expectation on food/money for the weekend?
6) How is the rest of your life going to suffer while you're gone, and are you prepared to weather the consequences on your return?

Let’s tackle the first three today.

1) Why are you going?

This is important. Really important. Are you going to write? Or are you going to socialize? Or are you going to network? Or are you going to learn?

You may not know all of these answers before you get there. When I went to Dave Farland's Death Camp three years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I was going to learn more than my mind could handle, and that I would end up drooling for three days after I got home from sheer overload.

That happened, but we also spent each afternoon writing. And the group of us got to know one another, which has been invaluable. My most aggressive writing group and friends come from the Death Camp crowd.

So sometimes there are pleasant surprises that come along.

Figure out why you are going. Start there, then go to #2.

2) Who are you going with?

Or, I will add, if you’re going alone, what do you know about the people you will be with?

The feel and productivity of a retreat will depend highly upon who is there. If you know that the group going is a bunch of women—I dare say moms who may be more than a little excited about being away from their kids for the weekend—then you should probably expect more talking than not.

If the crowd consists of professional writers, don’t expect them to talk to you much. They’re probably there to write. Don’t get me wrong, they’re usually nice people, but they need writing time too, and this is like quiet, beautiful gold.

If you don’t know anyone, then you might plan to make a few friends. Not obnoxiously—during quiet time—but during breaks. Other authors are the best support system you can have.

3) What are your goals?

This one is key. For me, without a goal, I would tend to mess around more. Even if I’m being quiet, I might decide I need to over-edit a chapter for two hours instead of working on the outline I really need to be plotting.

So before you go, and after you figure out who is going to be there and how serious the writing time might be, decide what you want to walk away with before the end of the weekend.

It sounds silly, but it’ll keep you on track.

The retreat I just got back from turned out to be my most productive yet.  I’ll answer my own questions.

1)Why am I going?
Because I’ve spent the last year dating, getting engaged and getting married. My writing time has been sucked away, and I needed a jump-start to really getting back into it.

2) Who am I going with?
My awesome, slave-driving (she says the same about me) writing buddy “Lola.” (Name changed to protect the “innocent.”) There were just the two of us, so the expectation was that there would be lots and lots of writing going on.

3) What are my goals?
My super-secret I-Didn’t-Tell-Anyone-In-Case-It-Didn’t-Happen goal was to write 30,000 words over three days.

Nailed it. I managed 33,000 words and only stopped because I finished the end of the story I was working on! (And my hands started to twitch.)

Each night, before bed, we would work out a schedule (which we modified a few times) so the expectations would be set for the next day. Writing until 12:30. Then a break (walk, jog—not me, Lola, maybe lunch) and then off to the library for four hours for a change of pace. Once we were finished at the library, we would do dinner, a treat and then back to the condo for at least another hour of writing.

It sounds brutal, but we totally did it, and both spit out more than 30,000 words over the weekend.

Worth the expense and the time away?

Uh, yes.

Next time we’ll answer questions 4-6.

11 November 2013

An Adventure of Semi-Epic Proportions

This past weekend one of my writing buddies—to protect the innocent we’ll call her “Lola”—and I went up to Park City for a little writing retreat.

We did this last year.  Rooms in Park City are dirt cheap in the fall, especially if you don’t mind staying a few blocks from main street.  Last year we ended up being one of two sets of people in this HUGE hotel. The hallways were orange with this crazy light that made it feel creepy. The lack of people didn’t help, and neither did the odd smell that permeated the whole place.

This year I decided we should upgrade from the creepy hotel to a semi-reputable condo.

Lola and I sometimes don’t share well.  Mostly her. So we got a condo with two rooms. And again, it was dirt cheap. Seriously.  We paid in dirt.

No we didn’t. But that would be cool.

Anyway, the thing about Park City in the fall is that none of the hotels have people on staff at the front desk after 5pm. I’d called ahead to tell them we would be late, and they told me where to go and the number to call.

I only panicked a little when first, I dialed the wrong number and second, they couldn’t find my reservation. But Mary something or other worked it out rather quickly.  We got the lock box open, acquired our key and headed down to the condos.

Another thing about Park City…there are no lights. At least not where we were staying. So finding our building took a bit of vulturing. The garage code actually worked the first time and we were in.


Lola had the brilliant idea to NOT bring our luggage (which was formidable for only a few days) while we searched for our room.

We thought our number was 2011, and tromped all around the deck of the building on the second floor for a good five minutes trying to find it.

Let’s mention that it’s about 10 degrees outside by this point. Good thing we didn’t bring the luggage.

The only room that we thought could be ours was 201. (You know, a type-o or whatever.) But, of all 10 rooms on the second floor, that was the only one that was inhabited. Everything else was dark.

Lola wanted to knock on the door. I’m not a big fan of talking to strangers, so I gave in and called Mary something or other back.  Just as Mary picked up, Lola came running back to me, waving the envelope we’d gotten out of the lock box.

I’d been looking at the wireless network password. The room number was 106.

I thanked Mary something for answering the phone, hung up on her and we went down to the first floor.

Room 106 sat neatly nestled between 105 and 107. I pulled out the key (a real, metal key) and stared at the lock.

It was a combination lock.

We had no combination in our paperwork. Just a metal key.

So we called Mary something back.  Good thing she’s awesome, because she got us a code and we were in!

We hustled inside, seeking shelter from the unseasonably cool air, and were dismayed to find that it was almost as cold outside as it was inside.


The furnace control hunt commenced, and once located, we kicked it up to 80 degrees.

Nothing happened. At all. For fifteen minutes. Every time a car came by we hoped it was the heater, but to no avail.

Mary something had a really fun night with us. We called her again, and she called the maintenance man.  While he was coming, Lola tried to get the cable on the TV to work. She did a face to face with husband on her phone and they tried to trouble shoot the TV. Her kids kept asking why we were wearing our coats and scarves inside.

We should have come up with a better answer than, “Because the heater isn’t working.” Something along the lines of a rift in space or that we’d been sucked through some sort of worm hole.

After about 40 minutes, the maintenance man came. Yay for the maintenance guy!  He walked through and went out a door opposite the door we came in.

Guess where that metal key worked?

Lucky for us, he was completely competent. He lit the pilot light for the furnace, lit the gas fireplace, got the cable working (which we never did turned on again—not shocking) and left.

Now that’s the way to start a writing weekend. I’m pretty sure that’s why we did so well with our word count. Start with adventure and writing ensued from there!

07 November 2013

New Sight Cover Reveal

I’ve given my elevator pitch (something fast enough that you could say it to an agent between floors on a rising elevator) for New Sight more times than I can remember.  It usually starts something like this:

“Sixteen year old Lysandra Blake thinks she’s going crazy when she is overwhelmed by the sudden urge to rip people’s eyes out of their sockets.”

That gets people’s attention. From there mystery, adventure and a few unexpected twists and turns occur.
I feel like this cover actually resonates with the uncertainty that Lys feels throughout most of the story. The plot unfolds as the story progresses, but never fully clears until the very end.

This is my first novel with Jolly Fish Press, and I can hardly wait the five months that stand between now and the release!

But until then, we have a pretty new cover to look at.

Below is a link to a giveaway. Like me on Facebook, friend me on Twitter or Tweet about this post and you'll be signed up to win a

$15 Amazon gift card

That can be a lot of e-books.

New Sight Cover Reveal Giveaway

Here is an excerpt from New Sight.

To get you in the mood...

The cobblestone driveway looked about a thousand miles below her. Lys slid over and dipped one toe out of the SUV. The tennis shoes she wore hit the ground, and she let the bottom of her foot succumb to gravity. The other foot followed, and as she stood, Lys felt her knees wobble. One hand reached out to use the roof of the vehicle for support, and she took a step. She tried another, but her foot stopped in mid-air, her body distracted by something much more insistent than gravity. The Need.
     Emotions, a week repressed by medication, came bubbling up from the bottom of a cauldron. Anger, fear, hunger—the Need. It swelled in her stomach and ached to make her fingers move. She doubled over, trying to contain it.
            “Lys, what's wrong?” Someone pulled on her arm.
            “Get away!” she pleaded. “Please.” She felt herself start to shake. She fell to her hands and knees and put her head down on the cobblestones, squeezing her eye shut. A voice said her name, but she didn't care.
            She wanted the feeling back. The feeling like after she ripped the frog's eyes out—euphoria. She was a hungry monster, demanding to be fed. The Need gnawed through her mind, screaming at her to do something. To hurt someone.
            On their own accord, Lys' fingers began to twitch. Why did he take the handcuffs off?
            The image of her mom's bandaged face sprung into her mind. All of the times her dad flinched away from her, and all of the looks the doctors gave her paraded through her memory. No, she wouldn't hurt anyone else. Not while she had an ounce of control left in her. She laced her fingers together and squeezed until her arms shook.
            The dark behind her eyelids flared to life, and Lys found herself in another place. She stood in her room, looking at her bed. Everything was exactly as she'd left it, except the blood on the carpet. Someone had cleaned that up. Her MP3 player sat on the dresser, and her school bag lay on the chair.
            Lys tried to look over at the mirror. Her head wouldn't move. She attempted to look up. Nothing happened. What was this? She floated out of her body. Had it taken too long to get here? Was she dead?

            Panic filled her mind, and she wanted to scream. The picture of her room faded, replaced by the dark. 

And now, without further ado, here is the cover for New Sight.

You like?

03 November 2013

The Thing About Ender's Game

People have been waiting 20 years for Ender’s Game to come out as a movie. I’ve heard all sorts of rumors about the author, Orson Scott Card, not wanting to give up the movie rights and no one being able to write a good enough script and the everlasting fight about how Ender is supposed to be 12, not 16.

This movie has been a long time in coming.

And now it’s finally here.

I must admit to being a HUGE fan of the book when I was a teenager.  Who am I kidding, I’m still a huge fan of the book. I loved Ender’s Shadow as well, and in general find the whole story fascinating.

To be frank, this is one of the best examples for #BeMeanToCharacters that I can think of. (With the Dresdon files in the running as well). Poor Ender doesn’t catch a break the entire book.  And the reason is because the adults, who are trying to train him to be the next uber-awesome military commander, do everything in their power to push him to his limits and beyond.

This includes making sure he doesn’t really make friends, gets put into no-win situations every single chapter, changing the rules on him the moment he even looks like he might take a steadying breath and constantly reminding him that he’s supposed to be “the one.”

No pressure.

If you need a good #BeMeanToCharacters book that isn’t hugely long, read Ender’s Game.

Now, let me start by saying that I really enjoyed the movie. As a fan of the book, I didn’t need all of the situations played out on the screen to get what was going on. I filled in the blanks with my spotty memory of the novel. (Plus, the visuals were awesome.)

Which worked for me, but a friend pointed out (quite passionately) that the movie never allowed Ender to really cope with anything. As a matter of fact, they say at one point to make sure he never feels like he is going to get any help.  Then, ten minutes later, they have his entire group moving away from the bully to Ender’s table at lunch.

Suddenly they all love him.

This never really happened in the book. And when it looked like he might be making friends, the adults would toss something new into the mix to make things complicated.

This is the part of the story that the movie missed. They SAY how brilliant Ender is, but as an audience, we only SEE it once or twice.

The whole reason people care about Ender is because they experience what he goes through and he never stops fighting. He’s always thinking of a way to get out of a situation or beat the odds. And he uses what he has, even after he gets the worst of the worst to work with.

What the movie did capture, was Colonel Graff’s position as the adult training these kids to go to war. He makes some ugly calls, and I actually felt for him more than I did Ender a few times.

Which is NOT what the story is about, and softened the blow of the ending, in my opinion.

If you find a story flat, it may be because of this very thing. The writers/author didn’t have the guts to be as mean to the character as they should have.

Granted, there are loads of reasons for a story to stay in the “Good” category and not get shifted into the “Great” category. This is just one of them. But considering how much people love their fictional characters, I feel like it’s pretty important.