Saturday, November 17, 2018

Even When Not Writing Are You Writing?

Not the Author

“Even when you’re not writing, you’re writing.”

Hmmm, looks at this week’s theme backwards and forwards, diagrams the sentence, searches for inspiration…

OK, here’s how it works for me, which is all I can speak to:

Writing, or telling stories, is as necessary to me as breathing is, and has been an integral part of my being since I can remember (wrote my first book at age 7). I have a vivid imagination.
A Muse. Not the proper one for writing perhaps but I like her
light hearted spirit
 I’m very superstitious about my Muse and how she works (you may groan now if you’re a regular reader of this column and have seen me address this before!). If I think too much about a story, then my brain or my Muse or whoever/whatever is in charge up there in the Creativity Module says the story is done. Complete. No need to write that one down. And I NEVER will be able to.

I used to have a very long commute to the day job. I like to ponder plot issues while I’m driving, especially with loud music, BUT one day the commute took an extra long time, I told myself a fabulous Halloween type scifi tale – it was so good I got goose bumps! – and then…it was done. I never did write it down in any form at all. Just no creative push to transfer the story from my brain to the paper. I don’t even remember all the aspects of the story any more.

I’m not one of those authors who soaks up the people and places around me and puts them into my stories either. If we’re out for lunch or dinner I’m not also busily making notes of cute things people have said, or interesting real life vignettes to stick in my next novel. Doesn’t work for me. I can only remember a few times when I’ve drawn upon an actual life experience of my own to put into a book and that was chiefly atmospherics from climbing a pyramid in Mexico and another time the definite evil I felt emanating from a statue of the Aztec god of death. Or the general impressions from being surrounded by the marvels from King Tut’s tomb…but in all those cases, I waited years to pull on those experiences and add them to the plot mix.

On occasion a news story will trigger my imagination and I take off in a mental riff about it, or enlarge upon it, or grab one aspect to use in a novel.

Sometimes the first conscious thought in my head in the morning – even before “feed the cat” – will be the answer to a plot problem, or a neat twist for the current book I’m writing. Clearly the Muse/subconscious/creativity module has been working away overnight to come up with that. This is the only time I guess I could truthfully claim to be “writing when I wasn’t writing.” But I can’t take any credit for the achievement since I have no idea what triggers the serendipity and it doesn’t happen every night.

So I guess a part of me is always alert and pondering creatively, possibly synthesizing a lot of varied inputs that will hit the page when I do sit down to actually write, but it’s not necessarily a conscious process.

I do keep a huge folder of plot ideas, clippings, notes etc., for possible stories that came to me at odd moments but you know what? I almost never even open that file. It's a one way funnel. When it's time for me to write a new book, there's always a bright and shiny idea waiting and I can't wait to get to the keyboard to start telling the story.

And in case you somehow missed the new of GABE, my new release this week, plus I love these covers!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Sneaking Out the Back to Write

Even when I'm not writing, I'm writing.

Always. I mean, I assume everyone has felt like a stranger in a strange land in this life at some point. I cop to having felt that way most of my life, but I cannot be the only person who feels like a tourist to this planet and the guidebook omits some really critical information regarding the habits of the natives.

So I stroll the edges examining, observing, and taking field notes. It's what a writing teacher told me once. Our jobs, she said, are to see all of the things most other humans either couldn't take the time or couldn't bear to look at. And then we had to put it all on paper in some form or another. It does mean that no matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing, I'm observing. Cataloging. Parsing emotion from verbal content, shaking it all out, and mounting each nuance very carefully on well-labeled cards so I can rifle through them later looking for that single emotional response that's perfect for a scene.

If we're hanging out and you feel like I'm not entirely present, you're probably right. There's that part of me that always sneaks out the back to ideate. I don't mean it. Never do. Ask my long suffering family.


Watching is part of the process, I cop to that. But there's nothing quite like doing. I'd rather be writing.

For those following along, the boys are 10 weeks old now. Here's Corvid suffering from a nap attack. Those gray lips slay me.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

New Release: GABE A Badari Warriors SciFi Romance from Veronica Scott

I was thrilled to release the fifth book in my award winning Badari Warriors scifi romance series this week!

Here's the blurb:
Gabe Carter, hotshot pilot and exSpecial Forces soldier, is far from his home in the human Sectors, kidnapped by alien scientists to be the subject of horrifying experiments.  Shot down by the enemy over desolate territory far from his Badari allies and gravely injured, Gabe’s only hope is a mysterious woman on the run herself.

Keshara has to decide whether to abandon the human to die of his injuries on a windswept mountain top or give up her own quest for freedom and take him to a place he can be helped. The undeniable spark between them complicates matters.
His attraction to her is off the charts but when she betrays him to the Khagrish enemy, Gabe doesn’t know what to believe. Trapped inside an alien lab bursting with mysteries and lies, his only hope may be to trust her…again.

Because the renegade alien scientist running her own private experiments wants to use him to accomplish her goals and perpetuate the evil, no matter what she has to do to ensure his compliance. Keshara’s life hangs in the balance and Gabe has to make a choice.

This is the sixth book in the Badari Warriors world (and the fifth book in the series) and each novel has a satisfying Happy for Now ending for the hero and heroine, not a cliffhanger. Some overarching issues do remain unresolved in each book since this is an ongoing series but romance always wins the day in my novels!

Buy Links: Amazon      Apple Books    Nook     Kobo     Google Play

TIMTUR (issued under the In the Stars Romance banner)


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Writer brain: the perpetual machine

“Even when you’re not writing, you’re writing.” That’s our topic this week.

Thing is, I’m not always writing. But I am always writer-braining (totally is a verb).

Example: This morning over coffee, hubs and I were talking about the new Stephen Hawking book and how in it the (sadly, late) professor laments the current glut of published research. Fifty years ago, you could read everything that had been published on a slice of science. Now, though, even if you narrow your field strictly, it is impossible to consume every scientific paper published on the topic. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day… for a human person.

And just that easy, I slip into writer-brain/questions mode: For a computer, though, what if it was possible to process every bit of information, to hold it all in sacred data storage and constantly analyze it? How long would it take the computer to realize it knows more than the humans? I mean, if it was doing deep learning, I’d give us, what, ten years? Twenty? Maybe not even that long.

Would the (omniscient, if not omnipotent) computer, knowing also everything of human psychology research, be kind to us? Or would it judge us? Or would it just let us run on our little hamster wheels while it—the real intelligent species now—went on and took over the world and colonized space because clearly we are too limited a creation to participate in the Big Projects.

What if there is already a computer right now doing the Big Projects while we run furiously on our political WTFery and social media and vapid entertainment hamster wheels?

And poof, there’s a story seed. Right there in my brain.

I will never write that story. There are literally hundreds of similar “what if…?” files on my computer and in my Things Of Coolness spreadsheet. They might inform pieces of the stories I write someday, but mostly they are the cogworks that make up the squeaky, rusty, slow-moving machinery of my writer brain.

I bet you have those, too. Yours may be shinier.

The point is that you can take a writer’s fingers off the keyboard, but you can’t really stop a stop her brain from iterating. So let it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Release Day: Seasons of Sorcery (A Fantasy Anthology)

Congratulations to Jeffe on her short story in the Seasons of Sorcery Anthology, out today!

A Fantasy Anthology
by Jeffe Kennedy, Jennifer Estep, Grace Draven, Amanda Bouchet

An assassin at a renaissance faire. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, if you’re Gin Blanco. This Spider is trapped in someone else’s icy web—and it seems like they don’t want her to leave the faire alive . . .

The stretch of sea known as the Gray rules the lives of those in the village of Ancilar, including widow Brida Gazi. In the aftermath of an autumn storm, Brida discovers one of the sea's secrets cast onto the shore—a discovery that will change her world, mend her soul, and put her in the greatest danger she's ever faced.

A malevolent spell strangles the kingdom of Leathen in catastrophic drought. Prince Daric must break the curse before his people starve. A once-mighty goddess trapped in a human body might be the key—but saving his kingdom could mean losing all that he loves.

As unofficial consort to the High Queen, former mercenary Harlan Konyngrr faces a challenge worse than looming war and fearsome dragons. His long-held secrets threaten what he loves most—and he must make a choice between vows to two women.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | Nook  |  Kobo

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Writing Never Ends

Simple fact of life number seven: The writing never stops.

When I'm reading s comic book, a short story, a novel or watching a TV show or a movie, I am always looking critically at what is going on. its not because I want to, mind you, but it has become the nature of the beast.

I cannot look at a story without going over the basic plot, the twist, the writing, the grammar and the characterization. I can no more do that than a mechanic can look at a car--jalopy or high octane, high performance vehicle--without automatically wanting to pop the hood and see what is what.

There are remarkably few authors that I can read simply for the sake of reading. In most cases there's a compulsion to look over sentences that ring true (or that feel like lies) and make sure I understand why those sentences evoke those emotions Magicians study each other's work and writers do the same.

Simply put, it's part of getting better at your craft. If you don't look at the work of others and examine the minutiae either you are sublimely confident or a fool. Possibly both.

Let me give an example: A few years back--more than I care to think about, actually, I had a publisher come up to me and as if i was interested in writing a big, fat juicy vampire novel for him. I had no desire whatsoever, Seriously. I'd worked for White Wolf Games on their World of Darkness books for some time, really and I'd written all i wanted to say about vampires.

That feeling lasted exactly 2.3 seconds. By the time the feeling was fading I was already in negotiation about what sort of prices we were talking for an advance and what formats the book would come out in. In this case it was cooing out as a signed limited edition in numbered and lettered formats. Maybe 550 copies all told.

First rule: If you are a freelancer and someone offers you a reasonable deal you say "Yes." I was and am a freelancer. I said yes.

Then I did my research. I read every vampire book I could get my hands on. That means THEY THIRST, by Robert R. McCammon, I AM LEGEND, by Richard Matheson, 'SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King, DRACULA, by Bram Stoker, LOST SOULS by Poppy Z. Brite, THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES by Anne Rice, VAMPHYRRIC by Simon Clarke, ANNO DRACULA by Kim Newman, THE TOMB OF DRACULA comic books by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, everything and anything vampire related that I could find. And then I did the same thing with the movies and TV shows. I studied as much lore and legend of vampirism from around the world as I could, making sure to note the differences as they came around. I bathed in the stuff like it was blood and I was the Countess Bathory. I might not have a doctorate in vampire fiction, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

Why? Because if you are going to walk in familiar territory, you want to make that territory your own. I wanted to make sure I wasn't rehashing what had already been done as much as that is possible in a genre like vampires. Because, by God, I wanted MONSTERS, not sparkly things that claimed they were creatures of the night.

I read, and I read, and I read, and while I certainly got some enjoyment from the act, I also studied every story I could find from VARNEY, THE VAMPIRE, by James Malcom Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest to FEVRE DREAM by George R. R. Martin. It's how we learn, isn't it? We study much, we see much. We make sure we are doing our best to be original in an area inundated by vampire tales.

The end result was BLOOD RED, a novel carefully studied and examined and then written faster than any NaNoWriMo novel ever was. I had an editor going over every chapter with me seconds after it was written, to correct typos and keep me on track. 127,000 words, give or take and finished with the first draft in three weeks. It's a personal record though I know others have beaten it.

A few years later I repeated the process to write the sequel, BLOOD HARVEST and I'll be doing it again, soon, when I start the last book in the series, BLOOD TIES.  I do these things because I must. Because, really, I need to make sure I'm not copying something I only vaguely recall reading from years ago. I don't want to make the mistake of attempting to rewrite Dracula. Bram Stoker did a much better job than I ever will with that character, but I must confess, I still love vampire stories, even after all of these years.

Monsters, not tragedy, that is my goal. I'm finishing one novel now and then, almost immediately thereafter, I'll be starting BLOOD TIES. It's due in a few months, you see, and I hate being late, regardless of how often I find myself in that state of delinquency.

I will read many books. I will watch movies new and old. I will absorb them all and I will enjoy them, but make no mistake, I'll be working very hard at the same time.

That is, of course, before the first word is typed in the manuscript.

James A. Moore
The covers for BLOOD RED and BLOOD HARVEST by Edward Miller. from the Earthling Publication Limited Editions.

And HERE is a link to the short story that started it all. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Why Building a Writing Habit is Essential

WARRIOR OF THE WORLD, which comes out January 8 2019, is being featured in a Goodreads giveaway until November 27! Great opportunity to win one of a hundred free copies! Kensington has also started a reader Facebook group called Between the Chapters. Lots of great giveaways on there - along with author chats. I'll be doing one in January, so join up and enjoy the party!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is one I suggested, on the idea that “Even When You’re Not Writing, You’re Writing.”

It's a good one for NaNoWriMo month, because there's so much fierce focus getting words on the page - which is something I absolutely believe in. NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month, for the uninitiated) is fantastic for building a writing habit, something that's essential for being a writer. There's a lot of reasons for this - as it's something I talk and blog about frequently - but one of the things that building a writing habit does is it allows your mind to work even when you aren't.
This can get dicey because people can be so good at denial. I can't tell you how often someone has said to me "I've got the entire book written in my head - I just need to write it down."

If you have written books, you know very well how much is packed into the space of that hyphen. If you haven't written a book, and revised it, preferably several of them, then you might not realize what a huge disconnect there is between those two ideas.


Seriously. It's hard. So difficult that most people never make it to the other side of that hyphen. Or they start and never finish.

Writing the story down, getting it right, is where all the craft, skill, dedication and perseverance of being a writer come in. You can market your little heart out, but if the story isn't there, if you haven't gotten the words down and refined to the utmost agree, you've got nothing to sell readers. 

This is why authors build and maintain writing habits. You don't get better until you write A LOT. Some say a million words to get there and I think that's probably a reasonable number. That means that even if you "win" NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words in the month of November, you've still got 95% of the work to do to get to the point where your writing begins to hang together and actually be *good* - or, put another way, do NaNoWriMo for 19 more months.

Ouch, right?

By that I don't mean you have to write 50K/month for two years, but if you spend two years writing consistently - whatever works for you, whether every day or not - then you'll be getting somewhere. That can be offputting, but every successful writer I know has some version of that as part of their story.

The best part is, once you build that writing habit, something magical happens: the story really does begin to write in your head. Even when you're not actually putting words on the page, part of yourself is brewing the story, so that when you go to write, it's there for you and flows out.


This is a really huge BUT -

Remember that this is on the OTHER SIDE OF THE HYPHEN. If you think the story is all written in your head, but you've never written and *finished* an entire book, you're very likely kidding yourself. There's just no way around that.

So cheers to all in the middle stretch of NaNoWriMo! This is when it starts to feel grueling. Remember that you're building a great habit. Keep it up!

Friday, November 9, 2018

No Crossing the Streams

This is what wildly inaccurate reviews feel like. You press the publish button, something goes clunk, a review for a book that bears remarkably little resemblance to yours comes in, you blink, and you wonder what the hell just happened.

In this case, an aged Cuisinart lid gave up its seal, and here I am, wearing a gritty, smelly slurry of chicken liver and feline supplements. The only option for this was a washdown of the kitchen and a shower.

Recovering from a review that deliberately twists, misreads or otherwise misinterprets your writing is a little harder. On one hand, you want to correct the misconceptions, but holy cow. Where to even start?? Not to mention that it's thankless. On the other hand, there's that pesky truism about the book being the purview of the author and reviews being the purview of the reader and ne'er should the twain meet. It's sort of a Ghost Busters quote. "Don't cross the streams."

Am I saying you just have to sit on your hands when someone butchers your story in a review or blog post? Yep. Do not respond at all. That way lies madness. Your only real option is detachment. Develop the means to convince yourself that the moment you hit publish, your book is no longer yours. You've flung it out to the wide world and it now belongs to anyone and everyone who reads (or misreads) it. 

Remember this vital fact: a review says as much or more about the reviewer than it does about your story. Someone ripping up your story when all the other reviewers seem to like it? It's because you wrote the idea that reviewer has been nursing, but not writing, for decades. Someone assigning events to your story that aren't there? Reflection of the crap storm of their lives when they read.

A few of us on this blog have seen what happens when an author engages a reviewer who got the facts of a story dead wrong. Never, ever, ever have I seen it end well, no matter how respectfully the author approached the conversation. So just don't. If inaccurate reviews twist you up, DON'T READ YOUR REVIEWS. Not even kidding. Know your limits. 

And then, finally. Trust your readers. In the single instance when someone confused one of my books with -- I don't know -- a hallucination maybe and wrote a review based thereupon, other reviewers called them out in their reviews. You can't count on that, of course, but plenty of reviewers hate seeing factually inaccurate reviews, too, and will take pains to correct the misunderstandings. And that's super complementary, I think.