Tag Archives: vampires

Friday Interview: Carlie M.A. Cullen

Photo of CarlieAs I promised a while back, today Carlie M A Cullen, author of The Heart Search trilogy, has consented to answer a few questions for us. She is a lovely, talented woman who has been one of my editors for several years now!

CC: Hi Connie! It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for the tea.

CJJ: Hello, and you’re welcome! Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

CC: I grew up as an only child. My parents worked full time and both had second jobs. As a result I was left to create my own entertainment. I loved the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and started to write my own fairy tales. I found myself disappearing into the stories I created and it made me feel less lonely. From there, I progresses to writing longer short stories and poems. It’s something I’ve continued to do into adulthood.

CJJ: As you know, I love this series. Tell us about your most recent book.

CC: I hope you’re not after any spoilers, Connie! [laughs] Heart Search: Betrayal is the final book in the trilogy and takes Remy and Joshua’s story to its natural conclusion. However, it’s not all hearts and flowers – far from it. There is a traitor who is passing copious amounts of information to someone who has a massive grudge against the coven, and who they are in league with. But there are four possible suspects. Which one is it and can the coven discover their identity before it’s too late? There are many twists and turns along the way, some good and some terrible. Certain characters really shine and there’s the discovery of new talents along the way. Unfortunately there are casualties, some of which may shock my readers.

CJJ: The story line in Betrayal is quite divergent from the previous two books. How did you come to write this novel?

CC: When I reached the halfway point in the first book, Heart Search: Lost, I knew there was too much of a story for just one. It was at that point I realized Heart Search would turn into a trilogy. I couldn’t leave the world I’d created and made the decision to complete the trilogy before moving onto other stories I had in my head.

CJJ: I always have that problem too. I think some stories are just larger than we originally thought. So, do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

CC: It depends on what I’m writing really. With Heart Search, I had the first twelve chapters meticulously outlined, but around chapter five my characters decided they were going to take over and make me tell their story their way. I threw away the outline and have ‘winged it’ ever since. As I wrote this based on current day, it was easy to do.

With my next book, I’ve had to do some extensive world building and creating magic systems and the like before I began writing. However, as far as the story goes, again I’m winging it and seeing where my muse and characters takes me.

CJJ: Well your muse is taking you to some wonderful places! In your opinion, how does your work differ from others of its genre?

CC: I can only really talk about the Heart Search trilogy here. In the first book you have two POV’s: Remy in first person and Joshua in third person. Their stories run parallel to each other and every now and then they softly bump before going off again. I believe this is what makes it unique. In book two, I brought in extra character voices and gave them their own POV’s in third person. The final book takes even more POV’s into the mix, always in third person, whereas Remy has maintained a first person POV throughout.  I also believe (going by the reviews I’ve read) the storyline itself is completely different to what others have read before. Put all this together and that’s what I think makes my work so different from others in its genre.

CJJ: So now we get down to the question that I always wonder: Why do you write what you do?

CC: As I said earlier in the interview, I loved the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales and that was a huge influence in my writing. Growing up I tried reading different genres, but I always came back to fantasy. There’s something so intriguing about the characters you can create, the worlds you can build, and adding to that those mystical creatures we all know so well: fairies, goblins, dragons, vampires, et al. It seemed only natural for me to write in this genre. It’s where I’m in my comfort zone.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

CC: Originally, I wanted the dream of getting an agent and a decent publishing deal, but I was new to the industry and quite naïve. After a few rejections, I decided that after all my hard work on the book it would be nice to give people a chance to read it. In addition, I had people I knew asking me for it. It was about that time I joined Myrddin Publishing. Everyone was so supportive from day one so I published it through them and haven’t looked back since.

Now I know more about the industry, I’m really glad I’ve taken this path. I have so much more control over where my books are sold, what sort of cover I want, what price to charge, and how much I want in royalties that I think I’d now be too stifled by a major publisher.

CJJ: I agree! Being a part of the Myrddin Group has been a blessing to me too, considering the assistance we give each other in every aspect of bringing a book to market. And the fact that you really are in control of your own work and profits makes this an adventure!  So what advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

CC: This is a tricky one to answer because what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. I think the best thing they could do is talk to other authors, some who are indie and some who have gone the traditional route. Ask them about the pros and cons of both and then they can make an informed decision that’s best for them.

I wish I’d done that in the beginning as I was so green it was ridiculous, but I was one of the lucky ones who met some wonderful indie authors who helped me along the way.

But going back to the question, do your homework and don’t make any snap decisions or judgments that you may later regret.

CJJ: Very good advice! Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to visit with me, and for sharing your wisdom!

Alice in Wonderland Tea SetCC: Thanks so much for inviting me, Connie. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you. Now, is there any more tea brewing?

CJJ: Yes, actually. This is a lovely citrus Lady Grey, I hope you like it! This tea set is my Alice in Wonderland set, which my children gave me last year!

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Betrayal front coverCarlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing.

She has always written in some form or another, but started to write novels in 2011. Her first book was published by Myrddin Publishing in 2012. She writes in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for New Adult and Adult.

Carlie is also a principal editor for Eagle Eye Editors.

Carlie also holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb. They have published four anthologies so far, two for adults and two for children, all of which raise money for a local hospice.

Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter.

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Links for Carlie M A Cullen

Website: http://carliemacullen.com

Twitter: @carlie2011c

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CarlieMACullen

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=240655941&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B009MWVL5A

About.me: http://about.me/CarlieCullen

Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/CarlieCullen

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6550466.Carlie_M_A_Cullen

BOOKS:

Heart Search, book one: Lost: http://smarturl.it/HeartSearch-Lost

Heart Search, book two: Found: http://smarturl.it/HeartSearch-Found

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Heart Search book three: Betrayal

Betrayal front cover Today is the release of a book that I had a great time being a part of–Heart Search  book three: Betrayal, by UK author, Carlie M. A. Cullen. I had the privilege of being a structural editor for this, and it was a project I really enjoyed.

Where to start? It is the third book in a trilogy, and so it picks at the end of the previous book, of course–but a new reader could start with this book and not feel too confused.

For me, this book is a roller-coaster of events and emotion, as Samir’s and Joshua’s covens prepare to defend themselves from an upstart rival’s attempted takeover. The disappearance and kidnapping of Erika casts suspicion on several people, and the discovery of a traitor in their midst is an unpleasant monkey-wrench tossed into the works, making it difficult for Samir and Joshua to know who to trust.

Their enemy, Liam, is a low-class thug who has no problem starting the equivalent of a gang-war within the vampires’ society. His heavy-handed bullying of his subordinates and cruelty to his victims is evidence of that. His second in command, Max, is much smarter vampire, a man who could have been quite decent under other circumstances and isn’t quite sure that his maker is all that sane.

Phoenix, the hidden traitor in their midst is an arrogant, self-absorbed twit, and definitely a jerk. The traitor claims to care for the person handed over as a hostage, but does it anyway, knowing the hostage will not be treated well. Phoenix manages to cause nothing but trouble before their identity is finally revealed.

Remy’s sudden separation from her family has her twin in an uproar. Her emotional instability affects Becky, her twin, as do other aspects of her life, although neither woman is aware of that connection. The stilted, angry phone conversations between the two only serve to complicate things.

This book has many, many threads that are woven together to create a compelling story of intrigue, Stockholm Syndrome, and the arrogance that comes with immortality. It is filled with strong characters and inventive plot twists—some creepy, some chilling, and some downright horrifying.

It’s a paranormal romance, so some graphic sex and a great deal of violence make this book definitely an adult read.

When launching a new book, marketing is always a tough thing for an indie. I must say, Carlie has really stepped up for this:

She is putting forth a Raffle Copter Giveaway of some gorgeous Heart Search themed jewelry.

heart search jewelry

That is some fabulous bling for her loyal fans!

Another thing that Carlie Cullen had done for marketing is she has created a really awesome book trailer for YouTube, The trailer is very noir, and really shows the atmosphere of the books:

Heart Search book three: Betrayal Trailer

These are really good marketing tools, and I feel sure her investments will pay off in the long run with good initial sales.

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Heart Search 3-Betrayal, Carlie Cullen

Betrayal front coverI read voraciously, in all genres and one of my not-so-secret vices is the occasional lust for a good paranormal fantasy.

One of my favorite authors in that genre is Carlie M.A. Cullen, who just happens have a new book coming out in her Heart Search Trilogy. Today she is revealing the cover for the final book in the series–and as with the first two covers, I  really love it. It totally speaks to the book’s dark theme. Her cover artist is Nicole Antonia Carro, who is one of the best indie graphic designers in the business, and an accomplished author in her own right.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to read this manuscript, and it is quite the finish to a bold trilogy.

What I find most intriguing about this series is that it revolves around people who have become vampires, and who no longer think the way humans do. But despite the real difference that having the kind of power they have makes in the way they view the world, they are family oriented and deeply committed to each other.

I’ve never considered writing about vampires and likely won’t, as my creativity doesn’t turn that way right now, but I confess I am curious about many things in regard to the conception of this series. To that end, I will be interviewing Carlie at a later date, and she has promised to answer most of my questions.

In the meantime here are the particulars for this book that is so beautifully covered:

Blurb for Heart Search: Betrayal

One bite started it all . . .

Joshua, Remy, and the twins are settled in their new life. However, life doesn’t always run smoothly. An argument between Becky and her twin causes unforeseen circumstances, an admission by Samir almost costs him his life, and the traitor provides critical information to Liam. But who is it?

As Jakki’s visions begin to focus on the turncoat’s activities, a member of the coven disappears, and others find themselves endangered.

And when Liam’s coven attacks, who will endure?

Fate continues to toy with mortals and immortals alike, and as more hearts descend into darkness, can they overcome the dangers they face and survive?

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Carlie M.A. Cullen, Author

Photo of CarlieCarlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing.

She has always written in some form or another, but started to write novels in 2011. Her first book was published by Myrddin Publishing in 2012. She writes in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for New Adult and Adult.

Carlie is also a principal editor for Eagle Eye Editors.

Carlie also holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb. They have published four anthologies so far, two for adults and two for children, all of which raise money for a local hospice.

Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter

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You can find Carlie’s books at:

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You can connect with Carlie via these social links:

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Do take a look at her books–if you are a fan of paranormal romances, these books are a fun read, filled with characters that are larger-than-life, and adventures into the dark and mysterious world of the immortals who surround us.

Editors Note: I did make a typo in the Title of this post.  It is Heart Search : Betrayal, not Betrayed as was originally posted.

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Stephen Swartz, A Dry Patch of Skin

A patch of Dry Skin, Stephen SwartzToday, my dear friend, Stephen Swartz, author of the new book,  A Dry Patch of Skin has consented to answer a few questions for us. Stephen is a true renaissance man–an accomplished musician, and the author of seven published novels, he is also a professor of English at a well-known university in Oklahoma.

I became friends with Stephen in 2011 through ABNA, and we have remained good friends since. I find him hilarious, and I really enjoy his work. He has kindly consented to sit down and allow me to “virtually interview ” him. I am especially curious about his wonderful new book, which is a vampire tale. It’s most certainly not your mama’s sparkly vampires! If you are curious, here is my review: Best in Fantasy: A Dry Patch of Skin

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

Stephen Swartz 2007SS: It seems like I’ve always been making up stories, much to my parents’ chagrin. I began by drawing panel comics, then added dialog, then began writing paragraphs. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in my youth, plus the classics of literature. They influenced my writing mostly by pushing me to try to “out-do” those authors with my own stories. My early writing was limited by the limitations of typewriters and correction fluid. When I got my first computer in 1986, all of my vast library of stories finally could be written. And the world shuddered….

 

CJJ: Tell us about your most recent book.

SS: A DRY PATCH of SKIN is a contemporary vampire story, but not at all modeled after any of the current vampire TV shows, films, or the books they are based on. I deliberately tried to keep it real. Thus, I researched diseases which cause symptoms approximating the vampire’s condition. In that way, I wanted the reader to experience what it would be like to become a vampire. I decided to tell the story through the POV of a man who is transforming against his will into something he does not want to become. All the tropes and memes of vampire stories are there, but they are realized in a medically accurate fashion—as much as possible. It gets a bit religious at the end, so…call it magical realism.

 

CJJ: How did you come to write this novel?

SS: I had the idea in rough form ever since Twilight came out and I tried to explain to my daughter, who was hooked on the Bella/Edward story, what “real” vampirism was. For that explanation, I recalled a report years ago on one of those news magazine shows about a man suffering from porphyria, sometimes called the “vampire disease”; the medical explanations for his affliction made perfect sense in terms of why he might be called a vampire if he happened to live in a certain time and place rather than modern America. Watching that interview (he wore a hood to cover his face), I could truly feel the anguish of being in that situation, and given that my art is answering What-if questions, I sought a vehicle for illustrating that awful situation.

 

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

SS: For A DRY PATCH of SKIN, I worked a bit differently than usual. I began with snatches of my real life, anecdotes that were humorous or telling in some way, then fictionalized them. My initial goal was to explore the character I was inventing, to get down his personality, way of expressing himself, his identity, and so on. As a story set in 2014 in the same city where I live, it was quite schizophrenic to write fiction about the places I regularly visit.

Unlike some authors, I generally do not make lists of traits or compose background profiles of my characters; sometimes I do not know all about them when they come on stage and I get to know them as readers do. (Of course, I go back in revision and make it all fit together.) I do collect information as I create them but it stays in my head. Sometimes browsing the internet will bring me an image that fits what I see in my head.

I knew from the start the direction A DRY PATCH of SKIN would go but I did not have the exact action of the climactic scene until I was mid-way into the writing. Once I “knew” how it would end, the direction of the plot shifted a bit to head toward that conclusion. I found by the end, fortunately, that I happened to have dropped some good seeds along the way which conveniently blossomed in the final chapters—much as Chekhov’s musket in Act 1 must be fired by Act 3. I suppose it’s a matter of how my twisted mind works; I’m not always conscious of the big picture under the cacophony of surface features, but my deeper self knows…because he sleeps with my muses.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

SS: A DRY PATCH of SKIN was a personal challenge, something in a genre I have not written previously. The saving aspect for me, however, was that it is, at the core, a tragic love story. (Is that a spoiler?) The trappings of vampire transformation become the vehicle for pulling off that tragedy. Or is it that the transformation, the struggle to avoid it or prevent it, is made more tragic with the love interest? At any rate, I’ve consciously tried to go counter to all the usual tropes of the vampire genre. In fact, the characters often mention, critique, and spoof some of the popular works of the genre during their conversations. I hope this novel will be both a fun “review” of the vampire literature as well as a realistic portrayal of a biological problem; in that sense, it’s a medical thriller.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?

SS: A DRY PATCH of SKIN was a departure from my usual kind of novel (contemporary anti-romance or sci-fi on a grand scale). I was intrigued by the question and wanted to see if I could write it if only to see how such a situation might play out. I seldom write as a challenge or game, but this time I did. For writing in general, I simply want to follow my desire to see what happens next for the people I create and the situations I put them in. I know that sounds cruel, but that’s how I roll. It probably keeps me out of jail or the mental hospital.

Next, I’ve been challenged to write an epic fantasy with dragons. Epic fantasy is no problem; dragons are—because it’s in my nature to try to explain them in an authentic zoological way.

CJJ: I certainly can’t wait to see what sort of spin you give dragons! I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

SS: Strange you should ask because while I have always done things my way (Thanks, Frank!), the results have not always been glorious. After a health scare a few years back, I realized what I wanted most in whatever time I thought I had left was to publish one of the books I’d already written. Years before that, I had gone through the lengthy process of soliciting with actual reams of paper in mailing boxes and the 6-12 month wait for a response by paper form letter. But just a few years ago, the world apparently  changed and querying and soliciting were being done electronically, which opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I was impatient, for health reasons, so I caught the attention of a small publisher with a book I entered into a contest. That did not go so well but I did get a taste of the brave new world of publishing. The rest is what some call history—and others call serendipity.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

SS: I suppose there are all kinds of reasons and they tend to be settled on an individual basis. I described my situation, but even without that push from Father Time I’d probably still discover the small and indie publishers and hook up with one of them eventually. If I were young and had a market-ready book with a ready-made audience, I’d query that thing to the farthest star. If you are short on time or believe your work is specialized and thus out of the mainstream, you probably have to go indie.

My goal the past four years has been to make the books I’ve previously written available, at least that, not so much for my ego as for being able to check them off my so-called bucket list. Then I wrote something new! And made it available, too. And I wrote something new again! I have to give credit to the publishing of my early books for the spark of creativity that caused me to write my new books.

Thank you Stephen, for answering my questions! For those readers who are interested in reading more of Stephen’s writing journey, you can find him blogging at:

Deconstruction of the Sekuatean Empire

 You can purchase all the books written by Stephen Swartz from this page at Amazon.com

stephen swartz's books

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The Zombie Apocalypse–and so it begins…

Halloween is just a day or two away. Wednesday night will see the streets of my town filled with the walking dead, the could-be-dead and the just plain skeletal remains of the dead. Should I plan poorly and run out of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Hershey’s Chocolate Bars before 9:00 P.M. or so, I will most likely wish I was dead! After all, my deeds that night are all that stands between the undead apocalypse and the good people of the world.

What is this fascination we have with death?  So many books are being written about the undead, vampires and zombies.  In my town Zombies are very popular, being quite athletic and charitably minded, with many turning out this last week for the Zombie Dash 5k run.

According to Zynga executive, Travis  Boatman, who has been making games for two decades,  “People want to smash and maim and kill people,” Travis says. “But people don’t  alway like smashing and maiming and killing real people because, well, there’s  something unsettling about that. Zombies are people,” Travis continues, “so they fulfill people’s desire to  smash and maim and kill people. But they’re also already dead. So there’s  nothing unsettling about smashing and maiming and killing them.”

Read more of Travis’s Interview at : Zynga

Vampires are of course very romantic, and frequently are the most popular books on the store racks. Anne Rice made the vampire quite romantic and disturbingly sexy in her 1976 novel, Interview With the Vampire. Stephanie Meyers made them not only romantic, she made them mainstream with her mega-popular  Twilight.  Heck, she even managed to make damp, dreary Forks, Washington seem somehow  more mysterious, much more glamorous and a LOT less rainy than it actually is. After all, Forks averages 212 days per year with measurable precipitation — and trust me, that is a LOT of dark, rainy days.

I am a superhero, and  October 31st is a most important night in the calendar of this superhero. It is the one night of the year when the veil between the worlds is most thin and the undead wait, literally DYING to invade our streets. Without my efforts to stave off the annual apocalypse which each year is poised to take place on November 1st, who knows what mayhem would abound?

How do I do this?  I have certain skills… and I’ve much arcane and mystical knowledge. Dressed in my ritual garb, I will personally perform the annual sacrifice which appeases those uneasy dead who roam the streets.

The vampires and zombies who will be knocking at my door on Wednesday will be, for the most part, less than four feet tall, wearing rain coats over their rags and capes, and carrying plastic bags for the annual sacred offering of chocolate.  I will be wearing my lucky witch’s hat and  flying-cape as I ritualistically drop chocolate into the offering-bags, hoping against hope that the annual tribute will keep my neighborhood safe from the walking dead for one more year.

I take my work seriously, when it comes to protecting my town. If it wasn’t for me and fifty dollars worth of chocolate, who knows what evil these undead marauders could unleash for the next year? It’s a terribly lonely thing, knowing that one fat grandma in a witch’s hat armed only with a bucket of chocolate is all that stands between human-kind and the zombie apocalypse.

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You, Me and Mr W B

Today’s guest is the well-known author, blogger and editor, Carlie M.A. Cullen, author of Heart Search, a paranormal fantasy and who hails from the UK. She has consented to give us her humorous take on that bane of all writers – Writer’s Block.  Her approach is quite zen as compared to mine!  Take it away, Carlie…

You, Me and Mr W B

The vast majority of us authors have day jobs and families, so we try and squeeze in some time when we can to write. But it’s just not that easy.

Picture the scene; you’ve had a rotten day at work so you’re feeling kind of up-tight and frustrated – angry even. When you get home you find some bills in your post box so now you have to work out which ones you can pay now and which will have to wait a week or two. Your spouse/partner is worried about money, the kid(s) and is fed up because he/she broke a favourite ornament. One of the kids is ill; they’ve got a bit of a fever and keeps throwing up, and the dog has decided to expand its’ culinary repertoire by chewing on your slippers.

After all this and having had dinner, you manage to find half an hour to sit down and write. You fire up your PC or laptop, open the relevant page and nothing. Mr Writer’s Block has taken up residence in your head and you can’t think of a single thing to write. You re-read some of what you’ve written before in the hope it’ll spark something, anything, so you can continue with your story. But what happens? Zilch, zip, nada, nothing. Before you know it, your half an hour has gone, it’s time for bed and now you’re even more frustrated.

Is it any wonder?

Our busy lives get in the way of our writing and just trying to find the time is hard enough, but when you’re worried about money, job, kids et al, it’s really no wonder so many of us suffer visits from Mr Writer’s Block, is it?

For us to be productive with our writing, we need to be able to put aside all the stresses, strains and problems thrown across our paths. We need to allow our imaginations to soar in a creative way rather than imagining what will happen if a particular bill is not paid by the due date. We need to find our zone and shut everything else out. Sounds easy, right? Like heck it is!

So how do we do it?

Preparation is key here and there are a few techniques you can use to get past it. I’m going to share three with you here.

If you’re the sort of person who listens to music when you write, put on a CD or your iPod for a good 10-15 minutes before you start and really concentrate on it. If it’s instrumental, listen to how the notes rise and fall, the harmonies created by the different instruments and think what scene the music conjures; if there are vocals, listen to the words very carefully, and try to picture the artist’s mood when they were writing it or how they would look performing it on stage. By concentrating on the music, you’re beginning to free your mind.

Another way is deep breathing relaxation exercises with a twist. Sit or lay – it doesn’t matter as long as you are comfortable – and close your eyes. Start breathing deeply then begin by thinking about your feet and mentally picture the muscles relaxing and the stress as a puff of black smoke or a black cloud which appears outside your feet as the muscles relax. Then you start working your way up your body; ankles to knees, knees to top of thighs, hip / groin / stomach area, chest, shoulders, arms and hands, neck and last of all your head. Then you picture a shape, any shape you like. It starts off small then gets increasingly larger until it fills your vision. Then you allow the shape to morph or distort itself, bending in on itself, twirling around, basically anything your mind can invoke. Now you’ve spent that time relaxing and playing with the shape, it’s pushed out the worries and let your imagination go to work.

The final one is ten minutes of free-writing, using pen and paper. Most, if not all of you are likely to know what this is, but in case you don’t I’ll explain. Pick a word, any word you like, at random. Now you just write anything which pops into your head about that word. Spelling, grammar and punctuation go out the window. You don’t even need to worry about sentence structure. You can write a list of words you associate with your chosen topic, you can write sentences. It doesn’t matter what you write, how it sounds, how arbitrary it is, the important thing is concentrating on your chosen word and just keep writing. The mere fact of you concentrating on something else has opened your mind and allowed the creative side to emerge.

After doing one of these exercises you go straight to your computer or writing pad, whichever you use and begin to write. Allow your mind free rein on your work in progress; it’s primed and ready to accept the sparks of inspiration your preparations have encouraged. It might be a little hokey at first, a little off compared to how you normally write, but that’s okay. The important thing is you’re now writing and as you progress your style, sentence structure and all the things you’re used to will materialise and ‘hey presto’ you’re back in your groove. The worst thing you can do is concern yourself with your first few lines which may not be up to your normal standard – it can always be edited later – you’re putting words on the page or screen and that’s what matters.

So the next time you’re tense and Mr Writer’s Block come knocking on your door, slam it in his face, do your chosen exercise(s) then write to your heart’s content.

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Carlie’s approach is so much more civilized than mine!  Although, I must say, my hair-dresser, Heavenly Kevin has become quite adept at disguising the flat spot I’ve gained from banging my head on my desk!  Thank you Carlie – we’ll hear more from you in November when NaNoWriMo is in full swing and I am begging for guest posts! 

Carlie’s book, Heart Search is available at amazon.com for the amazingly affordable price of only $2.99 for the Kindle download.  I love a good tale of vampires and love gone awry!

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Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

The Villain. He or she is the single most important character in your tale.  Without a proper villain, your characters have no reason to mount an attack. There is no tension, hence, there is no real story.  But what do you model your great villain on?  For my villain, Stefyn D’Mal, I used the man who more vampires and  anti-heroes have been modeled on than any other man in modern history – George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron.

Gracing this page today is the original mad, bad and dangerous to know bad-boy whom we know simply as Lord Byron.  Hubba-hubba!  As a child, he was described as a sweet, affectionate person whom everyone loved (the good side) although he frequently exhibited silent rages, moody sullenness and revenge (the bad side). He was also cursed with a precocious bent for attachment and obsession. This was evinced in an obsession for his cousin at the age of 8 years, which he explained in his own words, “I really cannot explain or account for my feelings at that moment, but they nearly threw me into convulsions…How the deuce did all this occur so early? Where could it originate? I certainly had no sexual ideas for years afterwards; and yet my misery, my love for that girl were so violent, that I sometimes doubt if I have ever been really attached since. Be that as it may, hearing of her marriage several years after was like a thunder-stroke – it nearly choked me—to the horror of my mother and the astonishment and almost incredulity of every body.”

Obsession was a driving feature of his life, and it reared its head in various ways until the day he died. Obsession fed his creative genius, and obsession destroyed his political career. Byron was celebrated for his aristocratic excesses including huge debts, numerous love affairs, rumours of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister, and self-imposed exile. He was capricious, violent and  it has been speculated that he suffered from bipolar I disorder, or manic depression. Ultimately, Byron resolved to escape the censure of British society (due to allegations of incest and homosexuality) by living abroad,  thereby freeing himself of the need to conceal his sexual interests, as the continental Europeans at that time were less concerned with such things. In regard to the sort of man he was, Byron wrote, “I am such a strange mélangé of good and evil that it would be difficult to describe me.”

Lets be real  – who didn’t want to know Lord Byron!  He was everything we love in a celebrity! Extravagant, self-centered, childish and given to theatrics, he was the archetypal villain character and most notably Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is based on Byron!   And he is the perfect vampire – he actually wrote the original book! The unfinished story, also known as “A Fragment” and “The Burial: A Fragment”, was one of the first tales written in English to feature a vampire theme. His great friend John William Polidori based his tale, “The Vampyre” (which is credited as the original vampire tale) on both Byron’s work and modeled his vampire on Byron himself.

In regard to vampires, Lord Byron had this to say, “I have a personal dislike to Vampires, and the little acquaintance I have with them would by no means induce me to reveal their secrets.”

In my mind no one could be a more perfect villain than mad, bad Lord Byron.  He was the model on which I based the mad priest, Stefyn D’Mal, the villain in Tower of Bones.  He is witty, he is charming, he is handsome and well-educated. His conversation is captivating and when he is of a mind to, he can charm the birds from the trees.  Despite her fear of Stefyn, Marya is fascinated with him, and somewhat in love with him.  But beneath the charming exterior lies that depth of madness which makes him so dangerous, and so much fun to write.

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When Bad News Is Actually Good News

 

Those Eight Little Words No Author Wants To Hear:  This book was badly edited and nearly unreadable.

Sigh.   We struggle to produce as clean a manuscript as we can, and still we may have typos and grammatical errors that slip through.

Today I wanted to talk about editing your own work.  We all have to do it, and we have varying degrees of success!  In the morning I am better at editing than I am in the evening, because I am a morning person.  I tend to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and that is my best time of the day.   Most of my blogging and the business side of writing I try to get done in the morning because I am at my best then.   Afternoons and evenings are my best times to write.

My first line of attack is to have either my friend Jean or my sister Sherrie read the manuscript. They read the same sorts of tales that I do, so they will give my work a good once-over.  I try to send them small chunks of the tale, nothing longer than 5000 to 6000 words at a time.

They highlight typos and grammatical errors with yellow, and make comments as needed.  They also answer a list of five questions, each of which I desperately want the answers to, so that I will know if I am going in the right direction.  These questions are from the article in ‘Writer’s Digest Guide to Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy’ by Orson Scott Card, a brilliant author in his own right.

1. Were you ever bored? Tell me where it got slow.

2. What did you think of the main character?  Of the others?

3. Was there any section where you became confused? What did you have to read twice?

4. Was there any place where the story became unbelievable?

5.  What do you think will happen to the characters now?

The way my beta-readers answer these questions determines the way I continue with my story.  After all, I am writing for others’ pleasure, not just for my own gratification. Even if their responses tell me things that I don’t want to hear, I heed them because I want to turn out a good story and their input is my best tool for that. So in this case, bad news is good news, because I can still rectify the problem.

One really good thing to do with a manuscript if you do not have someone else to read it for you is to set it aside for a month or so and then come back to it with fresh eyes.  I guarantee that you will find many things, but you will also still miss some things.

A lot of the problems occurring with self- editing are because we use word-processing programs nowadays, and they are notorious for allowing sentences and paragraphs with glaring issues to pass their spell check. This is because the word that is wrong is actually a word; it is just not the word you wanted to use in that place or context.

Thus a sentence that should have read, “As a journeyman Zan did have his own bachelor apartment but frequently found himself sleeping in his old room at his parent’s home many nights anyway” was actually changed by Word to read, “As a journeyman Zan did have his own bachelor apartment but frequently found he sleeping in his old room at his parent’s home many nights anyway.”    Word does not like the words ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ used in that context for whatever reason, and will always want you to change it.  Even as I was writing this, Word wanted to change ‘herself’ to ‘she’!  Word does not understand context!

It is a small change, but it makes a huge difference and it is an error that is hard to notice when you are trying to edit your own work.

Also we do things like copying and pasting, and sometimes a small thing goes awry in that process, something that you simply do not see no matter how many times you look at it.  Even the big publishing houses are putting out products with proofing and editing issues, and I know that they try terribly hard to not let these things slip through.

Some of my writing friends will urge you to dump Word and switch to OpenOffice.  I have used both programs, and like them both. For an author, there are problems inherent in both programs, which quickly become apparent as you use them. WE have to be the final arbiter when it comes to our own manuscripts, cleaning them as well as we can BEFORE submitting them to a contest, or a publisher or a prospective agent.  Even when you have an editor, that editor often changes your manuscript in ways that you did not intend, thus changing the meaning of your words; all the while thinking that they are making it more clear.  And,  at times, they too will miss typos and grammatical errors.

That is one of the curses of being an author, but the joys of seeing your work in print outweigh the struggles, by far.

 

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Japan, Dragons, Vampires and Mythology

We  are still  dealing with the ongoing nuclear disaster in
Japan. Chuck Reindle, a relative who is living in Japan writes:

“I’m getting overwhelmed by the daily media coverage of first person accounts.  For example, a young mother was found dead still clutching her 1 month old baby. Multiply that 7 days a week, and it’s overwhelming. But I keep watching so as not to forget their pain and suffering. It’s not just money, but mental support that’s also needed. We’re all asking what can we do to help. I hope I can use my knowledge from my Masters course in psychology to help, somehow. My wife is a mental health counselor for the government. I hope the government finds a way to utilize effectively their mental health professionals. The victims are sorely in need of mental support and care.”.

The organizations whose links are below this paragraph will take
them food, and help them to rebuild their lives. They will do what ever it
takes to help bring back some sense of normalcy for the people who must daily
cope with the wreckage of their lives. They help with other dreadfully impacted
nations, and your donation can be designated for the country you wish to help.
We can’t bring back their loved ones, or take away the horror of what they are
living through but we can mitigate it in some way, and I urge you to consider
making a donation to one of these fine charities. This is the real world, and
it is often no fantasy for those who must live it.

The American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/ is out
there fighting the good fight.

Also Catholic Relief Services http://crs.org/ is on ground zero helping
anyone that they can.

Samaritan’s Purse is highly recommended to me as a world class
charity. http://speu01.samaritanspurse.org/t/219286/1732115/23/0/

However, my personal favorite of all these charities is World
Vision http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/ibeCZzdMinisites.jsp

God bless all these people and the people they work so tirelessly
to help.

I also live in the Realm of Fantasy. For me mythology and legend
ARE the fantasy world. We draw on them each time we write a God into our tale,
as in the case of Odin; or even a great wizard as in the case of Merlin. A good
background in myths and legends really helps you when you are looking for a
setting to base your tale around. It is not wise to copy them wholesale unless
you are writing a compilation of historical myths; but think about them and let
your fertile mind develop a way to make the old tales work for you.

Certain creatures and beings have common features, and we ‘know’
this because of the myths and legends we have grown up hearing or reading:
whether they sparkle or not, vampires drink blood. They may keep it in the
refrigerator fresh from the blood bank, or they might drink it from rats in
order to avoid killing humans; but in the popular consciousness, a vampire that
does not require blood to live is not a vampire.

Myth is defined as a traditional story about heroes or supernatural beings, often attempting to explain the origins of
natural phenomena or aspects of human behavior. It is an excellent stating spotfor creating the backdrop of your fantasy world and offers immense possibilities for ‘what if’.

Legends fall into two categories as described in Encarta: countable and uncountable.

1. [countable] A legend is an old story about famous past events.
One such tale could be a story about famous people and events in the past, such
as the boy who pulled a sword from a stone and thereby proving his birthright
to be King. Legends are not usually true.

2. [uncountable] Legends considered as a group: Vampires, King
Arthur, groups of tales built around a particular hero or supernatural being
with many commonalities in each disparate tale.

An excellent resource for writers of fantasy is the website The Arcana Wiki http://arcana.wikidot.com/ that helps RPG
game-builders build their worlds with more depth and life to their story lines.
They describe a Myth in this way, “A myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and mankind came to be, often
closely linked to religion. The cultures originally telling the myths generally
considered them to be true. Myths often explain natural phenomena, or how
various customs were established.”

I draw on the Mythology and Legends of my real world to build the
cultures and values of the fantasy worlds I call home. These fables provide a
framework of reference when crafting a strange new world out of whole cloth;
they are the ideas from which my new stories are spun.

Let’s continue with the concept of dragons from my previous blog.
We know that I did not invent dragons. The NewWorld
Encyclopedia
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/
states: “It is known that ancient cultures, such as the Greeks and Chinese
found fossil remains of large creatures they could not easily identify. Such fossils have
been held responsible for the creation of other mythical creatures, so it is possible that the
belief in dragons could have been fostered in the remains of real animals.”

Because of the myths and legends that already exist I had an idea
of what a dragon should look like; all I had to do was build it and put it in
the context of my tale.

When I was growing up I had an insatiable love of Arthurian
legends, and Merlin. I read any book I could get my hands on that detailed the
life and times of King Arthur and his wizardly advisor Merlin. Later, as an
adult, I was enchanted by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s masterful retelling of that epic
tale in

The Mists of Avalon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mists_of_Avalon

Her use of the Celtic and Saxon myths interwoven with her own idea
of how the story might really have happened was brilliant; and she used them to
create a tale that was so believable that it felt historical.

The use of mythology and legend to provide a framework for your
own story does not limit you to Gods and Dragons. The conflicts that they
detail, such as Good against Evil (Star Wars) the wise adviser to the young
hero (Professor Dumbledore to Harry Potter) are stories that can be told in an
infinite variety of forms because in each retelling they still speak to us and
resonate in our collective consciousness. For me, finding the humanity in the
epic struggle, and giving it a new life is the eternal quest that keeps me
writing. Each rejection and rewrite brings my tale a step closer to producing
the story that not only will express my core idea well, but also will get the
reader involved.

And that is the point of spending all these hours locked away in the Room of Shame (also
known as the office), writing impossible tales about impossible people.

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