Monthly Archives: February 2012

So you want to…


Crymsyn Hart

…start a book. You have this great idea and you want to transfer it onto the page. However, there is just one problem.

How in the world do you start the book? Where do you go with it once you begin? Are the characters going to lead you or are you going to lead them? These are all valid questions for the budding writing. When I started writing, I wasn’t thinking any of these things. I just had a burning tale inside my mind that I had to tell. So what do you do when you have the idea?

My advice is to write it down so you don’t forget it. I have a notepad by my bed in case I wake up in the middle of the night with an epiphany for a great plot. From there, the idea grows and you can form it into an outline.

Outlines are good because you can mold the story and have some notion of where it is going to go. You can break it down even further into chapters and then scenes. Once you have that, then the thrill starts of writing that first sentence on a page. Some authors I know have trouble writing that very first sentence and stare at the page for hours before those right words hit them. I’m of the mind to start writing anything because you have to kick off the design somewhere.  Remember you can always go back and change that first sentence or delete it even if it doesn’t work. The most important thing is getting the momentum going and running with it.

Once you get that then you are on your way.

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The secret of writing short

by Bud Sparhawk

Several years ago, after I had a few stories published and wrote my first Nebula finalist (Primrose & Thorn), I was invited to dinner by four accomplished novelists. I listened with rapt attention as they spoke knowingly of agents and contracts, of royalties and galleys, and talked with the ease of experience about book launches, autographing, and the other things that seldom impact a short story writer’s life.  This was heady stuff and I reveled in being graced to be among their number.

Yet, as the evening wore on, I began to wonder why I had been invited to sit among this prestigious group since not only had I not written a novel, but the possibility of embarking on the long and arduous task of writing long had not yet crossed my mind.  Were they going to give me the secret of writing huge works?  Were they about to give me the keys to novelist heaven?  Were they going to impart the secrets of the book?  I waited, growing more concerned and anxious as the evening wore on through salad, entree, desert, coffee, and finally drinks.

Finally the leader of this pack of wolves turned to the lamb among them and said: “Bud, how do you manage to sell to Analog?  What’s the secret of writing short?”

I forget what I said, but most likely it was “Huh?”  That was my first glimpse of something that I have debated ever since that night: why can some people produce novels with seemingly little effort while others struggle to produce more than a few thousand words at a time? What quirk of mind causes a novelist to spend fifty pages on an action that a short story writer dismisses in a sentence?  Why does no one go to the bathroom in a shorter work while novel characters detail every aspect of their daily ablutions?  And why in the world does the novelist allow dozens of characters to creep into their story, diverting the plot this way and that, pestering the protagonist with niggling, bothersome trivia that prevents resolution of the central issue chapter after chapter?  Why do they insist on burying the core of the story with excessive detail and descriptions?

Why can’t they just say what they mean and get off the stage?

Short story writers don”t feel the need for glittering ornamentation or writing casts of characters that are not directly related to the central thesis of the story.  A short story’s protagonist is never diverted for long from their path, not with the premise’s tease far behind and the end of the story looming just a few thousand words ahead.  No, the short story writer’s brain focuses on the immediate, the important, and nothing that does not support the central thesis is allowed to intrude on making a clear and utterly unambiguous end.  The short story always has a point, damn it!

Perhaps that is the central difference between the novelist and short story writer: While the novelist cannot resist the call of complexity, the short story writer cannot resist the need for simplicity.

But I fear that is too much of a simplification since many novelists write short stories and some short story writers manage to eke out a novel or two.  The answer might be the simple economic reality that you can’t make money writing short so most novelists chose not to.   That also is a simplification that begs the question I was asked at that long-ago dinner and today, after all those years since, I am left not knowing the answer.  I do know that I write short because I couldn’t do otherwise.  I feel impelled to reach a conclusion quickly, to make my point, tell my tale, and start on the next, and the one after that, and on and on.

And maybe novelists feel the same impulse to expand, expostulate, and discourse because they cannot do otherwise.

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

Small Cons Are Conventions Too…

There are many conventions throughout the United States on any given weekend.  Some are very large and well known like DragonCon.  Others, not so much.

However, the small Cons offer the fan an intimate feel and still present the genres that fan-goers have come to expect.  The writers, the gamers, the fan groups, all are present, and may be a little easier to get to talk with. 

It is in this vein, we find StellarCon.  A small but feature packed Con this weekend in High Point, NC.  CAPS and I will be there and on the paranormal panels.

Come on out and see us!


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Living With Your Writing Resolutions

by Gail Z. Martin

Now that we’re a few months in to the new year, are those resolutions starting to chafe a bit?  Maybe the diet is history, the exercise plan is on again/off again, and the desire to meditate daily has hit the snooze button.  So where does that leave your resolve to make this the year you finish your book?

Whether you’re writing for your own satisfaction or with an eye on eventually getting published, there will be a lot of days when you don’t feel like writing.

Write anyway.

Maybe you just get a page.  Maybe you just get a paragraph.  By having the discipline to sit down and put thoughts on paper, you will be that much closer to finally completing your manuscript.

I find that even on days when I don’t know where the book is going to go (and even with an outline, there are days like that), once I sit down and start writing, ideas begin to flow.  Not all of the ideas will work.  But some of them will be perfect, and I wouldn’t have gotten those ideas without the discipline of putting butt in chair and cranking through ideas to get the good ones.

Maybe your schedule isn’t giving your the time off for writing you’d envisioned.  That’s OK.  Take stock of the opportunities you do have, and adjust your expectations accordingly.  If you think about what you’re going to write any time you have a moment to daydream, you’ll find that even a half hour or an hour of writing time becomes much more productive.

Don’t give up on making this the year your finish your book.  If you want to do something bad enough, you’ll find enough stolen moments to make it happen.  Persistence leads to publication!

“Like” my WinterKingdoms page on Facebook and enter to win a prize package of signed books, foreign editions and rare Advance Review Copies

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Ten Things An Author Shouldn’t Do When They’re Sick

Crymsyn Hart

1. Don’t start a book and expect to write three thousand words for the day. So not going to happen.

2. Don’t try out your new speech recognition software when every other word comes out as something you did not say. Ate turns into ant, sex turns into …Can’t write that word, and in between coughing and sneezing a question mark flashes with the words, I don’t recognize that word.

3. Don’t curl up under the blankets with computer and attempt to write. All you end up with is a bunch of zzzzz’s and they aren’t listed on the screen.

4. Don’t take cold medicine and try to imagine a love scene that makes the entire scene hilarious because there is no way certain body parts are going to fit into places they should go.

5. Don’t ask the husband to help reenact said love scene when he doesn’t want to be near you or touch you with a ten foot pole in the case that he might catch your germs.

6. Don’t attempt to make puppets from your tissues to reenact said love scene since husband doesn’t want to try it and the puppets only end up getting used to clear your sinuses or treats for the dogs while they steal them from the wastebasket while you are sleeping.

7. Don’t hold hot tea in your hand and try to type at the same time with your other hand. That only results in a wet keyboard and a very unhappy author.

8. Don’t wake up in the middle of the night and attempt to write about the dream you had while still on cold medicine because in the morning it doesn’t make any sense.

9. Don’t expect your characters to want to interact with you because they don’t want to get the crud you have either. I’ve seen it happen. Once one character falls to the crud, the rest of them do, and then you get a bunch of whining, imaginary people in your head. So not fun to live with.

10. Don’t expect your characters to spring to life and wait on you hand and foot. It would be great though.

What things do you do when you’re sick and wish you hadn’t?

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

On a sad note…

The Passing of Carolyn Massad

It is with great admiration and sadness that I announce the passing of Carolyn Massad. Carolyn was my friend and mentor. She taught me so much and helped to guide my journey of self discovery. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends, and her colleagues in the Metaphysical community here in Charlotte and the surrounding area. Go with God, Carolyn, and rest in peace.

Tina R. McSwain, Founder & Director

The Charlotte Area Paranormal Society (CAPS)

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What characters do when you’re not looking

by Gail Z. Martin

One of the fun things about being an author is that you don’t have to wait for the next book in your series to come out to find out what’s going to happen.  (Actually, that’s not entirely true, because things come up when you’re writing that you didn’t foresee.)

Another fun thing is that between books, your characters still hang out in your imagination, kind of like a “green room” for imaginary people.  They never really go away, they just relax a little when they’re off camera. Or maybe it’s like a “wrap party” after the filming for a season of a TV show ends, and the actors all get together to celebrate.

If you want to know the truth of it, it’s kinda like having a noisy Superbowl party going on in the recesses of your mind, except that no one has to vacuum up the potato chip crumbs.

(What, doesn’t everybody experience this phenomena?  All the writers I know report some variation.  Oh, you meant “normal” people…)

Eventually, the characters get over their hangovers and finish up the snacks, and then decide it’s time to go adventuring again.  That’s when they come knocking ever-so-gently at the front of my imagination, saying, “Please, can you write us another story?”

OK, so it’s more like pounding on the door with the pommels of their swords, yelling and screaming, “When do we get another damn book!”  (My imaginary friends aren’t a demure bunch.)

That’s when I find out that while they’ve been swilling ale and chowing down, they’ve actually been discussing their next adventure among themselves, and they’re ready to clue me in on it, since they need my fingers to type.  The ideas start flowing, it turns into a book proposal, and it’s my turn to take it back to my agent and publisher and say, “I think I’ve got the next story arc.”

So if you ever wondered, characters don’t just wander off to the beach or rent a cabin in the mountains in between books.  At least mine don’t.  Probably a good thing, or it might look like that Capital One commercial with the Vikings.

In fact, I think I’m getting a message from them now.  What’s that?  Oh.  Pass the salsa.

“Like” my WinterKingdoms page on Facebook and enter to win a prize package of signed books, foreign editions and rare Advance Review Copies

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

Are you tired of talking about it?  Want to experience what you have read or seen on TV?

CAPS offers the general public an opportunity to see what a paranormal investigation entails.  If you’re local, come join us for Dinner and a Ghost Hunt.

We’ll meet for dinner at 7PM at Bubba’s BBQ on Sunset. After dinner, we’ll be heading to our investigation destination. The investigation will be outside, so please dress appropriately. Long range weather forecasts are calling for rain, so I do hope that our investigation doesn’t get rained out. Bring your flashlight, camera, digital audio recorder, EMF meter, or any other ghost hunting equipment you may have. I look forward to seeing you there.


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Tips for getting your own book written in 2012

by Gail Z. Martin

So you want to write a book?  Congratulations.  Now it’s up to you to bridge the gap between “wanting” and “doing.”

The hardest part of writing a book is making the commitment to set aside the time to do what needs to be done.  That’s not just the writing; it’s also making sure that it’s proof read and as well-edited as possible.  If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, you’ll need to research and pitch your proposal to agents, and once you sign on with an agent, he/she will then pitch your proposal to publishers.  It can be a lengthy process.

If you decide to self-publish, you’ll need to format the book properly, determine things like cover art, and decide whether you’re going to do a paper book print-on-demand or just create an e-book (and handle the conversion, either or both ways).  There will be plenty of research and decisions involved.  And once your book is complete, you’ll need to plan for promotion, even if you have a traditional publisher.  Writing the book is only the beginning!

Still want to do it?  Good.  Here are six things you’ll need to do to make your book a reality this year:

  • Set aside time each week to write, and set a weekly goal of how many pages you want to write.  You may not always reach your goal (or you may even exceed it sometimes), but the goal keeps you on track.  You can always do more, but try not to do less.
  • Start researching now.  Start learning about what agents and editors do, what types of ebook formats are out there, how print-on-demand works and who the major players are.
  • Think about how the book fits into your business, and whether you’re willing to change your business model to take full advantage of the book (for example, adding speaking engagements to your calendar, making time to create and send press releases, write articles, be a guest blogger or pitch yourself as a radio guest.
  • Make connections with other authors and ask plenty of questions to see how they got published, what they would do over, and what they’ve learned the hard way.
  • Consider using a “book shepherd”, someone knowledgeable about the publishing industry who can help you finalize your book, determine your publishing options, and even pitch it to agents if that’s the route you want to go.
  • Take a hard look at the time and effort you’re willing to put into this project, as well as the money you can invest.  The price of book publishing has come way down with print-on-demand and ebooks, but it still requires some investment to hire a book shepherd, get an editor (if you self-publish or need help with the fine points of grammar and punctuation), format your book and create a cover (if you self-publish), and promote your book.

Writing a book is a fantastic step toward achieving your dreams, promoting your business and exploring your creativity.  Make this the year that you make your dream come true!

“Like” my WinterKingdoms page on Facebook and enter to win a prize package of signed books, foreign editions and rare Advance Review Copies

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Welcome to The Dread

by Gail Z. Martin

The Dread, Book Two in The Fallen Kings Cycle, is now available!

The Dread is the conclusion to the struggle for control of the Winter Kingdoms that began in The Sworn.  For those who have read my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, it’s the sixth book following the lives, struggles and adventures of Tris Drayke, Kiara Sharsequin, Jonmarc and Carina Vahanian, and the rest of the crew.

As plague and famine scourge the winter kingdoms, a vast invasion force is mustering from beyond the northern seas. And at its heart, a dark spirit mage wields the blood magic of ancient, vanquished gods.

Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to meet this great threat, gathering an army from a country ravaged by civil war. Neighboring lands reel toward anarchy while plague decimates their leaders. Drayke must seek new allies from among the living – and the dead –- as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle.

Then someone disturbs the legendary Dread as they rest in a millennia-long slumber beneath sacred barrows. Their warrior guardians, the Sworn, know the Dread could be pivotal as a force for great good or evil. But if it’s the latter, could even the Summoner-King’s sorcery prevail?

So is this the last book in the Winter Kingdoms?  No.  But I’m going to step away from these characters for a while and give the survivors a much overdue rest  (the action of the six books takes place over the course of about two years, so they’ve earned it).  Later this year, I’ll tell you more about what comes next, but for now, I’m very excited to share the rest of the story with you and take you along on the dark and dangerous road to save the Winter Kingdoms.

Here are some extra goodies in celebration of The Dread’s launch:

  • “Like” my WinterKingdoms page on Facebook and enter to win a prize package of signed books, foreign editions and rare Advance Review Copies
  • Watch the video:
  • Four excerpts to get you started:
  • Excerpt #1
  • Excerpt #2
  • Excerpt #3

  • Excerpt #4

  • Order from Amazon through my link at and get special bonus downloads from a slew of my author friends!

And I’ll be out and about with The Dread, so catch me here:

  • Reading and signing at SheVaCon in Roanoke, VA Feb. 16 – 18
  • Launch party at Mysticon in Roanoke, VA from 7 – 9 pm in the Con Suite on Feb. 24
  • In-store signing at the Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall, Charlotte NC on Feb. 4
  • In-store signing at Books-A-Million at Concord Mills, Concord, NC on Feb. 11
  • Watch for more in-store signings to come!

I’d love to hear from you—please comment on my blog or on Facebook, and of course, I always really appreciate it when you forward my posts to your friends.

I hope to meet you at a convention or signing this year.  Enjoy!

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Filed under Books, Gail Z. Martin