Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Five Steps to Writing a Romance Novella #OurAuthorGang

Five Steps to Writing a Romance Novella in Two Weeks
N.N. Light

Can you write a romance novella (20,000 words) in two weeks? You bet! Here are my five steps to writing a romance novella in only two weeks:

1- Create a writing plan
Before becoming a published author, I was very disorganized. Being the creative-type, I just went with the flow and wrote when I felt like writing. This doesn't work when you have a goal of writing 20,000 words in ten days. So, I enlisted the help of my husband (totally organized) and together we created a writing schedule. Since I don't write on the weekends, I only had ten days to work with. Each day, I had to write a minimum of 2,000 words.

Confession: There were some days when I only got 1,500 words done. The next day, I made up the missing words by writing 2,500 words. I didn't stress when I came up short on a day. Stress breeds writer's block and no one wants that.

2- Block out time and turn off all distractions
I know this is hard to do nowadays but it helped me immensely. I wrote from 1:00 - 5:00 pm every day. I made sure the phone was turned off and that I had all of my other to-do's done before lunchtime. I shut down social media and email so I wasn't distracted. I made sure I had my water bottle nearby and had music on to get me in the mood. I even put on a hat that I called my "writing" hat to get me ready to write. When I had on my hat, I was in writer-mode.

3- Keep a notebook of notes you can jot down character names, story-arcs and ideas
I found this crucial when I was writing. I was able to flip through my notes and keep writing. My notes allowed the ideas to flow out of me quicker onto the page while staying focused on the plot.

4- Have a few accountability partners
This is one of the most important steps. Time is limited and you have a goal to reach. You need your own cheering section. Halfway-through, I started to lose momentum. My brain was tired and I started to doubt my ability to reach my goal of 20,000 words. I reached out to my three accountability partners and they boosted my spirits. My husband is amazing and so supportive. Every night, he asked me about what I wrote and how I did. He listened as I brainstormed and offered feedback.

5- Celebrate when you achieve your goal
Before I started writing my romance novella, I told myself when I finished I was going to celebrate. If I was going to work my fingers (and muse) to the bone, the least I could do is get something in return. My husband decided to cook me a gourmet meal with my favorites (lobster, steak, garlic mashed potatoes and creamed corn) when I finished. The image of that meal kept me going, even through the rough patches.

It took me two weeks (intense writing boot camp) but I did it! I wrote a romance novella in that stretch of time and it's one I'm extremely proud of. In fact, that same novella is featured below.

Title: Planting the Seeds of Love: A Novella

Author: N. N. Light

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Torn between two men, Sally must follow her heart and decide if love will lead her to the city or the countryside.
Twenty-Two-year-old Sally Rayton returns to the family farm she deserted four years ago to bury her grandfather. Her plan: to settle her grandfather's estate and return to her life in the city with her boyfriend, Trevor Mattson.
Her childhood friend, Jack Smith, has other ideas.
Jack convinces Sally to transform the farm into a brewery and fulfill her grandfather's dream while keeping the Rayton Farm in the family. Sally works side-by-side with Jack while Trevor is hundreds of miles away in the city. The more time she spends with Jack, the stronger her feelings are for him.
When Trevor shows up to propose to Sally right before Christmas and finds her in Jack's embrace, she must make the biggest choice of her life: true love.

"Jack, thank you so much for the lift into town," a woman replied behind Sally. "Let's grab some lunch before we shop."

Sally froze. She stared at Linda who shook her head. What was Jack doing with a woman in town?

"Here, let me take your coat, Emma," Jack said.

Emma? mouthed Sally to Linda.

"She's the daughter of Lonnie and Mary Beth." Linda gave Emma the look-over and scoffed, "She can't be a day over sixteen."

"What do I do?" Sally panicked. Normally she didn't care what Jack did or who he went off with. Curiosity got the better of her and she turned around.

Emma stood five foot three with curly blonde hair and innocent green eyes. Her figure was slim with curves in all the right places. Sally narrowed her eyes as Emma stood on tiptoe to kiss Jack on the cheek.

Fuming, Sally turned around. Linda chuckled.


"You better tone down your jealousy, darlin'. You're shooting darts everywhere."

Sally gritted her teeth.

"I'm not jealous. If Jack wants school girls kissing him, what do I care?" She took a deep drink of her coffee, draining the cup. She slammed it down.

"Simmer down, here they come," whispered Linda. She waved to Jack while Sally swore under her breath.

"Well, fancy meeting you two here," Jack drawled.

Without looking up Sally retorted, "I told you I was coming into town today."

Linda kicked Sally's leg under the table. Sally plastered a smile across her face, greeting Jack and Emma.

"Yes, what a coincidence." Sally noticed Emma looping her arm in Jack's and snuggling closer.

"I was on my way into town to pick up those parts we ordered for the tractor when I ran into Emma walking by herself in the snow." Jack smiled. Emma squeezed his arm.

"He pulled over and offered me a lift into town. Isn't he a gentleman?" cooed Emma. Jack patted her hand.

Sally's chest constricted at the sight of the two of them acting all couple-y. She stared into his twinkling eyes. Oh God, is he laughing at me? Emma can't have him. He's mine. Wait what?

"So," Linda broke the strained silence. "I have to go powder my nose. Emma, would you care to join me?"

"What's that?" Emma looked confused.

Linda laughed. "It's the bathroom, dear sweet child." She stood up, untangled Emma from Jack and guided Emma away from the table.

Jack sat down.

"What's with you today?" he asked.

"Nothing." Sally cleared her throat.

He raised an eyebrow.

"Really!" A few diners turned to stare. Sally flushed with embarrassment. She didn't mean to talk so loud. She looked everywhere except in Jack's direction.

Jack observed Sally as she fidgeted, first with her coffee cup then with the silverware. His gaze unnerved her and she practically jumped out of her chair when he placed a hand over hers. Electricity flew up her arm while warmth filled her core. Butterflies raced around her stomach, only she didn't feel sick; she pulsed with life, like never before.

"Sally...look at me."

Sally shook her head.

"You'll only laugh at me."

Jack's thumb caressed her hand gently, causing her breath to hitch.

"You know I'd never laugh at you. Laugh with you, definitely, but never at you."

Sally lifted her gaze to meet Jack's loving eyes. He slid his fingers between hers, never breaking eye contact. Sparks flew between them. He moistened his lips with a flick of his tongue. Her gaze dropped to his lips.

"Please tell me. I'm begging you," he whispered.

Unable to think clearly through the fog of desire, Sally tilted her head to one side. Her skin vibrated with heat while her nerve-endings jumped at the slightest caress.

"Tell you what?" she whispered. Her throat dry, her breathing shallow, she wet her lips with her tongue. She was under a spell and everything fell away except for Jack's passionate eyes.

"Tell me what my wasted heart needs to hear." His eyes flashed. "Tell me Emma made you jealous."

Sally started to nod but Emma interrupted.

"What are you guys talking about in hushed tones? Crops and stuff?"

Jack groaned. He dropped Sally's hand as if it burned him, causing the water glasses to jostle.


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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Writing a Book is Easy, Right? #OurAuthorGang

Writing is easy. You just sit by your computer and write. Right?

A few months ago a friend came for a visit. I was in middle of writing a novelette and didn't want to lose my thoughts on a crucial dialog, so I told her to make herself comfortable and give me a few minutes to finish it.

"Sure, no problem, "she said. "I'll make coffee and I have a few calls to make, anyway. Take your time."

She sat on the couch and by the time I finished about two pages, she took care of a few calls.
"Let me see what you wrote," she came over to my desk and looked at my screen.

I opened the document and told her, "I only have about ten pages written but if you want to read it, here it is."

She sat down, read the pages and she said, "It sounds great! You know, I should write a book too. I have a gazillion ideas and writing can't be that hard. How does it feel when your book is finished and published?"

"Writing a book is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've ever done. When I hold the finished book... it's like..."

"That's it then! I'm going to write one and you will help me publish it."

Knowing her flighty nature, starting ten projects at the same time and never finish any, I said, "Well, anyone can write a book but I have to tell you that it takes serious determination, patience, and hard work to actually finish it."

"So how do you start writing a book?"

"Every writer develops their own way of writing a book. Some writers, like me, write a rough draft and go with the flow of thoughts and ideas and then rewrite, cut out parts or adds new parts, and then edit the story. Others take it slow and think about each and every word and sentence before they write it down, so their story is finished when they write 'The End'."

"What do I do first?"

"Well, pick a genre to start with. Don’t base this choice on what genres sell best, but write what you like to read. Write a story as if you're writing it for yourself."

"I want to write romance. I love romance stories. How do I start?" 

"First, create a biography for each of your characters."

"What do you mean biography? They're not real."

"If you want your readers to enjoy the story, you need to create characters that seem real."

"Oh, right! How do I do that?

"Let's say your main character is a woman. What does she look like? How old is she? What is her name? Where does she live? Is she rich, poor, or middle-class? Is her personality easy going, shy or self-assured? Questions like these will help you to deepen her character and make her seem real."
"Cool! I can do that."

"Then you need to think about the sub-characters and plot. Who are they, how do they meet and interact with each other, what do they want, what do they do, what or who stands in their way of reaching their goal, and how the story will end."

"Oh, it's like you have the story outline in your head and then you start writing."

"Yes, and as you write, you might change your characters and the plot and you might even discard the outlines you originally wrote as you experiment with characters and plots. This is when push yourself creatively and go with it as the ideas flow in your mind and eventually, this rough patchwork of thoughts, ideas, and plotlines will come together to make a story."

"I have an idea... it's like my favorite fantasy but, of course, the guy in my fantasy is constantly changing. I'm going to write the story about my favorite fantasy guy who meets a shy girl when vacationing at a ski resort. He might sprain his ankle and she keeps him company and then they will make passionate love by the crackling fire."

"Sounds great!"

She stayed a few hours and excitedly chattered on and on about her ideas, "No, they will meet on a cruise because she can show off her perfect curves in a bikini and he... No, wait! He would be a painter and she commissions him to paint her portrait. Better yet, she would be a doctor and saves his life..."

By the time she left, she came up with about ten different scenes and plot. "I'll call you and let you know how it's going," she said and started the two hours drive to get home before dark. 

She called a few times a day for about two weeks. She developed her characters nicely but every time she called, she had a different idea for the plot.

She will work it out, I thought. If she gets stuck, she will ask for help. Months went by and I finished and published the novelette I was working on. I sent it to her and she called, "I love it! Wow! What a great story and I love the ending most."

She didn't mention her book anymore when we talked and when I asked about it, she changed the subject. I didn't mention it for a long time but after a few conversations about everything else, I asked her how the story is going.

"She said, "I'm done. I'm finished!"

"Great!" I replied, thinking that she had finished the book. "Send it to me, let me read it, and then I'll help you to publish it."

"Right! Let me send you what I have. Check your email in a few minutes."

She hung up but what she said and how she said it didn't sound like a happy writer who just finished a book, so I was anxiously waiting for the bling of my email alert.

When the email arrived, instead of a manuscript, she sent me this picture as an attachment:

Then I got a text message from her: "Got it? That's ALL I HAVE!!! I wasted six @%&* months to write THAT!!!"

Oh, boy! I thought and I called her. "What happened? The beginning sounds great, why don't you continue writing?"

"Why?" she shouted. "Why? Because I wrote three pages and then I changed my mind about the plot and deleted it. Then I wrote five pages but I had another idea and deleted that one too. I've been doing that for six @%&* months nonstop. Write, delete. Write again, don't like it, delete again."

"I'm so sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can help with?"

"Yeah, just... write your stories and let me read them. And, never, ever mention it again that I should write a book. Okay? I saved this on my computer as a reminder to never, ever attempt to write a book, again. And don't you tell me that writing is easy, okay?"

"Well, I never said that writing is easy. All I said was that writing a book is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've ever done."

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pets and Daily Life @OurAuthorGang

by Author Grace Augustine

August 6, 2014, a friend and I had plans for lunch. She came by my place and, as we made our way to her vehicle, we heard a relentless meow coming from under my mobile home. My friend assured me if it was still there when we returned, we were investigating.

Well, the meow was still there...faint, raspy, but still there. 

My friend unlatched the skirting of my mobile home and got down on her knees with a flashlight. What she found was this tiny kitten in awful shape--dehydrated, hungry, infested with ear mites, and infection in both eyes.

The only thing I had in the house to feed it was deli turkey lunchmeat. I finely chopped it up and took it outside to give to the kitten, who, by this time, was nuzzling up to my friend's neck.

She set the kitten down and it chowed down the food. When it was picked up, it began purring and nestled right up against my friend's neck again. There was no way I could allow this little thing to be outside all night. 

We brought her inside, put a towel in the bottom of a laundry basket and duct taped the handles of another basket on top. The kitten was silent. I was worried it may not make it through the night.

The afternoon we found the kitten

First thing the next morning, my son and I took it to the vet. She weighed 1.3 lbs. She'd also won my heart! We weren't going to keep her, but the more she was in our home, the more she felt a part of our home.

Two Weeks after finding Miss Bou

I'm happy to say, Ms. Babou weighs in at a little under 11 lbs, is a happy 3 yr old who rules this domain...and her people. She also has been known to do newsletter and blog takeovers on my website!

Ms. Bou's author photo

In Ethereal Authority, Book 2 of The Diva to the Guides Trilogy, you meet Simon. Simon is no ordinary feline. Simon has special powers and puts them to work saving his owner. Here is an excerpt:

       "Charisse tried to shift her body. A sharp object under her left hip prevented her from moving.
        “Don’t panic, Miss.”
        Charisse felt a warm blanket of comfort wash over her at that point. She knew Simon understood where she was and what was going on.  Not only had she had to deal with these gifts she didn’t understand, she’d been adopted by a cat who seemed to now own her. Simon The Cat had special abilities, too.

        In a world that seemed so simple, nothing was: the gifts Charisse didn’t understand, the jobs she held that used those gifts, Simon The Cat, who was now her familiar and best friend. All of this she had to figure out by herself. If only her mom could be here to teach her how to develop and use these gifts."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Practical Steps Before You Start to Write

Many authors plot and plan their books, build character profiles, draw maps, and yet they don't consider the actual formatting of the document.

I was a book designer for 10 years back in the day, when we were still transitioning from layouts on paper to designing on the computer screen. (Oh, the joy of no more cuts on every fingertip!) Computers made my job easier, but when the author insisted on following his/her own rules, it made more work for me. While back then I worked in QuarkXPress, today I just use Word and Publisher to produce books.

While there's nothing inherently wrong with just sitting down and writing your story, you can make your formatter's or designer's job easier by setting up a paragraph format before you begin. I say formatter, but the person who's fixing up the document could also be the book designer. I'm just going to say formatter.

There's a few simple rules to follow even if you don't set up a paragraph format in advance.

First, one space after periods. Two spaces leave a large, visually jarring empty chunk of page before the next sentence starts. Your formatter is going to take out that extra space anyway, so why waste time by putting it in?

Second, no tabs. Do not use a tab to indent your paragraphs. Again, your formatter will take them all out, probably swearing under his/her breath.

Third, no five space indents for paragraphs. Again, the formatter will take them out and will charge you extra for the time it takes.

Fourth, do not use "justified" text. Just let it flow as a ragged right. If you justify the text (make it stretch from margin to margin), and then publish the book as an ebook, the words will s-t-r-e-t-c-h to fit the space. Instead, let the words just flow onto the page.

Fifth, do not insert page numbers, footers or headers. They don't play well with ebook formatting.

Last, but not least, unless you're deliberately using a block paragraph format, do not put a space between paragraphs. That's just one more thing for your formatter to fix.

To set up a paragraph format in Word, simply open your paragraph dialogue box. Set the Alignment at "Left" and the Outline level at "Body Text." Leave the Indentation at "0." Under Special, set the First line at "0.5." Spacing is also set at "0" and line spacing at "Single." You can increase the line spacing slightly if the page feels crowded, for example, if the text size is 12, you might set the Line spacing at "Exactly" and "14." In general, "Single" will suffice. The screen shot below shows the settings.

There may be times that you want to use a block format. You can see the settings on the screen shot below.

By setting up your paragraph format from the beginning of your document, your paragraphs will automatically indent when you hit "Enter." In addition, once you've set up the basic paragraph format, type a few lines. Then look at the top of the page for Styles. Right click on "Normal" and click on "Update Normal to Match Selection." Now if your document gets off track, just highlight the section/paragraph and click on Normal. That will restore your paragraph formatting.

Hopefully, these simple formatting instructions will help you, especially if you are going to self-publish your ebook. I highly recommend using the Smashwords Style Guide (FREE!) to format your book.

Once you've done the initial formatting, just do a "save as" and save your book as [working title] – smashwords, or [working title] – kindle, etc, then make the small changes needed for each edition. That would usually be the front matter and Table of Contents.

As for me, I studied fine and commercial art in the days before they started calling it Visual Communications. Today, I'm a working writer and occasionally design a book cover, fliers, directories and other items. I write articles for online publications and have four books published under my own name and one under a pen name. My latest book is 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden. 

I'm working on my fifth novel, which will be the first one I actually finish, LOL! You can get a sneak peek at what I'm working on at

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Cinematic Inspirations: Part One #OurAuthorGang

My Cinematic Inspirations 

Part One

Joe Bonadonna

The year was 1958. I was six years-old. Life was a waking dream filled with magic, mystery, and wonder. It was a year that would have a lasting effect on me.

This blog is all about the films of my childhood that played a huge role in my writing Heroic Fantasy, and Sword & Sorcery stories — and still play a huge role, to this day.

It was the year I first encountered the cinematic “ancestors” of the warriors and heroes I would go on to discover 10 or so years later in the paperback pages of Lancer, Ballantine, Avon, Signet, Paperback Library, Pyramid, and other publishers who had taken up the banner of sword and sorcery, and heroic fantasy. Of course, I had already become a fan of Disney’s Zorro, had seen the Errol Flynn swashbucklers on television, and had desperately wanted to become a pirate when I grew up. I would also see Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas, The Mongols, starring Jack Palance, Hannibal, starring Victor Mature, and other films like Genghis Khan, The 300 Spartans, Ben Hur and many others, a few years later. On television, I would later see the silent Thief of Baghdad and Siegfried and other adventure films of the 1930s and 40s. But the movie theater in 1958 would have the most profound impact on my life.

The film that started it all for me was The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and the wonderful Ernest Borgnine, whom I had the pleasure of meeting shortly before he passed away. The Vikings instilled in me a love for all things Norse, just as books and other films would in time stir my passion for Greek mythology and the Roman Empire. The 16 notes that begin the main theme of Mario Nascimbene’s masterful score for The Vikings (as the dragon ships sail into the fjord) still give me goose bumps. And Jack Cardiff’s exquisite cinematography really put me inside the movie when I was a kid. The film’s action-packed, emotional climax and finale still resonate and touch me deeply. Say what you will about this film, but for this six-year-old boy who was also an only child, the story of two half-brothers and its sad resolution has never failed to touch my heart. The Vikings is also one of the few times I went to the show with both my parents. Usually, it was just my Dad who took me to see a movie or two every Sunday. (My Mom did drag me to see some of her “women’s pictures,” which only now I’ve come to appreciate, movies like the Douglas Sirk films. But she did take me to a triple-feature one Saturday: we saw The Day the Earth Caught Fire and Brides of Dracula, but I can’t recall the third movie because by then Mom had had enough and we left. But I digress.)

There was another film that year that not only blew me out of my seat; it’s also credited with inspiring scores of Special FX artists.

I’m talking about Ray Harryhausen’s masterpiece, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, of course.

To see this film on the big widescreen, viewing it through six-year-old eyes, is one of my most cherished cinematic memories. From the moment that big cyclops appears on screen I was transported to a whole new world. Bernard Herrman’s wonderful score set the perfect tone and heightened the magic of this all-time classic. From a handmaid turned into a snake-woman, a shrunken princess, a pair of Cyclopes, and a fire-spitting dragon, to a giant Roc and her babies, a genie, magic potions, an evil sorcerer, and that most incredible sword-fighting scene between Sinbad and the skeleton—I was transfixed. Only one other film, Harryhausen’s second masterpiece, Jason and the Argonauts inspired and moved me so deeply. Three of the 6 tales in my first book, Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, contain creatures I “designed” as a tribute to Ray Harryhausen.

Now we come to the start of a cycle of films that can be somewhat compared to the sword and sorcery cinematic boom of the 1980s. Two highly-successful films started this cycle: Hercules and Hercules Unchained starring award-winning body builder, Steve Reeves. Loosely based on the Greek myth of Heracles, these films had it all: magic and monsters, beautiful women and nasty villains, plenty of action, and a stalwart hero who barely cracks a smile. While Reeves had the physique, the good looks, and the screen presence of a movie star, he wasn’t much of an actor, and he never really got the chance to grow as an actor. But he was nonetheless a huge success, and I’ll always be a big fan of his films.

Like so many that were to follow, these films were made in Italy and Spain, and were dubbed very poorly—often with hilarious results—into English. Even though Reeves, who was from California, had his voice dubbed into English — is an interesting “factoid,” and if you binge watch a number of his films, you’ll notice that he never sounds the same in his other films, such as Goliath and The Barbarians, The White Warrior, and the hard-to-find pirate classic, Morgan the Pirate. The success of Hercules and Hercules Unchained launched the Sword and Sandal (or Swords and Togas) craze of the early 1960s—what the Italians called peplum (the plural being pepla.) Athletes, stuntmen, and bodybuilders named Dan Vadis, Ed Fury, and Samson Burke were often the stars. (I have always found it interesting that the name “Reeves” or “Reeve” is associated with superheroes: George Reeves, the second actor to play Superman, after Kirk Alyn; Christopher Reeve, and of course Steve Reeves.)

Tune in next week for Part Two, where I'll talk more about the Italian pepla films. Thank you!

Please check out my Amazon Author Page:

#heroicfantasy  #swordandsorcery  #peplafilms  #mythology  #joebonadonna

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Book Promo Tricks #1 with #OurAuthorGang

What I learned from trying different book promo methods

When authors are promoting books and trying to find readers, shouting about the book and pushing it seems as futile as trying to convince a stubborn teenager to do something. The more you push, the more people will ignore you.
The first step of promo for authors is to find the best ways to get readers' attention and then show them why they should read the book.
There is a fine line between being pushy and a successful book promotion.

Let me tell you about a few tricks I learned that makes promotion easier and more successful.

Posting links on social sites, websites, and blogs

Amazon links
Most authors post their Amazon links when promoting their books, but they're not always doing it the right way. When sharing your Amazon sales page link, always use the short version of your book link.

But, never use this long link that you get by typing your book title in search:

I'm not sure why, but book reviews, when readers linked in from the long version to post their review, are more likely to have their reviews deleted.

You can link directly to your book’s "Look Inside" free preview pages. Readers more likely will read the free pages if you post the direct link than sending the potential readers to your sales page, hoping they will click “Look inside.”

This is how you can get the link:
Click on your short book link:

On the right next to the social site share buttons click "Embed"
Copy the URL link:

But don't post this long link.
Shorten the link and post like this:

Readers like to read a few pages before they buy the books

I found my flip-book style Author Magazine and book preview magazines very useful. I post the short link, usually with pictures I made for promo posts. Readers can read the preview pages and chapters, click on buying links, listen to audio book samples or watch videos.

If you'd like your own author magazine and need help making it, click on this link:

Have a great week and Happy Reading!

Next time I'll tell you other tricks that I learned about book promotion.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dealing with Autoimmune Disorders

by Grace Augustine, Author

Chief Mountain, Montana

I was born and raised in Northern Montana. Upon graduation from high school, I moved into my own place with a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains...more specifically, Chief Mountain. 
    Many mornings, and early evenings, I spent on the deck of my mobile home watching the ever changing mountain. Some days it would be clouded over, some days it was clear as ever. The mountain never changed, but the appearance did.
    I was a fairly active young adult: going to the local bars for music and drinks with friends on Friday evenings, weekend outings to Glacier National Park, and house parties with friends.
    My young adult years took me from Montana to Portland, Oregon. Thirty-six years ago, I moved from Portland to Iowa, married, and the rest is history.
    In 2003 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. I no longer could walk long distances, had headaches, terrible fatigue...and knew I had to find new normals. 
    It hasn't been an easy road...but one I wouldn't trade for anything. Because, you see, many people have crossed my path that never would have had I not been diagnosed with this disease.  
    Today, I have moved into the secondary progressive stage of this disease. While I may have it, it does not have me!  Each day I count my blessings that I can still see, hear, and get out of bed and hopefully affect the lives of those on  my path in a positive way.

If you'd like to know more about me and my journey with MS, and about the disease itself, please have a look at the above book.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Far Away Fruits #OurAuthorGang


Rick Haynes

Have you ever felt the need to write something completely alien to your normal, modus operandi? Something way out of your comfort zone?
Frustrated with the speed at which my novel was proceeding, I needed a break from all writing activities. I took a holiday. On returning, I needed a quick tune-up, to get the literary juices flowing once more, paddling in the shallows rather than diving into the deep end.
I saw a picture of fruit and nuts in a bowl, and Far Away Fruits was born.
Here is an extract. I would be grateful to receive your comments, as well as telling me – be gentle, even though I’m a fruit and nut-case – what I should do with my zany tale.

The news had finally come through on the grapevine, causing a tremendous ripple over a multitude of excited skins.
Planning and constant arguments had taken up the best part of fifty years, but at last the act had been enshrined in the law of the land, and with the decree issued, the voyage of discovery could begin.
The Fruity-Etonians and their friends, the Notorious Nuts, would finally be allowed to undertake the most difficult and dangerous journey that their races had ever attempted.
They would invade Planet London.
To a fanfare from the Royal Gala ensemble of Apples, the selection of luscious fruits and hard nuts entered their Space Tractor of the void. Taking their assigned places in the heart of the mighty vessel, they settled down for the long voyage that lay ahead.
Asleep in their refrigerated containers the dreams of the Fruity-Etonians wandered like seeds in the wind. Sunshine and rain, the dry and the wet, the seasons swept through their minds as they slumbered in contented bliss.
Eventually the temperature rose inside the cabin and the occupants stirred. After so much time in space destiny awaited them, and, eager to embrace it, they rushed to the port holes to watch the mightiest space ship of their race descend on a sparkling beam of gold and red. Many sought the comfort of others, some stood in silence, yet all felt the sap rising inside them. Whilst their Space Tractor left the dark sky afire with its wake, the Fruity-Etonians looked downwards in trepidation. Speculating about their arrival, some huddled close together, asking questions, the noise growing into one incoherent din. Elsewhere the Nuts cracked a few jokes, wondering what all the fuss was about.
Landing in Trafalgar Square proved easier than anticipated, as only the few remaining pigeons greeted them. Flying in disgust over the gleaming Space Tractor, now covered in poo, the birds soared upwards to the top of Nelson’s Column and looked down on the unwelcome visitors with disinterest.
As the first light of a new dawn appeared over the horizon, the doors opened, the gangway shot down and the proud banner of the Fruity-Etonians was unfurled. Out they came, slipping and sliding behind their flag of a hundred colours, as proud as the day they first budded on a tree.
Juicy Tangerine, tightly enclosed in her amber coloured onesie led the way, soon followed by her close friend Monsieur Orange. Back home every fruit wanted to be like them. Many of the unripe had even dyed their skins fluorescent orange, whilst others had spent hours under their idols colourful tree house awaiting autographs. With sales of their merchandise climbing ever higher, the succulent pair had made plans for even more public appearances on their return.                                   

Monday, August 21, 2017

Maps, maps, and more maps

by Rich Feitelberg

Let's talk about maps and their role is the world building process.

Wait a minute! Why do I need a map? I don't write about fantasy stories. 

Well, first of all maps aren't just for fantasy stories. And second, most stories will benefit from thinking about the locations featured in them and placing them in the larger context of the world in which they exist. You may not need many maps and you may not even have to create them yourself but even a short story about a single location could benefit from a map. It can be a simple floor plan where the action takes but it's a good idea to plan a little so the story can flow naturally around and through the location. 

Of course, some genres scream for maps more than others. Fantasy stories pretty much requires a fair bit of world building and lots of maps. You need maps of towns and the surrounding area and you need area/world maps showing typography, vegetation, resources, political boundaries, wind currents, ocean currents, latitude, roads and, trade routes. You don't need all this all at once and if you apply Tenet 1, then you’ll only build want you need as you need it.

Space faring stories may need maps of planets and star systems.

Period places and historical fiction may benefit from maps of the period.

And if you write some other genre you may find a map here or there beneficial because it helps you describe a location.

Obviously depending on the needs of your story, you may be able to find the maps you need as you research for information about your world. This is most likely for historical fiction and stories involving real life locations. But others genres require you to create your own maps.

How do you do that? Well, you need a graphics program like Photoshop so you can create them. Another option to investigate is random generators. They can create world or area maps quickly if you don't care about the shape or typography of the world. If you do, you need to roll up your sleeves and draw something yourself.

I use Photoshop for my map of Thalacia because the roads are in one layer, the vegetation is in other, and so on. I use a trick from wargaming and place a hex grid on the map so and figure out where to place trees, coastlines, cities,and other objects. Hex grids are used to simulate natural boundaries. The grid is in its own layer so I can hide it easily.

To create town maps, I’m using a new program I found called Cityographer. It does some of the work for you and then I export the map and edit it in Photoshop.

For floor plans I use Dungeonographer and draw what I need.

As you can see there's a lot to do, which why Tenet 1 is so important, only create what you need.
So with a few maps and some general notes on the world, you’re ready to take a deep dive. Actually you'll need several. We'll look at one those next time.

Happy world building!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Research – How it can change a story #OurAuthorGang

Research – How it can change a story

While a fair amount of research can be done via the web, I find that the most effective understandings come from real world experiences.

In 2014, I was researching the suspense novel Dot to Dot and finagled an invite to a wheat farm in northern Michigan. I wanted to see and touch the seeding and harvesting equipment. After climbing about and inside the massive thresher and other heavy duty vehicles, I turned my questions about the crop seasons to the farm owner, who said, “I can tell you about the spring planting, but to get a sense of the size, how about we go up in the sky and take a look?”

Five minutes later, I was in the back seat of a paper thin, fragile crop duster, roaring across a clearing the size of a football field, then aloft, skimming the farm lands at about sixty feet above. No airport, no flight plan, just the owner and I going out for a little spin. In the sky.

We were up for an hour, covering miles of fields, lifting only for power lines and the taller trees. My seat in this paper mache aircraft was made of rattling aluminum and the tail fin cables worked back and forth at my elbows. When we turned, and we made many of those, the wingtip appeared to be inches off the dirt.

Needless to say, this was a delightful experience that changed the focus of a section of the novel. The road trip I had sketched for Pierce Danser then became a flight; a brave and terrifying new experience for him.

Have your own research adventures that you would like to share? Send them along!

All the best,

Greg Jolley
The Danser Novels

Twitter: @gfjolle

 A Small Gang of Authors

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