Friday, December 15, 2017

How to breathe new life into a supernatural being?

My parents told me there was no Santa Claus. I don’t remember how old I was, only that I always knew he wasn’t real. Ditto for the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I never felt like I missed anything in my childhood, but my kids have Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. There’s something special, something magical, about believing. We work hard to keep the magic alive.

How did a kid who believed in nothing end up writing paranormal stories? My parents may have prematurely enlightened me on the most popular of childhood legends, but they encouraged avid reading. Books were more than entertainment to me, they were my friends, and I read everything I could get my hands on. Through hiding my soaring imagination behind a quiet facade, I began writing stories. Writing became a natural extension of my love for reading. I wanted to share the joy books brought into my life with others.

We live in an extreme world where information overload desensitizes us to anything that is less than over-the-top. We need more. And, then, more again. Has the need for more—fantasy, adventure, and stimuli—led to renewed appeal of the paranormal? I write paranormal romance because the possibilities are endless. What other genre gives my imagination free reign, allowing me to create the other worldly and supernatural?

In my debut novella Dream Hunter, I dreamt up Gabe, my guardian angel, and created alien life forms who communicated with humans through their dreams. Dreams have fascinated me for years—starting with my childhood nightmares. My adult dreams are not much better. Far from run-of-the-mill, they consist of the ‘people chasing me’ or ‘I’m an assassin’ variety. Watching scary movies fuels the fire and initiates a total recipe for disaster. What is going through my mind while I sleep? I fear the answer to that question.

I wonder if ‘crazy’ is a prerequisite for writing? What does it take to create the paranormal basis of made-up worlds and beings? Do I have a great imagination or do I describe the real monsters in my head? Does it matter? Do I even want to know?

Paranormal is defined as “next to” normal. The stage is set with the standard lineup. The usual cast of characters. We, the authors, infuse the supernatural element. Human once removed.

Vampire. Shifter. Mystical gods. Angels. Demons. Zombies. Aliens. Fairies. Witches and warlocks.

We know them well. We read the books. We watch the shows. But how do we imprint our mark? Make them our own? We research and apply our findings, with every ounce of our limitless imaginations, to create magic, adding our unique signatures to the supernatural beings we know and love.

Friday, December 8, 2017

How Santa Ruined Christmas

The concept of Santa Claus is a fantastic one. We can all appreciate the spirit of generosity Santa promotes. I too believe that it is better to give than receive. But I don’t believe the act of giving should leave people in debt long after the Christmas season ends.

The idea of Santa puts unrealistic expectations on parents. Children believe Santa can make anything in his workshop. They don’t understand if their toy is out of stock on The letters to dear Saint Nick send parents on a frantic holiday scavenger hunt. Yearly. My kids always seem to ask for the toy of the season. How do they know? We don’t even have cable.

I find the amount of money spent on Christmas, in general, and Santa presents, in particular, shocking. I know parents who spend thousands of dollars on Christmas. Dollars they don't have. Financed by credit cards. Or worse. HELOCs. And I see parents who can't even afford presents purchased on credit.

What message are we sending? We are fulfilling instantaneous wants. We are using presents as a benchmark for good behaviour. We are, in fact, lying to our children.

I didn't grow up with Santa... (or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy... but those are tales for another day...) so we have adopted my husband's traditions for our kids... with a few updates.

1. Santa is magic.
2. Santa brings all the presents.
3. Santa doesn't bring electronics.
4. Santa wraps presents.
5. All presents are opened on Christmas morning.
Sometimes, I think I missed out. I enjoy bringing a little magic to my kids. Seeing their excitement on Christmas morning. But, I worry that we, as a society, have let 'Santa' ruin Christmas. A simple act of generosity has turned into a commercial circus and a financial nightmare.

How can we keep the magic present without sacrificing our financial futures?

We don't break the bank at Christmas. Do the kids get everything they ask for? No. Are they still spoiled? Probably.

I'd like to scale back Christmas. And, to some extent, we already have. We email our Christmas letter.   We do most of our shopping online. We prepare for Christmas in advance. There is still room for improvement. And it could be worse... at least Santa doesn't put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.

This year, look beyond the stuff.  Think about presents money can't buy. Time. Memories. Experiences. Steer Christmas magic back to its origins... the spirit of generosity.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Writing Wisdom Series Recap

Congratulations to all you amazing authors out there who completed the #nanowrimo challenge! If you didn't complete the challenge this year... Keep your chin (and word count) up!

Here's a recap of my Writing Wisdom Series... 


Once Halloween’s over, we start the fast track to Christmas, with stops—NaNoWriMo and American Thanksgiving—along the way. To mark the month many writers dedicate to completing the NaNoWriMo competition, I thought it fitting to feature some writing wisdom.

Writing tip #1: Use a style guide.

A style guide is a place to record details about your characters, stylistic choices, spelling conventions. I used style guides as an editing tool before I ever realized its potential application in the writing process. Using a style guide is an efficient and organized invention strategy. And it’s a convenient method to help prevent the inconsistencies—Mary’s eyes stay blue throughout the story, ‘e-mail’ and ‘email’ aren’t used in the same text—that drive a reader crazy.

Before you write your first draft, think about using a style guide. I know I will.


Writing tip #2: Block the critic.

Last week, I suggested using a style guide—an invention strategy. This week, I encourage you to block the critic (yourself) during drafting. I am guilty of editing and revising as I draft. Writing on a computer (with spell and grammar check) makes it easy to do so. Did you know that habit actually slows down, and stifles, the writing process? You invest precious time into sentences that may hit the chopping block later.

Recently, I wrote a short story using the writing process of invent, draft, and revise.

Gathering ample information—my story was historical fiction—before drafting allowed me to write without constant interruption. I know that a rough draft doesn’t have to be perfect, even factually correct. For this story, I highlighted sections I wanted to verify later—the date of such and such battle or when pockets were invented—without doing ad hoc research as I wrote. My story still required revision, but it’s easier to make changes than create.

As you draft, block the critic and just write.


Writing tip #3: Protect your writing time.

A book is written one word at a time. The other day, I found this awesome quote about books… oh here it is…

Isn’t that amazing? We select the 26 letters in our alphabet over and over to form words—with new words added to the dictionary every year—and the combination of those words become sentences that become paragraphs that become chapters that become a book.

But your book will never get written if you don’t actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and make it happen. So, protect your writing time and write your book.


Writing tip #4: Follow submission guidelines.

The end is near. The end of the month. The end of the year. It’s amazing how fast time flies. I started buying Christmas presents weeks ago. And now we’re a month away from Christmas Eve.

Four years ago, I received about the best Christmas present ever—a publishing offer. It marked the end to an intensive six months of manuscript submissions—researching publishers, writing query letters, receiving rejection notes—and marked the official beginning of my writing journey.

Writing a book is an accomplishment. Not everyone will write a book in their lifetime. We all have a story within us, but it takes a certain amount of drive and desire to capture it with the written word. Most authors write with the intention of publishing. There are options—self-publishing, indie publishers, the “Big Five” (Penguin Random House, HarperCollins—who owns romance heavy-hitter Harlequin® Books, Macmillian, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette)—in the wonderful world of publishing. For us newbies, who don’t want to self-publish, indie publishers offer the best opportunity.

       Research perspective publishers (i.e. don’t submit your adult romance novel to a children’s book publisher).

       Follow their submission guidelines (i.e. if they ask for a query letter and blurb, then don’t send them the first chapter).

       Don’t submit your manuscript to more than one publisher unless the publisher has indicated they accept simultaneous submissions.

Select the most appropriate publishers for your book. Take the time to personalize each submission request. Supply all the requested information (in the correct format). Put your best foot forward. Think of your book as a job and your submission as a job interview. And, keep in mind, the ability to follow simple instructions is a surprisingly effective way of getting a publisher’s attention.

“The waiting is the hardest part.”
- Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers


Writing tip #5: Just write. That's it.