Monthly Archives: October 2013

Writing about Magic with Author Anton Strout

Posted by October 31st, 2013

STONECASTHalloween is when the magical world of monsters and creatures seeps into our lives. What better guest to have on this day than a fantasy writer, who makes a living out of inventing and breathing life into such creatures! For writer Anton Strout, that’s particularly true. His Spellmason Chronicles urban fantasy series features gargoyle Stanis, who, after a long sleep, awakens at the spell of his maker.

NG: The Spellmason Chronicles books ALCHEMYSTIC & STONECAST are such perfect Halloween reads! You’ve kept away from the oh-so-familiar urban fantasy fare of vamps, weres, and fairies, and have given us something more gothic-flavored. Can you tell us about how you came up with this world and the concept of spellmasonry, the arcane art of manipulating stonework to one’s will?

AS: Sure. I’ve always been fascinated by creators, people who make things. In LORD OF THE RINGS, I want to know more about the Elves of Eregion under Sauron’s guidance when they make the Rings of Power. I wondered how that would translate in our modern world, in particular, Manhattan. And as a lover of my fair city’s art and architecture, the idea of writing a series about gargoyles and those who created them appealed to me.  Plus I like smashing things a lot, and gargoyles are REALLY good at that.

NG: What’s your advice for budding fantasy writers on how to avoid infodumps? Can you talk about your personal strategy in the series?

AS: There are things that you the writer need to know that the audience simply doesn’t. I get it, writer…you came up with this amazing world and want to give it ALL to me, but that’s the kiss of death. Your world is the seasoning to flavor the dish that is your plot and characters. Too much salt kills a stew, too much infodumping ruins a book. I ONLY care about the details of your world insofar as they affect your character in the moment.  For example: I don’t need to have the Fodor’s Guide to Your World in the first fifty pages. But the second your character is hungry and doesn’t have the three distaris for a loaf of bread, I know the currency, and the value of something familiar from my world. Over a book you can dole out all the awesome you thought up, but it’s a mistake to show it unless it’s affecting the characters directly in a scene.

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Writing a Paranormal Romance (PNR)

Posted by October 30th, 2013

I am so excited to have my friend and colleague Alexandra Maurer on Book Country. Alex lent her genre expertise to us during the construction of the Genre Map, providing valuable advice on romance and new adult titles–help for which we are incredibly grateful. ~NG

Paranormal Romance Writing Workshops on Book CountryMany people think the TWILIGHT craze is over. And I would say to them, TWILIGHT may have run its course, but in no way does it begin, define, or end what makes up a rich and flourishing genre of paranormal romance. TWILIGHT helped bring vampires to a forefront in young adult paranormal. But there is a lot more to this genre! The authors and series I have listed here are some of the best series available to readers and writers interested in breaking into this popular genre.

Let’s start with a list of authors and series to give this article context. Some of the most popular and well-known series in PNR are:

1)      J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood
2)      Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series
3)      Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series
4)      Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series
5)      Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series & Fever series
6)      Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series
7)      Larissa Ione’s Demonica series & Lords of Deliverance series
8)      Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress, Night Huntress World, and Night Prince series
9)      Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series
10)    Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series

(To find out more about these books, head over to Book Country’s carousel of Paranormal Romance Landmark Titles.) What makes these series paranormal romances?

The Characters

The first defining characteristic of paranormal romance has to do with the subjects of the story. PNRs involve vampires, shape-shifters, faeries, witches/sorcerers/warlocks, demons, angels, Valkyrie, ghosts, mermaids/sirens, etc. Our heroes and heroines are of the supernatural persuasion and almost always with powers of their own separating the paranormal from contemporary romance.

Secondary characters are also very important in PNR, because they’ll become main characters in other books of the series.

Take J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The first book starts with the story of Wrath and Beth. But we meet all of the brothers (Rhage, Zsadist, Vishous, Tohr, and Phury) in book one. We get little snippets of their characters and by the end of book 6, we all have a favorite “brother” and couple. We’re now up to book 11, where the plotlines are featuring these secondary characters as MCs, who are familiar but still unexplored. The importance of secondary (and likeable) heroes and heroines is another “must have” to keep readers interested in your series.

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The Dream Wars: A New E-Novella Trilogy (and savvy marketing strategy) from Book Country Member Kerry Schafer!

Posted by October 29th, 2013

Urban Fantasy author and Book Country member Kerry Schafer‘s first book, BETWEEN, was published by Ace Books in 2013. Fans of BETWEEN–including all of us here at Book Country–are super excited about the forthcoming release of Kerry’s next book from Ace in January: WAKEWORLD. (Check out WAKEWORLD’s gorgeous cover and you’ll be rabid to read it, too!)

In the meantime, however, we have more good news to share with you on Kerry’s behalf: On sale today are three e-novellas written by Kerry, an enigmatic new trilogy set in a dark and seductive dreamworld. THE DREAM RUNNER, THE DREAM THIEF, and THE DREAM WARS. The Dream Runner trilogy’s covers will knock your socks off, too!

So what do Kerry’s e-novellas have to do with the release of WAKEWORLD, and what’s the strategy behind the e-novellas’ release today? Read on to find out how Kerry is expanding her audience of readers on both traditional and electronic publishing platforms–we think what’s she’s doing is pretty brilliant!


Kerry Schafer Author PhotoMarketing.

I’m guessing that your reaction to that word is more likely to be a shudder and a muttered curse than a celebratory hurrah. But the reality is that the minute you either get a publishing contract or decide to go Indie and self publish, everywhere you look you run into one ongoing message: what are you doing to market your book?

The Dream Runner coverAre you on Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? LinkedIn? Shelfari? Goodreads? Are you doing enough? Are you doing it PROPERLY? Here – take a class, read these blogs, do this, no do that…

The words are written on subway walls and billboards, on Twitter and Facebook, painted on your bedroom walls and the backs of your eyelids. Some days there is even skywriting and you’ve got to hope it’s only a sadistic pilot and not the finger of God writing guilt messages for all the world to see.

Most of us write books because we want to, you know, write books. Not because we want to stand on a virtual street corner hawking our wares. Besides, even if you’re comfortable waving a cardboard sign that proclaims “PLEASE BUY MY BOOK,” it’s almost impossible to decide which street corner to stand on. The internet abounds with conflicting advice: sign up for this website, but not this one, advertise here, go there, do this and this and this and this…

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NaNoWriMo Prep: Use the Book Country NaNoWriMo 2013 Motivational Calendar to Keep Track of Your Progress!

Posted by October 28th, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 is only four days away!

As part of my NaNoWriMo Prep, I created this calendar to help me plan and keep track of my progress. You can download a printer-friendly version here.

NaNoWriMo Prep Calendar from Book Country

What’s the best way to use your Book Country NaNoWriMo Calendar?

Whatever way will keep you motivated!

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NaNoWriMo Prep: Plotting Your WIP with Index Cards

Posted by October 27th, 2013

As you may know, Book Country is a proud sponsor of NaNoWriMo 2013!

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, hundreds of thousands of writers from around the world get together to cheer each other on as they write 50,000 words in just 30 days.

This is my first year taking part in NaNoWriMo, and I am very exited.

I spent today doing a little NaNoWriMo prep, inspired by an outlining idea I saw on a Book Country discussion thread called “How do you break out of writer’s block?” (If there is one thing I am terrified of about NaNoWriMo, it is that I would get the dreaded writer’s block at some point in November!)

Member and screenwriter Bret Plate offered up a strategy for outlining scenes ahead of time, so that you won’t get stuck when you want (or need!) to keep writing:

“As a screenwriter for many years, I was trained to plot everything out very carefully on 3X5 cards before I started writing.  It’s a way of making sure you don’t go down a rabbit hole and end up in China when your story is set in Kansas.  For a script, it’s (approximately) [120] cards — 30 cards/scenes for ACT I;  60 cards/scenes for ACT II;  30 for ACT III.”

I shared this idea with Nevena, and she tells me that this is a famous screenwriters’ trick, borrowed from the classic screenwriting guide SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder.

I particularly loved this idea because while it’s common sense that a screenwriter would plan scene-by-scene, it’s hard to remember to do that in fiction. We think in terms of chapters, or the overall events of a story, and what information we need to convey when. But if we outline a list of ~90 scenes, it encourages us to write in scene rather than in summary (i.e. “Show not tell”). And that’s a great place to start, because we’ll be thinking in specifics, using sensory detail, and really be focusing on helping the reader to be there in the action of the story with us.

I’m too shy to show you the index cards I made using Bret’s SAVE THE CAT! method for my own WIP, but I did put together a set of example cards using the book EMMA by Jane Austen (since I’ve taught this book in a Creative Writing Workshop, I know it well enough to be able to parse it scene by scene pretty easily).

Bret’s advice was to start with a basic description of the scene, then fill in notes about anything else you know about it. I organized my cards for EMMA by describing the scene, making a list of some details about the setting or what’s happening, then a list of “objectives”–the things I want to make sure are clear by the end of the scene.

Act 1 Postcard detail

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Is My Book Urban Fantasy?

Posted by October 25th, 2013

Urban fantasy is such a popular genre that we often forget that it’s of relatively recent vintage–it only came to the fore in the 1990s. Kelley Armstrong’s BITTEN is a case study for this rapid transformation; in her words, “[It] was called a supernatural thriller, then paranormal suspense, and finally urban fantasy.

To complicate matters, urban fantasy are very similiar. The most fundamental characteristic they share is, of course, the presence of magical creatures (vamps, weres, shifters, angels, demons, and fairies, to name a few). However, as paranormal romance authors have ramped up the worldbuilding in their books and crafted mythologies that any fantasy writer would kill for, urban fantasy authors have steamed up their novels with great, sexy subplots. It is harder than ever to tell the two genres apart.

We’ve come up with a genre questionnaire to help you shelve your book in the right place. Here we go.

1. Is your book set in a contemporary city setting? 

One of the fundamental conventions of urban fantasy is the modern urban setting. There’s grit, there’s danger, and the dour realities of city living. If your story takes place in the past or in the country, your book is most definitely not an urban fantasy.

2. Is there a strong mystery plot to your book?

sotrm_frontIf your book follows the main character as they try to uncover some type of paranormal mystery, and it ends with the mystery’s successful resolution, there’s a good chance your book is an urban fantasy. UF books have strong ties to noir, and many of the protagonists in urban fantasy books wield a paranormal power that helps them in their work as private investigators. Famous urban fantasy PIs are Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden File Series (wizard detective), Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye (fae half-breed PI), and Alexa Craft (grave witch and police consultant).


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“The things that go wrong”: Author Jennifer duBois discusses her literary thriller CARTWHEEL

Posted by October 24th, 2013

jennifer Dubois author photo

Book Country chats with CARTWHEEL author Jennifer Dubois about staying organized while writing in multiple POVs, alternating points of telling, & what’s different about publishing for the second time.

As Halloween approaches, we’ve been talking a lot about how to write the things that scare us, whether that be in horror, memoir, or any of the genres we love. Ripe for a literary exploration is the fear of what could go wrong. Jennifer duBois’s pageturning new novel, CARTWHEEL, follows the story of the Hayes family when daughter Lily is accused of murdering her roommate, Katy, while studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I wanted to chat with Jennifer about CARTWHEEL for a lot of reasons, not least because I found her book addictive, horrifying, and chilling, just as a thriller should be. The characters were shockingly well-drawn, flawed, often foolish, in a lot of trouble, and never anything but entirely human. CARTWHEEL is also a narratively complex novel; it is told from the close third person POVs of several different characters, including Anna, Lily’s younger sister, and Eduardo, the state prosecutor assigned with bringing Lily to trial in Argentina. We also peer into the head of Lily’s dad and her boyfriend, who see Lily in completely different, but entirely credible, ways. It’s easy to see why just two days after we did this Q&A, it was announced that Jennifer had won a Whiting Writers’ Award. To have that much happening in a novel–and to be able to keep the story moving with the pace of an old-fashioned chase thriller–shows truly remarkable writing prowess. Continue reading

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The Magic of Book Cover Design with Larry Rostant

Posted by October 23rd, 2013

When I saw the cover reveal for Book Country member Kerry Schafer‘s WAKEWORLD (which comes out from Ace in January), it literally took my breath away.

WAKEWORLD book cover design

The WAKEWORLD cover is just one of many iconic book jackets designed by UK cover designer Larry Rostant, whose work also includes the well-known covers for George R.R. Martin’s books, used by Martin’s publishers around the world. He’s designed covers for every kind of book, from Romance to Literary Fiction to Science Fiction. Larry says, “My job is to get the reader to choose that book and to lift it off the shelf.” Continue reading

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“Why I Write Horror” by Hubert Dade

Posted by October 22nd, 2013

There is so much horror in the world, it spurs me to write. 

Why I write horror by Hubert DadeThere’s a scene in the excellent 1979, made-for-TV film of Salem’s Lot (Tobe Hooper and Stephen King!) where the newly vampire-ized Danny Glick floats on billows of corny rock-video fog outside the second-story bedroom window of Mark Petrie. Danny Glick’s eyes glow and he’s dressed in his funeral suit. He scratches at the window.

“Let me in,” Danny tells his friend. “It’s all right.”

Danny is smiling. Mark is crying.

Everyone knows that Mark doesn’t let Danny in because of the preternatural knowledge of monster lore and ritual that King regularly ascribes to children.

I saw this TV movie when I was nine.

I did not sleep for three nights.

All the lights in my room were on.

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Member Spotlight: Meet Fantasy Writer JRVogt

Posted by October 21st, 2013

josh_vogtWriter JRVogt is one of the site’s pioneers. I distinctly remember landing on the Book Country site for the very first time two years ago, looking at the Top Books carousel, and checking out Josh’s book RAETHE (now renamed to BLOODSHADES). I thought to myself, “This is cool! Now someone explain to me what traditional fantasy is…” Josh writes different types of fantasy–from traditional to urban to epic–and I recognize his writing for the complex worldbuilding, wry humor, and snappy dialogue. Today we chat about his urban fantasy THE UNFAMILIARS and his overall approach to writing fantasy.

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