Names, names, names, names, names…

When writing a new novel, you’ve got to generate what I consider to be a confusing and somewhat cumbersome number of names. You must give that city, the street, an apartment building, the lead character’s dog walker, karate master, bus driver, demon ruler, and some random city park a name.

I know as an author of Fantasy and Urban Fantasy, the urge is to add so many vowels that even I can’t pronounce the result, but I must, and will, resist.

This time around, I will have some names that are a bit more fantastical, coming from a fantastical race, but largely the world will be human mixed with magic. This means there will be Dave the baker, Tisha the security officer, Simon the part-time musician, and so many other “normal” monikers.

But naming things isn’t as simple as pulling words out of a hat (or google search engine), especially in a novel where names have power, history and impact on the characters’ society. For example, the library…just a building filled with books, right? Nope! It is one of the infrastructures around which this world will run. Thus, I can’t just say welcome to the South Nashville Library… It must have a name that not only matches the building’s import, but also attains the interest of the reader…

So, how to find just the right name for just the right fictional place or character? I’ll let you know when I can figure out this library’s blasted name.

Until then, wish me luck!


World Building

My brain is brimming with new laws, maps, religions, magic, characters, and all the thousands of major and tiny building blocks of a new world. I’ve been brewing my next Urban Fantasy series, which I hope to start (technically, restart) writing within the next few weeks.

So far, it is shaping up to be a fun world to create and maintain.

Getting the world set is proving to be an interesting challenge. I need to stay super organized, but I’ve never excelled in the OCD arena. However, I am going to give it my all.

In an effort to actually keep the myriad factoids about this world properly organized, I’ve purchased Scrivener. Now, here is a program for a writer.

I believe Scrivener will be to me as the IPhone now is to my life.

How did I live without it?

No clue.

Just glad I don’t have to anymore.

So, onward with the writing, researching and general awesomeness that is world building. Minecraft can’t touch this, my peeps.

P.S. I love Minecraft.




Back in Action

Alright, so, I’ve been gone. Not many people out there will have noticed the absence. I can’t blame them. I haven’t given anyone, even myself, much reason to be sad about my  sabbatical from writing.

That is about to change.

As a mother of a 15-month-old girl, who makes my life so much more complicated and wonderful than I ever thought possible, I can readily admit that I’ve been criminally negligent with my writing. I’ve breastfed, cuddled, coddled, texted, Facebooked, and Townshiped my way through a year and some change. I will never say it wasn’t worth it, but I do feel a smidgen of my time could have been directed toward my writing.

I did read a good deal, which I hope will have kept my thoughts and plots nimble. We’ll see!

Moving forward, I know I have a new depth of understanding about life that will certainly color my perceptions. I’m curious to see what will come of me. In a time of life when very little of my energy can or does go toward myself, I hope that in this at least, I can focus fully.

I say this as my daughter clings to me crying as if her heart is broken.

Oh, the adventures ahead!

I invite you all to join me.

Outlining or writing straight into your story?

I’ve taken Creative Writing/Novel Writing classes for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. There are many books that will discuss the “best” way to plan your novel, round out your characters, and otherwise finish your book. The Weekend Novelist Cover photo

On the right track:

One of the best how-to-get-shit-done books I’ve read so far is The Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray and Bret Norris. During a novel writing course at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, I followed the formula and, sure enough, came out at the end with my first completed novel.

I feel that following this sort of outline is helpful in the beginning because it gives you a chance to learn and grow while still getting the words down on to the page. The Weekend Novelist is especially encouraging for those who have schedules that don’t allow for a lot of time for a daily writing schedule…hence the title.

Me, Myself, and writing blocks galore:

As I’ve been having trouble sitting down and getting the writing done, I’m wondering if I need to go back to this book and follow a formula that I’ve already used one to get it done. I’ve written a few longer projects from beginning to end without this process, but now that I’m stumbling maybe it’s time to step backward and use those starting blocks again.

Is I normal, or is I ain’t?:

I can’t help but wonder if this is a normal issue for writers. I feel like I can get a good feel for my characters, world, story and such without these steps, but then why aren’t I getting any writing done?

The easiest answer: I’m super lazy.

The more complicated answer: Fear.

I feel that both are true in their own special way.

But what helps get us past these self-made walls of emotion and self destruction? Is it backtracking or simply pushing forward in the same fashion we did before the meltdown?

What works for me works for you?:

Even when on the top of my game, when I have a rough outline for a story and know the characters I want to use, what’s the best method to get it all straight in my head and on paper?

Is this sort of book or similarly rigid steps are necessary for every novel? When do you absorb the message and move beyond the routine? Do you ever?

I feel like when I’ve been steamrolling into a novel of the romantic variety I’ll hit a roadblock and it takes a long time to recover. Maybe this reflects that lack of pre-preparation. Or perhaps it would have happened even if I’d followed the rules.

Maybe one day I’ll know for sure, but for now…still learning.

Feel free to share everyone because I need advice!

Navigating Kindle Direct Publishing

I’m grateful for authors who put up their experiences like this. Those of us who are starting to tread into the scary self-publishing waters truly appreciate any and all advice we can get!

Lisa Morrow Official Author Page


Learning to use Kindle Direct Publishing to publish my novel To Kill a Wizard wasn’t nearly as hard as learning to properly format my book for Kindle readers. Both, however, had their challenges, which I’ll share here, as well as, some tips on how I formatted my novel.

Things I learned:

  • First, I uploaded my book and made sure there were no basic issues.
  • After that, I looked at how my book actually appeared on my Kindle Previewer. I found I needed to adjust my spacing, indents, and font size, depending on what I thought looked best.
    • In “page setup,” I changed the page size to be six-by-nine.
    • Then, I had to select a “custom margin” based on the size of my book. I believe I went with the “top,” “bottom,” and “outside” being .5, the “inside” being 0, and the “gutter” being .75.
    • I selected “mirror margins” and applied…

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Cast in Flame: Moving in the right direction…finally

Cast in Flame

In preparation for her new book this November, I’ve reread (well actually I audio-booked this time  during various car trips) Michelle Sagara’s, Cast in Flame, Book 10 of The Chronicles of Elantra series.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the series:

I’ve been rather a large fan of Sagara’s world of Elantra since I stumbled across the first book in what is now a series approaching the length of other noted writers such as Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time series.

Yes, I’m in denial that Wheel of Time is over and am saving the last book for the moment I’m emotionally ready for the conclusion. Don’t judge me.

My relationship with Sagara is one of both devoted fan for all things Private Kaylin Neya, but also a reader experiencing some sincere impatience with the author’s need to reiterate certain aspects of the character’s ability and world to the point of blunt force trauma for the audience.

Losing her way:

In past books, Sagara has taken painstaking (trust me, I think I still bear the scars from all the stakes pounded in) time detailing Private Neya’s ability to see magic in a fashion others don’t. Invariably, our young-in-age-but-old-in-experience character doesn’t understand a thing about what she is seeing, but still manages to pull a miracle out of the strange words that build worlds.

In a few of the most recent books, I’ve felt that Sagara’s editors should have reigned in this tendency with force if necessary: Ruler to the knuckles every time the author starts getting too vaguely philosophical for any but the most determined fans to finish.

Another bit of annoyance in the last few books has been the fact I’ve seen very little growth or progression for Private Neya emotionally, a character who’s past and present are an extremely complex personal tangle that need unraveling.

From Cast in Shadow to Cast in Fury (Cast in Silence is borderline) I felt actual forward movement for Private Neya as she tackled each world-ending challenge. Then suddenly, it seemed to me that she just sort of fell into a “I don’t know what to do, but I guess I’ll do this to save the world,” limbo.

For example, she learned how to light the damn candle…let her light it consistently. She should have internalized this lesson by now…dear…God..

There could be some argument that she’s still experiencing personal growth through each world-threatening challenge as she faces fears of loss and trust, but I don’t feel the character was given enough leeway to truly accept what she learned to use in later books. Also, much of the emotional baggage she tackles in these middle books are things she was supposed to have defeated throughout the first four or five adventures.

I don’t regret the addition of new awesome characters like Bellusdeo or the squawky one and so don’t believe the middle books were completely wasted, but I do feel, the pace needs to pick up.

I am hopeful that Cast in Flame is a sign that Sagara plans to do just that—finally let Private Neya absorb what she’s learned and become a somewhat more competent adventurer.

Ignite the fires:

Whether Private Neya is helping a run-down old building named Helen rejuvenate lost memories and powers while tackling concepts of home (again somewhat heavy handed writing) or tackling an ancient demon with her ability to bring words to life, Sagara is finally setting the young Hawk up for some real change.

During Cast in Flame, Private Neya’s been uprooted from her rag-tag comfort zone, she’s forced to recognize  she’s going to be in royal company more than she could ever want and she’s going to be facing some very real relationship hurtles (her own and Bellusdeo’s) in the near future.

She stands up to several people that I wouldn’t have expected her to, while taking an almost knowledgeable stance on her magical duties. She is herself throughout the entire book and is not swamped by the myriad of other characters and action spinning around her constantly—certainly a feat for the author.

We get a little glimpse of the future battles to come between the shadow slowly encroaching the city’s fiefs and beyond. Private Neya, along with the other characters, manage to hold the city against what is perhaps its largest test to date, but not without loss.

Private Neya is starting to bear with a bit more grace a mantle that is larger than her role as a Hawk, but still intrinsically formed by that role. I’m not sure what’s happened to her duties with the birthing guild, but hopefully they will return as I feel those are the moments when her magic is strongest as well as most important to her and those who watch her.

I feel in Cast in Flame, we finally get to see Kaylin growing again.

I couldn’t be more excited.

The end (or is it the beginning?):

I am ready to jump in with Sagara for the next installment of Cast in Honor, due to come out Nov. 24. Yes, I have ordered the Kindle book and plan to abandon my husband and, by then, two-month-old first child for the hours it takes to devour it.

Let’s just hope and pray that our ability as a competent reader has been taken into account, that we aren’t bombarded with what is now second Neya-nature.

We know the characters.

We know the world.

Trust us to understand the potential behind both.

Thanks for writing, Sagara!:

Sound harsh? I hope not too much. I love the world, I love Kaylin, and I will read to the end. But from one writer to another, these are the flaws that have almost lost me several times.

Overall rating “Cast in Flame”: ****

Romance, the moment when characters spark

Not all about sex:

So, I sometimes write romance.

Nope, I’ll never share my pen name where any of my family can see it.


So, you’ll have to trust me when I say, I’ve learned a lot about developing two individual characters into something infinitely more…romantic.

I’ve discovered the smallest moments often make the most remarkable connection between the reader and the characters I’m trying to match—preferably, in a believable fashion.

True, there are those steamy sex scenes that make reading on an Iphone while on the bus a bit embarrassing, but it doesn’t take thrusts and grunts to get a reader titillated.

Often, it’s simply the dynamic of the characters, their ability to push each other to one edge or another that brings the reader into the fray in a personal fashion.

Hand holding, snuggles, Skittle wars:

Whether your characters are in a playful mood, deciding that their kitchen is the perfect place to set up a Skittle empire that must be protected at all costs, or hanging out on a couch (wrapped around each other like some sort of blacksmith’s puzzle), the reader is drawn to those moments of connection.

These seemingly innocuous actions between the love interests should draw both the reader as well as the writer into a world your characters have created just for themselves. In this space, anything and everything is possible—is romantic.

I dare say we’ve all read or at least seen (for those who aren’t avid readers) evidence of these moments with notable characters like Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, Romeo and Juliet, Buttercup and Wesley, Emma and Knightley—the list goes on and on. Whispers…don’t forget Wall•E and Eve!

For those who are skillfully being woven into a rather strange love triangle between the reader and the couple, the love story begins when the characters truly start to…ignite.

Again, I’m not saying much about lust here, more about like. The moment the two realize that there is something intrinsically wonderful about the person they are interacting with.

The lights come on:

In many of my stories, I try to help my characters discover the most important aspect about their partner in a time when it is very easy to ignore the obvious. After all, what fun is it if the main characters meet, fall in love, and tada the story is over?

It’s rather more like a mystery novel in some ways…leaving clues between the two, lighting the tiniest spark and having the patience to let it fizzle.

Finally, when even I am about to burst into flames of impatience, I ever so carefully prepare for the moment when the two begin sparking in sync and the fireworks erupt. Que Katy Perry’s “Firework,” please.

In other words, romance isn’t always about the physical needs of the characters (though there are certainly moments for that). The characters are begging you, as the writer, to find them something deeper, lasting.

My two cents:

I find it easier to believe the ridiculous circumstances of a woman stalking her favorite author in hopes of finding his writing spot turning into a love story than two strangers on the bus ripping into each other for no other reason than he is man and she is woman.

The smallest things, make a perfect literary moment.

The smallest things, make a perfect literary moment.

Just right…

What makes a good writing spot? 

Who knows!

I think the answer to that is perhaps too varied to cover completely, but I will try! 

The perfect space for creativity depends not just on the writer, but also the many (often riotous) moods of that very same author. 

For me, the sweet spot tends to be either in a very crowded/loud place or a quiet office or outdoor escape. If I had to guess, both these preferences probably have something to do with my ADD tendencies. 

Shh…I’m hunting characters

For quiet time, the traditional office scene is not a bad choice. Though the fact my office is connected to distraction central (aka the internets), means my productivity level can be dubious.

Park it here!

One of my solutions for escaping the siren call of a kitten in tea cup photo series is to escape to the outdoors. 

Since I am new to the area, I’ve started scouting out various parks, green ways and shaded nooks. Pinpointing those places where one could write while being safe, but  securely cut off from all but the tiniest blood-sucking distractions.

The nice side effect of the outdoor locale is constant natural stimulation to remind the author to use all their character’s senses to tell a story.

Hmm…do you smell that?

Turn up the volume!

Sometimes my brain is so starved for stimulation that I have to overwhelm it with sights and sounds to allow myself any sort of focus. 

“My thumb will rule the world!”

It is fun to break out from my norm where I can people watch or otherwise soak in words and emotions to use for my characters. You never know what you will overhear that might be just what you needed for a bit of dialogue spice. 

Yes, I did hear someone proclaiming that his thumb was all powerful and would one day rule the world. Sometimes real conversations are so much stranger than what you can make up…

Coffee or tigers…

My current solution for overstimulation depends largely on my love for book stores and tigers. 

A book store often provides a comfortable cool atmosphere in their coffee shops where you can get a fill for people and energy. I also appreciate being within smelling distance of book bindings…mmm..the crisp bouquet of glue and paper. 

Recently, I’ve been enamored with our local zoo (yes, there are tigers) which will provide a neat mix of outdoors and crowds. The fact the noise won’t always be a human clamor just makes it that much more interesting. 

I figure getting an annual membership will help provide me with a neat writing destination!  

Yes, this is a giraffe licking a tree..for nealry 30 minutes…mmm bark

Anyway, for me, whether in a noisy or quiet mood, the most important part of the routine is getting the words down on the page. 

What do you prefer? Where do you get your writing on?