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Category: Craft

FAQ

Q: What do you write?

A: I write paranormal romances (in the Dark Caster and Beasts of Vegas series) and YA zombie dystopians (in the Red Plague series).

Q: Do you have any other pen names?

A: Yes, I also write short gay romances under the pen name Sadie West.

Q: Where can you be reached?

A: You can email me at theannaabner@gmail.com or find me on these social media platforms:

Facebook

Instagram

Amazon Author Page

BookBub Author Page

Q: Where can we buy your ebooks, audiobooks, and paperbacks?

A: My stories are available at all major online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Audible, Walmart Online, Google Play, iBooks, and your local library.

Q: How many places have you lived?

A: A lot! Even before I married my U.S. Marine, I lived in five different cities (Upland, Fontana, Hesperia, 29 Palms, and Provo) in two states (California and Utah). After my marriage, we lived on and off military bases in seven cities (Hesperia, 29 Palms, Barstow, Oceanside, Vista, Ogden, and Jacksonville) in three different states (California, Utah, and North Carolina). In 2016, we bought our desert hideaway in California, and I hope this will be our final move. (At least for a while!)

Q: What tends to serve as the most reliable source(s) of inspiration for you?

A: Strangely, I get a lot of great story ideas from dreams, but those are infrequent. So I look to my own imagination and the stories I enjoy reading and watching. I love movies and TV, and I’ve been influenced by Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Being Human, Warm Bodies, and a hundred other top-notch paranormal/sci-fi programs.

Q: When did you begin writing and why?

A: I feel like I have always been a writer. When I was in the sixth grade I won a young author’s contest and had my short story published. From then on, I wrote nonstop. I would fake being sick in high school so I could stay home and write more!

Q: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see the light of day?

A: Uh, yeah! Lots. A series of novellas about a multi-generational family of mermaids I wrote in my teen years comes to mind. (Though I would love to re-work it and see it published someday as a fun, sexy paranormal romance.)

Q: How would you describe your style of writing to someone that has never read your work?

My writing has been described as fast-paced and sexy. I like to call my books: sexy, scary paranormals.

Q: What do you love about being an author?

A: My characters. They become a part of me. I love them, hate them, cry for them, laugh with them. They come to life in my imagination, and that’s the best part of storytelling, for me.

Q: Vampires – do you prefer them as sexy leads or blood hungry monsters?

A: A good mix of both, actually! I like a vampire hero, but I adore one who is a little dangerous and out of control. JR Ward does a really good job of mixing sex and violence in her vampire novels.

Q: What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?

A: “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a good one. I have the tendency to get distracted by all the little things going wrong instead of focusing on the big picture.

Q:If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?

A: A witch, for sure. I love writing witches because I secretly want to be one. I’d love to be able to cast spells and get things done faster.

Q: Where do you write best?

A: I don’t have a home office right now, so believe it or not, I write best wherever my laptop is sitting. Sometimes it’s at the kitchen table. Sometimes it’s in the lobby of a music store while my daughter takes violin lessons. I’ve learned to write wherever and whenever I can.

Q: If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?

A: After paranormal, historical romances are my favorite to read. I would love to write a regency or a medieval romance someday.

Q: Can you say that your journey to publication was difficult? If so, what were the hardest moments to get through?

A: I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but it was long! I spent about ten years writing and attempting to get published the traditional route. About two years ago I decided to take control of my own career and self publish.

Q: How do you overcome the little voice in your head that tells you your writing isn’t good enough?

A: I hear that voice so constantly, I would think something was wrong if I didn’t. Honestly, when I feel overwhelmed and doubt creeps in I force myself to focus on one thing at a time. The next scene, the next blog post, or the next e-mail. Then I tune out the negative thoughts and get back to work.

Q: To you, what makes a good story?

A: The characters. I like fun and interesting plots, but good characterization wins me over every time. I love experiencing a hero’s redemption or a heroine’s awakening. That’s why I read stories.

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: I like so many books, but the one I have re-read the most and still love like the first time I opened it is JR Ward’s Lover Awakened. Zsadist and Bella’s story changed my life. (I’m a sucker for a brooding, emotionally damaged hero.)

Q: What books/authors have influenced your life?

A: What a great question! So many authors spring to mind. Victoria Holt and Lisa Kleypas inspired me to try writing my own stories when I was in middle school and high school. The biggest paranormal influences on my writing, though, are Kresley Cole’s smart-mouthed immortals, J.R. Ward’s dark and violent vampire underworld, and Patricia Briggs’ vibrant supernatural characters.

Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?

A: The best advice I ever received as a struggling writer was to keep writing. Even after you’ve finished your first book, even if you get rejections, even if your latest novel doesn’t sell well, keep writing. Eventually, all your hard work will pay off.

Q: Do you have another profession besides writing?

A: I have a day job, but writing is my passion. Telling stories has always been a love of mine, and I’m so grateful to be able to do it now professionally.

Q: Do you ever get writer’s block? Do you have any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

A: I do get writer’s block, but I don’t allow it to stick around. If I’m sick, that’s one thing. But if my muse isn’t speaking to me I’ll get up, walk around, maybe make a cup of tea and then get back to work. This is my career and I take it seriously.

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NaNoWriMo Day 14

Or, My Personal Half-Way Point

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I’ve been lucky this year. My NaNoWriMo journey is going smoothly. The first couple days, I have to admit, were tough. It took a while to get a rhythm. I couldn’t squeeze in the time, couldn’t think what to write. The story came only in stuttered bits. But by the third day I had the first half of Beasts of Vegas #3 plotted and had figured out how to write for thirty minutes before work and thirty minutes after. I found my stride.

Now, on day 14 I’m past the 28,ooo word mark! I’m really excited to finish this story and share it with you all soon. Finally, Maksim Volk gets his own story. If you want to see how the Beasts of Vegas begins, click for the print and kindle versions on Amazon.

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How is your NaNoWriMo journey going? Let me know how it’s been for you. 🙂 And good luck!

Ghosts, Hauntings, & Cheap Books: Sign Up For My Monthly Newsletter Today.
Enjoy this Free Red Plague Sneak Peek PDF full of excerpts and extras!

<3 Anna

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NaNoWriMo 2016

Or, My Favorite Month Of The Year!

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I look forward to November all year (even though it sort of snuck up on me this year). The leaves begin to change, the weather cools, Thanksgiving arrives, and I get to spend thirty days dreaming of nothing but my paranormal worlds. I never feel more creative than I do in November.

And it’s almost here again!

The one dark cloud over the experience is my little brother’s passing. It was during NaNoWriMo last year, the Monday before Thanksgiving, that I got the call. Will had suffered a brain aneurysm. After twenty-nine days in a coma, he succumbed to his injuries, and passed away right before Christmas.

Naturally, I couldn’t finish the contest last year. I could hardly function while traveling back and forth to the hospital in L.A. And the fact that I’ve lived almost a full year without him is shocking. Ten months without his voice, without a text, without his larger-than-life presence. Somehow, though, time has continued chugging along (me, too) and here we are ready to begin a new NaNoWriMo project.

This year I’ll be writing the third book in my new Beasts of Vegas series. I’m really excited to start work on a novel that’s only a couple ideas and a few characters at this point. Hopefully, by the end of November I’ll be well on my way to a fully realized novel.

If you’ve ever thought of writing a book, join me for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a brisk 50,000 words in 30 days. Even if you don’t make it to the finish line, you’ll never regret putting your ideas on paper.

Ghosts, Hauntings, & Cheap Books: Sign Up For My Monthly Newsletter Today.
Enjoy this Free Red Plague Sneak Peek PDF full of excerpts and extras!

<3 Anna

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The Curse of the Overworked Openings

Or, The UNDERworked Middles and Endings

I read a historical romance lately that disappointed me and it wasn’t the first time. I call it the 1st 50 pages dilemma. To win contests and catch the attention of literary agents our first 50 pages (or first 3 chapters) better shine. Of course we’re going to polish those pages until every word, every phrase, is perfect.

But what about page 51? Or page 186?

This novel I just started a couple months ago had the most amazing opening I’ve read in a long time. It sparkled. The characters leapt off the page. The dialogue dazzled. I could not get enough. I raved about it to anyone who would listen.

And then around page 50 the writing flatlined. Because the beginning was so, so good I read all the way to page 125, but by that time I was so disheartened I stopped reading. Nothing was happening! Which is unbelievable because the heroine had run away from home and stowed away on a ship destined to run down a notorious pirate. What’s more exciting than that!? But the heroine gets everything she wants. All the crusty sailers have lovely manners. She insults her host, with no repercussions. The mysterious coded message she receives from a pirate is simple enough a child could crack it.

I’m so disappointed I won’t look for any of the author’s other books, let alone finish this one.

And I’ve read too many novels just like it. They start out with a bang, and then they bottom out around chapter 5 and I never finish them.

The lesson I’ve learned is to work that beginning, but don’t set down the red pen after chapter 3. Fine tune every scene with the same enthusiasm and critical eye you give to the opening. Your readers will thank you.

<3 Anna

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A Writer’s Bad Habit

Or, One Of My Repetitive Issues

Do you have any bad habits in your writing? I never realized before last year how fixated I am on characters’ eyes. Maybe other writers focus on hands or mouths or costumes, but for me it’s all in the eyes.

My heroes and heroines gaze, look, glance, peer, and stare.

I still haven’t figured out what is so fascinating to my subconscious about a person’s eyes, but I have to be careful not to overdo it and distract readers from the larger story.

What about you? Ever read an author too detailed on a character’s gestures or appearance?

<3 Anna

 

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I Wish I Could Write Blurbs Like This

Or, Lori Wilde’s The Cowboy Takes A Bride

I have a hard time writing back cover copy, but because I’m an indie author I’m responsible for doing it (as well as the cover, the editing, the marketing, etc.). I’m always reading my favorite author’s cover blurbs to get a sense of what works and hopefully some of their genius will soak in through osmosis.

 

The Cowboy Takes a Bride

 

I started reading The Cowboy Takes a Bride and I haven’t gotten very far, but I was so impressed with the back cover blurb and the first chapter that I had to share. Here is her blurb:

 

Ex-champion bull rider-turned-cutting-horse cowboy

Joe Daniels isn’t quite sure how he ended up sleeping

in a horse trough wearing nothing but his Stetson

and cowboy boots. But now he’s wide-awake, and a

citified woman is glaring down at him. His goal? Get

rid of her ASAP. The obstacle? Fighting the attraction

he feels toward the blond-haired filly with the big,

vulnerable eyes.

When out-of-work wedding planner Mariah Callahan

learns that her estranged father has left her a rundown

ranch in Jubilee, she has no choice but to accept it. Her

goal? Redeem her career by planning local weddings.

The obstacle? One emotionally wounded, hard-living

cowboy who stirs her guilt, her heartstrings, and her

long-burned cowgirl roots…

 

Isn’t that lovely? And to make it even better, Lori doesn’t start the story with Joe’s phone call to Mariah (like most writers would). Nope. She starts it with Mariah standing over a sexy, naked cowboy and then Lori sprinkles in the backstory. I love it! The writing is quick-paced and sparkling. I already know it’s going to be a fun read.

 

<3 Anna

 

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Scene Cards

Or, How to Fine Tune Scenes During the Revision Stage

There are dozens of types of scene cards and twice as many ways to use them to improve your writing, either in pre-writing or in the editing stage. I took ideas from different sources and designed a scene card that suits my style perfectly. If you’re having trouble visualizing how each individual part of your story works together as a whole, try this.

Each scene gets its own card. Each POV (point of view) character gets his or her own color. Blue for my hero and pink for my heroine (to make it simple). Purple or green for my villain or any secondary character with their own POV. Then, because my novel, Spell of Summoning, is a paranormal romance I also wanted to track how often magic was used or how often a character communicated with a spirit. So I taped a yellow card behind any scene that had magic in it.

Now comes the time consuming part of this exercise. Starting from the beginning of your manuscript, read each scene and note the following details:

  • The chapter number / the scene number;
  • The date the scene takes place in the story;
  • The POV character;
  • A quick summarizing title for the scene;
  • The POV character’s goal in the scene;
  • The POV character’s motivation for that goal in this scene;
  • The conflict that keeps the POV character from reaching their scene goal;
  • The main characters’ clothing or hair style in this scene;
  • The setting.

Here is an example from Spell of Summoning:

Scene Card 1 2
This early scene contains an instance of the paranormal so it has a yellow card behind it.

 

I included notes on costume because I never want to forget my hero wore a charcoal gray suit and black tie in the morning and then pulled off a black suit and red tie at the end of the day. Keeping the information on my scene card makes it easier for me to track costumes through multiple scenes in multiple locations.

The GMC (Goal-Motivation-Conflict) on each card is simplified. In my more elaborate pre-writing notes I have written both external and internal GMC for each character in each scene, but the size of the card does not allow me to express all this. Instead, I jot down easy to remember notes that trigger in my head the more complex workings of my characters. However, even having to fill out a simplified GMC chart for each POV character was extremely rewarding.

For example, I got to one scene around the middle of the book that had no conflict at all. I had written a cute little scene where Rebecca is flinging witty dialogue at her receptionist as she marches through her office. When I tried to write her GMC I had quick answers for her goal and her motivation, but I couldn’t think of a single hint of conflict. To give the scene more punch I re-wrote it, took Rebecca’s employee out of the office, and added an awkward phone call, instead. After the re-write, Rebecca doesn’t get what she wants and a new layer is added to her overall arc.

If I hadn’t practiced this scene card exercise I might not have found that scene and I imagine anyone who read the original would have skimmed quickly over it to get to something more exciting.

Finally, because I’m a visual learner, I made space on my bedroom wall and taped each scene card under its chapter heading to see the whole story. Posting the scenes helped me see which characters were getting too much attention and which weren’t getting enough. Plus, I could see how often my villain popped up with his own POV and whether I was using too much or too little magic.

 

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This is a note-taking and scene tracking system that worked for me, and I will use it again on the sequel, Spell of Binding. If I was very organized I would be able to write out scene cards before I started writing the manuscript and lay out every scene, every chapter, and every act exactly as it needs to be in the finished novel. But I’m not. Maybe that will be my next writing goal.

 

<3 Anna

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Weak Verbs & How to Lose Them

Or, How I Kicked the Word ‘Was’ Right off the Page

Whether you write in third person past tense (e.g. Maggie stubbed her toe on the lip of a paving stone and belly-flopped onto the grass) or first person narrative (e.g. Drake looks at me like I’m nuts, but I know what I saw) forms of the verb to be screw with our writing. Was, were, been, is, am, are.  AKA, my nemeses.

When I’m writing a first draft I type scenes and dialogue as fast as it pours out of me so I can get the framework down, from the first meet to the happily ever after. But that means I lose my critical eye for a few weeks and open the door for all kinds of sloppy, lazy writing to squeeze through. One of the worst–the word was and his brothers, were and been.

Before my first read through I use my find & replace tool to bold all the forms of was. Like this:

Martin was tired.

This is weak and lazy and just plain telling, not showing. Instead, I want to use stronger verbs and better phrasing:

Martin yawned. Or,

Martin yawned into his fingers. Or,

Martin’s head bobbed, startling him so badly he kicked the side table into Sarah’s shins.

It’s one of the easiest problems to find, but often the hardest to fix. It’s so tempting to write Martin was tired and hurry to the next action scene or romantic turning point. It’s a lot harder to dig in deep and immerse the reader in a complex and engaging world. So, roll up your sleeves and replace those devilish to be verbs with vivid and fast-paced action verbs that keep us all hanging on the edges of our seats.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Adverbs

Or, There is Such a Thing as Being Too Descriptive

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Stephen King

I love adverbs when they add emphasis to a phrase I can’t get another way. For example:

She was alone. Absolutely and completely alone.

The word alone sounds so sad and final at the end of those adverbs, like a death sentence.

I hate adverbs because writers shouldn’t use them. Once in a while, a fun adverb spices up your writing, but more than a handful in your novel and your writing slides into high school English class territory. For example:

Trey quickly ran his fingers through his jet black hair before stomping furiously

through the yellow swinging door into the sparsely furnished living room.

Of course we want to set the scene for our readers, but sometimes we forget how rich our readers’ imaginations are. They don’t need a ton of set-up to create vibrant and fantastic worlds populated by our characters. So, how about:

Trey stomped into the living room, grumbling a string of curse words.

I cut out the unnecessary description, quickened the pace, and I can still see the character perfectly in my mind’s eye, including the furious expression on his face. And, if I want to imagine him finger-combing his hair, it’s up to me.

I love adverbs for their ability to add unique rhythms and emphasis to certain words and phrases. But I hate adverbs because they slow down my writing and encourage readers to skip to “the good parts.” I get rid of them by searching for “ly” and highlighting each adverb in neon blue. (This is time consuming. If you have a simpler method, let me know in the comments.) I read the sentence containing the adverb and decide on a case by case basis if I need it there, or not. For example, I left this one in:

Becca was thinking clearly again. She just couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

Because I like it. And, every once in a while, an adverb is okay.

<3 Anna

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