On Writing: Extreme Collaborating


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A radio interviewer asked Tamara Thorne and me how we write together and that was one of the most eye-opening questions we’ve ever had.  She was amazed when we told her our method and said she’d never heard of anyone writing like that before.  Evidently, many writers split things up with one brainstorming and the other writing. Neither of us can even imagine having any fun doing our job this way.  To not be allowed to brainstorm would be horrible!  And to not write would be just as bad!  We can each imagine this working in non-fiction, but in fiction, if you don’t love both sides – creating and writing – where does that leave you? How can you imagine ideas for your plot and characters without being able to set them down as well, and vice versa? Can a good writer write without his or her imagination taking off and soaring to the heavens?  It sounds absolutely horrible to us.

Our collaborations are a 50/50 effort. We plot together, we develop characters together, and we even transcribe together by getting on Skype, opening the Cloud, and working side by side. Sometimes Tamara takes the lead, sometimes Alistair does – but nothing is written without both of us present. We each have our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and we each are aware of the other’s. Luckily for us – as we learned early on – our weaknesses and strengths balance out; where one of us has difficulty, the other is at ease.

One very important part of our process that we stress very much when asked about it, is the personal side of our relationship. Writing is a job, a business, and although we are business partners, we are also friends. We may share the same vision, the same sensibilities, and even similar writing styles, but all of this is pointless without three very important elements: respect, honesty, and loyalty.

Respect comes first. We are aware of each other’s time. We meet every day, six days a week, and work anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. But if something comes up or one of us is running late, we are okay with that.

As for honesty… honesty is something you have to be comfortable with if you intend to write with another person. If one of us hates what the other is writing – though it hasn’t really happened – we’d say so… but kindly. If one of us isn’t feeling the same vibe as the other and thinks the story needs to go a different direction, we discuss it openly.

No drama. We are similar in that we both avoid drama – and the people who spew it – so one of us getting drawn into the chaos of the other one’s personal life issues is never a problem for us. This zero tolerance for drama, in fact, is probably the glue that holds this whole thing together. (Sure, we each tell the other what’s going on in our lives – we’re friends and that’s what friends do – but we don’t dwell. We go to work.)

So kindness, honesty, and a no drama policy is what makes up the respect facet of this deal. Then there is loyalty.

Loyalty comes into play because we are given a lot of advice by outside forces, and sometimes, the advice is not good. We’ve made a firm pact that no decisions will be made without the consent of the other one. No one is allowed to call one of us and discuss changes behind the other’s back. We are business partners, and we operate as such, no exceptions.

With loyalty comes trust, which could easily be the fourth part of the sum. We trust each other with the characters, the storyline, and on a personal level as well, but this trust is built on the foundation of the respect, honesty, and loyalty to which we adhere.

And now that the personal elements of our collaboration have been covered, we come to the creative part of the process.

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Each day we spend an hour or two in the morning warming up. We chat, we do our PR and marketing work, whether it’s writing a blog, posting to Facebook, or answering interview questions. We spend a little time studying some aspect of our business most mornings as well, whether that’s going through a lot of covers or promotional posters and talking about what we like and dislike, discussing articles we’ve just read on traditional vs indie publishing, or anything else writing-oriented.  We tell some jokes. We laugh a lot.

And then we get down to writing.  If we’re having trouble getting going, we get silly, each sneaking in outrageous dialogue or descriptions for the other to laugh at. That’s actually one of the best tricks we’ve found for getting a scene moving. We’ll add on to the silliness, each of us, and suddenly the scene comes to life and, when we’re done, we remove the goofy stuff.

We each enjoy following certain characters and take the lead on our favorites, but we are also careful to switch off so that we each know every character well.  To us, familiarity with our characters – all of them – is vital to the story.

While, individually, we both do a lot of world-building in order to get to know our characters and their locale, together, we probably spend twice as much time doing this.  When you are collaborating, the littlest details become important and are (usually) best figured out beforehand because both of us must know whether a character has dimples or drives a beat-up old Chevy or hates seafood.  Otherwise, incongruities can get past us, unnoticed.

The characters’ voices, however, evolve during writing and whoever creates the voice sets the tone the other follows for that character. For example, a character in one of our upcoming novels has a unique way of swearing that Alistair made up.  We both love voicing her and work together to get the most insane profanities out of her as we write, always following Alistair’s original style.

While we occasionally write two scenes in tandem – this usually happens when we are writing one scene together and one of us is inspired by something the other writes – we still consider ourselves to be writing together; after all, via Skype, we have instant access to one another.  After that, we go over both scenes together and make sure everything is in synch and do a light edit.  Mostly, though, we quite literally write together. One of us may write most of a scene with the other trailing along fixing things, or simply taking in the tale as it evolves. Sometimes we take turns in the same scene. Tamara often takes over descriptions of locale because she really enjoys it. Alistair enjoys writing certain situations and takes those. We think the main reason one or the other of us takes the lead, though, is character. We each have our favorites.

We write in similar voices and have similar sensibilities, senses of humor, likes and dislikes, and this, of course, is part of our chemistry. But if you have a collaborator you constantly disagree with, our question is why?  If you have nothing in common, how can you enjoy your work – or one another?

We received some great feedback the other day. After reading The New Governess, the first installment of our Gothic Erotica serialized novel, The Erotic Adventures of Belinda, a reader said to us: “Which one of you wrote this? I can’t tell.” To which we happily answered, “We both wrote it.” And we did.  Just like we wrote this blog. Together, in the Cloud.

For more, visit us at: http://alistaircross.com & http://tamarathorne.com

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She’s Written and Awaiting Final Revisions!


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Websites, Branding, and Publicity


This is a great and informative episode of Authors on the Air with Pam Stack. I highly recommend this podcast. Great and valuable information for all writers. Give it a listen and share it with your friends!

“Authors on the Air host Pam Stack welcomes a panel of industry professionals who are ready to answer your questions and give you help on getting the word out about you and your books.  Joining this panel are Michael Lowndes, Digital Marketeer, from PML Media, branding and web designers for authors around the world; Jennifer Modette Perry, of Lone Wolf Communications, publicist to the book and entertainment industries; and Amy Shoultz, social media and blogging expert.”

Listen to the podcast here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2014/06/20/author-web-sites-branding-publicity-and-social-media-get-your-book-seen#ixzz35I0VQyGQ

Workin’ It


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It’s been a while since I was able to sit down and write anything conversational on my blog, so now that I have an hour or so of free time, I thought I’d drop by and say hello. With the publication of something new, you kind of go into what I call “Machine Mode,” which is that place where nothing but the book exists. You don’t think about anything except the marketing – the interviews, the guest appearances, and all other avenues of PR you can participate in – whatever you can do to get your story out in front of people, and of all the aspects of the writing life, this is, for me, the most difficult. Probably because, in this case, we aren’t done with Belinda. As great as it is to have that first installment out to readers, this is a serial novel, so the show must go on… leaving us in a somewhat constant state of being pressed for time. It doesn’t help that Tamara and I are working under a looming deadline on another project as well.

I don’t hate it though. The only other option is to decline interviews and guest appearances altogether. While I do know some authors who do this, it isn’t an option for me.  Not working for your book is as nonsensical to me as ignoring an infection and hoping for the best. I believe in Belinda and I think she’s worth the hard work. In the coming weeks – and months – Tamara and I have a slew of events and appearances that I’m actually pretty excited about. We’re getting some really good gigs and we’re meeting some pretty cool folks.

In the meantime, the second installment of Belinda’s hot and horrifying adventures is well underway. In fact, we’re down to the final scenes – and they’re getting wilder by the page. I’ve never had as much fun writing anything as I am Belinda’s story.

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As for the other project we’re working on, it’s coming along at a freight train’s pace. It is, almost literally, writing itself. We intend to have this one done by the end of summer, and then, for those who are patiently waiting, Grandma’s Rack will go through the final rewrites. No, we haven’t forgotten about Grandma. We couldn’t if we tried to – God love that sweet old lady with her very special talents. We will return to her in Fall, no doubt bewitched anew by her otherworldly ways…

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Until then, it’s writing, writing, interviewing, writing, interviewing, petting the cat, writing, writing, interviewing, moving the cat off the keyboard, writing, interviewing, writing, writing, removing the cat from the bookcase, writing, writing, and more writing…

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Delivered Into Darkness


Gothic Erotica by Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross

Belinda is the new governess and is settling into her home at Ravencrest Manor. Her employer, Mr. Manning, is handsome and mysterious with kind, welcoming eyes, but Mrs. Heller, the head housekeeper, wears black stilettos and studies Belinda with a different kind of gaze… a gaze that frightens her.

After getting through her first day at Ravencrest, Belinda fell into bed and discovered that, after dark, there were more inhabitants of the manor than she knew; lusty, restless, and not of this world, they are ready to introduce themselves – and their passions – to Belinda. How did she sleep? Find out at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

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In July, you’ll find out what happens next. Join her as she explores the house, the spirits, and her own dark desires.

In the meantime, visit Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross at their websites.

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Gothic Erotica by Thorne & Cross


What is Gothic Erotica? It’s what wakes you up in the middle of the night as randy as you are terrified. It’s those things that go bump – and grind – in the night. It’s the sound of footsteps at the foot of your bed that, instead of fading away, draw nearer and, well, get what they want.

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When we began The Erotic Adventure of Belinda, we had a clear vision of what we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to frighten our readers while simultaneously seducing them. We wanted to build a world as eerie as it was arousing… we wanted to stir a new set of emotions.

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The first installment, titled The New Governess is now available on all formats. If you like your terror titillating, your fright fulfilling, and the kinds of stories that curl your hair with horror and your toes with desire, Belinda is your girl. And she’s available now at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.

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Let the adventures begin…

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Visit us at: http://tamarathorne.com and http://alistaircross.com

 

Haunted Things on Tales To Terrify


My collaborator Tamara Thorne and I were interviewed on Tales to Terrify with Sylvia Shults discussing the strange events and anomalies we experienced during our stay at an allegedly haunted cabin. We were asked to stay for three nights – which soon to turned into five – and give an account of our experience afterwards to help the owner conclude whether the place is getting a bad rap… or if it’s officially a hangout for haunts.

And here is our assessment at the Lights Out podcast on Tales to Terrify.

For a night-by-night transcript of our adventure, go to the Haunted Cabin links on my website.

Click the pic to go to Tales to Terrify

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