Thursday, January 15, 2009

Guest Blogger: C.J. Barry

The winner of C.J.'s book is: Willow! Congratulations, Willow. Send me your snail mail info and I'll pass it along to C.J. Thanks to everyone who participated.

I have a sign over my computer. It says “Be fearless. Write the books that only you can write.”

I have no idea where this came from, but for over ten years I’ve looked up at that sign every time I sit down to write. I have to. I write paranormal.

When you write paranormal, there are no guidelines, not even from the pirates. There’s no pre-built worlds or historical documents or roadmaps that you can start with. And by its very nature, it is supernatural. Speculative. Different. And unworldly.

There is, however, a method to the madness of writing paranormal. I’ve done workshops on world-building. I can tell you all the rules that make paranormals believable. With Fantasy, your characters live and die by the rules you set out in their world. In Science Fiction, your world and technologies have to be plausible science. Whether you are writing wizards or aliens or vampires, there is a strange new world that must be built. Built well and built bravely.

Case in point. A typical conversation between me and husband:

Me: I’m thinking about creating giant fifteen foot lizard-like creatures in my book who eat little crab-like creatures on a deserted planet for my book.

Husband (opens the refrigerator door): Uh-huh.

Me: The big lizards are the bad guys and the little crabs are the good guys. The crabs live under the sand but when there are earthquakes, which happen every time the portals open, all the little crabs climb out of the sand and the big lizards have a feeding frenzy.

Husband (starts looking through the kitchen cupboards): Okay.

Me: The lizards breed very slowly and the crabs breed really fast.

Husband (frowns): Huh.

Me: Does that sound like a good food chain to you?

Husband (finally looks at me): What?

Me: Food chain. Do you think enough crabs could sustain the lizards that size?

Husband: Um, I guess so.

Me (throwing my hands up): But would you believe it if you read it?

Husband: I have to read about a food chain?

Me (headache forming): No. No, you don’t.

Husband: Oh, then it sounds fine. Are we out of bread?

You see the problem here. To write paranormal, you must be brave, fearless. We imagine things that are frighteningly unique, as individual as we are. Worlds that only exist in words. Places and beings so real, they have the power to take us on the journey with them. Any crazy ideas we come up with, we have pull off. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t, you don’t feel so fearless. But how could you give up something as magical, as challenging and hard and fascinating, as building something from nothing?

So to all the readers out there, thank you for allowing us to write the stories and the worlds in our hearts. Thank you for following us down paths no one has ever walked. And thank you for believing in giant lizards and little crab people. Who else would have us?

Thanks for having me here on Paranormality.

C.J. Barry
To read more about my latest paranormal adventures, visit my website at


C.J. will be giving away a copy of her new book, Unleashed. Leave a comment here to enter the giveaway. Winner chosen and posted here on Friday evening.


Blogger SciFiGuy said...

I've had a lot of similar conversations with friends and family when I try to discuss many of the books I read. Would love to read Unleashed and am looking forward to your new paranormal shapeshifter series.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Davina Pearson said...

I've heard that quote before but have never looked at it in that way - it makes a lot of sense though. The conversation made me laugh, mainly because you can see the two sides of it so clearly - the writer, to whom it all makes perfect sense, and the non-writer, who just sees the crazy part!

I guess that is exactly why a writer has to be fearless - because sometimes, even when it *does* make perfect logical sense, it still seems crazy to other people when you try to explain it. The true test comes when the world-building is already in place, when it's actually been worked into a story, because just hearing the theory won't be enough to convince a lot of people. You have to be brave enough to carry it through - and if you've done it right, then most readers will just accept it as you've laid it out and let the plot carry them through.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi C.J.! *waves*

With your new series, X-CEL, could you tell us how you combined your paranormal world with the setting of New York City? Did you feel like you had a little more restriction than usual?

And when does the first one come out? Next Tuesday? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeze? I need another C.J. fix.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aloha C. J.!

Still loving Unmasked and can't wait for Unleashed! Squueee!

And love the convo between you and your husband! It's hilarious. I have friends who write and we have convos but our imagination goes wild together. Lol! Sometimes their husbands just politely excuse themselves to go do "manly straight (not confusing) stuff" like talk about sacks and field goal penalties. :D

And writers also have to be fearless because I think there must be some deep down belief that some people out there might actually want to read, understand and like it.

Keep being fearless! 'Cause I'll keep reading!

9:47 AM  
Blogger Jane said...

Hi C.J.,
Are the books in your Unforgettable series stand alones or should they be read in order?

11:17 AM  
Blogger Denise K. Rago said...

Hi C.J.:

Sounds familiar. I usually do not discuss my vampire novels with anyone; that is unless they ask first. Then I reluctantly share a plot line or maybe a struggle one of my characters is having at the moment. My husband no longer asks!

11:25 AM  
Blogger @GeekWillow said...

I like the part of your quote where it says to write the type of book that only you can write. Some people seem to just want to write what they think will sell, rather than something that they really love. You have to be fearless to open yourself up and write something purely original.

Good blog!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" And thank you for believing in giant lizards and little crab people. "

Made perfect sense to me. I like those little crab people and the way Pio interaqcted with Lacey and Zain. Why was Sight Unseen's title changed ?

Really looking forward to the new series.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi C.J.! *Waves*

I heard you were lonely over here so I thought I would pop in and read your post. I had a similar episode with my wife. I was writing out my idea (nano) and she asked what it was about. I told her, she blinked, said ”Hmmm, good luck with that ”, and left the room a little bemused.

That exchange didn’t really bother me though. My personal bravery test comes from the second part of your quote: “Write the books that only you can write.” I’ll have to muster up some fearlessness and carve some time out of my day (read rut) and actually write.

Thanks C.J.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Adele said...

lol, great post.
SFG - yup, been there.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Brooke Reviews said...

lol I loved this little look into your life. That's funny :D

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just ran in and told my husband "I have posts!" He looked up from his turkey sub and with a full mouth said, "Poths? Where did you put poths from?"

Argh. LOL Thanks so much for all your wonderful posts and questions. I will answer them all here.

Thank you everyone who's read UNL or would like to! It's actually an older book, part of the UN series. I don't have a new CJ Barry book until 2010 but I really wanted to give a book away.

SciFiGuy - thank you!

Davina - you are so right. It's all about the world-building.

Pam - Great question and one I'm still working on! I wrote contemporary RS/light paranormal under Samantha Graves over the past few years so I got my contemporary feet wet there. Now I'm combining what I've learned writing futuristics with waht I learned writing contemporaries. It's actually not as hard as I feared, but it's still a challenge. I will get to add far more paranormal elements in the new series, and I'm really excited about that. As for restrictions, yes, the contemporary world is a restriction but within that world, I can create my own. Um, it won't be out next Tuesday, sorry! LOL 2010.

Jan - thank you and I agree with you on the readers. Paranormal readers rock!

Aloha Jane - the UN series is a set of 4 books. The characters know each other, but it's not necessary to read them in order. The order of release is: Unearthed, Unraveled, Unleashed, Unmasked.

Denise - I don't ask my husband anymore either, poor guy. Every once in a while I'll come running out and tell him about a new twist I found, but he has no concept of the rest of the book so he just politely nods and smiles. :)

Willow - thank you and yes, that's why you have to be fearless. Blazing new trails is not for wimps!

Hi Jill! Thanks, hon. As for name change, it was for OUT OF TIME. I don't know why the UK publisher changed it to THE LEGEND OF THE CRYSTAL LENS but hey, I like it! It'll be released in May 2009.

Mac - LOL Just goes to show you it doesn't matter if its a husband or a wife. Too funny.

Hagelrat - thank you! And I'm kind of dying to know where you got your name. :)

Brooke Reviews - Thanks for stopping by!

I think that catches us up. Thank you all SO much. I had a long day at work and when I saw all the posts... you truly made my day.


4:01 PM  
Blogger I ♥ Book Gossip said...

How interesting. Please enter me in the giveaway. I love this post about you and your hubbys conversations.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Barbara E. said...

Well, here's one more post for ya. I love paranormal stories. It's just so much fun to become caught up in a totally different world than my own. Keep coming up with those great stories, I love them.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Pam P said...

Hi CJ, loved your futuristics, definitely looking forward to that new paranormal series.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Haven't read any of the futuristics books yet, but I'm looking forward to getting a start. I'm waiting to get Unearthed but I just can't jump in knowing that there are books that come before it. I'll have to wait until I track down the first two.

Great anecdote about you and your husband. I sometimes have to explain plot parts to my husband and he's very good about working out any gaping holes or giving me some different possibilities. But I can definitely tell when his head is totally not in the story and I jump randomly in. He's usually forgotten everything from our previous conversation by then and I have to go through it all again.

10:22 PM  
Blogger donnas said...

Great post. I have had many conversations like that talking to others about paranormal books I have read. Those that have the imagination to create it are great but I think the readers need a certain level of imagination as well to enjoy it.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all! So nice of you to stop by.

I Heart Book Gossip - thank you and your picture is great. :)

Barbara - thank you for reading pararnormal. We can't do it without you!

PamP - thanks for reading my books. I really appreciate it. I'm very excited about the new series as well. :)

Jenn - Unearthed is the first one, so you're good! The series releases are: Unearthed, Unraveled, Unleashed, Unmasked.

Donnas - I agree. Paranormal readers are looking for that special and unique thing that makes all things paranormal. Thank goodness!


7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I'm late.
But I did drop by and I have to say I loved those little crab guys in the book. I can't remember what, but there was something they did that made me laugh out loud. I tried explaining why to my husband, and I remember him staring at me, amused.

I get that look when I ask him medical questions when I'm writing. "How hard would you have to.... :)"

5:03 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

I'm late but I love that quote and it's so fitting to me more than you can possibly know! Thank you for posting that -- I needed to read it.

5:56 PM  
Blogger @GeekWillow said...

Wow! This is awesome, thank you so much for running this contest, I can't believe that I won.

Is there any certain email address that you'd like me to send my snail mail address to? You can reach me via this email address:
bkilbarger (at)

Thanks again!

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Final note:

Congratulations, Willow! I'll send that book out later this week.

Ilana and Brenda, thank you for stopping by!

Thanks everyone for the nice comments. It was great to meet you all. Special thanks to Lynda for having me.


6:43 AM  

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