Monday, October 7, 2019

In Love With the Ghosties by Jane Kindred

I have a thing for ghost stories. I love them. And I especially love them in October. I watch horror movies all month long, and the ghost stories are my favorites. I really miss the Ghosthunters series that used to be on the SyFy channel. (I understand it’s back on A&E, but I haven’t been able to catch it yet.) As silly as it was, I enjoyed virtually wandering those houses and buildings in the dark with the team to see what they might turn up. There are other paranormal reality shows, but I haven’t found any I like as much as Ghosthunters. The others all seem to rely on jump scares, creepy reenactments, and just plain shrieking. (Please. Stop the shrieking. If there was an actual ghost in the building, you idiots would be scaring it into permanent hiding.)

Last night’s ghostly selection was the movie Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke as a writer who moves his family into a “murder house” to write about the mysterious killing of its last inhabitants. And right away, you know that’s not going to go well. Did this author learn nothing from The Shining? It makes you wonder if writers are particularly vulnerable to the ghosties. I mean, maybe we’re downright haunted, as a group. From Edgar Allen Poe to Shirley Jackson to Stephen King, being haunted (especially while writing) is obviously something that’s on a lot of authors’ minds. I was thinking to myself as I watched it, though, that I would probably stay in a murder house if given the chance. (Because I clearly do not make good life choices and have no more sense than most classic horror movie characters.)

The Rosenheim mansion—the Murder House from American Horror Story Season 1

Personally, I have never been haunted—though I’ve felt a couple of unusual things that I couldn’t explain—but I’m fascinated by the concept of hauntings nonetheless. The protagonist of my current work in progress (an urban fantasy that is so far just flirting with being a paranormal romance) is a woman who can communicate with the dead—seeing visions of their deaths as she tries to solve a horrific crime. She also has a near-death experience that may have been “nearer” than she thinks and which may or may not have enhanced her natural ability to see through the veil between the living and the dead. This is about as close as I’ve come to writing a “ghost story.” I had one other character—Phoebe Carlisle in Waking the Serpent—who could hear the dead. But the paranormal abilities of both these characters is secondary to the relationships in the story and the crimes they’re trying to solve.

With as much time as I spend every autumn watching horror movies, though, I think I’m really going to have to write my own ghost story one of these days. I don’t know if it will actually be horror (because I love happy endings way too much to really fit the genre) or if I might write a character in a romance who somehow is a ghost—or maybe a ghost hunter? Hey, how about a ghost hunter who falls in love with a ghost? But since I tend to get a little carried away with research, like the time I lived in Russia for a month to get the flavor for my Anastasia-inspired Arhangel’sk books, I wouldn’t be surprised if I do end up staying in a murder house—or actually buying one (bad life choices, remember?)—at some point. Let’s hope it turns out better for me than it does for those hapless writers in the movies!

How about you? Would you ever buy a murder house or stay in one? Maybe if somebody offered you money? How much would it take?

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Search for Silence


Winter feels more 'quiet' to me.

The world seems to be getting noisier. Our everyday is full of a plethora of devices notifying us of Every. Single. Thing—the weather, the news, texts, someone’s comment on a variety of social media sites. The television has programs 24-hours a day, and the available shows are endless—just to make sure we don’t suffer from FOMO, otherwise known as Fear of Missing Out. 

Although who are we kidding? The challenge is trying to miss out. Sometimes you can't even do it if you try. 

It may feel as if we never unplug, or are fully “Off.” Some of us can’t seem to shut it out, or don’t want to.

Refuse that Busy Badge


Many wear this connection and brag about constantly being busy as if it were a badge, as if trying to ‘unplug’ from the noise and just enjoy the moment, or be, is being selfish. 

Perhaps it stems from sending children for quiet time as if doing nothing is deemed to be some type of punishment. (One of many ‘childhood seeming punishments’ that some of us adults would enjoy today such as naptime, recess, and someone to do our laundry…oh wait, I guess that last one doesn’t quite fit there.)

All of this ongoing ‘noise’ and chaos in our environment can clutter our minds, and make it difficult to stop and just listen to the quiet, to our thoughts, to our characters.

Find Your Focus


Sometimes even if we shut out all the noise of our external world, we remain tuned into our internal thoughts. That to-do list that won’t quit churning through our mind, or the worry about something from yesterday or tomorrow leaves us unable to focus... unable to relax and sort through our jumbled thoughts vying for attention like they're trying to order a drink at the Last Call before the end of happy hour.

As a writer, often I realize that I need to write to calm the stressors of the everyday world and focus. To escape into a little fantasy or the magic underlying the reality of my story. Although at times the characters either ramble on in my mind, with their eagerness to share their story, or they remain stubbornly silent—causing me more worry.

Seek Silence in a Story


Reading an engaging story can provide that silence. Forcing you to focus on one thing—the story. If attention wanes and you lose your focus on the words on the page, then you don’t know what’s happened in the story. It’s one of the few places where you just can’t multi-task or you'll suffer from FOMO—of the story.

This year has been a particularly busy one for me and multi-tasking has become my mantra. Although the pace can be draining. That’s why I’ve made an effort to fit in more time for reading. There I find my silence, my peace.

Do You Suffer from FOMO?



Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

Be the first to know about Maureen’s book sales and new releases by following her on BookBub, Amazon and/or signing up for her newsletter

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Necessary or TMI by Diane Burton



The first chapter, especially page one, needs to hook the reader. At the same time, the author wants to include information that’s necessary for the reader to understand what’s going on. My critique partners have gotten on my case for including Too Much Information.

“But-But,” I protest. “The reader needs to know—”
“Uh, uh, uh,” they say, [shaking their index fingers] “you don’t want to put them to sleep or confuse them.”

Last week, I took the first five pages of my WIP, a science fiction romance, to my local writers' group. The main complaint? TMI on the first page.

Too much background
Too many characters
Too many planet names
Too many names beginning with the same letter

Guilty on all counts. After all this time writing (over 20 years), you’d think I learned my lesson. Nope. Critique groups (or partners) help, especially those who don’t hold back. The comments from last week’s group made me rethink how much I needed to include on that first page.

I like to begin a first chapter in media res (in the middle of things). Action, dialogue, a first sentence that makes the reader go “What!”

credit: Amazon
My most memorable first sentence is: Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. from Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. The reader might ask: What or where is Manderley? Why would the narrator dream about going there? What significance does Manderley have? That sentence has intrigued me ever since I first read the book in my early twenties.

I found a blog post that I wrote three years ago. I’m including parts of it here—as a reminder to myself that I do know what to do on the first page.

The first sentence sets the tone for the book and should make the reader ask questions. 

credit: Amazon
Here’s an example from Marilyn Baron’s Sixth Sense:  Beauregard Lee Jackson Hale was a shit magnet.

My first question is why does he attract shit and what kind? My second is who would saddle anyone with such a long name? Considering the name, the setting can only be in the south.

credit: Amazon
Here’s another example, this time from Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie: Sophie Dempsey didn’t like Temptation even before the Garveys smashed into her ’86 Civic, broke her sister’s sunglasses, and confirmed all her worst suspicions about people from small towns who drove beige Cadillacs.

If I hadn’t read anything by Ms. Crusie, I’d get a good idea from the first sentence that the story will be humorous with a sarcastic bent. My question: why did the narrator dislike the town even before the accident?

credit: Amazon
This is the most absurd thing I’ve ever done as assistant planetary agent for Loxton Galactic Trading—standing in as a bridesmaid in a borrowed puce dress because some other girl failed to show up. ~ Escape From Zulaire by Veronica Scott

The word “puce” gets me right away. Something about that word conjures up Regency or Victorian times. Yet, “planetary agent” and “Galactic Trading” tells me the story takes place in the future. My questions: why does she have to stand in for a bridesmaid? Is it part of her job (since she mentions it)? And why is it the most absurd thing she’s ever done? That doesn’t sound very absurd. Is her life that mundane?

I titled that old post “Setting the Hook.” Like fishing, the first sentence (or page) needs to attract the reader. Will it make the reader grab that hook or swim by?

I’m off to change that first page of my WIP.


Monday, September 30, 2019

Charleston, SC - Setting for Sinners' Opera


Sinners’ Opera is set in Charleston, South Carolina, one of my favorite cities in the world (that I’ve visited).  It’s beautiful and on the ocean—two requirements of being a favorite. I’d simply love to live in one of the Antebellum mansions along the Battery. If you ever visit Charleston, take a buggy ride around the historic sights.


Charles Towne was founded in 1670, during the reign of Charles II of England.  This is important in the book because Morgan (the hero) became a vampire in 1659, and in 1670, the King sent him to the new colony to inspect its progress. Later, he returns to watch over a baby girl (the heroine) as she grows to womanhood.

Charleston boasts cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and pastel Antebellum houses, particularly in the elegant French Quarter and Battery districts. The Battery promenade and Waterfront Park both overlook Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter, a federal stronghold where the first shots of the Civil War were fire, lies across the water.

Two beaches, Folly Beach and Isle of Palms, are near Charleston. Another requirement for a favorite of mine.

In nearby Mt. Pleasant, you can visit Boone Hall plantation. Some of the tours they offer are, "Exploring The Gullah Culture", House Tours, Plantation Coach Tour, Black History In America Exhibit, Slave Street and History Presentation, Garden Tour, and a Butterfly Pavilion.

My personal favorite is the Dock Street Theater, America’s first theater. On February 12, 1736, the Dock Street opened with The Recruiting Officer. Flora, the first opera performed in America took place at the Dock Street. Now, the Dock Street is owned and managed by the City of Charleston. I was enthralled by it when I went for a concert. The Dock Street looks like a 17th century playhouse with rows of wooden benches in the orchestra seating. The boxes overlooking the floor are draped in dark green, almost black velvet. The stage backdrop is an antique tapestry of Charleston Harbor. Photo Credit:  By Frances Benjamin Johnston.


The Battery is a street along the seawall on the Atlantic Ocean. The pastel and colorful Antebellum mansions cost in the millions. When I was writing Sinners’ Opera, I drove up and down the Battery until the residents must have thought I lived there…or was a stalker. I finally chose a house for my hero. It’s Roper House, a brick structure with green shutters and a Greek portico to the left. A beautiful house, but because the main attraction, the portico, is on the side, it looks like the house has its shoulder to the sea.  A house with secrets.


I’ve driven those cobblestone streets in my little red Miata, eaten at some good downtown restaurants (never made Magnolias for shrimp and grits), and have gone to the Dock Street for a piano concert.  Morgan is a concert pianist, an English lord, and a vampire.

If I haven’t yet inspired you to visit Charleston on your next vacation, what can I say?  Real movie stars are moving to Charleston, and it is one of the most concentrated centers of wealth in this country. It’s also famous for art (Spoleto), culture, and history—and entertainment galore.


Blurb:

Morgan D'Arcy is an English lord, a classical pianist, and a vampire. He has everything except what he desires most—Isabeau. As the Angel Gabriel he’s steered her life and career choice, preparing her to become Lady D'Arcy. Many forces oppose Morgan's daring plan—not the least of which is Vampyre law.

Isabeau Gervase is a brilliant geneticist Though she no longer believes in angels, she sees a ticket to a Nobel Prize in Gabriel's secrets—secrets that have led her to a startling conclusion. Gabriel isn't human, and she fully intends to identify the species she named the Angel Genome. Morgan is ready to come back into Isabeau's life, but this time as a man not an angel. Will he outsmart his enemies, protect his beloved and escape death himself? For the first time in eternity, the clock is ticking.

Excerpt:

Kirsty fanned with the program.  “However, I’m delighted to inherit his seat.  Culture, especially in the form of a rich bachelor, is something sadly missing from my life.  How does Lady Kirsty D’Arcy sound?”
“Like a tongue-twister.”  She tapped her friend’s arm with the heel of her hand.
Isabeau wasn’t looking when Morgan D’Arcy mounted the stage.
She turned.  Her smile solidified.  Applause erupted as the pianist glided to the piano.  The way he moved, his feet scarcely seeming to touch the floor, was hauntingly familiar.  He ducked his audience an elegant bow, the spotlight haloing golden hair.  Isabeau’s heart kicked her ribs. A trembling hand shot out to grip Kirsty’s arm.
“What’s the matter?”  Her friend passed a hand before Isabeau’s eyes.  “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Staring at the man on stage, Isabeau nodded. I’ll be darned.  Here’s your ghost again.  And here I am one heartbeat away from another heartache.
“His hair is tied back with a black velvet ribbon,” Isabeau breathed, and a man hissed for her to be quiet, but she didn’t spare him a thought or a glance.
An invisible chord drew her forward in her seat, her hands clasped beneath her chin, her heart in the grip of impossible dreams.  A hush fell over the audience as Morgan D’Arcy drifted leaf-like, angel-like, to the bench and adjusted the height.  He closed his eyes, tilted his head back and flexed his long fingers.  The pianist extended exquisite hands over the keys.  Emeralds winked in his gold cufflinks.  Isabeau couldn’t peel her gaze off him.
Morgan D’Arcy was the spitting image of Gabriel.
He bent low over the keyboard, holding a thunderous chord.  A wisp of hair escaped his ponytail to brush the keys.  Eyes closed, he straightened, fingers blurring over black and white notes.  In the timeless vacuum of beauty, an hour sped by.  The last trill of Gaspard de la nuit died.  A collective sigh swept the dark theater.  Isabeau exhaled a pent-up breath.  A wave of applause washed the audience to their feet.
Morgan D’Arcy rested his hand on the piano’s glistening wing and gave his fans a dazzling smile.  To the standing ovation, he folded his hands in front of him.  His bow was as elegant as the man himself.  The wayward gold strand drifted over his eye.  Isabeau remembered a child’s hand…her little hand…brushing back hair like that, hair as silken as the shiver gliding over her.  He straightened, swept the audience with an enchanting gaze.  Radiant blue eyes captured hers.  The foundations of her carefully ordered life shook.

***
Sinners' Opera is now on preorder at these fine retailers:





Sunday, September 29, 2019

Throwback Thursday on a Sunday - Must Be Doing Something Right by Wendi Zwaduk

I thought this month, I'd feature a throwback, even though it is Sunday. Lol. This throwback is on account of my watching the Country Music documentary on PBS. First, I love PBS. Second, I love those long documentaries. Third, I love the music. I'm a sucker for music shows like that.

This story, Must Be Doing Something Right, initially was inspired by a country song. It was. I thought, gee, what is the story for the people in this song? Then the story worked it's way into the Crestline series I wrote for Totally Bound. I love it, still and it's an older story. Check it out. You might like it, too.


Must Be Doing Something Right by Wendi Zwaduk

M/F, Voyeurism, Mild BDSM, Bondage and Anal sex
Totally Bound
Short Story


Available at:


And now for an excerpt:
©Wendi Zwaduk, 2010, All Rights Reserved

I want a woman who will drive me crazy in every possible way.
If she loved him in return.
Nathan Waterford slammed the door to his navy blue Blazer and strode across the asphalt into Besta Pizza Around. He smoothed his hand over the lump of bills in his pocket and tucked the insulated pizza bag under his arm.
On a steamy Saturday night in July, he’d rather be in bed with the woman of his dreams, not working to earn a dime he didn’t need. His day job as an estate lawyer paid the bills, but being at the pizza shop got him closer to Courteney, the woman in his heart.
Hell, if he played his cards right, his desires might come to fruition. One day...
Crestline, Ohio wasn’t a teeming metropolis, but Nate and his business partner, Arran Mayes aimed to create the best little restaurant in the quiet farming community. The scent of tomatoes and yeast swirled around Nate, making his stomach rumble. When did I eat last?
Behind the bar, Arran stood drying a beer stein. “Well, you got your wish, my friend.”
As he slapped the silver bag onto the polished wooden bar, Nate glanced at the remaining patrons in the dining room. A couple giggled in the corner booth, while a trio of students wolfed down the last few slices of pizza at the round table under the window. Good times. He remembered being so carefree, before he had to become a man and work for a living.
“And you’re talking about what?” Nate shook his head and leaned on the bar rail. “Get me up to speed.”
Arran sighed and plunked the glass onto the towel. “You missed drama involving your girl.”
His wish? His girl?
Confused, Nate stared at his ruddy-haired friend. If his memory served him, Courteney Bennett belonged to no man. Nate had seriously considered making a play for the saucy little romance writer. From her chocolate-coloured tresses and her consuming mocha eyes, down her curvy body to the tips of her toes, he longed to make her his. He itched to grasp her hips while driving into her from behind. She turned him on like no other.
Thank God the bar covered the tent in his jeans.
“Don’t look at me like you’re surprised.” Rolling his eyes, Arran picked up a wide mouth wine goblet. “As you know, Courteney and Byron split two months ago. Well, he came back to—” he hooked his fingers in the air, “—make things right.” Arran snorted. “His version of making things right meant parading his new girlfriend, Amber something-or-another, right under Court’s nose. The jerk.”


Friday, September 27, 2019

The Origin of Magical Words

Need to cast a spell? There are several useful words to know that have long magical histories. The roots of the word “magic” itself can be found in Magi or mage, a hereditary class of Zoroastrian priests of the ancient Medes or Persians. Magi was later used to describe men with special abilities such as king, priest or astrologer who could read omens in the skies. The word “magic” goes back to the 1300s, and it originally referred to rituals, incantations, or actions thought to give the user control over the natural world, but the definition has changed through the centuries.  By the 1700s, it also referred to an actual supernatural power. In the 1800s, sleight of hand and card tricks became popular and stage performers used the word to imply they had special arcane abilities.

Abracadabra
No one is sure of the origin of the strange word abracadabra, although believed to be Hebrew or Aramaic origin. It is possibly derived either from the Hebrew words ab (father), ben (son), and ruach hakodesh (holy spirit), or from the Aramaic avra kadavra, “it will be created in my words”. In the Harry Potter series, Rowling played with the Aramaic version to create a death spell, Avada Kedavra, which was supposed to mean “let this thing be destroyed.”

The earliest use of abracadabra is in a Latin poem in a medical book. The word was a written charm to protect against bad luck, illness, or evil. It was often worn as an amulet and resembled a “v” with the final letter dropped on each line until only “a” remained.
Abracadabra
Abracadabr
Abracadab
Abracada
Abracad
Abraca
Abrac
Abra
Abr
Ab
A


Hocus pocus
Hocus pocus first appeared in the early 1600s as Hocas Pocas, the common name for a magician or juggler. In 1634, a book appeared entitled Hocus Pocus Junior - The Anatomy of Legerdemain. The author was anonymous but was later dubbed Hocus Pocus after the book's title. It’s also possible hocus pocus evolved from nonsense words that sounded exotic and magical.

Another explanation for the origin of the term came from John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1694. In his Sermons he accuses it of being a parody of the consecration of the Catholic Mass and wrote, “In all probability those common juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by way of ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in their trick of Transubstantiation.” That Archbishop Tillotson was miffed at both stage performers and Catholics isn’t surprising, and there’s little evidence of his claims.

On a side note, hocus is also believed to be the source for the word hoax, but the word doesn't appear until 1796 and, like Archbishop Tillotson’s claim, there’s no direct evidence for a link.

Alakazam
Alakazam is an invocation of magical power to indicate an instantaneous transformation or appearance that occurs as if by magic. This word has the most mysterious origin. Because alakazam can be a proper name, some suggest it was used to invoke the powers of a particular person. Others trace the origin to a Hindu word meaning “flawless” or the Arabic al qasam, meaning oath. However, the first known appearance was in 1902 and appears likely that it was merely invented by stage magicians to evoke a sense of the mystical power of the Orient.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance and a touch of sass. Her magic words of choice are sim salla bim.