Saturday, December 3, 2016

NANO AND YOUR SERIES by Marie Dry @MarieDry1

We're happy to introduce our guest, Marie Dry. She's here to talk about her experience with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, known to the rest of us as November).

NaNo and Your Series

Every year during NANO life seems to happen and I end up barely making my 50k. Then on top of that, when I start editing I have to cut more than half of the story and rewrite almost everything. I’ve heard many authors complain about this.

This year something strange happened. In spite of life happening i.e. two French tests, a crazy busy time at the office and family responsibilities, I made 80k easily this year. It felt as if I barely had to put in any effort to reach 50k and before I knew it I had 80k.

I believe the one reason is that long before my first book was accepted by Black Opal Books I wrote minimum three hours every day. Whenever the successful authors give advice on writing that is the one advice all of them give. Write every day and write with discipline. I followed it religiously and it seems to be paying off. My writing muscles have strengthened.

Before NANO started I went on the forum for Pretoria (South Africa) and asked if there were people near me who wanted to do write-ins. We got together once a week close to my place and it was wonderful. I also joined an online sprinting group that was created for NANO. Waving at the NANOWRIMOERS facebook group!

The one major difference I made with the writing was I decided to not be so focused on the 50k but instead to try and write a tighter novel. Not easy to do for a pantser like me. The moment I decided to focus on the story and not the word count it took a lot of pressure off.

If I had to choose one decision I made this year that allowed me to reach 80K in a month while working full time, it is to work on more than one book. Instead of writing words for the sake of the word count, if I ran into trouble with one book I worked on the next one until my mind figured out the problem. It worked! I now have the rough draft for Alien Resistance, an even rougher and shorter draft for Alien Captured, a good bit of Alien Ruled and the outline for a novella for Alien Rescue.

The support from other writers during NANO is amazing and it has made a huge difference to me. When I joined RWA Australia in 2010, I did online sprints with them and it was the first time I ever sprinted and had company in my writing. It was wonderful. I lived in Spain at the time and it was hot and I remember all of us buying flakes (a brand of chocolate) in our respective countries and putting them in the fridge as a reward for after the sprints. I still like cold flakes because it reminds me of that year. That is also when I finished Alien Mine and yip, I had to rewrite the whole book because I was so focused on word count I didn’t pay attention to the structure of the book.

What I’m trying to say in a very convoluted fashion, is that NANO is wonderful, but if you want to walk away with a book you can sell it is better to have a strategy. My strategy of not even thinking about the word count this year paid off. Maybe it will for someone else as well.

For anyone looking for craft books here is a list of the books that I went through this year before NANO. There are many more but these are my current favourites.

Goal Motivation & Conflict – Debra Dixon
Writing Active Settings – Mary Buckham
Secrets of the Selling Writer – Dwight Swain
Self-editing for Fiction Writers – Renni Browne, Dave King
Writing the Breakout Novel – Donald Maas
Dialogue – Gloria Kempton
On Writing – Stephen King

Below is the blurb and a short excerpt of Alien Under Cover, the second book in my Zyrgin Warriors series. Enjoy.





ALIEN UNDER COVER
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00SVEJJ2C/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

BLURB
In a bleak and apocalyptic future, Julia Benzoni flees the violence-saturated world of her mafia family to build a peaceful life in a No Name Town, Montana. Now, while civilization disintegrates into anarchy around her and evil men prey on the innocent, she’s pursued by an alien, whose warrior life thrusts her back into the world where might makes right and violence is the order of the day. Torn, she now has to choose between her need to distance herself from war and violence and the alien warrior who holds her heart.

EXCERPT
The first time he revealed himself to his breeder she fainted.
Zurian caught her before she hit the floor. Left with a beautiful human woman helpless in his arms, he’d laid her down on her bed, covered her with blankets, and left her alone. It had taken a surprising amount of willpower to let her out of his arms.
He was not a warrior known for his mercy. He’d killed and executed many and, for a long moment, while he stood there staring at her soft human face, he’d been tempted to take her to his dwelling despite the fact that she was too small and delicate for life with a Zyrgin. Not taking her as his breeder so he wouldn’t break such a fragile woman had been an act of mercy from a warrior considered the most pitiless in the empire.
In the end he could not stay away from her and, when he revealed himself to her the second time his faith had been rewarded. She’d tried to shoot him. Julia handled the pistol well and, instead of crying when she couldn’t manage to hit him, she was furious. His Julia knew some words his translator did not have the meaning of.
He returned a third and fourth time, cloaked, curious to know more about her. Since then he’d gone to her many times. Sometimes cloaked, sometimes not. She intrigued him with her strange habits. She spent most of her time on the human communication device they called a TC, which seemed to be her means of earning a living. She liked to paint her tiny claws—nails he reminded himself, humans called them nails—many colors. Women on Zyrgin frequently adorned themselves but since no warrior with honor would look at another warrior’s breeder he’d only been vaguely aware of perfumes and lavish clothes during ceremonies.
He thought about her when he should be concentrating on his warrior duties. Curious to see what she would try next, he returned to her impoverished dwelling. She was clever enough to stay out of grabbing range. Sometimes he played with her, pretending he only moved at human speed. Countering her attacks, he grabbed her and enjoyed the feeling of her skin, of her body held briefly against him while she fought and squirmed. Once, she tried to knee him in the groin. Seemingly convinced she could harm him that way. He’d observed some of the women in the raider camps, the ones who were not broken, use that tactic with great success on human males.
It had been a week since he’d seen his golden human. At the back of her small house, in the settlement the human’s called No Name Town, Zurian stepped forward and stopped, his boot lifted. A thin white powder covered the door entrance. Something gleamed on the windowsill and, as he moved to the side, more of it gleamed at the bottom on each window ledge. He pinched a tiny amount of the white powder and tasted it. Salt, the spice the humans put in everything. It had to be one of her curious tricks to try to keep him out.
The first four chapters of my books are available on my website. www.mariedry.com

Bio

Ever since she can remember Marie Dry wanted to travel. She had had the privilege of living in Zambia, Morocco, and Spain and sees herself as a bit of a gypsy. Every few years she gets restless and has to be some place new.

She read romances since she was nine and was fairly young when she decided she would write the perfect story that had all the elements she looked for in a romance. In 1997 she decided to go all out with her writing and to get published. Being published by Black Opal Books is a dream come true for her.

There are several wonderful moments in her life that she would never trade for anything. One of them is meeting President Nelson Mandela and the second being published. Her Book Alien Mine was released by Black Opal Books in June 2014.

Marie's social media links:
Twitter:  @MarieDry1



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by @MeganSlayer

The most wonderful time of the year...is now! 

Have you heard that a ton of times? I have. For the longest time, I wondered what that meant. Now, follow me here. I don't mean, I didn't know Christmas was awesome. That's not it. 

In the last few years, it's been tough around this time of the year. Two of my grandparents passed away in December - not the same year, but it's never easy. I was blessed with extra grandparents. At one time, I had four sets. Yep, four. Grandparents and Great-Grandparents. Honestly, it was very cool. Also a culture clash, but I miss it. I miss them. I see ornaments given to us by them or even just the stuff we inherited and it's tough.

Besides, 2016 has been a tough year. Our first dog, the one we've had a long time - almost 14 years - passed away. This has been the first holiday season without her. We have other dogs and the cats, but she was one of our children. Explaining to people why a song or a commercial makes me cry is rough. Canon in D makes me think of when I got married, which makes me think of being young and getting the dog... and yeah, tears.

But over Thanksgiving, I came to a realization. I looked at all of the reasons I wasn't fond of this time of the year and got depressed. But that's now that the holiday season is for. Sure, we should look back on the year and our lives and reflect. But it's more than that. For me, it's looking back on the things that happened and the fun. What did we accomplish? How did we grow.

I managed to deal with health problems, survived surgery and am so glad I went through the trial. I feel better, that's for sure.

I wrote in a Kindle World. That was big. I did a completely self-published project and put it out. 

I'm raising the boy and successfully got him through another Cross Country season. He improved his time and is doing 5k races after the season. 

Dh is my biggest support and I love him. We've grown a ton through the year.

I visited the Cincinnati Reds baseball park. #win

I've got great friends who have my back and I cherish them.

I've got goals for next year. Writing another kindle world book, continuing the Sanctuary series, continuing the Cedarwood series... writing as much as the muse allows... and being happy for what I have and those in my life. 

What about you? What are you looking forward to? What's on your 2017 bucket list? I'd love to know. Maybe we can compare notes. :-)

Here's a book that was a bright spot for me in 2015, Harvest Moon :-)

Harvest Moon by Megan Slayer  
Moon Series, book 2Also part of the Bleh! Turkey! SeriesMLR PressContemporary, Paranormal, HolidayShort StoryM/M, Anal SexWhat's a guy to do when the time to be with family is the time he dreads the most?
All Matt Green wants for Thanksgiving is to propose to his boyfriend in the most epic way he knows-in front of their families. There's only one catch. His boyfriend, Reed Jordan, doesn't do family gatherings. To be honest, Reed isn't wild about Thanksgiving, but he won't say why.
Matt's willing to do anything in order to get Reed to talk, but will it make the holiday perfect or or ruin all of Matt's plans? The Harvest Moon just might be the right omen to make everything all right. Available now at:MLR Press: http://www.mlrbooks.com/Bookstore.php?bookid=MSHARVMNAmazon: http://www.amazon.com/Harvest-Moon-Megan-Slayer-ebook/dp/B00PYVBTBY/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1416954595&sr=8-9&keywords=megan+slayer * * * * * 
Megan Slayer - It's Always Fun to Squirm
Subscribe to our newsletter ~ http://ymlp.com/xgjmjumygmgj 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Writing a Holiday story with paranormal characters by Barbara Edwards

Until I wrote this blog, I haven’t thought about using the holidays in my books. I did read a story by Christine Feehan about a Christmas ‘Dark Celebration’ by her Carpathian characters. I though it was well done since it took people who didn’t celebrate the holiday with those who had fond memories. It is a feel good story.

So would I chose to use a holiday?

I do write Christmas novellas and they’ve been published by The Wild Rose Press. They are about regular people, except for my ghost dog Dixie. I’ve added the url at the end of this since it is a paranormal story.

I have a free read on my blog about Halloween in Rhodes End the setting for my series.
So I guess I do use the holidays.

I’m not sure I could write a full-length novel about a single holiday. What do you think? 

Do you want to write a full-length holiday book?

Which holiday? Why?

Dixie’s Gift by Barbara Edwards
Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B017OJGVIY

Ellen Carter deeply grieves for her husband Dan, but at least she still has Dixie, her beloved Malinois. However, soon Dixie leaves her too. But the faithful dog cannot rest easy in heaven while her mistress is unhappy. Dixie pleads with the Archangel Michael to let her send help, and intercedes for Ellen in the only way she can. But will Ellen get the message, and more importantly, will she accept Dixie's gift?

Sexy newcomer Michael Burke can barely take enough time from his successful restaurant for a decent night's sleep, let alone romance. Still, he is intrigued by the beautiful widow and can't resist entering her shop. Sparks fly, and when Ellen has an accident in a snowstorm, he comes to her rescue. Trapped by a blizzard and aided by Dixie's Gift, Ellen and Michael find more than shelter--they find love.


Please follow, friend or like me. I love to hear from my readers.
Amazon Author’s Page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003F6ZK1A




Sunday, November 27, 2016

Breaking the Billy Goat Curse by L. A. Kelley

What is a Curse?
It’s not dropping the f-bomb. That’s swearing, and your mama doesn’t approve. A real curse is like a negative post-hypnotic suggestion reinforced by circumstance. Effectiveness hinges completely on the gullibility of the victim and involves a ritual to either enact or retract. All curses rely on superstition and a certain whack-a-doodle mentality sadly lacking in modern life. Fortunately, it’s still wildly abundant in the sports world.

Hows About Dem Cubbies?
Only coma victims haven’t heard the news yet that The Billy Goat Curse was lifted, and the Cubbies triumphed in the World Series. Hard to believe, but the Chicago Cubs were once one of the winningest teams in baseball. When known as the Chicago White Stockings they took the first National League Championship and had six titles before 1887. Renamed the Chicago Cubs in 1903, success continued. Three years later the team won a record 116 games and their first pennant. Another pennant and a World Series title came in 1907, and the following year they were the first team in baseball with back to back World Series wins. From 1876 to 1945, The Chicago Cubs had 51 winning seasons, 16 first place finishes, and 16 pennants. They racked up two World Series and six Championship titles. Then it all went south with the dreaded Billy Goat Curse.



The Billy Goat Curse
Legend has it in 1945 William "Billy Goat" Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern and a Cubs fan, bought two tickets to Game Four. Hoping to bring the team good luck he took his pet goat, Murphy, to the game. The ushers stopped him at the entrance because no animals were allowed. Billy Goat appealed to the owner of the Cubs, P.K. Wrigley, who replied, "Let Billy in, but not the goat." When Sianis demanded a reason, Wrigley replied, "Because the goat stinks." Billy threw up his arms and shouted, "The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field." The curse was cast.

Rituals
A good paranormal writer knows a curse can always be broken. You just need the right ritual and Cubs fans certainly tried. Over the years clothing superstitions abounded. One fan website suggested wearing Cubs hats 24/7. Another swore by donning new Cubs apparel, still another only old. For some, the road to victory was paved with dirty laundry. A smelly faction refused to clean Cubs shirts or jerseys while the Series continued. A less aromatic sect washed when the team lost to remove the bad luck. No wonder it took over 75 years to break the curse. The baseball gods were confused by conflicting ceremonies.

Sacred Offerings
In primitive societies, breaking a curse often involved food, animals, or magic potions. In Chicago, the closest thing to a magic potion is beer, but food had its place as well. The 2015 attempt to break the curse featured five competitive eaters scarfing down 40 pounds of goat meat in 13 minutes at Taco in a Bag on Chicago’s North Side. Fans cheered them on. “If it works, we’re the smartest people in Chicago,” boasted co-owner Patrick Bertoletti. It didn’t. The Cubs lost to the Mets. A group called Reverse the Curse Chicago urged fans to donate dairy goats to impoverished Caribbean families while Heifer International ran a campaign to raise money to send goats to needy families in Third World countries.

In the end, what finally broke the curse? Nothing. There are no curses, silly, only 75 years of lousy baseball followed at last by one season where a team kept it together to the end. (And a certain writer never washed a lucky shirt because you never know.)


Batter up.


L. A. Kelley writes fantasy/sci-fi adventure stories with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. You can connect at
BLOG        
Email: l.a.kelley.author@gmail.com

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Getting the Details Right   


When writing a paranormal fantasy you have the great potential to create your own worlds. You can walk around in it. Create new acquaintances, and make new friends and allies. You’re comfortable in your own skin and your imagination has no limits. I love those kinds of stories.
My stories are paranormal historical, primarily written in the medieval time, and you have to get the details right. You have to learn the customs, the food, clothing and traditions. It all comes down to research. Sometimes it takes more time to do the research than actually writing the story, but those details help to create the story. Not to say that my characters don’t break convention. What fun would that be if they didn’t? They are led by need and desires that would make the church blush.
My contemporary suspense is set in Chicago. I literally have to walk the streets of downtown to get the culture of a big city, what it smells like, look like, and feel like. Crossing a city street is a talent all its own. My favorite time to be in Chicago is during the Christmas season. The lights, the smell of coffee coming out of the coffee shops, and the smell of food as it puffs out the restaurant doors as patrons go in and out.
I’m working on a time travel story now, and I get to use everything I learned from both time lines and combined them together. I have copious notes of both medieval Europe and present day Chicago. All the research I did is helping this story move much more quickly and allows me to compare and contrast the two times periods and explore their differences and the conflict it creates between the hero and the heroine.
The heroine finds herself in the middle of the woods after being chased through a portal by two drug dealers. When men in armor ride up to her she thinks she had somehow found herself at a renaissance fair. She was unaware she had actually traveled back in time.
Here is a little taste of Quin and Grace’s first meeting.
Thank God, somebody who can help me. A group of men were wearing chainmail and metal helmets.
Grace let out a chuckle. “Sorry,” she said as she raised her hand. “I don’t mean to laugh, but you guys look great. Your costumes look so authentic. You’ve taken the medieval thing to a whole new level. Is the renaissance fair nearby?”
One of the men stepped down from his horse. The others moved around her in a tight circle. When he removed his helmet Grace’s heart tripped up. He had to be most beautiful man she ever saw in her whole life. Like Chris Hemsworth in the Thor movie. His blond hair fell just below his shoulders. Even though he was covered in chainmail there was no hiding the strong body beneath it. All he needed was his hammer. He was something right out of a romance novel.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?”
First thought. Handsome or not, what a jerk! There was no Hello, or are you lost, can I help you in some way, just ‘Who are you?’ like I stepped on his cat.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize I was trespassing” She said curtly. “Can you tell me where I can find the nearest road?” She raised her phone over her head to see it still reading ‘No Service.’
“Do you guys get cell service out here? I can’t seem to get any bars.” The ringing of metal scraping metal set her teeth on edge. Handsome had his sword pointed it at her chest.
“Give me the box.”
“Not on your life,” she said, pressing her phone to her chest.
“I assure you it won’t be my life. Now hand me the box.”
He towered over her, but most people did since she was only five-two. She gave up her resolve then slapped the phone in his hand. “Fine. Happy now?”
His stone like expression made her wary. “Your bag.”
“What is this, a hold up?” Stone silence. She blew out a puff of air and slid the bag off her shoulder and handed it to him. He in turn tossed it to one of the men behind her. “Hey! Be careful with that. It has my computer in it.” She turned back to him. “Now what? You have my things.”
He looked her up and down. Not in a creepy way, but like he was sizing up a sandwich. “You are oddly dressed.”
“It’s called jeans and a leather jacket. Look I’m not interested in your little roll playing game. All I want are directions out of here and you can give me back my things and  carry on with your reenactment, thing.”
Suddenly, two arrows thumped down at her feet Thor didn’t hesitate. He picked her up and threw her in the saddle and jumped on behind her. The small band of men broke their circle and flanked them on both sides.
Arrows came out of nowhere. “What is going on?” she yelled
“An ambush.”
“You mean those arrows are real?”
“Why would you question that?”
“Right now I can’t think of, why.”
He pressed her head down and lowered his body around her like a shield. Her heart beat like a jackhammer. The saddle pressed against her hip. This wasn’t as comfortable as it looked on TV. “I’m tired of this game. You’ve had your fun, now let me go!” She tried to shift herself in position to jump but he held her too tightly.
“Sit still, woman, I am trying to save your life.”
“Knock it off, or I’ll press charges for kidnapping. Now let me go!”

If there was a time you could go back to where would it be?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Living In a Traditional World (and a SALE!)

by Nancy Gideon



In keeping with tradition - that of Black Friday without having to fight the crowds! - two of my "By Moonlight" and the first of my "House of Terriot" books are discounted by 25% for today only at All Romance E-Books! Sink your teeth into REMEMBERED BY MOONLIGHT and UNLEASHED BY SHADOWS, which are the cross-over books between the two series that combine the worlds and the characters, and take a bite out of the brand new "House of Terriot" with PRINCE OF HONOR, Book 1.

    

All Romance eBooks

Two of our biggest traditions in the U.S. are Thanksgiving and Black Friday. By steeping your paranormal story/series in its own customs is one of the best ways to make it unique and other-worldly, as other members of PNR have been discussing this month.

In my "By Moonlight" shape-shifter series, I wanted to establish a separateness from the norm for my characters who live under the radar in New Orleans, Lake Tahoe, and Memphis. Though they pass for human and many work regular jobs, on the police force, tending bar, and in clinics, when they get together to "howl," the differences shine through. The speed and power in their movements, the fiery gleam in their eyes, the ability to go all "fang and fur" when provoked. They recognize one another by a scent "signature" and from the "glimmer" of sensations they project. They release the spirits of their dead through fire ceremonies and claim their exclusive mates by bonding that allows the pair special intuitive powers. Even amongst themselves, different clans follow different ways, some ultra-modern, some feudal, and some a melting pot of tarnished beliefs held onto from ancient times. Some even follow human customs such as marriage. Picking the right alliance or the right fight is all that keeps the tentative balance of power between them.

The Terriot clan is ruled by a mad king with his twelve princely sons fighting for his crown through bonding, treachery, and even magic. In my new "House of Terriot" four book spin-off series, their king has been overthrown and the head of their new leader isn't resting easy as he and his brothers try to negotiate a truce with other clans to defend against a greater force in the North while maintaining the balance on their own isolated mountaintop. The four princes featured in the H.o.T. series have found love in unacceptable places - with a traitor, within a rival clan heir, with a female of mystery, and with one of tremendous hidden potential, all who challenge the expected ways of their family, breaking down those traditional barriers. And that's half the fun!

I'm recovering from yesterday's turkey dinner (and hiding from shopping!) over the first edit of PRINCE OF POWER, Book 2 in the "House of Terriot" series, to make room for holiday dinner #2 tomorrow with more of the family. Traditions - gotta love 'em - especially the tasty ones! Hope yours have been wonderful!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Traditional Bogymen, by Francesca Quarto

Traditional Bogymen, by Francesca Quarto
No child was more afraid of the dark than I. 
Truth be told, I still get a shiver when the sound of a creak penetrates the gauzy fabric of my dreams, with the force of a thunderclap.
            It’s rather an embarrassment to admit, but the bogyman that occupied the closet in my childhood bedroom, has used my imagination to hitchhike a ride into my adulthood.
            I have long ago given up on using rational thinking to disabuse myself of such a silly notion as monsters creeping about in the shadows.  I now subscribe to the modern outlook of embracing life and all it holds.  Sometimes, when I swear something has bumped my bed, this open-armed acceptance means allowing the bogyman a little time to cavort while I shrink myself into a four year old girl and wait.
            Every society has produced its share of fanciful creatures.  Many of these monsters have even crept over from one culture to another. 
While doing some research on the existence of Skin Walkers for the first book in my “Witch of Appalachia” series, I discovered that this “Shape Shifter” creature can also be found among some European folklore.  I believed this powerful being was only found in Native American cultures; primarily the Navajo.
Werewolves and Vampires have been spreading their particular brand of blood-letting over the course of centuries. Let’s just concentrate this brief study on the much maligned (likely had an awkward childhood) Werewolf.
 Werewolf / Lycanthrope …the word from Old English: wer, “man” and Greek: lykos, “wolf”.
Tradition teaches that this mythical creature is a human, with the ability to shapeshift into a really big, bad, wolf!  Belief in this dreadful monster mash-up can be traced back to Petronius (27-66 BC) and Gervase of Tilbury (1150-1228 AD). 
(Don’t worry, I looked all that up…)
The werewolf has existed in European folklore in many forms, all directly related to the interpretation of the Christian churchmen on such matters.
Of course, much of this folklore developed during the medieval period; a grim time one could say, with lots of ugly things like plague and witch burnings taking a toll on general morale.
Belief in werewolves would eventually spread to the New World with colonization.  These outpost of civilization really couldn’t be called “new” since the brave colonizers took all the preconceived notions of Bogymen into the very heart of their society. Remember, witches?  The belief in witchcraft sprang up around the same time as the werewolf.
We humans do have a propensity toward the superstitions of the day.  Likely driven by the fear of our own mortality, we go to extraordinary measures to eliminate threats to our continued existence; even burning old women who looked too unclean, or, like poor Esmerelda, had a dancing goat! (A respectful nod toward Victor Hugo to bring class to this scribbling…)
In what is now Switzerland, in the early 15th century, trials of suspected werewolves were the social rage.  And rage they did!
These caught on like the fagots used to burn the unfortunates, throughout the rest of Europe and only peaked in the 17th century, finally ebbing like a bloody tidal wave, in the 18th century.
Even Elvis didn’t have that long a run!
But lest we forget, we humans have other qualities besides being gullible and suspicious of warts on old ladies noses. 
Case in point; the werewolf became a subject of interest in folklore studies and to the dark, Gothic genre. We can find this fascination in the werewolf fiction, in some ground-breaking (as genres go) medieval romances. This carried over as a genre into the 18th century. 
So, this hybrid human has been tearing up (literally) the citizens in many a country over a long span of time.  Traditionally, he hasn’t been well received among the peasantry, but in modern times, found a place among the readers and movie mavens who look for monsters that can scare them without doing actual bodily harm.
After all, who doesn’t like to be scarred witless?  Outside of Presidential elections, nothing gives me goose bumps like:
“A powerful, hairy arm wrapping around my slender waist.  Pulling me closer to a slavering mouth, filled with yellowed fangs, bits of flesh from his last victim dangling like bloody cords…”
You get the picture.  Oh, I made that part up about the “slender waist”!

Francesca Quarto, Author
“Wolf Master of Iron Mountain” Book 1



Sunday, November 20, 2016

Layering a Scene with "Character"

I consider myself to be a character driven writer. I spend a ton of time getting to know my hero and heroine. I love learning their quirks and personalities. I also love my secondary characters, because I write series, and I enjoy setting up future books.

The tricky part with writing side characters is giving them a voice without letting them take over the page, but at the same time not letting them just be place holders or "extras" in the scene. Even harder, I find, is writing a cast of characters and not having the voices blend together. I can't say I get it right every time, but I sure have fun trying. :)

My writing technique over the years has evolved into what I call layering. I write the bare bones of a scene. Then I go back over and layer more details in. Usually I have one or two main focuses for a given layer, and I run through any given scene multiple times. The layers are where I get to really add in the characters' flavor and personalities. Can you tell that's my favorite bit?

As an example, here is a scene from a recent release--PSYCHED a short story in the GOOD THINGS anthology--starting with the first draft and then with each subsequent layer.

The hero in the story, Daniel Cain, is the leader of a team of telepathic special agents. In this scene, Cain and his team are playing poker while the heroine is off doing something dangerous.

FIRST DRAFT

Remember, my first draft is always super rough and just the bare bones of a scene. This is where I get the dialogue in and the general actions/reactions.

Cain laid down another hand, and glanced at his phone, which sat, on the ends of the desk. 

Max, Sawyer, and Shaw sat on the other sides as they played poker to pass the time.

“She’ll be fine,” Max said.

Cain grunted and waited for the guys to finish out the hand.

Didn’t take long before Max scooped up the pot. Sawyer shuffled the cards and dealt. Cain checked his. Trash. He waited for the flop. Still trash. He could bluff it out, would usually try that, but instead he folded. And checked his phone again.

“I’ve never seen you like this man,” Shaw commented.

Cain didn’t comment.

“You like her,” Sawyer said.

Cain sat forward. “She’s got guts. I’ll say that for her.”

Max looked up from his cards and pinned Cain with a dark gaze. “This is different.”

Max was right. “Remember our first mission?”

Shaw laid down the turn card. “In Alaska? That cave system holding all the sups?”

“Yeah.”

“You think this is them? We took care of them.”

“All of them,” Max added.

“No. This is not them. But she was there.”

“No way,” Sawyer muttered.

“Quinn was one of the sups they held prisoner?” Shaw asked.

Cain gave a jerky nod.

“How’d you find out?” Max asked.

“She had a nightmare. I touched her, saw everything.”

Max leaned back, studying Cain’s expression. “She the one?”

“Yeah.” After everything had settled in Alaska, Cain had tried to find her. Max had helped, but Delilah had several teams there that day, and another group had taken Quinn to safety.

“I’ll be damned.”

Before anything else could be said, Cain’s phone signaled a message.

LAYER 1 - Sensory Detail and Physical Action

When I go back through the first time I work at filling in a lot of the details. If it's a new scene, I try to incorporate clothing or character's physical descriptions. I add in all five senses where it works (my goal is a sense a page).

Some changes I made:
  • Smell of the room
  • Humidity from the non-working air conditioner
  • Sounds of the city
  • chair hitting the ground

LAYER 2 - World Building

Next I add in some world building. This not only includes setting, but also, where I can adding in details about the world itself. This can include infrastructure, society, rules of the world, etc.

Some changes I made:
  • Added more of a description of the room and how they're playing poker.
  • Got the summer night in the city in there
  • carpeted floor
  • more details about Quinn's rescue and that Cain's team works with other teams out there in a "good guy" capactiy

LAYER 3 - Character Traits and Voices

Then I get more into the characters heads. If the scene involves a group, I might read through it and focus only on one character at a time.

Some changes I made:
  • Added Max rubbing at his scar.
  • Made Shaw's goofier personality come through as well as Sawyer's tendency to be the observant/quieter twin
  • Snuck in a hint that Shaw's telepathic ability has to do with mechanics
  • Max is Cain's best friend - hopefully that comes across with him helping Cain search for Quinn

LAYER 4- Internal Reactions

This is a new layer for me, added recently when some great beta reader pointed out how many opportunities I'd missed to include the main character's internal reactions. So now I go back through and try to look for those specific opportunities, which helps me build that character more as well.

Some changes I made:
  • This is mostly for Cain. I tried to convey how nervous he was for the heroine without him saying it out loud or thinking the actual words. Smaller details like:
    • "distrubling silent" phone
    • checking the phone over and over
    • how the other's react to him
    • added actual thoughts like not wanting to be weak in front of his team

LAYER 5 - Edit and Tighten

Finally, I go through the scene and "fix" all my bad habits. I have a list a mile long that I search for key words and then reword or redo entire paragraphs to fix it. Anything from overused words like "that" or "mutter," to concepts like talking heads (all talk no action), and more. I try to fix grammar here too.

Final Result

Here is the final result for this scene (at least, before my beta readers got their hands on it). What do you think? Are the characters more clear to you now? Can you picture them and what's going on?

Cain laid down another hand, and glanced at his phone, which sat, disturbingly silent, on the end of the desk. The hotel room only had the one piece of furniture they could use as a poker table, so they’d dragged the desk to the center of the room. Sawyer and Shaw sat on the end of the bed, using one long side. He and Max had grabbed the chair and stool and took the two short sides.

They dressed like they were off duty—jeans and t-shirts—which bugged him in a weird way. Quinn was out there and he wasn’t even dressed to react quickly.

“She’ll be fine.” Max rubbed at the scar on his wrist hidden under the leather band he always wore. Clearly, he didn’t believe that any more than Cain did.

Cain grunted and waited for the guys to finish out the hand. He ignored the trickle of sweat running down his back. The air-conditioner was a piece of junk even Shaw couldn’t fix without new parts. The heat and humidity of the summer night blew in through the open window, along with the noises of the city. The breeze did little to alleviate the smell of sweat and humanity permeating the room.

Didn’t take long before Max scooped up the pot. Sawyer shuffled the cards and dealt. Cain checked his. Trash. He waited for the flop. Still trash. Sure he could bluff it out, in fact, he’d usually try that, but instead he folded. And checked his phone again.

“I’ve never seen you like this man.” Sawyer’s gaze remained on his cards.

Tipping his chair back, Cain ran his hand over his beard and didn’t comment.

“You like her.” Sawyer’s uncanny powers of observation had nothing to do with his telepathy, but Cain often thought it might as well have.

Cain sat forward, the legs of his chair hit the carpeted floor with a muffled thud. “She’s got guts. I’ll say that for her.” No way was he going to voice his real opinion. His team needed him to lead, not turn into a sappy, distracted ass.

Max glanced up from his cards and pinned Cain with a dark, unwavering gaze. “This is different.”

Max was right. The level of his interest in Quinn scared the hell out of Cain. “Remember our first mission?”

Shaw laid down the turn card. “In Alaska? That cave system holding all the sups?”

“Yeah.”

Sawyer frowned over the cards in his hand. “You think this is them? We took care of them.”

“All of them,” Max added, a hard light in his eyes.

“No. This is not them. But she was there.”

All three of his men jerked their heads up to stare at him.

“No way,” Sawyer muttered.

“Quinn was one of the sups they held prisoner?” Shaw asked.

Cain grunted an affirmative. Not the youngest being held, but close. Cain glanced down and shock pinged through him at the sight of his own clenched his fists. With a shake, he forced his hands to relax under the table where the others couldn’t see.

“How’d you find out?” Max asked.

“She had a nightmare. I touched her, saw everything.”

Max leaned back, studying Cain’s expression. “She the one?”

“Yeah.” After everything had settled in Alaska, Cain had tried to find her. Max had helped, but Delilah had several teams there that day, and another group had taken Quinn to safety.
Max’s eyebrows shot up. “I’ll be damned.”

Exactly.

“So let me get this straight,” Sawyer leaned his elbows on his knees. “She set herself up to be taken into the same situation we rescued her from?”

“Yes.”

“Guts doesn’t begin to cover it,” Sawyer muttered.

Also right.

“How’d you let her go, man?” Shaw asked only to be cuffed by his brother over the head. 

“Ow! What was that for?” He threw his cards at his brother.

“You’re about as sensitive as a knife to the gut.” Sawyer tipped his chin at Cain.

Shaw’s frown cleared. “Oh. You have a thing for Quinn. I get it.”

Before Sawyer could whack his brother in the head again, Cain’s phone signaled a message.


HAPPY THANKSGIVING and best of luck to all the NaNoWriMo writers out there! :)