Monday’s Friend: Rosemary Morris

 

Today I am pleased to welcome Rosemary Morris back to the blog as this week’s guest.

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

Rosemary Morris - Small photo (2)RM: Before I could write, I had a powerful imagination, which swelled as soon as I could set pencil to paper. I always had stories in my head and lived in a fantasy world peopled by incredible characters. I scribbled short stories and, eventually, wrote my first historical novel.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

RM: There are too many to mention all of them. At grammar school my English literature and history teachers fostered my passion for both subjects. As a pre-teenager I read children’s historical and fantasy fiction, particular favourites were The Wide Wide World, Heidi, The Little White Horse and the novels of Geoffrey Trease and Jeffrey Farnol. In my teens I was wrapped up in the Regency world of Georgette Heyer, the diverse settings of Elizabeth Goudge’s and Anya Seton’s novels, plus every historical novel I could get my hands on including Tess of the d’Urbevilles and Sergeanne Golon’s Angelique series.

SJT: Describe your writing routine. Any rituals or processes that are important to you as you sit down to write?

RM: On most days I am awake by 6 a.m. or occasionally, at the latest, 7 a.m. I make a hot drink with a thick slice of unwaxed lemon and two teaspoons of organic honey, then switch on the laptop. After a break at 8.30 a.m. for a breakfast of porridge made with almond milk and three portions of fruit, I write until 10 or 11 a.m.

When my daily chores are finished I often work for an hour after lunch, and from about 4 or 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Some of this time is used to promote my novels, answer e-mails, blog, and read non-fiction for research.

If I had a pound for everyone who told me they can write a book I would be rich. My daily ritual, if I may call it that, is self-discipline without which my novels would not be written.

SJT: Your novels are all historical, covering various periods of history. Do you have a favourite era that you like to write about?

RM: It’s more a question of which periods of history have not inspired me to use as a setting for my historical novels. For example, I have not had a compulsive urge to set a novel in the Victorian era, but at the moment, I am revising the first book in a trilogy set in the reign of Edward II of England.

I don’t have a favourite era which I write about, but I am keen to introduce readers to Queen Anne Stuart life and times – 1702-1714. For one thing, if the Duke of Marlborough had lost the Wars of Spanish Succession the course of history would have been altered. When writing my three published novels set then, Tangled Love, Far Beyond Rubies and The Captain and The Countess, I enjoyed working out appropriate plots and themes and describing the economic and social history and the clothes, food etc.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

The Captain and The Countess 200x300 (2)RM: The Captain and The Countess explores the position of women completely at the mercy of their husband’s and, in the case of the heroine, the wealthy widow, Kate, Countess of Sinclair, her decision never to marry again. However, Captain Howard, some years her junior, a naval officer and a talented artist, is the only man to see the pain behind her fashionable façade and is determined to help her. While writing this romantic tale I wept for Kate and admired her courage. I also fell a little in love with Captain Howard. Although he is battle-hardened, he is generous, kind and efficient and very mature for his age. Throughout the novel I urged Kate not to reject his devotion.

SJT: Last time we talked, you were working on a sequel to ‘Sunday’s Child’. How is this going?

RM: I have finished Monday’s Child, a traditional Regency Romance, which is set in Brussels prior to The Battle of Waterloo and submitted it to my publisher. The novel took longer than I anticipated to write due to the amount of research required.

SJT: You’ve lived in many places, and now you’re back in the UK. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

RM: I’m pleased to say I am content living in England near four of my children and grandchildren. I would like to travel overseas to see a bit more of the world but I would not swap my house and organic garden, in which I grow herbs, fruit and vegetables for one in any other country.

SJT: Thank you for being my guest once again, Rosemary!

Learn more about Rosemary from her website and her blog:

www.rosemarymorris.co.uk
http://rosemarymorris.blogspot.com

Her books are available from MuseItUp, Amazon Kindle, itunes, Nook and all reputable vendors.

Monday’s Friend: Lisa Lickel

Today I am pleased to welcome the multi-talented author and editor Lisa Lickel to my blog.

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

LL: Ooh, destined – such a better phrase than “knew.” After a few years of writing and selling articles and newspaper features, getting far in a contest and signing an agent and two contracts for novels within a few months at the end of 2007, I set out on that path of destiny of calling myself a professional writer.

SJT: We don’t choose writing, it chooses us – hence why I refer to it as ‘destiny’! Who would you cite as your influences?

LL: In the authorial world, I am heavily influenced by the lingua of Ray Bradbury, dramatic Louisa May Alcott, and the hominess of Michael Perry. As far as dedication to craft and tenaciousness, the likes of Phyllis Whitney and all her personas; those authors who have a steady audience which they are able to feed regularly.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

LL: What I would have liked to have known, though I’m not sure I would have understood then, is that this is a business, folks. There is no nice, no kind, no oops that’s not on purpose. Get your audience together, be aggressive without being annoying, be enthusiastic and fold a cadre of encouragers around you. That’s every bit as important as churning out excellent material.

SJT: Tell us about your forthcoming novel, HEALING GRACE.

Healing-Grace-v2b (3)LL: To clarify first, Healing Grace is forthcoming in print, and actually a third edition. It is the story of my heart, the second novel I ever wrote, and as such needed extensive work and it took much faith from my second publisher who overrode her pub board to take it after the first publisher pretty much ruined the experience for me. The story is about a reluctant faith healer who is running away from her home and gifts. She cannot run far enough, of course, and ends up exactly where God wants her—doing the impossible. Even if it costs her life.

SJT: What inspired you to write about a healer?

LL: I was inspired to write about a healer partly due to my fascination with all things medical, partly as an exploration of the biblical gifts of the spirit, as in, what would they look like today? Even the medical community will often use the word “miracle” in describing breakthroughs and cures. At the time I wrote the story, my brother had been suffering from a wholly puzzling and unique illness. While I was researching (out of curiosity and I’ll admit, some anger) his symptoms, I came across some intriguing medical issues which I was able to use for my male protagonist and his fate. My brother and his family live in Michigan and shared their experiences, many of which I was able to incorporate into the story, so it’s really a family book. And my brother has recovered and is doing well.

SJT: Where can readers buy HEALING GRACE?

LL: It can be bought direct from the publisher, from Barnes & Noble and from Amazon.

SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

LL: I’m a mix when it comes to SOP or Plotter – I say I’m a flexible plotter in that I usually start from a synopsis or outline, chapter goals and character and setting sheets, which are allowed to change and grow and adapt as the story moves along. I also don’t need to write in order, but tackle issues and scenes when they hit me.

SJT: Cat person or dog person?

LL: Definitely cat.

SJT: Me, too. I have two of them. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

LL: I love to travel, read of course, watch movies and sci fi television, walk in the State Forest around our house and kayak on the many little lakes.

Thanks so much for having me here today.

Author Bio:

Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. A multi-published, best-selling and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, a freelance editor, and magazine editor. Visit LisaLickel.com.

Connect with Lisa on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.

 

The Ten Commandments of Writing #4: Thou Shalt ‘Show’ Not ‘Tell’

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Show, don’t tell” is a common refrain in my writing group. This is generally another way of saying there is too much exposition in the manuscript. Consider the following two sentences:

1. He was angry.
2. He slammed the door behind him and went stomping down the corridor, swearing under his breath.

They both say the same thing, but the second example demonstrates the character is angry without saying so directly.

‘Showing’ not ‘telling’ is a way of adding interest to your writing. You could open your novel by spending the first page describing your main character in detail, including personality traits, but it’s far more interesting to spread this out throughout the novel, so that the reader can extract this information for themselves. If you want to tell the reader that your character is anxious and nervous, maybe have them gnawing on their fingernails in several scenes. If a character is a chain smoker, you don’t have to tell the reader that. If the character lights a cigarette (or even several in quick succession) in every scene they are in, the reader will pick up on that soon enough.

An example of an author I think does ‘show, not tell’ well is Lisa Brackmann, who writes a series of crime novels featuring Ellie McEnroe, a young former soldier who was injured in Afghanistan. Though more or less physically recovered, Ellie is constantly drinking beer and swallowing pain killers with it, and these actions demonstrate aspects of her character quite clearly without us ever being told directly.

I think ‘showing, not telling’ is something that new writers often struggle with. It’s something that a writer gets better at the more they practise it. If you want to tell your readers that a character is untrustworthy, how would you do it? This would probably be a series of actions in which they repeatedly demonstrate that they go against their word, or betray other characters. This would be more engaging for the reader than another character declaring, early on the story, “I don’t trust Tom”.

Here ends the lesson on the fourth commandment of writing. Join me next week when we will touch on the importance of heeding the rules of grammar.

The Ten Commandments of Writing #3: Thou Shalt Not End With “It Was All A Dream…”

(Cross-posted on the Write Club blog) How many of you remember getting assignments to write stories in school? My heart always leapt with joy when that happened. Generally some people were always asked to read their stories aloud to the class. And there was always that one person who’d written some fantastic and implausible adventure, only to finish with, “and then I woke up and realised it was all a dream.”

This is another of those tropes that was probably once perfectly acceptable, but it has been done so often that it has become too predictable. A similarly over-used trope is that one where the characters are actually dead and don’t realise it until the end of the story. In spite of these two tired old tropes being over-used, there are nevertheless recent examples of both of them being used in TV shows (*cough* ‘Lost’ *cough*).

An author might decide to end their story this way to provide a twist to the tale. The problem is that it’s been used so often that this revelation no longer comes as a surprise. To me, it rather smacks of the author writing themselves into a corner and not being able to think of another way of getting out of it.

Plot twists and turns make a thrilling read, but avoid getting into a situation where you get your character into such a sticky situation you can’t work out how to extricate them from it.

For fear of sounding like a broken record, this is why plotting is important. I have read more than one novel where strange things happen to the character, and I turned the pages eagerly, wanting to know why these things are happening, only to come across the “it was all a dream” ending. I interpret this to mean the author couldn’t be bothered to think of a more original ending. I accept that much of this is personal opinion, but I have heard similar view expressed by agents, and ending in such a way puts a lot of agents and editors off any further negotiations with the author.

So here we have the Second Commandment of Writing: thou shalt come up with a better ending than “it was all a dream”.

Join me next week, when I shall be exploring the difference between “showing” and “telling”.

Monday’s Friend: Marsha R West

Today I am pleased to welcome Marsha R West back to the blog, with some useful tips on how to write a series.

Writing a Series! Agghh!
By Marsha R West

Marsha West (2)Thanks for having me Sara. I’m excited to tell you about my third book, SECOND ACT, which is the first in The Second Chances Series. My first two books were stand-alones, so series writing has been a new experience for me. SECOND ACT is the 6th book I’ve written, and with each book I’ve learned a few more things to help in the writing process. So far, in my experience, this is a continuously evolving process. Maybe not for others, but for me it is.

In The Second Chances series, we meet four women, now in middle age, who’ve been friends since they met when they were kids at summer camp. Whether they realize it or not, they all need a second chance.

The hero in SECOND ACT was a supporting character in VERMONT ESCAPE, my first published book, the fourth I wrote. I thought I had everyone figured out, and the story was flying along. All of a sudden, Mike Riley kept stepping out in front more and more. Mike and I had a serious talk. I told him if he’d back off, I’d give him his own book. I already had a hero in VERMONT ESCAPE, and it wasn’t he. Fortunately, he agreed. SECOND ACT is his book.

By the time I wrote Mike’s story, I’d frankly forgotten stuff about him. I’d written another book, TRUTH BE TOLD, that was published in the interim. Because VERMONT ESCAPE was already out there, I had to make sure not to contradict anything I’d written about Mike in VE when I wrote SECOND ACT.

All of this is to say, you have to keep your characters straight when you write a series. Mike couldn’t show up as a blond if he’d had brown hair in VE. If I said what color his eyes were, they couldn’t change. Readers catch that kind of thing.

So I had some idea of what I was getting into when I started this series because of my relationship with Mike. But now, there are four women. Part way into writing SECOND ACT (which I just called Book 6 for the longest time), I realized I was in trouble if in my own mind’s eye, I couldn’t tell which woman was which.

Internet searching is my friend. I found an actress to suggest each woman. Julia Ormand with long flowing black hair for Addison, an executive director of a theatre in SECOND ACT. Elizabeth Shue in CSI Las Vegas suggests Kate in the second book, ACT OF TRUST, who lost her husband on 9/11. She inherits land in Maine.

Red headed Marcia Cross suggests Devon, who has her own small make-up company in Dallas in ACT OF BETRAYAL. Mariska Hargitay suggeste Kim, a wealthy socialite who lives in Wichita Falls, TX in the final book, ACT OF SURVIVAL.

The photos are numbered to help me keep up with whose story I’m working on. I have a chart with what they each like to drink.

The second book is finished. (Well, it needs rewrites and editing, but the basic story is down.) But before I do more with it, I’ve got to get the bones of the third book written. I don’t want to have something in the second book that I can’t make work for the third book. I’d just be flat up the creek without that proverbial paddle.

I do charts for each of my main characters looking at their description, characteristics, fear, strengths, likes, dislikes, etc. I have a chart for the internal and external conflict for each character. It’s really from that, the action flows. It’s just that with a series. All of that becomes so much more important.

The most concrete example of all of this is the wine I mentioned earlier. I personally enjoy Merlot. Most of my friends drink something else. I think that’s pretty common. I was halfway through the second book in the series when I realized everyone was drinking Merlot. The idea of all four women drinking Merlot, just seemed odd to me. I had to figure out which drink went with each woman and then stick to it.

Do you enjoy series? I know I do. One of my favorite authors is Carla Neggars. She had a huge series set in New Hampshire and Tennessee. I was amazed at her ability to intertwine several families. As with hers, in my books, while we meet characters that we’ve met in earlier books, a different person is the lead in each book. So you don’t have to read the books in order, but if you’re like me, you really like to do that.

Let me know some of your favorite series or tell me why you don’t like series. Love to hear from you.

SECOND ACT Blurb

Second Act 200x300 (2)When a member of the board of a non-profit arts agency in Fort Worth turns up dead, the homicide detective assigned to the case looks at everyone involved in the organization, including the Executive Director.

Addison Jones Greer, divorced mother of two teens, is the Executive Director of Cowtown Theatre. When a board member is found in the costume room murdered, suspicion rests on everyone involved with the theatre, including Addie. She has angered some board members because she wants to fire the Artistic Director. Although she’s warmed him several times, he continues to go over budget for productions.

Mike Riley, Fort Worth homicide detective, hates that he caught this case. His sister-in-law dragged him to a theatre fundraiser where he met Addison, the first woman he’s wanted to pursue a relationship with in a long time. Not about to happen now.

Addison hasn’t ventured into romance since she caught her now ex-husband in their bed with his secretary. As a result she doesn’t do trust. How could she trust someone who seems determined to think she’s capable of murder? Or worse, thinks her kids might be involved.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KOBO, and iBooks.

BIO

Marsha R. West, writes Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. MuseItUp Publishing released her first book, VERMONT ESCAPE in July 2013 and TRUTH BE TOLD, in May 2014. Marsha formed MRW Press LLC to provide a print version of her books. VERMONT ESCAPE is available at Amazon in pint or from her in person. SECOND ACT, The Second Chances Series, Book 1, follows up with a secondary character from VERMONT ESCAPE and begins a four-part series. Find out more at www.marsharwest.com She’d love to hear from you.

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Monday’s Friend: Brent Archer

My guest today is erotica writer Brent Archer. Welcome, Brent!

SJT:  When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

BA:  I’ve loved writing since I was in grade school. I drew and wrote a cartoon strip in fourth grade, wrote a short story about the same time, composed poetry in middle and high school, and wrote a story for a Young Writer’s conference in high school. I worked to become an actor during and after college, but I wrote plays and screen plays throughout college when not writing papers. I never tried to sell any of it, but it always gave me a lot of pleasure. After some dismal days in the accounting world, in 2012 I was down visiting my grandmother in Arkansas, and one of my writer cousins told me she knew I could write and why not try romance writing. So I found a submission board and wrote a short story called Dear Bryan published with Ravenous Romance about a former boyfriend of mine and how I’d like to think his summer in England actually went during our senior year at university. I sent it in and was shocked to get notified it was accepted. How many authors get their first effort published?! So I was definitely hooked at that point, and I haven’t regretted a moment of this journey so far. My cousins were trying to figure out how I’d done it. It took them 3 and 4 years to get their work published intitally.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

BA:  I grew up reading Madeleine L’Engle and Clive Cussler novels. I have a deep appreciation for believable science fiction and the ocean, and like to find ways of putting water in my books, whether it be ocean beaches or river banks. Madeleine L’Engle also turned me on to stories about time and space travel. Because of her I became an avid Doctor Who fan!

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

BA:  I’ve been very lucky to be able to ask my romance writer cousins many questions as situations come up. The biggest piece of advice is don’t be afraid of your editor. They are there to strengthen your story, but if you don’t agree with the edit, be willing to say hey, the reason I wrote it that way was this. It is a collaborative process, and most editors are not my-way-or-the-highway kind of folks.

SJT:  When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

BA:  Oh my goodness, I’m mostly a panster. I might start out with a plot outline, but something will come to mind as I’m writing and change the whole direction of the story. I also tend to write the end first and work my way backwards. It is a bizarre way to write, and I find the filling in the middle is not easy. My current three book series started out as a short story about a blind date. Then I got the idea the main character might be in trouble and the whole series took off from there.

SJT:  Tell us about your latest release.

TheBastardsKey_333x500 (2)BA:  This spring I’ll have my first novel release thanks to Muse It Hot. It is called The Bastard’s Key, and it is book one of the three-book The Golden Scepter Series. My hero Heath Firestone becomes targeted for death by an assassin who is out to annihilate his entire family. Fortunately his blind date set up by his co-worker Violet turns out to be Anton Barrett, international crime fighter. It comes out in the course of the book Heath is descended from a bastard son of the Hapsburg royal family, and his line inherited large portions of the crown jewels hidden by his ancestors. He skirts death many times, barely escaping from an exploding train, missed by a sniper’s bullet, escapes from an avalanche, and that’s only the first part of the story. His journey takes him from Seattle to Paris, then on the Orient Express to Salzburg and on to Vienna before he really knows what’s going on. The final clue is unlocked by the key his mother game him and told him to guard with his life.

SJT:  Judging by your education, you have an interest in history. Are there any particular eras or historic periods that fascinate you, and has this influenced your writing?

I love the Victoria and Edwardian Periods in British history. The concept of a “Grand Tour” undertaken by many of the British blue bloods during that period definitely influences my writing. My favorite of the short stories I’ve written was for Rob Rosen’s Men of the Manor anthology with Cleis Press. The story is Seducing the Footman, and I have plans to continue their story. I’ve also studied a bit of Viking history and will have short story coming out likely next year with Cleis Press set in Viking times set on the Orkney Islands.

SJT:  I understand that there are three romance writers amongst your group of five first cousins. Why do you think there are so many romance writers in this generation of your family?

BA:  Honestly, I think it’s in our genes. Our great grandmother was extremely talented: master storyteller, singer, letter writer, artist, amazing cook, and musician. Many of our cousins have some sort of talent, but our grandmother, who is also a master storyteller like her mother, had three of her five grandchildren as writers. The girls, Delilah Devlin and Elle James, got me started in romance writing. When I told Elle I’d gotten my first story published, she smiled and said, “Welcome to the dark side!”

SJT:  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I am an actor, singer, and dancer, and I love being on stage. So far of all the roles I’ve had, my favorite by far was being Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I also enjoy genealogical research and gardening, but my number one passion hands down is world travel. I love to visit new places and soak in the culture around me. I post my travels on my Twitter account @brentarcherwrit.

SJT:  Since my amateur sleuth is an actress, singer and dancer, I may well be coming to you with research questions at some point in the future! What’s next for you, writing-wise?

BA:  I have three novels plotted out just waiting for me to finish up with The Golden Scepter series, and I’m nearly finished with the last story. The first of the new ideas is a continuation of my Muse It Hot short story Halfway Out of the Dark, but it is set at the end of WWIII and its immediate aftermath. The second is a period piece based on a story my grandmother told me about her home town in rural Montana. It is a bit of a murder mystery / wild western set about 1910. And the third is a piece inspired by a ramshackle Victorian house in Alameda, California. My happy couple is going to buy the house, but discover that home rehabilitation will strain their relationship and we’ll see if they can stay together long enough to finish the house.

AUTHOR BIO:

Brent Archer smaller (2)Brent Archer was born in Spokane, Washington, and lived there most of his adolescent life. At 18, he left for Seattle to attend the University of Washington for Electrical Engineering. Quickly, it became apparent that he hated his science classes, and so he switched his major to International Studies with a minor in history. After graduation, he got several accounting jobs as he pursued an acting career in musical theater and dance. Once thirty hit, however, he decided to focus on numbers, getting a certificate in accounting, and became the Financial Controller of a non-profit arts and music organization.

Though writing most of his life, he never thought to submit his work for publication. In 2012, he visited his cousin Delilah Devlin in Arkansas and she prodded him to write a story and submit it. So, he did and it sold right away. With the encouragement of Delilah, his other writing cousin Elle James, and his husband, Brent left his stressful job and embarked on a writing career. He’s loving the journey, finding inspiration and a story everywhere he goes, whether it be the local coffee shop, driving through the U.S., or riding the train exploring the world.

He is published with Ravenous Romance, House of Erotica, Cleis Press, and Muse It Hot.

Learn more about Brent by visiting his website, and at his author page at MuseItHot. You can also follow him on Twitter.

 

The Ten Commandments of Writing #2: Thou Shalt Avoid Conversations Starting with “As You Know”

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

For the next few weeks in this series of posts, I will be focusing on things that you should not do in your writing. As a disclaimer I will add that you will always find examples of these in published work. Thus proving that if you bring in a huge profit for your publisher, you can pretty much get away with anything you want. But for unknown writers, trying to get a contract, there are just some things that will put an editor off. And these are the things that I want to share with you. The things that I have learned – generally the hard way – not to do.

The trope we are dealing with today is the situation of having two characters discuss something they both already know for the sole purpose of telling the reader about it. In my writing group we tend to refer to it as “As You Know Bob” syndrome or a case of “So tell me again, Professor, how your time machine works.”

Imagine, if you will, a novel that begins with the sentence:

“As you know, Prince Edward, your father, King Henry, has been at war with the neighbouring kingdom of Ilyria for nearly twenty years,” the prince’s aide said.

There is a lot of information here, but since it is all detail that Prince Edward (presumably a major character) already knows, this is a clumsy way of relaying it to the reader. If I were to read a novel starting with this sentence, I doubt I’d get beyond that first line.

The ‘TV Tropes’ website goes into more detail about this particular literary tool, giving examples from film, TV and literature that are guilty of it. Sometimes it can work, but generally it doesn’t, and it is one of those tired old tropes that has been used so often it would put a lot of editors off if they picked up something from the slush pile that uses this. There are generally better ways to get vital information across to the reader. Perhaps one of the easiest examples to pull from popular contemporary TV is Dr Who, where the Doctor’s companion generally plays the role of the ‘Watson’ – the character who is assumed to be less knowledgeable than the audience, and therefore is the mechanism used to allow the main character (ie the Doctor) to explain things, to both the other character and the audience.

To go back to the ‘Time Machine’ example, let’s think about one of Hollywood’s more famous time machines, Doc Brown’s DeLorean in “Back to the Future”. Imagine if the conversation went like this:

MARTY: So tell me again, Doc, how your time machine works.

DOC BROWN: Well, as you know Marty, it is the flux capacitor that makes time travel possible. Let’s go over once more how it works….

In the film, this is not at all how it goes. An ordinary teenage boy plays the perfect ‘Watson’ to Doc Brown’s intellectual ‘Sherlock’, giving him someone to explain everything to. The audience learn about the time machine at the same time Marty does, when he is summoned to the Twin Pines Shopping Mall one October night in 1985. We never find out exactly how the flux capacitor works, but we don’t really need to know – it’s enough to know that it is the magical gadget that makes time travel possible. And it works.

And so there it is, the second commandment of writing – Thou shalt avoid conversations starting with “As You Know”. Join me next week when we explore the third commandment, which is all to do with how not to end your story.

Monday’s Friend: Charles Bowie

Today I am pleased to welcome fellow MuseItUp author Chuck Bowie to the blog to talk about a subject I’ve been talking about myself recently – Writer’s Block. Welcome to Imaginary Friends, Chuck!

Writer’s Block: Myth or Tragedy?

By Chuck Bowie

Ever want something very badly, only to find it just out of reach? Have you ever wanted something, and not even know what it is you are longing for? In career development circles, they sometimes refer to this challenge using something called the JoHari Box, or JoHari Window. The analysis tool was created by a couple of guys: Joe and, you guessed it; Harry. In one of the four circumstances one can find themselves in below, the problem is unknown to you and, worse, you aren’t even aware there is a problem. So, when you think of Writer’s Block, you can console yourself in knowing you are at least aware there is a problem, that being the blank page (screen) staring straight back at you.

Johari WindowOkay, so you know there is a problem: you can’t write. There simply isn’t the passage of ideas from your brain, turning to words on the screen. I confess I’m not one who has suffered the agony of staring at a page until beads of blood form on my forehead. The closest I’ve come to Writer’s Block has been to get to a passage and take a while—sometimes an hour—in an effort to regain my focus. I call it Writer’s Hesitation; I suppose it could be called Writer’s Block Lite. I think we will all encounter it, whether it’s the Hesitation or the full-on Block: I know what I want to say, I merely am not sure how I want to say it. On the solution front, I choose to review a few pages in the hope—in true Pantser mode—inspiration will grab me. I go back five pages, performing a hard edit on them. By the time I return to the accusatory blank screen, something comes to me and off I go.

What do others do about it? Dorothy Parker had the most extreme advice I’ve ever heard on the subject. She suggested “Write something, even if it’s a suicide note.” A bit extreme, you would agree.

Other folks can be paralyzed by WB, though. I was at a mystery writers conference in Massachusetts recently, and Craig Johnson (Longmire) was the keynote speaker. He spoke for a bit about Writer’s Block, and frankly, wasn’t positive the phenomenon existed. He said “Show me a person with Writer’s Block, and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t done a good job on writing an outline.” So, his solution was the pre-emptive strike: set yourself up with a detailed outline before you write the first sentence. It’s a sure-fired, he says, guarantee to prevent WB.

writers blockJohnson, who sounds like a Plotter to me, subscribes to the Boy Scout motto: be prepared (with a robust outline.) This is excellent, positive advice. I have a third suggestion. Drop what you’re stuck on, and go write something different. I do not mean stream-of-consciousness babble, I mean write a blog, an essay, a short story, or start that novel you’d been planning to get back to, one day.

So, there you have it. Perhaps one of these three ‘cures’ will fix your Writer’s Block and you’ll be back in action tomorrow. Whichever you choose, let’s all save Dorothy Parker’s advice for the very last. Even better, let’s not go there.

Chuck Bowie lives on the East Coast of Canada. He is currently writing Book 4 in the suspense-thriller series Donovan: Thief For Hire. His books have a focus on international intrigue, and he has been known to insert some of his favourite pastimes into his plots: wine, travel, food and music.

ChuckHeadshot 071214 (2)The first in the series, Three Wrongs can be found on line or in print from Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Wrongs-Donavan-Thief-Hire-ebook/dp/B00BACRDMU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423079036&sr=1-1&keywords=Three+Wrongs

 

AMACAT, Book 2 is available on-line and comes out in print later this spring.

http://www.amazon.com/AMACAT-Donovan-Thief-Chuck-Bowie-ebook/dp/B00NMOMGWQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423079087&sr=1-1&keywords=AMACAT

ThreeWrongsAMACATAd071014 (2)

Monthly Round-up: February 2015

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

As we reach the end of February, we see signs of the end of winter. Or at least we do here in the UK. I believe over the pond they are still up to their ears in snow and temperatures way too low for any civilised society. Have I mentioned how much I don’t miss those Canadian winters?

Anyway, in my world this month has seen builders and other tradespeople come and go as we get some improvement work done to our house. I’m sure the end result will be worth it, but as a creature of habit I hate the disruption, and having everything in the wrong place for several weeks has put me in altogether the wrong frame of mind to do anything writing-related. However, there is some news to report this month, so I move on to my update for the end of February.

COMING SOON

I do have some news in this category. I have just signed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing to republish my horror novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN. Those who have been with me a while will know that this was my first published novel, released by Lyrical Press in 2010 on a three-year contract. I have always had a special fondness for this novel, seeing as how it was my ‘firstborn’, as it were, and I am pleased that Muse are able to offer it a new home, and give it the promotion that it deserves.

‘Coming soon’ is a tad misleading, though, since the release is tentatively scheduled for Spring 2016, and that feels like some time away.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

There are a couple of new online appearances to report for February.

8 February – I was interviewed by Robbi Perna

15 February – I talked about how to beat writer’s block on Iona Brodie’s blog.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Work continues, slowly but surely, on the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH.

As for the new horror novel, well it’s sort of finished. I’ve started querying it again. Whether or not it is definitively finished rather depends on what kind of feedback I get on it. I will be sure to keep you posted.

That’s it for now. See you next month!

Monday’s Friend: Janie Franz

Today I am pleased to welcome Janie Franz to the blog once more, talking about the issues involving keeping readers’ interest in a series. Good to have you back, Janie!

Sustaining a Series
By Janie Franz

Writing a series can offer an author success (modest or large) because the writer has a built-in following. Readers like something about the series that keeps them returning.

JanieFranzRomanceLivesForever (2)It can be the characters found in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot., Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael, or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and friends.

Some series are based on the kind of adventures that the author produces, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and his jungle Tarzan or his Barsoom (Mars) series. Then there is H. Rider Haggard and Allan Quartermain’s treks into unknown realms or all of the Star Trek and Star Wars novels that the TV series and movies stimulated.

Sometimes it’s a sustaining theme through a mystery such as Peter King’s Goodwyn Harper Mystery series about a chef in London (King is a Cordon Bleu chef himself.) or Roberta Isleib’s Cassie Burdette mysteries about a professional golfer who seems to always find herself in trouble. There are books about golfers, booksellers, psychologists, doctors, dancers, crime scene cleaners, journalists, veterinarians, etc.

Other authors have hooks that keep their readers returning. Sometimes it’s a location or something unique. An author colleague, writing under the name Dorien Grey, has a spooky mystery series about an architect who is aided by a ghost. Mary Stanton has a wonderful southern series called the Beaufort & Company Mysteries about angels or ghosts, depending upon your understanding of either.

Some writers plan on writing a series from the first inkling of an idea. Some of us don’t. That was the case when I wrote The Bowdancer, the first book in what became a six-book series. I also have a paranormal series in mind, the Bell Holler Witch books.

Motivation

So why do these authors write series?

I doubt many of these authors decided to write a series to guarantee them fame and fortune. I think many of them were like me. We wrote a book and liked something about it that made us write another. For Rowling, it was the eagerness with which her first beta reader (her daughter) received the first book and wanted more. For Doyle and Christie (and for myself as well), it was how compelling the characters were. I was captured by my own characters and wanted to live with them again in new adventures.

Motivation to write a series is passion about the first book, whether it is the author’s own or your readers’.

Identification

What do you do after you write that first book? Do you even know if you have a series?

A series by definition has to have more than one book. Usually, it is more than three or it’s a trilogy, but in some publishing circles two or more books become a series.

However after that first book, do you really have the seeds for more? In some books such as detective stories, ala Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, there is always that next case. That happens in police procedurals or other types of crime novels. The detective or the team deals with the next murder or new menace. In my Bell Holler Witch series, I know that my feisty Tennessee herb woman will do battle with yet another paranormal entity. This is also common with any series based on a location or a profession, regardless of genre.

But do you have a series if your book concept is character-driven? That can be tricky to determine.

thebowdancersagabundle (2)In The Bowdancer Saga, I had no clue after I wrote that keystone first book that there would ever be another. I knew who my character was but nothing had really been settled in that first encounter with her. I knew I wasn’t finished with her, but I had no clue what would happen next.

Somewhere in the many years before the second book was written, I decided that she would appear with her young precocious daughter and that there might be a third book about her and a son, but that book never materialized as I had initially conceived it. Years later, when I actually wrote the second book, The Wayfarer’s Road, something one of the characters said in it sparked the idea for the third book, Warrior Women. When that book was completed, I had the seed of an idea for The Lost Song Trilogy that followed. Those three books have generated ideas for at least three more books that are yet unwritten. The Bowdancer Saga, therefore, is based on the life of the bowdancer and her children—and all of the adventures they have and the curious people from different cultures they meet.

Character-based series are harder to conceptualize and produce. Rowling did it successfully with Harry Potter. The boy’s world revolved around Hogwarts, his sparring with Voldemort, and his own past. She used each year in Hogwarts as the next book in the series, with more revealed about the characters and the secrets that are never quite fully explained in each book—until the next one. Each book held even more secrets and levels. I think her success in the series (besides writing exquisitely crafted stories) was her ability to develop maturity in the content as each year passed as if her readers were also maturing as Harry did every year. It wasn’t so much more complex use of language but capturing a depth of life.

Whether a book is the beginning of a series can be determined after the first one is written or while it is being written. If it is a mystery series or deals with crime, involves exploration of outer space or inner worlds, battles among werefolk or fanciful creatures, or romances at the local inn or on Wall Street, there will always be other mysteries to solve, worlds to explore, battles to fight, and new hotties to fall for. You can write as many new stories with your characters or about your series location or profession as you like.

Character-based series may unfold organically as did The Bowdancer Saga and the Harry Potter series. Through the writing, the next book idea is revealed.

Consistency

If you think you’d like to try your hand at writing a series, you have to be consistent. You have to make sure that your characters, though they may learn and grow, are also the characters that you first drew with words. If there is time passing, make sure they age accordingly and maintain their physical and emotional characteristics (or give a reason why they’re now blonde when they were a redhead in another book). This is especially true of subordinate characters that might pop up in later books. When your readers encounter them again, it should be with the same passion as when you wrote them the first time.

Series books often encompass a lot of characters. The Lord of the Rings has a cast of thousands, and some of these characters move in and out of all three books. Make sure when your characters return, they are written as you wrote them previously. Keep a notebook or character sheets with notes about each of these characters (if you don’t do that already). It’s so much easier to look up a quick reference that’s handy than it is to try to remember or find a specific section in a previous book.

Aging a Series

Some authors like Meg Cabot are trying to age their series. Cabot is trying to move her YA Princess Diaries series into adult fiction as her characters age and grow. That makes perfect sense since many series might stagnant because there are limited lessons to learn or adventures to go through at a specific age. This allows the characters to experience richer lives and for readers to understand these well-loved characters in a different light. Also many YA readers outgrow authors just because the readers grow up.

J. K. Rowling did that with Harry Potter but she kept the entire series within the YA realm even though her readers were often parents of children who were also reading those books or college students who found the fascinating.

I aged my Bowdancer series because I was telling a linear tale of the Bowdancer’s life. I hadn’t intended that to happen when I wrote the first book. But it seemed to be the way of things as it progressed.

I did that also with the Ruins trilogy. The first two deal with the main character and her relationships and adventures in a sequence. The third book, which I’m currently writing, takes place ten years later and follows a natural progression in the main character’s life.

I think the real key to sustaining a series is having enough new material (mysteries, challenges, adventures, personal growth, new enemies, etc.) for writing new books. You may also need to age your characters and what they are dealing with in their lives. Ultimately, you have to enjoy your characters and their particular circumstances. If you have grown tired of them, then perhaps you should lay your series to rest.

Janie’s Bowdancer series is now available as a bundle from Amazon.

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