About me, Book Process, Writing Tips

Character Interviews

This week’s blog post on how to keep your ideas fresh and exciting to you is all about character interviews. Character interviews seem like a no-brainer. Write out some questions, get some answers, and viola! Or perhaps it’s something that you haven’t thought about before. It’s your character so why should you need to interview them? Everything is already in your mind, right? Trust me, having an in depth conversation with them will enlighten you. In fact, you might be surprised to find your hero has a crippling fear of water fowl because he was almost smothered once by a duck. Don’t ask me what happened, he’s your hero! 😉

alone-friends-imaginary-friends-favim-com-171149

When I’m stuck with a plot and the character’s motivation, or the character has lost some of their luster, I like to do an interview with them.  There are so many questions to ask, like what’s their motivation for saving the world’s tomato supply, what would they do if they had to unload a plane full of jelly beans, or even what their childhood was like. It’s amazing how much information you can fill in when you do this.  I even spend time creating scenarios for them that won’t ever make it into the books, but it fleshes out the character. For instance, one of my characters enjoys annoying others, so it amuses me to think up ways he would irritate his friends.

character-interview

And don’t forget about your villains. No one wants a one-dimensional, mustache twirling villain who’s nothing more than a cliché. Speak to them, spend time with your evil side and find out why your villain wants to commit genocide, subjugate his neighbours, rule the universe, or steal all the puppies in the world. Your villain isn’t there to prop up the hero. In fact, your villain thinks they are the hero of the story, so find out why!

snidely-whiplash_rocky-and-bullwinkle

So go, talk to your characters, hear what they have to say outside of the story’s plot and be amazed at all the crazy ingenious stuff in your head. 😉

Next week we’ll discuss what kind of questions need answers regarding your characters. And if you missed last week’s post about pictures for inspiration, you can find it here. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to share.

Advertisements
Book Process, Excerpt Monday

Excerpt Monday

Another Monday and another excerpt! Last week I shared one from Poisoned Message, so this week I’ll share from Bad Wolf Hunting. BWH is the first book of a new series. It’s a spin-off from Enforcers and Coteries, focusing on the werewolves of Toronto.

Patient and still, Zmitro waited for her to leave. She had no reason to remain and yet, Mara didn’t move, simply stared into the flames like they had another story to tell her. What did she see in the flicking light?

“Come out, Zmitro. Join me by the fire.” Her gaze unerringly found him, startling him. Had she cast a spell?

With a shrug of his wolf shoulders, he stood on all fours and prowled out of the bush, branches brushing against his fur. Since he had no clothes, he remained in his other form. While nudity didn’t faze him, he figured making a powerful mage uncomfortable wouldn’t help his situation.

Zmitro sat next to Mara, wagging his tail like a friendly dog. Other werewolves would find his behaviour insulting, but he wanted to keep his potential opponent off guard.

A wisp of ozone tickled his nose and he sneezed. You cast mind-speak?

The spell was a familiar one. A friend, Victor, used it often when Zmitro stayed in wolf form. Victor wasn’t as powerful as Mara, but then again, few were. However, his friend had made a name for himself in hunting demons and banishing them if they broke the law.

Yes. What you just witness isn’t for public knowledge. Keep it quiet or––

Or you’ll torture me? Wipe my memories? Keep me in werewolf form for the rest of my life? he interrupted, a hint of laughter underlying his words. Not for a second did he believe she wouldn’t do any of those things, but he’d seen enough of Mara in action to know she would persuade him first. A shame she wouldn’t tempt him with what he really wanted.

Mara rolled her eyes at him, something he hadn’t thought possible with the emotionless mage. Then again, he also hadn’t expected laughter from her either. The mage continued to surprise him. What else would he learn about her? In a brave––and infinitely stupid––move, he rested his chin on her knees, whipping his tail back and forth like an excited puppy about to receive a treat. She chuckled softly and rested her hand on his head, scratching behind his ear.

None of that. I would hate to upset Victor. He seems to like you, and he’s a valuable Enforcer. No, I’m simply punish someone you care about. Maybe Simone or Heather. I’m not cruel enough to touch Sylvia. She’s been through enough. Her fingers continued to rub through his fur, but he no longer felt relaxed.

Muscles tensed, he lifted his head, catching Mara’s gaze. Touch my packmates and I’ll shred you to pieces.

Mara cupped his face, not flinched from his sharp canines, and her face hardened, the frightening angel of death chasing away any inherent innocence by virtue of her youthful features. Then we have an understanding. This meeting stays between you and me. Break the silence and suffer the consequences.

About me, Book Process, Writing Tips

Pictures for Inspiration

This month we’re going to talk about how to keep things fresh in your mind when it comes to writing. Right now, you’re either thinking “I love this story. I’ll never get bored with it!” or you’re at the “I hate this story and I can’t figure out what’s going on!” stage. Hmm, maybe the latter is just me. I waffle between absolutely loving or hating what I’m writing. Good news is, just because you hate it one day, doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way forever. Sometimes it’s the lack of freshness, the whole “familiarity breeds contempt” dragging you down. So the question is, how can you shake the funk?

It’s always a learning process for me. What worked for one book might not work for the next, but I always keep an open mind, since I never know what will give me my ah-ha moment. With my latest book, I spent months hating everything I wrote. The beginning had been rewritten at least five times, and couldn’t figure out how to get past the “Ugh!” feeling every time I opened the word doc.

On a whim, I decided to try Scrivener. It took a little bit of fiddling because it’s not a newbie friendly program, but after about a day I figured out how to create a corkboard with pictures. Now that I have it somewhat sorted, it’s been invaluable. I can see how my characters look–at least those who’ve inspired me–as well as read tidbits of their personality. I’ve learned I’ve created around a hundred characters and trust me, after a while, it gets confusing! As you can see, I haven’t entered all of them yet. Plus this is only a small snippet of the actual page. character-inspirations

I broke the story itself down by its major plot points. Now I’m the first to admit I’m not a plotter by any means, hell, half the time I have no idea where the story is going while I’m writing it, but I always know the big conflicts/resolutions. Seeing the major highlights helped solidify the story in my mind, however, I still got bogged down in the words.

This is where an inspirational picture for the setting comes in. Whatever scene I’m working on-a Fay forest, a beach pier, or a Russian village-I glance at the picture, insert my characters into the scene, and type. It’s shocking how much it’s helped me, like I’ve freed up some brain power or something. *laughs* I no longer have to visualize everything, just the slivers I find important while still maintaining the whole setting.

I’m also the same person who needs to create floor plans and see pictures of houses in order to describe what it looks like and etc. I need to block out fight scenes in my mind before I can fully write them and sometimes I’ll act them out. Ah, the crazy life of a writer.

And isn’t this just gorgeous? It transports me to the world I’m writing about and allows my mind to wander.

fae_forests_redux_by_artessan-d4x5un1 Fae Forests Fedux by Artessan

As one of my fellow authors mentioned to me, it can be problematic staring at places you want to visit. Her bucket list keeps increasing each time she searches for a new location. 😉

That’s it for today. My next blog post will be about using character interviews to help keep the story fresh and interesting while you write it. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to share.

About me, Book Process, Writing Tips

Writeometer and Aeon Timeline

I recently heard about two software programs, Aeon Timeline and an app called Writeometer. I wish I’d heard about Aeon ages ago! Holy crap, it’s fantastic. So far I’m only about an eighth done entering all the information about my Enforcers and Coterie series *cough* plus three more series *cough* and that’s taken me two days.

In a nutshell, Aeon is a timeline for characters and events. Enter in the characters name and their birthdate, then enter in the event, and you’ll know how old the character is and the time lapse between one event and the other.

Aeon.JPG

As you can see from the picture, I can see at a glance how much time has passed between Osiris and Isis meeting and when Horus was born. While it may seem simple at first, once you have over 20 characters, it gets a little difficult remembering who was doing what when. I’m seriously at a standstill in my last Enforcers and Coterie novel because I need to figure out the timeline. The damn thing has gotten way from me!

The beauty of this program is that you can also make adjustments quickly and easily. Say you realized an event was off by a month or a year, you can highlight and then shift the event. If you have child events, they get calculated for you. Admittedly, there is still a lot I need to learn about this program. But first, I need to enter in all my data. Anyone out there feel up to doing this for me? 😉

As for the Writeometer, well that sucker makes me feel so guilty when I haven’t written anything. You can set what your daily goal is for writing, create timed sessions, and earn little “treats” for when you complete your session. I prefer 25 mins, although sometimes when I only need a hundred or so more words to hit my goal, I bring it down to 15 mins. It’s enough time to motivate me to get stuff done.

writeometer

See those empty bars? It drives me crazy that I haven’t done any writing today. Yesterday, I was like “Oh, it’s okay, I can have one off day. I’m feeling mentally blah.” But it nagged me until I wrote. I’m happy to say that all except the short story hit their goal.

You can also set reminders, which is the little icon in the upper left. I missed my start time, so that reminder will go away when I either complete my goal or dismiss it. Myself, I prefer to not dismiss it since it defeats the purpose of nagging me. 😉

Now some people might not like the stress implied with the Writeometer. Me, I’m a procrastinator. Case in point, it’s 5 pm and I haven’t done any writing yet. I probably won’t write for another hour or two, but this app means that I won’t let the day finish without 600 words written in three different books.

Of course, it’s a little bit insane to write three books at the same time, but I’ve never claimed to be sane. Since the three books are in separate series but has interconnecting characters, I find it’s keeping my mind a little fresher. Except, you know, when the mental fatigue hits me and I want to whine like a child and say, “I don’t wanna write!”

Any programs that you find you just have to use for writing?

 

Book Process

Calling All Beta Readers

Okay, maybe not all of you, just a few. 😉 I’m searching for someone who loves to rip stories apart – to be helpful, not to make me cry. I can handle constructive criticism, such as “This line makes him sound like a jerk.” and not “Wow, you think you can write? Damn, you should quit.” Because that is not constructive and is just mean.

But if you enjoy smoothing out stories, working on the flow, and the nitpicking things that don’t make sense, then I’d love to have you on board. Just fill out the form linked below, which is super easy because it’s simply your name and email address. I’ll send you the first two chapters for the novella I’m working on, and then you send back your thoughts. If we’re a good fit, then the rest of the story is sent along. And hey, if you don’t like what you read and don’t think you can do the beta read for whatever reason, then just let me know. No hard feelings.

I wish I had a blurb to share for this novella, which will be approximately 20k words, but I’ve been working flat out just getting this novella done. And I’m still about 4k short of finishing it, but it’ll be done soon! I can give you the gist of the novella, though. Who knows, maybe it’ll help me figure out a blurb.

Lilith has spent sixty years in an insane asylum, unresponsive to the outside world. She’d made the mistake of trusting the wrong Fae, and in a moment of weakness made a promise she’d forever have to keep. Now she must dance to the mad Queen Titania’s tune, even if it means her own death.

Caymus has always obeyed his Queen, even when he didn’t agree with her. Hard to disobey when he was bound by magic to do so. His latest assignment is one he doesn’t want to complete – infiltrate a demon stronghold and retrieve a stolen item. He has no choice, not even when Titania demands Lilith’s inclusion on the mission.

Okay, so that’s rough. Wow, I think I got splinters from it. But you get the gist, right? Something’s going down and the Queen is calling the shots. So anyway, back to the original point of my post, if you enjoy beta reading and want to give it a try with me, just fill out the form and I’ll get back to you.

http://goo.gl/forms/4sJ98xANdpXZXKLl2

Book Process

Writing cave

I have a perfectly good desk with a comfortable chair, decent computer, and a 24-inch monitor that I adore. Seriously I will cry the day this monitor dies. Do I write there, words flowing from my fingers on the keyboard?

Hell no, I don’t. Instead I hole up in the bedroom with a 10 year old laptop, an external keyboard attached to it, and no mouse. *shudders* I hate touchpads, but that’s a whole other post. My notebooks lay scattered on my bed with a bar of extra dark chocolate. I’d read somewhere that the high coco content helps the blood flow to the brain or something like that. Sounds good to me!

I’ve found this is the only way for me to get into the zone. If I sit at my desk, I’ll spend hours staring at the screen, flipping to different social media sites, reading up on whatever catches my fancy, but ignoring my poor novel. I can count on one hand how much work I’ve completed at my desk and not a single finger would come up. Well maybe one finger, but that would be my feelings directed at my lack of accomplishment.

Writing on my phone was something I’d attempted long ago, as well as writing long-hand. Both of those crashed and burst into flames, experiments I prefer to not repeat. Oh sure, in a pinch, I’ll use them as back up when I have a brilliant idea or scene that I have to jot down or lose it, but not as my main source. I have learned from my crushing defeat.

I’d been looking at tablets for a while and wanted something I could put Word on. It’s a program I’m comfortable with and I know it’s follies, so my best choice was a Surface tablet. Now I was a little concerned over the keyboard, though, since I don’t like the smaller ones. My fingers hit wrong keys and it’s a pain in the ass to figure out what I meant to type if I don’t fix right away. I’m glaring at you, phone. Imagine my surprise when I pounded out a thousand words or so without a hitch. I actually enjoy the keyboard, and it’s great for when I’m away from home.

Overall though, give me my bedroom with my laptop and I’m happy… until the words decide they won’t cooperate and I’m staring at the same sentence with no clue on how to continue. That maybe *cough* the reason why I’m writing a blog post instead of finishing the chapter I’m on.

What about you? Where is your ideal spot to write and do you prefer pen and paper, computer, phone, tablet, or something else?

About me, Book Process

Writer’s block

Oh, the dreaded writer’s block, when you stare at that blank paper and try desperately to fill it, only it continues to mock you with its blankness. I’m there right now, begging my story to come to life, wanting something other than the emptiness of the page.

I haven’t yet found a way to overcome writer’s block. No magical way that will crack open my brain and have the words spew forth. Instead I stare at the page, and then check Facebook or Twitter or blogs, anything to avoid the crushing defeat I feel.

I’ve written several novels and novellas, so why do I still have this issue? Why am I running dry? The  ideas are there; I see the end product in beautiful black and white. However I have no words to put on paper. My characters ignore me and the story languishes in my mind.

For the past two months, I’ve written maybe 15k, which is very pitiful for me. I should have finished the book I’m currently written, especially since I love Victor and Isabella. They’re interesting, complex, and smart. Maybe I feel I’m doing them an injustice, that I’m not properly capturing their essence.

I just know that I’m struggling to create a story I’m proud of and I need a kick in the ass.

Today there are no more excuses. I write even if it is crap.

About me, Book Process

To be a pantser or not to be a pantser…

I received the edits back from Elizabeth, my editor, for Elijah the Bloody. While I was writing the story, I knew it would go at the end of Chained in Desire, sort of bonus material explaining some history.

I had a blast writing the short and unwrapping some of Elijah’s past. A few things surprised me, since I’m a pantser and not a plotter for writing, but it all worked. Elizabeth pointed out a few things that I’m missing, because she’s damn good at that, and now I’m combing over the story with a fresh set of eyes. It’s rekindling my love for Elijah, the smart-mouth bugger. 😉

All this made me think about the difference between pansters and plotters. Would a plotter figure out these nuances that I missed first time round, or does being a pantser allow my subconscious work on the characters, shaping them without over-analyzing?

I’ve found so many little things in my work that point towards bigger things later on. In Magic Resistant, I had written this:

“Only once had a victim escaped from them, her mind broken, scars covering her body. The Queens claimed they would look into the matter themselves. Sixty years had passed, and still no answers.”

And at the time, I had no clue about the significance. In fact, I thought it was just a way to convey the evilness of the Fae and that to outsmart them was an exception, most definitely not the rule. Colour me surprised when in Sylvia’s Torment, it all made sense to me. That throwaway sentence spawned a novella, which will be released after Chained in Desire, the story I’m currently working on.

Being a pantser doesn’t mean I’m disorganized. Far from it.  I have several notebooks with major plot points, characterizations, blueprints, spells, timelines, and so much more. I could create word docs with all this information, but there’s something more satisfying about flipping through the pages and finding what I need.

I’ve been told by several authors that I should try Scrivener, and I tried. Damned if I could figure out how it was better for me than word. I understand that it makes shifting around scenes easier and gives you a corkboard for all your characters, and etc. Except I usually write linear, so I don’t need to shift scenes. My notebooks contain all my characters. That and I’m sure you can only install it on one system or else pay for another copy. I write on two different computers, a tablet, and sometimes my phone.

Those who do use Scrivener care to chime in? Are you a pantser or a plotter and has this program helped you?

Book Process

Excerpt from Chained in Desire

This is unedited. I hope you enjoy a little snippet of my upcoming book.

Clenching and unclenching her fists, trying her damnedest to calm her thudding heart, she slipped through the mass of bodies and dodged his footsteps. Vic turned down an empty alleyway and she almost cheered at the turn of her luck. They had travelled far enough that the crowd around them had thinned out. She trailed after him, walking as silently as possible. Nicor would be so proud. He’d lamented several times about her lumbering like an elephant, noticeable to any with sensitive hearting.

Unexpectedly Vic stopped. He remained facing forward, his back to her.

“I hope you have a damn good reason for tailing me, demon. Be warned, if I don’t like your answer, I’ll send you back.” His smooth voice wrapped around her. Shivers glided along her skin, raising goosebumps on her skin and hardening her nipples.

He turned and she struggled to breathe.

Watching him for the past week hadn’t prepared her for the beauty of his face, the perfection of…him. Honey-gold hair spiked around his head, more from fingers running through them than from a conscious styling choice. Hazel eyes widened for a brief moment before narrowing, and he compressed his sensual lips into a hard line.

“Isabella…” His mouth caressed her name, calling forth images of his lips elsewhere. “I’ve been searching for you. And here you’ve been following me for days. Colour me surprised. Time to come home.”

A strange heat tugged at her, brushing against her exposed flesh and slithering under her clothes. It urged her to close her eyes and submit. Enjoy the pleasure only this man could give her and revel in it. She wanted him, desired him, needed him. Her life wasn’t complete without…

The demon within her roared, furious he had used that ability on them. The sound echoed in her mind, shattering the lust curled around her. Isabella took a step back, and she hissed at him, “How dare you…”

Without waiting for a response, she rushed him, dropping her human guise. Claws out, Isabella slashed at his face and he jumped back. She narrowly missed ripping open his face and she grunted in displeasure.

The mage grinned, a smug, arrogant grin that she wanted to punch off his face.

“Temper, temper,” he taunted her, hands in the air and palms out. “Don’t you want to be friends? I suggest you stand down.”

She sneered at him, unimpressed. “Sorry mage, but you need to die.”

His fingers twitched at her words and she dived to the side, flipping in the air to dodge his magic. The magical arrow slammed into the concrete behind her. He tossed another spell at her, one that hissed and sizzled as it sped towards her. Somersaulting to his left, she almost escaped. It brushed against her calf, seizing the muscle into one giant charley horse. An electrical bolt. She’d heard of this spell before and regretted now knowing how it felt.

Gritting her teeth against the pain, she braced her body with one hand and swept out her uninjured leg, knocking him off balance. Vic stumbled but recovered quickly.

Flexing her toes, working the nasty cramp out of her muscle, she shot him an evil glare. Maybe killing him wouldn’t be so difficult.

Book Process, Razor-Sharp Editing

Editing

I started seriously writing about three years ago. I had an idea for a series and where I wanted to go with it. The first three books I wrote in a two year span, wanting to get all the ideas out there before I went back and polished them. Through that time, I figured out the best way for me, personally, to write. At first I would do whichever scene came to mind, writing them down on cards to then rearrange them. Afterwards, I’d bridge the scenes. Yep, that sucked for me.

My next try was to just write the entire story from beginning to end with no jumps. It was better, and the words flowed much easier. Except I didn’t have any outlines at all, just allowed it to go wherever it wanted to and ugh, that ended up as a mess in the end. Now I jot down plot points I want to hit, such as *fight with werewolves* but I don’t make it involved. I find that if it’s involved I try forcing it to follow a path it shouldn’t go. The characters and the situations evolve for me, and what I liked a month ago no longer makes sense.

I also wrote three novellas along with the three novels. Those I find simpler to write and yet so much harder. Trying to fit an enjoyable story, full of engaging characters, into around 20k words can be a challenge. However, I look forward to writing them. I love it. Getting glimpses into the lives of those who wouldn’t get a full novella, fleshing out the world I’ve created, and having time away from the main arc of the series are all so satisfying to me.

And then we come to my downfall. Editing. There are so many rules when it comes to the English language, many of which I just don’t remember. I try, I really do try! I published both Throwing Away the Good and Magic Resistant without an editor. Bad me, bad. The funny thing is, I wrote TWtG a year and half after MR, after I’d gotten three novels under my belt, all unpublished at this time. My writing style had undergone a serious change. TWtG was decent. MR, however, was not. *sigh*

After I had published TWtG and was nearing completion for MR, I had Elizabeth message me through Goodreads stating she liked TWtG and would be willing to beta read my next book. I wish I had taken her up on the offer for MR, but I was reaching my self-imposed deadline and didn’t want to wait any longer. I thanked her and decided to wait until my next book, Sylvia’s Torment was done.

I sent Sylvia’s Torment off to Elizabeth, expecting her to tell me what she liked and didn’t like. Perhaps she’d say this character was boring, or there was some plot holes. Nope, instead I received back a word doc FULL of red marks, and comments riddled throughout. At first I was stunned. I hadn’t realized how badly my writing sucked. Doubt crowed in. Did I really think I could write a book? What the hell was I doing? Maybe I should just quit. I admit for a moment I was crushed.

Then I read her comments. I giggled… a lot. I had to cover my mouth and hold in the laughter since I was at work and really, who cracks up laughing at work for no reason? Not only did she point out things that didn’t work –

“This sounds like a phrase Victor might use, but it doesn’t fit with Derek’s gruffer voice. Seems like he’d use something more vulgar here.”

“This part of the rescue plan bothers me. Wouldn’t they have planned on some sort of means of communication BEFORE storming the compound? The imp before and now this seems awfully sloppy. If Markus can cast this spell, wouldn’t he have done it before they set out?”

But also ones that did –

“Seamlessly integrated backstory. Love it!”

“Nice little sprinkle of worldbuilding here, very smoothly integrated with the narrative.”

Even better, Elizabeth had a feel for the characters and their personality. As you can see, she took me to task whenever they stepped out of character for no reason. The difference between the book I sent her and the book I published are nothing short of amazing.

Then she let me in on a little secret. Elizabeth loves editing. Adores it. I’m assuming she’s a little batty, but hey it worked out for me. 😉 In fact, she has an editing business. So far she’s been too busy with editing to gussy up her website, Razor Sharp Editing but if you send her an email, she’ll respond to any questions. I can’t sing Elizabeth’s praises enough. She helped keep me a little saner during this crazy process. In fact, I had her edit Magic Resistant. Ouch! That one was a mess, as I suspected. So come June, when I release Dawn’s Keeper, I’ll have an edited version of MR to go with it.

PS, when I received Dawn’s Keeper from her, I had a lot less red marks. Why? Because Elizabeth does such a fantastic job of explaining why she changed something and I developed better habits. Thanks, Elizabeth! And now I’m done my love letter to my editor. 😉