Sunday, August 30, 2009

Green Stone of Healing

Author C.L. Talmadge will be my guest on September 6 for another in this series of authors discussing their writing. Here's what one reviewer had to say about an earlier book in the series:

"Exceptional job of writing, and keeping this story tightly together in a genre that is certainly difficult to do such, our author is top-notch," Shirley P. Johnson writes about Fallout in Midwest Book Review. "If you love an intense read, packed with sinister power seekers, grueling heartless characters, yet laced with mystical moments, the lure of peace and healing, and the hope that goodness will prevail, this read is for you."

The Green Stone of Healing® fictional epic explores what happens when politics and piety collide in an island nation called Azgard. Theocrats plot to impose total control over Azgard but end up destroying their country and much of the rest of the world. The series portrays four generations of strong-willed heroines who use their mysterious gem to offer a healing, inclusive alternative to the hate-filled bigotry of religious tyrants. Books One through Three are released, with the release of Book Four to be announced.

And if you'd like a chance to win not just one, but three books, Candace will be giving away an autographed set of her books in the series to one randomly drawn commenter from the tour, so come have your say. You might be the lucky winner!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Writing Memorable Characters

Diane Craver, author of Whitney in Charge, who's joining us today, has agreed to share her insights on writing characters. She obviously has had a lot of experience with that because she's a multi-published author. Here's a bit about her latest release:

TV producer Whitney Benson is tired of her older sisters’ attempts to fix her up with every single male they meet. Shannon and Regan cross the line when they arrange for her to go skydiving with the simple excuse that more guys like to float in the air than women.

Whitney meets two eligible bachelors, Jack and Ben, who constantly battle for her affection. Which one will she choose? Both men make Whitney realize, even a heart shattered by her husband’s death, can once again be made whole.

But did she have to fall off a cliff to learn that?

Intriguing, right? So let's take a sneak peek at two of Diane's characters:

When the fireworks went off to celebrate a Reds homerun above the Ohio River, the crowd roared and clapped. Whitney let herself be caught up in the enthusiasm, jumping up from her seat to clap and whoop, cupping her palms around her mouth. She sat down, laughing, enjoying herself more than she had in a long time. When Jack had invited Whitney to go to a baseball game on Wednesday, she’d hesitated even though she loved going to the stadium. They’d just gone out Saturday night. She wanted to take things slow and easy. But, in the end, she’d said yes.

And she was so glad she did.

Who was she kidding? She wanted to wrap her arms around him and kiss him until neither one of them could think or breathe. But she couldn’t smother his lips with hers during a baseball game. She took a quick glance at Jack. Regan was right – he did look a lot like Matthew McConaughey. She wondered if McConaughey also loved baseball.

Jack tugged on her visor. “Hey, you look pretty cute in this cap.”

She took a bite of her nachos and cheese. “I like the eating part a lot at games.”

Jack glanced at the boy sitting a couple rows in front of them munching on a box of popcorn. The delicious aroma of popcorn and butter drifted up to them. “I might have to buy popcorn, too.”

“Please help me eat the nachos first.”

He dipped a chip in the cheese, popping it in his mouth. He smacked his fingertips between his lips, licking off the melted cheese and salt. “I wish you hadn’t paid for the beer.”

“You bought the tickets. I wanted to pay for something.” She licked warm cheese off her finger. “So did you rescue any cliff climbers today?”

“Nope. I only rescue beautiful women on Mondays.”

“I’ll have to remember that. Since the pool’s open now and if it’s not too cold, we can go swimming after the game.” Why did she blurt that invitation out to him? Could she handle him if he got too intimate? She hated taking a step forward, then a step back again, but she was just confused about what she wanted from Jack.

“I’ll have to go home to get my trunks first.”

“I have several suits in different sizes.”

Jack smiled at her. “Do you collect trunks from your guests?”

She laughed. “No. Unless my mom did. People used to drop in a lot, and she’d invite them to go swimming with us. They didn’t have their suits. Mom bought a few girls’ suits and women’s and men’s in different sizes.”

“Bases are loaded. Bring them home.” Jack patted her knee. “Isn’t this fun? I love the Reds.”

“You’re right. This is fun. I’m glad you─”

“Hey, the kissing cam’s on us.” Jack wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close, covering her mouth with his.

She’d forgotten how they had a kissing camera to zero in on couples and when it happened, the pair usually waved or kissed each other.

She enjoyed kissing Jack back and hated it when he stopped. “You didn’t need to stop because the camera’s no longer on us.”

“I don’t want to spoil you.”

It occurred to her why he wanted her to switch T-shirts before the game. “You gave me a Reds’ t-shirt to wear to increase our chances of getting on the kissing cam.”

He shrugged. “Ben already got you on TV when you fell. I had to get you on TV again. I didn’t want you to think I’m a slacker here. And I managed it without you falling out of your seat.”

“We can’t have you being a slacker.” She glanced down at her red shirt. “Do I get to keep this shirt?”

“Only if you get me a baseball cap like yours?”

“This one was my dad’s, but it’s a deal.”

So let's find out some of her secrets about how to write characters:

One of the hardest things to do in writing is to create characters that readers will care about, and will want to read on. You can have a well-written novel but if the editors, agents or readers don’t care that much about your characters, you won’t get very far.

A Memorable Character should have the following attributes:

1. A strong, independent personality.
2. Believable motivation.
3. Consistent behavior.
4. Imagination.
5. Courage to take the initiative.
6. A bigger-than-life image.
7. Human traits - good and bad.

The above traits will develop over the character’s life. In other words, a character usually doesn’t begin her or his novel life having all 7 attributes.

Each writer has their own system in creating their characters. I jot down as much information about each main character as possible - eye color, hair color, and write down a goal for each one. Some authors are more detailed in their approach and use a chart method, filling in vital information. Mine is more a narrative approach. You need to know your characters very well so that you can make them real to the readers.

Character description shouldn’t stop the action. The writer needs to convey description without stopping the flow. I try not to convey description by saying the character stopped and looked in the mirror at his or her appearance. Boring!

A pet peeve of mine is when a writer tries too hard to be different in naming their characters. If the names are hard to remember or I can’t pronounce them, I will become annoyed. But you don’t want to use Mary Doe or John Smith either. Poor usage of character names may signal an amateur writer. Switching between first and last names makes it hard for a reader to learn a new character. For example, referring to a character as “Mary Doe” in the first sentence, then “Mrs. Doe” in the second, then “Mary” in the third will confuse the reader, especially if there are many characters in the scene.

There are drives, strong feelings, and motivations that are common to all of us. We all need to be loved, to get recognition, and to know who we are. When any one of these basic drives is blocked, there is conflict. When you have conflict, whether it is physical, psychological, or spiritual, you have one of the fundamental elements of all fiction. Conflict is what drives fiction. Without conflict, there is no action or reaction.

I love to research occupations for my characters because it’s fun to write about jobs I have never had. Although I was a teacher before starting our family, Mallory is the only teacher I have for a main character. I’ve used teaching careers for secondary characters. I’ve gone to the library to get books on occupations used for characters, but I also have used the internet for a lot of my background information. I did buy a used book from Amazon on broadcasting for my Whitney in Charge book. I enjoyed reading how a TV program is produced.

It’s not good to launch into the story without stopping to establish any of the characters. In many “high concept” novels, a heated scene occurs immediately without the readers knowing anything about the characters. Readers have to know something about the characters to care what happens to them before the exciting scene happens. The characters are the plot - their needs, wishes, developments. Their introduction and establishment should be the most important. Introducing too many characters in the beginning pages will confuse the reader.

I pay close attention to those around me in my daily life. I remember any interesting or unusual traits or habits that I can use for my characters. Observation is important for a writer. Also what might be interesting to me may not be to someone else. I consider what makes a character intriguing to others. I try to avoid cliché traits and to create unique characters.

While reading or writing, what kind of characters do you enjoy the most?

Readers, answer Diane's question or just leave a comment about her book or this blog and you'll be in the running for a free copy of the book. And a bonus: All this week, I'm picking one commenter to win an e-copy of my book, Spark of Magic. Will YOU be one of the lucky winners? Leave a comment and see...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Need Some Writing Motivation?

Another writer and more great writing tips...

I asked Lorhainne
Eckhardt , author of The Captain's Lady, to tell us how she manages to keep herself writing. I know many people would be writers if only...

If only my life weren't so busy. If only I had the time. If only I didn't procrastinate. If only... If only...

So here are Lorhainne's suggestions:

How I motivate myself to write is such a good topic for a blog, since I am sure I am one of many who fights that urge to procrastinate. I love to write, but there are days where it is easy for me to find anything else to do, such as clean the house, mow the lawn, go grocery shopping, talk on the telephone, you get the idea. My children are my biggest motivator.

I developed a schedule. I get up in the morning generally around 4 am, but sometimes it’s 5 am. I put on the coffee, and I schedule a good two hours of writing time in the peace and quiet before the kids get up. During this time I actually get more accomplished then any other time of day.

After the kids are at school, I write for the next five hours. What I do is establish a goal each day. When I am writing a novel, it’s two thousand words a day. So if I can maintain my focus I can be done in three or four hours. On those days, I’ll reward myself. I’ll take some me time, and it could be anything, such as sitting down and reading a book of one of my many favorite authors or working in my garden. Whatever it is at that moment that will bring peace.

There have been many days where I struggled to get two pages written. At anytime if the words aren’t flowing or I’m struggling with a particular scene, I’ll close up my computer and take a walk outside in nature to clear my head. This works for me, it helps me to ground myself to go back and write.

It’s important that I don’t schedule anything during the day when I’m writing. But life is such that things do come up. If I need to schedule an appointment, I do it late enough in the afternoon that it doesn’t cut up my day. I plan meals in advance too, so I don’t spend every day preparing a meal from scratch. When I cook, I make lots so there are leftovers and freeze any extras for a quick meal. Otherwise I found I always had that one thing in the back of my mind, that I still needed to do and that would took my focus away from my writing.

I never write when my kids are home, I maintain that time as our time together. Basically what it boils down to is that this is my career choice, and I treat it as a job, one that I love. No matter what the deadline is, I never write at night.

Thanks, Lohrainne! You've given us some great ideas. I especially like the tip about not writing at night. Have to try that one. And I must admit, my kids were a great motivator for writing too. Writing was the only way I could keep my sanity.

Well, I know after viewing the terrific cover above, you'd love to learn more about The Captain's Lady, so I'm including a blurb below:

Captain Eric Hamilton is a powerful force in the U.S. Navy, having earned himself a reputation of being a hard-nosed chauvinist. He’s commander of the USS Larsen, a destroyer, currently deployed in the Persian Gulf during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Abby Carlton has just escaped from the man who held her captive for a year. Abducted while travelling in Paris, she was given to an Arab man as a gift, until one night she makes her desperate escape.

While on patrol one morning Captain Eric Hamilton discovers a dinghy floating aimlessly. Abby is found, battered and in an advanced state of pregnancy, lying in the bottom of the dinghy. From the moment she lay on the deck of his ship her innocence finds a way to penetrate his hardened heart. But time is running out. Eric is falsely accused of sexual assault and the CIA wants Abby and the baby for bait to flush out her captor.

Sounds great doesn't it? Here's a sneak peek at an excerpt (and at Lohrainne):

“We have no reports of a ship in distress in the area, Captain.”

“What about fishing boats?”

“No, sir, no reports.”

Looking once more at his first officer, Eric issued curt orders, the harshness grating in his voice. “Send a rescue team to check it out.”

Handing the binoculars off to one of the crew members, he strode with determination off the bridge, heading directly to the ship’s launch. His well-trained crew scurried about. Joe appeared at his side and they watched from the rail as the small rigid hull sped off in the direction of the dinghy. His pulse rose and the dampness on his back soaked through his short-sleeved shirt.

“So what do you think?” Joe leaned on the rail, uncertainty clear in the crinkle of his brows.

“Don’t know, dammit.” Eric focused on the scene unfolding in the distance. Again he commandeered the binoculars from Joe and scrutinized the three-man team approaching, then securing the boat to the dinghy.

His senses were keen; over the years, he’d learned to trust them. The uneasiness that crept its way into his gut, the hairs now standing up on the back of his neck and the racing of his heart; this unshakable feeling was telling him that things were about to change—drastically. Puzzled, he felt the mounting frustration build inside, along with something else he could not quite put his finger on. Shaking his head, he realized it was not a feeling of dread.

The crackle of the radio interrupted his speculation. A voice from the rescue team came over the line. “There’s someone in here, a woman, and she’s in bad shape.”

Thanks so much for sharing, Lohrainne! Good luck with the book sales! And one lucky commenter on Lohrainne's book tour will win a copy of The Captain's Lady, so get out there and comment. Here's a question for you to answer: What do you do to motivate yourself to write?? Best answer will also be eligible to win a free e-copy of Spark of Magic.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Viva Italy!

This is a fun week! Lots of authors who are willing to share their secrets and help us learn to improve our writing.

Christine's book is set in Italy. Ah, beautiful Rome. The city that stole my heart. I threw coins in the Trevi fountain, so I will return someday. But I have the most wonderful memories...

Italy is where I reclaimed the artist within & resolved to live the life of the creative. If it weren't for that trip, I might still be stuck in a dead-end job. Instead, I'm a writer, and I have the privilege of interviewing fellow authors. Today Christine is going to tell us how she did her research for her book, A Daughter's Promise, set during World War II. Scroll down to a previous blog for more into about Christine and her book. Thanks for joining us, Christine!

Research is Unique

By Christine Clemetson

Researching for a book is unique. Whether you’re researching a setting, world building or simply learning a career for one of your characters, you have a lot of information to digest and somehow sprinkle into your story. But just like soup, too many spices don’t work well for the taste. So with our stories, we need enough research to make the story believable, but too much can make it more of an information dump.

When I was researching my book, A Daughter’s Promise, set in WWII Italy, I needed to research everything, from the ground up. To get the richness of the time period, and the people who lived in it, I had to dig in deep and be creative in my research methods.

So where to begin?

I used the internet and library to form the foundation of my research, including the timeline of events in Rome, what churches were still standing, and also what an Italian funeral would have been like. Here is a great tip—believe it or not—in the library, I found good information in the children’s section, including a lot of great diagrams of soldier’s uniforms, procedures, etc. These books break down the information into simple diagrams, and easy-to-find information about common foods in Italy, cultural traditions, etc.

One of the research methods that helped me the most was an eyewitness account. From networking, I found a woman who had lived close to Rome during WWII. She told me many things hard to find in books, including how people felt about the war conditions going on around them, how bad the food rations were, how people moved around Rome, and how it felt for the Germans to be patrolling their neighborhoods. Also, I read many biographies. Whether you’re writing a contemporary or historical, a person’s biography holds a wealth of knowledge!

In general, I’m a pantser-type writer, which means that I know the beginning and end of the story and the major plot points, but the rest comes as I’m doing the actual writing. This is the same for research. I know the basics of the place in which I’m setting the story, and also the major historical references I want to use, but the research details unfold as I’m writing. For example, I knew the bulk of my story would take place in a family-owned restaurant. I did high-level research on the types of drinks popular during that time period, but I waited until I wrote those actual scenes to determine which kind of wine would work with the scene’s mood. For me, it all adds to the discovery part of writing.

Here's an excerpt:


They both knew Serene’s turn had come. She took in a deep breath and touched his arms in a stiff embrace. She hugged him the way she had rehearsed in her head over and over, the way a mother would hug her son going off to war.

“I don’t care who sees,” he said gruffly, pulling her closer. He pushed her chin up with his

fingertips, and bent his head to kiss her.

She took his lips, his body, all of him, into her heart for the last time. Feeling the rapid beating in his chest, she fought the urge to mold her most intimate part against his.

When their lips parted, his warm breath on her neck made her body shiver. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she buried her face into his jacket. “I’m not ashamed about

what I said to you last night or what happened between us.” Her voice cracked. “It’s a sin, I know, but it was the most beautiful—”

“Ashamed? I don’t think I’ll ever have that kind of love again.”

Trembling, she stood back a little, clinging to her emotions with the delicacy of a spider web. “But you were right. We made the most logical decision.”

Jesus, Serry. I want to tell you so bad that I—”

“You’re all set, then?” Sam said, coming back into the house.

Serene let go of Miles, letting her one finger intertwine with one of his pinky fingers. She couldn’t let him go.

Slowly, he released her and went to the door, putting one foot on the outside pavement before hesitating and turning back. His eyes were red, and she clutched the stair banister to keep from running to him. How much she loved him would be a secret

she’d take to the grave.

Carrying a bottle of whiskey, Marcus passed him at the door and gave him a friendly slap on the back. “I came to give you a goodbye, Coulson.”

Serene stood up straight and froze.

Miles jerked himself away. “Change of heart about me?”

His answer was Marcus’ deep kiss on Serene’s cheek and an arm around her waist. “I realized, Coulson, that I’m proud of her for taking the responsibility for you. I thought it was about time that I offered my apologies for the undiplomatic way I acted. We’re all in this for a cause, no? Why don’t we share a bottle to celebrate?”

“No, your change of heart doesn’t rub me the right way.” Miles offered an apologetic glance to Serene and then shifted his gaze back to Marcus. “You hurt her, and I’ll hurt you. You understand me?”

“Have a safe trip,” Marcus drawled.

Serene watched the driver help him in and her knees weakened. As the truck’s engine started, she braced herself against the wall.

“Don’t worry. Serene. Just think of this as a wedding present from me. No more worries about your American. He is well now and gone for good. Your only thanks is to marry me.”

She couldn’t hear him. Her throat ached and she made no effort to wipe the tears spilling freely from her eyes. She started for the door, but he grabbed her by the shoulders.