Friday, April 17, 2015

SETTTINGS: A CLOSE BUT EXOTIC GEM





Looking for a gorgeous, exotic locale brimming with colorful history for your story? Consider Puerto Rico.

Recently I attended a professional retreat in San Juan and fell in love with the island.  Incredibly blue waters stirred by constant breezes; friendly locals who, if they don't speak English, are willing to communicate with enthusiastic gestures; rows of colorful buildings with ironwork befitting Charleston or New Orleans.


And the food. Oh my. Pastries that melt in your mouth and seafood artfully cooked.

Consider a chase scene across the fascinating bioluminescent bay where a kayak paddle can yield sparks of light in dark waters.

Into paranormal?

Consider the former convent El Convento. Now a hotel and restaurant, there be ghosts lurking on the premises.

 Need a powerful business mogul? You can model him/her on the Bacardi family who founded an enormous distillery off San Juan.









History abounds in this gateway to the Caribbean where the Spanish defended its stronghold against attacks by England and the Netherlands among other countries. Love a pirates' yarn or treasure? The seas teemed with the raiders.



 






Interested in a World War II setting? U.S. modified the mighty fortresses of old San Juan to serve as lookout posts against German subs.


Your hero/heroine can stay at a romantic hacienda at the edge of the rain forest...
 
 
 
 
Snorkel  the coral reefs or...
Lounge on a yacht by a beach with powdered sands.
 
 
 
Where have you traveled recently that served as inspiration for a book setting?
 
J Carol Stephenson











Monday, April 13, 2015

Birth of an Activist

by Janis Patterson

I can’t stand it any more. I have become an activist.

I cannot bear the unending mangling of our beautiful language, or the overwhelmingly blatant demonstrations of ignorance that surround us daily. Now I rarely go out without being armed with my trusty Marks-A-Lot™ with which I gleefully commit corrective acts of sabotage.

Nor am I alone. After starting a loosely knit organization called 5/A (also known as the American Association Against Apostrophe Abuse) I have discovered that there are others who dislike the grammatical ignorance that is so prevalent today. We are few in number, but growing.

My main target is usually the grocery store, because that’s where it all began. One day while I was shopping there was a spotty youth writing a sign for bananas. I remember it exactly – Banana’s – 49 cents. (Of course, he used the cents sign, which has sadly disappeared from all modern keyboards.) I asked him, which banana’s what did he mean?

He looked at me as if I were mad. “These bananas,” he said politely enough. I then explained that it wasn’t true – what he was writing was a singular possessive, which meant something (so far unstated) that belonged to one of the bananas present. After a few more moments of enlightening conversation he turned tail and ran for his manager.

The manager was kind, very soothing and thanked me for bringing the matter to his attention – employees are usually very kind to strong-minded older ladies with canes – then brought out a new card and, as a concession to customer relations, wrote Bananas’ – 49 cents. He couldn’t understand why I started laughing, albeit somewhat hysterically. Neither did he understand it when I patiently explained the difference between singular possessive, plural possessive and simple plural.

I still shopped there for several years afterward, though I swear when they saw me coming all the stock boys grabbed their sign-making materials and ran for the back. No one ever said a word when I corrected their signs with my trusty marker, either. I should drop back by, though, and see if they have improved any – I don’t shop there any more, as the store is in Dallas. Ever since the demagogues in the city council forced that idiotic and unwanted plastic bag ban down the citizens’ throats I try not to shop in Dallas at all, preferring not to let whatever sales tax I spend go to support such stupidity. For what it’s worth, judging from the increase in traffic in the stores of the satellite cities, I’m not alone in that, either!

Nor is my educational zeal limited to grocery stores. There was a lovely shop with a huge parking lot bearing a sign Customer’s Parking. I finally called them, asking if one needed to make an appointment in order to shop in their store. They answered of course not and gave me their open hours. I then asked where I could park close by, as their sign made it obvious their parking lot was restricted to one customer at a time. After I explained and again asked where I could park that would be within their stated limitations – and without relying on luck that I would be the sole customer at any given moment – they hung up on me. Apparently some people just do not care to learn what is correct. I never did shop there. There is justice, however, because they went out of business not long after. Apparently grammar does count!


And it should – language is perhaps the highest development of humankind. It is what allows us to communicate not only with each other, but with generations yet to come. It should be exact, for it conveys information that can and should be understood forever. Perhaps a misplaced apostrophe or wandering comma in itself is no great solecism, but the greatest rents start with the tiniest of holes and before long the entire fabric can become shredded and useless. As writers we are the guardians of not only of language, but of the concept and execution of language, and both deserve our best.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

OUTLANDER

Yeah OUTLANDER.

I had another post written and ready to go but after all the stramash over episode 9 I’m sharing my thoughts and there will be spoilers.
The day after the show aired I was surprised by facebook comments of several readers/watchers trashing the story line. I was even more surprised by several author’s comments trashing Diana Gabaldon’s writing. I know she doesn’t give a flying fig about F and G list authors bashing her because of a spanking scene as she cashes her gallizion dollar royalty checks, but Holy Macaroni.  
First of all, GET OVER IT! It’s a freaking book/tv series. Second, and read the following carefully, it represents what went on in the 18th century and there were NO PC police in 1743 Scotland. Corporal punishment for wrong doing was accepted. The norm. Would a time-out be better? HA! Wrong doers in 1743 would love to spend time sitting in a corner, getting a rest from the back breaking jobs they did to survive.  
Perhaps critics would like it if Herself wrote a story sending some PC police through the stones. Would love to see how long they lasted with Dougal, Murtagh, Angas and Rupert.   
Consider this. No one complained when Clare hit and punched Jamie. Not a peep has been heard about Black Jack Randel (here after referred to as BJR) punching Clare and having his corporal kick her. WTH?
And….BTW didn’t spanking occur in 50 Shades? Can’t be sure ‘cause I didn’t read the books or see the movie. Couldn’t get past the writing in the free sample. As for the movie I was a leery of encountering a Peewee Herman moment.  
And the moaning and groaning about the scene when Laoghaire comes on to Jamie. Sweet Mother Malone.   
Anywho.  For me episode 9 is huge. I admit I watch shows/movies more than once. (Dexter, Homeland, Call The Midwife) First and second times are for sheer joy and entertainment. Then I go into writer mode. I pay attention to the settings, sounds, body language, expressions and foreshadowing. And most of all, character development. Episode 9 is a major pivotal point in Jamie and Clare’s character arc.  He realizes Clare is different. Special. To hang onto her he will have to change and grow. And Clare? As she will tell Jamie, “I never expected to love you.” How much does that change her resolve to get back to Frank?
People, don’t grump about a scene or dialogue. Sit back and enjoy the process. Remember nothing in a good book or movie is there on a whim. Every word, every scene, moves the story forward. It has a purpose. And believe me the Outlander books/series is good.
In episode 9 there was a huge foreshadowing moment for BJR. In a single sentence of dialogue he revealed a world of information about himself.  Did you get it?
Consider what sells. Other than sex. Conflict! Conflict, conflict, and conflict on every level. It’s why we turn the page. Watch the next episode. It isn’t to see if everyone likes what Mrs. Fitz fixed for dinner. It’s to see if Clare clocks Laoghaire.

Books are like life. It doesn’t always go how you want it too. There are twists and turns.  Missteps. You and the characters adapt, overcome and work towards a happy ever after. You turn the page and keep reading and living. Or, you don’t. Your choice.  

My apologies to those who are not following Outlander.      


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Location, Location! and an audio trailer



LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION by Clare London

“Look,” says Hubby with a wry smile. We’re snuggled on the sofa together, watching a movie last night. “It’s set in London.”

Is he psychic, you ask? A close friend of the producer? A devout follower of IMDB and/or the celebrity movie news websites? No. He’s just seen the double-decker red bus trundle past in the background LOL (and it *was* a James Bomd movie!).



So many movies and pictures rely on triggers like that, don’t they? For London, we have the buses, the black taxis, the phone boxes (vanishing fast), the London Eye, Big Ben, Tower Bridge … to be honest, we’re spoiled for choice of iconic scenes.

My suspense thriller FREEMAN is set in London. When I first drafted it, I deliberately set it in AnyCity rather than a specific place. It was to add to the mystery of the story, the “Everyman” nature of Freeman himself. But when I re-released it in 2013 at Wilde City Press, I made it clearer that the city I used as its setting was London.

Excuse my bias towards London, but I’m living and working there, it’s the city I know best, and it fascinates me. But I’ve also written stories set elsewhere in the UK: in Brighton, Totnes in the south-west, Exeter, Scotland and various “alternative, no-name” cities around the British Isles.

And of course, other cities - as they say - are available! I’ve read and enjoyed many stories set in the United Kingdom that evoke marvellously the spirit of the place, its scenery, its history and the unique characteristics of its inhabitants.

Of course, Hubby and I also joke about movies set in the US, how it sometimes seems there are only 5 cities in existence - New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco – and they’ve been devastated by enough giant monsters / aliens / natural disasters / Decepticons to make us wonder how there’s anything left for any future features LOL. But again, in fiction, there’s the option of so many more places that can come alive in the reader’s imagination.

How do you feel about physical setting in the books you read? Do you skip over the scene-setting as background wallpaper, or does your reading act as a travel pass to exciting new places? Do you admire the author’s love for the place, or wonder just how much research they’ve done to get authenticity? How do you feel if a book features *your* place, or somewhere you know well – does it thrill or creep you out?

Let us know! As they say, it’s all about Location, Location, Location.



And do you like an English accent?!
EXCLUSIVE : this link to an extract from FREEMAN, read aloud for your entertainment!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1Kk9uDPrmE

*************************

Clare London
Writing … Man to Man


 







Monday, April 6, 2015

THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF WRITING SERIES - By Kathy Ivan

I've been doing a ton of writing recently.  In fact, I released three books in March, all at the same time.  (Insanity – trust me, doing marking and promotion for three releases at the same time is the definition of insanity.)  But through it all I figured out I really like writing series.

There's a lot to be said for staying in the same world you've created.  Then again, there are also a lot of headaches at the same time.  I thought I'd share just a few of the things I've noticed about writing series.

THE PERILS
1.  Keeping the world you've created straight.  For example, I've set my series (New Orleans Connection Series) in and around New Orleans.  A lot of the places are real actual places and tourist destinations which are familiar to the readers as well as the people who actually live there.  But it's also my world in that I've created certain things which are unique to it.  Theresa's New Age shot.  Max's PI office.  The police department division/station where Remy works.  The DEA office where Branson, Macie and Carlo do their jobs.  These places that I've created have to be the same from book to book.  I cannot change the street where they're located.  I can't say at one point something is in the French Quarter and the next book say it is in Downtown New Orleans – because they aren't the same place. 

2.  Keeping your characters appearances consistent from book to book.  You can't have somebody start out with brown hair and brown eyes and suddenly two books later they've got brown hair and blue eyes.  Readers are sharp and they catch things like that—especially if it happens to be one of their favorite characters. 

3.  Timelines.  This can be tricky especially if your characters carry over from one book to the next.  For example, Remy Lamoreaux has been in all of the books in this series.  I needed to make sure that he wasn't engaged or married before we got to his actual story (Relentless Pursuit).  I've learned to keep a chart on the computer that I can easily access with each main character and their characteristics like hair color, eye color, body type, profession, which books they show up in, and who they are with/dating/seeing in each book until they get their own story.   It's also good to keep track of secondary characters, because you never know when they're going to turn up in another story or demand a book of their own. 

THE PLEASURES:
1.  I love having characters I've written about in one book show up in other books in the series.  It's like visiting with old friends, because I've already told their story and we get to see how life is changing around them.  Although each one of my books can be read as a standalone story, characters do show up from book to book, which I think makes for an interesting mix.  For example:  Relentless Pursuit introduced the readers to our heroine, Jennifer "Jinx" Marucci and her brother, Giancarlo "Carlo" Marucci.  This was Remy and Jinx's story, but Carlo plays a part.  So the next book (Ultimate Betrayal) became his story.  And in his book, you'll see appearances by Remy and other characters mentioned in previous books.  I think the readers enjoy having a feeling of knowing these people already, and it grounds them into the book in a way they wouldn't normally get from a standalone, where they're being introduced to characters they've never met before. 


2.  In a series you have the freedom of familiarity.  A reader can plunge right into the book, especially when they've read the preceding one, and pick up pretty much where that left off.  It's like watching your favorite television series – a new book is like a new episode with the people you've come to know and love having that episode focus on them.  Let's take Castle for an example.  One week the story might focus on Castle and Beckett.  The next week it might focus on Esposito and Lanie.  The next week about Ryan and his wife.  (I'm not talking serials here which are continuing sagas usually with the same people, but rather series where in every book I do has a different hero and heroine and they find their happily ever after, but the crossover characters keep the readers reading and happy.) 

3.  With a series you can bring the reader closer to the characters they love.  I wrote a short novella (Keeping Secrets) where I sprang a surprise wedding on the heroine (of a previous book) and had the heroes and heroines from previous books all there and taking part in the surprise.  Readers loved, loved, loved finding out what happened because this short book let them know the couples they've rooted for and agonized over got their HEA and are still together after the end of their respective books. 

There are lots more reasons, too numerous to mention in this post alone.  So, for all of you who read or write series, tell me what you like and/or don't like about writing them. 


Kathy Ivan is currently hard at work on her next romantic suspense in the New Orleans Connection Series.  You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kathyivanauthor and on twitter at www.twitter.com/kathyivan 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Never Been to Morocco...

You know that Three Dog Night song, “Never Been to Spain”? From their 1971 album, Harmony? While I was working on my latest novel, Ghosts of Morocco, that’s the song that floated through my mind constantly.

I’ve never been to Morocco, but I set Ghosts of Morocco there. Or big chunks of it, anyway. Was I being presumptuous? Maybe. But that’s where the story had to be: partly in Morocco, in the past, and partly in the Yukon, a little more recently.

I didn’t want to insult anyone, or make a fool of myself, so I read travel books and history of Morocco books, read travellers’ blogs, looked at thousands of pictures on line, grilled my well-travelled friend… anything I could think of to add depth and realism to the Morocco scenes. I even asked a writer who was housesitting in Morocco to describe olive trees for me. I was especially interested in the sensory details of the country – what did it smell like? How was the quality of the light? How was the humidity level?

It’s not as good as if I’d been there myself to experience the country, but I think I did okay. (And now, of course, I really want to go.)

I’m a lot more nervous about the Yukon setting – home. I took liberties. Outrageous liberties, sometimes. I can defend that, but Lord help me if I got anything flat out wrong. You can be sure I’ll hear about it...

Ghosts of Morocco was released this week. Here’s the cover blurb:

Fifteen years after a traumatic event in Morocco, Hope Adler has reinvented herself as a cautious, dependable businesswoman back home in Canada. No more impulsiveness. No more risks. No more Wild Child. But when Meddur, the young son of her Moroccan friend, lands on her doorstep, running from murderous Berber radicals, she must reach deep into her past and bring back the Wild Child, because that’s the only way she and Meddur will get out of this alive.

Just as she thinks she’s found a safe place to hide the boy, Sam Walker, the bane of her youth in Morocco, suddenly appears. Can she trust him to help her keep Meddur safe? Or is he working with the radicals?

In a departure from her Mendenhall Mysteries series, Marcelle Dubé’s Ghosts of Morocco is a standalone novel featuring Hope Adler, a woman tormented by her past and willing to do anything to make amends. Ghosts of Morocco is a wild, exotic ride from the sands of Morocco to the deep snows of the Yukon.

It’s available everywhere e-books are sold and is also available in print.

And now, because I know you’ve been humming it, here’s a link to “Never Been to Spain.”


You can find Marcelle here: web | facebook | twitter

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

TO NEWSLETTER OR NOT




Authors like to write. So, why is it that writing a newsletter often fills us with a sense of dread and panic? Perhaps it’s because we know we should be writing on our next book, but instead we’re writing a newsletter. Or maybe it’s because it’s just one more freaking thing we have to do for promotion and we are totally, utterly promotioned-out. Whatever the reason, do authors really need to have a newsletter?

I wasn’t sure, but my publisher finally convinced me it was a good idea. My talented sister set it up for me, so it was a done deal. Mail Chimp was our vehicle of choice to both collect email addresses and create a newsletter template. Thankfully, Mail Chimp wasn’t nearly as scary or daunting as we feared. There was a bit of a learning curve, but luckily not that bad. Luckily it looks like subsequent newsletters will be fairly simple to create and send out. So, after the initial newsletter, it looks like all downhill from here. Whew. So, why do it?

I thought about it and decided to write it to reward my inner core of awesome readers—those people who are excited enough to sign up for my newsletter and buy my books as soon as they come out. I will use my newsletters for special cover reveals, swag giveaways, exclusive excerpts, free books, and so on. It also helps me stay in touch with those readers who are not on social media, but who want to know what I’m writing. It’s a fun and fabulous way to keep your readers engaged and interested. Once I determined for whom the newsletter was intended, I actually had a blast writing it. After I sent it out, I was excited to hear if they enjoyed reading it. Apparently they did! Yay! Right now I have plans for a whopping two newsletters a year, possibly three if I'm ambitious. I'd prefer to start slow and gauge interest.

For those of you who may be interested, here is a little peek at my newsletter which just came out last Sunday.



The bottom line—if you are an author and you decide to write a newsletter, do it to engage your readers and inform your fans. Make it fun. And, by all means, have fun writing it.

By the way, if you want to see my most recent newsletter in all its glory, hop over to my website at www.juliemoffett.com and sign up.

Monday, March 30, 2015

If the guy loves your kid...

If you're like me that's all it would take. Well, assuming he's a good person and there's some major chemistry happening. In every book I've written there's a child who's critical to the love relationship. In Trust No One my heroine is a single mother of a child with developmental delays. Sophie and Nathan meet under false pretenses: when he discovers she's using a fake identity to hide from someone, he decides not to reveal that he's a PI searching for her stepbrother—which leads to her kidnapping him at gunpoint. At this point in the book they've cleared all that up and Sophie is beginning to trust him, but they're on the run. They've taken refuge at Nathan's sister's house, and he has just returned with information that requires them to hit the road again.

Sophie was holding Max on her lap, spooning scrambled eggs into his mouth, when Nathan walked into the kitchen. He looked exhausted. Strung out, like he'd been up all night taking drugs.  The circles under his eyes were darker, whiskers covered his jaw, and his hair was a mess.
            He was so appealing she stopped breathing and just stared at him.
            The Bannister twins, Ryan and Lizzie, were strapped into booster seats, and began clattering and calling, "Unca Nafan! Unca Nafan!" Nathan bent down and kissed the tops of their heads, but his eyes were on Sophie and Max. Kat walked into her brother's arms and held him tightly for a moment. Still, his eyes held Sophie's.
Max stretched an arm out to him and said, "Boodie."
The smile on Nathan's face when he looked at her son stripped away all remaining defenses she had built to protect her heart. He rounded the table without saying a word and picked up Max off her lap. "How ya doin', Sport?" he asked, and kissed his eggy cheek. Max slapped his hands on Nathan's cheeks, wanting to play their game. Nathan puffed one cheek out and Max tried to slap it before he switched. Sometimes he let Max win and other times he switched around on him, getting the little boy all excited and bouncy. Max wasn't quite up to bouncy at the moment, so Nathan let him win.
Out of the corner of her eye, Sophie could see Kat taking in the whole scene, a small smile on her lips.
"Are you okay?" Sophie asked. "Want some scrambled eggs?"
Nathan shook his head. "We need to go," he said quietly.
Fear clutched at her throat. "Can I finish feeding Max?"
"Finish fast," he said.

            Do you like books where one or both of the characters have children, or do they detract from the story?


—Ana


Friday, March 27, 2015

Building A Character

How long does it take to build a character? Joe Smith walked into the conference room of the law firm of Smith, Smith, and Smith. He would much rather be home playing acoustic guitar or walking his bulldog, Elmer.

Do we know Joe now?

Sometimes we can identify with a character in a few well-crafted sentences, particularly in novellas. On other occasions it can take half a novel to truly understand and relate with a character, if not longer.

I can remember reading The Donovan series by Elizabeth Lowell and seeing glimpses and snippets of the character, Archer Donovan in Amber Beach and Jade Island. By the time Pearl Cove came around, I was salivating to know every essence of this man. Elizabeth had whipped me into a frenzy.

I am happy to reveal the cover for MIST, the second book in the Blue-Link series, which will be released this June. MIST, and the first book, SHADOW are stand-alone pieces. The term ‘series’ applies because each book has dealings with a global risk management company called Blue-Link. In each book we get a glimpse of Amanda Newton, the young, enigmatic owner of Blue-Link. Even in her brief appearances in the first two novels, we identify with her intelligence, drive, and unflappability. Yes, I’m the author, but I have a reader’s anticipation for the third and final book, DUSK, which will reveal how Amanda has come into such an impressive role, and exactly what makes her tick. 

In this case it has taken three books to build a character, but like everything else in life—the more we work for it, the better the gratification.

Are there characters that you have followed through books, or are you a hit and run reader?  There's nothing wrong with that. I'm a hit and run reader, but every now and then some stray personality in a series will get their claws in me and I'm eagerly along for the ride.

Maureen A. Miller
www.maureenamiller.com