#Mondayblogs Guest Post with @colleen_m_story #amwriting

Today I am really excited to welcome Colleen Story to my blog for a guest post all about research…

The One Question You Need to Ask When Doing Writing Research

When Suzanne first asked me about the research I did for my newly released non-fiction book, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, and how it differed from the research I did for my novels, my first thought was, Oh it’s completely different.

But then as I starting looking into it, I thought, Well, maybe not—there actually are a lot of similarities.

In discovering those similarities, I’ve found that no matter what type of writing you’re doing, it’s important to ask one question. The answer will help you determine whether the research will benefit the writing or not.

Health Writing is Researching in its Purest Form

I’ve been researching non-fiction writing for over 20 years. I specialize in health writing. If you’re unfamiliar with what that is, just imagine me writing research papers all day long on things like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, preventative care, alternative treatments, nutrition, and the like.

Sounds about as fun as a root canal, right?

Well, if you’re interested in what you’re researching, it can be fun, and much of the time, I am. Over the years, I’ve gradually expanded into personal growth, motivation, and creativity, which I particularly enjoy, and for which the research can be extremely intriguing.

I’ve written fiction for about the same period of time, but for years, I didn’t research it at all. Looking back, I think I probably avoided it simply to get away from what to me was my “day job” as a freelance writer. Fiction was my time to play and indulge my creative muse—I certainly didn’t want to bring any dry research into it.

When I started writing novels, though, that had to change, at least somewhat.

Gradually, My Fiction Writing Began to Require Some Research

My first novel was a fantasy, so I researched things that appealed to my imagination, like gargoyles, stone sculptures, and ancient myths and legends—all fun stuff that didn’t really seem like “research.” Instead, I was indulging my own sense of curiosity.

You see, in my mind, research is tough. I’m used to regularly reading challenging material that typically goes something like this:

“Most studies agree that the classical pathological criteria for AD, neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, can account for 40%–70% of the variance in cognition seen in elderly subjects, with additional pathologies such as cerebrovascular disease (Dolan et al. 2010b) and Lewy body pathology (Schneider et al. 2007) working together with AD pathology to account for an additional 20%–30% of dementia cases. (O’Brien and Wong, Annu Rev Neurosci., 2011)”

Not exactly light reading, and this is one of the simpler ones. After a day of it, you’re ready to move onto something else.

So “researching” my fiction has always been restricted to an “as needed” and “for fun” basis. I really didn’t think of it as a key component in my fiction writing—until the last couple years.

Continue reading

Guest author: Suzanne Rogerson – 5 ways spreadsheets can help writers plan and edit their novels

As promised, here’s the first stop on The Lost Sentinel’s blog tour. Find out why I love spreadsheets as a writing tool.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

I’ve always loved using excel spreadsheets, which probably goes back to my office job days (yawn!). But it was only as I recently plotted and planned the second book in my Silent Sea Chronicles, that I wondered if other writers had considered the benefits of using spreadsheets as a writing tool. Excel is great for;

  1. Planning your novel
  • Plan scenes in brief (or detailed if you prefer)

I do a mixture of both on the spreadsheet. Sometimes I plot out the basic scene, but I might add a few bits of dialogue to help me get into the scene when it comes to actually writing it.

  • It’s easy to copy, cut and move scenes around until you find the right place for them in the story.
  • Keep track of viewpoint characters

This is great when you have a cast of characters. I don’t like to leave too long between…

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Blog update #amediting The Lost Sentinel #fantasy

I am happy to report that I’ve finally finished what I hope is the final draft of The Lost Sentinel – Bloodlines Trilogy Book One.

I’m going to be taking some time out from blogging to read though it before passing it to my first beta readers. I’m hoping it’s all come together in this latest round of edits.

Then it’ll be time to look for book cover ideas and try to perfect my blurb!

Not sure I’ll be on schedule to publish before the end of 2016, but I’m really hoping to stick to my plan of publishing a book a year.

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When I return to blogging, I’ll have some tips to share on keeping track of events whilst writing a trilogy or series.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Guest Post – Dan Alatorre – 6 Steps to Creating Memorable Characters #Tuesdaybookblog

After my exhausting two week blog tour, I’m happy to take a break and hand over to another blogger Dan Alatorre. Today he shares with us a guest post all about creating memorable characters using his newly released book ‘The Navigators’ as a guideline.

Enjoy.

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6 Steps To Creating Memorable Characters – a guest post by Dan Alatorre

As young readers, we probably loved a character that we saw in a book and ended up carrying that character with us the rest of our lives. As adults, we still love big screen movie icons and characters from books, wishing we were that courageous or that suave or that funny.

As authors, we want our readers to feel that way about the characters we create.

Findlay, the bad guy in The Navigators, my fast-paced sci-fi thriller about a group of paleontology students who make an amazing discovery, was accidentally created – by the good guys!

Melissa, the hero in this new release, starts out as almost a secondary player. “Missy” eventually she takes over and saves the day.

Peeky is Ishmael watching Captain Ahab go crazy after the whale, merely a witness to events, until we learn what he’s hiding. Then we realize nothing is what it seems in this story, why he’s the narrator, and that we are in for a fun ride.

So that’s WHAT they are; HOW do we make them memorable?

 

  1. Whether real or larger than life, the reader has to connect with the character.

When you read The Navigators, you have a feeling about most of these characters before the end of chapter one. I make them a person the reader identifies with – and not always in a good way.

As kids, we’ve all known a bully. We’ve all had a crush on somebody we couldn’t talk to. We’ve all had an embarrassing secret get out – maybe at a really bad time. We don’t forget that stuff, and if we’re reminded of it in a story, we are right back in the eighth grade cafeteria, dropping our lunch tray in front of the whole school. We’re with the character right up to our eyeballs.

That’s gold for an author.

I showed Peeky as likable, then much later I revealed his secret and showed him to be less than likable, and by the end of the story he had regained the readers’ sympathy.

But we first made him likable. I did that by having other characters show they like him.

But… we had to like them first.

Missy has achieved status in the group of friends by being smart and hard-working. Missy is also the moral compass of the male-dominated clan. She isn’t afraid to set everybody straight. These are all admirable qualities, so we like her. When she jokes around with Peeky, we like him because she does.

 

  1. Make the character a whole person with three dimensions.

The reader transfers that initial fondness – and gives the benefit of the doubt – to Peeky. Later, he will have to demonstrate his worth, which he does by trying to save his drowning friend’s life – but only after he accidentally sees Missy go for a near-naked swim. He feels bad about seeing her, but he’s human. So now we see he’s flawed, and we appreciate his shame. We feel that shame, too (after all, as we read it we were right there watching with him). He’s complex and three-dimensional, not a cardboard cut out.

 

  1. Have your characters grow during the story.

I kind of explained Missy there, but here’s the rest. She a graduate student but she isn’t in charge of her life yet. She doing what she’s supposed to do and it’s only after she sees how easily everything can be taken away, like she’s seen studying great civilizations in the past, that she steps up and takes charge, ultimately taking charge of the entire group.

 

  1. Solidify our opinion of the character.

Mr. Mills, her dad, is a rich and powerful man who is a big teddy bear when his daughter is around. Readers like Missy a lot, and when she’s in for a big time scolding from dad, they love that he can’t help himself and just gives her a look and then bails her out while giving her a bear hug. We all want a dad like that. We love him, he loves her, and that reaffirms our good feeling about her. We trust her even more. We’ll follow her anywhere. She’s becoming larger than life.

 

  1. An adversary that challenges the hero

Findlay, our bad guy, starts out as a good guy! He gets made into the bad guy only after the gang cuts him out of his contribution to the discovery. So he has a vendetta, but from his perspective, he is in the right.

 

  1. If the bad guy is reeeeally bad = the good guys are even more good.

When Findlay captures Peeky, our meek and mild-mannered narrator, Findlay tortures him (verbally). Readers start to hate Findlay now. He already did things to mess with our heroes, but when he gets Peeky, Findlay dials it up to ten. He says and does things we’ve had said and done to us, and Peeky squirms the whole time. And I drag it out, so you really feel it. Findlay embarrasses Peeky. He then humiliates him. He makes sure every awful rock in Peeky’s past has been turned over and then almost makes Peeky grovel. Nobody wants that to happen to them. And the whole time, Findlay keeps saying Peeky’s name in a taunting manner. “You sat and watched them beat me up, didn’t you Peeky?” and “You didn’t help, did you Peeky?”

We’ve all had some kid on the playground in our face doing that. Nobody likes it, and by relating that commonality readers will feel what the character feels.

Then we have to show (red cheeks, squirming, wiping his sweaty palms) our character feeling what we want the reader to feel, and we have to take it to a new higher dramatic level, but we do it best by drilling down to our own core and taking the embarrassing, humiliating, cheek-reddening, never-forget-no-matter-how-hard-I-try stuff from our own lives, and putting that emotion out there for all to see and saying YOU’VE BEEN THERE, TOO.

That works. The readers connect again.

Bingo.

Memorable scene, memorable character(s).

Everybody who reads The Navigators comes away hating Findlay.

They all love Mr. Mills.

They cheer for Missy at the end and feel positive about where she’s going in her life.

And they are divided about Peeky. Most readers like him; a few don’t. That’s how he was written, so I did it right.

 

But who will they never forget?

The ones they connected with most. That’s why you have to put yourself in there. Your heart. Because it’s different for everybody but when you go there yourself, you make it universal.

 

Dan Alatorre is author several bestsellers. His new novel, The Navigators, is a fast-paced sci fi thriller that breaks new ground in its fascinating characters and truly unique story.

The Navigators (global link)

http://geni.us/navigators

 

Dan’s Amazon author page

http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1432312819&sr=8-1

 

Dan’s blog

www.DanAlatorre.com

 

#AtoZChallenge T – Title Trouble & a poll

I have a terrible writer’s affliction called Title Trouble.

book-307524_1280It’s getting serious. How can I get my cover art ordered if I don’t have a title?

We all know titles must catch the reader’s eye. Next to the cover image, I’d say it was the most important draw to make the reader want to check out your book. Then the blurb and opening lines have to finish the job.

Sometimes titles are easy. ‘Visions of Zarua’ wrote itself and encompasses what the book is about.

The title Spirit Song, yesterday’s flash fiction story, came from the story itself.

When titles are hard to think up, I use a working title. The trouble with this method is those titles becomes so engrained, it’s almost impossible to see beyond them.

Now I need your help;

I hope to publish my second fantasy novel this year. It will be the first book of a trilogy. The pesky working title has stuck and I can’t see beyond it. Maybe I don’t really want to change it and that is the reason for my Title Trouble.

What do you think?

Bloodlines Trilogy

Book 1 – Search for the Sentinel

 

Would you pick up this book purely on its title? Would you be intrigued?

Does the title matter to you as a reader? If you’re a writer, how do you come up with your titles?

I look forward to your comments and seeing what the vote will be.

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Next time its back to some cooking with Ultimate Flapjacks.

Check out other A-Z posts here.

#AtoZchallenge S – Spirit Song #flashfiction

For S in the AtoZChallenge I’m so happy to be sharing this flash fiction story that came third in the flash500 comp in 2013.

Judge Steph Patterson – Senior editor of Crooked Cat Publishing stated,

‘Unusual, emotional, warm, surprising — a warm, unusual story. It moved me when I read it. It has an air of esoteric.’

Have a read and let me know your thoughts…

Spirit Song

Cecilia no longer saw the faces of the dying. They were merely shells cast off at the last to free the soul within. But, in the moments before death, she often wondered what happened to their spirits.
Sensing the man’s time was drawing near, she picked up her lute. Her fingers plucked the strings, dancing like raindrops over the notes, filling the room with fluid harmony. Slowly, the man in the bed responded. The music rose to a crescendo as he took his final breath, and she wept as his spirit lifted clear of its bonds to embrace the light. Cecilia let her fingers fall from the strings, while the haunting resonance of the song echoed around her. She cradled the lute in her frail hands and allowed the stale sickly air in the room to dry her tears. The intrusion of another broke the spell, and she opened her eyes to blackness.
‘He’s gone, Cecilia. But he died with a smile on his face,’ the nurse told her softly. ‘Come on, let’s get you back to your room.’
Cecilia shook her head. ‘There’s another down the hall…’ She rose on unsteady legs, clutching the lute possessively against her body.
‘At least let me help.’ The nurse took hold of her arm, but Cecilia recoiled from the touch and the strength of life flowing through the younger woman.
‘I can do it myself.’ She felt her way to the door and shuffled along the corridor with her hand trailing along the wall. Finally she reached the right room and slipped inside. She plucked the familiar notes of the spirit song until the dying woman floated away into the healing light.
Cecilia slumped to the floor, hugging the lute to her chest. Exhaustion tugged her towards sleep and she dreamt of the place beyond death.
She awoke in bed and sensed the nurse at her side. A warm hand squeezed her cold bony flesh.
‘My lute…’ she croaked and felt feebly for her beloved instrument.
‘Have a drink first.’
A straw prodded her lips and she sucked at the water, choking as its coldness flooded her constricted throat. The covers shifted under the weight of the lute and her hand scrabbled to lay across its neck. She stroked the strings with her fingertips, too weak to pluck a note.
Cecilia drifted back to sleep. The music swelled inside her, its poignant melody leading her spirit away from its dying shell. She travelled through a tunnel feeling weightless and pain-free, and cocooned by warmth. Bright light blinded her and cold air caressed her naked body. The shrill cry of a new-born filled her ears. Cecilia forced open her eyes and stared up into a stranger’s face.
Before the memories of her old life faded away, she finally had her answer.

spirit song light

The story behind the story;

Spirit Song holds a very special place in my heart. I wrote it when my Grandad was admitted into a hospice. At the time I was attending creative writing classes and the prompt for that week was Cecilia, the patroness of musicians.

I sat in bed with my notebook and closed my eyes to think. When I started to write this piece seemed to flow onto the page almost fully formed and I instantly fell in love with the character.

I entered it into the Flash500 comp. The critique stated it was a lovely character study, but not a story.

I couldn’t let Spirit Song go, or maybe it wouldn’t let go of me. I rewrote the end and gave it a starting point that tied in with the conclusion. Then I re-entered and this second attempt was placed 3rd in the Flash500 comp. I felt like that was a turning point for me, a time when I could really start to believe in myself as a writer. Two years later, I self published my first novel.

Did you have a defining moment when you realised you were a writer?

(If you want to find out more about the Flash 500 Quarterly competition, click here. It’s well worth paying for the critique, my story would never have been placed without that important feedback.)

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Tomorrow T for Titles.

Check out some other AtoZ posts here

Did you guess the object? And my perfect writing holiday.

The object in the photograph below (which I posted it in response to Hughes weekly photo challenge week 12 – games) was of course a footprint, a cast of a wolf footprint to be exact.

WP_20160207_20_50_14_Pro  Thank you, Hugh for picking my picture to showcase on your weekly blog challenge.

It is not as exciting as a fossilised footprint (being only 12+ years old), but it is very special to me and reminds me of one of the most magical and memorable experiences of my life.

I stayed on holiday for a week at Wolf Watch UK, actually within a wolf reserve in Shropshire, England. It’s a brilliant organisation and for me it was a once in a lifetime holiday. Please check out their website Wolf Watch UK to see how gorgeous the place is and the important work they do. I don’t know if they still run holidays, but there are plenty of opportunities to visit the wolves on things like photography days.

(The pictures in this post are not the greatest quality as they are only photos of photos, it was way before my days of digital photography.)

I loved that whole experience. Hearing the majestic and haunting sound of the wolves howling in the evening and early morning – I couldn’t think of a better alarm clock. I would spring out of bed at the first howl (not that easy when you’re 5 months pregnant!) and record their howling on my little palm top computer. I have a sound file that I wanted to share, but the .wav format is not accepted by wordpress. If anyone can tell me how to convert and add sound files I would love to update this post. As it is you’ll have to put up with a rather poor quality image of one of the wolves mid-howl or yawning its hard to tell.

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Back in 2004 there was no TV reception in this beautiful Shropshire wooded valley so it made the perfect writing retreat. I started planning and writing scene for one of my works in progress called Child of Destiny. I hope to finally finish the draft in 2016.

My husband wasn’t that happy without a TV. And he certainly wasn’t keen on the wolf feeding experience.

tony and the wolf

I loved my time in the wolf enclosure. Even though I was 5 months pregnant with my first child, I wasn’t going to let that stop me getting up close with these lovely creatures. I think you’ll agree I look a lot happier about it than my husband.

me and the wolf

I’ve always been an animal lover, but my obsession with wolves started when I read Robin Hobbs Farseer trilogy. Nighteyes was, and still is, one of my favourite all time fictional characters. I’d love to have met him.

This holiday will always have a special place in my heart and it’s brought back lots of memories writing about it now. I would love to revisit Wolf Watch UK, but I have a few years to go before my youngest is 16 (age limit imposed for safety reasons).

If you ever get the chance, go along and meet the wolves. The experience will stay with you forever.

I’m taking a few days off social media to finish the edit of my next book. Please do leave comments though, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

 

 

What does it take to write a novel?

Answer:

7 note books, reams of paper, years of hard work, thousands of hours of writing and rewriting, 4 beta readers, several online courses and professional critiques, and lets not go into the money involved…

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Now that Visions of Zarua is published, I decided to use this lazy day between Christmas and New Year to tidy my desk drawers and go through all the old paperwork. I’ve boxed up all the note books that hold the first draft, the pictures of characters and places that helped me create my world, my extensive notes on everything to do with Paltria and its characters, the various critique reports and my notes on rewriting.

Who would have thought that pile of scribbles and half formed plans would turn into this…

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Visions of Zarua started way back in 2003 with a tiny idea. I wonder what my younger self would think if she knew the long, long journey ahead.