Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Baddie in Books


 For this month, Robin has asked us to describe a flawed or evil character we have or might use in a story. How did they become so flawed? What part will they play in the story and what will happen to them?

I always have trouble creating evil characters. I would say that most have mine have been flawed in some way rather than truly evil. Except for, maybe, Sir Peregrine Styles in my first Regency romance, His Dark Enchantress. Sir Peregrine was very much a depraved character, particularly in the satisfaction he derived from causing pain or trouble to others. He was a narcissist, manipulator, and opportunist all rolled into one character but none of that was greatly surprising given the era and the mores of the strata of society he grew up in.

People being people, and our characters are people if only in our minds and books, good and bad can come from anywhere. The best of families could have one bad apple. A family in the poorest area of town may have a dad with a heart of gold and a mum who will do anything for her children first and her neighbours after that.

People can and do change. Rose of Sharon in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath spring to mind.

Circumstances can mold a person. Disappointment after disappointment may eventually turn a happy, positive person bitter and cause them to seek revenge against those he or she believes responsible. Being brought up in an abusive household may produce an abuser or someone who would never lift a finger against another person.

As authors, building the backstory for a flawed or evil character is as intriguing and circuitous as those of our main characters and, dare I say, might take a bit more of a psychological twist. Writing historical fiction means dipping into the social history of the period whether, in my case, it is the Regency or Edwardian eras. The class structure was pretty much adhered to. People ‘knew their place.’ But within that structure, the mores of the Regency became stricter through the Victorian era and began to ease again in the Edwardian era, especially the La Belle Epoch era in Europe which dated from the early 1870s up until the outbreak of World War 1.

Regency characters who held ambitions to rise above their place in society might be referred to as ‘mushrooms.’ The term ‘nabob,’ originally denoting an official under the Mughal Empire, came to be used somewhat derisively for a pretentious person, especially one growing his own wealth rather than inheriting it. After all, the definition of a gentleman then was someone who did not work for his living but off the wealth generated by his estates.

My current ‘baddie’ is one Ruby Baker in the third book, Phoebe Fisher, in my series Those Regency Belles. Ruby is a barmaid with took my hero’s promises to heart. In a drunken moment as an eighteen-year-old and about to embark on his first voyage, Andrew promised to bring her jewels from India. Ten years later, Ruby arrives on his doorstep to collect them. Why such a time span? Well, a voyage to India could take a minimum of four months. Depending on what happened during the voyage, pirates, storms, being blown off course, it could take a year. And then you turned around and possibly faced the same problems on the return journey. That was without any other detours. However, now Andrew has inherited a title and gained a wife. What will Ruby do? I’m still working on that.

Visit my fellow authors listed here and see what they are working on.

Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Dr. Bob Rich  https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2ue

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Things That Go Bump in the Night

 


Our Round Robin leader asked us to share a childhood memory or scariest experience of October 31st. All Hallow’s Eve or Hallowe’en, the one night in the year when ghosts, ghouls, witches and wizards, sprites and gobbledygook’s are supposed to go bump in the night.

Growing up in post-war England, although we all knew what Halloween was, I don’t ever recall celebrating it in the way it is celebrated today. The festivals I do remember were Christmas, New Year, and Easter. In a few of the locations we lived there were also Mayday celebrations, usually in the form of a church or village fete, dancing around the Maypole being a feature of the latter.

It wasn’t until my children were growing up that we began to have Halloween parties. We might have decorated inside the house with tattered rags hung over a pointy hat and a cobweb or two populated by homemade spiders, but there were no outside displays as can be seen today. There were no costumes no trick or treating, just simple games like apple bobbing, hide and seek in the dark, and carving jack o’ lanterns. One year I found a set of red glassware which made whatever liquid in it look a bit like blood but, as the kids attending that party didn’t much like the effect, it was never repeated. Definitely different from today when it seems the gorier the better.

But why all the interest in Hallowe’en? Traditionally, from the earliest pagans until now, October 31st has been celebrated as a festival of darkness. It is the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is considered to be at its thinnest, allowing departed souls to return and walk among us.

In some cultures, an extra place will be laid at the table. In others, to keep dead souls away, bonfires will be lit and those brave enough among the living may jump over them. Mexico’s

courtesy bloomberg.com

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is probably known world-wide. For Wiccans, Hallowe’en, or Samhain (Sowin) is celebrated as one of the four great Sabbats forming the Wheel of the Year.

I don’t remember any scary experience from my childhood years but my scariest Hallowe’en was the one when my Dear Departed Husband, who was a dyed-in-the-wool Stephen King fan, decided we should watch the movie IT, with Tim Curry playing the role of Pennywise.

Tim Curry in makeup for Pennywise
courtesy reddit.com

We closed the drapes, lit candles, and sat down to watch the movie. But—I have never liked clowns (coulorphobia) and as the movie played out I either covered my eyes or my ears, much to his amusement. When I said I’d had enough and was going into another room to read, he realized that I was not joking. I’m not sure if he watched the movie to the end but he did promise that there would never be a repeat performance, and there never was.

It’s fair to say I am not much of a Hallowe’en fan but don’t mind the trick or treaters, although I do wonder if any of them would be happy with one little soul cake as was the tradition. Children and poor people would go round to wealthy houses promising to pray for the people of the house if they provided a cake (treat) or a trick (some form of mischief) if they were sent away empty handed. Next, visit these Round Robin bloggers to see what trick or treat they might have in store for you.

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2sc

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

September (already?) Round Robin

 

Where does the time go? Here we are in September 2021, still dealing one way or another with covid and all that goes with it. Thank goodness we have our writing to keep fingers and minds busy. 

The topic posed for this month is - besides novels, do you write in other genres? Have you ever written nonfiction?

Well, yes and yes. My preferred genre is historical romantic fiction, but I have also written two contemporary western romances with a third beginning to gel. However, the processes of gelling and the actual writing are both a bit slower than they were. But, before I started writing novels, I wrote short stories and newspaper and magazine articles before that. I liked pitching ideas to magazines that interested me or following through if magazine editors called for articles on a topic of their choice.

Sadly, of all the publications my work appeared in, only one remains active. I’m happy to say their demise had nothing to do with my writing, but production costs, dwindling subscriptions, and the editor’s retirement in one tiny publishing house hit home.

Me, teenage groom and hunter

From the horses and dogs that were part of my life to beer festivals and medieval faires, my travels at home in the UK and abroad, I managed a fair range from being paid with six free copies of one magazine to a heady $800 plus, this for an article on a medieval fair. 

The magazine assigned me a professional photographer for the day. He had never worked with a writer, while said writer (me) had never worked with a photographer, professional or not. We started the day off by discussing what we were looking for and then parted company, me to interview performers and visitors, he to take as many photographs as he could of whatever interested him. We met up at the end of the afternoon and found that we had, amazingly, opted for the same subjects.

Jousting UK
The most spectacular event of any medieval fair is the jousting. The photographer’s images were stunning, and I benefited from interviewing an international jouster still dressed in his 100 lbs of full armour. The fair organizers were thrilled with the warm, sunny weather, but it must have been like living in an oven for all the jousters. The most entertaining group were the members of GNIVIL, the Living Backwards Society. Their research and attention to detail of all things medieval, including authentic hand-carved chairs, trunks and rope beds, from which the saying sleep tight originated, was a little like having a personal history lesson from each interview.

From GNIVIL's website
There is no doubt that people can tell stories that are often stranger than fiction. A history-loving Health and Safety Officer first learnt to foot fight and then turned to metalworking. He told me all GNIVIL’s clothes were handcrafted and correct for the period. Even the trumpet he used to announce the melee was a style of horn dating from the days of the Crusades. Lady Jane led dancing on the lawn during the evening, explaining why dancing was essential to medieval society. No one would have suspected her modern-day profession to be that of an electrician.

My article on a United Kingdom beer festival, including one of my photographs, appeared in the Calgary Herald (still going strong.) That was a fun gig, in part because I applied for and received funding from the British Tourist Board. No money changed hands for the beer as visitors bought a string of tickets at the entrance gate and used them to buy their beer. Friday night was a fun night with my family. I got to work interviewing people the following day. I even made it into the local paper at home that described me as ‘a mystery woman from Canada.’

So now I’ve related some of my experiences with writing outside my preferred genre, let’s look at what my fellow bloggers have to say.

 

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2qf 

Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, August 21, 2021


Our Round Robin question for August is: Do you have any character habits or favorite words that always crop up in your writing?

Oh, boy! Do they ever. But – that is what first drafts are for. Once I have started writing I try to keep going. I say try because I am a Virgo and if you know anything about astrological signs and their characteristics, you’ll know that Virgos are perfectionists. I like the first sentence, first paragraph, first chapter, to be perfect – except there is no such thing as perfection.

 I learnt by trial and many, many errors to get on with the story and took Nora Roberts’ advice to keep writing as you can’t edit a blank page. Quite apart from those niggling fillers like had, was, just, really, very—I could go on but won’t—I find that with each book I write I have a ‘crutch’ word.

 In one of my books my hero grinned so much I’m not sure that he would ever have straightened his face out if I hadn’t taken myself in hand and did a painstaking search to rewrite practically every instance of where I had him grinning. Likewise, a Regency heroine who was forever sighing. I’ve had my moments with ‘however,’ ‘especially,’ ‘nevertheless,’ and many more.

 But this is where self-editing comes in. Being aware of the nuances of what you’re writing means you can go over your work and search out those offending words which are often repetitious. The editing process gives authors a chance to not only weed out those wretched stumbling blocks, but in that process make their writing more powerful by re-writing sentences and phrases for more of an impact. (I struck this out as it means pretty much the same as more powerful and is therefore redundant.)

 Writing a book is not a solo effort. It may be in the beginning as it is the author’s idea, characters, plot and so on, and the first revision will include weeding out the repetitions and redundancies. The next stage will be beta readers who, if they are doing their job, will point out character or plot holes and often pick up a ‘crutch’ word the author may not have been aware they were using. After another round of edits and revisions, then comes the editing stage and quite likely another round of edits and revisions. It really does take a village to produce a book.

 And on that note, I’m going to check on my Round Robin villagers to see what they have to say. I hope you’ll join me in visiting:

 Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Judith Copek https://lynx-sis-blogspot.com

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2ow

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Where Does the Time Go?

 

The plate above the dial face on my clock reads Tempus Fugit - Latin for Time Flies and that has certainly been the case for the first part of this year. Regardless of what has been happening in the world, I have written more diligently for the first few months of this year than I did in all of last year. 

Hester Dymock, the first book in my new Regency series, Those Regency Belles, came out in March and today my second contemporary western romance Legacy of Love is fully available on Amazon and other markets. 

Added to that, there is a promotion on my Berkeley Square series which hopefully will help you with your summer reading.

These are the details.

His Dark Enchantress is free for June, coupon code XL475

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=%22His+Dark+Enchantress%22

 

His Ocean Vixen is at 30% discount until June 30th 
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734276

His Unexpected Muse is at 30% discount until June 30th
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/949041

I have enjoyed writing all my books, eventually. I think most authors find a tricky bit in every book, whether it is that all-important opening, maintaining interest through the middle, and then reaching a satisfying conclusion. After all, if the author doesn't love what they do, how can they expect to hold the reader's interest?

More to the point, how many authors read books from their back list? I still enjoy my books now and again. I'll read a passage or lines of dialogue and think, did I really write that? That's so good. Or I'll reach a point where I cried a bit while I was writing it. If it touched me, did it also touch my reader? I hope so. 

Look out for more promotion information coming soon! 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

What's in a Name?

 Our Round Robin topic for April is: How do you choose your characters' names? Are there any you avoid?

The origin of names goes so far back into history, there is more than one truth or theory, depending on the era, the culture, and what part of the world a character comes from.

 What is clear is that names mostly stemmed from a need for identity and connection within families and communities.

People were often named for the trade in which they were skilled like the English surnames Smith, Baker, Archer, and Tyler, or after the towns or countries from where they originated like York, Hamilton, or French.

First names were often handed down from father to son, mother to daughter, which could get confusing if you had a long line of Edwards or Marys and even more so if, like the boxer George Foreman, all his five sons were named George. Today it seems anyone can name a child anything and often seems more by fancy than reason.

As an author of historical romance, I have most of my work done for me as all I need do is Google the popular male and female names for any given year and go from there. Please note: Google is a starting point, not the be-all and end-all for any type of research. I have also used parish records and names found on tombstones to be full of information, too.

Light from Beyond
All-free-download.com

Because my settings are mostly English, I can pinpoint the county my characters populate and run a list of names for that area. My next Regency romance is set in the New Forest in the county of Hampshire, England, so I am currently researching surnames from that area in the early 1800s.

Once I have a list of names, I consider how easy those names are to pronounce and if the first and second names not only fit together, but also suit my characters. Into that mix I must consider the intricacies of the British peerage if I include lords and ladies in my books. Burke’s Peerage is an invaluable resource for this.

One thing that I find frustrating is when I come across a name in a book and have no knowledge of how to pronounce it. In this instance Google is my friend, as you can search ‘how to pronounce’ whatever the name is and listen to the result. That is why I would never use an invented name in any of my books unless I can qualify it in some way for my reader to easily understand it.

In my current work in progress, a contemporary western romantic suspense, my female character is Callie. Where did that come from? Her mother (like mine!) loved calla lilies, so I have worked that into the story. It is just a small detail which I think (hope) gives my character a little more reality.

Now I'm going to take a look at what ideas my fellow Round Robing bloggers have to offer. I hope you'll join me.

 

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2i7

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Developing Tension in Writing

 

Our topic for this month is how we develop tension in our writing. The elements of a good story, which apply to any genre, are

·         A character (hero/heroine, antagonist/protagonist), in a world (setting), with a conflict, goes through a dramatic arc, from a beginning, through a series of rising actions, to a climax and resolution, with some change in the character.

Without a conflict, a story would be flat and likely boring to read, like a single piece of string. As it is, it’s just a piece of string. Add a series of knots in it, and the picture changes. Why is a knot here and not there? What is the reason for the knots? The series of rising actions are like those knots. They are incidents that create both the pace and the tension of a story. Think of it this way. Like an elastic band being wound up, the rising actions in a story show tension. Stephen King is a master of creating tension. This quote is from my favourite King novel, Salem’s Lot.

Still, there was no sleep for him. Faces lurked in the shadows, swirling up at him like faces obscured in snow, and when the wind blew an overhanging tree limb against the roof, he jumped.

Conflict is an outright confrontation; the elastic band snapping could result in two armies fighting or two people arguing, like the characters in my upcoming contemporary western romantic suspense, Legacy of Love.


Callie drew herself up to her full height, hands fisted on her hips. “Tell me this. When you look at me, what do you see?”

Under her steady glare, Colt’s eyes narrowed. “Now there’s a loaded question,” he said. “Is this Read a Woman’s Mind 101?”

 “Be honest. I promise I won’t fire you.”

He leaned back against the corral fence, his arms across his chest, his hands tucked under his armpits. He stared at his boots and, when he looked up, Callie almost took a step back from his piercing ice-blue gaze.

“What I see right now is a woman spoiling for a fight.” She watched the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed. “So how about we turn that around, huh? What do you see when you look at me? Be honest. I promise I won’t quit.”

“You are impossible,” she hissed.

As a writer, you sometimes have to be sadistic in creating conflict. Hit the character where he’s most vulnerable. If a child is floundering in a swimming pool, have someone scared of water, not an Olympic class swimmer, jump in to effect a rescue. Your rescuer could be standing on the side of the pool, frantically reviewing all the reasons why he is scared of water before taking the plunge. That raises the tension in the scene.

Now you have some idea of what tension is, let’s move on to how I create it. I start as many authors do with determining what my main characters want. Next,  why do they want it?  What is their most significant problem in getting this? What is their ultimate goal? Who or what is preventing them from getting what they want? I have used plural determiners because I write romance in which there are always two characters to consider.  My method is to work on an Excel spreadsheet. I have columns for both my characters and run lists below each, similar to writing down pros and cons. What do they each like/dislike? What are their fundamental values? It sometimes takes several questions before I begin to see where the tensions are likely to lie, and I know what can go wrong between my lovers. Who can be hurt the most from those tensions? The push-pull between the two, one denying the other or their own emotions, is the build-up to the story’s climax.

And now I’ve offered my take on the topic, visit these fine authors for their thoughts and methods.

 

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2fU

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com