Category Archives: writing

Does the Stork bring me plots?

Aleyne Desert

 

This month’s topic: Topic: In designing your plots what do you rely on most: personal
experience, imagination, or research?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought in the weeks since we decided on this topic, trying to tease out just where my plot ideas came from. In order to keep this investigation to a reasonable size < grin> I decided to concentrate on the four science fiction novels in my Novels of Aleyne series.

As in all science fiction, the world in which the novels take place came from my imagination, but it came from both the Plot Fairy and my own personal experience. The novels take place on a military base. The main characters in two of the novels, Brad from Broken Bonds and Rob from Rob’s Rebellion are army officers. The main characters of the other two, Keth from Relocated and Martin from Geek Games, are adolescent boys. The setting I used is an army base  a desert environment. In Broken Bonds, the legal system takes on a major role, as does computer hacking in Geek Games. Many of the important secondary characters in the series are either army officers, writers, artists, or musicians.  These are all elements with which I am personally familiar or which I was able to research in order to get enough information to fill out the plot.

First, the desert and the army. My father, an attorney, served in World War II and entertained my sister and me with many stories when we were growing up. My father was a Judge Advocate General — basically, the army equivalent of a district attorney.  He told a story about a Black sergeant who was prosecuted for going AWOL to a bar that was 100 yards off the base. None of the White officers who were with him were brought up on charges. This story haunted me, and a secondary character, Johnny Dragon, is a Black sergeant who is imprisoned by the military for the same charge and who befriends Brad, my main character.

My middle son also spent eight years in the army where he served as a captain in military intelligence. He spent two tours of duty in Iraq. I shamelessly picked his brains when I was writing Rob’s Rebellion because military procedure plays an important role.

Among the other subjects I researched in the course of writing the series were Native American mythology (Brad’s ancestry is Native American), yoga and meditation, the procedures used when someone is charged with a crime,  the International Court, glass blowing and ceramics.

I can’t help feeling that in spite of the major roll imagination plays in my plot building, it is shored up by my research and my personal experience.

Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1dm
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

Character Creation

Creating a Character

This month’s topic: How do you develop secondary characters? Do you
even have a favorite secondary character?

I don’t develop secondary characters any differently than I develop the major ones: I imagine them moving and talking, and I write little scenes about them. I know that many authors fill out lists of characteristics about their characters, but I usually can’t answer those questions until after I’ve written most of the first draft.

I do sometimes give my characters personality tests. Myers-Briggs is a favorite of mine, not because I take it as gospel in any way, but because it is pretty quick and easy to use. Enneagrams, which I believe gives a much fuller picture of a character, is, for me, both more difficult to “administer” and more difficult to understand.

Myers-Briggs:

This test was once a popular method of typing your boss and co-workers. Your Myers-Briggs type is a four-letter code that spells out your place on each of the four axes:

E or I: Introverted or extraverted

N or S:  Intuition (N) or sensing(S) N’s start with the big picture and S’s start with the details.

F or T: Feeling (F) or Thinking (T). Feelers make decisions with their hearts (think Captain Kirk) and T’s with their heads (Mr. Spock).

J or P: Judging(J) or Perceiving(P):  J’s enjoy routine and P’s like surprises.

Here is a writeup of the eight preferences: https://www.knowyourtype.com/8_preferences.html

and here’s one about the sixteen types:  www.khttps://www.knowyourtype.com/16_types.html

Multiple-choice Myers-Briggs test: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

A much simpler one where you just have to pick one in each of the four categories (includes descriptions): http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html

Another simple test:  http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/mmdi/questionnaire/

Enneagram

An Enneagram is pictured as a circle with intersecting lines, and a type consists of one of the nine types, a wing type, and a variant. In spite of having taken an online course and doing some reading on Enneagrams, I still don’t have much of a ‘feel’ for the types.

Enneagram:

Official:  www.enneagraminstitute.com

Chakras and enneagram information, easier (IMO) to understand http://www.eclecticenergies.com/

About the nine types: http://www.9types.com/

Free enneagram test http://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test.php

Another one http://www.9types.com/rheti/index.php

Character Creation Software

Typing Chimp has a free version available for download. It’s loads of fun, but some features are disabled: http://www.typingchimp.com/

Writers cafe http://www.writerscafe.com/

Links

Here is a link to my publisher’s website, where you will find all four of the novels mentioned above: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/our-authors/56-our-authors/authors-f/149-author-4764

Do check out the posts of the other participants

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1tC
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://rhobinsrambles.blogspot.com/

Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com

What got me started

Robin

Sat, Aug 11, 10:16 AM
This month’s topic is what started us writing:

I’ve written poetry as far back as I can remember. I kept it in a series of spiral notebooks that accumulated in my attic, wrote cards for holidays birthdays, co-workers leaving the office, and the occasional small newsletter. Along about 2005 I wrote a poem I wanted to keep, so I scrounged around online and ended up putting them in online in what would now be called a cloud.

That December I was reading an ezine I liked and discovered they had a poetry contest. I believe the theme was ‘sleep’, and  I had a poem to fit it. Since it was handy (read online), I sent it in, and the poem was one of four runners-up., I didn’t win.

But they published all four of the finalists, and I was psyched. I joined a couple of online communities and started working on my poetry. In one of them, I ran across someone who was starting a small print poetry mag (since died, I believe). He liked and published a couple of my poems. That was early 2006. I found out about “The Muse Online Writers Conference,” (free, online virtual conference) and “attended” that October.

There I “met” Linda Barnett Johnson. Linda runs writers forum, and she insisted that her students join both fiction and poetry forums. Poetry alone was not an option.

At  that point, I’d never written a word of fiction (at least, not since elementary school ), and I would have sworn I never would. However, I liked Linda, and I wanted to join the poetry forum, so I signed up. I started writing for children, as that felt less intimidating – and shorter. As a poet, I was a terse writer, and generating sufficient word count worried me. My first story ended up published online. It was a *long* time until I placed another, but thus encouraged, I continued to write both fiction and poetry.

Many years ago, a family friend lost his wife and all four of his children in a house fire. This incident had haunted me ever since, and one weekend I wrote a 5000 word book in which the main character, a nine-year-old boy, lost his mother in a house fire. I couldn’t change my friend’s outcome, but in my fictional world, I could.

I spent the next year and a half or two years whipping it into shape. Although I have (and had) a good ear for language and a solid knowledge of grammar, I knew little about structuring a story. I set out to learn about plotting, characterization, dialogue, setting, points-of-view, and, yes, more grammar. I joined a critique group and took the ICL basic course. I hung out on Writers Village University and took their free fiction course and a couple of others that proved extremely helpful. The story was accepted for publication but has not yet been published.

Fast forward to September, 2010. I am a huge science fiction fan, but I’d never written a sci fi story — I had kind of a phobia about it — so I decided I’d do Nano (National Novel Writing Month) that November, and began to plan my story.

I devoted most of my time and energy to world building, a bit to thinking about the characters, and devoted about  a page to the plot. Then I started writing.

Of course, there was still editing, polishing, submitting …

And that’s how I got started writing.

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ke
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.

Beginning, ending, and what’s in between

 

How do you ensure a story has a good beginning, a satisfying ending, and good continuity in between?

Honey, if I could answer that one, I’d be on the New York Times Best Seller list, or at least my novels would be top sellers in their category onAmazon.

Ah, well.

But of course, I do take care to try to ensure a good beginning, ending, and continuity.

I am not one of those writers who outlines their novel in detail, but I do need to know the beginning, the ending, and the high points of what’s in between when I start out. Or at least, I think I do.  So far I have been fairly on target about the ending, even when I don’t know how I’m going to get there. For example, in my novel Broken Bonds, (WARNING: Spoiler) the main character, Major Brad Reynolds, is accused of treason. I knew which way I wanted the case

One of my drawings of Aleyne, mountains wiith the multi-colored desert sands in the foreground

against him to go, but I had no idea, until I wrote it, how I was going to manage to do it. Fortunately, my subconscious is a better plotter than I {wry grin}.

 

As to the beginning, that’s trickier. I wrote a children’s chapter book (that has yet to appear) about a little boy who loses his mother in a fire.  I initially started with the fire, but finally realized that the story really started in what was at the time Chapter Three where my main character’s mother is dead, his father still in the hospital, and he is going home with his grandmother. I discarded part of the first chapter of the earlier versions of Broken Bonds, too.

As for filling in the middle, since I don’t outline in detail, I have notes for the chapters I ‘know’ about and fill in the ‘blanks’ as I write. I tend to have more detailed notes a couple of chapters ahead of where I’m writing.

And when I reach the end of the first draft, I go back and revise. At that point I have an overview of the whole novel. I revise more, I believe, than someone who has a detailed outline. That’s the trade off. However, I don’t know enough about the novel to do that before I’ve written the first draft.

 

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Anne de Gruchy  https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/

 

Help Spirits of the Heart win the RONE

Help SPIRITS OF THE HEART win the RONE!

I’m thrilled to announce that my second Haunted Voices novel, SPIRITS OF THE HEART, has been nominated for a RONE award, hosted by InDtale. But I need votes to get it to the finals!

Voting is open only one week: May 7-13. Ends this Sunday, Mother’s Day.

This title made the finals in the 2017 I Heart Indie Awards, and missed winning by a hair – help it make it over the top this time, please . . .

You have to register on the InDtale website (it’s free, no obligation) here: www.indtale.com. Once you confirm your registration with the link they email you, the voting takes place here: http://indtale.com/2018-rone-awards-week-four

My title is third or fourth under Paranormal Long, right at the top of the voting page.

Please help this book, which has a solid 4.8 star rating on Amazon, get the recognition it deserves!

The Blurb:

An addiction counselor and a security guard struggle to free a little girl and her father, two lost spirits trapped inside an abandoned mental asylum.

Addiction counselor Laura Horton returns from college to move in with an old friend and start her career. But her homecoming is jarring. Her friend moves out, leaving Laura alone with the gorgeous but intimidating ex-boyfriend—in a house that snugs up to an ancient graveyard.

Officer Miller Stanford is a man with a shattered past. His alcoholic dad destroyed their family, a weakness Miller is terrified will consume him too. The last thing he needs is a sexy, blonde addiction counselor watching his every move. When he begins to see specters in the dark, he starts questioning his own stability.

But Laura sees her too—a pathetic child-spirit searching for her father. Then Laura starts digging into old asylum records . . . Can Miller and Laura uncover the secrets of Talcott Hall without jeopardizing their love—and lives—in the process?

You can view it on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2IicGAH

And see the book trailer here: https://youtu.be/YUa2RALSEm8

Instructions: You have to register on the InDtale website (it’s free, no obligation) here: www.indtale.com. Once you confirm your registration with the link they email you, the voting takes place here: http://indtale.com/2018-rone-awards-week-four

Thanks in advance for your support, and thank you, Margaret Fieland, for hosting me!

A Little Christmas Cheer

Here are a couple of short Christmas tales:

mtnsAfter Christmas Blues

Even with a full day to deliver presents, Santa doesn’t finish on time. He gets home late on Christmas Day, and he’s so exhausted he’s in bed for a week.

“It’s outrageous,” Donner snorts when Mrs Claus asks for help. “We need a new plan.”

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” Rudolph murmurs. “After all, it’s only once a year.” His nose flashes a couple of times.

Donner tosses his antlers. “Just wait until you’re my age. That sleigh gets heavier every year, and when I get back I’m too stiff to fly for at least a month.”

“Well, what do you suggest?” Vixen pipes up. “We’re already limiting our deliveries to good children between five and ten who celebrate Christmas.” She tosses her antlers and smiles.

“Yes,” Blixen adds, “and we’ve got a stack of complaints from the parents of the under-fives.”

“There’s that new North Pole Federal Express office,” Prancer offers, shifting from hoof to hoof. “We could offload the excess, just leave enough so Santa doesn’t feel useless.”

The reindeer all nod.

And that, boys and girls, is why most Christmas gifts come in the mail.

 A Case of the Flue

“Santa has a fever. Mrs. Claus put him to bed.”  Rudolph pawed the snowy ground. “Who will drive the sleigh?”

“No one,” Blixen said. “We’ll send everything by Federal Express.”

“Belief in Santa is at an all-time low. If we send everything by mail, no one will believe.” Rudolph tossed his antlers, almost skewering Blixen.

“And Santa will feel useless and become depressed.” Blixen led the way into the barn.

“Ready to get hitched?” one of the elves asked. Without waiting for an answer, he began harnessing the reindeer.

Blixen  said, “Rudolph is in the lead. He could grab the gifts by the ribbons and drop them down the chimneys.”

“But what if the children spot the Santa-less sleigh? Then no one will ever believe again.”

“We should go. It’s our best chance to save Christmas.” Blixen stamped his hoof and turned to the elf. “Freddie, go tell Mrs. Claus to tell Santa not to worry, we’re on top of the delivery crisis.”

“Better hope everyone’s cleaned their chimney,” Blixen muttered as they rose into the air.

The rest of the reindeer snickered.

And so, boys and girls, don’t feel too bad if you got a lump or two of coal this year.
And now for a couple of poems …

Round
The sphere
is the perfect
shape

for conserving heat,
providing the least
surface area
per unit
of volume,

thus explaining
why Santa

lives at
the North Pole.

What Happens Christmas Night

I’ve noticed that Saint Nick’s a bit
too big around for him to fit
inside our chimney, Christmas night
the struggle must be quite a sight.

Perhaps he oils his nice red suit
all over so that he can shoot
right down the chimney. Then you’ll see
he’ll cut his hand and sprain his knee.

I guess that all those aches and pains
will hurt so much that he’ll complain
that getting down was such a chore
he’s going to leave us by the door!

 

 

 

 

For Oct 22: A Book by Any Other Title

RoundRobinBlogTour

One of the first things any reader knows about a book is the title — and the author and the cover image, but for now let’s stick to the title. We all want a catchy title for our books, one that will stop a potential reader in their tracks and make them open it up (or click on it) to discover what it’s really about. And we all want a title that’s going to pop up when readers are searching on Amazon for books in our genre.

So, when I go to my local library or bookstore and search for something to read, I start by browsing through the shelf of new books, checking out the titles and, if it looks interesting, plucking it off the shelf, opening it up, and reading the blurb. Then maybe I’ll check out the first couple of pages.

I’m staring at my latest collection of library books, one of which is “Little Beach Street Bakery,” a book I chose in just such a manner. It sounds satisfying — not disturbing, not likely to give me nightmares, which is what I was in the mood for at the time.

So, hmm — what attracts me to a title depends on my mood, and therefore what I want in a book at the time: romance, mystery, adventure, horror, or whatever.

I wish I could say that I have a wonderful method for choosing titles for my books, but I don’t. Sometimes they just come to me, and sometimes I have to work at it.

The title of  Relocated,   just came to me. It’s about a teenage boy who ends up on an alien planet when his father is sent there to help root out some terrorists.  The title of Geek Games   and Broken Bonds took more work, as did my latest novel, Rob’s Rebellion. Its working title was “Rob’s Book,” after the main character, Colonel Robert Walker, a colonel in the Terran Federation Guard who is posted to the alien planet Aleyne with orders to arrest the current, very popular, commander of the military base there on charges of treason. I eventually ended up soliciting suggestions from my reading group.

What attracts you to a particular title? Leave a comment and let us know, and do check out the thoughts of my fellow posters:

“Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-MI
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com