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Join in the Halloween Hop!


Welcome to the Halloween Hop

Today's post is for those of you that have written a book about Halloween or Monsters, Zombies, Witches, Vampires, or anything else that sends chills down your spine.

To join in the hop just post the direct url to a blog post about your book in the linky below. Then go visit some of the other links listed.

Let the fun begin!


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A Novelist's Secrets For Writing Unforgettable Settings

I’ve always been most taken with novels in which setting is a character that has a life of its own. Whether it’s Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s 1940s Barcelona, Dennis Lehane’s Boston, or Cormac McCarthy’s American Southwest, a novel steeped in place engages me far more than a novel in which the setting feels generic, flat, or, worse, an afterthought, whatever other strengths that novel may have.

Being a fan of such settings, I work hard to create them in my own novels. I am not alone. Many writers I’ve worked with one-on-one or through MFA programs at Emerson College and the University of Virginia work hard at setting. Yet, often, the settings in manuscripts I’ve had the privilege of reading as an instructor, coach or fellow writer often fall flat, even when they have wonderful details.

What I’ve found undermines writers most is the belief that detail alone creates a good setting. Here are three key tactics to keep in mind when trying to write settings that readers can’t forget:


1 ) Create emotion through your details. 

Often what makes a setting flat, no matter how lovely or original the details may be, is when there is no emotional, physical, or mental connection between those details and the character. Without some consistent connection between the setting and the characters, there is no connection for the reader. Details alone create only a flat, 2-dimensional world — much like a fake backdrop to stage play — if they do not impact or engage the characters.


To elevate your setting, and make it come alive, think about how the details you choose affect the character. What does your character feel and think about the setting, how do her surroundings impact her emotions and inner life?

Here is how I handled an early scene involving setting in my new novel THE SILENT GIRLS:

Rath drove north on his dirt road, past the enormous, looming, granite face of Canaan Monadnock, which gave way to flat farmland with the abruptness of the Fundy Escarpment smacking up to the Atlantic’s edge; a geologic anomaly in a state of worn, aged mountains that folded into gentle foothills and gradually leveled out into Lake Champlain to the west and the Connecticut River to the east.
As a boy, Rath had been fascinated by this peculiarity and spent nights tucked under his covers, his sister asleep in her bed beside his, enrapt by books on plate tectonics, volcanoes, and the Earth’s molten core …Those early years, Rath had been obsessed with the violence of nature and how it shaped the physical world. As he’d grown older, his fixation had shifted from the violence of nature to the nature of violence, and how to stop it.

 When settings trigger your characters’ thoughts, memories and emotions, the setting becomes a character that engages other characters, and thus the reader. Think about what details you can use that will create that engagement.
  
2) Are your details “just right”?

What makes a detail “just right”?  Because of how the human brain works writers most often write from general to specific in early drafts. It is most often a mistake to think the first details we create are just right. When we keep these early details, the overall impression is often a setting that lacks our own singular specificity, because we’ve not yet to dig deeper into our imaginations. My first image or detail is often a holding place for me to re-think what detail would be “just right.” Ask yourself, “Have I read a similar version of this before…” about the natural world or a cityscape I am inventing. Then ask: What do I know about this place, what small but specific detail can I use to make readers feel they are being taken on a tour by an expert with an insider’s track on Boston, the Vermont Northwoods, or Barcelona? Don’t be the bus tour that hauls around thousands of tourists on the main roads of tourist traps; be the insider who gives readers a glimpse of a place in a way they’ve never known. Surprise them.

3) Use all fives senses

So often we rely on the sense of sight for details of setting. Yet the sense of smell creates the deepest connection to emotions and memory. While visuals are fine, expand your use of senses. How does a place smell, taste, sound, and feel? Dig down to express each of these senses specific to your setting then figure out how those sensory details affect your characters, and how the character might think or feel about such sensory impressions. Your settings, and your novel, will be better for it.

Eric Rickstad’s taut, chilling literary crime novels strip back the bucolic veneer of rural America and root around in its tragic underbelly. His first novel Reap was a New York Times Noteworthy Book first published by Viking Penguin. His novel THE SILENT GIRLS, from HarperCollins, was published October 28, 2014. His short stories and articles have appeared in many magazines and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He holds an MFA from the University of Virginia where he was a Hoyns Fellow and a Corse Fellow. He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter, and is represented by Philip Spitzer of the Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency.

Catch Up With the Author:   


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Branding Ideas for Authors


In a recent post I talked about what "Author Branding" is (You can check out that post here if you missed it the first time round ;)). 

Author branding is something all of us should be investing time into. In this video, by Author Learning Center, they explain the effect it has on S.E.O. and results on search engines like Google.


"Branding is how you are identifying yourself to your target audience" Click to Tweet

What are you doing to grow your author brand? 

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Interview with Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, a cozy mystery, is entitled, Sunny Side-Up. It's book two in the Susan Cramer Mystery series. After solving the mystery in book one, Scrambled, Susan 's adventure takes her on a dream cruise to the Hawaiian islands. But murder doesn't escape her on vacation either.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book? 

I love marketing! So much so, I created a marketing book to help myself out as well as other authors interested in promoting their work using little or no money! I promote with author interviews like this one, reviews, radio interviews, speaking engagements, book trailers, and more!

What formats is the book available in?

Sunny Side-Up, to be released in October of 2014, will be available in paperback and eBook formats.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?

When was the last time you were on a cruise ship and someone fell dead at your feet? Sunny Side-Up is full of twists and turns that will keep you reading until the last page! Susan is an amateur sleuth with a bold personality. She knows what she wants, but she's also known for stumbling in words and action. You will find humor in Sunny Side-Up as well as strange choices that lead to even stranger conclusions.

Who designed the cover?

This is a great question with a fun story behind it. I knew what I wanted. A Sunny Side-Up egg on the front cover. I wanted the picture to be bold and unforgettable. My husband, who is the photographer, came up with the red pan idea. We bought the pan at Wal-Mart and a few days later my husband was standing on a kitchen chair, camera in hand, as the egg sizzled on the stove. He took about a million pictures of the event, choosing one for the front cover. While he got busy designing the cover, I ate the fried egg.

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?

I'd taken a cruise, but had to study quite heavily on cruise ship protocol. I didn't know, for example, where bodies were stored that died on board, where the cruise ship staff slept, or even what the captain's cabin looked like.

Where can a reader purchase your book?

All of my books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If a reader wants an autographed copy of any of my books (Sunny Side-Up makes 7) they can visit my website at: http://www.ariverofstones.com

What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?

My first book was published traditionally, and I bought the rights back years later because I wanted more control over the books I published. The decision has been a good one for me. I now am the owner of Idea Creations Press, and help other writers publish their books at a fair price.

Does your family support you in your writing career? How?

My husband is the photographer of most of my books, but he also formats my books and takes care of everything techy so that I can write. I have an in-home office and my family knows that I work in there for the most part. Most of the time they give me the space to write because they know writing is much more than a hobby for me.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I love to garden and work out in the yard; that means I also love to mow the lawn! Incredible, you say? Well, there is something fantastic about a well-manicured lawn and beautiful flowers swaying in the summer breeze.

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Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

To be attractive to a reader, historical fiction ought firstly to have the hallmarks of any well constructed story – good characterization, plot, structure and description. These are the essential bones of the piece. Apart from this an author might want to convey, and I believe I do in my books, emotional depth, passion, excitement and conviction. These personal attributes of the author create unputdownability, influencing a reader to stay up through the night immersed in your realist landscapes. Of course a plot that unravels bit by bit and tempting tidbits of information are part of the suspense. But I do sincerely believe that it is the writer's passion that captivates, in some mysterious or even mystical sense, being translated into the story, as in a fabulous work of art.

Historical fiction cannot be written simply for the purposes of publication. It requires more fortitude than a mere exercise in clever writing. Perhaps, if the writer hasn't the where with all, crime or mystery might be a better genre to attempt. 

Readers of historicals want to escape from the present into prior realities. Because that place is a whole other world, to make the visitor comfortable,  accurate description with an excess of period detail to enliven it, is necessary. Yes indeed, historical detail is important. When entering an earlier time span, a reader needs to acquire a sense of place, time, colour, clothing, sensibilities, religion, attitudes, landscapes and town scapes. Whatever one's plot and however your heroine behaves, the descriptive qualities of the period should be accurate. 

A writer of the historical ought to be excited about the period she has adopted. She will devour the texts of the time in her desire to inhabit it, just as her protagonist does. She will be at home there.

Period: Choosing a period for your historical raises certain questions. The basic truth is that some eras are preferred by both publishers and readers. These are Tudor England, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome and World Wars One and Two. It is easier to promote a book from a well known time. These popular settings are vastly overworked. That is the sad truth. The choice of an unknown time may cause publishers to reject you, but a popular era will have publishers telling you that they already have too many authors for that time. I cannot advise what to do. It is the individual's choice.

My own most popular book is Sunworshipper ­ Pharaoh Akhenaten and Nefertiti in Ancient Egypt, whilst 'Aloise' an historical novel and my best writing to date, set in 1850s London, is somewhat neglected. 

Dialogue: This is one of the most difficult aspects of the historical novel. Unless a dialect fits comfortably and naturally into her story, a writer should eschew any such speech. In that case choose to have plain, straight forward dialogue. Somehow, though, the colour and flavour of that time are lost by lack of dialectal quirks.

In my research for 'Aloise' I discovered a Seven Dials accent, possibly the origin of Cockney, and used it extensively in my story. However my editor required that I tone down my clever use of dialect. Too much and the work becomes unreadable. A hint of the dialect of the time is what is needed.

Tone: A smattering of the cliches and anecdotes of the period can also give authenticity with a tone that resonates throughout the book. This tone reflects the period, its usages, speech, mores and attitudes. It is a bit hard to explain what tone is but every historical book must have one. No modern isms, cliches or attitudes must appear. Anything like that will be apparent as a clumsy mistake. Always remember where you are.

Dress: I believe it is important to describe period costume for a full feeling of the times. Be aware that fashion morphed every 3-4 years. Don't have your characters dressed in the older fashions. Gentlemen's accoutrements are just as important. My Aloise was very fashion and beauty conscious, so she required  detail in her dress.

Description: All townscapes, landscapes, buildings, ships, animals, children and every part of everyday life should be included within your descriptive elements. But of course description should not overwhelm the narration and dialogue. A good balance of these is needed.
An understanding of the history and politics of your period is essential for wider viewpoints, a backdrop for the movements and attitudes of the times.

Place: Sunworshipper by Medini Summers. To successfully create the mystique of Egypt, I visited Egypt. Stargazer by Medini Summers. To capture the essence of the stone circles, I visited the Northern isles of Scotland. Aloise by Medini Summers. For Aloise I have  haunted the narrow streets of Soho  in London and the chief thoroughfares of the 1850s, particularly the Strand.
Your story will have authenticity if you can describe streets, buildings and landscapes that  you have, in fact, seen. But it is the feeling of place that will truly enhance your work.

Perhaps daunting is a word to apply to the knowledge required to construct an historical novel. Not to mention the understanding of human behaviour. Maybe life experience and emotional maturity belong more rightfully to the older person. But not necessarily. Don't think too closely on it. If you wish to write historically, just begin. And the very best luck for the enterprise. Love from Medini Summers.

Medini Summers is the author of five historical novels, now available on Amazon Kindle Books – www.amazonkindlebooks.com and www.facebook.com

Excerpt: The Edison Effect by Bernadette Pajer

Title: The Edison Effect 
Author: Bernadette Pajer 



Book description:
Inventor Thomas Alva Edison is also a ruthless businessman, intent on furthering his patents and General Electric and beating rivals like Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse. Edison has agents in place in Seattle but he’s come himself in pursuit of a mysterious invention lost in 1901 in Elliott Bay. When Edison asks for information, few refuse. But not University of Washington Professor Benjamin Bradshaw who’s earned a reputation as a private investigator where science—electricity—is concerned. Bradshaw hopes that the lost device, one conceived in anger by an anarchist and harnessed for murder, will elude Edison’s hired divers. 
Soon, one December morning, 1903, the Bon Marché’s Department Store electrician is found dead in the Men’s Wear window clutching a festoon of Edison’s new holiday lights. Bradshaw believes Edison has set a dangerous game in motion. Motives multiply as the dead man’s secrets surface alongside rivalries at the Bon Marché. Bradshaw, his sleuthing partner Henry Pratt, and the Seattle PD’s Detective O’Brien pursue leads, but none spark Bradshaw’s intuition. His heart is not in the investigation but in a courtship that will force him to defy his Catholic faith or lose his beloved, Missouri. Then a crossroads in the case forces him to face his personal fears and his first professional failure. Whatever the outcomes, his life is about to change….

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Author Bio:

"Bernadette Pajer is the author of the Professor Bradshaw Mysteries, fast-paced whodunits in the Golden-Age tradition. The books in the series have earned the Seal of Approval for Science from the Washington Academy of Sciences (established 1898.) She's a graduate of the University of Washington and a proud member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Northwest Science Writers, and the Seattle7Writers.org. Research is Pajer's favorite activity, and she happily delves into Seattle's past and the early days of electrical invention as she plots Professor Bradshaw's investigations. Pajer lives in the Seattle area with her husband and son." Titles include A SPARK OF DEATHFATAL INDUCTIONCAPACITY FOR MURDER, and THE EDISON EFFECT.

Catch Up with Ms. Pajer:     



Excerpt:

Chapter One
September, 1903
“Bradshaw, it’s Thomas Edison! He’s here!”
Of all the interruptions, this one was so unexpected that
Professor Benjamin Bradshaw wondered if he’d not yet fully
recovered from his concussion.
It was a warm summer afternoon on the campus of the University
of Washington. A box kite danced below billowy white
clouds drifting in the blue sky, and a touch of color in the elm
saplings hinted at the approach of fall.
Bradshaw stood on the lawn between Lewis and Clark Halls,
arms outstretched to Missouri Fremont as she abandoned Colin
Ingersoll and his kite. She approached Bradshaw with a smile
that took his breath away. This was a moment he’d resisted for
two years. A moment he wasn’t sure was wise. The differences
between him and Missouri might be insurmountable, and yet,
here he was. His heart thundered. He doubted he’d ever been
happier—or more frightened—in his entire life.
Little more than a week had passed since he’d been left for
dead in a rotting cellar during an investigation of gruesome
murders. He’d thought himself fully recovered, other than a
dull ache in his shoulder where the weight of a cast iron frying
pan had struck, until the shout about Thomas Edison pierced
his overwhelmed emotions. For a terrifying second, he thought
he might still be back in that cellar, hallucinating.
Certainly, such romantic moments were rare for him. As Missouri
approached, he knew he would never forget this moment,
the way her dark amber eyes gleamed with joy and affection, the
way the golden highlights shimmered in her short mahogany
hair. She moved in her summery gown with the grace of a queen
and the bounce of a child.
Their fingertips had not yet touched when the shout carried
to him again, its urgency penetrating his cocoon of fearful
happiness.
“Bradshaw! It’s Edison!”
As he continued to gaze into Missouri’s eyes, he was aware
that Colin Ingersoll had turned toward the shout. Colin, a lanky
and likable engineering student, was Missouri’s would-be suitor,
and he was no doubt confused by Missouri’s abandoning his side
to welcome Bradshaw so warmly.
“Hurry!” Assistant Professor Hill came running toward them
from the direction of the Administration Building, shouting,
“It’s Thomas Edison! Here to see you!”
Missouri’s eyes flickered with delight. She asked, “Is it the
Thomas Edison, do you suppose? The Wizard of Menlo Park?”
Bradshaw smiled. “He has been known to attempt to steal
the great moments of other men’s lives.”
“Are you and I in the midst of a great moment?”
“Only if you consider me confiding my feelings for you a
great moment.”
She gave a little gasp.
And then Hill was upon them, panting and grinning and
tipping his hat to Missouri. He grabbed Bradshaw’s arm and
pulled. “Come on!”

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