A Construct of Angels – the 2014 re-launch.

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CoA post its

It has taken many, many months of hard work, but the revised version of CoA (Kindle, ePub and Kobo) is finally ready to be shown to the world. The paperback is due to follow shortly afterward.

My editor, Tara Shaner and I have been bouncing the MS back and forth across the pond since July, and now, finally, we are both happy with the result. It’s fifty or so pages shorter, two characters lighter and a great deal tighter than before.

I’ve learned a great deal during the process of revision (old hands will nod sagely at this point, but bear with me).

An edit is not just about spelling and grammar. It’s as much about the flow as it is about the structure. It’s about plot threads and loose ends; developing characterisations as well as removing characters who either complicate or lend nothing to the plot. Pace, language and humour are also essential elements of an engaging MS.

I began 2013 with the certainty that after scores of read-throughs, my MS would be error-free and ready to roll.

No need for an editor, I thought.

I can do English. I know how to use punctuation.

I was so naive.

I’ve learned, by taking this long way around, that it really does take an outside and professional eye to spot repetitive or erroneous patterns in a Manuscript – and to offer solutions. A writer can become settled and overly accustomed to the flow of the story and (I have caught myself doing this at times) can tend to ‘read’ the story, rather than edit it objectively.

Be in no doubt that you may begin to question your own skill as a writer as overused words, inappropriate dialogue tags and pointless character actions are unearthed before your disbelieving eyes. ‘Did I really write that? What was I thinking?’

But a good editor should also indicate the places where your work shines, where the humour tickles and where the pace grips the reader. And whilst human nature will automatically remember the bad over the good, an indicator of  competent, nay, great work will help to soften the blow – as well as encouraging the writer not to throw in the towel.

I know where my towel is. :D

So the re-launch is imminent. Watch this space and if you can, please join me on my Author page for some fun, frolics and giveaways on Friday, 28th February.

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Five *star* review for CoA :)

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Stone Angel Reviews have just awarded ‘A Construct of Angels’ five stars.

Please drop by and read Riiva’s reviews as they happen and perhaps ask if she’d be interested in reviewing your book too!

This is a brand new site and I will watch its growth throughout 2014 with interest.

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Cover Reveal for ‘Backward Compatible’ by Sarah Daltry

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backwards compatible cover

I’m very pleased to be part of this cover reveal, something that marks a bit of a departure for Sarah. Until now, she’s concentrated on Adult-themed fantasy works, but she’s taken the bold step of branching out and trying her hand at a ‘Geek Romance’, a genre that’s completely new to me. The result is ‘Backward Compatible’, a fun and witty story packed with gamer-talk that kept my eyebrows furrowed. Don’t get me wrong, I played Pac-Man and Galaxian back in the day, but…

Hold on, someone is whispering something to me.

I’m writing a blog post about Sarah and Pete’s new book. Can’t it wait?

Oh, apparently it ‘isn’t cool’ to mention Pac-Man and Galaxian – so I’ve been told. Plus I just got called ‘Grandad.’

How about Tetris, then? No? Lemmings? Worms?

*Scratches head* WTF is Candy Crush?

Aaaaaaanyway, back to the novel. It’s a gamer stroke geek stroke romance story that Pete and Sarah have put together. Looking at their gaming history, it appears that a lot of their own experiences (with games) have now proved useful. Who says video games are a waste of time? :D Useful research in this case…

I will leave you with a short excerpt from the book, which is due to be released in December (2013, if you’re watching this on a re-run).

Put it on your to-buy list. I’m gonna.

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Excerpt from ‘Backward Compatible’

“These graphics suck,” George says and I look back at the screen. We’re standing in the middle of the Estate, colorful orbs quivering ahead of us. We each have to choose our starting advantage. Waterfalls shimmer in the distance and the sunlight streams over multicolored stones in the courtyard.

“Amateurs,” Lanyon concurs. “I mean, they couldn’t have five waterfalls?”

“Your ironic wit is mind blowing, but choose your damn orbs,” I tell them. I consider. Magic, defense, offense, stealth, and charisma. I always go for magic as a black mage, but I wonder if a druid needs something else. Screw it. I need charisma in real life, too.

“Charisma?” Lanyon asks. “No one ever picks charisma.”

“We’re a party of a thief, druid, and a bard. We’re screwed regardless.”

“You two underestimate the mighty power of my lute,” George argues.

“Did you start with charisma?” Lanyon asks.

“Hell, no. I have charisma in spades. I started with stealth.”

“Great. A stealthy bard,” I sigh.

“She’s right,” Lanyon concedes. “We’re screwed.”

However, it actually isn’t bad at all at first. We power through the Estate and make it to the Yobanaria Dale with no resurrections and all at level ten. I’m impressed. George hasn’t actually fought anything, but he has some pretty awe-inspiring charm mastery already. I think I might have a serious crush. He seals the deal when he buffs my hailstorm spell without even being asked.

“Can you guys watch El Thiefelo? My mom wants me to eat supper,” Lanyon says.

“Yeah, we’ve got it,” I tell him. “The first boss is in the elven ruins anyway, so we should grind a bit. I think he’s a twelve.”

George and I explore the Dale, taking out bats and Joba spores. It’s fairly quiet, except for when we combo with his charms and my spells and he yells out, “Eat lute, bitch,” but it’s nice. We work well, almost inherently understanding each other. I’ve never been able to play this effectively with anyone. I try not to think about his eyes. Stupid boys, being cute and stuff.

By the time Lanyon comes back, we’re all at level 12, although Lanyon leveled up just by standing by a door while we played. Still, we are ready to take on Balsa the Proud. As a black mage, it took me about nine seconds. Trees don’t like fire. However, druids don’t have the same level of black magic and all elemental magic is weakened by the need to draw from the elements nearby. Sadly, trees seem to avoid storing fire runes in their villages. I expect this to be a little more challenging. It might even take fifteen seconds.

“First boss. Also known as the freebie bitch to sucker the young folks into a false sense of security,” Lanyon announces as he runs into the center of Balsa’s lair. The cinema plays and then, in a moment of pure absurdity, El Thiefelo is squished as Balsa steps on him.

“Can someone revive me?” Lanyon whines.

.

Sarah’s dream Cast for the movie version:

backwards compatible cast

About the Authors:

 Sarah Daltry writes about the regular people who populate our lives. She’s written works in various genres – romance, erotica, fantasy, horror. Genre isn’t as important as telling a story about people and how their lives unfold. Sarah tends to focus on YA/NA characters but she’s been known to shake it up. Most of her stories are about relationships – romantic, familial, friendly – because love and empathy are the foundation of life. It doesn’t matter if the story is set in contemporary NY, historical Britain, or a fantasy world in the future – human beings are most interesting in the ways they interact with others. This is the principle behind all of Sarah’s stories.

Sarah has spent most of her life in school, from her BA and MA in English and writing to teaching both at the high school and college level. She also loves studying art history and really anything because learning is fun.

When Sarah isn’t writing, she tends to waste a lot of time checking Facebook for pictures of cats, shooting virtual zombies, and simply staring out the window.

She has written several books, most notably Bitter Fruits, an urban fantasy in the Eden’s Fall series, and the Flowering series, including Forget Me Not, Lily of the Valley, and Star of Bethlehem.

Pete Clark likes writing, animals, potato chips, and cheese. Midnight Riders is his first published novel, although he can also proudly say he finally finished Helix Crashing, the fantasy novel he has been working on for over a decade. In addition, he has written Across the Barren Landscape, a collection of linked Western short stories. He also writes plays, both dramatic and comedic.

When he is not writing, Pete tends to ignore everyone around him and obsess over sports.

Playlist: 

http://hypster.com/create/playlist?playlist_id=6805166

Trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-0qwqxUYTw

Social Media Links:

Sarah’s Website: http://sarahdaltry.com

Pete’s Website: http://punchmyselfintheface.wordpress.com

Sarah’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SarahDaltryAuthor

Pete’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PeteClarkAuthor

Sarah’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/SarahDaltry

Pete’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/PeteClarkBooks

 

 

If you’re struggling with that minority language called ‘British’…

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I have occasionally ecountered comments that pointed out my failings - one of them being misspellings.

My spelling ‘mistakes’ often get picked up on Facebook and (occasionally) on WordPress.

I like to think I’m very thorough when I’m writing and take pride in my spelling and grammar.

Yes, I soemtimes mis-type (who doesn’t?) as my ‘want to type’ speed exceeds my ‘able to type’ speed and my fingers become a pink blur above the keyboard.

However, when I begin to receive feedback that I ‘should check my speling’ (sic) and see one-word corrections for my spelling when there is nothing amiss, I begin to see red.

I’ve been told (more than once) that I use a lot of British English (BrE). Yes, that’s true. I’m British, my characters are English and their story takes place in England. That would follow, wouldn’t you think?

Apparently not.

Ciara Ballintyne appears to have the same problem and states her case here .

So recently, I’ve been writing British English, but with the knowledge that non-Brits may very well read my work. For instance, my character drives a Volvo ambulance instead of the (correct) locally-sourced type because only Brits would know what a Vauxhall Astra was. However, I don’t compromise on ‘labour’ or ‘honour’, ‘realise’ or ‘criticise’ because Brit readers would hate me for it. My characters use Pounds rather than Dollars. I was astounded when I was told that someone had to Google ‘Biro’ because it wasn’t clear that it was a ball point pen.  What are those cheap, crystalline ball point pens made by BIC known as in the US - BIC pens?

These are things we need to know…

British English

I had considered adding a disclaimer stating that the book contains ‘British English’ just to clarify. In this electronic age, the written word is spread far and wide and a novel in English could easily have been written in Australia, South Africa, Japan or any number of countries. I learned recently that along with Australia, Canada still uses BrE, which was a bit of a surprise. I wonder how many other countries do? I’d be interested to know that Britannia does not stand alone…

Write On!

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The editing continues – revisiting CoA (again)

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lucianotb remington

Sometimes, I’ve been extremely fortunate in my writing journey. When I’ve needed them the most, I’ve met people who have shown me that ePublishing is not only possible, but in some ways it is preferable to traditional publishing. 

During my year of querying agencies and receiving a whole basketful of raspberries, around the time I’d started to build my author platform, I quickly began to encounter other writers, some of whom were still querying, others who had decided to go it alone by self-publishing.

And as they proved to me that there is definitely hope after rejection, one author in particular steered me towards the tutorials that explained how I could complete the process myself.  Thanks Ryan!

I’ve also become friends with several other authors who went on to recommended exactly the right cover artist.

Thank you everybody! You are my guardian angels. Or at the very least, he recommended you all. :)

Now I am entering a new phase in my writing. By sheer chance, and some very fortunate timing, I have become friends with Tara, an aspiring editor who began by examining my first chapter, but went on to review the entire MS.  We are now working together on a complete and thorough edit of CoA.

When I wrote the post How to accept editing feedback I thought that accepting a professional critique would be much more daunting, but Tara has been fair as well as thorough with my MS.

She even likes my jokes… :)

As I write this, we have already made some major changes to the story and I now have several words to purge from the MS, on pain of nagging.

It seems that I use the words ‘just’, ‘like’ and ‘sigh’ a great deal (thanks, WordSmith!), to the point where it has begun to leap off the page at Tara. *Sighs* We are also discussing the intricacies of ‘forwards’ versus ‘forward’ and it looks as if I have sinned with ‘towards’ as well. Taking into account that I write in British English (BrE), we both understand that different rules apply on our respective sides of the Big Pond, but she may have me cornered in this instance. :)

However, Tara seems to enjoying the peculiarities of BrE and I’m slowly introducing her to some of our colloqualisms. I’ll soon have her speaking like a native of the UK and then we can be china plates for life!

Once we’ve finished my fish hook, of course. 

Toodle-pip!

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Published for a year…

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CoA post its

On October 17th, 2012, I clicked a button marked ‘Upload’ and sat back, nervously awaiting the delivery of a stream of electronic information to Amazon KDP. Twelve hours later, ‘A Construct of Angels’ was live and I realised that I had finally achieved my dream – to complete a novel and put it up for sale.

Thirty-seven years ago, I could never have dreamed that in this future age of flying cars, silver jumpsuits and daily trips to the Moon, my book would exist only as data and that it would be held in storage in a distant country. Readers would only have to tap it with their finger if they wanted to select, pay for and read it.

Cool.

I am still working to make the paperback version a reality, but with the recent bout of editing that I have subjected the poor thing to, that particular realisation has been delayed yet again. Configuring an electronic (Word-based) template with paragraphs, page breaks, chapters and the odd image isn’t as straightforward as it ought to be. *frowns* It’s now back with my new editor, Tara, after receiving some swathing cuts, including the complete removal of two characters.

In some ways, I hardly seem to have moved on at all. I am still editing and I really need to put A Construct of Angels to bed and pick up the sequel. But it will haunt me if my first book isn’t the best it can possibly be. Only when that’s sorted, can I let it go…

However, as I mentioned in a previous post, One Year On,  a great deal has changed for me in the last twelve months (plus I now have 300 followers - who’d have thought?) and I still can’t quite believe how much has been crammed into such a short space of time. I can only wonder what the next twelve months will bring, although I can’t imagine them being as crazy as the last twelve. The learning curve, I feel, is no longer as steep as it has been and for that, I am grateful. :)

Regular readers will know that my job sends me all around the UK. Well, by sheer chance, this week happens to have landed me back at the exact same desk from where I uploaded my book, one year ago. I am experiencing an eerie sense of deja vu – again.

It’s another reminder of what’s changed. If I could borrow Sandra Bullock’s time-travelling postbox (The Lake House), I would send my past self a message that says ‘hang on to your hat.’

Not that I wear a hat. I’m not Terry Pratchett. :)

Anyway, until Tara has finished looking over my new edits, I’m hoping to press on with the sequel,  ‘A Vengeance of Angels.’ I’d really liked to have completed it, one year on, but life has a peculiar way of rearranging even the best-laid plans of mice and authors.

.

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Apologies to Twitter followers

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I feel that I ought to extend apologies to everyone who has chosen to follow me on Twitter.

I finally found the time to get my Twitter account in order this weekend.

When I saw my stats I was stunned.

Before I began my long-overdue spring clean, they said;

Following; 197

Followers;  542

How does that happen? And why do 542 people think that I am worthy of their precious time to follow? Perhaps some of them are simply accumulating numbers. Others (and their profiles support this) are fellow writers and artists and have chosen to extend their writing  family -  and their contacts.

it’s encouraging to be part of such a large group and I hope to continue meeting new writers, readers, artists.

I’ve now addressed the imbalance, even making an effort to tilt it the other way. I’m currently following more than are following me, which generally seems to be the case with most Tweeters.

I intend to keep a regular eye on my stats from now on, so that anyone who chooses to follow will not have to wait (in some cases) three or more months for a return follow (unless you only Tweet about Stock Market shares or advertise cars).

Write on… or it you don’t write, then Happy Following! :)

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Casted – by Sonya Loveday

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Casted Blog Tour banner

Today is my turn to host Sonya’s whirlwind tour of the blogsphere, as organised by Book Crazy.

Sonya Loveday

I thought it would be just a simple interview, just a quick half-hour chat by Skype, but I found that I had to go to unusual lengths to grab a few words from Sonya’s very busy (and fairly cautious) characters. ‘Skype is traceable’ I was told by a young guy who introduced himself only as ‘Jude.’ Before I could say anything else he warned me not to ‘make that crack about the Beatles.’

I’m still not sure what he meant.

No, I was told that I’d have to meet with my interviewees in person. I suggested a public place – somewhere they’d feel safe, but a chorus of ‘No’s in the background led me to compromise. I would have to meet them where THEY felt safe.

What follows is my notes from that meeting;

*   *   *

If you’re reading this then you may already be sympathetic to the plight of the people I’m about to meet. Or you might be a Triad spy. Either way, what you’re about to hear will perhaps explain why these women have been running for most of their lives.

I’ve not been allowed to know the location of the interview. In fact, I’m not even sure which country I’m in. I can’t feel a blindfold. Nevertheless, I’ve been in darkness for the past half hour – ah!

A snap of my escort’s fingers returns my sight. That’s better! I can see.

“Sit yourself down,” the stern-looking guy says to me. “I’ll tell them you’re here.” He throws me a look that makes something very clear – he doesn’t trust me one bit.

“Thanks,” I say. He leaves via a chipped off-white door, giving me the chance to pull the crumpled notes from my inside jacket pocket and try to smooth them out on my knee.  The room is spartan, empty of all but the essentials of a farmhouse kitchen. A well-used cooker tries to hide itself in a corner. I’m on a mass-produced chair, set back from a planked table big enough to seat eight people.  The light, too, is poor. There are no windows in this room, only a couple of strip lights without diffusers that provide harsh illumination.

Not for the first time, I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m considering moving the hard chair over to the table when a frowning young woman bangs open the door and stares at me.  I swear that I can see sparks rising from her mahogany hair. She’s athletic, but her anger stops me from considering whether she’s attractive.

“We’re here, now what the hell do you want?”

I wonder what I can say to calm her – to assure her that I’m no threat to her and her friends – when a study of calm and beauty wafts past her. Long blonde hair and startling blue eyes consider me for a moment before she turns to her companion and sighs.

“It’s okay Jessa. Mister Toynbee is only here to help tell our side of the story.”

“I don’t trust him. He looks like a Triad spy.”

“He’s not a spy Jessa, he’s from WordPress.”

“Wordpress, spy, Mick, Triad plant…..all the same to me.”

“Jade asked us to do this, now stop trying to scare Mister Toynbee.”

“It’s nice to meet you ladies,” I say. Nervously, I shuffle my notes, hoping to find a starting point.

“Thank you Mister Toynbee, it’s nice to meet you too. Would you be more comfortable at the table?”

I nod my thanks to her and move to a chair half-way down the rough table. Now seated, I could spread out my notes and begin to figure out what I was going to ask them. But I think my first question was a big mistake.

“Will Jade be joining us?”

“I bet you’d like that wouldn’t you.”

“Jessa, we discussed this. Jade will be coming soon, Mister Toynbee.”

“I still don’t trust him, Rainy.”

Jessa spins one of the wooden chairs the wrong way round and drops herself onto it. Her dark eyes watch me carefully.

“I understand that you’re trying to protect her,” I say. “But at the same time, a lot of people are watching this battle between the Triad and the Original Coven and wondering why it’s happening.”

“You’re kidding me right?”

“You shouldn’t be so surprised Jessa.  The Micks don’t understand what is happening because it is not of their concern. The Covens have never included the Micks in our world, only the Triad have. You see Mister Toynbee, it’s a war as old as time, ever since the Original Coven formed there has been a restlessness in the spell caster community.”

“The Triad wanted to continue using the magic that was banned. The Original Coven wouldn’t let them. A small group of men broke away from the Original Coven and plotted ways to rise above the Original Coven, they were ruthless in their plight. They forced powerful people into their ranks by murder and entrapment. It was, and still is, an ongoing fight. No one is willing to let the other side win. The original Coven thought at one point that the Triad had gone off to lick their wounds after they failed to get Elinor and Leif – they were wrong, so very wrong.”

“That’s the reason for all this killing?  All the destruction? Isn’t there any kind of compromise that can be reached?”

“Compromise? Ha! You think this is just something both sides are going to sit down and negotiate? People are dying because of this. Jade is hunted. We’ve lost everything…family, our Coven’s…everything Mister Toynbee, all for the sake of a man on a power trip. He’s a ruthless bastard that would take out his own granddaughter to gain more power.”

“What Jessa is trying to say is that there is no compromising with someone like Lorenzo. The Original Coven members have been picked off slowly; the other Covens are running scared, splitting their Covens up and hiding in fear, when they should be fighting back.”

“But you still outnumber them, don’t you? I thought there were many Covens, even though the Triad has destroyed some and scattered others.”

“Outnumbering them isn’t the problem,” Jessa said

“There aren’t many willing to go up against the Triad – against Lorenzo,” Rainy added.

“And this…” I consult my notes. “…Lorenzo. He’s behind all this? He’s the driving force?”

“He’s the reason everyone is running scared, yes.” Rainy nodded.

I lower my voice. “But you must have some kind of plan. You don’t seem the types to just hide in this…” I indicated the room with a wave of my hand. “…bunker.”

“Hiding? In fact Mister Toynbee we’re doing the exact opposite…….OUCH! Damn it, Rainy, that hurt.”

“What Jessa is trying to say is there’s always a chance for hope.”

“Of course.  I understand. But you must realise that there are a lot of people out there who are ready to take sides. If they see that you’re the good guys, you may gain some useful allies.”

“It’s hard to gain allies when a war is being waged over a book. Would you join a war like that?” Jessa asked.

I decide to go for the human story angle. “Well, why don’t you tell me a little about yourselves. How did you meet, for instance? And how did you meet Jade?”

“Jessa and I have been friends since childhood. We’ve witnessed what the Triad was capable of. We made a pact that if our Covens split, we’d meet in Scotland. Never did we imagine that we’d actually have to do it. When I witnessed the murder of my family……”

“And you’ve been running ever since? You must have felt so lonely – so scared. No wonder you’re suspicious of everybody.”

“We’ve been through a lot Mister Toynbee…things we don’t care to discuss because it’s painful. I’m sure you understand. The fact is, we met up in Scotland after losing EVERYTHING….it was in Fate’s hands that Jade was in the same place at the same time. Rainy took one look at her and insisted we needed to help her. I was just trying to get us to a safe place – There isn’t anything we wouldn’t do to keep Jade safe, she’s our family.”

At that moment, another young woman enters the room. She seems nervous. Jessa  and Rainy rise from their chairs to flank her like bodyguards. Thin and of average height, she watched me with bright green eyes that were a startling counterpoint to her thick red hair.

“It’s okay….Sonya told me we can trust Mister Toynbee. She wouldn’t put us in danger.”

“So, Jade. You seem to be at the centre of all this,” I say as she settles into a chair opposite me. She is careful to remain out of my reach.

“Unfortunately, yes I am.”

I glance at Jessica and Rainy. “But you’re not alone. You have good friends. You seem to be as close as family, would that be a fair assumption?”

“They are my family.”

“And is there anyone special for you right now? A guy, perhaps?”

“You don’t have to answer that Jade.”

“No, it’s okay, I don’t mind. Edge is….”

“Overbearing, demanding, protective….”

“….acts just like Dagger?” Jade quirks her eyebrow at Jessa.

“Shhh…don’t let him hear you say that.”  Jessa laughs quietly.

“Edge is my preordained, Mister Toynbee. We are bonded through a very strong, very old spell – one that doesn’t choose sides, only people. “

“That’s very old magic, Jade. And very rare, I believe.  With that sort of power behind you, you might just have the edge.” Jade smiles at my unintended pun.

“Do you know that there are a lot of people rooting for you out there?”

“Really? I’m not sure how to reply to that Mister Toynbee. For so long I’ve stayed to the shadows…we’ve stayed to the shadows. Involving others only guaranteed someone’s death.”

“Some will remain neutral, but there are many who are waiting to see which way this swings before they decide to join in. What would you say to them?”

“You either let things happen or make things happen. Don’t expect mercy from the Triad, they will give none.”

“Many Covens have suffered so far. Do you really think one Coven of refugees can prevail against the Triad?”

“People are dying because of me….DYING! They don’t understand why….they run in fear from a situation no one understands. I will fight with everything in me to stop him. He’s taken too much from everyone, not just me. I owe it to the Covens, I owe it to my family. This small coven of refugees, as you call us, we’ve all lost so much because of him – because of Lorenzo. Don’t mistake our secrecy for weakness. We may be few in number, but that’s not going to stop us from doing everything in our power to stop the Triad.”

“Well, you certainly have good on your side – and that can count for a lot. One last thing – do you ever think you will find out the truth about your family? About what happened to them?”

“The little I’ve learned about my parents is that they paid the ultimate price for their love. As far as what happened to them, I may never really know the answer to that. I could lie and say it doesn’t bother me, but the truth is that it bothers me too much.”

“Well, I wish you the very best and I’ll be sure to let the world know that you are fighting for all the right reasons.” I begin to rise to my feet, but Jessica stiffens. I’d wanted to shake Jade’s hand, but I’m sure that would have earned me more than a harsh look.

“I’m ready to leave, now. Could someone tell the gentleman who – .”

“Matheson!” Jessica bellows. Rainy sighs as she makes a show of clearing the jangling from her ear with a forefinger. Matheson couldn’t have been far away. He steps into the room and meets my gaze.

“Ready?” he says. I nod. He snaps his fingers and my sight goes dark before he grasps my arm and leads me on a series of stomach-lurching jumps back to my own world. I have time to wonder how far we have travelled before we lurch to a stop. I hear fingers snapping. My sight is restored and I find myself standing alone on a rain-swept street, my notes clutched tightly in my hand.

Andrew Toynbee

Reporting from somewhere in Southern Ireland…

…in need of a good taxi service.

Casted book cover

http://www.facebook.com/sonyalovedayauthor

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/SonyaLoveday/status/371384324764860416

Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17839278-casted

Blog Tour managed by Book Crazy

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Casted-series-ebook/dp/B00E891C06/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377378873&sr=1-1&keywords=Casted

B&N:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/casted-sonya-loveday/1116240459?ean=2940148653486

Book Trailer:
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DzrmmGao_b-k&h=2AQHef6aa

WordPress:
http://sonyaloveday.wordpress.com/

Writers – are we all amateur psychologists?

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Make yourself comfortable on the couch…and tell me, how does this make you feel?

len-k-a couch

When we write fiction, we play God within the boundaries of our own created world. Depending on the genre, we might invent a brand-new race of beings, decide what stage of development their civilisation (if we decide to even give them one) has reached and set up the conditions of their planetary system.

In other genres, we might set the limits on magic that can be used, whether the land is forest or desert, decide if vampires  turn into charcoal at the merest hint of daylight or if they just sparkle and look moody (you know who I’m talking about).

Even if you’re writing contemporary tales set in real cities (*raises hand*), the writer still must lay out a basic plan of many of the character’s lives right up to the point where we first meet them and – yes, I’m finally getting to the point – why they act the way they do.

In order to create a credible and engaging story, we must delve deep into a character’s motives and feelings as well as thoroughly document (even if we don’t publish) that character’s life history. Does that sound boring? Dull and unnecessary? Too much planning when all you want to do is write? Sure, you could write a female character who hates all men and sticks to that pattern throughout the book. But an interested reader will certainly, after a few chapters of your misandrous main character spitting fire and venom at her colleagues, begin to wonder ‘what’s with her? Why is she like this?’

As two-dimensional ‘evil villains’ have risen to the top of the ‘do not create’ list, shallow main characters are very close behind.

Each of us is the sum of our own experiences, so why wouldn’t a fictional character be exactly the same? Naturally, they would tend to be larger than life, otherwise they would be no more interesting that the average Joe. But for them to have arrived at the point where we pick up the book and begin to journey with them, haven’t they had a childhood, teenage years, formative characters all around them?

But, you might ask, what if my character was grown in a lab and has just escaped? Then you have an excellent blank canvas with which to view our society through their eyes. Remember, even the android Data (Star Trek, if you didn’t know) who was created in his adult form, was an extraordinary character and as we later learned, had a fascinating back-story.

But with more down-to-earth (or whatever planet you’ve chosen) characters, the shape of their mould (that’s not a medical term, by the way) can make the difference between a two- and a three-dimensional reading experience. Most would have had a childhood and at least a few years of life which would have left lingering impressions on their psyche. And the more profund the experience, the stronger the effect upon their thinking.

If you’re not sure how to do this, then this is the point where you get to play psychologist. If you have already created your character, or have a good idea how your character is going to turn out, ask yourself ‘why would they be like this?’ Go back down the line of their life and work out what event(s) set them off down this path; what turned them from being a happy child / teenager / adult into the person that you, the writer, need them to be? After all, we are born as innocents. It’s our circumstances that mould us – and perhaps to a degree, our genes do too.

Something I’ve found  to be very useful is my interest in time travel, particularly my fascination with turning points. Most of you will remember ‘Back to the Future’ and the event that flipped Marty McFly’s forty-something father from a wimp into a confident writer. He was backed into a corner by a bully and came out fighting – something that would never have happened without the intervention of his future son. That was a turning point – something that set him along a different path. Darth Vader? He began his slip towards darkness because he was forbidden from falling in love. In ‘Jersey Girl’, Ben Affleck’s successful life was turned upside down when his wife died giving birth to their daughter. You can probably think of many others.

Sometimes the causes can be more subtle. Would a beautiful and smart girl have different college experiences to a plain, smart girl? How would a parent’s estrangement affect a small child? Would a minor physical defect have a cumulative effect on a character’s confidence?

The flip side of this is; how will your character change throughout the story? Will they shed their emotional burdens and grow as a person? Will their baggage drag them down even further? Are they able to realise what they need to do as a person in order to change? Remember the Twelve Steps – the first step to a cure is to admit that there is a problem. As writers we must not only create the problem, we need to envisage the cure…or at least, the consequences.

For a reader to empathise fully, it is also important that the character can be reached and that there is hope of redemption (if they are low), satisfaction and justice (if they are malevolent) or happiness (if they are being oppressed). That way, the reader can engage and share the journey, whether it is good or bad. This is where stereotypical evil villains fail – they have nothing that a reader can empathise with.

Have you found a creative way to twist your character’s life from the straight and narrow? What have you done to add that third dimension to your character’s psyche?

.

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How to accept editing feedback

8 Comments

Professor at work

Within the last few weeks I have been on both sides of the editing fence, in a non-professional capacity, and it’s been a fascinating and emotional experience.

It’s surprising how much this editing lark tugs at the heartstrings…probably because I was working with friends’ MSs, not an ‘author unknown’ whose work I could have viewed more dispassionately.

At first. there’s the realisation that I am holding someone’s hard work in my hands. I handle it like fine china whilst wearing thin white cotton gloves. Eventually, once I have carefully tip-toed through the copyright page and the dedication page – pages that look uncannily similar to my own – I get down to reading the actual story.

Fairly quickly, I begin to read it as an editor, albeit an amateur one. I discover small errors. There are the obvious typos, misplaced words that the spell checker skimmed past, stray aspostrophe’s :) Those are all straightforward and easy to highlight. At this stage, I feel no guilt for messing with someone’s hard work.

But then there are the ‘clumsy’ sentences; the ones that find you circling the same spot on the page like a buzzard as you consider rephrasing; ‘The stars appeared in a velvet sky along with the shining object that as a child, the cow had jumped over – the Moon – just before the clouds began to roll in.’

I should emphasise that no-one actually committed that sentence to ePaper. It’s just an example…but it’s awkward, right?

But I’ve stared at many similar sentences, wondering if I’m just being mean, picky or plain British-awkward by even considering the idea of changing them. If I correct it, will it then jar with the rest of the MS? Will I have ruined the artistry that the writer sought to inject into the words?

Will it change the mood if I type it up as; ‘Clouds mushroomed along the horizon, building quickly, threatening to swallow the moon - my childhood inspiration – and spoil the cobalt, star-spotted beauty of the late evening sky.’ That’s more my style – but do I have the right to impose it on another writer?

Guilty questions begin to rattle my brain;

‘Do I leave that alone?’

‘Is it actually wrong – or do I just not like it personally?’

It’s the same thing when I read ‘Phil pushed himself off of the table.’  Brits hate this – but it seems to be normal in the US.

With some phrases, I wonder;

‘Is that how an American would phrase it – or is it wrong?’

Take; ‘He dropped the tailgate of the pickup and drug out the fishing nets.’ Brits would throw up their hands in horror – but in the US? I honestly don’t know if drug is an acceptable past tense form of drag.

If it’s speech, then I leave it well alone. Characters can talk exactly as they want to – unless I stumble across someone suddenly saying ‘I did not want to…’ or ‘I shall not do…’ when they would normally contract their speech.

Then we have; ‘The teenagers hung around the park most of the day, but one by one they began to slope off home.’

‘Would American readers understand that term? Is it too British? Should it be international-ised?’

It’s been pointed out to me that I use a lot of British English. Yes, that’s probably true, but short of avoiding all words that end in ‘-ised’ or changing them to ‘-ized’ and cutting out the letter ‘u’ from words ending with ‘-our’, I’m not sure of the best way around that issue. I am (mostly) English, my story is set in York, my main characters are (for the most part) English and at no point do they leave the country. If I was to convert my MS to American English, I would then be turning my back on the very ‘Britishness’ of my story. It’s a no win, no win situation.

I find myself thoroughly quandried, plus I feel a growing respect for editors who must straddle these intenational conundrua.

On the receiving end;

The edited MS arrives as an attachment – I download it and crack it open, wondering how much red I will see.  The first comment pops up, and I instantly feel (in turn and within the space of a few seconds) the following;

Irritation

Annoyance

Anger

Resignation

Acceptance

Determination

Purpose

Is it just me? Am I unique in that I see red because someone has dared to question my writing? I mean – how dare they?

Oh, they’re editing it for me. Fair enough.

The ire quickly fades as my Muse nods sagely and persuades me (diplomatically) that the editor could well be right and that perhaps a small change would benefit the MS.  So I sigh, I change it, I move on to the next comment.

It’s a hard thing, to accept the critique of another. If you’ve a thin skin, it feels as if someone is simply telling you; ‘No, you’re done that wrong.’ If you’re thicker skinned – and writers need to be – then it should be seen as ‘fine tuning’, as necessary as – for example – a haircut. The hairdresser may not actually hate your hair, but they still need to take off a little bit here and tidy it up there. It’s not personal.

But it can sure feel like it. >.<

Just think of it as the next little step towards presenting your best possible work to the world. Grit your teeth, thicken your skin, go get that haircut and let it happen.

So easy to say…so tricky to accept.

:D

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