Monday, June 7, 2021

SETTING THE SCENE

 

Setting is an essential element component in fiction writing, whether a novel or a short story. It’s generally indicated early in a novel or short story and usually developed through narrative description, but there are other means as well.  The details of setting help to make the reader accept the reality of the work.

Here are some suggestions for creating a viable setting:

One: Choose a place you know something about. Maybe you’ve lived there. Maybe you only visited.  But it helps if the writer has some sort of association because the place must have an aura of reality to be believable. My Kim Reynolds mysteries are set in Central New Jersey because that’s where I lived for most of my life. The township in BLOOD FAMILY, for example, is based closely on the one I actually lived in.

https://encirclepub.com/product/bloodfamily/

Two: If you are using an historical setting, make certain to do considerable research so that your background descriptions are historically accurate. Consider: how did people dress? How did they travel? What did they eat? What were the social, religious and political conventions and ideas of the period? How did people talk? Conversation and vocabulary differ in different time periods.  Also, check timelines to make certain you don’t have important events occurring in a wrong year.

My published historical romance novels were carefully researched.  For example, HIGHLAND HEART is set in Georgian England and Scotland at the time of the uprising in the Highlands in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

https://luminositypublishing.com/book/highland-heart/

SINFUL SEDUCTION is set during the American Revolution in New Jersey. Since I am a life-long NJ resident, I find this time period fascinating and enjoyed doing the research—NJ was described as the cockpit of the Revolution because so many battles were fought here.

https://luminositypublishing.com/book/sinful-seduction/

 I read fiction and nonfiction written in the time periods as well as numerous historical accounts before I began to write the novels. This was something I enjoyed doing since I have degrees in English and history and taught English at both the high school and university levels.

 Three: Choose place names that fit the times. Place names are constantly changing. Decide whether or not you should use real place names or imaginary ones. In DEATH PROMISE, real places were used and described.  Manhattan and Las Vegas are prominently featured, as are actual streets and landmarks, appropriate in this case to lend authenticity to a mystery suspense thriller.

     http://encirclepub.com/product/death-promise/

Four: Consider the weather or climate as a component in setting. For example, winter weather works well for a murder mystery novel. Snow and winter can be used to symbolize death. In my novella THE BURNING, environmental concerns nearly destroy the lives of the family members who are the main characters. The setting is a key, essential element of the plot.

http://annorlundaenterprises.com/books/the-burning/

Weather helps to create tone, mood and atmosphere. For instance, a paranormal novel might be dark and foreboding. Thunder and lightening can create tension. Poe is a great one to study in this regard.

Five: Sense impressions are important in the narrative description of the setting. You need them to create a sense of reality. As they say, the devil is in the details. But balance is needed as well. Writers can overload their writing with too much detail or info dumping. Even some famous authors are guilty of that. Setting details may also be part of characterization, existing in dialogue, action and a character’s thoughts.

 What suggestions would you make in regard to the creation of setting?

Your thoughts and opinions welcome here.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Review for A Heartbeat and a Guitar Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears: by Antonino D’Ambrosio



Getting a new computer is daunting but my old reliable XP was no longer supported. So for months during the pandemic I could not blog. But being my husband’s caregiver has left me little time for writing anyway. 

This is my first effort at posting a blog using my new computer. Rather than talk about my current novels and short fiction, I decided to post a review of a book my older son gave me for Mother’s Day. He chose it especially for me and it therefore has real meaning.

 

Review for A Heartbeat and a Guitar Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears: by Antonino D’Ambrosio

 

This well-researched book follows the little-known making of an album that shows sympathy and connection with the plight of Native Americans or as they prefer to be called: Native people. Cash did several free concerts on reservations for them after his famous Folsom Prison concert. His sympathy and concern were genuine.

Those of us who have had the honor of seeing Johnny Cash, June Carter, and their children in concert know what an amazing experience it was. I personally will never forget the performance I saw in Atlantic City not long before his passing.

The author ends his book with a touching quote. He evokes Anatole France’s eulogy of novelist Emile Zola in comparison to Johnny Cash:

“Let us envy him: he has honored his country and the world with an immense body of work and a noble act…”

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Guest Author

Today Pamela Thibodeaux presents her latest novel which has special meaning for her. Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” You can sign up to receive Pam’s newsletter and get a FREE short story!


Title: My Heart Weeps
Blurb: After thirty years married to the man of her dreams, Melena Rhyker is devastated by her husband's death. Relief comes in the form of an artist's retreat at the Crossed Penn ranch in Utopia, TX. She rediscovers a forgotten dream as her artistic talent flourishes into that of a gallery-worthy artist. Will she have the courage to follow the path she was destined to travel?

Garrett Saunders has been on the run most of his life. Abused and abandoned as a child, he escapes the clutches of a past filled with pain and shame, and hides from his calling as a Native American healer. His years as a CIA agent aid in overcoming his childhood and honing his talent and skill as a fine art photographer. 

Follow their journey as two people who come from totally different backgrounds, but share gifts of gigantic proportions, find meaning and purpose in the Texas Hill Country.

Excerpt: With the energy of a wet noodle, she eased out of the sauna, rinsed the sweat off her skin, and tied the sarong around her waist. She tossed the damp towel over her shoulders, put on her sandals and headed to her room to shower and change. Fresh fruit and pastries left over from breakfast lay spread out at the buffet like a feast for the famished. Melena filled a plate and had taken two steps toward the stairs when Anne Penn entered the room flanked by a handsome hunk of man Melena hadn’t seen before.
“Hi, Melena. I’d like you to meet Garrett, our new part-time wrangler, part-time maintenance man.”
Eyes the color of Texas bluebonnets swept over her in a gaze as potent as a caress, then locked with hers. A dimple danced in the cowboy’s cheek when he tipped his hat and grinned.
“Ma’am,” he drawled.
Melena tugged the ends of her towel together and down over her skimpily clad bosom, muttered a quick hello, and escaped. Racing up the stairs as fast as possible on legs that wobbled, she entered her room, all but dropped the plate on her nightstand, and sat down onto the bed.
Never had she felt the pure sexual punch of such raw masculinity in a single look.
MY REVIEW of this novel:
Melena Rhyker has just lost her husband Jonathan to a blood infection and is overcome with grief. Even her children, grandchildren and religion cannot console her. She falls into a deep depression, even quitting her job.
Five months later, she receives a grant for a residency at an artist’s retreat in Texas. She puts her faith in God and accepts. Melena has never been away from home before. However, the experience proves to be a positive one. When offered a job at the ranch, she accepts and continues to pursue her art.
Two cowboys show a romantic interest in her, but Melena feels guilty, as if she would be disloyal to the memory of her husband. Garrett emerges as a well-developed character. A fellow artist, cowboy, former DEA and CIA agent, Garrett has a troubled past of family tragedy that he needs to work through with the advice and help of his Native American grandfather. Garrett helps Melena overcome sleepwalking and supports her through his friendship.
Partly based on the author’s own personal experience of losing her husband, My Heart Weeps is a touching story of overcoming grief. It appeals to all human beings who must come to terms with the death of a loved one. This novel offers a positive, uplifting experience.
Jacqueline Seewald
My Heart Weeps is on sale for a limited time @ 99cents and FREE on Kindle Unlimited!
Links:


Twitter: http://twitter.com/psthib @psthib
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1jUVcdU

Pam is giving away 1 Ebook, 1 Autographed Print Book, 1 Audio Book, a $15 Amazon Gift Card, a 1-month Audible membership and a SURPRISE Giftpack to 6 lucky people! (1 prize per winner) Names will be collected throughout the tour which ends Sept. 30th. Winners will be notified, and prizes awarded by October 10th so be sure to leave your EMAIL Address!

Blog Tour Dates/Stops:
8/11 Gail Pallotta’s Peering Through Life’s Window
8/13 Liz Flaherty’ Word Wranglers Blog
8/15 Clare Revell’s The Word Can Wait Blog
8/18 Southern Writers Suite T Blog
8/18 Alina K Field’s Simply Romance Blog
8/20 Penelope Marzec’s Bookish Thoughts Blog
8/25 Jana Richards’ Romance Story Board Blog
8/27 Beverly Bateman’s BLOG
9/1 Valarie Goree’s Facebook Page
9/5 D. V. Stone’s Campfire Blog
9/9 Jacqueline Seewald’s BLOG
9/11 Linda Rondeau’s Snark & Sensibility Blog
9/14 Patricia Kioyno’s Four Foxes, One Hound Blog
9/18 Diane Burton’s BLOG
9/22 Alicia Dean’s BLOG
9/25 Jeny Hickman’s BLOG
9/30 Linda Nightingale’s Author…Musings Blog


Friday, August 28, 2020

Point of View: Who’s Telling the Story?

More to the point: Who should be telling the story? I often see the comment from agents that they are looking for writers who have a “unique voice”. Therefore, simply develop an original voice. Right? But what exactly does that entail? First, decide who is telling the story. The point of view of the main character or characters has everything to do with voice. It’s not your personal voice but that of the character in your story.

For instance, this is one of the most important things in writing a successful young adult novel. It does not mean that you must write only from a first person point of view. However, teenage readers often respond well to a first person narrative. But voice has to do with choice of vocabulary and style as well. My YA novels, STACY’S SONG, THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, and WITCH WISH are written in the first person from the main character’s point of view. Stacy has a sharp sense of humor as does Val while Danna is sensitive and artistic. These things influence how they tell their stories. Tip: It often helps to read your writing out loud.

With traditional romance, there are generally two viewpoints that move from female to male, usually written in the third person. They need to be distinctive from each other even in third person POV. I think it’s important for the hero or male protagonist to be represented in viewpoint. In HIGHLAND HEART, now in pre-release from Luminosity, the POV is weighted toward the heroine who is the key character, but the hero’s viewpoint is presented about forty percent of the time. In SINFUL SEDUCTION the viewpoints are equally weighted.

 Mystery varies more. Often these days, the first person viewpoint is the unreliable narrator who may not be telling the truth for a variety of reasons. It sets the reader up for the surprise or twist ending. Most common is the third person narration. This has the advantage of varying point of view with ease. But multiple viewpoints have one important disadvantage: they may cause the story to lose focus if mishandled. I prefer to write my mystery stories and novels from the third person viewpoint. In BLOOD FAMILY, my latest Kim Reynolds mystery, most of the novel is seen from Kim’s viewpoint since she is the central character/sleuth.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1645990435

With short stories, it’s best to set the point of view with just the main character. Have a clear focus as Poe recommended. Decide in advance who that key character will be and then present from that viewpoint.

Sometimes authors have multiple first person POV while others will use multiple third person. But changing viewpoints too often can confuse readers causing them to reject the work. Readers need to respond with a sense of connection to at least one character. So that character must seem real and matter to the reader on some level. When the POV of a key character resonates with the reader what happens to that character is something the reader wants and needs to know.

In the 19th century, omniscient narration was popular. The all-knowing third person narrator informed the reader. Occasionally, writers will still use second person narration as well, addressing the reader directly using “you” and “your”. We don’t see much of either one of these in modern fiction writing. However, an article in THE THE WRITER newsletter observes a “reason writers might strive for second-person point of view: They’re looking for immediacy. One example that springs readily to mind is, of course, the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of YA/middle-grade books.”

Cross genre novels can be tricky. My novel DEATH PROMISE is a romantic suspense mystery thriller. The novel is mainly presented from the POV of the two main characters who balance each other. Did I manage it effectively? If you read the novel, let me know what you think. I’d love input and feedback.


As observed, in regard to short story fiction, editors tend to prefer one POV. Multiple viewpoints don’t work well because of limited length. The short story works best with a single focus.

With multiple POV the readers see and hear things from the unique perspective of the various characters in a story or novel. That is why you always have to consider the different style and vocabulary each narrator presents if you want to create the semblance of reality, verisimilitude, in your work.

Your thoughts and comments, as always, welcome here.



Friday, August 14, 2020

Fun with Secondary Characters

My guest blogger this week is award-winning author Leslie Wheeler who writes the Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries which began with Murder at Plimoth Plantation, recently re-released for the first time as a trade paperback, and the Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries, which began with Rattlesnake Hill and continues with Shuntoll Road. Like me, Leslie is currently published for mystery fiction by Encircle. 
Secondary characters can be fun to write and fun to read about, because they don’t bear the burdens of the main characters who not only have to solve crimes, but are often struggling with personal issues. Two secondary characters that I enjoyed creating and that early readers of my new mystery, Shuntoll Road, appear to have enjoyed also are Maxine Kepler and Grandma Waite, aka “Crazy Scarlett.”

Maxine Kepler is loud in voice and dress. She’s described as rarely speaking below a shout and favoring bright colored clothing—attributes that, as a short person among taller people, she uses to call attention to herself. Also, as a single woman in her forties, she is engaged in a perpetual search for “Mr. Right,” whether he happens to be a someone else’s boyfriend or not. And she never misses an opportunity to flirt with a man she considers attractive, even in the midst of an emergency phone call.
Grandma Waite, aka “Crazy Scarlett,” is far from being your typical warm, fuzzy granny, as her nickname suggests, though she is fiercely protective of her great-granddaughter and namesake, Scarlett. A beauty in her youth, she dresses all in black and her Shirley-Temple-style curls are dyed jet black. Regarded as a witch by many in town, she spies on her grandson and his family who live across the street, interrogates their visitors, and makes frequent, ominous pronouncements about trouble to come. She is definitely not a person you want to mess with, as another character discovers when she descends on him “like an angry crow,” shrieking at him to leave immediately. When he refuses, she pounds on the cab of his truck with her umbrella until he finally does and ends up driving smack into a huge pothole.
Both Grandma Waite and Maxine Kepler provide some of the more amusing moments in the book. Still, as characters in a mystery novel, where everything needs to advance the story, each also serves a serious purpose.
Maxine is a long-time friend of Gwen Waite, who next to Kathryn is the most important character in the novel. A fellow New Yorker, Maxine is a link between Gwen and her past life, a past that included another friend, Niall Corrigan, who, as a successful real estate developer, has come to the Berkshires ostensibly to build an upscale development but with a hidden agenda. Both Maxine and Niall are privy to the secret event that caused Gwen to leave the city. And when drama queen Maxine persists in putting air quotes around Gwen’s “accident” that left her in a coma years ago, Kathryn begins to suspect it wasn’t a bad car accident, as Gwen claims.
Maxine also serves as an intermediary between Niall and Gwen in his efforts to have a romantic relationship with Gwen, who isn’t as happily married as she’d like people to believe. Determined to find a partner for herself, Maxine has set her cap for Earl Barker, Kathryn’s boyfriend, and pressures Kathryn, who has returned to the Berkshires with the goal of seeing if she and Earl can rebuild their all-but-shattered relationship, to make up her mind, “because if you don’t grab him, someone else (Maxine herself) will.”
As for Grandma Waite, she gave me the opportunity to weave in a colorful bit of my fictional town New Nottingham’s history (stolen from the history of the real-life Berkshire town where I have a house) in that she’s rumored to be a descendant of a notorious madam who ran a brothel in the tiny hamlet of Gomorrah that was once part of New Nottingham. More importantly, Grandma Waite’s uncanny ability to recognize evil in other people is crucial to the climax. But to say more would be to risk giving away the ending.
Buy Links:


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E-books
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Apple

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Readers: Do you use secondary characters to provide humor even if they serve a serious purpose? If so, please share.


Friday, August 7, 2020

Reader Reviews: Do They Matter?

As a reader you might think that your opinion of a book or short story you’ve read doesn’t matter, but you’d be wrong. Not only does your opinion matter to the author but it matters to other potential readers as well. Writers who can’t build a readership because they remain unknown are likely to become discouraged and stop writing. So if you do respect and/or enjoy a book or short story, voice your opinion. Give that writer some encouragement and publicity. Amazon is one place to do it and so are Goodreads and Library Thing. But there are many other sites as well. 

 For those authors who are published in print, major editorial reviews only matter as much as they do because the reviews offered in such publications as: The New York Times Book Review, Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus etc. are what acquisitions librarians consider when they place their orders. Librarians are often referred to as gatekeepers, but this is not quite true. For the most part, just a few publications control what books will be purchased worldwide. But these review pubs merely voice the opinion of single reviewers, and these reviewers don’t know more than the average person in regard to what should be available to readers. If a book gets a rave or starred review from these all important publications, then in essence that is what readers will find available in libraries and bookstores. 

 Unfortunately, a great many fine, quality books will be ignored and get no reviews or publicity because they aren’t offered by the big publishers who heavily advertise. It appears that the major review publications give special preference to the publishers who advertise with them—not at all surprising. Readers should check out some of the internet review sites for buying recommendations. Also, why not request that your library order books from smaller, independent publishers that you think might be a good read. 

 The internet is now offering readers real alternatives. This is wonderfully democratic. A great many small independent publishers are making a variety of books available to readers. If you read a book you like, speak up and be a reader reviewer. Tell other readers why you would recommend a particular book. Write and be counted! Your opinion matters! But one caution: take this is a serious responsibility. Of late, it has been noted that some individuals bash books, sometimes books they haven’t even bothered to read. This is highly destructive, much in the way that hackers attack the internet. So be a responsible reader reviewer and help others make good choices.

I personally review many of the books I read on Goodreads. Here is a sample.This is an excerpt from my review for Pamela S. Thibodeaux’s soon to be released novel MY HEART WEEPS:

 “Partly based on the author’s own personal experience of losing her husband, My Heart Weeps is a touching story of overcoming grief. It appeals to all human beings who must come to terms with the death of a loved one. This novel offers a positive, uplifting experience.” 

Your thoughts and comments most welcome.

Friday, July 31, 2020

What Themes Attract Readers?

Whether authors of fiction write short stories, plays or novels, theme is an essential component, just like characterization, plot and setting. A theme, which is a universal idea or message that stretches throughout a work, often is sociological or cultural in nature.

Some themes reoccur because they have strong appeal for readers. For instance, I recently finished reading a thriller in which the theme was conspiracy theory, popular in the suspense genre. Fiction writers often pull their themes from nonfiction and then write faction. Readers are attracted to such themes because they can easily identify and connect to them. Dan Brown and Brad Meltzer are two popular suspense writers who have successfully done this. Shakespeare often used politics as an underlying theme in his plays whether contemporary or historical.

Good fiction writing needs a cohesive theme to hold the work together. The lesson is generally about life or humanity and is preferably implied rather than stated outright. The show-not-tell rule works well with theme.

However, there may be more than one theme, especially in a novel. One way to convey theme is through recurring use of symbolism. Hawthorne and Hemingway were both particularly talented in that regard.

Romances concentrate on the theme of finding love everlasting. But even with romance fiction there are often secondary themes. Two of my historical romance novels for Luminosity, SINFUL SEDUCTION and soon to be released HIGHLAND HEART, are connected with themes of war and politics.


In HIGHLAND HEART, jealousy is an important theme motivating the protagonists. The reference to OTHELLO is deliberate.


 Mysteries, in turn, are about finding solutions and discovering the truth about puzzling situations such as solving murders and imposing order where there was chaos. These are themes that attract mystery readers and what they expect.  My latest Kim Reynolds mystery BLOOD FAMILY is concerned with such matters.


There are often socially significant secondary themes in crime fiction. Kim, for instance, begins a quest to discover the paternity of her father. This involves her in a complex mystery. The desire to uncover true identities is another reoccurring theme in mystery fiction.

What themes interest you as a reader or a writer? What themes appear to be especially significant?