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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Poison Study T shirts!

Numerous times over the last nine years, my readers have asked me about T-shirts for my books and characters.  I never really had a way to do it without it involving a ton of time and money and then there was always a chance I'd be stuck with left over merchandise.  However, I recently discovered Teespring and it does all the work of keeping track of orders, printing the shirts, and shipping and all I had to do was find a design and set up a campaign.

So...I asked my Facebook friends what their favorite book quotes from my books was and then asked them if there was any interest in T-shirts.  The response was positive, and the most popular quote was, "Sieges Weathered, Fight Together, Friends Forever."

So...The Sieges Weathered, Fight Together, Friends Forever T-Shirts are NOW AVAILABLE!! Thanks so much to my reader/friend Daniel M for the design based on my descriptions. There are color, size, and long sleeve options. I couldn't make black shirts as the color of the graphic is black.

Teespring must have at least 50 shirts ordered for them to print (no problem if we go over that amount!).  You have until October 9th to order. International shipping is available AND a portion of the proceeds will go to the National Children's Cancer Society.


Here's the link to order:  http://teespring.com/poisonstudytee 

All shirts are $15 plus shipping - international shipping is more than the US and Canada.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Destined for Doon - Author Interview + Give Away!

Here's another author interview - except I should say authorS as I'm thrilled to have both Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp as my guests today!  They co-wrote both DOON and DESTINED FOR DOON, which was released on September 2nd.  I LOVED both books - they have mystery, romance, history, and suspense elements with very likable characters - all my favorites. Plus hot guys in kilts! Below is the interview, plus pictures of their desks - see Carey's for a fun I Spy challenge!

DESTINED FOR DOON is the second in a series that will span 4 books.  The authors are giving away a signed copy of DOON for a lucky commenter on this blog - please include your email address, so I can contact you.  This give away is open for US only.

Here's the cover copy: Mackenna Reid realizes she made a horrible mistake in choosing to follow her dreams of Broadway instead of staying in the enchanted land of Doon. To make everything worse, she's received her Calling—proof she and Duncan are each other's one true love—and it's pure torment, especially when visions of the very alluring Scottish prince appear right before she goes on stage. So when Duncan tells her an ancient curse threatens to overtake Doon and the new queen and Kenna’s best friend, Veronica, needs her to return, Kenna doesn't have to think twice. With darkness closing in on all sides, Kenna and Vee must battle a world of nightmares in order to protect the kingdom. But it will take the ultimate test of courage for Kenna to salvage her happily ever after.

Take 10 with Carey and Lorie:

1.) This is my first time interviewing co-authors and I’m really curious about how you two met and then decided to write a series of books together?

Lorie: We met at a local writers meeting and became friends almost instantly! We’d just finished editing our respective solo projects and were discussing what we each wanted to write next, when I mentioned my idea of doing a retelling of Brigadoon. Coincidentally, Carey had just completed her second young adult novel, so I was picking her brain on voice and technique when somewhere along the way our conversation took a detour. Our ideas for the mythical kingdom of Doon sparked an explosion of evil witches, magic spells, daring adventures, two unique best friends, and heroic princes in kilts … soon it became clear that this story was bigger than the both of us, but that together we could make it amazing. So we jumped in with both feet and DOON was born!

2) Who came up with the idea to write a YA series based on the musical Brigadoon? What was it about that musical that inspired you?

Lorie: As I mentioned above, that would be me. J When I was sixteen I saw the musical Brigadoon and fell in love with the romantic tale of the village that only appears to the modern world once every one hundred years. But one thing always bothered me about the original – during the hundred years that the portal to the kingdom is closed, the people in Brigadoon sleep. Really? They sleep! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do with that hundred years…

3) How does your partnership work? Both books have chapters from Mackenna’s and Veronica’s POV. Do you each take a character?

Carey: We divide the writing by character. I write Mackenna and Lorie writes Veronica. And we both research, create the overall plot and work to polish the final document. Splitting responsibilities such as blogging, promotions, and social networking is a great blessing. The biggest advantage is that you have someone who is equally invested. Someone you can call at midnight with a brilliant plot idea, who won’t curse you out and block your phone number.

4.) What do you find most interesting about Veronica and Mackenna?

Lorie: One of the most interesting things about Veronica and Mackenna is how their friendship works when they are such polar opposites. But much like Carey and myself, they balance each other out in a way that makes them an unshakable team.

5.) Did you have to do any special research for this book? Did you travel to Scotland? I especially enjoyed Mackenna’s theater references during stressful times. Did you watch musicals and plays until you couldn’t stand them any longer? :)

Carey: I am a total Broadway nerd! I’m always watching some performance snippet on youtube. It’s my rabbit hole. I listen to Sirius On Broadway radio and see tons of shows, about 2-3 a month. Since Kenna’s and my musical theatre tastes differ somewhat, I’m always looking to expand my knowledge with new works and revisit classic shows. Lorie and I have not travelled to Scotland, yet, but I draw from the time I spent time in Northern England and Italy.

6.) What else do you enjoy doing besides writing? Interests? Hobbies??

Lorie: Of course, I love to read. No matter how busy I am, reading is still my escape. I’m married with two sons who are active in sports and band, so when we’re not at sporting events, we love to see movies together as a family.

Carey: I don’t have time for a whole lot else. My daughter is a budding theatre nerd, so we see shows together. I also read – as much as I can. And I love taking my giant puppy to the dog park. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen the pictures. LOL!

7.) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you by surprise?

Lorie: Mine was a long journey with lots of detours. I grew up obsessed with reading fiction and had a teacher in high school who encouraged me to purse writing as a career, so I majored in Journalism in college. But because of some well-meaning guidance from a professor—“you have too much talent to waste it writing stories about old ladies with cats for minimum wage”—I changed my major to Sociology with an emphasis in Human Resources.

For many years I made good money working in large corporations, but the work of hiring and firing was slowly killing my soul. So when I was in my early 30s, I began to search for a larger purpose for my life. It may sound cliché, but it’s entirely true, that my first novel came it me in a dream. (That novel is a time-travel set during the American Revolution. It has yet to be published, but I’m currently re-working it for the YA market. :)

Carey: When I invested my summer after sixth grade writing 100 pages of bad soap opera fashioned after Santa Barbara, I should have figured out that writing was my passion. But sadly, it would take another decade and a half to discover my destined path. In my late 20s, I had a dream inspired by the live-action Peter Pan movie from 2003 directed by P.J. Hogan. The next day I wrote the first chapter of Shades of Neverland and I was hooked.

8.) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

Lorie: I wake up, get my coffee and start writing. I’m most productive in the morning. I typically have a word goal for the week. So, for example, if I know I need to write 5000 words that week, then my daily goal is 1000 words a day. But there are days when life intervenes or the words just aren’t coming and I only hit half my goal. I don’t sweat it. I just know I’ll need to increase my word count the next few days to make up for it. 

Carey: I’m up and at my computer at 5:00 am.[ugh - that's when I'm just going to bed!] I try to stay off social networking sites for the first couple hours and just write. I don’t get hung up by inspiration or writer’s block. Even bad words can be the origin of something good. Rather than word goals, I tend to focus on chapter goals. If I’m really struggling, I’ll start framing my chapter. For example:

Kenna
Chapter 6
(Brilliant opening paragraph)
K, bouncing on bed: “I want a cat.”
V: “No. You’re allergic.” Looks out window. “Look. The hills are on fire.”
K crosses to window, has memory of house fire. “Those are bonfires, silly.”
(Brilliant transition - Duncan enters – he explains why there are bonfires on the hills)

You get the idea. On the next pass I rework into prose.

9.) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite?

Lorie: I just commandeered our dining room and converted it into my office. I have a reading corner and all of my favorite books around me. I love it.

Lorie's desk

Carey: I used to have an office upstairs, but my leaving my kids, the puppy, and the kitten unsupervised leads to wild rumpus, so now I write in a corner of the living room.


Carey’s Writing Space note: I can’t believe that I’m showing you my wreck of a writing space. But I thought that the authors who exist—and thrive—in chaos might appreciate the validation. I like to think of it like an I Spy picture book. I spy … five Doon Lego figures, a playbill from the my most recent Broadway series musical, a stuffed Kenna doll, wind chimes, a Doon coffee mug, a kalimba made from recyclables, one Scottish nutcracker, a Campbell County Public Library CONNECTIONS newsletter, a carriage fit for a princess, a Darth Vader Lego pen, the fantasy castle that inspired the Castle MacCrae, a KEEP CALM AND CROSS THE BRIDGE button, and a baggie of clothing buttons. (Bonus points for finding the owl, sheep, spotted inchworm, beanie frog, and monkey.)
[NOTE: Can you find all those things Carey mentions? How about something she doesn't? Click on the picture to make it bigger! Let me know in your comment]

10.) What are you writing now? What's coming out next in the Doon Series? And when is book 3 due out – I must know!

Lorie & Carey: We’re working on DOON, book 3 and it’s going to be fabulous! In the third book, we’ll be revisiting some characters and settings from the first book. We’ll check in on Bainbridge, Indiana and maybe even get a glimpse of Vee’s father. Then we have a short break before we start on book 4. By this 2015 we might be able to talk about what comes after. :)

Links:
Website:  http://www.DoonSeries.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DoonSeries
Amazon: Destined for Doon

Monday, September 1, 2014

SHADOW STUDY COVER!

Here it is!  The cover for SHADOW STUDY which will be on sale on February 24, 2015!  For those who are unaware, this is a new Study series book featuring Yelena and Valek, with chapters from both their POVs!

Two Chicks on Books Blog is hosting a give away of a signed early copy of SHADOW STUDY.  I get my author copies anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks before the pub date so if you win you'll get the book mid-January to early February.  Yes - it's open to ALL, including international :).

Click Here to enter the give away: http://www.twochicksonbooks.com/2014/09/exclusive-cover-reveal-shadow-study-by.html

FRONT COVER

 
 
BACK COVER
 
 
 
What do you think?  I LOVE the colors!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Wickedly Dangerous - Author Interview + Giveaway!

Today it's my pleasure to have author Deborah Blake as my guest today.  Her novel, WICKEDLY DANGEROUS will be released on September 2, 2014 and I can tell you that it's truly Wickedly Wonderful!  I had the pleasure of reading it a few months ago to provide a quote for her book.  This is the quote I provided: Baba Yaga is smart, confident, and pragmatic--all the qualities I love in one character! Be prepared to stay up well past your bedtime.

Below is a Q&A with Deborah, who is a wonderful lady as well as talented (that's important to me - I never promote authors who are mean or obnoxious).  She has also offered to give away one signed copy of WICKEDLY DANGEROUS to a random commenter on my blog.  The contest is open to international readers and please include an email so I can contact you!

Cover Copy: Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…


Take 10 with Deborah:

1.) Where did you get the idea for WICKEDLY DANGEROUS?

My agent Elaine Spencer and I were chatting one day about what I should write next. We both agreed that we liked my books that had witch protagonists and we both liked updated retold fairy tales. But that left me with this question: what fairy tales haven’t been overdone, and also involve a witch? I thought of Baba Yaga, who wasn’t as well known as Snow White or Beauty and the Beast, and when I did some research, much of what I found actually led to the story. The fracking that is part of the storyline came about because we’re having huge fights about it here where I live in upstate NY.

2.) The story is wickedly fun to read. How hard was it to integrate all those wonderful mythical characters, humor, and still have the main protagonists dealing with finding missing children?

It was a little bit of a balancing act to have the magical world and the humor, plus some grim reality—but that was part of what made it fun to write. I have always had some humor in my writer’s voice, and in this story, I think it helped to keep things from getting too grim. I actually enjoyed having the magical elements side-by-side with the regular mundane world. After all, you never know what’s out there, do you?

3.) What do you like most about Barbara Yager (a.k.a. Baba Yaga)?

(Laughs.) Honestly, I love her bad attitude. She’s kind of crabby sometimes, and doesn’t much like people, although she has a good heart underneath. And I like how she is surprised when love finally sneaks up on her. And, of course, her relationship with Chudo-Yudo, the dragon-disguised-as-a-giant-white-pitbull she lives with. That was a hoot to write.

4.) Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?

Oh boy. How long do you have? There are so many authors who inspire me, and some in particular who inspired this book. (Tanya Huff has a fabulous series about the Gale family that has magic hidden in plain sight, and I reread everything Patricia McKillip ever wrote because she has such an incredible way of painting fantastical pictures with words.) As I’ve probably mentioned before, when I read Poison Study, I was so impressed I was beside myself. [Awww, thanks :)] Other people who have had a big influence on my writing: Jennifer Crusie (her use of humor and quirky characters is the best ever), Mindy Klasky, Lisa Shearin, Jim C. Hines, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Carol Berg—I could go on and on. Different authors have inspired me at different times (and you can see there is a wide range of writing styles and even genres here), but what they all have in common is the ability to tell a completely original story with compelling and likable characters, and tell it well.

5.) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you learn that you didn't know before?

I did. I knew the very basics of the Baba Yaga tales (my family is of Russian Jewish origin, and it is possible my grandfather introduced me to the character, although I also remember reading about her in fairy tale books, which I devoured by the dozens), but not much beyond that. And everything I learned worked so well with the story, it amazed me! To begin with, there were often references to the Baba’s sisters, so it made it easy to create a series with different Baba Yaga characters in each one. I discovered that she was associated with a dragon named Chudo-Yudo who guarded the Water of Life and Death, and three mysterious Riders, and that if you start delving into the Russian culture, there was abundant evidence of her as not just a witch but also a demi-goddess or goddess of the elements. She was said to guard the doorway between our world and the Otherworld. All very fun stuff to work into a story. Of course, I also did some more research on fracking, and found out it was even worse than I thought…

6.) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you by surprise?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, really (I think I got serious in 6th grade) and always wanted to be a writer. But I was also timid and insecure, so when I sent out a batch of short stories in my teens and 20’s and got rejections, I just gave up for a long time. Fast forward to about 10 years ago, and I suddenly got an idea for a nonfiction book (on witchcraft, since I am a practicing witch/Wiccan). I sent off a proposal to Llewellyn Worldwide, they bought the book, and I wrote a bunch more for them. But once I’d finished that first book, I said to myself, “See—you CAN finish a whole book! No more excuses!” and began to work on my first novel. My third novel got me my agent, and we sent out three more before I finally sold this one. But here I am, with two novels and a prequel novella coming out this year. There is something to be said for being too stubborn to know when to give up. (My first novel got lots of great feedback from agents and 67 rejections. Clearly I’ve toughened up from when I was younger.)

7.) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

I try to write every day, although I probably realistically manage about 5-6 days a week. (For instance, tonight I’m writing this and a post for my own blog instead.) Since I have a day job, I usually write in the evenings, from about 6:30 or 7pm until around 10pm. On weekends I often do two stints if I am mid-book. I start with some plotting and character development before I ever begin the actual writing. I usually have a loose outline, although how in depth it is differs from book to book. It definitely goes faster when I have one. I often write a scene in my head before it makes it onto the page—either while I am supposedly napping/resting, or while I am taking a walk. When I sit down to write, I start by rereading and editing the previous day’s work. That serves two purposes: it makes the job of editing the finished manuscript much easier later on, and it also gets me back in the zone of the story, so that by the time I’m done with the 3-8 pages from the previous stint, the next bit of the story is usually ready to ooze out my fingers and onto the keyboard. [I do the same thing!] Because of this, my first draft is unusually tight and clean, which makes my editor happy.

8.) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite?

I have a great office in my dining room where I do all the business end of writing, and most of my emailing, and have my white boards and organize everything. But most of my actual writing is done in the living room, where I have a red recliner that is easier on my back and my arms than sitting upright at a desk (and where a cat can sit on the end, draped over my feet, instead of trying to squeeze between onto my lap in front of the laptop). I’m not one of those people who can write out in public at a coffee house—I need peace and quiet. I don’t even play music.

9.) What else do you enjoy doing besides writing? Interests? Hobbies?

I run an artists’ cooperative shop and make gemstone jewelry that I sell there. (I spent 25 years doing a lot of jewelry making, but the writing has gradually taken over most of the time I used to use for that.) I have a very large garden, and spend time out there, especially at this time of the year. It is good therapy after a long day of trying to herd artists. And I lead a group of witchy types called Blue Moon Circle, and we often meet a couple of times a month. There is also my Scrabble addiction, and the five cats. And I live in a 120 year old farmhouse that I’m always having to fix something on. I’m not sure if you can call that a hobby or not!

10.) What are you writing now? What's coming out next?

The next thing out is the second in the Baba Yaga series, WICKEDLY WONDERFUL, which is out in December. Right now I’m working on something that is a complete change of pace: a humorous contemporary romance, with nary a witch in sight. So far all my first readers are loving it, so that’s encouraging, and I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

LINKS:
Website: http://deborahblake.author.com/
Blog: http://deborahblake.blogspot.com
Penguin Books:
http://www.penguin.com/book/wickedly-dangerous-by-deborah-blake/9780425272923
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0425272923/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0425272923&linkCode=am2&tag=pgus-20
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wickedly-dangerous-deborah-blake/1118662987?cm_mmc=affiliates-_-linkshare-_-ev0de4uoclu-_-10%3a1&ean=9780425272923&isbn=9780425272923&r=1

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Blog Hopping!

I've been invited to be a part of a blog hop and thought it sounded like fun.  I'd like to thank Aoife Marie Sheridan for inviting me to participate.  You can see her post here:
http://aoifesheri.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/blog-hop-eden-forest-july-the-28th-to-the-2nd-of-august/

Next up is the answer to the following four questions:

1) What am I working on?

Answer: NIGHT STUDY - Book 5 of the Study series, which continues Yelena and Valek's adventures after SHADOW STUDY - Book 4 of the Study series, which is due out March 2015! Next up will be Book 6, which doesn't have a title or plot yet.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Answer: When I'm writing, I focus on the characters.  Plot, action, twists, deceptions all stem from what motivates my characters and how they interact with each other.  And from the overwhelming response from my readers, I think I create characters that they care about and wish to invite over for dinner. :)  I also blend fantasy/SF elements with a bit of romance and a touch of mystery/suspense, which generates an "unputdownable" read. ("Unputdownable" is a direct quote from a number of my readers who have emailed me at three a.m.)

3) Why do I write what I do?

Answer: As I said in answer #2 - I focus on my characters.  And I love putting my characters through the ringer and seeing how they react. I find that fantasy and science fiction lets me play a little more with my characters.  It gives me the freedom to invent truly unique elements and not be confined to reality.  When I was a meteorologist, I couldn't forecast my way out of a paper bag, but in my novels, I'm always 100 percent accurate!  Also I love horses and swords and the challenges they bring to my story worlds.

4) How does your writing process work?

Answer:  When I spark on an idea for a book, I write a rough sketch of story.  Usually I have a beginning and an ending and a main protagonist and that's it.  I have to write a snyopsis for my editor to approve, so I guess on what's going to happen in the middle.  However, once I do get approval, the finished story never matches my synopsis.  I like to discover the story as I write, which makes that first draft a long process with lots of anxiety!  I spend the first half worried I don't have enough story for a novel, and then spend the second half worried I have too much.  Somehow, I end up right where I should be around 100,000 words!  You would think I wouldn't worry so much after writing 13 novels, but nope - I still do it!

Once I have approval, then I pull out a brand new spiral notebook and pick out 24 girl's names one for each letter of the alphabet and do the same for boy's names.  I choose names that I like and have an interesting meaning that might be applicable to the story. For example, in STORM GLASS, I found names that meant power and had weather references.  Names like Kade, which means powerful, Raiden, which is the name of a thunder god, Indra means rain, Tal means dew, and for my glassmaker, Aydan, which means little fire.

Then I start writing the story and do research as needed.  I did need to know quite a bit about glass blowing for my Glass books, so I took a number of classes to learn how to work with molten glass.  I write at night from 10 pm to 3 or 4 am and I write at least 1000 words before going to sleep. Most nights I write an average of 1300.  It takes me about 6-7 months to write a first draft and 1 month for revisions.  Then I submit it to my editor, agent and beta readers and wait for comments! Then I revise again based on all their comments.

To keep the blog hop...er...hopping, I invited authors Deborah Blake and Jonathan Lister to participate. Deborah will be posting soon and Jonathan has his up!

Deborah Blake: Deborah is best known for her Pagan/Wiccan books, but also writes Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.

Her blog: http://deborahblake.blogspot.com

Jonathan Lister: He's the author of the Demos City Series.

His blog: http://ijonathanlister.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/blog-mondays-what-im-doing-with-my-life/ 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Reads Scavenger Hunt!


July 16 to July 19, 2014
INFO ABOUT THE HUNT:

The Summer Reads Scavenger Hunt will run from TODAY until midnight on SUNDAY (19th July). To enter to win FORTY signed paperbacks by a wide range of authors PLUS $30 worth of Amazon Gift Cards, simply hop around ALL participating stops, collect all of the highlighted numbers, add them together, and then go enter the requested details along with your calculated answer in the ENTRY FORM. You can find more information on how the stop works here: http://summerreadsscavhunt.weebly.com/welcome.html. All stops will direct you to the next place to hop across to. And don’t worry if you get lost, because the entire list of participating authors can be found HERE.

One of those signed paperbacks is a copy of my STORM GLASS!  And keep reading this post as I'm hosting a swag give away on my blog (see below) and you'll be able to win super rare swag from ME over on author Jonathan Lister's blog at: http://ijonathanlister.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/summer-reads-scavenger-hunt/

MY TOP 5 SUMMER READS (so far): 
  • The Last Stormlord, by Glenda Larke - a wonderful epic fantasy.
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak - a must read for ALL!
  • Fate's Edge, by Ilona Andrews - book 3 of one of my favorite fantasy series - I'd recommend them all.
  • Snapped, by Laura Griffin - a romantic suspense that's perfect for beach reading.
  • I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak - a lovely story - worth the time
MY AUTHOR:

I'm hosting the beautiful Terri Rochenski. Terri started writing stories in the 8th grade, when a little gnome whispered in her brain. Gundi’s Great Adventure never hit the best seller list, but it started a long love affair with the fantasy genre. 

Today she enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare ‘me’ moments her two young daughters allow. When not potty training or kissing boo-boos, she can be found on her back patio in the boondocks of New Hampshire, book or pencil in hand.

Terri is giving away signed bookmarks from her books (see picture):
Please leave a comment telling me what you indulge in during your "me" moment in order to be entered to win the swag. Also please leave an email addy so I can contact you. For an added entry, like Terri and my Facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Terri-Rochenski-Author/192565074112400

https://www.facebook.com/mvsfans 

MY NUMBER: 415

NEXT HUNT STOP:

Victoria Michaels http://victoriamichaels.net/2014/07/summer-reads-scavenger-hunt/ 

OR:

if you have all of your numbers and are ready to enter, then hop across to the Summer Reads Scavenger Hunt Entry Form.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Guest Post - Creating a Pitch Perfect Character

Today, I'm thrilled to be hosting author Mindy Klasky!  She is launching her new Diamond Brides series this month and has written a wonderful post about how she turns a stock character into a complex and unique individual.  Since Mindy's one of my BFs, I had the pleasure of reading the first book in the series, PERFECT PITCH.  I'll admit, I'm not a fan of baseball - the game is too slow for me, but there was nothing slow about Mindy's story! After I finished this fun and entertaining read in a single day, I'd wished the Raleigh Rockets were a real team I could cheer for.  Plus I loved the humor (as I do in all Mindy's stories).

Mindy Klasky:

Romance.  It's a literary genre built on tropes, on familiar storylines told in unfamiliar ways.  You've probably heard the shorthand before:  Marriage of convenience.  Secret baby.  Virgin bride.  Single father.  May/December.  There are a couple dozen more, but you certainly get the idea.  

Each tried-and-true storyline relies on stock characters – the alpha male, the wounded warrior, the prostitute with the heart of gold, the shy virgin…

And if those snapshots were the only basis for romance novels, the genre would have burned itself out long ago.  But tropes are only the beginning of a romance novel.  Stock characters are only the bare outlines.

The real fun starts when the author colors between the lines.

When I started writing the Diamond Brides Series of short, hot, contemporary romance novels about the players on the (imaginary) Raleigh Rockets baseball team and the women who love them, I knew I was going to rely very heavily on tropes and stock characters.  With each book limited to about 150 pages, I didn't have time to build minutely detailed character stories, to provide volumes of background information, to sketch carefully shaded essays on psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

Instead, I selected traditional plots within the romance genre and peopled them with unique characters.

The trick was knowing just how to make my characters stand out as individuals, how to make them quirky enough that readers can remember them as specific, well-defined people, without giving in to the pressure to make them outright bizarre.  As an author, I needed to structure details, building them as carefully as a baker balancing rich cake between layers of frosting.

Take DJ Thomas, the hero of Perfect Pitch.  He's an athlete at the pinnacle of his career, experiencing the best season of his life.  But that's only the surface definition of the man.

He's a man attracted to a woman who seems to outclass him in wit, confidence, and public sympathy.  He's a single father who is often exasperated with the child he doesn't understand.  He's a son who is wounded by his own father's domineering need to win.  He's a teammate, struggling to do his best so that the other Rockets players have a chance of winning a championship.

But even those details weren't enough to define Perfect Pitch's hero; I needed to drill deeper.  As a man attracted to a woman (whom he's inadvertently insulted on national TV), DJ has to deliver the script prepared for him by the Rockets' publicity team.  But at the same time, he wants to communicate his own, personal apology.  Even as he desires a deeper relationship with the heroine, he worries about what that public status will do to his professional reputation, to his personal image, to his paternal obligations and his filial ones.  Late night phone conversations with the heroine after ball games played on the road become fraught with meaning, with traps for the romantically unprepared.

And the complexities spin out further, like ice crystals on a freezing window pane, as DJ factors in all his other roles.  Suddenly, my "Athlete Hero" isn't just a stereotype. The precise details add up to a specific love story about unique people.

Writing nine novels in the same ballpark (see what I did there?) has given me a chance to exercise my authorial muscles.  For each book, I need to look at my conventions, to analyze my stereotypes and to determine how I can make the characters and stories unique.  You can get more of an idea of my approach by reading a snippet here: http://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/books/passion/diamond-bride-series/perfect-pitch/

And you can buy Perfect Pitch at its value price of $0.99 here: http://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/books/buy-books-here/#pitch

What are your favorite novels where stock characters are transformed into something specific?  What tricks did those authors use to delineate their unique stories?


Thanks for a wonderful post Mindy!  I know a book about an assassin who started as a stock character and then transformed into an artistic pack rat.  I can't recall the title or the author.... ;>