Saturday, February 18, 2017

On Writing a Series by Kate Loveday

When I finished writing my first novel, which is a stand-alone book, set in contemporary Australia, I had no ideas about writing either historical fiction or a series. However, we had moved to an area on the mid-north coast of NSW, an area that figured prominently in the early days of colonization, and I became interested in its history.

This led me to explore the attitudes towards women in the nineteenth century, and I decided that my next book must be about the life of a woman in that era, when women had few rights and were dominated by men. I determined that my character would be a spirited woman who did not take kindly to subjugation. Then I began to look at the attitudes towards women over the years, and decided it would be interesting to do a story of different generations of women – mother, daughter and grand-daughter – spanning the second half of the nineteenth century and, maybe, up to the end of the flapper era, the 1930’s. Would the patronizing attitudes of men towards women have altered? And how would women have changed? I realized it could not be told in a single book, and decided to make it a series of three books, one for each generation. So far so good.

What I did not realize was the problems posed to writers of series.

The first book, ‘A Woman of Spirit’ was straightforward. The main character, Kitty, lived her life in the book and when book one ended, she had a daughter, Joy, who was a baby. Now, I had to continue Kitty’s story in book two, 'In Search of Love', so I couldn’t just start it when Joy was a grown woman, too much time would have passed.

First problem – how to cover the years as Joy grows from child to young woman, and hold the reader’s interest? Not an easy task. She went to school. She learned to ride and developed a love of horses. Not riveting phases of her life! So book two, ‘In search of Love, continued Kitty’s story, and also covered Joy’s life from age thirteen to young womanhood.
Second problem, as time passes there is the continuation of characters, and how they would change as they were affected by the changing history of the times. It was a period of uncertainty in Australia, when there was continual debate over the decision of whether the separate colonies should join together to form the Federation of Australia or not – some for, some against. There was also a severe recession in the 1990′s. How would my characters be affected by these problems?
I thought I knew my characters well but when it came to writing scenes I realized there were so many small details to remember, particularly with places and minor characters. How exactly had I described Lady Barron? Craddock? Harry Osborne? In which hotel in Sydney had Kitty stayed? Minor points perhaps but important enough that I had to return to book one to check.

And with a series there is always the question of how much to explain in the second, and subsequent, books in case people start reading that one first. Each book must really be able to stand alone as well as being read in sequence, but it’s hard to do that without boring those who have read the first book. Finding the balance between these needs is challenging. Each book must have its own plot, its own characters, including some from previous books, and its own changing tensions. But it must still relate to the preceding story and answer the questions left unanswered at the end of that, and to have its own problems unresolved at the end, which will be answered in the next book if you want readers to be waiting for the next of the series.

Then it was time to get on with book three,'An Ambitious Woman', which is set as the nineteenth century ends, and focuses mainly on a grown-up Joy. As with all characters, Joy has become what she wants to be, a modern woman, with modern ideas. But those ideas don’t always conform to the social norms of the day, much as she wishes for it, and what happens to her will probably confound readers and leave them wishing for more.

And here is the writer’s dilemma.

Will the trilogy be enough? Or will the series keep growing? Only time will tell.

Kate Loveday

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Haunted Vacation Behind Hidden Bloodlines

The location of Hidden Bloodlines originated from a haunted vacation at the historic Stanley Hotel, registered at the time as the second most haunted hotel in the country. Located in Estes Park, Colorado, the Stanley Hotel touts itself as a hotel “7500 feet above ordinary.” As new Colorado residents, we chose the Stanley to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Little did I know, it was the start of something much bigger… a seed was planted and a story grew.

To say it was a unique experience is an understatement that started the moment we checked in. The registration desk was crowded with an excited group of people carrying unusual equipment. They belonged to a club of “ghost busters,” and they planned to use the tools of their trade to detect ghosts they felt certain resided in the hotel.

We went all out and took the Ghost Tour which was the precursor of what was to come. A few of the stops included Room 418, the most haunted room in the hotel, the infamous Room 217 where Stephen King and many dignitaries (including four presidents) stayed, as well as the staircase on the fourth floor that went to the bell tower where numerous photographic sightings of a male ghost were made. Clearly we were in for a long night. Our room was next to the fourth floor staircase and was a popular “haunt” for ghost busters. The excited whispers, clanging of equipment, and creaks kept us up long into the night.

Our bleary eyes and fatigue were short lived — the excitement of these special hotel guests was contagious. Once again, we met at the registration desk as we checked out. Although these ghost busters did not detect any ghostly residents, they were planning their next trip … certain of their success.

One year later, on our anniversary, we stayed in the most popular room in the hotel, Room 217 where the ghost of Mrs. Wilson is supposed to be a permanent visitor. She was the chief chambermaid in 1911. On the day the hotel opened for the season, the hydroelectric plant went down. Mrs. Wilson was lighting the gas lamps when she was almost killed. Acetylene was pumped into the rooms, and in Room 217 there happened to be a gas leak. When Mrs. Wilson went into the bathroom, it blew out the front of the hotel. She was blown through the floor into the MacGregor Room and survived. Almost forty years to the day, she died of a heart attack in that room. Although Mrs. Wilson is supposed to fold and put away your clothes, she must have taken a vacation the night we stayed. In spite of the fact that we have stayed many times since, we have not seen any ghosts… yet.

What is your most memorable vacation?

Karen Van Den Heuvel

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sweet Inspiration by Stephanie Kepke

When I’m asked how I come up with inspiration for my stories, most often my answer is that a character or story line pings around my brain until I can’t help but write it—or risk going a bit insane. You & Me, my Candy Hearts Series novella, is quite unusual in the speed with which it percolated and burst forth on the page. It was also the first story I have ever written in response to a “call for pitches” (a request by a publisher for story ideas).

I was getting ready to embark on a road trip to Florida with my three children (in a snowstorm, no less) when I received the email from The Wild Rose Press requesting stories around the theme of Candy Hearts for an exciting new series. In a rush to get on the road, I snapped my laptop shut and hopped in the shower, but that pitch request whirred around my brain.

Suddenly, as I shampooed, it hit me—I had the perfect inspiration...and the perfect story. Starting when I was 16 years old my high school sweetheart sent me a box of Candy Hearts every year for Valentine's Day. He even sent me one of those iconic pink boxes for Valentine's Day for another two or three years after we broke up when we were in college. A character came to me: She's escaped an abusive relationship with the father of her child and has been on her own with her teenage daughter for five years. As Valentine's Day nears, Candy Hearts mysteriously begin arriving in her mailbox, leaving her wondering if her high school sweetheart—the boy she loved, but left—has sent them.

I even had the opening scene already written in my head—she's dropping her daughter off at school (the same high school she attended) and a love song comes on that reminds her of her boyfriend. The inspiration for that—I was dropping my son off at school (my old high school) a day or two before, and a cheesy love song from the eighties came on, spinning me back to when I was sixteen.  It was a bit surreal and I mused that it would make a great opening to a novel or novella—now I had the rest of the story to build from there.

As soon as I stepped out of the shower, I emailed my editor. I was dripping wet in a towel typing furiously on my iPhone. That was, without a doubt, the most unusual pitch I had ever sent—and it got accepted. The story evolved, along with a twist I hadn't anticipated when I pitched it—Alex, the heroine, can’t find her long-lost love, Billy. Even in this age when everyone leaves a digital footprint, Billy seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. But, those Candy Hearts keep arriving in the mail…Are they from Billy? Will Alex get a second chance at happily ever after? You’ll have to read it to find out!


Note: Unlike Grace, the heroine of my novella, A New Life, which is quite autobiographical, Alex and I only have those Candy Hearts in common. I’m still close friends with my high school sweetheart—he never disappeared…and I’ve been happily married to my Valentine for over twenty years. For Valentine’s Day this year, I didn’t receive Candy Hearts, but I did receive a silver bangle bracelet stamped with “I LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK” and beautiful flowers.
Stephanie Kepke
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Monday, February 13, 2017

Writing a Book--the Internal Part one

Those of us who write books/novels know it is not an easy process. Actually, it’s not a process at all; it’s a series of processes; a conglomerate, if you will.
I usually begin my conglomerate internally. I see something, or hear something, or read something that triggers a thought methodology. It begins with, “Oh, what a neat place for a murder;” or “What an interesting character flaw;” or maybe “What a perfect setting for a tryst of some sort.”

From there, my mind takes off. The embryo of an idea invades my brain, infiltrates it, snuggles into all the crevices and crannies. It leaps across synapses, exploring, roaming, and copulating so that the ideas burst into growth and permeate the sphere of my head. At times, the noise is…awakening!

At this point, my head is relentless, especially when I’m walking or going to sleep or slowly awakening in the morning. All those ideas, thoughts, plot points, concepts want their freedom. So this is when I have to assemble them in some sort of plot-line order. I do this best while I’m walking. At first, I just decide the journey of my protagonist, and often, of my main antagonist, whose journey is so frequently intertwined with my hero’s/heroine’s. As I do this, I find the need for another character or scene or conflict or any number of other issues, all to support the protagonist’s goals or to add conflict or interest or tension.

It’s rather a pyramid-building scheme. I have to keep adding ideas, conflicts, characters, situations until there is a solid foundation on which I can build a convincing story. Then, as my (still in my head) protagonist pushes through his/her life, conquering this barrier, overcoming that obstacle, I see a story blossom. I see the bulk of supporting characters, scenes, evidence and conflicts that can build into a story. And I see the denouement, the self-realization, the tip of the pyramid, and satisfactory (glorious, at this point) ending.

During this whole process, I may have jotted down names, character descriptions and backgrounds, and other minutiae in a file so I wouldn’t forget the nitty gritties. But at this point, I must begin my External part of writing a book.
That, and all its fun parts, I will discuss in my next blog.

Coming soon to Pre-order. Releasing 04-26-2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Inspirations by Sharon Ervin

When a person on Oklahoma’s death row had an abscessed tooth, he was rushed to a dentist in town.

When another developed tonsillitis, he received immediate medical attention and antibiotics.

A deputy warden explained that convicted persons sentenced to die have to be in good health before they can be executed in Oklahoma. I thought that odd. I noticed that most of the men on death row were in fine shape physically. It seemed foolish to execute an entire person, all those healthy organs and body parts going to waste. Could those folks donate body parts?

No. The lethal cocktail prepared and delivered into executed persons' veins contaminates all their body parts: organs, retinas, blood, even skin grafting possibilities.

Inspired, fiction writers’ imaginations follow strange paths. That information and my mental progressions, combined with a little romance––which I consider to be to fiction as essential as salt to baked goods––produced my last published novel, JINGO STREET. Another, with different inspiration, is coming in March, 2017.

Available for pre-order on Amazon and other online retailers

Sharon Ervin

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

What's in a name?

Or in a book title?

There are many reasons a name—or a book title can be changed. For the first book in the Redwoods series , ‘An Independent Woman’, it was changed because the catalog already had a book with that title. So it became to ‘A Woman of Spirit’. Same story, same feisty heroine, same dashing hero and same detestable villain.
And the Five Star reviews are all for the same book.

Why don’t you pop over now and have a look—and if you read it now you’ll be just right to pre-order a copy of its sequel so you won’t have to wonder for long what happens to this independent young woman next.
I do not usually read historical romances, but after reading Kate Loveday’s contemporary Australian romance, Inheritance, I wanted to know if her other works was as good. I think there is there is a richness to her writing. She may be Australia’s answer to Barbara Taylor Bradford.

I have only one complaint, the second book in the Redwood Series is not out and will not be for a while.
Note: I seldom give 5 star ratings because I am comparing these books to the best I ever read. This is a 5 star recommendation.
Well-written and well-told, with colorful characters and finely drawn scenes, this is a book that will sweep you back to the Victorian era of 1878 and immerse you in the changing fortunes of the headstrong young Kitty Morland. Aussie author Kate Loveday's stories about independent women are wonderful stories.

Kitty became aware that Bella and Mr van Mayen had moved over by the cab where they stood engrossed in conversation, but Rufe still waited, looking down at her with the flicker of a smile on his face, his eyes twinkling.

‘An old friend, Miss Morland?’ he asked.
‘No, Mr Barron and I met on board the ship.’
‘Ah. Then I see you've made a conquest.’ He laughed.
Kitty stiffened. ‘I don't know what you mean.’
‘It's obvious that young Barron has fallen for your charms in a big way.’
‘I think you are very impolite, Mr Cavanagh.’
He laughed again. ‘Forgive me, but it's not every day we see a gentleman kiss a lady's hand in Australia. We're less gallant than those from the land of our forbears, I'm afraid.’
How dare he laugh at her? Kitty lifted her chin. ‘Surely civility is not frowned upon in the Antipodes?’
‘You'll probably find us boorish and backward. I guess most of us have been too busy trying to tame the wilderness to have much time left over for the delicate social graces.’
‘And which parts of the wilderness have you been taming, Mr Cavanagh?’
‘I go here and there, wherever my business takes me.’
Kitty forgot her annoyance as she became interested. ‘So are you a merchant?’
‘Of sorts.’
‘You must know a great deal about business then?
‘As well as most, I suppose.’
‘Then perhaps you can tell me where you think would be a good place to start a business?’
‘Good heavens. Are you thinking of going into business?’
Kitty hesitated. Perhaps she should have waited until she saw Robert before she started asking questions.
‘I might be,’ she replied.
‘What type of business?’
‘I'm…not sure.’
‘Have you been in business before?’
‘No, not really.’
Rufe looked at her through half narrowed eyes. ‘Aren't you a little young and inexperienced to be thinking of going into business, particularly in a country you don’t know? Besides, I daresay you'll be married before you have time to set up a business.’
Kitty fumed. He really was insufferable. Why had she thought him so attractive? Coldly she answered him. ‘Why do all men assume every woman is just waiting around to marry the first man who comes along?’
‘Probably because it's usually true.’
‘Well, I can assure you it's not so in my case. I have no intention of marrying any one.’
His lips quirked. ‘My dear Miss Morland, with your looks, I doubt you'll last six months. In fact, from the way young Barron was gazing at you a few moments ago, it may be very soon.’
She tossed her head. ‘Our talk has been most illuminating, Mr Cavanagh. I'm sure you’ve given me an insight into the charms of Australian men. Perhaps I should now look for a cab.’
‘There’s a perfectly good one waiting for you now. With your mother already waiting alongside it for you with my friend Jan.’
Kitty lifted her chin and without another word walked across to join Bella, with Rufe following.
‘I’m sure you’ll be most comfortable at Petty’s,’ Rufe told them as he and Jan saw them and their luggage safely inside. ‘I’m staying there myself so I hope we shall meet again.’ He tipped his hat before moving back as the driver climbed up to his seat.
‘What a charming man,’ Bella remarked as they settled themselves in the cab.
‘Hmm, perhaps,’ Kitty muttered, knowing that, in spite of his insufferable manners, she would like to get to know him, but she could not run the risk of him remembering her, the danger was too great.

Available at Amazon and all major online retailers

Kate Loveday

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Bling, Bling

 I’m Really Not a Nightingale. I’m a Magpie

Isn’t it said Magpies are attracted to shiny objects. Well, there I am. I love sparkles! My recent obsession has been large, gawdy CZ jewelry. Thing is most of it is actually beautiful – not like its real counterpart – but sparkly!

I bought a large emerald cut ring, drop earrings to match and a bling watch (Marquise cut fantasia). Now, I must STOP. My Discover card is screaming. Contrary to my original opinion, CZs are no longer cheap. Maybe the design has altered. They are very clear and (sparkly) glitter and shine. By the standards of the Olden Days, they are no longer inexpensive. The emerald cut ring wasn’t ANYTHING like a diamond price-wise, but I did experience sticker shock expecting below $20. But it is a ROCK.
I’ll be in England visiting my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren in May. My daughter-in-law came clean and admitted to being a Magpie. I bought a pair of glittering earrings for her. My granddaughter, a budding young Magpie, had a prom for graduation from what is elementary school here. She’s shopping for her prom dress with grandma. She’ll get some nice bling, too.
Do you like shiny things? You may be a closet Magpie. And genuine diamonds aren’t the only way to shine.

There are several good on-line marketers: Most expensive, Berricle—high quality; Mid-range: Bling Jewelry and Palm Beach Jewelry; and very good prices: Dreamland Jewelry. I now tend to shy away from eBay.

Autumn, the heroine in Her General in Gray, would like one of those rings, I’m sure.  Coming in April, my ghost story inspired by the Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  Tagline:  A Massachusetts lass purchases a southern plantation complete with the ghost of a Confederate General. Sparks fly.

Linda Nightingale - Author
Out of the Ordinary..Into Extraordinary Realms