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Monday, November 25, 2013

Tricks to Make Violence More Intense

Picture Credit: http://www.nytimes.com/
2009/04/24/movies/24figh.html?_r=0
Back in September I wrote a posting on what to consider before adding violence to a book. You can view that blog posting here.

I decided to follow up on that posting by giving tips on how to add intensity to the violence you use.

I'm not going to re-hash everything I wrote in the last posting, but I think it'd be worthwhile to at least take another look at the definition of violence.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines violence as:

  1. exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse 
  2. injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation
  3. intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force 
  4. vehement feeling or expression
  5. a clashing or jarring quality
  6. undue alteration

Basically, violence is any speech, action, or threatened action that has the potential to cause harm. With this definition, you will see that most non-fiction and almost all fiction has some level of violence in it. Once you have determined the extent of violence you want to present in your book, you next need to look at how to bring out the level of intensity that you are looking for. You can do that by mixing the following tricks:

  • Speed of time
    • Scenes with violence can slow down to show a blow-by-blow account or speed up to show how a stretch of violence (think battle or extended fight) affects a character. Most scenes that contain a lot of violence, such as a battle, will alternate between slowing way down and then speeding up again.
  • Motivation
    • Pay attention to why your characters are fighting. Motivation will not be the same for every character and that will make their fighting different. For example, a hired gun will not stick out a fight like a person defending something he or she cares deeply about. Know how far your characters will go and at what point they will turn and run.
  • Avoid passive sentences
    • It's generally best to keep passive sentences to a minimum. They have their uses, but they can be red flags. But, fighting and violence is  always active. Do not use passive sentences in a violent scene. 
  • Use strong verbs
    • Spend time evaluating your verbs. How big of a picture do they create? Can you replace any of them to show more emotion? These scenes have room for tons of emotions to cover the page--fear, sorrow, hate, disgust, confusion--the list could keep going. Brainstorm to see if you can get more onto the page with your verbs.
    • BUT don't use unfamiliar verbs. This is the last place you want to be showing off an unusual vocabulary. It will only slow down the reading. A slower scene is less intense.
  • Action first, then reaction
    • The easiest way to explain this one is with an example. 
      • Wrong: His head snapped back when she punched him.
      • Right: She punched him and his head snapped back.
    • If you put the reaction before the action, it takes the reader just a little more thought to piece the story together. In an action scene this extra thought slows down the reading, which in turn makes the scene less intense.
  • Short sentences
    • This goes back to the idea of making the reader's pace pick up. Short sentences will add to the speed and intensity. They also can portray the fact that the characters are in a high-emotion state and are thinking a little more jerkily than normal.
  • Choreograph
    • If the fight starts inside of a house, don't suddenly have the character outside. Know where every character is throughout the fight and clue the reader into movements, otherwise you'll lose the reader. You really do want to choreograph it out--arrows on a sketched map are enough--but your characters' surroundings should be an important part of the violence. 
  • Give details
    • Don't skimp here. Violence should be heavy action with just a peppering of character thoughts. Let readers know what is going on. They want the major movements (so far as the main character is capable of seeing) and they want the movements of individuals. Yet, don't dump information. Make the description you use meaningful by making sure you find the things that pull the strongest at the characters' emotions.
    • Think the fight out until you can visualize it. Then describe all the parts that stand out most for the character. You can do this in a way that shows what the character is thinking without specifically saying it. In a battle do her eyes keep shifting to the blood and the growing pile of dead? Or does he notice the endless stream of the enemy and the way they rush? Is your character callous to it or are all the images new?
  • Only apply immediate feelings to small specifics
    • A continual reminder that a man doesn't like a battle is okay, but it will be much more memorable if you assign a specific reaction to the look in his enemy's eyes, or to the feel of slicing into someone, or to the sound or smell of blood spurting from a wound. You get the idea. Don't forget to feed these little specific feelings into the whole scene. They won't get old as long as you don't run out of ideas because you're not saying the same thing over again.
  • Dialogue
    • Adding a little dialogue can help, but don't spend time on long conversations. We're talking about a word or short sentence here and there. Speech should accent what is happening, not interrupt it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Problems that will Kill Your Story

Picture Credit: http://bittsandbytes.net/MAY_2010/05.02.10.html
This is not way intended to be an exhaustive list of everything that can be done wrong in writing. I don't think that such a list exists anywhere on the planet. And if you can make a complete list, then you'd better publish it and the rest of us can all learn from you. :)

This is going to cover just a few common problems in beginners' stories.

1. Too much backstory

This is especially a problem when the backstory shows up at the beginning of a book. If the reader really does need to understand a list of things before they will appreciate the opening scene, then maybe you have started your book in the wrong place.

No matter where backstory shows up, a tidbit at a time is generally all a reader will stomach. Paragraphs of the stuff--or even pages of it--will take away more than it adds. Find ways that fit into the story to share bits at a time. In writing, less is usually more. The fact that you could write a discourse on your characters' pasts is a good thing--that means you know your characters well. But please refrain from sharing the discourse when two sentences at the perfect time will be sufficient. 

This is like setting the scene. Just because you draw out a detailed map of a character's house (which I would recommend doing) does not mean the reader has to have a step-by-step tour. It just means that you won't get lost in that house when you're talking about your character's actions.


2. Too many scenic details

Wherever you are reading this posting, stop and look around you. If you wanted to describe every single detail perfectly, you could probably write volumes about your current setting. But guess what? It would be insanely boring! 

Readers will fill in details with things that they are familiar with--all you need to do is give them a rough outline. A word or two here and there is generally all you need to set your scene. Make sure the details you give count. If you're going to stop and talk about a specific tree that the character sees, you'd better have a reason that the tree is so important that the character stops to examine it.

The classics are generally full of descriptions that wouldn't be included today. I would never condemn them for it--I really like the classics--they just ran with different rules than we have today. But if you are using Charles Dickens as your guide in how much description your scene needs, then you are writing to an audience that lived and died quite a while ago.


3. No consideration of emotions

Think about how things affect your characters. Consider them to be real people. Do their thoughts and feelings make sense? If your character witnesses a murder on page 5, is she absorbed by her hairdo on page 7?

Feelings and emotions are motivating factors. They should drive what your character is thinking and doing. And they don't disappear just because you're ready for a new scene.


4. Unmotivated emotions

This may seem similar to the last one, but I believe it's a different category. The point is that people have reasons for their emotions. If your character is a control-freak, then please give me a reason for it. Something in his life or emotional well-being has to contribute. Once I understand why he is so afraid of being out of control, then I can appreciate his temper when things don't happen the way he wants.

This is true of any emotion, fear, or feeling. It does not always have to be because of something her parents did wrong when she was a child, but give her some basis for why she feels the way she does.


5. Every character acts/reacts the same

I talked about this one just a few weeks ago, but it bears mentioning again. Don't slide into stereotype reactions. Every teen in the world is not a rebel; every man is not insensitive; every woman is not an emotional basket-case; every murderer is not trying to reap vengeance. If your characters all react and feel the same based on their category, none of them will be genuine. 

Get to know your characters as individuals and look at their response based on who they are and their past experiences. Trust me, taking this time in the preparation stages will pay dividends once it comes time to write.


6. Specifically in childrens and young adult books, too much adult involvement

I couldn't resist this one even though it doesn't apply to much of literature. If you are writing young adult, middle grade, or any of the children's categories, then please avoid having the adults swoop in to save the day. Think Harry Potter here. Harry and his friends must be the ones to save the day even though they have limited magical experience. Even when the adults get involved, Harry and his friends are still in the major problem-solving roles. You may argue that it doesn't make sense--no adults are going to sit back and wait for a 12-year-old to save the day. That's true. But guess what? It's fiction. Find a reason for the kid to have to be the one to do it. The audience that is reading the book longs for the power to make a difference in the adult-run world where they live. They enjoy the release of seeing kids their age save the world (literally or figuratively). And admit it, you get into the books too or you wouldn't be writing them.

Speaking of adults swooping in to fix all the problems, be cautious of parental involvement in the story. You don't have to give broken homes and neglectful parents to all the kids in your book, but if half the book is about how much fun the main character has going around town with her parents, then your book is not likely to grab hold of your intended audience. This is back to the idea of independence. It's great if your main character gets along well with his parents and grandparents, but they should spend the vast majority of the book on the sidelines. The exception is that if the parents are the problem the main character is dealing with, then they should be present more.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Outlining And Free-Writing: A Give-And-Take Relationship

Picture Credit: https://blogs.montclair.edu/cwe/2013/
07/25/free-writing-and-avoiding-commitment/
I used to swear that outlining wasn't for me.

I knew it wasn't because back in high school my English teachers (who really were wonderful teachers in many ways) taught me how to outline. You start with a bullet-point outline of every major plot movement. Then you go to chapter 1 and decide what happens, then you move on to chapter 2, and so-on until your outline is perfect. Only then can you write. I couldn't do it effectively so I determined I am not an outliner.

And from that point on I didn't outline because I thought I knew what I needed to about the subject and I was certain I didn't have anything to gain from it.

Until a few years ago.

I ended up in a class taught by Dan Wells, author of I am Not a Serial Killer. I actually went with a closed mind, but he still managed to get through to me. His class is amazing and you can view it in a You-Tube series here. He created an outlining technique that was completely different than I'd heard of before and it made sense to me. (I won't go into each of the steps in this posting, but you can see them all in an earlier blog posting of mine here with only a few minor changes as I found ways to better adapt them to myself.) For the first time I heard the recommendation to outline after your book is written if you didn't do one at the beginning. This way, the outline can be an editing tool to help find holes in the plot. I did it to a book I was working on, which I thought only needed finishing touches, and found to my dismay that my entire story lacked a point! With the help of the outline that I created, I was able to re-work my story and it made an amazing difference.

After I looked at all the time I spent re-writing, and the tens of thousands of words that needed to be deleted to change the story, I decided that maybe outlines are not a bad idea during the beginning stages.

Since then I have declared myself an outliner. I end up making changes to the story as I go and I have found myself adjusting the outlines from time to time when my changes are big enough to alter key points of what I'd planned. So I still have free-writing in me. But I outline to save time. I want to know where my story is going and I want to make sure it's progressing in a logical way before I type the last words. I also find it helps me brainstorm and it helps me to tie events together better when I know why everything that happens is critical to getting the story where it needs to go.

I do think there is a place for free-writing. And I still won't say that everyone must outline before they start writing. But I am now a firm believer that if you write without an outline, you should probably make one while you are in the editing process--you just might be surprised at what you will gain from it.

Also, I believe that there is not a single right way to outline. I still obsess over Dan Wells' outlining method to the point that I can't believe anyone can write without it, but it is not the only one out there. Elana Johnson, author of Possession, is a fervent outliner but she commented once that she didn't like Dan Wells' method because it didn't work for her. My point is that before you decide that outlining is a waste of time, try different methods or play around to figure out your own. Because whether you like to use them at the beginning or the end, they can help improve your writing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Emotional Rollercoaster

Picture Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plutchik-wheel.svg

Have you ever run into a cast of characters who all seem to react identically to every possible scenario?

There are two things you should do to make sure this never happens to you and your characters. First, you should create a character arc for every major and secondary character. Next, you should pick out an emotional pallet for each character.


Character Arc

Your character arc doesn't have to be a complex graph. Just start by taking a look at what the character wants and fears. Remember, each character in a story thinks he or she is the main character. What does the character want to accomplish? What is he or she doing to work toward that goal? What are his or her biggest hindrances? How does his or her past factor into all this? A person's past always influences how they think and what they do. Knowing your characters inside and out will make them work together and clash against each other in believable ways. In every scene you should know what each character present wants to accomplish.


Emotional Pallet

Now you need to come up with your characters' emotions. What is each character's base emotion--on an average day what feelings does he or she have? Is she bored with her life? Is he terrified that his great secret will come out? Does she have a nagging drive to prove herself? Does he feel overburdened? Each character's base emotion will be different. Now look at how different stimuli will affect each one differently. A character who is confident about herself will react differently to bullying than a character who is trying desperately to hide behind fake confidence. It is the same with every character and every stimulus. As you look at your characters' strengths and weaknesses, you should be able to develop a list of emotion words that describe them in different situations.

And don't overuse happy, sad, scared, mad...or any other bland emotions that don't go into much depth. I used a picture of the Plutchik Wheel to introduce this topic, which is a wheel of emotions developed by Robert Plutchik. But this wheel doesn't expand our emotion vocabulary much beyond basic emotion words. W. Gerrod Parrott's Inventory of Emotions will give you many more words. Look at a thesaurus for more ideas if you need to. 

By the time you are done with each character, you should have a unique list for each one of your characters. Try not to let the same emotion word describe any two. Then when you are writing you can look back at the emotion list for aids in describing how a character feels and reacts.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Media Marketing Steps 5-6, Get Going

Picture Credit: http://www.searchquotes.com/search/Get_Going/
This is the third and final installment in my Media Marketing series. See the first two steps here and the third and fourth steps here. Unlike my last blog posting, which detailed steps that should only be done AFTER steps 1-2 are completed, the marketing ideas here can be done at any time. You do not need to wait for your book to be published to start these--in fact for many of them you should not wait.

As I have mentioned in the other postings in this series, I need to thank Shanna Beaman for much of the information I am going over. She is the author of the amazing books The Woman's Guide to Living Your Dreams and On Ramp to Your Future. Visit her website to learn more about her and the opportunity of having her present to your group. You can view her website here.

Step 5: Self-Promotion Online

  • Maintain a Blog
    • Regularly post on your own blog.
    • Become a regular on other popular blogs to advertise your own blog to people.
    • Join a blogging group that promotes and blogs about each other's books.
    • Do a blog tour on friends'/aquaintences' blogs.
    • Volunteer as a guest writer for blogs that use guests.
  • Participate in social media such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Start your own website

Step 6: Traditional Marketing

  • Set Up Book Signings
    • Small bookstores are particularly friendly to authors--especially local authors. They see book signings as a way to increase business whereas large bookstores are less likely to see your book signing as a benefit to themselves.
  • Network
    • Keep in contact with fans, other authors, agents, and publishers. You never know what opportunities may arise.
  • Speaking Engagements
    • Take any chance you have to get in front of an audience. Speak at a school, a writers' conference, or any other chance you get. 
  • Table at a Fair
    • Set up a table for book fairs or even city fairs.
    • City calendars and www.area-info.net will have information about upcoming fairs.
  • Host a Radio Show
    • Pay attention to job openings for radio shows that attract the right audience for your book. If you can get a job as a host you will gain radio fans, which are easily converted into book fans.
  • E-publish Short Stories or Flash Fiction
    • Treat these as marketing opportunities--make sure the quality is just as high as in your book.
    • Price them low, or potentially free. You are not trying to make money off these if you are using them as marketing tools. They are a way to gain fans who are willing to buy your books.
  • Join National Publicity Summit
    • Join for free here.
    • You will get daily marketing emails and the opportunity to participate in free online seminars.
    • Every year they offer a seminar that you may purchase tickets for, but joining does not carry an obligation to attend this seminar.

Thank you for looking over my marketing suggestions. Good luck in marketing your book!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Media Marketing Steps 3-4, Get to Know the Press

Picture Credit: http://somalilandpress.com/
somalilandindigenous-but-insensible-media-groups-part.i-44410
Two weeks ago I posted Media Marketing Steps 1-2. This posting is a continuation with the next 2 steps.

If you are just getting started with your marketing, please be sure to start at the beginning. You don't want to jump into step #3 without first looking at #1-2.

Before I go further, I need to say again that much of what I'm discussing here comes from Shanna Beaman, author of The Woman's Guide to Living Your Dreams and On Ramp to Your Future. Again, I have to say how fantastic she is as a public speaker. If you ever get the opportunity to hear her speak--or you are planning a conference and looking for a speaker--she is well-worth your time. 


Step 3- Submit Story Ideas


Okay, so you are probably about to ask me what the difference is between this and step 2 that we covered last time. The difference is that in step 2 you were looking for people who were asking for stories that you can comfortably call yourself an expert on. 

Now that you have gained experience interviewing, confidence, and a resume of interviews, it's time to start actively promoting yourself to larger media outlets. Before you call anybody, though, you first have to have your pitch--and do NOT say that you want to market your book. That is a benefit for you, but they will not want to let you do an advertisement on their air time.

Creating your pitch:
  • Build a marketable story around your book or around yourself, the author
  • What is your story?
  • What makes your story newsworthy?
  • Create the pitch
    • Pitch Formula A: "What every _____ should know about _______."
      • Example: "What every parent should know about the dangers their kids face at schools today."
      • Example: "What every gambler should know about the odds or winning at various casino games."
    • Pitch Formula B: "_____ things you should know before you _____."
      • Example: "5 things to look for when buying a book."
      • Example: "things you must do before you move."
      • Example: "Having a hard time getting your child to read? 5 tips to get your kids to buy into reading!"
Don't feel like you have to use the exact formula above, but you get the general idea. You want to have a pitch that you can approach media with that will show them that their viewers will want to see/listen to a segment with you in it.

Now that you have a pitch, decide who to market it to. Basically, if you have a good story about hunting then you should look at programs that are geared to hunting. Generally you won't find that you fit into as tight of a genre as that, but figure out who would appreciate your book and what media they use. This requires research. Know what television programs, radio shows, and newspapers are in your area--and who pays attention to them.

Waiting until you have gained experience with the small news in Step 2 really will help with this. If you start pitching too early and you don't know what you're doing, you may burn bridges if you embarrass yourself. By paying attention to the small ones first, you can avoid this problem.


Step 4- Press Release


When you have any events going on, such as book signings, make sure you get word out. It doesn't make sense to spend hours at a book signing when no one knows you are sitting there. Look up city and community websites and get on their calendars.


Continuation of This Posting Series


That's all for tonight, but next week I'll finish this series up with the final 2 steps, which can be viewed here. Thanks for joining me!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview with Tayla Durham


I’d like to introduce Tayla Durham, a friend and author of Twisted, a young adult fantasy coming out today, October 15, 2013.

Rachel- Before we get started, please tell me a little about yourself.

Tayla- I'm an eighteen-year-old author. I began writing at the age of ten and since then have written about 11 novels. Twisted is the one to be published. Other than writing I enjoy spending time with horses, drawing, and taking photos. I’m awful at anything that involves putting something into a net, I can be competitive, but usually I just get bored when playing games like that.

Rachel- In one sentence, what is Twisted about?

Tayla- A thief who is taken out of prison to combat a king’s enemy.

Rachel- I have to say, I’m impressed that you have already published a book when you are just 18 years old and still in high school. How did you make it happen?

Tayla- A whole lot of determination. I knew that I wanted to get a book published. I knew that I could do it. It took a lot of encouragement from friends and family and a lot of effort on my part. I wasn’t going to quit, though it was pretty difficult to keep going at times.

Rachel- Where did you get the idea for your story?

Tayla- Before I wrote Twisted I was writing another book about kelpies. I finished it and my older sister took it from me so I couldn’t read it for a month so my poor brain could recover. Desperately bored I think I spent two weeks writing random things. Also at about this time I’d written a short story about one of the characters in the book who was in prison and then taken out of the prison, which gave me the idea for Aster’s imprisonment at the start of the book.

 I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and I remember thinking that I wanted characters like the dementors. And this should come as no surprise, my older sister and little brother watched The Fellowship of the Ring maybe a month before I began the first book of Twisted. I was entranced by the Nazgul. All of those combined came together on March 8, 2011 in four words, oh what a world…

Rachel- Do you have a favorite character from your book? If so, why are you drawn to him or her?

Tayla- The Secret Keeper is my favorite. He’s so mysterious! I love his attitude and general sense of forbearing as if he owns the air he’s in.  I also love how he has levels, you can tell that there is more to him that what a first glance will give. What I also like about him is how complex he is and his stubbornness! He fights me practically every day on how the chapters are going to go over.

Overall, I like his story, his sense of self, his insecurities and his strength. The Secret Keeper can be spidery, but he’s a lion at heart. I’ve drawn strength from him. Also it helps that he is incredibly witty. My emotions really come out with him. I laugh and I cry with his POVs.

Rachel- I notice that most of your main characters are male. Generally authors’ main characters are the same gender as themselves. What made you decide to tell your story from a male point of view?

Tayla- I’ve always liked writing from the male point of view. It’s easier for me for some reason. The only girl who POV I have is Allie Taylor and she is so like me in the girly emotions and senses that she can drive me crazy because I experience that all day. I’ve never really seen a reason have my main characters be the same gender as me, I’d get really bored.

Rachel- I think anyone who reads your blog must be aware that you are fascinated by wraiths. What draws you to them?

Tayla- I've always been drawn to the darker characters (don’t judge me!) they seem more interesting and have more depth sometimes than the corny main characters. It makes me curious to know how they became that way, it’s why I can be so frustrated with The Lord of the Rings at times. The Nazgul have no background. You see in the beginning how they were (nine rings to the race of men) and then on Weathertop what they had become, but no explanation on how they got that way.

I guess I just like the mystery and sense of danger that they bring. I’ve read so many books that the main characters are all beginning to look stereotyped and copied off another book, when I came across wraiths I was startled. I’ve only read three books where they’re mentioned. (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Fablehaven, and Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog’s Gold) So wraiths aren’t common in literature. 

Wrapping up of that incredibly long explanation, I’d say I’m fascinated by them because no one else is. When one walked into my story and hissed hello (okay, it was more like here I am. Love me or hate me) I was hooked.

Rachel- Give me a peak into your average day.

Tayla- My average day begins with me growling at my alarm. It’s my iPod so I can’t smash it like I want to. I usually get up at about 5 so I can have writing time before the day begins. I write from about 5:30 to 7:20 then I go work on school, which I suppose needs an explanation now, I’m homeschooled, which is why I have so much time to write. Aside from schoolwork and practicing my violin I’m either reading or writing.

Rachel- What does your writing process look like?

Tayla- My writing process is very organized. I like to have things where I can get them. I usually open up a new document or load the half of a chapter I wrote the previous day and go from there. Generally I only write a chapter and a half everyday which can be easy or really difficult depending on the day.

Rachel- What are some of your favorite books?

Tayla- Lord of the Rings for sure, no surprise right? I like the Harry Potter series up to book four, but I cannot stand Umbridge. Love Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur is among my top favorites, the character’s voice is so pure and I don’t get bored halfway through. Shadows of Valor by Elsie Park, I was in suspense and I really connected with the main character’s insecurities.

Rachel- Can we expect to see more books from you in the future?

Tayla- Oh yes. I write books so people can read them. Plus it’s like when you create a piece of art, it’s no good where only you can view it. If you have a talent, share it. My talent is writing and I don’t plan on staying quiet about it!

Rachel- Where can I buy Twisted?

Tayla- Currently the only place is Amazon, but I plan on having it in book stores at some future date.
 
Rachel- Thanks for your time Tayla. I can’t wait to read Twisted for myself.

Visit Tayla Durham’s blog to learn more about herself and her book: http://twistedviolinist.blogspot.com/
 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Media Marketing Steps 1-2, Get Started

Picture Credit: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/5822/
Are-You-Ignoring-Email-Marketing-Because-of-Social-Media.aspx

Picture Credit: http://www.shannabeaman.com/about/
This blog is the first in a 3-part Media Marketing series, which will be posted over the next three weeks.

But Before I get started, I need to give credit where credit is due. The outline I'm using for this media marketing information came from a workshop taught by Shanna Beaman, author of The Woman's Guide to Living Your Dreams and On Ramp to Your Future. I took a class from her and am grateful I did. She does speaking engagements, workshops, and seminars; and she's fantastic.

I would recommend her classes to anyone.


 Why Market?


In today's world an author needs to do more than write great books. He or she must also figure out how to let people know about the books. You may be looking at self-publishing or you may be looking at using a traditional publisher. Either way, you will be responsible to market your own book. The days of expecting a publisher to take care of marketing are long past.

Step 1--Make Your Book Sale-Able.


The most important thing you can do here is to write your book well, but this blog is not going to go into writing techniques. Instead, let's start with the assumption that your book is already well written.

Next, you will need a great cover. One of the best-known cliches out there is: "Don't judge a book by it's cover." But let's face it, we ALL judge books by their covers. You need a cover that jumps out and screams, "Read me!" Your book will have to compete against all the other books it shares a section with in the bookstore. If you use a traditional publisher, then chances are you will not have to worry about designing a cover. But for anyone who self-publishes, don't cut corners on your cover!

Now you should get testimonials for your back cover. Ask other authors to read and comment on your book. If you can get any newspapers, magazines, journals, or other prestigious media testimonials, that would be fantastic. People like to read testimonials on books--a testimonial from an author they like will really catch their attention, but even an author they are unfamiliar with will be better than no testimonial at all. If you are using a traditional publisher you will likely receive at least some assistance with this.


Picture Credit: http://www.on
ramptoyourfuture.com/
Decide how you want to price your book. Know your market. How much are similar books selling for? Do you want to price it nearly the same to show that it belongs with those other books? Do you want to sell it at a discounted rate to attract new readers? If you are selling an e-book, you can even make your book available at no cost for a time. Whatever you do with price, have a strategy. If you are using a traditional publisher you will likely have no input on this one.

Write your Amazon description. In your description be sure to mention another author whose work is similar. Something along the lines of: "If you like       another author    , you'll love    your title   ." That way, when a customer does a search for the author you named, your book will come up too. Just make sure your book really is similar to the other author's. If you say fans of Stephen King will like your book but you have written a romance novel, you will not gain many new fans. Spend some time thinking about this one--don't just name the biggest-name author that comes to mind. There will be someone whose writing really is similar to yours.


Step 2--Make Yourself an Expert


You can find many requests every day for an expert to interview. Check out www.radioguestlist.com for starters. Small newspapers, radio talk shows, and news bloggers use this site to find experts on specific topics. Once you have a book out, you are a published expert on the topics covered in your book. Look through the list of topics people are looking for an expert on, are there any that are close to what you wrote? If so, respond to the request and let them interview you. Even if your book is pure fantasy, there will be themes within your book that you can use for this. 

These interviews WILL NOT gain many new readers. They are chances for exposure and they will give you experience, but the types of media that submit requests to Radio Guest List are small enough that they normally only have a handful of viewers. The benefit is, many of these people are news bloggers. Your interview will be on the internet for the foreseeable future. Your name and book are much more likely to come up when there are many sites that mention you. And don't underestimate the experience you will gain. As you go further into the marketing plan you will be more likely to succeed if you gain experience on this level first.


Continuation of This Posting Series

That's all for tonight, but next time I'll continue with a look at expanding to greater media circles. You can see this posting here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Things to Consider on Violence in Literature

Picture Credit: http://www.consumerinstinct.com/consumer-behavior/
does-violence-beget-violence-or-is-it-all-in-the-genes/
Violence in literature. It's a touchy topic because people have different standards and very real concerns.

In this posting I'm going to discuss things to consider in determining the appropriate amount and type of violence for your book.

Before I dive into that, though, let me first say what this is NOT. I am not going to dictate how much violence belongs in literature. I believe that is a matter of opinion. I'm only trying to give tips on evaluating how much you deem appropriate.

Second, before anyone announces that no violence should be found in literature, stop to consider that most conflicts and all threats constitute some level of violence. You do not have to like gore, horror, or torture to acknowledge violence in literature.


What Needs to be Accomplished?


Before you start writing violence for the sake of violence, ask yourself why you are using it. Violence in literature can accomplish important tasks, but you should be aware of what you want it to accomplish. 

Some of the tasks violence can accomplish are:
  • Therapeutic connection with the reader- some books are written with the intention of helping victims of violence find healing 
  • Raising the stakes- give the character an increased level of problems to deal with
  • Push the characters- in this way readers find out just how far a character is willing to go; many times the character also learns this about himself or herself at the same time as the reader
  • Grow the characters- violence forces change or growth much faster than it will happen in a safe setting
  • Reach raw emotion- violence will bring forward emotions in their raw state; it is one thing for a character to love his child and it's another to show a scene where his child gets hit by a car; violence also reaches the emotions of the readers


How Far Should You Go?


The more aware you are of why you are using violence, the better you will be able to judge how far it is appropriate for you to go. For example, let's look at the therapeutic connection need. If you are writing a book to reach out to rape victims, then you will need to introduce rape. Or we can look at the need to push characters to show how far they are willing to go. If a threat is enough to turn your characters around, then stop at the threat, but if you are trying to show that they are able to risk their lives then you should make the violence great enough to portray that.

As a basic rule, if a paper cut will fill your need for violence in a scene, then don't introduce a hit man. If you are now frustrated with me because you want a hit man, go back to the question of why. A hit man isn't necessarily wrong, but he should fill a need in your story. If you find that the violence in a part of your book is a purposeless filler because you didn't know what else to put there, you may want to reconsider. As with any plot device, violence should give the reader information and develop characters in addition to furthering the plot.


Consider the Audience


In every part of writing you should consider your audience. Who will want to buy your book? Why? What are their expectations?

Violence can change greatly depending on how descriptive you get. The level of description you choose to use should be based on what you believe to be right and what you believe to be acceptable for your audience. Just as you would not market the "Saw" movies to pre-school aged children, you would not want to market the literary equivalent to the same children. 

Readers who know they are picking up a graphic horror book will have greatly different expectations than readers who pick up a YA action novel. The best way to know what your readers' expectations are is to read books in the section where yours will be found when it is published.

In turn, I am an advocate for readers (and their parents if they're minors) to set their own standards for the type of literature they will and will not read.  


Set up Violence


Now it's time to set up the violence you have decided to use. Before you jump in, there are a few more things to consider:
  • Understand how your characters will react/fight- people should react differently to violence based on their experiences and personalities
  • Bad guys will try to win- if your main character is an average citizen and she needs to fight ninjas, you must figure out a logical way for things to work out, because the ninjas will not suddenly forget how to fight just to help her out
  • Keep in mind the environment- people use objects around them; know what and where the objects are
  • Choreograph action- in high-action situations there is a lot happening at once; it can be too easy to lose track of where your characters are if you don't take the time to map it out
  • Evaluate motivation- this will affect the level of aggression and determination expected from any character
  • Long-term effects- violence always takes a physical and emotional toll on everyone involved; don't forget about a gunshot wound from last chapter, but it is just as important to not forget about how the violence affected them emotionally.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Who Am I? -Writing from a Character's Point of View-

Picture Credit: http://actortips.com
Writing is about creating characters who almost breathe. To get characters of this depth, you will want to make sure they are driven to do the things they do in the story.

Take a good look at your main character and her background. Put yourself in her place with her beliefs and passions.

  • How does she think and feel different than you do? 
  • What does she think about when she is alone? 
  • Who is she when she's around other people? 
  • Whose opinion matters the most to her? 
  • How does she feel about the way others see her? 
  • What does she think about her body?

Now move on to your first secondary character and put yourself in his place. Ask yourself the same questions about him. You should go through this process with each of your characters in turn.

Are there any times in your story that any single character is acting a certain way strictly because it is required to advance the plot? If so, re-think the plot or change the character (or possibly both). Think of it as casting, but you don't want your characters acting. You want to pick the "people" who are going to fulfill the parts you need them to fulfill. If you do not feel that any logical reason exists for a character (even after changing who the character is) to do the things that he or she does, then you must change the plot because readers will resent unrealistic character motives.

This is reminiscent of my posting about villains. Only in slapstick comedy is it acceptable for an antagonist (bad guy) to do evil deeds just because he or she needs to fulfill the assigned role. The same is true for the protagonist (good guy). All of your characters should have realistic feelings and goals that propel them into the conflict of your plot.

When you are writing, just take a minute to look at the scene from each character's point of view. Even though you will only use one point of view at a time, your scenes and your characters will come alive when clear motives exist for everything that happens. The conflict and plot should feel inevitable after you throw your group of characters into the mixing bowl of setting.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Characterization Through Setting and Plot

Picture Credit: http://www.despair.com/hope.html
I really struggled to find a picture that would capture the idea of using plot and setting to build characterization. I finally decided to use this humorous one because generally characterization is best accomplished by raising the stakes until the situation starts to feel out of control.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with a definition here.


What is Characterization?


Characterization is a portrayal or description of a given character. This portrayal can be regarding physical traits. But the more important characterization is generally regarding emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or psychological traits. A bland statement of fact that a character has a certain trait will never be as effective as portraying that fact through the setting and the plot.


How Does Setting Assist Characterization?


The setting involves the place, culture, society, religion, and every other aspect of what surrounds the character. Setting can push the character into making decisions he or she wouldn't have otherwise made. It can confront the character and force him or her to take sides or to determine what he or she thinks is right and wrong. For example, a character who grows up in a gang culture will have very different beliefs and thoughts about life than one who grows up in a small farming community. Both characters can decide that they are not satisfied to follow in their parents' footsteps--but their different backgrounds will make them different.

If you want to show your reader that a character values a certain thing--say upholding the law--above all else, stick that character in a setting that challenges that value--maybe a law is passed that he or she strongly disagrees with. 

The best settings will make the main character confront his or her own ideas so that the character gets to know himself or herself better.


How Does Plot Assist Characterization?


The plot is the overall storyline. Working with the setting, use the plot to push the character. For example, in the first Hunger Games book, the setting is a dystopian society where the hunger games are held. The plot gets started when Prim's name is drawn. This starts the chain that gets Katniss into the games.

As with the setting, the plot is an effective way to show who your characters really are. In The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson, the main character prides himself on his strict honesty. But the plot progresses to put him in a position where he has to choose between selling illegal drugs just once or letting his best friend (who previously saved him from poverty) lose his business and become impoverished.

Some new authors have a tendency to want to be nice to their characters. Their main character is such a nice person that they can't stand to let bad things happen. Guess what--no one wants to read a book about how happy and perfect someone's life is. If there is nothing to overcome, then the characterization and the plot will both be bland.


In Summary


To conclude this discussion, I want to re-emphasize the importance of raising the character's stakes. When times get hard, people find out more about themselves. And the readers get an amazing view of your character that a list of personality traits will never duplicate.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Art of Foreshadowing

Picture Credit: http://kiplimochemirmir.wordpress.com/
2011/12/15/see-it-as-if-it-is-a-shadow/
Foreshadowing is a suggestion of what is coming later in the book. The best foreshadowing does this in a way that the reader doesn't notice at the time.

Why does it matter?

You may be thinking to yourself that the only one you can think of who raves about foreshadowing is your literature teacher. The truth is, stories are not as fulfilling without it--especially stories with surprise endings.

Without foreshadowing, the ending will not necessarily feel inevitable. Even--and maybe especially--when there are surprise endings, you need them to feel inevitable. That way the reader may not have guessed what will happen in the end, but it will flow and they will understand how it happened.

Picture Credit: http://pekoeblaze.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/
adding-a-plot-twist-to-your-story-foreshadow-it/

How do you do it?

Present the ending of the book as a possibility by giving glimpses of pieces of the ending. Brandon Sanderson is a master at foreshadowing. If you haven't read his Mistborn trilogy, I highly recommend it. The ending absolutely blew my mind because it was the very last thing I would have guessed as a possibility. Yet, if you look back at his series, all the pieces are there. Without spoiling anything, I can say that small objects that he treats as insignificant all through the series turn out to have great significance. Things that seem to be minor subplots turn out to be essential pieces that bring about the ending. Because of the thick foreshadowing (that never feels like foreshadowing) the surprise ending fits naturally into place.

For anyone who hasn't read Sanderson's books, let's take a look at a couple movies that I think most everyone has seen by now. Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't seen them yet!

The Sixth Sense
Even if you haven't seen this movie, I think you've already heard that child psychologist Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) is dead almost from the beginning--he just doesn't know it. Think of how well it's set up. At the beginning of the movie you see him get shot. Then he begins working with a boy who sees dead people, most of whom don't realize that they are dead. During the whole movie no one but the boy talks to or even looks at Dr. Crowe. His wife is in the process of moving on with her life after his death.

The first time you watched the movie (assuming you hadn't already had the ending spoiled for you) the signs are there but seem to have other explanations. Not everyone who gets shot dies, the boy is obviously troubled and it would make sense for the parents to hire a psychologist for him, Dr. Crowe's marriage seems to be very troubled, and so on. If you're like me, when you found out he was dead you were shocked but at the same time it made sense. The second time I watched it, I saw the foreshadowing so glaring that it amazed me that I didn't put it together sooner.

The Prestige
This movie has multiple mysteries you try to put together the first time you watch it. You question how Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) is able to pull off his trick and how he is so certain he will be leaving jail again to see his daughter when he has been sentenced to death. You also question what is happening with Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and his trick. The whole movie seems to be moving in a way you can't quite put together. Yet, there are signs that are unmistakable if you'd only paid pay attention to them. Alfred catches on to the other magician's trick at the beginning of the movie because he understands the idea of living a life around the magic act, you see the unusual relationship Alfred has with his stage manager, you see the fact that Alfred's wife understands that he doesn't love her sometimes, you see that when his hand is injured it acts like a fresh injury longer than it should. Robert is blatant about his obsession and it shows you straight-out that his machine is replicating himself every night. Then, of course, you have one of the characters at the beginning of the movie saying, "Now you're looking for the secret...but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know."

Somehow, despite all the blatant foreshadowing, you don't put everything together until it's spelled out in the end. It's not until the second time you watch the movie that you recognize that you should have known.

What Does This Mean to You?

Find a way to break up clues of what is coming later in your book. Stick those clues into the middle of your story in a way that they don't draw attention to themselves. Then the progression of your story--and especially your ending--will feel natural and inevitable. Readers like it when they guess wrong about what will happen next, but they don't like it when a surprise feels too abrupt and unnatural.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Manage Your Curves

Picture Credit: http://www.aansneurosurgeon.org
/210613/7/3051
Have you ever started a book that made you feel completely lost for the first 5 chapters until the author caught you up on what was going on? Or have you read a book that introduces you to so many characters that after meeting what feels like the 100th one you realize you don't know who any of them are? What about a book that opened with nothing going on because the author was too busy explaining every minute detail of the main character's past life?

These are incidences of not managing a learning curve well.

Fantasies are known for having learning curves because they frequently are trying to introduce new worlds, customs, and creatures. But any book has a learning curve. At the very least, the reader must learn who different characters are along with information about their lives.

A steep learning curve will require extra concentration. To a certain extent this can be a good thing. It can help suck readers into the story when they are trying to figure out what is going on. But a learning curve that is too steep will lose readers' interest because it requires a higher level of concentration than they want to give.

So what does this mean when writing?

Look at the the learning curve you are using, especially at the beginning of the book. Readers want to feel like they are jumping right into the story. They don't want pages or even paragraphs that feel like they are only setting up the scene. They want to see some sort of tension from the beginning.

BUT they only want to feel like they are jumping into the middle of the story. Be careful of opening your book by sticking the reader in the middle of a situation that they don't understand because they missed out on the beginning. Then you will find that you lose tension by continually reverting back to the past to try catching the reader up.

Balance at the beginning is best accomplished by asking yourself what the true beginning of your story problem is. For an example, let's look at the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood because most people are familiar with it.

Little Red Riding Hood Example

If you were turning Little Red Riding Hood into a novel, you would want to look at the beginning of the problem, which is going to create the tension for us. I would start it with Little Red Riding Hood finding out that her grandmother is sick. At that moment you have a little girl who is worried about her sick grandmother. And you have a mother who has to weigh the need to send her daughter to the grandmother against the fear that her daughter may run into a wolf on the way. At that point it is not difficult to throw in the fact that the girl's nickname came from the red cape that she always wears, which she received for her birthday. It will come naturally to introduce the wolf because he is on the mother's mind.

A tendency to keep the learning curve too gradual at the beginning of a story will begin with the history of why Little Red Riding Hood has the nickname that she does. Then it will go on to explain the fact that a wolf is in the area. After all the work setting the stage, you will make it to the point that Little Red Riding Hood is going to visit her grandmother. All of this explanation before the problem begins (sick grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood's trip) will make it very difficult to keep a feeling of tension in your writing.

A learning curve that is too steep will start in the woods when the wolf is talking to Little Red Riding Hood. Or a very steep curve may even start the story when the wolf shows up at the grandmother's door to eat her. Suddenly you have to do flashbacks or constantly interject extra information to catch the reader up on what is going on.


This same concept is true through the entire book. The learning curve will not be static, but as you are editing pay attention to how much is being thrown at the reader in any one spot. Also, pay attention to the feedback you get from the people who review your manuscript. Ask them if there were any parts that were confusing or that dragged. The learning curve may be one reason for either confusing or dragging parts of the book.

Monday, August 19, 2013

That's Old News

Picture Credit: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2009/
rochester-buffalo-cleveland-top-newspaper-reading-cities.html
When you are writing historical fiction or nonfiction, one huge way to get your facts straight is to look at the newspapers of the time.

Before you say that you don't need to because you already know what was happening at the time, stop and ask yourself how recent your source was written. Basically, if you are looking in a history book to find out what life was like in a certain place 150 years ago then you need to do more homework.

Daily life and the information the average person had is not portrayed well in a history book that is chronicling major events in a country or group of countries. What did the average person know about what was going on? What did he or she think about what was going on?

Newspapers are obviously not the only source to be evaluated, but they are an important source. The good news is that it is not hard to look back at old newspapers. They have been digitized and they are fascinating to read.

For digitized newspapers from the United States, try looking at The Library of Congress website: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/. You can see newspapers as old as 1836. Also try using a search engine to search the web for sites specific to the state you are interested in (or country if you are looking outside the US). As a couple examples, you can find Utah historical newspapers at: www.digitalnewspapers.org. Or you can find Pennsylvania newspapers at: http://accesspadr.org/cdm4/search.php?CISOROOT=/sstlp-newsp.

Unless you are looking for very old dates, you will be surprised at what you'll find.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Meet the Frightening, Scary, Ugly, Hideous, Ruthless Adjective Monster

Picture Credit: http://www.search-best-cartoon.com/
cartoon-monsters.html
This is one of the many hiccups I had when I started writing. Adjectives and adverbs make your writing descriptive, right? The answer is: not unless you use them correctly. For an exaggerated example, I'm guessing you got bored before you made it through the row of adjectives in the blog title. :)

Don't get me wrong, adjectives and adverbs have an important place in writing. But if you don't keep them under control they will eat up your pages and bury the good stuff.

Before I go on for too much longer, I'd better give a couple definitions.

Adjectives describe nouns (a person, place, thing, or idea).

Adverbs describe verbs (action words).

One excellent way to decide if you have a habit of using adjectives/adverbs too much is to print out a chapter and cross them out. Read the chapter without them. Does it make sense? Does the reader loose anything important? If the manuscript makes sense without some of the adjectives/adverbs and the reader doesn't loose any important understanding, you should seriously consider whether they should be there.

The important adjectives/adverbs should also be scrutinized to decide whether they could be removed by strengthening the word they are describing. For example, you can say that, "Carlos bolted out of the room" instead of using, "Carlos ran out of the room fast." Instead of saying that, "The day was hot," think about how your character reacts to the hot day and write his or her reactions. Then the reader will know that it is hot and they will learn it in a story-building way.

If you ever have multiple adjectives/adverbs in a row so that you need a comma to separate them, I would HIGHLY suggest you look at removing all but one.

To recap, adjectives/adverbs are NOT a sign of poor quality work. Every author uses them. But they can be easy to overuse if you're not careful.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Keep Learning

Picture Credit: http://www.gboe.org/school%208/
I've always been a fan of finding ways to keep learning. I don't believe learning is ever done.

For anyone else interested, though, I have come across FREE internet access to a college class on writing taught by Brandon Sanderson. For anyone who likes fantasy but hasn't read Sanderson's Mistborn series, you need to. It's one of my favorites (despite the really ugly book covers).

Sanderson has written many other books and he is a master at character building and at packing in an exciting story.

He apparently teaches a writing class at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and he has made his class available to anyone who wants to learn from it. You can access all of his lectures, homework assignments, and extra credit assignments. Check out the website here.

I'm excited to get started! Hopefully we can all pick up some new things.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Similes and Metaphors

First of all, I must say that I was VERY happy that I found a cartoon for both similes and metaphors. When I started my Google search I hadn't had much hope of success looking for even one of the two.

What are similes?

Picture Credit: http://wronghands1.wordpress.com/
gallery-june-2011/simile-2/

A simile is a comparison between two things that are kept separate. In short, it is to say that someone is as happy as a clam (an English cliche simile that probably isn't used in other languages this posting may be translated to). In a simile the comparison is limited. If I say that Hank is as happy as a clam, I am not indicating that he is as wealthy as a clam with a pearl. I am not saying that he has a shell like a clam, or any other comparison you may think of. I am limiting the comparison to Hank's state of happiness.





What are metaphors?


Picture Credit: http://www.sleuthsayers.org/search
/label/simile
A metaphor is comparing two things by saying that they are, in fact, the same thing. To reference my cartoon, it is to say that someone stabbed you in the back. If Mary says her friend stabbed her in the back (an English cliche metaphor), she is opening up the comparison to mean many things. Her friend hurt her just like stabbing would hurt. Her friend surprised her with the betrayal just as if she had been stabbed from behind. Her friend's betrayal was wrong just like stabbing a person is wrong. Any comparison that you can think of between stabbing a person in the back and betraying them would be considered right.








Why use similes and metaphors?


Similes and metaphors add to the effectiveness of writing if they are used correctly. Especially if the comparisons are ones that the reader hasn't heard/read before. They can help to paint a scene because they bring sharp pictures to the reader's mind. By showing how the characters are thinking and reacting to the things around them. If the main character confronts a tiger and the simile/metaphor used is something about how pretty the striped fur is, then obviously he or she has a reason to be calm. If the same character confronts a tiger and the simile/metaphor is about how horrible the teeth and claws are, then the reader will be more likely to envision the frightening situation and the character's fear.


Warnings.


Be careful with cliches. As with almost every rule, I disagree with the idea of NEVER using a cliche. But you need to understand that if you use a cliche then it will stand out. If you have a character that likes them then go for it sparingly. However, even a character that uses cliches will start to get old if he or she throws in too many. Just make sure that you have a reason any time you add any type of cliche.

Don't overuse this tool. Like most tools, similes and metaphors can be overused. They should be peppered in to add to the scenes. They should not take over the prose. How much is too much? I'm afraid you'll have to decide that on your own. Every person's writing style is different, which is a good thing. Some people use more than others. They best way to know if you should add more or take some away is to get feedback from an editor or from a reading group.




Monday, July 15, 2013

Interview with Elsie Park


I'm here introducing Elsie Park, a debut author and a friend whose book Shadows of Valor is coming out September 7, 2013.

Rachel - Before we talk about your writing, tell me a little about yourself. 

Elsie – First of all, Rachel, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. I’m both honored and grateful *smile*.
I grew up in a small town outside Yosemite National Park, California, U.S.A. I enjoy playing soccer and the piano, reading, writing, art and spending time with family. Years ago I spent 18 months in Italy teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing the castles and old Roman cities enhanced my fascination for ancient and medieval culture (unfortunately, my Italian is now a little rusty). In college I studied zoology, botany and criminal justice. I've worked as a wildland firefighter, security guard and a police officer, but I am currently a stay-at-home mother of three. I love thinking up new ideas for interesting stories and composing musical scores to go with them.

Rachel - You have had quite the career experiences in firefighting, law enforcement, and lately as a stay-at-home mom. How did you decide you wanted to be an author and how did you come up with the idea for your story?

Elsie - After leaving my careers behind to be a mother, it didn’t take long after having my first baby that I got antsy to do something more than just dishes, changing diapers and grocery shopping. I’ve always loved books, reading and watching good movies (especially historicals), so when some adventurous medieval scenes started invading my head, I thought, “Hey, those would make a good movie or excellent story if coupled with a good plot, but can  I really write a full-length novel? I’ve never done anything like that before. Hmm.Yes. Yes, I could . . . or at least I could try.” So on a whim I jotted my ideas down and my first step to writing Shadows of Valor was taken.

Rachel - What is “Shadows of Valor” about?

Elsie - Taking place in 1300 A.D. England, The Shadow (aka Sir Calan), a knight-spy working under the direction of King Edward I, hunts down and arrests smugglers who defy the law and evade paying their taxes. The Shadow’s duty is fueled by vengeance from a childhood experience against smugglers. Dealing with society at its worst, The Shadow becomes cynical and struggles to rein in his desire to execute lethal justice before turning the perpetrators over to local authorities. He feels his soul turning black with hate in his continual fight against evil. A childhood acquaintance, Lady Elsbeth, enters his life years later, bringing light to his soul once again, but in an effort to keep his identity and duty secret, he must also deceive her. This creates distrust and uncertainty between them, as she accepts another man as her suitor. Smugglers infiltrate the area and The Shadow must discover who they are before Elsbeth and others are hurt or killed.

Rachel - What made you decide to place your story in the medieval time period?

Elsie - I have always loved fantastical and historical stories about princesses, knights, pirates, Vikings, wizards, dragons, and anything adventurous in another time. I don’t dislike contemporary stories, but since I’m already living a contemporary life, I often want to read about times and places far from my own. I like to get lost in unknown worlds . . . places I don’t experience everyday. I chose 1300 A.D. England because I like the clothing, and King Edward’s wool tax causing some people to smuggle their goods. Created a great backdrop for an exciting story. Also drawn to the poems in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings written by J.R.R. Tolkien, I also wrote ballads into my story, even composing the written music for them. I’ve included a medieval recipe in there as well. My awesome publisher gave me the unique opportunity to compile two of my songs into a 2-minute score for my visual book trailer too. I was flattered and elated to take part in it.

Rachel - Do you have a favorite character in your book and what makes him/her your favorite?

Elsie – Besides my two main characters being my obvious favorites, I also like one of my minor characters, Sir Giles. He brings a lighter feel to the story with his humor and easy-going manner. He constantly has some sort of food in hand as he’s ever snacking on victuals or looking for the next meal – a tribute to all those who, like my husband, can eat and eat but never gain weight. Unfortunately, I don’t fit into that special category, never gaining weight *smile*. Maybe I’m living a dream through that particular character *laugh*.

Rachel - Help me see inside your daily life. When do you work on your writing and what is your process like?

Elsie – Wow, I’m no authority on finding time to write. With the addition of two kids since I first started Shadows of Valor (I have a total of three now), I’ve had less time to dedicate to writing. But this is what I TRY to do: After taking my oldest to school and then working out for an hour, I spend a half hour to an hour on social media before attacking my house chores. After the dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, feeding the kids and putting the youngest down for a nap, I feel I can jump on the computer again to beat out a few pages of manuscript. This doesn’t always happen as distracting things tend to pop up, but this is what I try to do. I sometimes stay up after the kids have gone to bed and write a bit, but I lose a lot of sleep and tend to be a cranky, tired mommy the next day, so I don’t do that very often.

Rachel - What is the hardest part of being an author? What is the best part?

Elsie – For me, the hardest part about being a debut author is getting my name known, but with social media and gracious people and friends who allow other authors to answer interview questions on their blog, it makes this task easier. The best part about being an author is imagining fun and exciting stories and writing them out so others can read and share the adventure with me. 

Rachel - What have you found that helps you out the most in the editing process?

Elsie – My secret editing weapon is my sweet mother, who majored in journalism, worked as a reporter for the Deseret News before she was married, and proofread all my rewrites. She’s a saint! But when I’ve edited on my own, I’ve found sticking to the basic rules of grammar is the most helpful. I also listen to what seasoned authors suggest about grammar and editing, and I apply their knowledge. When I sit down to edit (something an author doesn’t ever look forward to) I just DO IT, even though I know the process will take a while. Some things I try to avoid in my writing is the overuse of “–ly” verbs, the word “that”, similes and clich├ęs. I also love the “find” and “change” option on my writing program so I can find and change certain words within seconds throughout the entire manuscript. I also print out my manuscript at some point and read it on paper. Things just look different on paper than they do on the computer screen, and I catch mistakes on paper that I didn’t catch on the screen. I also read my manuscript aloud at some point to see how well my sentences flow while speaking them. If they don’t flow, seem too wordy, or I stumble over the syntax, I change it up.

Rachel - Can you tell me a little about what you’re working on now?

Elsie – I’m working on another story that takes place several years after Shadows of Valor. I’ve taken a minor character from Shadows of Valor and have weaved a story around him. The story takes place in England again, but ventures into Scotland as well, drawing on the historical happenings and battles that took place between the countries at that time. You don’t need to read Shadows of Valor to read my next book. Though they share a common character, it’s not a sequel. It’s a separate story.

Rachel - Do you have a favorite author?

Elsie – Oh boy, this is a hard one because I love so many authors. No, I don’t have ONE favorite author, but there are some who stand out in my mind as writers who have produced stories that are unforgettable to me. I love these authors and their timeless stories: Jane Austin, JRR Tolkien, and Charles Dickens.

Rachel - Where can readers find more information about you and “Shadows of Valor”?

Shadows of Valor will be released September 7, 2013 through Jolly Fish Press. It can be ordered from any bookstore including Barnes and Noble and Amazon and will be available in hard cover, paperback and e-readers (including Kindle, Nook, and Kobo e-readers, and can be downloaded to any tablet, smartphone, or computer). I’m excited over the release of Shadows of Valor, and I hope people will love the story and my music as much as I loved writing and composing it.

Elsie Park’s contact information:
Twitter - @elsiepark1

To schedule a book signing, appearance, or interview, contact my publicist, Kirk Cunningham: kirk@jollyfishpress.com or me: elsie_rees@hotmail.com