Starting a novel…

So you have decided to write a novel. Before you sits a blank screen. For some that brings excitement at the unlimited possibilities but for others it can be intimidating. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task at hand.

I decided to post on this topic as I just published my latest work – The Heir to Alexandria – last month, and now I too am at this point. I am ready to begin my next novel.

Cartoon Characters uid 950048Now before you start typing your novel, you will need to do some planning. I am not saying you need to figure everything out but without a plan, your characters will just meander around.

You need a direction. Your characters need a direction.

Without a goal in mind, a plot becomes just a haphazard series of events with no meaning or purpose – one that will leave the reader wondering, “What was the point of that story?” (Or perhaps you will spend additional hours editing and cutting out all those scenes that didn’t actually add to your story.)

Before you begin to write even one word, I suggest you consider working on these three topics at a minimum.

Conflict/Plot – Basically, you will need to decide what your story is about. Conflict is what drives your story. You should be able to write down the conflict in just one sentence. (For more on conflict, check out my post on the seven types of conflict.) You also need to consider whether your plot idea has what it takes to last through the length of a whole novel. Not every idea will be worthy of a full-length novel or even a short story.

Setting/World – You need to know where this story is going to take place. If it takes place in the past, you will need to research not only the location but customs and styles of that time. If it takes place in a fictional world, you will need to spend some time developing this world. Even if you are writing a story that takes place in your hometown, you need to make sure you have planned out where everything will take place and know all the details of those locations. It is knowledge of these details, whether they make it into your story or not, that will allow you to bring the reader into your character’s world.

Characters – Don’t just give your characters a name and start writing. You need to get to know them. You need to know their history, their personality quirks, you need to know what motivates them. This is a must for your main characters, but you should develop at least some basic knowledge for the supporting cast too. Again, this development of characters will show in your writing.

As I said, I am currently starting my next novel. I am working on the overall plot/conflict right now. I want a strong storyline before I develop my world or continue developing the characters I already have begun. (Right now I just have the basics of two main characters.)

All of this may seem like a lot of work. And it can be a daunting task to start a new novel. But with planning – the laying down of a foundation – you will have a better chance of following through with writing a publishable novel.

#NewRelease – Under Wrapped by Charmaine R. Parker

Charmaine R. Parker just released her latest book – Under Wrapped – a sequel to her book The Next Phase of Life.

Book Blurb

underwrapTai, Nevada, and Candace—who cherish their sisterly bond of exotic vacations, ladies nights, and unbreakable camaraderie—reunite in this dramatic sequel to The Next Phase of Life.

A savvy entrepreneur and happily married woman, Tai Wilson’s life couldn’t be more complete. But just when she’s getting comfortable in her new lifestyle, she starts to suspect that someone is stalking her, attempting to make her world miserable. Or is her mind playing tricks on her? When things go awry, Tai’s intuitive sidekick, Nevada, a successful Washington, D.C.-based detective who took down a pair of bank robbers, offers to assist. But even the seasoned sleuth is in for a shock when she discovers who the culprit is…

Meanwhile, fashionista Candace has been enjoying her boyfriend and patiently waiting for that permanent diamond on her finger. Once the ultimate pursuer of adventurous men, she was swept away by Don, a pilot who took her all over the world. But despite these pleasurable heights, she becomes disenchanted. Something is amiss and she can’t figure out what’s keeping him single. So like with Tai, Nevada’s efforts lead to the ultimate truth.

It’s another phase of life for Tai, Nevada, and Candace, and a lot of questions are up in the air: Who’s trying to ruin Tai’s life? How will Nevada track down the elusive stalker? And will Candace’s dreams of married life ever come true? Add to the mix Tai’s younger sister, Trista, who has her own complicated relationships to sort out, and life for these three girlfriends is Under Wrapped.

About the Author

Charmaine R. Parker is the author of The Next Phase of Life, The Trophy Wives and Under Wrapped. She is a former journalist who has worked as a reporter, copy editor, and managing editor. The publishing director for Strebor Books, she is the sister of New York Times bestselling author Zane. She received a bachelor’s of fine arts from Howard University and a master’s in print journalism from the University of Southern California. Born in N.C. and raised in Washington, D.C., she started writing stories, poetry and skits during early childhood. She lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter.

You can follow Charmaine on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Under Wrapped on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Leaving the kids home alone

Last week, I wrote about letting my son (age 9) walk home by himself and how so many people seemed astonished by that. So I guess, I shouldn’t mention to those same folks that I have let him stay at the house without adult supervision.

I don’t recall when we started letting Jase stay home by himself. It started with me needing to run down to the storage locker at the pool. I was gone less than 5 minutes. Jase did fine.

And from there it was putting signs out at the neighborhood entrances or picking up Domino’s pizza, which is just a 2-minute drive from the house. All short stints and no problems.

CIMG3609As I said in my post about letting Jase walk home, he is a responsible boy. We have gone over all the rules – don’t open the door for anyone, don’t answer the phone unless it is Mom or Dad (we have caller ID), in case of a fire get out of the house, and if there is an emergency, call us or 911. And yes, we had to go over what constitutes an emergency.

Now there is no way we would be comfortable leaving him at this age by himself for a long period. I think the longest is about 30 minutes when I left to take Lexie to a birthday party. He was alone until my husband came home from work.

Texas doesn’t have an age limit as to when you can leave your child home alone. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website only states that adequate supervision is critical to keeping kids safe and that inadequate supervision can be a type of neglect. They list on the website some things to consider such as emotional maturity of the child, their ability to respond to emergencies, the ease in which they can contact another adult and how long/how often the child is left alone.

We don’t do this often. And this is something we feel safe doing with Jase. As for Lexie, she has stayed with Jase on those short jaunts to the pool or Dominos. But we would never leave her by herself. (She is just 6.) She is not ready for it. However, she is fine with her older brother for 5 minutes without us watching over her.

I think when parents are trying to decide when to leave their kids home alone or even walk home alone they need to consider that child. It shouldn’t necessarily be determined by age. It is what that child can handle. It also depends on the living situation. Do you live in a safe place for a child to be unattended? Would I feel as safe letting Jase walk alone in a rougher neighborhood? I don’t know. But for us, in our situation of living in a safe, family-friendly environment, I feel safe letting him walk by himself, play out front without constant supervision and yes, even stay home for short periods of time.

Today’s Featured Author: Susan Leigh Noble

Yes – today I am the featured author on my own blog. So welcome to me! Actually I had an author reschedule at the last moment so I thought it was a good time to put another excerpt out from my new release The Heir to Alexandria.

Excerpt

Grayson returned to the cabin, circling it until he came to the open window. He peered in. A tall thin man stood before a woman lying on a cot. Her red hair was spread out over the grey blanket. It took him a moment to realize the woman was Alista. The man bent over her. Grayson couldn’t see what he was doing. He didn’t wait to find out. He ran to the front door as he drew his sword. The door wouldn’t budge. He kicked it, causing it to fly open.

The man swung around. “Who are you?”

“Step away from her.”

Grayson entered. He noted the bottles lining the tables and assumed he had found Thorin. The man stepped away from the bed with his eyes on Grayson’s sword. They circled each other. When he got close to the cot, Grayson glanced down. Relief washed over him when he saw Alista breathing.

“What did you do to her?”

“I don’t understand. Who are you?” Thorin stepped back, bumping against the table.

“She came for the Astraglan extract. Where is it?”

The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a red vial. He thrust it toward Grayson. “Take it.”

As he reached for the bottle, Thorin swung a knife at Grayson. He barely had time to twist away. As he did so, he ripped the bottle from the man’s hand. He kicked out, sending Thorin tumbling backward.

“Get out! Take it and get out,” Thorin shouted as he got up. “The girl stays here.”

Thorin rushed toward him, jumping away as Grayson swung his sword. He grabbed a box, flinging its powder at Grayson. The yellow dust burned his eyes. He rubbed them with one hand as he swung his sword blindly. He could hear Thorin moving. Then he saw a blurred image coming toward him an instant before the man rammed into him. He fell backwards, hitting the ground hard. His sword fell, sliding across the floor. Thorin punched him in the face.

“You will not take her!”

Grayson blinked, trying to clear his vision. Thorin grabbed his shirt and pulled Grayson toward the door. Grayson grabbed one of the table legs as he gripped Thorin’s hand that held his shirt. He twisted it. Thorin yelled, releasing his hold on Grayson. From the floor, he kicked upward, striking the man in the stomach. Thorin fell to the ground as Grayson scrambled to his feet. He snatched a cup from the table, flinging the contents onto the still form of Alista. She moved, muttering as she struggled to open her eyes.

“What did you give her?” he asked as he advanced on Thorin.

The man scrambled backwards. Grayson grabbed his shirt and pulled him to his feet. He rammed him into the wall beside the door, pressing his forearm into Thorin’s chest.

“Answer me!”

Thorin stared at him. Grayson smashed him into the wall again.

“It…it is something to relax her.” Thorin glanced at the cot. “The first dose always knocks them out.” He smirked. “But if taken often, it makes them compliant.”

Grayson slammed him into the wall again. Thorin’s head cracked loudly against it. The man drooped and Grayson let go, allowing him to slide to the floor. He swung around. Alista was sitting at the edge of the cot, swaying slightly. He grabbed her arm and pulled her into a standing position. She looked at him with a bemused expression on her face.

“Come on.”

He led her to the door, pausing only to pick up his sword. Alista stumbled slightly. He thought for an instant he would have to carry her. But then she righted herself and began walking with more confidence. They hurried toward the trees.

“Wait! No! Bring her back!”

“Keep going,” he said to Alista.

He didn’t wait for a response. He turned to face Thorin. The man stumbled forward, a knife in his hand.

“Grayson!”

He glanced back. Alista was on her hands and knees. She struggled to rise, clearly still dazed by the drug Thorin had given her. Grayson dashed to her side. He turned back as he heard a rustling from the nearby bushes. A large wolf entered the clearing. The creature didn’t look at him. Its eyes were on Thorin. The wolf bared its teeth, growling. Slowly, the beast advanced until it blocked Thorin’s access to them.

Grayson helped her to her feet. He ushered her into the forest. A scream broke through the air. He paused. For a moment, he was tempted to go back and see what had happened. The next scream cut off abruptly, and Grayson led Alista away.

Book Blurb

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverBelieved the descendants of the Gods themselves,

The Alexandria line ensured peace,

Until they were brutally murdered.

But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

You can purchase The Heir to Alexandria on Amazon.