Beginning a novel recap

Today I would usually post something about writing or publishing, but it is May, which is a crazy busy month. It is the last month of school for my kids, so there are all sorts of events – school art display, reading with my first grader in class, class picnics – and on top of that we had my son’s 10th birthday party at the house.

So instead of something new, I am going to fall back on my old standby and do a recap. This time I am doing a recap of things that might be of use when beginning a novel.

The past post title is listed first and then typically the beginning of the post. To read more simple click the links.

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. (To read a short intro to novel writing, click here.)

9 ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas – Many authors are teeming with story ideas, so they just need to pluck one and develop it into a novel. But newbies and even a few veteran authors sometimes falter when finding a story to write. (Click here to discover those 9 ways.)

Conflict drives your story – Every story needs some form of conflict. Without conflict there would be nothing to drive the characters and plot forward. It is the character overcoming obstacles that supply the drama, the suspense, the tension in the story. (Lists the 5 types of conflict – click here to read more.)

Choosing the Setting for your Novel – Selecting the right setting can have a significant impact on your story. Choosing where a story or even a scene takes place can add suspense or excitement to a theme. (Click here to read more on settings.)

Making sure your story ideas is sound – You have a brilliant idea for a story. You can imagine the main character and even the opening scene…but when you sit down to write, you realize that is all you have. You don’t have a complete story with a structured plot and a satisfying ending. All you have is this great story idea. (To read more, click here.)

Keeping your story believable – You are watching an action movie, and during the fight scene, the two sides shoot and shoot and shoot some more. And while you are engrossed in the action, somewhere in the back of your mind you are wondering “Shouldn’t they run out of bullets or at least need to reload?” (To read more about making your story believable, click here.)

The importance of character flaws – No one wants to read about perfect characters that always smile, act polite and eat their vegetables. No one is perfect and readers don’t expect your characters to be perfect. In other words, everyone has flaws and so should your characters. (Just one of many posts on characters. Check out my character recap here or keep reading about character flaws by clicking here.)

I hope this helps. And next week I promise to have a new post about writing…just not sure what it will be at this moment.

The Heir to Alexandria now available at all e-book retailers

In January, I released my novel, The Heir to Alexandria, on Amazon as part of their KDP Select program. That meant through the end of April, it was only available on Amazon. (See the results of my 3 month trial of KDP Select here.)

But now, you can buy The Heir to Alexandria for $2.99 at most e-book retailers.

Barnes & Noble         Kobo Store            Smashwords (all e-reader formats)            Amazon 

The Heir to Alexandria

HeirAlexandria_ebookcover Believed 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?

Excerpt – Chapter One

The rough hand pressed down over her mouth. Alista’s eyes flew open. With the moonlight behind the large figure, she couldn’t make out any details of the man hunched above her. But his foul breath washed over her making her stomach flop. He rolled her onto her back, pinning one arm to the ground.

The vision hit as Alista struggled to reach her knife hidden under her bedroll. She saw the man’s sinister smile as he attacked a woman. The images of his past came fast. She felt the fear of his victims, the pain he bestowed on them and his pleasure at his actions. Her stomach turned. A wave of nausea swept over her as the vision ended.

The man climbed on top of her, pinning her to the ground. He moved his hand away from her mouth, caressing her jaw with his coarse fingers. Alista heard movement in the camp, but the man didn’t turn. The sound of someone rifling through her bag reached her as her fingers found the cool handle of her dagger.

A scream pierced the cool night air.

The man on top of her twisted around to look behind him. Alista took the moment of distraction to pull out the knife. She jabbed it forward, sinking it into the man’s belly. He turned to face her, a gasp escaping his lips. Shaking, Alista wiggled out from under him. The man clutched at the blood gushing from his stomach. Her own stomach lurched at what she had done. She scooted away as the man staggered to his feet.

She tore her eyes from him to the large wolf standing on the other side of the dying fire. Its jaws were still clenched on the throat of a second intruder. The wolf’s yellow eyes briefly met hers and then flickered to the man beside her. The wolf released its hold on the dead man’s neck. It leapt toward the wounded man, knocking him to the ground.

Crack!

Alista gasped as she heard the wood break. The man pushed at the wolf as the beast sunk its teeth into his neck. She barely heard the gurgling sound as she reached forward and pulled the broken basket from beneath him. She cradled it in her arms. Tears streamed down her face. What once had been a beautiful, handcrafted basket was now nothing but a heap of wood fragments.

She looked up to see the wolf watching her. In the moonlight, she could see the two lifeless bodies. An image from her vision flashed before her eyes, and she knew she was lucky to be alive. The men had no intention of only robbing her camp. She shuddered. The wolf had saved her again.

“Thank you,” she murmured as the wolf disappeared into the forest.

She sat the basket down and reached for her bedroll. She began to roll it. There was no way she could stay here tonight. Quickly, she put away her supplies that had been dumped on the ground. She glanced at the body lying next to them. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his torn throat. She kicked dirt onto the dying fire until the flames disappeared. In the moonlight, she surveyed the camp one more time before hefting the pack onto her back. With one last glance at the bodies, she began walking.

In the back of her mind, she could hear Raynor warning her that traveling at night was never a good idea. It wasn’t because she couldn’t see the roots and rocks on the trail. It was the Night Stalkers. Alista shuddered. She was fortunate to never have seen one. But she couldn’t forget Raynor’s brush with the huge bug-like creatures. He told the story many times.

Raynor had been foolish enough to be traveling at night, believing the extraordinary clear evening with its bright moonlight would keep the Night Stalkers away. He had not seen the two black creatures until they were almost upon him. Their heads would have come up to the middle of his chest if he had stopped to allow one near him. As it was, he ran as soon as he saw them but with their long, thin legs, the Night Stalkers covered the ground quickly. He swore he felt one of them touch his back as he ran into the meadow. At the top of the hill, he had thought he had lost them but one of them sprang through the air. He barely escaped.

Fire was the only thing the Night Stalkers feared. Alista recalled hanging on Raynor’s every word as he described running toward the forest. He fumbled for his fire rod in his waist pouch. When he entered the woods, he paused to throw down the special mix of fire starter he carried. Scraping his knife across the fire rod, he ignited a branch. He used his torch to drive the Night Stalkers back. Even now, she felt the knot in the pit of her stomach at his narrow escape.

Her mind was so preoccupied by the thought of Night Stalkers that she was to the middle of the meadow before she saw the tiny winged figures. She stopped, her mouth dropping open. She hadn’t believed fairies existed.

Daintily, the small-winged men and women danced around in a circle. The women wore flower petals as dresses and swung little lanterns as their wings beat softly. Some men played pipes or harps while others clapped in time to the music. Then one of the fairies saw her and motioned her forward.

Without a thought, Alista obeyed. The fairies surrounded her. She knelt in the soft grass as the fairies began their dance again. They circled around her. In turn, they bowed or curtsied. She nodded to each. Her eyes grew heavy. She wiggled the pack off her back. Using it for a pillow, she laid down. The fairies continued to dance around her, their music lulling her to sleep.

Gift buying highlights differences in my kids’ generosity

5631e6e110ecb096bb2afa1d0c544ae0Last week, Lexie and I headed to the store to buy her brother a birthday present. She already knew what she wanted to get him – Stormfly, a stuffed dragon for How To Train Your Dragon 2. (She bought him a stuffed Toothless for Christmas.)

However, when we got to the store, they didn’t have what she wanted. I offered to order it online for her, but since we were at the store, she decided she would pick out something else. The problem was there were so many things…that she wanted for herself.

So suddenly, it went from her wanting to spend about $10 on a gift for her brother to spending less on him, so she could buy herself something too. You see this gift was coming out of her allowance, and she only had $13.

I insisted that she pick out something for Jase first. This caused a little whining as she wanted to look at all the enticing things for her. Finally, she picked out a $6 Nerf-type gun for him. That meant she didn’t have much for herself, but she did find a small doll and puppy set. She was happy.

But as we left, I reflected on how different it would have been if Jase was the one doing the purchasing. If he was buying her something, money would not be an option. And even if he wanted to buy himself something, it would not come before buying her a gift. With Jase, it is all about making the other person happy. He has always put her first. In Kindergarten, he would pick a prize from the treasure chest for his sister rather than himself. He would make sure to share his cupcake or donut from a class birthday.

But would Lexie do any of these things? Most likely not. Often her thoughts are on what she wants. That isn’t to say she won’t share, or that she doesn’t choose things to make her brother or others happy. (She gave our neighbor one of her stuffed animals when the neighbor moved away.) But most often it is just she seems to come first.

I guess the best lesson is to set an example, and we do every year with the Angel Tree from our school and other clothing or food drives. We talk about people having less than us, and how much they need what we can spare.

But I don’t want it always to be about mom and dad spending their money. We began giving our kids an allowance to teach them money management. I don’t want to force her to give part of it away. I would like it to come from the heart. I want her to realize that giving to others makes not only them happy but can make her happy too.

***Jase’s birthday was this weekend. He got some money for his birthday. When we went to spend it he spent a third of it on his sister. He bought her Legos. Such a sweet boy!

 

Today’s Featured Author: Kathryn Leigh Scott

Today, I want to welcome back author Kathryn Leigh Scott to my blog. Kathryn appeared on my blog during her Down and Out in Beverly Heels blog tour back in April 2013. Now she is back with her latest release, Jinxed, which came out in February.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an author/actor — twin pursuits my entire life. I draw on both, one informing the other in my work and both careers are important to me. I grew up on a farm in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. My earliest memories are writing and performing plays with neighborhood kids, often costume dramas since my dear aunt worked in a bridal shop and gave me the castoffs. How lucky can a little girl get! Velvet, tulle, chiffon and silk, with hats, gloves and shoes to match… it’s a wonder I don’t write historical romance! I’m blessed I had family and schoolteachers who encouraged me to write and act. Of course, I was on the school paper and performed in every school play. As a teen, I won a state award for an article I wrote after interviewing the poet Carl Sandburg, and also took first place in a state drama competition for a Strindberg monologue. I can’t imagine my life without writing and acting.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born on a frigid morning in Minneapolis and have thrived in cold climes ever since. While I grew up in the country, I’m a city girl these days, living and working in both New York and Los Angeles. I also lived in Norway as a child, and for many years called London home… and lived a year each in Zurich and Paris. I refuse to make comparisons among these wonderful places; wherever I am is “home.”

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I’ve written since I could hold a pencil, but discovering my mother’s old Olympic typewriter when I was seven years old was a huge inspiration. She showed me how to use it and I slowly poked out one letter after another to write a play about George Washington for my second grade class… and gave all the good lines to Martha Washington, the role I set aside for myself.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

The moment I first saw something I wrote in print, which happened to be a short story that appeared in a little mimeographed booklet when I was in grade school. But everyone in my family writes. My dad, who was a farmer, wrote a monthly humor column for several Norwegian newspapers, called “Brev Fra Amerika.” My mother and brothers are also excellent writers.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

We write about what we know, of course, drawing on our acquaintance with all the arenas of life we experience. But I do love the jolt I get when I write something and wonder how I knew it or where it came from! We learn such a lot about ourselves by writing, which is particularly true in fiction where what we’ve experienced is simply the inspiration, the jumping off point for imagination.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes, I am about two-thirds along with a stand-alone novel I’m calling September Girl. It’s mainstream fiction, a considerable departure in style from my other books, which have been mystery, romance and paranormal novels. I’ve also completed a nonfiction book, Last Dance at the Savoy. The next title in the “Jinx Fogarty Mystery” series will be set in London.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

Frankly, the best thing about being a writer is seeing your work in print finding a readership. The worst thing is facing the blank page (screen), which is daunting and certainly inspires humility.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

There’s always another story to tell.

Please tell us about your current release.

Jinxed is the second installment in a story about actress Meg Barnes, who had it all and lost everything and ended up living on the streets of Beverly Hills in her “Ritz-Volvo.” She’s now finding redemption, rebuilding her life with work in a new television series… but also solving a crime involving the mysterious disappearance of her young co-star.

What inspired you to write this book?

Leslie Stahl did a “60 Minutes” segment years ago about once-wealthy, now destitute women living in their cars on the streets of upscale Bel-Air. I came to meet such women while working in a homeless program in Beverly Hills and imagined “what if” I were in such a situation… how would I handle it? Everything I write begins with “what if?”

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Yes, but no character is based on any one single person. All my characters are a mixture of traits and personalities of people I know and observe, just as it is with roles that I play. The downside of knowing a writer is that you’ll eventually get written about, but I’ve never had anyone say, “You wrote about me!”

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

Too many favorites! They all become very real to me. I write about an elderly down-on-her-heels actress, who is so elegant and well-groomed you would never know she lives in her rusting El Dorado parked on a shady side street just close enough to Neiman-Marcus that she can use their public facilities… I love this woman!

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

The blackest moment is when Meg realizes her own life is in jeopardy and that it’s because of her that other people have been harmed in her stead.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

Love scenes. One risks such terrible public exposure in writing scenes of intimacy!

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

The villain! A motive became so clear to me and then I knew who the villain was. I really became the detective as a writer.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

Meg Barnes. She’s funny, resourceful… and she blurts out exactly the right retort that in real life I would only come up with in the middle of the night when it’s way too late.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I worked as a Playboy Bunny while going to school in New York, and took Bunny Training with Gloria Steinem. (Then wrote about the 25-year history of Playboy Bunnies in The Bunny Years.)

Book Blurb

Jinxed_finalcover_hirezIn Jinxed, Meg Barnes is back on the comeback trail. Beloved for her role as amateur sleuth Jinx Fogarty in a renowned detective show, Meg assumes she’ll star as Jinx in the revamped TV series, only to discover that a young ingénue has been cast instead. Meg swallows her pride for a paycheck to coach Chelsea Horne—until temperamental Chelsea goes missing before filming begins. Meg ignores the warnings from Jack, her FBI-agent boyfriend, not to do her “Jinx thing.” But when Jinx’s iconic top hat goes missing and someone from her past is murdered, it’s clear her life— and more— is in jeopardy. As in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Scott once again pulls back the curtain on the grit behind the Hollywood glamour, taking the reader on a wild ride in this mystery-suspense/romance novel.

About the Author

KathrynLeighScott_brownsuedeKathryn Leigh Scott, author, publisher and actress is probably best known for her star turn as Josette Du Pres, ingénue bride of reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins in the TV cult classic “Dark Shadows.” Her third novel, Jinxed: a Jinx Fogarty Mystery (Februrary 2015), is a standalone sequel to the successful Down and Out in Beverly Heels (Montlake Romance, 2013). While continuing her acting career, Kathryn launched Pomegranate Press to publish books about the entertainment industry, “Dark Shadows” fan books, and other nonfiction and fiction titles. She continues her acting career playing George Segal’s girlfriend Miriam in “The Goldbergs” and recently appeared in the 2015 mid-season launch of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

A native of Minnesota. Kathryn landed the ingénue lead in the classic Gothic daytime drama “Dark Shadows” (ABC, 1966-1971) upon graduation from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She also starred in the 1971 MGM feature, House of Dark Shadows. Kathryn played four roles in the series: Maggie Evans, Josette du Pres, Lady Kitty Hampshire, and Rachel Drummond. Kathryn wrote Dark Shadows Memories to coincide with its 20th anniversary and Dark Shadows Companion as a 25th 
anniversary tribute. Both were book club favorites.  Including her history of the Playboy Clubs and the various audio and digital editions of her work, Kathryn’s literary sales exceed 165,000 copies. Kathryn appeared in a cameo role in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp. Her latest nonfiction title is Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood.in the U.K. by Bloomsbury.

Kathryn’s theatrical credits include a lengthy run with James Stewart in Harvey in London’s West End. She has appeared in many television series and mini-series, including Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Voice of the Heart, Dan Travanti’s wife in Murrow, George C. Scott’s mistress in The Last Days of Patton, Philip Marlowe’s girlfriend in Chandlertown, and series regular with Brian Dennehy in Big Shamus, Little Shamus. Feature films include Providence, The Great Gatsby, Brannigan, The Greek Tycoon, Assassination, 187 and Parasomnia, Dr. Mabuse, and Dark Shadows.

You may find out more about Kathryn on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Jinxed on Amazon.