What's good about Monday? On the first Monday in January we celebrate First Monday. So many events fall on Monday that will happen in the coming year.: maybe it's a new job, a promotion, birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc. This is also a day, which starts out the first full week of the new year, to look ahead with real hope, energy, enthusiasm and excitement for all things to come in the next 12 months.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Enjoy the first Monday of the year and use #ThankGodItsMondayDay to post on social media. And have a great week.
Over a year ago, in one of my blogs, I reposted an excerpt of an article 5 Quick Questions To Help You Write Awesome Characters
By Lucy V Hay (Bang2writer) from an interview with Angela Ackerman
As a writer and a reader, I've learned just how important strong characterization is. If I, as a reader can't "see" your character and what sets him/her apart from others in a crowd early in the piece, I'll get confused and possibly not "get" the story the author is telling, outsided where and when. The Character is the "who" and often the "why" in the story.
As a writer, I use a strong character in the building of a world. It's just something I love to do. For this article I'll summarize each of the points then have many people's favorite "bad girl" answer. Ariennu of Tyre didn't start out as my favorite. She was just the easiest because she's based on the voice of the "devil on my shoulder" -- You know that's the little red imp that sits on the left and whispers all the naughty thinks you ought to do but don't ever dare. She's also based on a college friend Paula - a rowdy red, funny, no-nonsense, almost predatory wild woman--but a comfort and a mother after a while...and gone far too soon.
Strong storytelling starts and ends with a realistic, memorable protagonist
Exploring backstory is crucial. Understanding what makes a character tick allows writers to convey behavior and emotions authentically as the story develops. When a character’s actions line up with who they are and what they believe, they come across as credible and realistic, and the audience is immediately drawn in.
I’ve designed 5 questions to create a starting point for exploring your protagonist’s past:
1) What do you value above all else in life?
This seems like a simple question on the surface, but it actually opens a portal to the deeper recesses of your protagonist.
Ari answers: Security and plenty as long as it doesn't tie me down. I like the good stuff, the wine, the parties, the men, the gold and the jewels and the adventures. I also like being able to get away and start somewhere else when I get bored -- and I always do get bored. Now that I'm nearly immortal, boredom is a distinct problem.
2) How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?
Each of us has a set of fundamental moral beliefs we abide by.
Moral beliefs, once set, take a lot to shift. They also influence what positive and negative traits will become part of one’s personality.
Ari answers: I believe I'm a survivor. Belief in myself has made my life better and actually survivable. Marai once told me I and many of the women he knew had been through so much that they were broken. I was the only one who seemed to have thrived no matter how grim the situation was. I told him I just learned early that finding something good in bad times even if it was immoral, illegal or disgusting to most was how. I taught that to others to help them deal with strife too.
3) What line will you never cross?
Every character will have moral lines they will not cross, things they will not do.
Moral lines also are a great way to brainstorm who wounded your character in the past and introduce the betrayals he or she encountered.
Ari answers: Innocent people and children. I can't let someone do to them what was done to me. I will fight or kill someone who tries. I will never take innocent life or knowingly hurt a child.
4) What are you most ashamed of?
Shame is one of the worst emotions we can feel in real life. Not to be confused with guilt where we regret our behavior, shame is about believing we’ve failed on a deeply human level and we view ourselves as flawed and damaged as a result.
It would be a spoiler, but I was ashamed I went after Prince Maatkare to one-up Deka, simply because I COULD and sex with him was going to be out of control. When I found out the truth about what led to my seduction of him and the resulting chaos, you could say I was ashamed, not regretful of one glorious moment, just ashamed of the mess it caused for everyone else.
5) What is your biggest source of pride and why?
This question is again not about the what, but the why.
Being a mother. My experiences and what I've learned. Asterii, my adopted son (in WIP sequels and Valkyrie novels co-authored with Mark Mcquillen, Mara Reitsma and Davina Purnell) a difficult, magical and polymorphic child. I helped the kid accept self and use powers constructively.
My Un-critical Reviewing Style - One thing writers must do is critique the writing of others. Having slogged through graduate school in Art History in my youth and having read literally tons of moldy volumes in the eons before the internet I found two shocking things that would seriously handicap my ability to read and review. I do it anyway, but felt I might need to explain myself.
1. I don't read for enjoyment much of the time -- or it takes a really well composed novel with few slow moments to keep me reading without it becoming a chore.
2. I tend to scan for facts instead of reading. This means I may miss something.
3. Crowd scenes or complex genealogies confuse me. I lose a story trying to figure out exactly why Drake's Auntie Flora's distant cousin Jenny sired by his mistress' Pearl's brother George who happened to be in the forest that day with seventeen other maidens who had royal ties (all spelled out in painstaking detail) is relevant.
4. If I've blundered into a later book in a series, I'd like a Page One warning to read the other book first - or at least a brief synopsis of what happened in the previous novel (200 words or so - no great detail along with a cast with 20 word description or less of ongoing IMPORTANT characters.
Because I have these reading flaws and handicaps I tend to be quite subjective and grade easily and higher than the average reviewer. Most things I read are between 4 and 5 stars. I see the effort put in by the author as an author myself.
For me 5 stars doesn't have to be perfect. It's a story that captivated me and kept me reading at a brisk pace all the way to a satisfying end. Graysen Cooper by Robin Rance (Historical Romance) and Save our Souls by Leighton Dean (Hard SCifi-space opera) are two I read this year that fit that bill.
I wish there was a 4.5 for otherwise great books in which I was lost for a number of chapters or those that bogged down as they stopped to elaborate on a point. (This latter point is one of my own as a writer) I usually bump the rating up or down based on the rest of the story and how I liked its resolution.
Four Star books I generally liked but was drawn off by the reading flaws I have mentioned above. I have a "treadmill test" I put my phone on a treadmill and read while I walk briskly for 30 minutes. I admit that means I may miss some of the subtleties in the slower parts but that might be because they ARE slow.
Three Star. These books I finished and struggled with concept, land-building, storyline, character, or some formatting/grammar or editing issue.
Lower? I won't post a rate lower than a 3, but I may chat online with the author and try to get a sense of concept they were trying to communicate. I just don't see a benefit in public stabbings.
I will NEVER downgrade a book because a character has a different moral code than I do or is in some way unfashionably despicable: racist, homophobic or some other phobic, mysogynist, even pedophile. I'll read it and try to "get sense" of the character or the era or world intended. I will not downgrade due to grammar and style unless that's what's causing me to slow down or stop. Thank you for hearing me out on this!
Souls of the Dark Sea (Saga of the Outer Islands Book 2) by A. F. Stewart
Here's a great Book 2 in a series. The characters and the story telling is all there. It's the undead, the dead, and immortals tasked with bridging the ocean between those worlds in a sea-faring and pirate based adventure that did (as other readers have mentioned) remind me of Pirates of the Caribbean at points. Great battles and then tsunamis of bone and corpses made for some wonderful and yet horrific images as the gods struggle to return balance to their worlds and right Aschetus' wrongs.
The hero is Captain Rafe Morrow who moves among humans as if he is one. It was a mild surprise when I realized he wasn't and was actually the God of Souls (a seafaring Anubis or Charon) but that's what I get for reading the second book first. Without leaving a spoiler I'll say the pacing grows throughout the book. There's action, battle, and triumph, but read Book 1 Ghosts of the Sea Moon first. I know I will.
This week Margena Holmes brings us her character Evalycer Nicholls!
1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.
I am Evalycer Nicholls, former Lieutenant in the Royal Planet Fleet and now a pilot-for-hire.
2.Tell us where and when were you born.
I was born on the planet Ennek 26 standard years ago.
3. How would you describe yourself?
I'd describe myself as a sarcastic, strong, and determined pilot. I shoot first and ask questions later. I'm pretty loyal to my adopted planet and to the Royal Planet Fleet on Darantha.
4. Tell us about where you grew up.
Ennek is the governing planet in the Ennek System. We lived there until I was about nine years old, then we moved to Startia for my father's work. I entered the Academy there when I was 14 years old. Startia has a corrupt government and they expect and require everyone who shows aptitude in any of their Elixir abilities to work for the government for two years. Once I graduated the Academy, the government wanted to use me basically as a spy. I wasn't going to do it, so I joined this revolutionary faction to take down the government. That didn't go so well, either.
5. How old are you?
26 standards years.
6. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not?
I did have a happy childhood. I was an only child so I pretty much had everything I could want. My parents were loving and caring and let me grow without too many limitations. They kept me in line, though.
7. Past/ present relationships? How did they affect you?
I had one romantic relationship while at the Academy. He was a nice guy but he was a little intimidated by my mind reading ability and the fact that I wanted to be a pilot. He figured women couldn't be good pilots.
Maybe that's what drove me to want to start my own pilot-for-hire business, to prove him wrong. I'm a good pilot, good enough for General Frey in the RPF to want to hire me for the Elixir Trade route.
That, and my fighting ability. Ha ha! I have a good working relationship with the royal family on Darantha now. I'd worked under Princess Maryllia, who is a Lieutenant in the RPF and Lead Interrogator in the security department. After the events of the Elixir trade, I consider her and her brother Prince Jory my close friends, something I've never really had before. Even with them, I try not to get too close because I don't want to get hurt.
8. What do you value above all else in life?
Friendship and loyalty. I expect 100% loyalty from the people I work with and for. I don't have many close friends because of what I do, but the friends I do have I know will always have my back.
9. What are you obsessed with?
Making money. Ha ha! Running a business is expensive, so I need money to make money. If my ship breaks down, I’m out of a job, so I have to keep my ship in top condition. And I like to drink the illegal Pelonsa Reserve, and it's expensive to get!
10.How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?
My beliefs are simple—trust only a few, demand loyalty, and cut those out of your life who do you wrong. Makes my life easier and less complicated.
11. Biggest fear?
Getting caught by the faction I worked with on Startia. They will kill me if they ever found me.
12. What line will you never cross?
I will not lower my standards for people, nor will I kill people just for the sake of killing them. I will defend my honor and myself, though, and wouldn't hesitate to kill for either of those reasons.
13. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst?
The best thing that ever happened to me was joining up with Prince Jory, Princess Maryllia, and Captain Kelly on the Elixir Trade. I wasn't keen on joining a group, because I like to do things on my own, but they showed me what being a team player means, and it was kind of nice having people watch out for me.
The worst thing was joining that faction on Startia. I have a price on my head, so I can never go back to that planet.
14. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
I can't think of anything embarrassing at the moment.
15. Biggest secret?
That I joined that faction on Startia and was involved in the plot to kill the governor. I wasn't down with killing, so I informed the governor and he was kept safe.
16. What is the one word you would use to define yourself?
17. What is your current goal?
To hopefully live my life without getting killed! My mouth sometimes gets me in trouble.
Now we meet D. C. Harrell - Welcome!!!
First, what made you want to be a writer?
Words. Word-luscious words made me want to be a writer. All by themselves they have such power. String them together and they convey culture and translate experience.
Growing up all over the world immersed me in the study of language from day one. Studying ancient languages in graduate school brought old, old history alive. Reading good stories has always made me long to live in their strange, other worlds. Since that wasn’t possible, writing those worlds was the next best thing.
Tell us your book’s genre?
I write fantasy. My Dragon Fairy Tales are available as stand-alones or collected in the Dragon Hoard. The Araphel vampire mysteries, which are urban science fantasy, are forthcoming.
Tell us about your book and how it’s available. (Kindle, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, paperback etc.)
You can find the stand-alone Dragon Fairy Tales short stories in digital format everywhere you like to read. Dragon Hoard, the collection, is available in paperback as well as digital. The audio versions are coming soon!
How important is it to read books when you want to be an author?
If you want to write nonfiction, you need to “be an expert” in the niche you’re writing for. Writing helps you hone your logic and communicate your authority in that field. I did this. It worked. If you want to write fiction, start in the genre where you love to read, because you’ll already be steeped in the expectations of that audience. Expertise is almost automatic. I did not do this with the vampire mysteries. It did not work. Guess how many vampire mysteries I’ve read now! Guess how much revision I’m still doing?
How did you come up with this fantastic idea?
My stories usually begin with an interesting nexus of ideas. For example: Transitions are powerful for good or ill. In one culture, people think demons live in transitional spaces, like doorways and the birth canal. What if dragons actually occupied doorways, emerging from liminal space into the door frame to consume people who lingered too long between the outside and the inside? This was the source of Drake Take, Dragon Fairy Tale 4
Which character do you identify with most in your novel?
Ermana is Rohi’s older sister in Drakonian Pink, Dragon Fairy Tale 5. I, too, am an oldest sister. Like Ermana, my spiritual gift is bossiness.
Did the Bible or other spiritual works have anything to do with your idea for this novel?
In the percolating phase, I’m often aware of a biblical concept or story. After my own characters take shape, however, I’m not actively aware of the scriptures. I suppose you can’t separate the salt from the stew, as Lizz Wright sings. I do have an MDiv, and I teach narrative theology, so I expect scripture salts my stories even when I’m not looking.
Is there a message you’d like to send through your book?
I expect issues of belonging drive the themes of most of my stories. I don’t force any particular message, but I do notice that particular one bubbling up frequently.
Which part of the publishing process do you detest most?
I do not like the waiting bits. I am very impatient.
Tell us how the atmosphere needs to be for you to be able to write. Example, music on or quiet etc.
I usually write at home, at my desk, in the room my family calls “her lair,” but I can write elsewhere with or without generalized sound. If I get too emotionally involved in a scene, good or bad, Briscoe the Lair Cat will stuff his nose under my hand in attempt to stop my typing and start the pet therapy.
What is one goody you must have at your desk when you’re writing?
Chocolate is not an absolute necessity for writing, but I never decline it.
What is the worst thing you’ve had to overcome before publishing your novel? IF it’s too personal just make a generalized statement if you can.
The accuser on my shoulder whispers daily that no one will get my writing, no one will appreciate it, no one will enjoy it, no one will value it. Attempting to vanquish this message just adds energy to that system, so I say gratitudes out loud as a way to offer my mind and emotions an alternative focus.
When you need some extra encouragement who do you turn to?
We laugh a lot in my writers’ group. This helps me take myself less seriously. Don’t get me wrong. Those beloved writer-friends also make me cry a lot, but the laughter makes up for it.
How do you market your book?
I like building community through reading and digging into the themes in my books and other stories. I do this on social, through blogging, and in public speaking. Eventually, I’ll focus on advertising, but right now, I’d love for readers to sign into the Letter Lair, so we can read and discuss together: https://tinyurl.com/DCHarrellLetterLair.
Have readers every contacted you? If so, tell us the best thing they’ve said to you.
Oh. My. Goodness. Readers writing back to me is the best part of publishing! I love it when they explain how the story intersected with their own experience. About the Dragon Fairy Tales in general, one of them said: “You provide a very believable fairy tale atmosphere without being distracting. It feels ‘right.’” Take that, shoulder devil!
Who do you trust to read your finished books before publication?
One of the other company spouses at my husband’s work is an excellent writer himself. He beta read Drakonian Pink, Dragon Fairy Tale 5. His comments were like gold. I would trust him in a second.
Tell us all about your very first book signing. Take us there with your description of people, place, food, décor etc.
My first book-signing was for the nonfiction, so we held it in church. My friend set up a table on Sunday morning after worship, and the crowd-effect took hold. As I wrote a little note in readers’ books, they chatted to my daughter, who sat on her own folding chair next to me. She was at the age where every other “lesson” centered on how we don’t write on the walls, on the floor, on the cupboards. Or in our books.
Finally, here was a pencil situation she appreciated! She helped herself to one of my signed books, turned to the first blank page, scribbled all over it, and handed it to the lady, proud as punch. “Let me get you a different copy,” I whispered to the wide-eyed lady, not wanting to upset my girl and not having the time for a parenting moment to explain how my mark-making was different from what she’d done. Still, her four-year-old face crumpled in confusion.
And the church lady, God bless her, immediately recovered and answered, “Oh, no. I’d like that one please.” After that, we asked everyone, “Would you like one or both of us to sign your book?”
Some silly questions!
What do you enjoy when you’re not writing?
I love creative handiwork of all sorts. Cake-decorating is my favorite, but I also cross-stitch and landscape.
Tell your readers what your favorite food and color is.
Have I mentioned chocolate? Specifically, Swiss or Belgian. Blue is my favorite color.
Tell us your favorite novel?
Like so many other fantasy enthusiasts, I comfort read The Red Book of Westmarch, but Robin McKinley is my fairy godmother for dragons, fairy tales and vampires. Right now I’m hawking her Sunshine, a vampire novel where she personifies not death, nor sex, but sunlight.
A live drama or the opera?
Chips or crackers?
Hamburger or chicken sandwich?
Fries or onion rings?
Milk shake or smoothie?
Chocolate milk shake. Have I mentioned chocolate?
Thunderstorms or star gazing??
Kindle or paperback novels?
Kindle. Travels better. Weighs less.
Are there any mistakes you made with your first book?
Is the sky blue? One of my first readers, an agent, told me the work was “too internal.” I overcorrected by turning every single stated emotion into its physical manifestation, rooting out all discussions of what just happened, and weed-killing all of the character’s “thoughts.” In effect, I took away all the interpretive material, so that my next readers had no idea what to make of the plot and concluded that the character was stupid.
What kind of advice can you give to other either aspiring authors?
You know that bumper-sticker “show; don’t tell”? It’s not really true. Actually, it’s about fifty-fifty. Instead, try “scene, sequel.” Show the scene. In the sequel, tell about the characters’ reaction to the scene, the dilemma they now face as a result of the scene, and the decision they make in response to the conflict.
When in doubt, who do you trust to help you out?
I trust different people for different things. One of my readers is sensitive to the emotional arc of the story. One of them drags my writing back to the audience. One of them challenges me to make the bones of the story more clear. One of them enjoys the magic and keeps it consistent. One of them scalds like a bath of acid, but there’s always an element of truth that doesn’t disintegrate if I soak for a while.
When is the release of your next novel? Name genre or if it’s part of a series. If your book is part of a series tell the readers about the others that are out for sale.
Dragon Hoard released on July 17, 2018.
Look for the Araphel vampire mysteries next year.
Where can we find your author page of your work to follow you and purchase your awesome book?
You can find me at https://dcharrell.com, on social as dcharrell or dc_harrell and in all of the storefronts where you love to read: https://books2read.com/ap/RJqJGx/DC-Harrell .
Next week let's see which character she brings! Thanks D. C....
A few new Books to start the year
How to Start Writing a Book: The Wit and Wisdom of Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV Kindle Edition by E.M. Swift-Hook (Author), Jane Jago 11-28-18
Vampire Mage (Rebel Angels Book 4) Kindle Edition by Rosemary A Johns (Author) Book 4 of 4 in Rebel Angels (4 Book Series) 1-8-19https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JBCX4R1/ref=pe_1884310_375503840_pe_re_csr_ea_title