Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anti-Heroes 101: The Mysterious Bad Boy

Everybody loves a bad boy, okay...not fathers, but most women who read romance do. There's something about that elusiveness that just grabs our attention. From rogues a la Han Solo to rebels like James Dean, there are anti-heroes to challenge your heroine no matter who she is or what the story.

The Dark Quality:
Today I'd like to touch on the first kind of bad boy...the Mysterious Bad Boy. This is the guy with a secret. A man with baggage so intense, he keeps the heroine at arm's length for her own good.

Whether its a dangerous association or a frightening aspect to his own being (blood lust) it is something that will certainly put the gal in peril.

The Appeal:
This is all about the chase. This kind of guy allows only a select few into his circle and that in and of itself is a major draw. Here is a man who doesn't offer himself to just anyone and being trusted by him is very flattering. The more elusive, the better because the one who finally captures the heart of such a guarded man is truly special, right?

There are usually some traits that help us understand why she is attracted to him. These can be in the the form of an incredible talent for something beautiful...music, art, photography...this is how he communicates how he feels. Its veiled and its aching, but it is definitely deep. She gets it and it hits her like a ton of bricks.

The Set Up:
A great way to utilize this type of character is hint at this destructive threat enticingly throughout the first few chapters. A strange happenstance here...a cryptic suggestion there, and your heroine will be unable to quell her curiosity.

The Mysterious Bad Boy is a great character because his secret is usually the main conflict of the story. It is the catalyst for the inner turmoil between them...his need to keep her safe and her not understanding his aloofness. And it is the drive for the outer conflict as well; the actual physical danger to them.

A great way to amp up the tension with this type of anti-hero is to put him in opposition with a heroine that is naturally a hunter of truth. Whether its a cop, an investigative reporter, or a someone who has a past that drives this specific curiosity (think sister gone missing years ago or abandoned by father) make sure your heroine is not afraid to demand full disclosure.

The Reward:
With every bad boy story line, you need to have that moment of redemption. That scene where all the things he's done or said finally make sense.  Usually ten chapters in or so, the time you need to supply the first major disaster. 

Show the real danger here, amp up the threat, and show how much of a sacrifice he's been making to keep those he (secretly) loves safe.

Having believed for so long that he was unlovable because of this "secret" her acceptance of him will bond them through out the remaining two disasters. Be sure to make the remaining two conflicts escalate in personal and public danger.

Later, show how far will he go to protect the heroine. Will he take it to his own destruction? Will he go against everything he believes to not lose her to this danger? 

The Heart's Hope:
There has to be a reason for a perfectly sane leading lady to choose to become entangled in this situation. What is the hope of her heart? What does she truly and deeply believe will happen if she just sticks it out?

In this type of story, it is usually that only she "truly" knows him. He is an elusive prize that all women want, but only she can attain. She is the "chosen one" that he allowed into his secretive world. 

She believes that if she just weathers the catastrophic events fueling your novel, that in the end their bond will be so powerful that nothing can separate them. (Think Bella and Edward)

This is the quintessential anti-hero in almost all paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, and comic book stories where there is a secret identity/secret power. 

Can you think of any that you really loved? How about some that you really didn't buy?

Until next time...Go Write!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Delia Takes the Prize! C.O.T.T.

Congratulations to Delia Latham for taking the crown in last week's Staff Clash. Two anonymous COTT staffers went into the ring and readers had another hard choice to make. Some said:
  • "This was a cruel choice!! LOL! They were both excellent."
  •  (About Delia's excerpt): "Beautiful words expressing emotion and making the reader want more."
  •  "Intense emotions on both excerpts! Great job!"
  •  "Terrific excerpts!"
  • (About Katie's excerpt): "I need to know Wulf better! I have a feeling he's dreamy."
  • "Awesome clash with two well-written, emotion-packed scenes! Great job, authors!"
Of course, nobody knew at the time that those authors were Delia Latham and Katie McCurdy.

Both are recent additions to the staff. Delia has come on board as a Blog Alliance Correspondent, and Katie is the official Talent Scout. (Looks like COTT scouted some talent when they found these two gems.)

This fun excursion was a great interjection into the usual good times shared at Clash of the Titles. This week sees another fierce challenge with nameless authors nominated by COTT staff. Be sure to head over there and vote now!

And in just 2 weeks, the party begins! Mark your calendars for October 10th and be ready to play for extra prizes all month long as COTT celebrates it's first anniversary. Your vote will determine which of the year's winning authors will receive the ultimate honor: the Laurel Award.
* by Assistant Editor of COTT, Michelle Massaro 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Going DARK...

With my recently finished Gothic romance, Whispers on Shadow Bay, off to the designated people and places I am free to dally in different projects while I...you guessed it...wait. The life of a writer, right? Sigh.

One great thing about waiting is that it opens up the creative possibilities. I'm not working on a book to fit into a series nor am I trying to write to a specific imprint's requirements. I'm just writing for the sheer pleasure of it and seeing where the character and the story goes.

This is actually what happened last time. I was done with the third book in my Shades of Hope series and was wondering if I should write a fourth, but not really feeling it.

I'd fumbled NaNoWriMo terribly....like train wreck. So I decided to explore a genre I'd been reading and toying with....and ended up writing a whole book.

This time around I seem to be treading the same waters. Not sure if I should go forward with the second book in the Gothic romance series because the first one is still out in proposals...so what to do?

Well...I've started a book called, Dark.  Its a romantic suspense, but with a lot of danger and thrills in the chase. My main character, a very reluctant addition to the Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, struggles with the whole process of crime scene investigation, bodies, and the danger involved with hunting a killer...and we take the harrowing journey with her.

I've had a great time constructing a twitchy, unique personality in a primarily alpha-male environment. Its been said that her mind works in a great and terrible way and the process of writing how she sees the world, the crime, and the unseen flow of it has been so fun!

Plus...I might get to go on a ride along with our men in blue if I'm lucky!

So, I'm off to do more research. The librarians think I'm crazy anyway since the last time I was there I asked for books on old cemeteries, hidden passageways, and daggers.

What do you do when you finish a project? Are there unfinished stories rattling around in your head that are just dying to be written? I'd love to know what lurks in the dark corners of your writer's mind.

Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by Alan Cleaver_2000 Photograph by Christopher Craig

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Announcing the Tournament of Champions

Tourney Banner 2

Happy Anniversary, Clash of the Titles!

It's been almost a year since COTT opened its voting-booth doors and invited everyone in. Over the past twelve months, readers have chosen 25 Clash winners and received 48 free books. And along the way, a family formed. That family consists of the voters, authors, staff, and the 25+ blogs who have banded together in mutual support with COTT.

This is cause for major celebration! So COTT is doing it up to the nines.

Clash of the Titles' first annual Tournament of Champions begins next month! Over the course of four weeks, past winners from the previous year will compete in a series of clashes for the ultimate prize: the Laurel Award. The Laurel, COTT's most prestigious honor, is awarded by public vote to a single author among the year's champions.

Voters are expected to turn out in droves to support their favorites and participate in games just for readers. Each week, COTT sponsors—consisting of various authors and staff—will issue fun challenges to readers along with the chance to win gift cards, critique services, a business card design, and more

A dozen sponsors are lined up for the event so far. That's a lot of prizes!

Throughout the month, details and updates on the Tournament of Champions will be shared on the COTT website and featured within the Blog Alliance. To help spread the word, please grab the special Tournament Button (below) to display on your site. Then send a link to your page to: contactcott at gmail dot com to enter the special COTT Shout-About drawing. The drawing will take place during the first week of the Tournament and the winner will receive a Clash of the Titles mug.

Please also consider Tweeting or sharing this article on your Facebook wall.
(it only takes a second--just click the share button.)

Mark your calendars and spread the word. This BYOV (Bring Your Own Vote) party begins on October 10th!

* Michelle Massaro is the Assistant Editor of COTT and a writer of contemporary Christian fiction. Find her on Twitter @MLMassaro or Facebook.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Historical Romance Giveaway and Interview!

Raquel: Today my special guest is Historical romance author, Penny Zeller. Welcome to my Author Feature, Penny.

Penny: Hello Raquel. Thank you for having me as your guest!

Raquel: I'm so happy when I find fellow authors and can't wait to share them with other lovers of romance. Let's get started...In one sentence, sum up your style or voice as an author. 

Penny: That’s a great question! I think the sentence “impacting lives for Christ through the written word” sums up my voice and passion as an author.

Raquel: That is a powerful calling. Why don't you tell us about your book.

PennyHailee is the third book in my Montana Skies Historical Romance trilogy. Here's what it's about...

For years, orphan Hailee Annigan was just a ragamuffin in the Cincinnati streets, stealing food to keep her two younger brothers fed. Her thievery landed her in a home for delinquent youngsters, where her life was changed, thanks to her teachers. Now, nineteen-year-old Hailee excitedly heads to Montana to be a teacher, yet she's still plagued by her shameful past and the fear of never seeing her brothers again.

Based on his upbringing in high-society Boston, no one would have guessed that Nate Adams would attend seminary and become a church pastor in rugged Montana. Even now, Nate's parents refuse to put aside their own plans for his future and accept his calling.

When their paths converge, an immediate attraction draws Hailee and Nate together, even as the pressures and demands of others pull them apart. Can the unlikely pair come to terms with their pasts and face the future together?

Raquel: Ok, you've got me intrigued. Is there an overriding theme you hope your reader’s take away from your book?

Penny: The overriding themes are forgiveness and dependence on God, who never leaves us.

Readers can also expect to share in Hailee’s pain and sorrow, as well as the joy she experiences. They will watch as her faith wavers and her heart breaks at the losses she experiences in life. They will share with Nate as he struggles to release to the Lord burdens he was never meant to carry. My books are character-driven, and as such, throughout the book and with a variety of characters, readers will catch a glimpse of struggles with forgiveness, Salvation, rededication to Christ, and the hope of a new life

Raquel: Wow, sounds like an incredible journey for the reader. Does your background influence what you write?

Penny: I would definitely say that my background influences what I write. As a wife and a mom, I am better able to develop scenarios that pertain to being a wife and a mother. As a volunteer, Bible study leader, and as one who ministers to women and children, my passion is to bring my characters to life in ways that encourage others to grow in their faith through reading inspirational fiction.

In addition, I was able to interact with a wide variety of individuals during my former jobs as a legal assistant, a caseworker at the social services agency, and as a bank teller. This helped me to be able to better create characters with real feelings and real trials.

I would advise a new writer to give his/her writing to the Lord and to not give up! I speak from experience when I say that when He closes one door, He opens another (much better) one. 

I give more tips for writers, including sticking with writing and how to prepare for a writer’s conference here: http://pennyzeller.wordpress.com/sticking-with-writing/

Raquel: What’s coming up for you in terms of your career? 

Penny: Next on the agenda is my historical romance series set in the post-Civil War era. I recently completed the first draft of the first book and am hard at work on the second.

In addition, I am thrilled to be a part of two blog tours for Hailee. From the end of August through the middle of October, I will be hosted on a variety of blogs (many with giveaways!) and will be discussing numerous topics pertaining to my books, writing in general, and even some interviews with characters. Also, on September 14, I am part of the FIRST blog tour. I update all the information on my Facebook Page at  www.facebook.com/pennyzellerbooks

Where readers can find me on the web: I love to connect with readers at -
My website: www.pennyzeller.com
My humor blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com

Thank you so much, Raquel, for having me as your guest. It was an honor to be here!

Raquel: It was a pleasure to have you visit, Penny. And I'm thrilled to announce that Penny has offered to give away a copy of Hailee to one lucky commenter!

If the winner is a U.S. resident, she will receive a personalized paperback copy of Hailee. If the winner resides outside the U.S., she will receive a PDF ebook copy.

Penny Zeller is the author of several books and numerous magazine articles in national and regional publications. She is also the author of the humor blog "A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author" (www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com). She is an active volunteer in her community, serving as a women's Bible study small-group leader and co-organizing a women's prayer group. Penny devotes her time to assisting and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His kingdom. Hailee is the final book in the series, which began with McKenzie and Kaydie in Montana Skies, her first series with Whitaker House. When she's not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family and camping, hiking, canoeing, and playing volleyball. She and her husband reside in Wyoming with their two children. Penny loves to hear from her readers at her website, www.pennyzeller.com.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dialogue--Snappy Dialogue, That Is - Clash of the Titles

Coming Up at Clash of the Titles, October 10-November 4, 2011
The first annual, Tournament of Champions! 
Over a FOUR week period, SIXTEEN previous COTT champs will face-off in EIGHT different mini-Clashes.
Only ONE will take home The Laurel Award.
With Clashes, games, and prizes galore, you won't want to miss this month-long celebration!

*Guest post by Lisa Lickel

Dialogue lets your characters be heard. It’s their voice; their conversation amongst themselves. It’s how they tell their story. Dialogue is talk. Discussion. Arguments. Jokes. Questions and answers. Foibles. Mystery. Mesmerism. It’s the muscle on the skeleton of the story.

The writer’s ability to conquer natural dialogue comes out of how well we know our characters. The reader’s ability to hear natural-sounding dialogue comes from the depth from which he is drawn into the story.

      Using dialogue in a book helps readers see that characters spend time with each other for a reason, even if they’re stranded on desert islands. Tom Hanks had Wilson in the move Cast Away, after all. Dialogue is more than internal mutterings or their revelations to the reader. It needs to be heard, not just read. The words need to translate immediately to sound in the reader’s inner ear, and thus be natural, no matter the setting.

What can we deduce from these two small pieces of the excerpts in this Clash? Are you in time, in story, in the character’s emotions? Can you cheer for them? Figure out exactly what will happen next, or are you eager to turn the page for more?
“Would you mind if I walked with you?”
“As long as we’re not together.”
“All right.” He strode into the street and spread his arms as wide as his grin. “There. We’re not together.”
“Jack!” she cried…. “Get back up here.” Ruth motioned frantically.
“Don’t make me fix you up again.”

“Perhaps you cannot wait for the wedding night?”
      Her brown eyes simmered. “Why you insufferable cad!” She raised her hand to slap him.
He caught it and lifted it to his lips for a kiss, eyeing her with delight.
She studied him then released a sigh. “You tease me, sir.” Snatching her hand from his, she stepped back. “But what would I expect from you?”

In a novel, talk must have a purpose. A conversation shouldn’t be talk for the sake of filling time or space. Readers have only until the last page to spend with people in a book, so writers must not waste time. Dialogue is meant to reveal something useful, important to the story line—passion, motive, or confession.

Why Snappy? Characters must speak true to their nature. While snappy it might not describe the personality, it implies action, tension, perhaps a slip of the tongue or a revelation that might even surprise the character, but certainly should surprise the reader.

Clash of the Titles hopes you are intrigued by these little snippets of story and want to find out more about the books and authors. Stop by and you’ll get that chance! Meet the authors and leave comments to enter the drawing for a free book.

*Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, magazine articles, radio theater, and several inspirational novels to date. She is also the senior editor at Reflections in Hindsight.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Trailers: How To and Where To Post

Whether you've braved the trailer making journey on your own or paid someone to make one for you, the next step is where to post them.  

Outside of YouTube and your own website, where do these things go anyway? The truth is, there are tons of places to post your book trailer. From Web forums to LinkedIn account to sites exclusively for trailers, here are a few to get you started.
There are also specialty sites for specific genres or markets. For example, since I write inspirational fiction, I also have my trailer on Christian Book Videos.  There are sites for every genre...Wrote a horror book? Post your trailer on The Fear Zone. What about romance...Seriously Reviewed is your spot. 

Keep in mind that a lot of these sights do require a release date and ISBN. Some also require you to have a FLASH version of your video. However, a lot of the sites out there will just allow an embed code from YouTube which is super easy.

There was a site called Trailer Spy that was really fun but I got an error code at the time of this post. I'd check back though just in case.

If you're interested in making your own...something I encourage you to try at least once, Hub Pages has a great "How To Create Your Own Book Trailer" article with links to photo sites, music sites, and everything else you'd need to get started.

Something I found helpful a.k.a sanity saving, was the plethora of YouTube tutorials on how to make a book trailer. Everything from, "How to Fade the Music" to "How to Insert Sound Effects" all kept me from pulling my hair out.

The following is the first one I ever tried. It was for my debut novel, Purple Knot. My publisher ended up making one of their own for the entire 3-book series...but I'm still proud of my end results considering I didn't even realize my laptop had Movie Maker to begin with...totally not an expert.

So grab your laptop and give it a whirl...you might surprise yourself.

Photograph by M4D Group.