Monday, January 30, 2012

And the Villain Is...

Obvious Villain
In keeping with the fun I had writing my post on action cliches, Brakes Only Fail On Hills, I decided to share my list of things that try to keep in mind when writing my own villains...

  • Don't give him a deformity, scar, or creepy behavior.
How do we know that Dr. Evil is evil before he even speaks? He is bald, has a scar, does that weird pinkie thing, and dresses like a futuristic mortician. 

Misdirection by appearance and behavior is a great device when writing suspense, but make sure it is actually pointing to someone who is NOT the villain.
  • Minions are a dead giveaway.
Whether its a creepy friend that does their bidding or a doormat for an assistant, keep the talk of diabolical plans while excitedly rubbing  their hands together to a minimum. 

Particular to can't unveil or hint too heavily at the villain or it will spoil the surprise and lose the reader.

  • They are caught in a blatant lie.
Photo by Tiago Fernandes.
The heroine sees the villain arguing with a man and later when the man is revealed to be a bad guy, the villain denies it.

This is a great way to add conflict between the OTHER main characters. Misunderstanding clouds the issue and often throws suspicion where it can do some good to further the story.
  • Make him gain advantage too soon in the story.
We've all seen Rocky, right? He gets beat down at first, but then a sudden burst of energy/inspiration/verbal backside kicking by his bestie sends him back to win the day.

The problem with letting your villain gain the advantage too quickly is that its the equivalent of putting a blinking red arrow over his head. Keep the story off balance and the reader wondering.

  • Your hero is too important to lose.
Really just wanted a reason to post a pic of Jake.
This, I think, is one of the quickest ways to ruin the story. If one of your characters is a wayward prince, the President, the only survivor of his species....the odds are whoever is picking on him is gonna lose and is therefore...the villain.

What are some instances in a mystery, be it book or movie that have given away the villain too soon? How might we as writers keep the reader guessing?

Until next time...Go Write?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Warring Spirits, COTT Selection

*guest post by Michelle Massaro
(Ms. Davy) was an amazing cheerleader and I lived to make her smile with my stories. Whether I really was or not at that point, she made me believe I was a good writer. 
~ Sr. Editor April Gardner, on who inspired her writing.

Today we get to spend some time with COTT founder April Gardner. April is an amazing author, good friend, and an inspiration to me. She’s a sometime home school mom, a military wife, a talented writer, and a frugal do-it-yourselfer. So I was excited to get to pick her brain! Below are the questions that I always wanted to ask. I’m sure you will find them just as fascinating as I do.

Michelle: April, what was it like growing up with missionary parents?
April: We never lacked for excitement, that's for sure! Some MKs struggle with change, but I never minded it. I was shy and content merely to be with my family; wherever they were, I was happy, no matter the town or country! Growing up in Spain and learning Spanish was one of God's beautiful gifts to me. 

Michelle: That's so cool! Some might be surprised to hear that you are dyslexic. What advice or encouragement would you give to others out there struggling with dyslexia?
April: I'd imagine that most reading this are adults, and by the time dyslexics reach adulthood, they've managed to cope quite well. Having a child with dyslexia, however, was something that took me completely by surprise, surprisingly. LOL From what I hear, it goes through the mother, so odds were pretty good one of my kids would struggle with it. When it comes to dealing with a dyslexic child I've learned three things. 1. Patience is the name of the game! 2. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. 3. There is no shame in being dyslexic or having another learning difficulty.

Michelle: You have now experienced both the public school world and the home school world. What are your observations comparing both? 
April: My most important observation is that God's plan for our children's education is 1. God's plan for us in unique! I cannot compare how others chose to educate their children with our own choices. 2. God's plan for us is not set in stone, never to change. What might be His will one year, might not be the next. We must be flexible and keep our ears tuned to Him. He'll speak most loudly through our kids via their progress, contentment, discipline, and attitude.

Michelle: Great insights! Ok, so what began your fascination with history?
April: Laura Ingells Wilder and her Little House books! They were the first "big" books that held my attention well enough to make reading worth all the effort. I haven't looked back since!

Michelle: I love those books too! You are a military spouse--where have you lived, and which was your favorite place?
April: The military first moved us to Germany. We were 19 years old and newly married. Our tour lasted 7 years. Straight from there, we went to England for four years, and we've currently been in Georgia 2.5 years. Germany holds a very dear place in our hearts for many reasons, but I have felt most content and fulfilled right here in Georgia. God bless the USA!! Boy, it's good to be home. :-)

Michelle: Wow, that sounds so adventurous! And now you're a published author--another adventure! Who first inspired you to pursue publication and writing? Who inspires you today?
April: Several people along the path of my life worked together to inspire me to pick up the pen, but the first was my high school creative writing teacher, Ms. Davy. She was an amazing cheerleader and I lived to make her smile with my stories. Whether I really was or not at that point, she made me believe I was a good writer. Today, it's the drive to reach goals that inspires me. I do love a challenge!!

Michelle: Of the characters you've created, who is your favorite and why?
April: True Seeker, the budding Creek Indian warrior from my latest novel, Warring Spirits, is my favorite character so far. His heart is good and true to his name, he seeks wisdom, honor, and a personal relationship with the Giver and Taker of Breath.

Michelle: I like his character too. But of course, they're all good in my opinion! Besides writing excellent historical romance novels, you also have a lot to share on your blog about managing health issues with diet, frugality, and parenting. Any idea what's coming up in 2012?
April: Great question! LOL My blog is ever changing, but yes, I do tend to focus on those topics. Right now, I'm on an all-natural foods kick, so I'm sure my followers will see more of those tips in the future.

Michelle: Tell us about your recent book releases.
April: Warring Spirits is my latest adult fiction release. It's set in 1816 and is the story of a woman who might be able to hide her African heritage except for her hair, which is a dead give-away. Milly's escape from slavery leads her to the safety of Negro Fort where Major Phillip Bailey, believing her to be white, takes it upon himself to "free" her from the stronghold. At the same time, he's ordered to launch an attack against it. Accomplishing both is a virtual impossibility, especially when the beautiful woman doesn't want to be rescued. Where blood is shed, unexpected love may bloom!

Michelle: I've read it and it's awesome! Head to Amazon you guys,  you won't regret it. April, thanks for answering all my hard-hitting questions today, lol.

Readers, check out COTT this week for some of our favorite Amish Excerpts!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Birthday - Ruby Dawn Releases Today!

Today is the official release day for the second book in my Shades of Hope series! Ruby Dawn is a story very close to my heart and I 'm so excited that it comes out today!

I had such a great time last year on the Purple Knot Book Tour and I can't wait to get out there and hang out with fellow lovers of romance. I made some great friends during that time and it was such a blessing to meet you all.

I will be out and about in a little bit and will share the details as soon as I can.

For now, I'd love to share a blurb and excerpt...

Ruby Dawn, Book Two - Shades of Hope series

Dr. Ruby McKinney understands the plight of runaways in her city; she used to be one of them. Tom, Ruby’s friend and protector in juvenile detention, disappeared after a tragedy. Now a DEA agent, his investigation pulls Ruby back into his life and back into danger. Will they survive long enough to take their second chance at love?

A Painful Past.
A former street kid, Ruby now reaches out to runaways through her medical clinic in the worst part of the city, but her escalating battle with a gang leader puts that in jeopardy.

 A Love Returns.
Cavalier, a risk-taker, charming… Ruby’s first love is now on the right side of the law and the center of a dangerous DEA sting involving her clinic.  Tom’s disappearance ten years ago broke her heart and rattled her faith. As their romance relights, memories of what it costs to love him flood her with fear.

A Desperate Plan.
Ruby’s battle with the gang ignites a firestorm of danger, and a pattern of lies from within her own camp emerges. With Tom’s life in the balance and her world cast in shadows, can Ruby trust God as she once did…or has she strayed too far, for too long to ever return?  

“Shhh,” Tom whispered. He took my hand in his and kissed my palm sending a ripple through me. “Its okay, I know what you meant, Ruby. And you’re right about what you said the other night too,” he breathed and leaned closer.
Barely able to think, I stood frozen by his nearness. “What I said?”
He smiled, so close now that I could feel his lips move. “You said that I don’t know you anymore. That I need to get to know you all over again.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not what I said,” I breathed.
Tom’s hand slipped to my face, cupping my cheek in his palm. He ran his thumb over my bottom lip and it sent heat thrumming through me. I gripped his sleeves, my fingers digging into the material.
A wayward warning flittered somewhere in the back of my brain, but I closed my eyes instead of moving.
Tom brushed his lips against mine, barely touching, his breath soft.
Up front, Lilah shouted. “This place is a wreck!”
Startled, I pulled away from Tom. Lilah had either rotten or impeccable timing. I hadn’t decided which just yet. “I – I’m back here,” I shouted back. “I’ll be right out.”
Tom groaned and let go of me. He looked up at the outer door with frustration. I followed his gaze to Lilah rooting through the debris making enough noise for three people.
Reluctantly, I turned from Tom and walked back down the hall to the front lobby. “It looks worse than it is, Lilah.”
“What are you talking about? This place is jacked-up!”
She spun slowly around with her arms out at her sides. Behind me, I heard the rear door swing shut and turned to look for Tom. My heart sank. He was gone.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Clash of the Titles Winner!

**guest post by Michelle Massaro

For the last couple weeks, Clash of the Titles has been exploring two books delivering powerful death scenes. That's right, death scenes. The two books were The Vengeance Squad and The Redemption. We met authors Sidney Frost and MaryLu Tyndall and waited with bated breath to find out which title got the most votes. If you missed Friday's announcement, I won't keep you in suspense. Though the competition was stiff, the champion title is...

The Redemption, by MaryLu Tyndall

About the book:

Lady Charlisse Bristol sets off on a voyage in search of a father she never knew, only to find herself shipwrecked on a deserted island. After weeks of combating the elements, her salvation comes in the form of a band of pirates and their fiercely handsome leader, Edmund Merrick. Will Charlisse free herself from the seductive lure of this pirate captain and find the father's love she so ardently craves?

While battling his attraction to this winsome lady and learning to walk a more godly path, Edmund offers to help Charlisse on her quest--until he discovers her father is none other than Edward the Terror, the cruelest pirate on the Caribbean. Can Edmund win this lady's love while shielding her from his lecherous crew and working to bring her father to justice?

Can the supernatural power of God rescue Charlisse and Edmund from the danger and treachery that await them as they ride upon the tumultuous waves of the Caribbean?
A few of the comments from readers:

I loved the Excerpt B.....I look forward to reading the seemed more historical and the genre of books I enjoy reading. I am personally blessed by many of the Christian fiction authors and want to say thank you for all you for your readers. God bless you both!

Someone turning to Christ at the last moment is always a touching scene. It tugs at your heart to know that someone you would never see again, now you will. Very touching!

Keep writing as God leads you. You are bringing God's truth to readers; some who really need those truths in their lives.

About the author:

MaryLu Tyndall, a Christy Award finalist, and author of more than ten novels is known for her swashbuckling historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. 

MaryLu dreamt of tall ships and swashbuckling pirates during her childhood years on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Unfortunately, instead of pursuing that dream, she worked as a miserable, landlocked software engineer for fifteen years. Only by the grace and providence of God, did she decide to answer His call to write a Christian Pirate series. Today, while writing her eleventh novel, she manages a home, husband, and six kids while battling three cats who have decided that her keyboard is the best place to sleep!  She believes that without popcorn and chocolate, life would not be worth living, and her sole motivation is to bring others closer to God.
What fun! For a sneak peak at the book, check out the winning excerpt here. You might also enjoy her fascinating interview here.
Right now, COTT is in the middle of a brand new clash so be sure to head over there to cast your vote. You just might win a free book!

Happy reading!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Brakes Only Fail on Hills and Other Action Cliches

So here's the thing...I love, LOVE action and suspense. A requirement for my movie-going experience is that something blows up and there are car chases, gunfire, and some form of fight scene in which furniture is used as weapons. Yeah, my husband is totally lucky.

I also write Romantic in my books there are lot of emotions and drama and angsty relationship stuff, but there are also a lot of thrills.  What I don't want is for those scenes to be "done before" and therefore not at all entertaining.

So I've made a list of things that happen in movies and books...scratch that, ALMOST EVERY MOVIE or BOOK...scenes that I should avoid at all costs. Lets start out with the little annoying things...

Photo by San Diego Shooter.
If the heroine is in a nature setting and an animal attacks, she will be the only one the predator goes for despite the fact that there are multiple Sherpas, bad guys lurking in the bushes, and a love interest within inches of her.

Raging river rapids are no match for the speed of the hero despite rough terrain as he is always able to run alongside the person being swept away and in fact...get ahead of them, find a tree that has fallen exactly halfway across the water, and fashion a rescue loop in time to pluck them to safety.

Photo by Greggoconnel.
Bad guys always kill someone in front of giant picture windows with open drapes. Especially when the heroine is jogging by or bird watching and accidentally happens to look at said window with binoculars or a camera.
Corollary to this rule is that her face is always brightly lit by lightning or passing car headlights to give the villain a proper look at her.

Random hot guy in glasses.
Super sexy heroes never have glasses. They never squint, hold secret evidence files at arms length to read them, and they can always decipher-pronounce obscure words even if they are in a different language or from a magical realm.

Intercourse is possible with any sentient being from any corner of the universe/realm/magical species because they all are physically identical to humans -- except hotter. They also fall in love instantly, for very specific reasons, for eternity even if they have just glanced at the heroine.

Photo by Wonderlane.
All bombers abide by the international color codes for wires so that the hero/heroine knows which wire to cut. The exception to this rule is of course, if the hero/heroine is in fact a bomb expert...then the bomb is "something they've never seen before" and the wire they cut makes the time go faster.

If your brakes fail, you MUST be either in San Francisco during some sort of protest or on winding dark mountain cliff roads where you will end up dangling with two tires teetering over a deadly drop...otherwise the hero cannot find and rescue you just as a bird lands on the bumper and causes the car to fall and explode. 

Heroes must always be intimately acquainted with every street, access road, and "secret shortcut" of any city they are in despite having never visited before. They must also be able to navigate dark and defunct boiler rooms below street-level with nothing but a lighter and a keen sense of hearing.

Secret dynamo.
All hackers are antisocial, pierced/tattooed, have strange or ironic hairdo's and are secret dynamos in the sack.

Okay, that one is actually probably spot on...>

Those are some of my favorite action/thriller you have any that just irritate you? How about some fallacies that really pull you out of the book and make you roll your eyes?

Until next time...Go Write!

First photo by o5com.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Working Like a Dog!

I have totally loved my vacation! I am a little bummed its almost over. My teacher hubby goes back to work on Monday, the homeschooling starts up again, and..."Writer Raquel" is back in action!

After working super hard on edits in December, the crazy party/dinners season started for least for all my kids. Let me tell you, six kids makes for a lot of running around. And what is it with White Elephant gift  exchanges...those are hard to shop for!

So now that I'm getting back into the swing of "Authorhood"... I wonder what you all did over the vacation. I always had the impression that things in publishing slow down as far as submission acceptances and what not. Have you guys had any interesting news this past month? What about all the Indy Authors? Did you step things up for the holiday buying season?

Photograph by KM Photography