Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday's How She Does It featuring Tara Andrews

We all know there are six elements of fiction. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is plot. What's your take on this?
I do agree fiction has all those elements.  I think of them more in terms of goals, motivation, and conflict.  In a similar way, they lead me to the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.  From there I get the How – the plot, which always comes last for me.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
I wouldn’t say I have a specific method.  I’ve used a couple.  For the most part, I think of my characters reacting to a situation and form an impression of them pretty quickly.  The specifics though, the reasons they are the way they are, come as I begin writing.  If I need more from them, I have had my hero and heroine answer some questions.  But rather than my interviewing them, I set up a mock first date.  I found some interesting first date questions on an online dating website which help me figure them out.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
Always!  On a rare occasion, it may be the theme of the story, but I’m driven by the characters.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I’m almost all panster when it comes to writing.  The endings always a surprise.  I was once told by a very wise author (e-hem), of course you know how it ends – it’s a romance, they wind up together.  Or something to that affect. J  When I’m stuck I keep that in mind.  
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
Out of everything, I think setting is the hardest for me, but I don’t let it limit where my stories take place.  I’m sure along the way I’ve purchased a book or two that would help, but Google Images has become my go to resource for a quick visual.  From aerial shots of Area 51 or the floor plan of a Las Vegas casino, I usually find what I am looking for.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
I use online resources a great deal.  I’m amazed at what you can find answers to there.  But, when I need a lot of information on a single topic, I do hit the books.  I’ve collected a funny mix of books over time, like Physics for Dummies, on Investing, and the History of England.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?
I wish I were a plotter!  I tried it once, but I think I sprained something.  It helped in some ways, but I started to get lost in polishing plot details rather than increasing my word count.  So I write and polish as I go along, though the end result is still just a first draft.  Ongoing polishing helps keep my thoughts moving forward, because I’m not mentally tracking details that need to be corrected or changed later.  Of course, that’s not the end of revisions, but the first draft is just clear of obvious flaws.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Characters Alive

Techniques of The Selling Writer by Dwight V Swain gives some advice about making the characters seem to move under their own power.  These are a few of the things to remember after you've learned what they lack and what compensation they seek which brings their character realization.

Look at self image. Does the character think he can do anything or does he feel as if anything he tries will fail. Does she think she's a nerd or a bombshell? These inner images really help drive the character. And we're always looking at the alpha male and trying to see beneath the surface to see what's beneath that vaneered surface. Or what prods the girl with glasses to go after a dream.

Consistency is another area to pay attention to. If your character reacts to a stimuli in one way when you begin the book, he or she should act in the same way when the stimuli appears. Unless this comes when they must make a decision or action that goes against this behavior. If this happens, make sure this scene is played out in full.

Learn to discover the cause from the effect. John a mild mannered man slugs someone. Mary tears up an outfit she thought was stunning. Why did this happen, you ask. Then find the reason. Cause and effect are important elements of character development.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thursday's Opening Scene from The Amber Tower - Amber Chronicles by Janet Lane Walters

Rafel Riva, crown prince of Rivand, felt restless and the only reason he could imagine for his desire to flee the palace lay in the ball to be held that evening.  Four and twenty young women of lineage and wealth had been invited.  The thought of meeting and greeting them chilled him.
He glared at his mother’s back.  His escape from the palace had been delayed while she gushed about the gaggle of girls who would attend.  Each one had been evaluated as to their suitability as a bride.  Her choices had been based on the prestige they would bring to the family.
The queen turned.  “Rafel, you are five and twenty.  ‘Tis time you were wed.  You must choose one for your bride and make her the happiest of women.”
And him the glummest of men.  “Yes, mother.”
“Three princesses are among the most eligible.  The duke’s daughter will also do.  But a princess will bring honor to Rivand.”
His stomach clenched.  Choosing a bride meant there could be just one woman in his life.  A dreary and boring fate.  He liked women, all women.
He hurried along the corridor toward a side door and an escape from the noise and bustle of preparation.  All to celebrate an event he found distasteful.  So engrossed in his plan to escape when a hand clamped his shoulder he reached for his sword.
“Son, I’m glad I caught you.”  The king smiled.  “Have you seen any among the young ladies you would choose as a bride?”
Rafel shook his head.  He had avoided watching the arrivals of the past few days.  “I’ve been busy.”
“I have several suggestions.  The time has come for you to put aside your wild ways and settle into providing heirs for Rivand.”
“Leave your list with my body servant.  Mother left hers.”
The king nodded.  “I will.  Perhaps by comparing the two you will find the perfect candidate.  My list contains those who come from prolific families.  I expect you and your chosen bride to present the kingdom with a son by this time next year.  There’s nothing like a son to drive wildness from a man.”
“Yes, Father.”  Rafel’s hand tightened on the hilt of his sword.  Was there a need for an heir to have an heir?  He had three younger brothers, all in line for the throne.
Rafel watched his father walk away.  Only a few strands of gray touched the king’s dark hair.  His father was a hale man and good for many more years of rule.  As thoughts of twenty or thirty years of being crown prince arose, Rafel groaned.
He reached the exit nearest the stable and slipped outside.  The brother next in line for the throne emerged from behind the hedge.  “Rafe, aren’t you excited?”
“About what?”
“The ball.”
Rafel shrugged.  “Nor particularly.”
“But you might find love with one of the ladies.”
“Or eternal unhappiness.  What is love beyond a trap lauded by the verses of poets?  I have no desire to marry.  If you like you are welcome to them all.”
Peder frowned.  “Everyone says you must marry.”  He scuffed the dirt with the toe of his boot.  “What if you chose the maiden I love?”
Rafel leaned against the palace wall.  “Do you have a choice?”
“I do.  She loves me but her parents are angling for the heir to the throne.  You have all the luck.”           
Luck, Rafel thought.  “Hardly.”  Tonight he would meet young women all vying for his attention.  He pushed away from the wall.  “See you at the ball.”
“Where are you going?”
“For a ride.”
“You’d better be back in time.”
Rafel laughed.  “If I’m not, you can take my place.”  He dashed to the stable.
As he saddled his roan gelding he overheard the head groom speaking to another man.  “Tonight the prince chooses a bride.  I’ve placed my money on the princess of Manir.  Who have you picked?”
The other man snorted.  “No choice for me.  One hundred years have passed since the witch took the first crown prince.”
Rafel frowned.  A witch.  How superstitious the lower classes were.  He’d only heard of witches in stories designed to frighten children into obedience.  He led the horse from the stable, mounted and rode through town to the south gate.  As his steed flowed from a walk to a canter he recalled the painting of a man called “The Lost Prince.”  Rumors said the young man had vanished mysteriously.  Rafel wished he could do the same and stay away long enough to miss the ball.
Sunlight filtering through the dense foliage of the summer growth roused him from his reverie.  How long had he been gone?  His stomach growled and he knew he’d missed the midday meal.  He tried to turn the horse but the steed burst into a gallop along the narrow trail.  As suddenly as the urge to return to the palace had arrived, the feeling vanished.  Rafel felt an eagerness to find the trail’s end.
The pounding pace continued.  Rafel loosened his hold on the reins.  Trying to halt the horse seemed impossible.  The trees opened into a clearing.  The steed halted at a picket fence.  Rafel frowned.  He’d never heard of anyone living in the forest.  He studied the scene.  Rose bushes lined the fence and filled the air with their sweet scent.  A path led from the gate through a garden with flowers on one side and a kitchen garden on the other.  The flagstones ended in front of a small weathered cottage.
Who lives here?  Rafel dismounted and walked to the gate.  He paused with his hand on the latch.  Wouldn’t be polite to wander into someone’s house without an invitation.  A trace of smoke rose from the chimney.  Someone lived here.  “Hello,” he called.
The cottage door opened and someone walked along the path.  As the person neared he saw a woman with hair the color of sunshine and a body with enough curves to intrigue him.  When she reached the gate, he met the gaze of eyes as blue as the summer sky.
“Welcome.”  She opened the gate.
The music of her voice danced along his spine.  “Who are you?”
“Some call me the Witch of the Woods.  I am Emme.  Are you the crown prince of this time?”
His brow furrowed.  What did she mean?  “I am Rafel Riva, crown prince of Rivand.”
She smiled.  He sensed something predatory in her gaze.  He stepped back.
“Enter my garden.”
Her honeyed voice lured him a step or two.  He grasped the gate.  “I wish I could, fair one, but I must return to the palace.”
Her laughter trilled.  “’Tis not to be.  You have been called.  You have a chance to end the curse I placed on the House of Riva.  You look so much like the one who came here before.  Your hair is black and your eyes are the green of summer leaves.”
“What is this curse?”  he asked.
“The first prince I called refused to announce his love for me.  His father, the king, tried to burn my refuge and failed. Every hundred years I will call the crown prince.  He will be given a chance to end what I called on the family.”
“What must I do?”
“Give me your love and marry me.”
Her answer produced a bark of laughter.  “Marriage.  You’ve chosen the wrong prince, my fair witch.  I prefer my single state.”
“That is not the answer I want to hear.”
Rafel studied her.  She was beautiful but so were other women.  “So you cursed my family for a selfish reason.  Just because my ancestor refused to love you.  What happened to him?”
“I don’t know.  He entered the amber globe and vanished.”  She waved her hand and a oval of amber appeared on the grass near his feet.
“Surely there’s another way.”  If she had lived a hundred years how did she remain young?  He rubbed his arms.  She must be a witch.
“The only way is for you to love and marry me.”
He shook his head.  “I can’t.”
“Not even to break the curse.”
Rafel squared his shoulders.  “Not even then.  If I said I loved you that would be a lie.  My mother wants me to marry for prestige and my father for heirs.  You demand love.  I can please none of you.”
She waved her hand.  “So be it.”
The amber globe grew until he was surrounded.  Rafel tried to escape but his blows bounced from the smooth surface.  He closed his eyes.  When he opened them he faced a forest but not the one he’d left for the leaves were touched with the bright colors of autumn.
“Come.”  A soft voice commanded.  “Come.”  The call came again, this time spurring him to run toward the trees.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday's Inspiration - Good Fiction - thoughts by Janet Lane Walters

"Good fiction does not deal in codes of conduct. It affirms responsible humanness." This bit from John Gardner's On Becoming A Novelist set me thinking. I have a BA in English and sat through several courses where I was to find the Theme behind the stories. For me this was the hardest thing to do. The teachers seemed to be looking for that "code of conduct" to make the story valid.

For me the most interesting part of the story belonged to the characters and how they acted and reacted to the events in their life. I didn't fail the courses. I did fairly well but every analysis of the stories in class found me on the opposite side from the teacher. Was this because I was already a writer when I went for this degree. Probably. One teacher told me finding the theme wasn't the writer's responsibility. Their purpose was to write  characters who engaged with the problems they faced and to show what they were facing.

I only once wrote a story where there might be a theme but not really. When writing Code Blue, I finished the book and was asked by an editor to let her know what the theme of the book entailed. This wasn't my current publisher of the book but one many times ago. The only thing I could come up with was many of the characters had some kind of obsession. But this is a very general theme. So is Love, Murder and other areas writers write about.

The real thrill of a story for me is how the characters walk the road called plot and how each deals with what happens in their lives and the lives of the other characters.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Meandering On Monday With Janet Lane Walters

Meander 1 - Going to try an experiment in the next few days to see if Amazon will let me post reviews. Will do one for a friend and one for an unknown. I have read both of these books and enjoyed them but one will see what I'm permitted to do. Part of this is to work on what's going on with the group I'm part of to see if this will work. Who knows. I have no great thoughts on the matter.

Meander 2 - Winter is here with a vengeance this year. The cold continues and though I know it's colder for other people what really bothers me is the squirrels in the attic. There have been six removed so far and they seem to continue making their way into our warmth. Do not like squirrels. Also the cold has made matters a mess since there is no water in the kitchen, once again. So we wait to see if the weather will warm enough to defrost the pipes.

Mender 3 - Am progressing rapidly with Melodic Dreams but not rapidly enough for I would like to begin a new story and am trying to think of how it will go. The story is beginning to move my nights. We'll see since when I'm partly finished with this one I'll put the 2 rights back books up and see what happens. Those 2 books earned little to nothing from the former publisher and I do think that was a lie but I'm so glad to be out of there.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

3 Blog Visit Sunday discovered by Janet Lane Walters

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday;s Chapter from Cooking Up Love by Gemma Brocato

Cooking Up Love
Find me on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter

Chapter 1
What a dump.
Jemima George added an exclamation point and hit Send on her smartphone. A sigh surged up from her toes as she glanced around at the café she’d just inherited. Walking through the door of Caro’s Taste was like stepping into a time machine with a direct route to late nineteen eighty.
Grant Dubois, her aunt’s lawyer, augmented the sensation. He could have been a cover model on a senior citizen’s romance novel. His shoulder length salt-and-pepper hair flowed around his face as if stirred by a slight breeze, even though they were inside with the door firmly shut. He appeared fit, but his broad chest had begun the inevitable shift toward a softening waistline. The retro style, antiquated Windbreaker and shiny shirt, unbuttoned to midway down his chest, made his overall image the tiniest bit seedy. And he’d worn that getup to the funeral. The only things missing were gold chains and a pinkie ring.
“I’ve invited a local contractor to join us,” Grant said. “I thought you’d appreciate a cost estimate to update the space. It’s been a while, as I’m sure you can tell.”
“I don’t know about renovations. I’ll probably list it for sale. I need to get back to New York.” She scanned her vibrating phone and read Resa’s reply to her text.
The café or the town?
Jem keyed in the café and pressed send before returning her attention to the lawyer, surprised by the undisguised animosity on his face.
Jem blinked and the look was gone, replaced by a bland facade. An arc of guilt for being caught texting while he was talking forced heat into her cheeks. “Sorry. What were you saying?” She set the phone on a nearby table and shook her head to clear the odd sensation Grant’s shifting expressions had created.
“I urge you not to be hasty. Caroline’s income didn’t allow her to entertain thoughts of buying a Caribbean island for retirement, but she was comfortable. She left you quite a nice inheritance, between savings and insurance.” He waved his hands vaguely around the tiny shop, his quicksilver expression at odds with his words. “However, I’d completely understand if you wish to wash your hands of it. I’d be delighted to handle the details of liquidating for you.”
“I just can’t pick up and move to Granite Pointe. I have a job I really like.” Jem did a slow turn, surveying the room. “Even if I found someone I trusted, it doesn’t make sense to run it long distance.”
“Really liking your job isn’t the same as loving it.” Grant’s eyes twinkled as he widened his hands in a question. “Are you passionate about your work?”
Passion, huh? Jeez, he knew how to milk his resemblance to a cover model. His words were earnest, but his body language implied he’d like her on the next bus out of town.
“Besides,” Grant continued, “the café is only open mornings. Still plenty of free time to carry on Caroline’s work with our local environmental group. Her loss will hit them hardest.”
Jem cocked her head to the side, feeling like she’d fallen down the rabbit hole. The sour look on Grant’s face and the insincerity of his tone told her what he really thought of the idea of her staying, in spite of his encouraging words. What was his deal? “What happened? When I saw her in New York two months ago, her health was excellent. Do you know—”
Grant held up one finger and pulled his mobile phone from his jacket pocket, frowning at the display.
“Sorry, I have to take this. Excuse me.” He turned away to answer the call.
Jem looked around the café she now owned. She’d been a frequent visitor as a child, and memories of the smells and sounds of the busy restaurant echoed through her mind. As a teen, she’d worked here each summer. If serving coffee and pastries to the locals could be called work.
Granite Pointe was pretty as a picture as she gazed through oversized front windows. She shrugged out of her coat and tossed it on the counter next to her purse and cell phone. The heavy black wool had been welcome as the wind blew through the cemetery.
Trailing her hand along the butcher-block counter, she wandered toward the kitchen door. Walking along the display cases occupying one wall of the narrow space, she briefly considered the possibility of owning and operating the little shop.
Her lips quirked into a slight smile and she shook her head, rejecting the thought. Her life was in New York, as assistant and chef to Margo Tremont, reality television’s latest darling in the chronicles of the rich, fabulous and ridiculous.
It was where she lived and played with her hopefully soon-to-be fiancé, Phil Centers. They’d been a couple for two years, and Jem was as positive he’d propose soon as she was eager to become his wife. They were perfect for each other. Both of them were going places and he’d make the journey together fun.
No, Granite Pointe, Massachusetts would remain a great place to visit, but it wouldn’t do as a residence or place of business.
“I’m sorry. It was extremely rude of me to interrupt our conversation.” Grant strolled back toward her. Well, she’d been put in her place. “Unfortunately, I have a small problem at the office. Jack Kerrigan, the contractor I mentioned earlier, should be here soon. Do you mind waiting alone?”
“Sure, no worries. As I said earlier, I’d rather see a realtor than a builder. I’m just not in a spot to consider moving here.”
“Please don’t rush into this decision. If you do decide to sell, some basic remodeling might appeal to potential buyers. You’re bound to get your investment back through an increased sale price.”
“Some updates might be necessary, even if it’s just a fresh coat of paint and refinishing the floors.” She critically eyed the rough pine plank flooring. “However, I’m sure I won’t change my mind.”
The first real smile she’d seen from Grant creased wrinkles on his brow and around his eyes as he zipped up his jacket. With a curt nod, he pulled on gloves and, twisting the doorknob jerked the door open, hastily grabbing it as the wind caught it. The small bell above the frame tinkled merrily. She grinned as he quickstepped his way across the street, his long hair flowing out behind him. Yes, ma’am, he could be the father of that famous model gracing the covers of the naughty books Caroline had constantly read.
Jem slipped behind the counter, heading to the coffee maker. Despite the warmth of her gray sweater dress and black suede boots, she remained cold. A hot cup of coffee would hit the spot.
She pulled the supplies she needed from a box directly below the machine and rinsed the pot in the nearby sink. The shop had closed when Aunt Caro got sick, so a fine coating of dust had built up in the entire space. A melancholy ache bloomed in the center of her chest. God, she couldn’t believe Caro was gone.
Shoot! Grant hadn’t answered her question about what might have caused Caroline’s death. So far, no one had answered the question. She’d have to remember to ask him later. Swishing soapy water around the carafe, she rinsed it before returning to the machine. She slipped a filter and ground coffee into the basket and poured clean water in the reservoir. After she flipped the switch to start the machine, she grabbed her cell phone and leaned against the counter to wait for the coffee to brew.
She’d missed three calls in a very short time. The first from Phil, the last two, within seconds of each other, were from Resa, followed by an urgent text from her with the code that meant there was an emergency with their boss. WTF! Another 911.
With Margo, emergencies were an everyday occurrence.
As she scanned the messages, another came in from Phil.
Hey Baby—hope all went well today. Crazy busy, no time to talk. Late client meeting. Will call tomorrow.
Par for the course with Phil. She sighed mentally. There was always a meeting or crazy day lately. Although he was a junior partner in a prestigious law firm today, he wouldn’t be for much longer. With her connections, more business had flowed Phil’s way, impressing the senior partners. Increased billings equaled a promotion.
Because of his success, he took phone calls all hours of the day and night, and worked nearly every weekend. They hadn’t been able to grab any real alone time for the past four months. Her filming schedule with Margo didn’t help the situation. She sighed, a deep, resigned exhale.
She speed-dialed Resa, who answered so quickly she must have been waiting with her phone in hand.
“Hi, Sweetie.” Resa jumped right in. “How are you? Did everything go well this morning? Was it awful? Is the café really a dump? How soon can you wrap things up there and get back?”
Used to Resa’s rapid-fire questions, Jem grinned. “Okay, yes, not as awful as it could have been, dump might have been too strong and I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Resa shrieked, zeroing in on the last answer. “I thought you were going to leave it in the hands of the lawyer and get your skinny ass back here.”
“The building is solid, even kind of interesting, but the interior needs work. It’s funny, I don’t remember the exposed brick.” She squinted her eyes at the walls in question. “I haven’t even made it into the kitchen yet. I’m waiting for a contractor to arrive. I won’t get a very good price if I put it on the market as is. On the plus side, the neighborhood has potential. It’s in a great location. Granite Pointe is a fun, historically significant place. Not Manhattan, but it has its own brand of charm.”
“Ooh, sounds like someone might be thinking about staying.”
“No! No way. I belong in New York. But the lawyer said something about having passion for what I do. Which made me think…could I be more passionate about another career choice? The work I do is challenging some days, but do I honestly love it?”
“As if you would have passion for frying eggs and making muffins.” Resa laughed. “Although, you do make the best I’ve ever eaten.”
“Well, I can see the upside of a less Margo-like life. Speaking of which, what’s up with her?”
“It’s a few clowns short of a circus here today. Production asked to film Thursday instead of Friday. Margo’s clueless about her calendar. The computer network is down, thanks to the cable company, so we aren’t sure it will work. I know you have her schedule memorized, so I made the executive decision to bother you with the question. Even though I know Margo’s schedule is the last thing you want to deal with now.” Resa lowered her voice and continued, “I mean, shit, you’re on bereavement leave. I’m so sorry to bother you when you’re dealing with so much else. Caro’s death was so sudden, I mean.”
“I’m still struggling with that,” Jem admitted to her friend as the coffee finished brewing. Tucking the phone under her chin, she grabbed a cup. “She was fine when I saw her in January. Then, three weeks ago, she gets the flu. Now, she’s gone. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I asked Grant, the lawyer, but he avoided answering. He made some lame excuse about an office emergency and left me here to meet the contractor—”
The bell above the door tinkled again. Jem glanced over her shoulder at the man who walked in. His back was to her as he pushed the door closed against the wind. When he turned around, she froze.
The next winner of the Sexiest Man Alive title stood in her café.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday's How She Does It featuring Gemma Brocato

We all know there are six elements of fiction. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is plot. What's your take on this?
I've never thought of it that way. To me, the plot, or the idea comes first, then you have to use the 5 Ws and the H in the most advantageous way to tell the story. I'm not a plotter at all, but my degree is in journalism, so writing the perfect lead has been ingrained in me. 
1.      How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
 When I'm imagining the story in my head, my characters "tell" me what they are like. It's a matter of listing to my head and my heart to do them justice.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
That depends on the story. But generally, the characters come first. 
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
 I write romance, so I always know the story will end with a happily ever after. I conceive a story knowing the beginning, middle and end and work to stay true to those elements.   
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
My Five Senses series is set in a small tourist town in Massachusetts and I had an image in my mind of what the town looks like based on a visit to the east coast when I was in high school. I have a magazine of house plans, but I don't really ever get into home layouts much. As I'm writing, I keep scene images in my mind. I do find myself having to check back occasionally to make sure I don't put a second story on a ranch house.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
The Internet is a fabulous tool for research, isn't it? But I'm always careful to research the same information on three different sites, just to be safe. Plus, I always try to find a person to interview whenever I'm writing about a job. For Hearts in Harmony (Book 2), I interviewed a Music Therapist, for the third book in the series, I spoke to a professional photographer. I loved to learn as much as I can before I attempt to write about a topic.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?
 I revise as I go along, just to make sure I capture the right level of emotion and description. Plus, it helps me to re-read and revise the last chapter I've written before I begin the next one. And, I'm a pushover - my characters develop the route to the end. Sometimes, they see things I haven't. That's always a bit surprising. 

Gemma Brocato
Weaving Adventure and Romance Together
Hearts in Harmony due out Spring, 2014

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday's Opening Scene from Amber Chronicles by Janet Lane Walters

Released yesterday or late the day before is the Amber Chronicles consisting of some short stories and some novellas. Here's the opening scene to the first story in the collection.

The Amber Orb

Strains of music wafted from the ball room of the Amber Palace into the garden. Emme tapped her foot against the flagstone walk in an angry counterpoint to the dulcet tones. With each passing moment, the realization of another failure strengthened. Four times a prince had appeared at the palace seeking her hand in marriage. Four times the prince had chosen one of her younger sisters. Tonight the last prince would name her youngest as his chosen bride.
With great effort Emme capped her anger. Lysanda would pay just as her other sisters had. As the oldest, she should have been the first to find a bridegroom. Envy twisted with jealousy to form a rope binding her thoughts. This prince should be here for he was the last of the eligible ones in this world called Amber suited for training as a wizard and destined to sit on the amber throne beside Emme’s.
The scent of roses, jasmine and bluet filled the air with their sweet breath. The heavy aroma pressed against her forcing Emme to gasp.
She heard light tapping of slippers on the stones and knew Lysanda approached. Her sister expected to find Prince, what was his name, waiting to declare his love. Then amber lights would radiate across the night sky announcing Emme had failed again. That would not happen.
Lysanda came into view. Her hair, a few shades darker than Emme’s pure amber tones, hung in ringlets down her back. “Where is Rendel?” she asked.
“Looking for you,” Emme said. “I sent him to the Tower of Sighs.”
Emme stepped toward her sister. She smiled at the alarm in Lysanda’s pale blue eyes. Only Emme’s matched the blue of a summer sky. “You stole him. He was to be my prince.”
Lysanda asked. “He fell in love with me. His heart once given can never change.” She stepped closer. “Don’t think to take him from me. That is impossible.”
Emme fisted her hand on her hips. “I have no desire for a man who chose another over me. I’m sure he believes he will be able to rule you for your power is small and you can never sit on the amber throne. You have taken my last chance for love and rulership. I will take what he feels is important from you.”
Lysanda tore her gaze from Emme’s face. “What do you mean?”
“Face me, sister. Power against power or are you afraid?”
“I fear no one. I am a witch with power equal to yours.”
Emme heard a slight tremor in her sister’s voice. Knowledge filled her. She would drain Lysanda and leave her weak. Three times before she had faced a sister and won. She would win this time as well.
She drew the wind to eddy around Lysanda in wispy bands to speed and tightened them. One by one Lysanda broke the restraints. With each snap, Emme absorbed the power of the breaking.
Emme set the torches of the garden blazing. Tendrils of fire flowed toward her sister.
Lysanda gathered the flames and sent burning orbs toward Emme. “You will not win.”
Emme pulled water from the fountain. Fire and water met turning to steam shrouding the air with sizzling vapor. With slow steps Emme moved through the mist. The earth shook beneath her feet. Lysanda’s body wove in an attempt to remain standing.
Emme grasped her sister’s wrist. “Cede to me.” She drained the essence of magic from her sister’s cells.
“A curse I cry.” Lysanda’s shrill voice pierced Emme’s concentration. “Long will you search. Until you can give with forcing and demanding you will be alone.”
Those words forced Emme to release her sister. Lysanda slumped to the ground. Four times one of her sisters had shouted the same curse. Four times a sister had survived. She raised her hand and released all she’d taken from Lysanda. Brilliant flashes of light colored the night sky with all the colors possible except for amber.
She heard the sound of pounding boots. The prince stepped into view. “What have you done?”
“What I had to. Lysanda remains a witch and in a hundred years or so she will recover. You will never become a wizard. You will never rule the world called Amber.
The prince drew his sword and stalked toward her. “Why have you done this to my beloved?”
“You chose the wrong sister as those before you have done. Take her. Announce your betrothal. You can’t defeat me. You are the last to try.”
The sword slipped from his hands. Lysanda stirred. He lifted her into his arms. “My love.” He glared at Emme. “You will never find love until you love another more than you love yourself.”
Emme turned and strode from the garden. Why didn’t triumph fill her? Her life had been destroyed. There would be no chance to take her rightful place. She hurried to her tower. Why did the shimmer amber walls seem cloaked with gray? Instead of going to her room at the tower’s peak where the city spread before her, she fled to the dark basement and sat in a shadowed corner.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wednesday's Writer's Tip Fight or Flight + New Release

Amber Chronicles is a series of short stories and novellas where Emme is sent from the world called Amber to find love. From a young woman who wants someone to love her she must become one who will both love and be loved.

Now for the Writer's Tip. The hero and heroine have all their problems, goals in site but life looks hard ahead. How do they react to the events of their life. We've all heard of the Fight or Flight phenomena and this will show how the character acts. But remember a character who is a fighter may at some point feel retreat is the way to go. Or the character who has never faced the problem and has found ways to escape may one day decide to fight.

What can be a problem is when the decision to do either isn't true to the character. Reactions must be carefully built through the story so the change in the way a character faces a problem seems to be the logical next move.  So choose the moment carefully when your character faces the change. This may be their black moment or this could be a slow change as they turn from one way of facing the world and their problems.

My favorite is taking a character who has always walked away or found some way to escape facing their problems and becoming one who has to fight for what they want. Or the character who has fought for what they want but for the wrong things or in the wrong way. Watching a character change is what makes a story sing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday's Inspiration - The Writer's Mind

This will be the last post listing some of the things that make a writer's mind. From John Gardner, "an inexplicable and incurable addiction to stories. written or oral, bad or good."

I've always been fascinated with stories and I'm sure the rest of you are also. The stories that strike me hard are ones I read and re-read. Not sure why. Then there are the stories that make me mad. Maybe the idea is good but the execution isn't. Now I read books for contests, sometimes whole books and sometimes just parts. When the story is good, I may feel a touch of envy but I continue reading and enjoying. Then there are those bad stories. I struggle to read them. I find myself trying to make them better, at least in my head.

Another quote from On Becoming A Novelist. "Writers would clearly be madmen if they weren't so psychologically complicated to settle on any given madness." Amusing yet probably true. People give odd looks when a group of writers is talking about how the people in their stories take charge, talk to them and seem to be as real to the author as the people in their lives. Face it, I once read "There is a thin line between genius and madness." I firmly believe writers walk this edge every time they write a story.

So don't be upset when people look at you strangely when they think you are talking to yourself. You're not, you're conversing with the characters you write.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters

Meander 1 - I've come to the conclusion that when I'm reading a book that's all right, there comes a time when I must look at the last chapter before I can read any more of the story. This becomes my boredom point. Often once I read the end, I read no more. Other times, the end inspires me to keep reading. Last week, this happened with three books. Two of them because of an obligation I had to force myself to complete the books. One, suddenly the purpose of the book leaped into focus and I found I enjoyed the reading.

Meander 2 - Finally am going to get the last of the Affinities series into paper so I can try the local bookstore and see if I can have a signing there. He doesn't like romance so perhaps he'll like YA that has no romance. I can show him is he takes the books from me rather than ordering them he can make more money. We will see.

Meander 3 - Am working on the draft of Melodic Dreams that will finish finding plot holes and address time issues as well as put more meaat into the characters emotions. This is going well and hopefully this will be finished by the end of March,

Sunday, January 19, 2014

3 Blog Visit Sunday Discoveries by Janet Lane Walters

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday's Excerpt from Devil Moon by Andrea Parnell

Meet Rhys and Teddy from Devil Moon by Andrea Parnell

Inside the Brass Bell Saloon, Teddy Gamble led to a corner table, kicked back a chair and sat.

“Marc André Rhys Delmar at your service, mademoiselle.” Smiling to full effect, Rhys slid into a second chair and squared himself across the scarred bar table from Teddy Gamble. Her expression was that of a caged cat, one of pent-up energy and barely held-back anger. He stared at her because it was impossible to do otherwise. She was like no woman he’d ever seen. Her face was finely boned. And her hands had tanned a honey-brown from the sun. They were nearly the same color as the fringed buckskin shirt and trousers she wore. Her eyes, all banked with angry fire, were the most striking he’d ever encountered, a glowing green color as remarkable as the stones she wore.

“It’s plain Teddy, here,” she said. “I don’t need any mademoiselle or mouthful of names to know who I am.”

With a whisk of her hand, she pushed the dusty hat from her head and sailed it into the seat of an empty chair at the table. Rhys had been prepared for a cropped head of straggly hair but was surprised to discover that Teddy Gamble had an abundance of shining tawny locks which had been gathered in a braid and pinned beneath her hat. With some relief he concluded he’d been right to suspect that the woman had at least a tiny element of femininity to her.

“A thousand pardons, mademoi—Teddy,” he said. “I only intended politeness.”

“Well don’t tangle yourself up in it,” Teddy snapped. “Just spit out why it is you think you’re part owner of the Gamble Line.”

Rhys flashed another smile. “It is not what I think. It is what is true.” He fished in his inside coat pocket for the leather packet in which he’d placed the papers given him by Zachary Gamble. “Monsieur Zachary Gamble wagered his share of the company in a game of cards.” With what was, to Teddy, agonizing slowness, he spread the papers on the table for her to view. “He lost.”

Teddy’s heart faltered a beat. Her Uncle Zack’s exaggerated penmanship was unmistakable. He’d signed his interest in the company over to the Frenchman as a pledge against a gambling loss. And evidently her Uncle Zack had either been unable or unwilling to ante up the cash to buy that interest back.

But be that as it may, Teddy wasn’t about to accept the fancy man’s claim without a challenge. “Uncle Zack will have to tell me himself that he surrendered his interest to you,” she said coldly. “For all I know you robbed him and forged that signature.”

Rhys blanched white. He came halfway out of his chair, then thought better of his action and eased himself down again. “Mademoi—” He paused, blew out a long breath then spoke with deliberate slowness to Teddy. “If Monsieur Gamble could tell anyone anything I would not have come halfway across the world to redeem these documents.”

“What do you mean?” Teddy hissed.

“Your uncle is dead.”

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday's How She Does It featuring Andrea Parnell

We all know there are six elements of fiction. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is plot. What's your take on this?

Any one of these elements could be the first spark of a story for me. It is like catching a crystal ball then looking to see what is in my hands and beginning there. Afterwards, I get more methodical and pretty much follow the six elements as you have laid them out.
1.      How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
 Characters are the most fun about writing. I do extensive character development using a chart I adapted decades ago and which is posted on my blog at Once I complete the chart, I know much more about the character than is ever likely to appear in the book, but who knows, there might be a sequel one day.

Coming up with the physicality is much more magical. Once I saw a lovely woman dash out of a salon. She had stunning blonde hair and crystal blue eyes. I've no idea who she was, but she became the image in my mind as I created the heroine in a romantic suspense. As for heroes, I've always got a few, usually dark-haired and blue-eyed, waiting in my imagination.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?

There is a synchronicity in the beginning of a story coming to fruition. After that first spark, I get an idea for a plot and the characters appear simultaneously to flesh it out. That is what I mean about characters being the most fun. They show up ready to live out their story and, maybe, the day before we had no idea we would all meet.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
For the first few books I wrote, the last page was written first. That is how the process started for me. It was all quite organic and spontaneous. That said, I'm something of a planner now, and for later books, I know how they will end but not specifically what will be on the last page.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around.
If at all possible
, I visit the locale in which I am setting the books. I've been to Great Britain, Dominica in the West Indies, parts of Arizona and California, and all over my native state of Georgia.  When visiting the locale is not possible, I use travel books, books from the period, and other media that gives me good images of the locations. For houses or villages or other structures, I do sketches and keep a notebook with photos and other useful materials. In one of my other incarnations, I am a Home Economist. I like designing houses and rooms, and incorporating the fashion, food and social history of the day into my stories.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Most of my books are historicals and for those I like to use references from the time period of the setting. A university library has been invaluable for this. For quick references, the internet is pure bliss. An image, term, pattern of speech, or historically correct costume is right at my fingertips. I'm using it more and more for research.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?My first draft is fairly complete. Afterwards I do numerous polishing drafts and finally make edits my publisher calls for. While I'm not nearly as fast or prolific as I would like to be, I believe writers should find the method, pace, and tempo that works best for them and not get caught up in comparing their output to that of other writers. Easier said than done but good for peace of mind.

Andrea Parnell
Author of Romance and Intrigue
FB Andrea Parnell Author

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday's Opening Scene from Moon's Choice by Janet Lane Walters

Janet Lane Walters

Chapter 1

            Faith sat at the kitchen table and cradled a mug of tea.  Had she made the right decision?  Selling the farm gave her a chance to finish her education and provide for the children’s future.  She had seen a house in town near the community college and had enrolled to start the fall semester.  The house would be hers tomorrow.  There was money in the bank for the children’s education.  She should be dancing not feeling sad.
            The cup thudded on the table.  What would Jimmy think?  She wished she could ask him but he’d been dead for a year.  She also wished he had loved her as deeply as she had loved him.  Not that she resented the marriage.  He had been the man she was destined to love.
            Her aunt entered the kitchen from the porch.  “How are the children?”
            “The twins and Patty are in bed and Buddy’s reading.”  Faith sighed.
            “Child, you’re doing the right thing.”
            Faith nodded.  “I can’t help thinking about the land being in Jimmy’s family since they came to this country.  What if one of the children resents leaving?  One of the might want to be a farmer?”
            Grace Lowe poured a cup of coffee.  “Haven’t seen any of them showing a love for the land.  They’re young.  They’ll adapt.”
            Faith laughed.  “Maybe better than their mother.”
            Grace sat at the table.  “How would it have been until you lost the land to the taxman?  You sold the stock and the machinery to pay him.  You’ve the chickens, one milk cow and the kitchen garden.  Sold your ring last year to buy school clothes for Buddy and the twins.  House is falling apart.”
            “I know but I still wonder what Jimmy would think.”
            “No question there.  About the money and how much drinking he and his buddies could manage.”  The older woman walked to the screen door.  “Moon’s full tonight.  You might catch a glimpse of him in the moon pool at the Lodge.”  She dangled her car keys.  “Take these.  I’m here in case one of the kids wakes.”
            Should she, Faith wondered.  Why not?  The pool in the maze had shown him once.  She checked herself in the age-speckled mirror.  “I won’t be long.”
            “Take your time.”
            When Faith pulled into the parking lot at Quinnesec Lodge she frowned.  She’d forgotten this was the day the last group of guests arrived and were served dessert in the garden near the maze.  A wave of sadness slipped around her.  Soon there would be a different kind of guest here.  Instead of vacationers, business people would come for retreats and conferences.
            She left the car and stood in the shadows cast by a large oak tree.  A group of people wandered past.  Their laughter over the legend made Faith want to confront them but she refrained lest she be identified as an intruder.
            The legend was true.  On the night of a full moon a seeker could see the image of their true love in the water.  Ten years ago she had seen Jimmy.
            A few more people strolled from the garden.  One of the staff dimmed most of the lanterns while others gathered the remains of the welcome party.  Once they left Faith slipped into the garden and reached the entrance to the maze.  She ducked inside the boxwood hedge and caught her breath.  Did she remember the path to the center?
            She closed her eyes and envisioned the route.  Inhaling deeply she chose the second from the right of the five openings and made her way along the gravel path.  Clouds skimmed across the moon forcing her to stop several times.  When she reached the end of the path she crossed the grass to the pool.
            Faith knelt on the stone-lined edge.  For a short time she wondered how the area had appeared before the Lodge had been built.  Trees would have surrounded the clearing.  Perhaps animals had come for water.  There would have been wild flowers growing near the pone.  And on the night of the full moon an Indian maiden had seen the face of her true love.
            Her thoughts calmed.  She brought memories of her dead husband to the fore.  “Jimmy, I had to sell the farm.  I’ve already sold everything I could to pay the taxes.  When the children were ill, without the kindness of strangers, I would have lost them.”
            She bent her head and gazed into the pool.  Moonlight sparkled on the dark water.  Slowly they formed the face of the man she had loved.  Tears trickled over her cheeks and splashed on the image.  The features changed.  She covered her mouth to stifle a gasp.
            The man she saw was blond.  She didn’t know him yet he seemed vaguely familiar.  Perhaps the set of his eyes or the stubborn chin sparked a fleeting memory of someone she had known.
            What did it mean?  She had already seen her true love in the pool.  Was it possible to find true love a second time?  Not wanting to consider the idea she rose and rushed along the twisting path toward the garden.
            When she reached her aunt’s car she sat and shook.  What did the vision mean?  She had no time to search for a particular face among strangers.  The moment her churning emotions settled she drove home.
            Her aunt waited on the porch.  “You look as scared as a raccoon caught in the hen house.”
            “I saw Jimmy.  His face changed into a stranger’s.”
            “I’m glad.”
            “Why?  I loved Jimmy with everything I was.  How could I ever love another man?”
            The older woman glanced at the sky.  “Moon’s choice.  You’re too young to remain alone.  I believe the moon offers you another chance.  Don’t make my mistake.  There’s nothing wrong with finding love again.”  She opened the screen door.  “I’m for bed.  The imps will be up with the sun.”
            Faith nodded.  “I’ll sit awhile.”
            After her aunt left, Faith sat on the edge of the porch.  She stared at the full moon.  Though she knew the time to move on had arrived she felt edgy.  She wasn’t sure she was ready or even wanted another love.

* * *

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Putting Your Character In Hot Water

For characters to have everything going their way doesn't make for interesting reading. Give them inadequacies. What areas of their life are they vulnerable? Problems are found in the areas of character development. These areas are Physical, Environment, Experiences and View of the world.

We've all seen beautiful women or handsome men who don't believe they are as others see them. Some of these people carry their views of their body to extremes but those aren't the characters we want to focus on at least for heroes and heroines. We want those with characteristics that give them a vulnerability. Like the woman who hates her straight hair and wants curls. What you need to look at is the reason behind why they want to change their body or why they think their physical appearance doesn't suit them. Perhaps her friend Mary always received favorable remarks about her curls. Maybe our heroine's mother tried to give Susy curls and failed. There are always underlying reasons for the character to feel inadequate in some area.

As to the environment. Where a child grows up will work on them giving them a feeling of inadequacy. Say he grew up in a mansion and was pampered and he feels lost when he must move from this area. Or the farmboy coming to the city might find he feels lost. This gives a vulnerability the writer can use to effect and make the character seem alive.

How about the character's experiences in life? Think of the abused child, the pampered one. Think about what your character has experienced in life. Develop a story where the hero or heroine must move out of their area of experience. How do they handle something that seems foreign to what they have always known.

The last is the view of the world. This is showing how the character reacts to others. He or she may be one person with friends who hold the same view of the world. Throw the character into a group with different ideas of what's right and wrong and you have a place to show their inadequacies.

So give your characters problems and there is room for inner conflicts that may be at cross purposes with the outer conflicts and you have characters who move off the page.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tuesday's Inspiration - More Tidbits on The Writer's Mind

Do you have both a shameless playfulness and earnestness that can be embarrassing. Both are found in the writer's mind. Don't know about you but sometimes lines occur when I'm writing and become part of the story that are sort of twisted but funny. Rather irreverent remarks the characters say that you never would in conversation.

Another quality a writer's mind can display is patience. The kind of patience as you would find when a cat sits for hours and watches waiting to pounce. Spending time waiting for the right expression. I know I've sat with pen in hand thinking and thinking and suddenly the right words form and they move across the page. This I find hard to do on the computer but sitting in my recliner I can spend this thoughtful time until I pounce.

This one is one I cultivate and that's a criminal streak of cunning. Very necessary if one writes mysteries and suspense but also useful in other genres of fiction.  How to take the same old story and make it new takes this kind of cunning. Have you ever been reading another writer's work and thought to yourself, "that's not the wy things should work." then your writer's mind takes and twists that idea and makes it your own. Of course there is danger in this but the cunning mind will find a way to make that idea yours.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Meandering On Monday with Janet Lane Walters

Meander 1 At a meeting on Saturday I heard some interesting thoughts on piracy of ebooks and I shook my head. "You can't stop it," one person said. "Why fight it." she added. Another person said she felt insulted when one of her books wasn't pirated because she felt she hadn't arrived as a writer. A third comment was that people who pirated weren't going to buy your book. Perhaps this is true but they also pass your book along to other people who might have bought the book. What bothers me about this is what if someone stole their credit card or even the change from their purse. Would they give the same excuses?  I'm not sure what the answer is but to me theft is theft.

Meander 2 Winter. This has been an interesting winter. The snow was lovely when it came and great when it melted. What I really hated were those few days of bitter temperatures. They aren't good for old bones. And my bones are getting old. Of course there is summer and the temperatures could soar. Guess Spring and Autumn are my favorite seasons.

Meander 3 Writing is moving ahead on Melodic Dreams and one of these days I'll be able to ship it off. Ideas are happening for the fourth of the MoonChild series and I've also some thoughts for the fifth. So we will see what happens as I move ahead. Besides finishing a dreft of Melodic I'll be blocking out the one with a Gemini hero but there is no title yet. Need one to reflect the duality of Gemini.