Category Archives: On Writing

Getting Past Writer’s Block

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write, only to find that your brain doesn’t want to cooperate.  Your pen is hovering above the paper or your fingers above the keys, poised and ready to create, but nothing seems to be working.

We’re all familiar with writer’s block.  There is a lot of advice out there about how to get past it, but this is what has worked for me:

Writer’s Block

-Change how you put words on paper.  I know this sounds overly simplistic, but I find that it really helps.  I can type pretty darn fast, but that doesn’t do me any good when there’s nothing to write! That’s when I turn to writing by hand.  You could also get a new pen (always inspiring, I think), draw out the story, record your thoughts on a voice recorder, or even switch computers.

-Freewriting.  Oftentimes, we get stopped in our creative writing process by the worry of whether or not the outcome will be good enough.  We pick at ourselves about the arrangement of our words and what sort of emotions they’ll exude in the readers.  But freewriting is just as freeing as it sounds.  Write without the intent of ever showing anyone.  You can burn or erase your work later if you want to.  Just write whatever comes to mind, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with your story or article.  Sometimes, I even write questions and answers about the story as I go.

-Shower.  We all know the muse lives in the showerhead.  Besides, writers have a rep for being disheveled and a little dirty, so let’s use this tool to find our inspiration and dispel the rumor simultaneously.

-Quit trying.  What?  Just stop writing?  Well, yeah!  Obviously, you can only stop for so long or else you’ll never write again.  But a really bad case of writer’s block is sometimes best served by taking a step back.  Take a walk, go read a book, or wash the dishes.  After a little while, your characters just might start talking to you again!

-Schedule your writing time.  I read this little nugget of advice about five years ago. The idea is that your brain gets used to the time frame you start using the creative parts of it, and having a routine makes things a little easier.  In my own experience, this turned out to be true!  I always get my best work done in the morning.

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Don’t forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter!

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under On Writing

Guest Post: 4 Things to Consider When Designing Your Characters by Marielle Ann Suy

by Marielle Ann Suy

One of the most common challenges fiction authors face is creating “believable” characters. Take note, I said believable. Designing a character is different from designing a realistic character.

You may already be aware that your character needs life. You might have been searching the internet or reading books endlessly on how to make your characters feel alive. But it’s not enough.

Thankfully, I’m here to share with you the same technique I use to create realistic characters.

Artist drawing pencil portrait close-up

 

  • The Personality

Every human has a personality.

I usually start with knowing their “type.” Are they strong and tough? Are they shy and timid? Are they preppy and fashionable?

The key question here is what are they like?

If you, by some miracle, get the chance to meet this character, what would they tell you? How will they act? Are they initiating active conversations? Do they gossip? Do they talk endlessly? Do they annoy you?

By meeting them, you learn more about them. Not just how they look, but how they act. The more you know them, the better you can craft them.

Here’s an example:

Coal Lockwood is a character from Disappeared (Quesnium). He is a medieval farmer who lives with his childhood friend, Christina Evangeline. Since he’s a farmer, he’s got ragged clothes and a pale skin from all that sunlight. He’s also quite muscular (farming requires a lot of effort) for his age.

Since he was exposed to the hard life of farmers, he’s very down-to-earth. Well, down-to-quesnium, in this case. He knows how to prioritize their needs. Say, there’s no more food in the kitchen and thankfully, he was provided with bread. What he’ll do first is break it into portions. He’ll give one, maybe two, to Christina, eat half of one portion and then store the rest. Afterwards, he’ll find ways to get more food for them.

  • The Goal

Creating your character’s goal is actually easier than you think. The goal is what your character wants.

It could be as simple as being accepted by their parents to as grand as saving the world before bedtime.

The point is that your character must want something. Otherwise, there’s no story.

Here’s an example about Coal:

Coal is a simple man. With his social status, his only goal was to survive the day and the next and the next. He’s devoted to farming. During harvest season, he stores some for himself and Christina, the others for sale. He uses the coins for various needs, like seeds for the farm, food for the livestock, and for future repairs.

The better you can visualize their goal, the better they will move towards that direction.

  • The Motivation

Motivation, in its simplest of terminology, is what inspires your character to reach their goal.

Every human has a motivation, whether or not they realize it. Say, your character wants to graduate. Their motivation is their family. Perhaps, they want to give their family a better life – a better future. That’s why they want to graduate. They want to work soon to be able to support their family.

  • The Humanity

Flaws don’t make us weak, only human.

Everyone has flaws. There’s no such thing as a perfect human (unless he’s a cyborg). Making a human with superhuman strengths and no weaknesses is close to impossible. Even Superman has a weakness.

Whether it’s an object, a hidden trauma, or a person, each character must have a weakness. At the same time, they must also have strengths. Try to balance these when assigning traits to your character.

For example, if your setting is a palace in the sky, your character may be afraid of heights, but they may also have keen senses. In a thriller, action, or adventure story, keen senses are necessary.

And there they are. Those are the 4 things you should consider when designing your characters. Happy writing!

* * *

suyA lover of fairytales and the mystical, Marielle Ann Suy is a storyteller and author. She has published two short stories. Both stories are about the sun’s disappearance, hence entitled “Disappeared.” “Disappeared (Earth)” is about a solar eclipse and how it affects the world. “Disappeared (Quesnium)” is about the sun’s disappearance and how it affects lowly farmers. A novel based on the same characters and the same premise is on its way. Stay tuned in via social media or by subscribing to her newsletter.

Social Media Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MariellesQuesnium/

Twitter – @suy_marielle

Blog – https://quesnium.wixsite.com/talesofworlds

 

Disappeared (Earth) Book Links:

Apple Books – http://bit.ly/DiniBooks

Barnes and Noble – http://bit.ly/DinNook

Kobo – http://bit.ly/2DinKobo

Scribd – http://bit.ly/DinScribd

Smashwords – http://bit.ly/2DinSmashwords

 

Get Your Free Copy of Disappeared (Quesnium): http://bit.ly/QuesniumFREE  

 

 

Interested in having your work featured here?  Contact me.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Posts, On Writing

4 Self-Publishing Essentials That No Author Can Publish Without

by Rosie Wylor-Owen

Self-publishing gives authors exciting degrees of freedom over their work. We can choose how long our books can be, what to put on the covers and *squeal* how much to charge for them. When we’re bound to publishing contracts, these important elements are left in the hands of editors and graphic designers who haven’t nurtured your manuscript the way you have. Despite this, in the hands of a publisher, all the costs of producing our book babies are covered. Self-publishing freedom is not without its expense.

Indie authors aren’t known for their riches, so sometimes we might feel tempted to cut corners. While we can take steps to be frugal, there are some things we just can’t sacrifice for the sake of cost. Before you self-publish your book, take a look at the self-publishing essentials you can’t publish without:

Editing

As indie authors, we tend to have a great network of author friends who are ready to beta-read our manuscripts for some cold, hard feedback. Ouch, right? While this is hugely helpful in creating a polished manuscript, beta-readers just can’t replace real editing by a seasoned professional. Without proper editing, you could quite easily publish an error-riddled book to your adoring fans.

No matter how many times you pore over your manuscript, something – nay, a lot of things – are going to slip under your radar. Editors may cost a pretty penny but the polished manuscript you receive from them is priceless. Even if you have to save a dollar at a time, hire the darn editor.

aerial-3253349

A Professional Book Cover

First impressions matter more than we like to think they do, and that could not be truer than of books. The front covers of our novels are the first things our readers see and are the first excuse to say “no” to our books. You might be quite artistic, but the chances of creating a fantastic book cover without some real graphic design experience are slimmer than an intern’s paycheque.

Your book title plastered across a free stock photo in sans-serif isn’t going to wow readers who have probably seen one hundred better covers that day already. Investing in a good book cover is arguably even smarter than hiring an editor, because the cover is what gets your readers to the first page. Forget about Canva and Pixabay, and start researching some good graphic designers. Your manuscript deserves the best.

Reading

This question has bounced around Facebook writing groups since time immemorial. Does a writer have to read to be a good writer? The answer is yes. Is it possible for a musician to compose good music without listening to any first? Only if they have superpowers.

Some writers insist that their writing is often complimented and they never read. Here’s the thing: a good writer isn’t just someone who can write at an acceptable level and gets themselves a few hearty congratulations from Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Tom. A good writer is a writer who is constantly improving, and there’s no better way to do that than to read regularly and write regularly. The best dishes come from the chefs who do their homework.

Networking

This writing deal really does test us, sometimes. Writing is, by and large, an introvert’s profession. We like holing up in our studies and creating in peace and quiet; no people, and lots of coffee. Bliss. So networking isn’t at the top of our to-do lists, but if we want to get our books under the noses of our ideal readers, we need a helping hand (or several).

The good news is, since the marvelous invention of social media, we don’t have to meet anyone face to face. Don’t tell me that’s not ideal.

Authors need each other to help host their book launches, to share their giveaways and to recommend their books. Without a solid backing, indie authors struggle much more to get their work noticed. Go and say “hi” in a few writing groups, and write a thank-you e-mail to your favourite indie author. You might just find friendships worth keeping.

Whether you enjoy socialising or not, we need allies on our journey; a journey we can all make together.

Whether we like it or not there are some things that we can’t do without. Books, friends, and the dastardly red pen, among other things. If you want your writing career to be a successful one, try out these ideas and see if you can take the next step towards that bestseller list.

* * *

20157114_1802529079762912_4918685668669970332_o

Rosie Wylor-Owen was born in Worcester, England at the height of baggy jeans and boy-band popularity. Her work has been featured in the literary magazines The Fiction Pool, Anti-Heroin Chic and Ariel Chart, and the Manawaker Studios Podcast. Her short story “Arm-in-Army with Alchemy” was accepted for publication by Otter Libris for inclusion in the anthology “Magical Crime Scene Investigation.” In February 2018 she won third place in the Fiction Writer’s Global flash fiction contest for her story “In Exchange for Your Sins.”

http://www.rosiewylor-owen.com

http://www.welcometothesecretlibrary.com (blog)

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rosiewylorowenauthor/
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rosiewylorowenbooksquad/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/rosiewylorowen/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bates_rosie

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rouli91/

2 Comments

Filed under Guest Posts, On Writing, Self-Publishing

Guest Post: How to Write an Effective Resume, by Chloe Sunstone

How to Write an Effective Resume

Let’s face it; Resumes are a necessary evil in the job search process.  Yet, there’s no way a piece of paper can truly reflect who you are OR the value of your skills.  Nonethless, it is generally required in the process. 

So if you are going to write a great resume, DO IT RIGHT. To do it correctly, you need to understand the true purpose of a resume which is (drum roll please) To Get an Interview! I repeat the goal of a resume is to get an interview.

As an HR professional, I’ve had countless friends, family and strangers ask for advice on their resume.  Below is a complete overview of the key tips on how to write a resume.  I have organized these tips by questions that I’m commonly asked relating to resume writing.

1) How long should my resume be?

Let’s get started. Keep in mind your primary goal — USE YOUR RESUME TO GET AN INTERVIEW! Think of your resume as an ADVERTISEMENT.

To do so, your resume should be two pages or less (NO Exceptions). Write a one page resume when you have LESS THAN TEN years of work experience.

For my readers who have more experience, I understand it can be a challenge to summarize twenty or thirty years of work experience into two pages.  Remember the average recruiter/ HR professional spends ten to fifteen seconds reviewing your resume before deciding on the next step – Interview or Reject.  Less is more.

In order to keep your resume at two pages or less, focus on your work experiences that are most applicable to your dream job.  In addition, do not list the same job responsibilities over and over.  For each job, focus on the most relevant job responsibilities.   Below are two excerpts from the professional experience section of a resume that demonstrate this concept better.   Both are from a resume for a management role.

  • Example 1 (Let’s call the imaginary candidate John Smith) repeats the same responsibilities over and over.
  • Example 2 (Let’s call the imaginary candidate Jane Doe) shows growth in experience by stressing different items under each job.  Jane Doe’s resume shows a variety of experiences thereby reflecting a more desirable background.

Professional Experience
Example 1:  John Smith

XYZ Company (Most Recent Employer)

  • Managed a team of ten finance professionals
  • Performed performance reviews, coached employees and provided managerial support
  • Recruited and hired team members
  • Coached, instructed and led major team projects on financial systems

ABC Company (Prior Employer)

  • Managed a team of eight finance professionals
  • Performed performance reviews, coached employees and provided managerial support
  • Recruited and hired team members
  • Managed major team projects

Professional Experience
Example 2:  Jane Doe

XYZ Company (Most Recent Employer)

  • In addition to leading a team of ten finance professionals, managed large team projects
  • Managed a company wide project to revamp the financial reporting system.  Partnered with an external systems vendor to design, develop and implement the new system
  • Saved the company $5 million due to the system implementation

ABC Company (Prior Employer)

  • Managed a team of eight finance professionals
  • Performed performance reviews, coached employees and provided managerial support
  • Recruited and hired team members
  • Managed major team projects

Do you see the difference?  Jane’s background reflects additional skills such as costs savings, vendor management, systems implementation etc…

Additionally, here are some more tips on how to write a great resume:

  • For experienced job seekers, do not list all of your experience.  Go back ten to fifteen years MAXIMUM and move forward from there.   Again, ensure your resume is no more than two pages in length.
  • For entry-level job seekers, focus on the experiences MOST relevant to the job. Keep your resume to one page.
    • TIP: To all college students; do EVERYTHING that you can to get an internship in your field of interest.  This experience is of immense value in your job search.
  • For those looking to make a career change, break the experience section of your resume into two parts:
    • Relevant Experience (for the experience most relevant to your desired job)
    • Additional Work Experience (outlining other work experiences)

Now, for those of you who work as Freelancers or Consultants…you may be thinking — “How do I keep my resume to a maximum of two pages? I’ve worked for so many different places.” Keep reading! The answer is below.

2) What type of resume format should I use?

There are 2 commonly accepted formats for resume writing.  Each is briefly described below with recommendations on the ideal situation for using each of these formats.

  • Chronological: A chronological resume lists your work experience in chronological order most recent role first by employer.  This is the most commonly recognized and accepted format by employers.  Although the most recommended format, it is BEST when an individual has a solid work history.  If you have changed jobs frequently or are attempting to make a major career change, I would not recommend this format.  It will unnecessarily draw attention to your job changes.
    • Click here for a Chronological Resume Example. Again, this is the most commonly used format.  A good chronological resume will demonstrate a variety of experiences within your field and relating to your dream job.
  • Functional: A functional resume lists your work experience without reference to specific employers but listing it by experiences or functions performed within the job.  These resumes are best used when an individual has a poor work history (i.e. changes jobs frequently).  Since the actual jobs are listed last on the resume, you are able to draw the reader in based on your functional work experience and hope that they do not focus on your frequent job changes.
    • Click here for a Functional Resume Example.  The bold items in the example (such as Project Management and Business Analysis) are the functions.  Generally a good functional resume will have four to ten different functional areas listed (depending on your level of experience).  The best functional resumes use the key words in the job description as the functions.

Please note: the two resumes examples are provided solely to demonstrate format.  They are “fake” resumes for an IT Manager role.  Remember, although the chronological resume is the most widely accepted by employers, format is a personal choice based on your situation.  Please pick the resume format that you think will work best for you. 

  • NOTE: The functional format is the BEST format for Freelancers, Consultants, Independent Project Managers etc...

Businesswoman Holding Contract Paper

3) Can you give me some writing tips for a resume?

In the case of any document, certain writing “rules” apply.  Universally, resumes should be written using the following rules:

  • The writing style should be consistent.  In other words, if you bold the name of one employer, you should bold the names of ALL of your employers.
  • NEVER use words like I, my or we.
  • Choose a readable font style (i.e. Arial, Times New Roman etc) and ensure that your font size is READABLE.  Please do not use a font any smaller than 11 point.
  • Use Action Verbs – In order to get your resume recognized, you need to grab the reader’s attention ASAP.  Action verbs allow you to do so. Using action verbs also allows you to be more concise.  Avoid using passive words such as “Responsible for”.  Instead explain your achievement/ outcome and how you did it OR the benefit of the action.  Please compare the 2 examples below.   Assess for yourself – Which has more attention grabbing language?
    • Action verb example: Reduced technical training costs by $3.5MM (a 64% decrease) through strong negotiation techniques.
    • Passive words example: Responsible for the technical training function of a software organization.  Responsibilities included working with vendors and negotiating new training rates.
  • Be concise as you describe your experiences. As mentioned earlier, an employer will only look at your resume for ten to fifteen seconds, so don’t over-complicate things.  You need to catch their attention FAST.
  • Use Spell Check and ask someone to proofread your resume.  There must be no spelling or grammar errors.
  • Avoid acronyms, abbreviations and overly technical jargon UNLESS widely accepted.  It is unlikely that your reader (usually an HR person) will know the meaning.
  • Ensure white space.  If your resume is too “over-crowded”, it will be hard to read.  If difficult to read, the quick ten to fifteen second scan will miss the key items that you want noticed by your reader.  As a result, keep some white space.  
    • The 2 easiest ways to ensure white space are:
      • Use bullets in your resume
      • Keep your sentences short and concise.  The longer the sentence, the less white space.

4) How do I get my resume recognized?  What makes my experience sound better than others?

The best advice is NO gimmicks when writing your resume.  There was a time where people used colored paper, included their photos on their resume to be pulled out of the pile.  Today, there is no pile. Most resumes are submitted through an on-line tracking system.  Most of these on-line systems automatically “pre-screen” your resumes for certain key words relating to the job posting of interest.   This automated screening process provides the resume reviewer with a ranking for each candidate.  The tips below are ways to be ranked high.  Your audience will review the highest ranked candidates first.  As a result, the best way to get your resume recognized/ ranked highly is to do the following:

  • Use Key Words — As mentioned above, most of the on-line resume submittal systems do automatic searching for key words and will “rank” the resume for the recruiter/ HR professional doing the initial review.  As a result, review job descriptions of your desired job.  Be certain to include key words (of importance) from those descriptions in your resume.  The use of these key words will rank you at the top — above the competition.
  • Include Accomplishments (results of your actions): Generally accomplishments are measurable, therefore use numbers (or percentages) to demonstrate and/or quantify the impact (or benefit) of your actions.
  • Target the job:  Be sure to think about the job and customize your resume to the position by highlighting relevant experiences.

5) If I really want a job, is it OK to exaggerate on my resume?

ALWAYS be honest about your experience:  You want your resume to sound good but not “too good to be true”. (When too good, Employers become suspicious). I’m not saying you can’t slightly exaggerate or be clever in the descriptions of your experience but don’t LIE.  Background checks are becoming increasingly sophisticated so you could easily get caught which could be immediate grounds for termination. True story below!

With over twenty years of HR experience, I’ve fired people for this exact thing.  One case was particularly sad.  An individual didn’t have a college degree but had seven years of financial analysis experience.  He had a decent paying job with a competitor. Then his wife was diagnosed with cancer spurring him into a job search to increase his salary.  He applied to a job posting for a Sr. Financial Analyst at my company.  The job posting said Bachelor degree required.
Now we can debate all day whether it should or should not be required but it was for this job.
He didn’t have a Bachelor degree so he lied on his resume and application. Additionally, he verbally stated he had a degree during his interview.  He was an impressive candidate and was offered the job contingent on his background check.
He gave notice at his current employer who walked him out because he was going to work for a competitor.  He started with us the next Monday.  He worked for a week when his bacground check uncovered he hadn’t completed his degree.  We had a firm policy about terminating for misrepresentation or lying on an application, no exceptions.  As a result, the company had no choice but to terminate his employment.
When confronted, the gentleman emotionally divulged the truth and shared the details of his wife’s cancer. We empathized. Outside of policy, we called his former employer to see if he could return to work there.  Unfortunately, they wouldn’t rehire anyone who had left to go to work for a competitor (even if only for a week).
This tragic situation demonstrates the importance of being honest on your resume and application.

6) What are the best parts/sections to include in my resume?

Each resume can be unique but most resumes contain the following sections:

  • Contact Information: Includes your name and pertinent contact information.  If possible, be sure to provide an email address, a link to your professional networking profiles (such as Linked In) and most importantly two numbers where you can be easily reached by phone.
  • Objective: If you do not have a cover letter, I would definitely recommend an objective.  This is statement of intent (i.e. what type of role, company etc.) that you are seeking.    Customizing this for each job to which you apply will generally yield better results.
  • Career Profile/ Summary: The summary includes briefly highlighting your skills and relevant qualifications to the target job to encourage continued review of your background.
  • Education: This is an overview of educational history including information such as school name, date of graduation, GPA, major field of study etc…
  • Qualifications/ Computer Skills: Includes qualifications relevant to your field as well as computer skills used frequently throughout your work experience.
  • Professional/ Work Experience: Your employment history such as employer name, dates of employment, job titles and specific work experiences belong in this section.  Remember, this area is where to use your action verbs and key words to describe your professional experiences.
  • Professional Organizations/ Associations: If you are a member of an organization and/or have held an office in a professional organization, this information should be provided under this heading especially if the organization is related to the target job or industry.
  • Awards/ Honors: If you have been honored in your professional or academic career and have been formally recognized in some manner, this is the perfect place to include that information on your resume.

Additional sections that are less commonly used include:

  • Military Experience: Highlights experience in the military. Many companies are targeting individuals with this experience so it can be particularly helpful in attracting an employer seeking these skills.
  • Publications: Although uncommon, if you’re fortunate enough to have any professional works published, this is the opportunity to put a spotlight on the relevant accomplishments.
  • Volunteer Experience: Highlighting volunteer and community activities can be impressive to employers dependent on the role and culture of the company.
  • Hobbies: Although not commonly provided, on occasion, individuals will provide a list of hobbies that they think may be relevant to give a sense of them as a full person OR to add additional length to your resume in order to complete a full page. (i.e. you have ¾ of a page of a resume and need to fill in the remainder of the page)
  • References: Rarely included on the resume any longer. Usually added to the job application instead.

BEST PRACTICE ALERT:

  1. Update your resume even when you’re not looking for a job.  Things can change at work (i.e. layoffs, new boss etc…) impacting the overall dynamics and turning your dream job into a nightmare.  As a result, update your resume at least once a year to highlight your most relevant experiences.
  2. Clean up your Social Media presence.
    • Ensure your LinkedIn profile is updated (Employers do double check)
    • Clean up your other accounts (i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc). Many people believe these are personal accounts but employers will check your profile. Be sure to remove blatant inappropriate post including profanity, nudity etc…
      • True Story: I worked for a company with a strict ‘NO SMOKING’ policy. A Recruiter checked a potential candidate’s Facebook profile and saw multiple photos of the candidate smoking cigarettes. The candidate was not contacted for an interview.  I know it may not seem fair but everything is open to judgement, Be Smart!
  3. Apply to jobs that match your background. For example: If you have ten years of customer service experience, don’t apply to a job for an Information Technology Director because you’ve used a computer. Be realistic in the jobs you select.

If you follow the tips above and you meet the qualifications for the job, the employer should notice your resume.  Once noticed, ideally you’ll be contacted for an interview.  It is a numbers game (i.e. you will need to submit lots of resumes- follow the old adage, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket). 

Think positive!!! With a great resume and you’re on your way to your dream job!!!

* * *

chloe sunstone

After over twenty years in HR, Chloe sprinted back to her first love, writing. Combining her love of the written word with a unique take on her HR background, she peeked behind the corporate veil to write compelling mysteries with a twist.

Chloe lives in the greater Cleveland area with her husband, Mike. 

Contact the Author:

Email: chloe@chloesunstone.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ chloesunstone

Website: chloesunstone.com

Publisher:

Silver Summit Software, LLC

5900 Som Center Road, Suite 12-161

Willoughby, Ohio 44094

chloe book

“The Mentor”

Chloe Sunstone released her first novel, “The Mentor” today. Chloe takes the reader on a fun and provocative ride of corporate intrigue.

As evidenced by the “Me Too” movement, corporations today are met with countless challenges when powerful people abuse others. Power can breed corruption. This book puts an intriguing spin on unchecked corruption and unspeakable revenge.

About the Book

When nerdy Arthur gets the chance to mentor the beautiful Sage, he’s instantly smitten. But things change when she becomes a target for a deranged killer.

As other young women are murdered, Arthur’s fight to protect Sage–and his own dark secrets–leads him down a path where he comes
face-to-face with an elusive assassin. 

Will Arthur emerge a hero or become the next victim?

If you love gripping thrillers, grab Chloe Sunstone’s, “The Mentor”. 

Readers can enjoy this thrill ride at The Mentor by Chloe Sunstone

4 Comments

Filed under freelancing, On Writing

Guest Post: Where Do Those Characters in the Books Come From? by Jerold Last

by Jerold Last

As we try to create the imaginary worlds of our books, to be believable we have to rely on reality for inspiration.  I use the places I’ve lived in and visited in South America as settings in my South American Mystery novels.  These novels have to be populated with people, both the central characters like my detectives Roger Bowman and Suzanne Foster, and all of the rest of the people they will meet as they investigate the murder or murders.  We quickly encounter a problem of how to make these other characters into distinct individuals rather than just 20 stereotypes named Pedro or Jose.  To solve this problem I generally use real people I’ve met in South America as models for fictional characters in these books.  The process begins by visualizing someone I actually met for a physical description, and/or by taking part of their personas to start building the fictional characters.  To demonstrate this process, let’s follow the path from reality to book pages of several suspects in the murders being investigated in three of my novels.

 First up is Bernardo Colletti, the head of the Uruguayan Nazi Party in The Ambivalent Corpse, and a suspect in the murder.  He has strong roots in reality.  I first visited Montevideo in 1982 as a Fulbright Professor teaching courses in toxicology and protein biochemistry during the waning days of a right-wing military dictatorship.  One of my hosts was married to a physician who worked in the Emergency Room (think of George Clooney’s role in ER) of the major hospital in Montevideo, who also turned out to be the head of the Uruguayan Nazi Party.  Despite his politics, he was a charming and well-educated (Uruguay and Chicago, USA) physician with whom I was expected to interact professionally and socially while I was there.  To create Bernardo’s character in the book, I merely aged his role model from 1982 to 2011 and grafted the real Nazi’s looks and personality onto the fictional one.  Despite the obvious reasons one should not like a virulent fascist, I tried to portray Bernardo as I recalled the real person: extremely charming and intelligent in social settings where he chose not to emphasize the more odious of his political views.  But, I have to admit, I enjoyed finally killing him off in The Body In The Bed.

Next up is another character (actually a couple) from The Ambivalent Corpse, Gerardo and Andrea, who act as hosts for Suzanne at the University de la Republica and become good friends of our heroes as the story evolves.  The couple is modeled after my two best friends and scientific colleagues in Montevideo. They are, in fact, named after their two children.  Now there’s a switch, naming the parents after their children.  You can get a real sense of power when you write fiction!  The scene at the Feria (open air market) in the park described in the book is based on the actual Saturday morning Feria in the park across the street from the apartment we rented when we lived in Montevideo.  Andrea’s research with algal toxins she describes at dinner in the book is pretty close to what the real “Andrea and Gerardo” do in Montevideo, and formed a large part of the basis for our collaborative research and teaching.  

In The Surreal Killer, Suzanne and Roger are taken for a flight over Northern Chile’s vast Atacama Desert in a small two-engine plane by two of their suspects, Pedro and Romero.  Along the way, Pedro gives both of them lessons in how to fly the plane.  Pedro’s character is a composite based upon a couple of real scientists I’ve known very well.  One of them is a North American, originally from New Jersey, who actually taught me how to fly a single-engine Cessna many years ago while we were both research scientists at The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  The other, more extroverted, half of Pedro’s character is based upon Manuel E., a Chilean scientist who hosted me during several visits to Santiago as we tried to build a collaborative program at The University of Chile similar to those we had already developed in Montevideo and Salta, Argentina. 

Finally, the Kaufman sisters, Gretchen and Barbara, make their debut as murder suspects in The Origin of Murder, as fellow passengers on a cruise of the Galapagos Islands with Roger and Suzanne.  They return to the series again to play substantial roles in Unbearably Deadly and Abra Cadaver.  We met the sisters’ counterparts in real life as, you may have guessed, passengers on the cruise ship we took for our real vacation in the Galapagos Islands.  One of the sisters taught school in the San Francisco Bay area, the other lived with her and worked for a publisher in the city.  We spent several dinners together on board the ship discussing life for single women in San Francisco, our common love of dogs, and whatever other topics came to mind, and tended to hang together as we visited the islands.  We also met for dinner in the Bay Area a few times after we returned to California, but that was a long drive and the friendship petered out.  I grafted their physical descriptions and personalities onto the fictional sisters in the novel as the list of characters emerged.  They were promoted to recurring character status in Unbearably Deadly.  I like how they can interact with Roger and Suzanne to keep the plot moving along without having to steal the limelight from our main characters.  I suspect we’ll continue to see them occasionally as the series continues.

            In this brief blog entry I’ve tried to describe how a small part of the creative process works for fiction authors.  Our life experiences are the source and our books and their characters are the product.  If you’d like to meet Bernardo, Andrea, and Gerardo, they can be found hanging out in The Ambivalent Corpse.  You can meet Pedro, Romero, and their Beechcraft Baron airplane in The Surreal Killer.  The Kaufman sisters appear in The Origin of Murder, Unbearably Deadly, and Abra Cadaver.  Finally, Bernardo Colletti also appears (very briefly) in the novella The Body in the Bed.

* * *

JL Photo

Jerold Last is a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California’s Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California.  Jerry, a two-time winner of The Indie Book of the Day Award, writes “tweener” mystery books (tough and occasionally violent mystery stories that follow the cozy conventions of no graphic sex and no cussing), all published as e-books on Amazon Kindle with six also published as paperback versions, that are fast moving and entertain the reader.  Several of the books introduce the readers to South America, a region where he has lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers.  He and his wife Elaine lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay.  Jerry selects the most interesting Latin American locations he found for Roger and Suzanne to visit while solving miscellaneous murders.  Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, Cuba, the Galapagos Islands, and Iguazu Falls are also characters in these books, and the novels portray these places as vivid and real.  Jerry and Elaine breed prize-winning German shorthaired pointer dogs; Elaine also provides technical advice for Jerry’s dog-related novels like The Deadly Dog Show, Hunter Down, and Abra Cadaver, as well as editing for all of the books.

Interested in having your guest post featured here?  Contact me.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Posts, On Writing

Guest Post: Writing a Humorous Murder Mystery by Robin Donovan

by Robin Donovan

Editing is always critical, no matter what you write. Editing a humorous murder mystery is considerably more critical than a non-humorous fictional murder because you can easily lose the empathy of your reader if the humor goes too far or becomes too macabre. Even if the victim was a vile person, there is still a line over which the protagonist dare not step. On the other hand, if you’re not into cozy mysteries, becoming too macabre may be your goal. Long live Stephen King!

The humorous murder mystery has to maintain something of a pathos throughout, while highlighting humorous components whenever possible. And there had better be enough tasteful humorous components or you will lose your audience to boredom.

Unknown

While my protagonist in Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? can’t pretend to be sorry her horrible former colleague has been murdered, she does take the time to comment on her feelings of sadness for the widower and the now motherless child. In other parts of the story, through another character, we are informed that the clownishly large feet of the murdered woman were almost too big to fit in her coffin. Were these elements juxtaposed too closely and not timed perfectly, it might highlight the humor in a negative or cruel light, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the reader.

That sounds like an extremely delicate balance – and it is. But hitting that sweet spot, that perfect balance of humor and compassion, can be so rewarding.

When I first started writing cozy mysteries, I took my cue for humor from the extremely successful Janet Evanovich. She typically employs about 6 different comedic incidents in every book. That’s harder than it sounds. Not to mention that a humorous undertone must work right alongside pathos when murder is involved, so the author must carefully interweave these elements with masterful timing.

BookTrio copy2

The husband of Is It Still has to make a somber decision to give up the woman he loves, his mistress, as it is in the best interest of his young son after his wife’s tragic death. At the same time, said mistress is having a laughable public meltdown as she decides that the dead woman’s mother is responsible for her being dumped. With these scenes, I hope to elicit respect for a man who is able to make a difficult decision to sacrifice his own needs for those of his son, and conversely, amusement over a woman who takes a completely self-centered viewpoint of a tragic event that does not directly involve her. If my timing misses, this whole scenario is likely to fall flatter than a pancake. But if it works, I will succeed in taking your emotions way down and then back up all the way to laughter. That’s a very heady feeling for an author.

* * *

BookdeliverydayRobin Leemann Donovan is the author of the blog, Menologues, a humorous yet informative look at the trials and tribulations of menopause by someone who’s been there. Menologues has been republished on two commercial sites: Vibrant Nation and Alltop, and has won regional honors for social media at the AMA Pinnacles and PRSA Paper Anvil awards. Her first book in the Donna Leigh Mystery series: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? won an AMA Pinnacle award. Her second book: I Didn’t Kill Her, But That May Have Been Shortsighted, was released in November, 2015. And her third book: I Don’t Know Why They Killed Him He Wasn’t Really That Annoying, came out early last year.

Donovan was born and raised in New Jersey but lived and worked in Connecticut for a number of years before moving to Nebraska in 1999. Starting her career as a high school English teacher, Donovan moved into advertising in the early 80’s and became a VP Media Director working on brands like Duracell, Stanley Tools, IBM, Visa and Merck Pharmaceutical. In 1999 she accepted a job offer from Bozell, an Omaha based ad agency. In late 2001, she and three colleagues purchased Bozell from its New York-based parent company, where she is currently the president.

She has served on the boards of the Omaha Children’s Museum, the Omaha YWCA, and she was chairman of the Alzheimer’s of the Midlands board for two years, serving a total of six years on the board. She is currently the membership director for Kick for the Cure, an organization that raises funds for breast cancer through soccer tournaments.

Donovan lives with her husband and three bulldogs; Roxi, Frank and Sadie (Sweet Pea).

Be sure to visit Donna’s website and Facebook page.  Check out her book trailer, book page, books for sale on Amazon.

* * *

Interested in having your work featured here?  Contact me.

1 Comment

Filed under Guest Posts, On Writing

Writing Exercise – Titles

Writing Exercise #2: Come up with as many titles as you can. You don’t have to know the story behind them (although that can be a fun extension of this idea), but just find some phrases that you think would make great book titles.

  • Not Here, Not Now
  • Like Falling Asleep
  • You Said You Would
  • Let Me Down (I like the duality here of disappointment and physically being put down…could be interesting.)
  • Vibrations of Panic (Poem or band name? You decide.)
  • Parts of Speech
  • Balance
  • Tuesday, 10 a.m.
  • Never Born, Simply Was
  • Do No Harm
  • Dark Threads (I really like this one.)
  • Aren’t You Glad You Let Me Go?
  • You, Too
brain exercising

Work that creativity muscle!

I think another aspect of this exercise could be to list titles of current works by other authors that you absolutely love. These could be book titles, but also the titles of chapters, albums, or poems. The point is to find phrases that you love and see where your creativity goes from there. You may end up with a new story idea, or you may find something that will help out with a piece you’re working on.

What are your favorite titles? Let me know in the comments!

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

6 Comments

Filed under On Writing, Writing Exercises