Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Write it down!

I'll bet that as an author, you'd think the title refers to stuff like -always carry a pad and paper around not to lose your ideas. Of course with today's technology, smartphones make that easy. I have a 'pen' inside my phone and it can actually read my handwriting. Now that's cool! That is not what this post is about.

Authors, make notes. Not just for yourself, but for readers with great memories. You know, those people who seem to remember every last detail!
Personally, I open a word doc and file it under 'story notes'. I have one for characters, one for invented words and technology since I write Sci-Fi. I make one for the different planets and such. Why? Because going back over a manuscript looking for that one word or detail is a waste of time I'm already short on.

So...what brought this on? Allow me to share. You know I'm going to anyway. OK, here goes. I was reading a book from an author I usually enjoy. I have many of her books, and even though this point has come up in the past, THIS TIME, she's outdone herself. the beginning, she names her character Morgan....and she's named the puppies Linus and Lucy. So far, so good. Yet somehow, there was a temproal shift in that town, or something like that, because in her latest installment, Morgan is now Lucy, and she has renamed a cat and dog Lucy and Linus. Not to mention a family whose mother died after giving birth, leaving the 3 kids has 4 kids from that same deceased mom. Sigh, yes, it bothers me. In the past, her characters have aged at different rates and changed hair color, OK for a teen, but not a 3 year old!

All she would have had to do was this:

Character Info:

Name       Age      Hair and Eye color          Family Ties           Ticks/Mannerisms               Occupation

See, all the info you need at the tip of your fingertips. Now of course, you would adjust the categories according to your needs, but the point here is this: You won't have to go back through a manuscript looking for that comment on family ties, or hair color (or species). Having had to look through my MS for that one detail is what pushed me to start my Info Files. What started as a character info sheet, turned inot a story file filled with details. The great thing is, when I decide to go back and write about these characters in the future, I won't be relying on my memory, but on a quick reference chart that has it all.

So do yourself a favor, (and your reader's as well), create that info sheet, and save time (and face) in the long run.

My Sci-Fi docs have details that have helped me notice that I LOVE blue-green marbled fruit and cups and even clothing (though not marbled), but it helps make sure I vary my descriptions. Same goes for the taste of the food my aliens eat, but it can be as simpla as  -My characters always eat or drink the SAME thing. Something I would notice if I keep track of it in my files!

If you are someone who pays attention to detail, I am sure this would be a great writing tip for you, and if you are a reader with an eye and memory for detail, you'll love your note-keeping authors even more.

I have yet to use Scrivner, but I think they have some form of file or note saving system. So if you know about it, please share! Maybe it will get me to use my Scrivner once and for all :)

Happy writing!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Nese Ellyson and Escape to Sanctuary

So the holidays came and went, no snow on Christmas. It was 16 degrees Celcius here (61 F) and DH had to cut down the tree that had fallen over the car tempo. Less than a week later, we've got a foot of snow and temperatures drop down to around -29 C or -20 F....crazy Canadian weather my friends! Yesterday it poured cats and dogs (you might want to look up that expression, it's funny!), winds were unbelievable, and yup, power outages everywhere. I came home from drill team practice to a seven-year-old armed with flashlights. Zoey was thrilled that I had a portable camping stove to heat up the soup I had thankfully made a day earlier. No one would starve ;)
Fortunately, I'm hiding out indoors until tomorrow.

Now today we have one last  Holiday book to present. I think you're going to like it!
Now let's meet our fascinating guest author...
Nese Ellyson lives in a small town in rural Ohio with her own Prince Charming, two boys, and a cat they rescued. She's an avid fan of romance, particularly when it has a suspense element. She's always brimming with ideas and loves getting her thoughts down on paper. The day Denise released her first novel, Escape to Sanctuary, an inspirational romantic suspense, was one of the most exciting days of her life.
Nese is a bit of a Mrs. Fix It, and enjoys doing repairs and renovations on her family home. She enjoys art and her paintings have been in several art shows. She feels she has the greatest job of all, working for her Christian ministry as an artist and designer.

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
I’m and artist by trade. I have 2 boys and a great hubby. I live in rural Ohio, but was born in a suburb of Detroit. I started writing after my second son was born and I had a lot of time on my hands. My passion for romance started when I was a kid. I would make up stories in my head all the time. Every version of Cinderella I could come up with. You could have some interesting conversations with my daughter around that! She took a fairy tale class in college. I never even knew they existed. Sorry, carry on... Then I started reading them in 7th grade. When I became a stay at home mom with my youngest son I got serious about writing.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
I don’t write full time. I have lots of interests plus the boys activities and sports.
I aim for writing an hour a day. An hour a day would make many authors happy!

Could you tell us a little about your novel?
This is the story of a woman who is trying to find out what happened to her step-mom. She’s shot at from the start of the book. She’s rescued by a homeless shelter. I love the heart of this story because it shows a community of giving. And the hero is humourlessly trying to protect her and keep her hidden but she’s a doctor so she ends up saving a lot of people who are thankful and want to tell others what she did for them. Now there's a lot going on in that story!

What led you to choose a Christmas theme?
My love of the season, and how it has the harsh elements as a back drop for people being warm and giving.

Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?
Sanctuary is a Homeless shelter in Rural Ohio where the pastor and his wife run the local church. They help lots of people who are in transition in their lives and just need a little help. There’s a wood cabin outside of town where Evie, the heroine, is stashed for a time, and there’s her ancestral home which is part of the plot.

Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?
Evie’s a doctor who had been in service to as a medical missionary in Africa. She comes home to bury her step-mom and is attacked. Her heart to help and heal is something I always admire in medical workers. I know that heart ;)

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?
It came to life as I wrote it. My theme of a homeless shelter was one I personally am passionate about. Helping others in times of need. The world needs a bit more of that passion.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?
I’m a panster. I fly and write by the seat of my pants. Ah, a fellow clan member.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?
The novel spans a couple of weeks. I did research a lot of medical information to make sure I was accurate. Not that I expect anyone to use it as first aid but I didn’t want it to be obvious that the writer wasn’t in the medical profession. You have my utmost respect for that! Nothing frustrates me more than details that could have been easily verified and corrected, but ruin the credibility of the author. 

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?
I work scene by scene. While in a scene that has areas I need more information about I stop and look for it in Magazines, online, at the library, etc. Then I get back to the writing. Often I will have left a blank line if I needed to finish a thought and then come back to fill it in the researched part.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

This is an inspirational romantic suspense. Most of my other books are clean romance but not inspirational. Must be the influence of the season.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?
I have to do more promoting for readers to find me. I am currently working with an editor at Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense on another story but it moves much slower through the traditional publishers. I turned down a contract with traditional publishing when I was told that the book wouldn't be out for another 12-18 months. Then he added, but lately it's more like 24...Well that did it for me. I turned to assisted publishing for the first novel, and have been with an indie publisher for the others.
I love the speed of Indie publishing.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

I recently got in touch with Deborah Gardner, a successful Indie author, for her recommendations for my books. It was to get them on a cycle so that as soon as it was available to run KDP countdowns, always with the option to run the freebie, if I could get a Bookbub ad. Once I get a Bookbub rejection I plan when to run the KDP countdown and then cycle through all of my books in this manner. Interesting. Marketing is a challenge!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Get a great writing support group behind you. Sharing information with others is how to get the most out of your writing and marketing.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
I’m waiting for a second round of edits from Harlequin and I’ve got a Clean Contemporary Romance that is in the works. I gave it the working title of “Unblonde me”. Hehe, you want to be careful with those working titles....that's how I ended up with "Snow Job" as a title for my last book. It was only supposed to be the working title.

Picture of the cover of Escape to Sanctuary done by Victorine Lieske:

Back of the book write up:
When Dr. Evangeline Tourmaine's step-mother turns up dead, she comes back to the states and unwittingly becomes the target of a killer. FBI Agent Colton Segar swears he will protect Evie, if it's the last thing he does. Not easy to do when she keeps saving people in need of medical help. She's drawing a lot of attention. As Colton tries to keep her under the radar, he finds himself drawn to her, and soon protecting her is more than just his job. It becomes a matter of heart.

Snippet from some reviews:

By Michelle Fayard on December 20, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Filled with gripping and riveting romantic suspense, ESCAPED TO SANCTUARY features a truly wonderful hero and heroine skillfully brought to life by author Nese Ellyson. Another special facet about this book is that it strikes that rare but perfect balance between a Christian and secular romantic suspense. For readers who appreciate a Christian foundation to their novels, this title will be a very welcome addition to bookshelves. But for those who are drawn to quieter demonstrations of faith, this successfully bridges the enjoyment needs of both reading groups. Another trademark of Ms. Ellyson’s writing that readers are sure to appreciate is the bond of true and believable love that she develops between the main characters. Add in the beautiful and unexpected twist to this book’s ending, and you have a keeper in every way.

Purchase Link:

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone -A Twist on ‘Write What You Know’

As an author, I often find myself in situations where I create and write the unknown. I usually write YA Sci-Fi, and since nothing in my life can give me that hands-on spaceflight experience, alien encounters or the exploration of an unknown planet, I have to wing it. Well, to a certain extent… We’ll get back to that in a bit.

On occasion, I find myself lacking in personal or professional experience to authentically forge a character or situation. The Internet is a blessing for so many of these details today because with one simple click of a mouse, I can find myself standing on Fifth Avenue in NY, on Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg, or on la rue Jussieu in Paris.  I can google details from the past, present, and consider speculations about the future, stop by a hotel lobby or peruse the menu in an exotic restaurant, and if need be, I can explore an underwater shipwreck, or watch a tutorial on how to make my own soap on YouTube. All of this from the comfort of my home if I so desire…or an internet cafĂ©, while riding the train, you name it. Research has come a long way.

Human experience is another invaluable source of inspiration and information. We can ask friends and co-workers to help fill in the blanks, or toss questions out online through our Fb groups or other venues to have people share their experience with whatever situation that may be causing us grief while writing. I do not believe that television offers a valid source of information, though, since they tend to stretch the truth to make their stories larger than life. (Thanks to Myth Busters, I now know a car will not explode if bullets hit the gas tank). I prefer to remain as true and as accurate as possible in my writing. 

Oh, and a word of caution with your research, especially if you are writing murder mysteries or thrillers, be careful what you type into that search engine because there are some topics that can attract unwanted attention to you. I know of one author on the “No Fly” list…I kid you not.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with learning something new to put into our stories. The main character in my last novel was a NY divorce lawyer. This is so not anywhere within my realm of expertise or knowledge. I did consult with a friend who is a family court lawyer, as well as spend days and days online looking up NY Law terms, procedures and protocol. I never did find out if they wore robes in NY family court, but here in Quebec they do, and since they sell those robes in the States, I went with it.

Writing what you know is awesome, not only because it significantly cuts down on research time, but because you should be comfortable creating from this space. A unique space found within, filled with sights, sounds, smells and emotions from the experience.  No two authors are the same either, and each one has their own life story, adding to the supply of situations and people to colour and shape their own story. I consider myself lucky, because I can write about many different and interesting things, but at one point, like I mentioned in the last paragraph, you find yourself out of your comfort zone.

I believe that research is a personal thing. How much is required, how detailed you have to be, and what to actually use or make up rests with the author. I love to learn new things, and therefore, enjoy the challenge of stretching myself a little farther to honor my quest for accuracy. In one book, I had my characters in a survival setting build a compost potty. Now aside from those two words, “compost potty,” none of my research made it into the story. I have pages and pages on various types of potties, their construction, and upkeep. In my opinion, it was necessary to make the best choice for my story, even though 99.9% of all that work and research never showed up in the novel.

How do I handle Sci-Fi? I did my research there as well, using technology that has been tested on Earth. Some things, like transporting down from the ship to the planet, are a stretch of the possible. Scientists have managed to transport a molecule a few feet from its point of origin, so I allowed myself to use it.

All this to say what? Yes, for sure, write what you know, but then, never spurn the chance to learn and grow. Think about it. You could take a ride on an ambulance to get a feel for their day-to -day drama (yes, ride-alongs are permitted), or take a few classes in fencing or martial arts to allow you to form a more accurate feel for the sport. I hold balck belts in several disciplines, so I know that years of training and experience cannot be obtained in just a few classes, but it'll be that much more realistic than writing from no experience at all.

Face it, us authors have the best jobs in the world. And if we don't like something, we can just rewrite it!