Thursday, October 20, 2016

Evolution of Character

Many successful authors of creative fiction recommend outlines of plot and characters before beginning the story. It keeps a writer on track with the storyline and fleshing out the details of a story’s cast of characters. For many writers, already knowing the details of their characters, like description, history, associations, and motivations within the story can enrich their writing, giving depth and atmosphere to the story.

I highly recommend outlining as a writing tool, but this technique just doesn't work for me. The fastest way to kill a story idea of mine is to work out the details of plot and characters in outline form first. They die a swift and horrible death in such a dry, analytical environment. By the time I get to the first page of writing, there is no magic left and I have to let it go.

However, I don’t begin from scratch, sitting down to a blank page with not a thought in my head on plot or character. I make general sketches and keep notes as the story progresses to remember crucial details and keep a logical progression of the story. But the magic in writing is the unexpected evolution of both plot and character. In my writing world, this evolution is driven by the characters.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve begun to write with a storyline in mind and had it go in a completely different, unexpected direction due to the unfolding dialogue and actions of the characters. I’m the creator, so I’m supposed to know where these things come from, but this is why I call it magic. The twists and turns take me as much by surprise as they do my readers. It fascinates me to watch the story unfold beneath my fingers, to see the characters grow and change before my eyes. They begin as two dimensional figures and blossom into beings so real I can almost believe they are alive.

Some might argue this makes my story two-dimensional at the beginning, but the beauty of editing is I can go back and flesh out the characters and storyline, or hack and slash as necessary. This writing method affords me all the creative joy without the life-sucking, mind-numbing effects of the formal outline. I can’t recommend this method to every writer, though. What works for me might drive another author to drink or ruin their writing experience. To each their own. As for me, I’m into evolution.

Happy Reading,
Michelle O'Leary

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What Comes First for You-- Movies or Books? by Cj Fosdick


Ever see a movie based on a book that drives you to pick up a copy of the book? Or vice versa--read a book that sends you to the theater adaptation? Chances are you may be disappointed by one or the other...unless you are an author. I was conflicted after seeing "The Girl on the Train" at a theater recently. The flashbacks and setting locales were confusing. While reading the novel would have helped clear things up, it would have removed the suspense and "who-done-it" conclusion.

Any author who has gone through the editing process with a professional editor is often cautioned every scene should drive the story forward. Rule exceptions that stands out with a "but" are mysteries that requires red herrings--like Girl on a Train--or historicals that call attention to actual history. A backstory that reveals character may also earn a pass for adding length to a novel that may or may not be cruicial to the story.
about how each scene must thread into plot lines and some are more important than others in driving the story forward. In fact, most editors say that

A screenwriter's job is to taper that novel length down to a fixed number of screen minutes. That may mean vaporizing characters, dialog, and even some plot lines until a viable outline of the novel remains to be adapted. Even some of the author's "little darlings" that remain may end up on a cutting room floor once the screen editor does his job. If you've read the book first, at least you can plug in missing links to the story.

One of my favorite movies, Gone With The Wind, was a very large and popular novel that became a very long and popular classic movie. But when I read the book, I noticed several characters had been eliminated in the movie. Scarlett had two other children by her previous husbands before she married Rhett, and commentary about Civil War battles was obliterated by the character-driven plot. I appreciated the history in the novel, but I loved the streamlined romantic movie version that still took four hours to tell.

I felt the same about other favorite movies, after reading the books, Raintree County and Pride and Prejudice. The screen version of The Last of the Mohicans was almost unrecognizable as a book adaption when the romanticized Daniel Day Lewis movie was released twenty years ago. However, To Kill a Mockingbird was entertaining in both of its venues.

Some fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books have commented about some of the casting in the Starz TV series of Outlander. Wrong hair or eye color, a different twist in the plot? I've read all the Outlander books and think the small screen version has brought the books to life with uncanny accuracy. Diana wrote one of the screenplays herself, and has been concordant about any changes, remarking instead on the talented cast and scriptwriters in the lavish production. I wholeheartedly agree. Adapting a novel to the screen is a huge validation and compliment to any author. And reading the book--before or after you see the screen version--can be a DOUBLE TREAT, even with a preference. Which do you prefer?

Cj Fosdick


                       Order  "The Accidental Wife" or "Hot Stuff"
                Cj's Website         Cj's Newsletter          Cj's Books 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Magic of Fiction by Judith Sterling

This morning, I overheard my twelve-year-old twin sons concocting a story. One took charge of the writing; the other, the illustrations. The longer I listened, the younger I felt. Memories from my own childhood came rushing back. The hours I spent dreaming up stories. The passion that flowed through me as I put pen to paper. The joy of conjuring just the right words to paint a picture, a character, an entire world. That passion and joy guided me toward my present life as an author. They took center stage as I penned my historical romance, Flight of the Raven, the first of The Novels of Ravenwood.

Fiction is fun! It’s magical and fills me with childlike wonder. Inspiration strikes, and my mind comes alive with faces, names, settings, and scenarios. Characters become as real as family and friends. Dialogue flows, and suddenly, I’m taking dictation. The story unfolds, and one page wends toward three hundred.

Before I know it, I’ve created a whole world. Readers I’ve never met will enter and inhabit it. Their imaginations will add to it, shaping my world into something unique to each reader. That’s the miracle of fiction. As writers and readers, we co-create experiences that not only enhance everyday life but lift us out of it into a realm where anything is possible.

The greatest gift for an author is knowing her work makes others happy. Needless to say, I’m a fan of happily ever after. And I’m a fan of anyone who embraces the magic of the written word. A big thanks to my children for reminding me of it this morning.

I hope you enjoy Flight of the Raven. Happy reading!

Judith Sterling
Available at:
The Wild Rose Press


Barnes and Nobles

Monday, October 17, 2016

Romantic Attraction - What makes an Alpha Male?

Do you remember the first time you met your significant other? Did you know it was love at first sight? Well, I didn't. Sometimes we meet the "mirror" of us. We are interested at first. I suspect that this is because like personalities attract like personalities. But then...conflict happens.

I certainly am no expert at relationships, but I know what I've learned over the past forty years.

As good feminists, we know what we are supposed to think - we are strong, confident, driven. We must be appreciated as equals with our male coworkers - and we are. But then why do some women fall into escapism of being drawn to

Success can take place in many forms, and all successful people are certainly not perfect people. No human is. Everybody has an Achilles Heel, a vulnerability. They are our challenges. If we overcome them, we become successful. It isn't that these obstacles are gone from our lives - we just learned to step over them.


With success comes confidence. With confidence, the fear of failure decreases with the each subsequent challenge.

So, what does that have to do with romantic attraction and an alpha male?

An alpha partner no longer allows a fear of failure to stop them. They run head-on into a challenge. That is why we see them in romance novels as the military man, the business CEO, the Navy Seal, the police officers, the warrior, and even the paranormal wolf - or whatever strikes your fancy. Even a building engineer who knows his stuff, and shamelessly wears his kilt in public exhibits alpha male personality (Yes, Welshman - that means you too! ).

Their confidence also comes from many failures, as yours did. They faced trials, learned from them, and overcame obstacles. Most of all, the alpha recovers from his failures. He is still evolving...just as you are.

Marriage is full of challenges, and everybody knows that. An alpha will evolve from failures to become confident and strong. As the cream always rises to the top, so will the alpha in their mate's eyes. After all, strength attracts strength and all people are attracted to leadership.

So, are you with that person who challenges you?


Cindy James
Their Highland Trust FB @BiokmstWrites
an alpha male? Doesn't that make us submissives? How could we ever be happy marrying one?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Morgan D'Arcy: A Vampyre Rhapsody - Nightingale

In Morgan D'Arcy: A Vampyre Rhapsody, the hero Morgan D'Arcy is an avid horseman, and his horse of preference is the Andalusian. Guessing why is easy: I bred, trained and showed this marvelous horse for many years, my stallion earning 2 national championships in halter competition.

For years I loved the Arabian horse and bred the Egyptian Arabian. They are refined and lovely, but then I met the Andalusian horse at a show in Atlanta. I also met a long-time friend, Irene Benjamin, who helped me along with my passion for becoming a great rider (I don’t think I ever achieved this goal, but I had another partner—my Andalusian stallion Bonito). I sold all my Arabians and bought this young stallion imported from Costa Rica. He was simply gorgeous with the most beautiful eyes and wonderful personality, even if occasionally spiced with mischief. He had quite a sense of humor! We had a bumpy journey sometimes because he was trained to a higher level than I was, but I wouldn’t trade a moment.

In fact, he was such a friend that when I was getting a divorce and was confused and sad, I’d go to the stables into his stall, and he’d hug me with his big arched neck while I cried.

We did a musical freestyle to Phantom of the Opera. The ride began with a complete side pass across the arena. We performed a bit of piaffe (trot in place) and a canter pirouette (canter in place). He was not your ordinary horse, but then no Andalusian is ordinary. I have a poster in my guest bath that says “This horse will change your life.” It is absolutely the truth.

Allow me to tell you a little about this extraordinary breed. They are the bullfighting horses of Spain—either quick or dead.

The Andalusian is an ancient pure breed that has been carefully preserved over the centuries. In Northern Spain, cave paintings depict men leading Mesolitic horses with convex heads, solid muscular bodies, elegant necks and luxurious manes. Circa 1,100 B.C., Homer refers to the Iberian horse in his Iliad. The Iberian horse carried Hannibal across the Alps in his invasion of Italy (though the elephants got all the credit!). History records Richard I and many of his knights mounted on "airy Spanish Destriers".

In the heyday of European monarchies, the Andalusian's flair, style and formidable carriage made him the mount of choice for the aristocracy. Not only did the Spanish horse excel in battle but he was a fancy parade horse and an elegant fine harness animal. This popularity earned the Iberian horse a grandiose title, "Horse of Kings" or "Royal Horse of Europe." Indeed, there was a time when no crowned head would consider having a portrait painted on any horse other than an Andalusian.

Linda Nightingale - Author
Out of the Ordinary… Into the Extraordinary

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hide and Seek, Jo A. Hiestand

The plot for McLaren’s sixth mystery, “No Known Address,” was mentally making a nuisance of itself, so I decided to do something about it while I was in England. I wanted a unique setting for a section in the novel, and--after book-researching candidates such as Matlock Bath’s cable cars, the flooded Speedwell Cavern, Peveril Castle’s ruined keep (erected in 1176), and the moors surrounding the Cat and Fiddle Inn (the two centuries-old pub is the second highest in England)--I thought the old windmill in Heage, Derbyshire sounded a perfect choice. Heage is about seven miles as the crow flies from the bed-and-breakfast where I would be staying in Dethick. But add at least twice that mileage for the twisting roads.

Armed with directions from the B-&-B owner, and confident I could find the thing, I set off. Twenty minutes of driving in what were probably circles, U-turns and figure eights never brought me to the mill. Nor produced any signs proclaiming the thing’s existence. I was more than disappointed; my frustration verged on panic. That wonderful scene was evaporating into the hedgerows and stone walls that kept me from my goal. But when my anxiety finally lessened, I realized I had another option.

In my circular wandering I had discovered the village of Crich and the old Wakebridge Engine House. Wakebridge is a remnant of the by-gone lead mining days in Derbyshire, and joins the list of other mines with colorful names: Bacchus Pipe, Leather Ears, Merry Bird, Pigtrough, Silver Eye, Wanton Legs… The region wallows in mining history stretching from Roman times into the 1950s. With such a past, surely I’d get something useful out of Wakebridge. So, assuming a bird in the hand is worth more than trying to locate its nest, I latched onto the mining house. Which is why you’ll read about Wakebridge instead of the Heage windmill in “No Known Address.”

I still love the idea of a scene in the mill, though. The creaking of its six sails, the moaning wind whipping up the hill, the birds huddled in the loft, the scuff of thick-soled shoes on the wooden steps… Perhaps next trip I’ll find where it’s hiding. A potential scene in a mill is too good to become chaff in the wind.

Jo A. Hiestand,

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Haunting Highland House Review

Haunting Highland House by Kathryn Hills

You'll be hearing a great deal about this new author!

I was given an ARC of Haunting Highland House for an honest opinion and review, and I am so thankful I was because Kathryn Hills' debut novel is definitely a winner.

Set in New England in the present--and 100+ years prior-- this is a story of a love that survives the vestiges of time, war, death, and change.

When Samantha Merrill arrives at Highland House as the new event manager, she feels a tiny sense of familiarity and a little niggle of uncertainty. Has she been here before? Things look familiar, but they...don't and aren't. An orphan raised by two much older adoptive parents, Sam knows nothing of her life before the age of 4. Pretty soon she starts to doubt her sanity when she's confronted with what she thinks is the ghost of Robert Pennington, the original owner of the now historic museum. But he's not a ghost. He's a living, breathing, powerful man. And he wants Samantha; almost-- if not more than-- she wants him.

Sam's life quickly spins out of control, traveling back and forth through time to meet with Robert, his family and friends. When she discovers a terrible event will befall his family, she wrestles with telling him and potentially changing the future, or allowing events to proceed as they already have.

I don't like spoilers so I leave the plot line there, but this book utterly captivated me from page 1 until the very last page. And what a last page!!!!! I'm usually fairly good at knowing how a book ( or TV show!) ends, but Ms Hills' ending totally blew my mind! And in a great, great way.

Mark my words, you 'll be hearing a lot about this wonderful author from now on.
Haunting Highland House gets 5 well deserved stars from me!
Reviewed by Peggy Jaeger
Available at Amazon, and all online ebook retailers.