Ariadne Oliver’s Writing Advice

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Agatha Christie did many wonderful things, but if I had to pick just one that I am most appreciative of it’s her creation of the apple-munching, sharp tongued, mystery writer Ariadne Oliver. Here are some of my favorite writer-centric quotes from Mrs. Oliver.

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Regarding characters:

“I only regret one thing — making my detective a Finn. I don’t really know anything about Finns and I’m always getting letters from Finland pointing out something impossible that he’s said or done. They seem to read detective stories a good deal in Finland. I suppose it’s the long winters with no daylight. In Bulgaria and Roumania they don’t seem to read at all. I’d have done better to have made him a Bulgar.”

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(A playwrite is trying to make changes to Ariadne’s Finnish detective.)

“But I really don’t feel it’s right making him a vegetarian, darling,” Robin was objecting. “Too faddy. And definitely not glamourous.”

“I can’t help it,” said Mrs. Oliver obstinately. “He’s always been a vegetarian. He takes round a little machine for grating raw carrots and turnips.”

“But Ariadne, precious, why?”

“How do I know?” said Mrs. Oliver crossly. “How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic mannerisms he’s got? These things just happen. You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you’ve got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony gangling vegetable eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.”

 

Regarding adaptations:

“But you’ve no idea of the agony of having your characters taken and made to say things that they never would have said, and do things that they never would have done. And if you protest, all they say is that it’s ‘good theater.’ That’s all Robin Upward thinks of. Everyone says he’s very clever. If he’s so clever I don’t see why he doesn’t write a play of his own and leave my poor unfortunate Finn alone. He’s not even a Finn any longer. He’s become a member of the Norwegian Resistance movement.”

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Regarding ideas:

“If you know anything about writers, you’ll know that they can’t stand suggestions. People say ‘Splendid, but wouldn’t it be better if so and so did so and so?’ Or ‘wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea if the victim was A instead of B? Or the murderer turned out to be D instead of E?’ I mean, one wants to say: ‘All right then, write it yourself if you want it that way!’”

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“Idea? I’ve got any amount of ideas. In fact, that’s just the difficulty. It always is my difficulty. I can never think of even one plot at a time. I always think of at least five, and then it’s agony to decide between them. I can think of six beautiful reasons for the murder. The trouble is I’ve no earthly means of knowing which is right.”

 

Regarding errors:

“There always is one. Sometimes one doesn’t realize it until a book’s actually in print. And then it’s agony!” Her face reflected this emotion. She sighed. “The curious thing is that most people never notice it. I say to myself, ‘But of course the cook would have been bound to notice that two cutlets hadn’t been eaten.’ But nobody else thinks of it at all.”

 

Regarding writing:

“What really matters is plenty of bodies! If the thing’s getting a little dull, some more blood cheers it up. Somebody is going to tell something—and then they’re killed first! That always goes down well. It comes in all my books –camouflaged different ways, of course. And people like untraceable poisons, and idiotic police inspectors and girls tied up in cellars with sewer gas or water pouring in (such a troublesome way of killing any one really) and a hero who can dispose of anything from three to seven villains single-handed.”

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“I only write very plain murders,” she said apologetically. “Just about people who want other people out of the way and try to be clever about it.”

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“I often have a master criminal in my stories — people like it — but really he gets harder and harder to do. So long as one doesn’t know who he is, I can keep him impressive. But when it all comes out, he seems, somehow, so inadequate. A kind of anticlimax. It’s much easier if you just have a bank manager who’s embezzled the funds, or a husband who wants to get rid of his wife and marry the children’s governess. So much more natural.”

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“If I write things, I get them perfectly clear, but if I talk, it always sounds the most frightful muddle; and that’s why I never discuss my plots with anyone. I’ve learnt not to, because if I do, they just look at me blankly and say – ‘er – yes, but – I don’t see what happened – and surely that can’t possibly make a book.’ So damping. And not true, because when I write it, it does!”

>>>>

Mrs. Oliver prowled round her sitting room. She was very restless. An hour ago she had parceled up a typescript that she had just finished correcting. She was about to send it off to her publisher, who was anxiously awaiting it and constantly prodding her about it every three or four days. “There you are,” said Mrs. Oliver, addressing the empty air and conjuring up an imaginary publisher. “There you are, and I hope you like it! I don’t. I think it’s lousy! I don’t believe you know whether anything I write is good or bad. Anyway, I warned you. I told you it was frightful. You said, ‘Oh! no, no, I don’t believe that for a moment.’ “You just wait and see,” said Mrs. Oliver vengefully, “You just wait and see.”

>>>>

“I’m too busy writing or rather worrying because I can’t write. That’s really the most tiresome thing about writing – though everything is tiresome really, except the one moment when you get what you think is going to be a wonderful idea, and can hardly wait to begin.” oliver8

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“It must be wonderful just to sit down and write off a whole book.”

“It doesn’t happen exactly like that,” said Mrs. Oliver. “One actually has to think, you know. And thinking is always a bore. And you have to plan things. And then one gets stuck every now and then, and you feel you’ll never get out of the mess—but you do! Writing’s not particularly not enjoyable. It’s hard work, like everything else. … Some days I can only keep going by repeating over and over to myself the amount of money I might get for my next serial rights. That spurs you on, you know. So does your bank-book when you see how much overdrawn you are.”

 

Regarding the public:

“People say things to me — you know — how much they like my books, and how they’ve been longing to meet me — and it all makes me feel hot and bothered and rather silly. But I manage to cope more or less. And they say how much they love my awful detective Sven Hjerson. If they knew how I hated him! But my publisher always says I’m not to say so.”

>>>>

“What can you say about how you write books? What I mean is, first you’ve got to think of something, and when you’ve thought of it you’ve got to force yourself to sit down and write it. That’s all. It would have taken me just three minutes to explain that, and then the Talk would have been ended and everyone would have been very fed up. I can’t imagine why everybody is always so keen for authors to talk about writing. I should have thought it was an author’s business to write, not talk.”

>>>>

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Guest Author Jeffrey Von Glahn

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Jeffrey Von GlahnWriter and psychotherapist Jeffrey Von Glahn is my guest today. His first novel is the autobiography of one of his patients, Jessica.

Please introduce yourself. Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?

Jeffrey Von Glahn (Von Glahn is my last name).

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Give me a random tidbit about you. It could be anything. Anything at all.

It took me many years to realize the most important benefit of doing necessary tasks as soon as possible. So I can’t stop worrying about getting it done! It frees my mind up to think about more important things.

How long have you been writing? How many books have you written? They can be published or not published.

I’ve been writing seriously since 1977, started with short stories. Have written two books, published one. I’ve also had a number of academic/intellectual publications.

What genre do you prefer writing the most?

Don’t have a favorite genre. Whatever I write about has a strong human interest aspect.

Jessica by Jeffrey Von GlahnTell me a little about the book you’ve published.

My latest effort is Jessica: The autobiography of an infant. Jessica grew up fearing that something had gone terribly wrong when she had been “made up.” She had no sense of a Self. Her great fear was that she’d be found guilty of impersonating a human being. Someday a crowd would surround her and shout: “Imposter! Imposter! Here’s the imposter.” In her therapy, she discovered that what had gone terribly wrong was ongoing distressful events, which she remembered in vivid detail, from the earliest days of her life that made her terrified of who she was.

How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump straight in with the initial idea?

I start with the initial idea as that’s what most on my mind. My greatest ally in writing is my brain (a thesaurus is second), and I’ve discovered that it seems to “wake up” as soon as it sees words that I’ve written. So I follow the thoughts/ideas that appear in my head.

What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?

My strength in writing is making the reader feel as if she’s right there in the scene. I’m sure this comes from my many years as a psychotherapist. My main way of communicating with a client is to state as specifically as I can what I sense what he is experiencing, and which goes beyond just his words.

My main weakness is thinking of similes/metaphors/images. Thank goodness I use them sparingly. However, there are times when they are absolutely essential.

Are you usually working on multiple books at once?

I’m usually working on 2-3, though many are comments to a website, thoughts to a colleague. Even so, I give them the same detailed attention I give to all of my writing.

 

How do you go about your editing? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

I love editing! When I started, I hated it. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t very good at it. Here’s how I discovered to love it. When I’m faced with a passage, from one sentence to a paragraph, that I’m not satisfied with, or as a test (and it is a great test!) for my sense of satisfaction, is to re-write the passage but in a particular way. If I can’t think of a new way of starting (which is almost always the case), I start with the words that are already there and I keep using them until a better idea emerges, and which always happens. Here’s the rationale. Brains are happiest when they are processing information. They love to see something. What happens quite frequently is that I have to re-type only a few words until my brain responds. It’s as if it is saying, “No, no. Try this.” My favorite phase of editing is the last one. I read a bit slower than doing so for pleasure and wait until I get an “Uh, oh!” in my head. Trust your instincts! My ultimate test is when I find myself getting absorbed in the narrative even though I know I wrote it.

Talk to me about your marketing strategies. Any tips?

Before you even think about marketing, make sure your book is written as engagingly as possible. The most frequent comment, by far, about indie publishing is the need for editing. I am in complete agreement! There is an electrifying difference between the “average” indie book and a really good one. I recommend books by Sol Stein. As for marketing, take advantage of every opportunity. Besides Twitter and FB, there’s lots of people with websites who interview authors and/or have blog tours. On Twitter, I target groups with #.

That’s great advice. I too cannot put enough stress in properly editing our work. It’s a chore and a real test of persistence, but it’s critical. What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?

The primary obstacle – unless you were born with the writing gene – is learning a new language. We don’t grow up speaking a language that appeals to the listener’s emotions. That has to be learned. For the vast majority of us, it takes constant practice. The more you practice, the more your brain will love it, and the better you’ll get over time. Best guideline: Never miss an opportunity to write something, even if it’s an email to a friend.

Thank you so much Jeffrey!

If you are an author and would like to be interviewed, check out more at Be My Guest.

 

10 Magical Forests Meant for a Fairytale

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Philippe Sainte-Laudy’s nature photography is breathtaking. Not only are they stunning, but they spark, for this writer, inspiration. Here are just ten of the many woodland pictures from his vast portfolio.

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Guest Author Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

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Kathryn Elizabeth JonesWriter Kathryn Elizabeth Jones joins me today. She has been publishing since 1987 as well as helping other authors promote their work. Find out more about her books by clicking on their covers.

Please introduce yourself. Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?

My name is Kathryn Elizabeth Jones. My blog is at: http://www.ariverofstones.com. My twitter handle is @kakido. I am also on facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/kathrynelizabethjones.author

Give me a random tidbit about you. It could be anything. Anything at all.

I love chocolate. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I like it in cake, brownies, candy bars and other delectable dishes. I like eating it much more than I like cooking it, but I do enjoy cooking it. Christmas and Halloween are especially fine holidays for me; and yes, Valentine’s Day. I don’t mind getting a box of chocolates (you never know what you’re gonna get).

Conquering Your Goliaths by Kathryn Elizabeth JonesHow long have you been writing? How many books have you written? They can be published or not published.

I have been a published writer since 1987 and have been publishing books since 2002. I have published 7 books to date (one of them is updated and comes out yearly). I am currently working on two books; one will be out this year, the other, maybe January of the following year.

Wonderful! You have quite the list of works to choose from. What genre do you prefer writing the most?

My favorite genre is Christian fiction. I love symbolism and Christ centered plots, though I want my books to be inspiring and not preachy.

You mentioned that you’re working on two books. Tell me a little about them.

My work in progress is the third book in the parable series, titled, “The Gift: A Parable of the Key.” Books one and two are: “Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones,” and “The Feast: A Parable of the Ring.” The first and second books in the series have had some outstanding reviews and can be purchased in paperback, eBook, or audio formats. The Gift continues the story of Virginia Bean as she struggles to overcome a new goliath in her life. The Gift is the final book in the series.

My second work in progress is a standalone Christian fiction book entitled, “Heaven 24/7.” How does a person live on this planet, while still maintaining a heavenly perspective and way of life? The book is non-fiction and will include true stories of faith in living a heavenly life.

How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump straight in with the initial idea?

No outlines for me unless you can call the name of the book and some scattered notes as an outline. What I have found (at least with me) is that the main character really knows what is going to happen in the beginning, the middle and the end of (his/her) book, so I try to listen in during the process and take good notes.

A River Of Stones by Kathryn Elizabeth JonesWhat aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?

My strength would have to be dialogue. This has always come quite easily for me. I like to get inside a character’s head and reveal what they would really say, even if it’s a bit out of the norm. I also like characterization and find that well thought out characters can either make or break a book. The hard stuff? Getting the setting down so the characters don’t appear to be floating above ground with no foundation. Whatever the setting, I may miss it the first time out, so I’m glad I can return later and add bits and pieces of setting in.

Settings are difficult to write, but so much fun! To go back to an earlier question: are you usually working on multiple books at once?

I like to work on multiple projects for the same reason I read multiple books at the same time; mood swings. Maybe it’s the chocolate…

How do you go about your editing? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Edit five times and then send your work off to beta readers; at least five of those. And don’t forget to hire at least one editor to take care of all the small stuff. Once everyone has finished and you’ve made the changes, read through your work ‘out loud’ one more time to catch the hidden ‘demons’ that have escaped everyone.

Marketing on a Budget by Kathryn Elizabeth JonesTalk to me about your marketing strategies. Any tips?

First off, it’s taken me a few years to discover the marketing that works for me and the marketing that doesn’t. I had a huge binder filled with ideas. They were all over the place and there were so many! Finally, one day my husband said, “Why don’t you create a book of those things that have worked for you and sell it to other writers wondering the same thing.” :) I married a smart man. In 2012 the first edition of Marketing Your Book on a Budget was born. Near the tail end of every year I go through the book, check links, add new ones, delete those no longer working, add new chapters as needed, and basically give myself (and others) workable marketing ideas that cost little or no money. Who would have thought!

That’s great! What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?

Write every day. Write when you don’t want to. Write when others don’t think you’ll ever be any good, because you’ll surprise them, you will.

Thank you so much Kathryn!

If you are an author and would like to be interviewed, check out more at Be My Guest.

 

A list of things I do instead of write: Instead she killed zombies.

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1. Complain about how I am not writing.

2. Play games on iPad (plants vs zombies.)

3. Facebook.

4. Brainstorm marketing strategies. (guaranteed depression)

5. Play games on iPad. (why are the water zombies so terrible??)

6. Browse Pinterest. (blissful hour)

7. Facebook.

8. Read.

9. Buzzfeed lists.

10. Complain about how I am not writing.

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Guest Author Jason Zandri

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Say hello to Jason Zandri, everyone! Be sure to check out his new release by clicking on the book cover.

Jason ZandriPlease introduce yourself. Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?

My name is Jason Zandri and you barely have to look past a search engine to find me. I’ve been online such a long time (I predate Windows 95) that my name is everywhere. I am new to writing fiction so to focus in on that you can by going to my Author Page on Facebook via
https://www.facebook.com/jzandri

I can also be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/gunderstone and to a
lesser extent on Google+ via https://plus.google.com/+JasonZandri/posts

I also have a number of blogs but they are topical to my hometown and not
my writing.

 

Give me a random tidbit about you. It could be anything. Anything at all.

I hope my kids (I have four of them – all under the age of ten) have half
the “worries” I do. We are trying to teach them about living simply (as
simply as they can in the technology world I am embedded in). I am trying
to de-emphasize money and having “things” to them so as to have them
better understand that if they work hard enough they’ll always have enough
and to be happy with that “enough.”

I think many of us can agree with that desire. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written? They can be published or not published.

I have been writing since I was fifteen (so that’s 30 plus years now –
I’ll be 46 in May). Other than blogs and two technical books, I am
relatively new to formal writing as I have with my work of fiction in
“Another Sunset.”

What genre do you prefer writing the most? What challenges do you face in this genre?

At this point I would say “contemporary fiction” although I love to watch
science fiction movies. The biggest challenge I find is having the real
time to get all the stories out of my head before I die.

Tell me a little about your current work.

My current book “Another Sunset”, which I just released in November of
2014, has been rattling around my head for fifteen years. I just never
settled down to complete it. My kids were away this summer with their
Mother in Poland (as they are each year for ten weeks) and I just up and
decided, “I’m going to get this done.” Five weeks later the editor had it
to proof.

Another Sunset by Jason ZandriHow do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump straight in with the initial idea?

My style is to just “tell the story”. Start “putting it to paper” (I use the computer but there’s not good term for that). Once it starts to unfold the way I see it in my head, then I tweak it out to make it more rounded.

What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?

My strength is that I can engage in the needed multiple personalities at
once, so the story telling tends to be strong.

My weakness is that I like to write my stories in a dialog fashion –
letting the reader take in the story by reading the conversations between
the characters. I limit the narrative. Many readers don’t like that style.

Probably the editing process is our most challenging. How do you go about editing your work? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

I stop trying to perfect the story at a certain point. Once the editor
points out the mistakes that need to be addressed and I make certain
clarifications I try really hard to let it go. Just as you can sit back
and play “Monday morning quarterback” on things in your life, you could
tweak the world of your story forever. At some point you have to be happy
with it as it is. If you can think of ways to make that world better you
can in the sequel or in another whole world.

And what about marketing? Most of us struggle with self-promotion. Do you have strategies or tips you’d like to share?

I am still learning this one. I am pounding social media and I am spending
some money (a budgeted amount) for paid promotion, but I think getting
readers to become fans requires as much hand shaking and baby kissing as
possible. I had a book release event during a Downtown Holiday Stroll
(which went really well – I sold 44 books) and I am getting together with
six other authors for a combined book meet and greet. As I figure out how
well this works I’ll do others once a month.

What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?

Keep you day job for obvious reasons. Keep the fire in your belly and
don’t let anyone else put it out on you. Those folks are jealous that you
are reaching for a dream and that you might be more successful than they
were. At one point in their lives they had one too and lost it or gave up
on it; they don’t want to see you reach yours as they look at it as a
reflection of some failure on them. The only person you need to measure up
to is yourself; not someone else’s measure of what success is. If you sell
two books in a month that is exactly two more than the what person putting
it into a negative light sold. I’d rather be a “has been” than a “never
was.”

Keep someone in your life that can keep you on the rails when you try to
throw yourself off. Everyone struggles and questions the time spent and
the effort put out. You need someone to snap you out of it.

Thank you so much Jason!

If you are an author and would like to be interviewed, check out more at Be My Guest.

 

Melissa Reads :: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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CoralineSynopsis:

Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.
My Rank: 4 stars

Coraline, you terrifying book! You kept me up one night and now I can’t look at black buttons the same way. Thank you.

Favorite Lines

“Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”

—-

“How do I know you’ll keep your word?” asked Coraline.
“I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my own mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”

—-

Coraline shivered. She preferred her other mother to have a location: if she were nowhere, then she could be anywhere. And, after all, it is always easier to be afraid of something you cannot see.

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Guest Author Christine Larsen

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Christine LarsenWriter Christine Larsen is my guest today. She is a delight and has a series of childrens books as well as a memoir about her life on the farm.

Please introduce yourself. Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?

Christine Larsen / My Amazon Author Page/ Facebook /LinkedIn/ Twitter

My sites: ceedee moodling, ceedee4kids, OldMcLarsen had some Farms

Give me a random tidbit about you. It could be anything. Anything at all.

Once upon a time I gave a 9 week old calf mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when she choked on an undissolved  lump of milk powder. She was the offspring of one of our ‘top’ milking cows, and I had hand-fed her since she was two days old. No way was I going to let this beautiful creature die. I blew into her mouth and rubbed her  throat vigorously and thumped her sides… and I saved her valuable life.

That’s amazing! I imagine you have many more stories like that. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written? They can be published or not published.

I began writing in a diary in my early teen years, and attempted serious writing in my late twenties. Too many rejections convinced me I was not good enough, and I shelved my writing for 30+ years. Now I’m back, and thanks to technology, have self-published 8 small children’s e-books and  the first book in my series of farming memoirs.

The Grandest Small Folk TalesDo you prefer writing fiction or your memoirs?

I love my two chosen genres equally. I am devoted to the idea of helping to create small readers as besotted about books as I am. And I find a special quality in reliving the days of yesteryear, and sharing the wonder of life as it was lived last century in rural Australia. Such a wonderful journey, and here we still are, decades later now, on our retirement farm.

Tell me a little about your current work in progress.

As always, I work on my latest children’s stories (yes, more than one rolling around the ‘think tank’) some days – and these presently include a dolphin rescue story, and experimenting with a ‘Part Two, Fun and Activities’ book to add to another of my Small Folk Rhymes series. On other days, as the mood and available timing dictates, I am editing and rewriting parts of Book Two of my farming memoirs. This one covers a decade of farming on our own dairy, the first farm we owned.

How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump straight in with the initial idea?

Hmm… it’s the initial idea that inspires the rest. Guess I’m basically a ‘seat of the pants’ writer. Mostly my characters and their situation seem to evolve, some staying as initially dreamed, others developing a life of their own. This is how it works for my children’s books so far. The memoir has been different. It took a deal of working out how to structure it, until I made the final decision to group it in sequence of our farms, with several books devoted to individual farms and their experiences. Then my husband Kanute and I brainstormed a rough timeline of events as they applied to each, sowed the seeds, grew more ‘sprouts’ of the barest details, and I was ready to ‘grow’ them into appealing chapters. Each one is a stand-alone tale of its own.

What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?

My age (close to 7th decade) is a bonus as far as Life experience, patience, reality of expectations and cheerful acceptance of myself and all that I am (warts and all) are concerned. I do appreciate and feel blessed by those strengths, and yet that same age question brings physical weaknesses that must be contended with at times, along with a frustration of knowing I only scratch the surface of SO much of today’s technology. The awareness of being at the ‘other end of Life’ presents challenges that are easier faced most days, but not all.

Probably the editing process is our most challenging. How do you go about editing your work? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

I first create by pencil, then, use recycled office paper (scrounged from family and friends in business), to print out my chapters and do the first edit again by pencil and turn the neat typed pages into a maze of circled paras to be moved elsewhere, corrections, plus notes to self to find better word or research or just generally rethink the sentence/para, then it’s ready for another re-type on my computer. This will happen as many times as it takes until I feel satisfied this is the best I can do at this stage. Almost forgot to mention I read it out loud to husband, Kanute to ensure the rhythm… and pick up all kinds of small problem areas. (This is a crucial step for every writer. If you can’t read to someone else, at least read it out loud… you should ‘hear’ most problems)

And now let’s talk about the dreaded marketing. Most of us struggle with self-promotion. Do you have strategies or tips you’d like to share?

No. I’m not a marketer’s armpit, and I struggle terribly with this. I have huge experience of what doesn’t work… for me! I try to learn  and not repeat previous mistakes, but I find this whole question a leech on my creativity. The good news for me is that I have no particular expectations of fame and fortune (although a smidgeon wouldn’t go astray!), so I guess this seriously blunts my ambitions.

What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?

Never ever give up. Keep on believing in yourself and honing your skills. Always find time to recognize your personal worth and your achievements in your personal growth. And always remember the wonderful words of Desiderata –  ‘Whether or not it is clear to you—no doubt the universe is unfolding the way it should’

Thank you so much Christine!

If you are an author and would like to be interviewed, check out more at Be My Guest.

 

Melissa Reads :: The Dead Lands by Dylan J Morgan

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The Dead Lands by Dylan J MorganSynopsis:

Lane is a bounty hunter for Erebus’ corrupt government, his life a constant battle against past demons. Framed for murder, Lane is offered one option to avoid the death penalty: rejoin the army and partake in a covert operation to the apocalyptic world of Hemera, Erebus’ sister planet.

A century after the nuclear conflict that ended mankind’s third age, Hemera has now sent a distress signal to its sister: the president has awoken, and he’s calling for aid. Early intelligence reports indicate the mission will be straightforward, that Hemera is a vacant shell with all forms of life and hostility extinguished.

They are wrong.

Bandits control the dead lands, but there are things much worse waiting for Lane and his squadron once they enter the city walls. Having lived with the nightmares of his shattered past, Lane must now face the mutated horrors of mankind’s future in the toughest battle of his life.

Thank you Dylan and Rosie’s Book Review Team for letting me have a review copy.

My Rank:  3 stars

I admit, I’m behind the times when it comes to apocalyptic fiction. In fact, this is the third post-apocalyptic book I’ve read, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not fascinated (and terrified) by the idea.

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Morgan paints the scene beautifully. ‘The Dead Lands’ is what the once lush and prospering planet Hemera is now called. Sand and grit covers everything. The planet is a baking, yellow ball of misery and I would never, ever want to go there.

This book is like a movie, packed with action, betrayals, and even a rekindling romance. It would be great for the beach or plane flight.

 

 

Book Four (Part 2)

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As promised, here’s the second half of the first chapter of my next book. If you missed the first half, click here.

The Troubling Case of Elsie Crowe

***

Poppy tossed five pairs of shoes onto the already bulging mass of clothes spewing from her suitcase. She swung the lid closed and pushed, putting her full body weight onto her palms, trying to get the buckles to lock.

She grunted and was about to sit on the suitcase, hoping that would do the trick, when a knock made her freeze.

“I know you’re in there,” came Coral’s voice through the door.

Poppy straightened, marched across her apartment floor and swung open the door.

“Hello,” said Coral.

“Goodbye,” said Poppy. She made to shut the door, but Coral blocked it with her foot and side stepped inside.

“I don’t have time for a visit, Coral,” said Poppy.

Coral bent over her regurgitating suitcase. “You’re going to need more sweaters,” she remarked. “Gets chilly in Licklade.”

Poppy’s back was rigid. “I’m not going to Licklade,” she said stiffly. “You put a stop to that with aplomb earlier today.”

Coral straightened and Poppy saw a smug ‘don’t believe you for a second’ smirk on her face.

“So I’m going to Licklade, so what?” said Poppy, crossing her arms.

“So you’re going to need more sweaters,” said Coral, crossing to the wardrobe in the corner and riffling through the hangings.

“I don’t need you to help me pack!” said Poppy, glaring. “What are you even doing here if not to convince me to stay?”

“I can’t convince you to do anything you don’t want to do,” said Coral with a tone of voice that showed she was startled Poppy didn’t know this already. “I know you’re going to Crowe House and there’s nothing I can do or say to change your mind. And if you’re curious, what you witnessed this morning was honesty, a York trait that clearly missed you and Freddie. We are not detectives, and letting that man think otherwise was a sour move, Poppy. It really was. ”

“So — so why are you here?” asked Poppy, off guard.

“Clearly to help you pack.” Poppy watched as Coral exchanged a few breezy shirts for heavy cardigans.

“Well, how am I supposed to know what it’s like in Licklade?” said Poppy, slightly stung. “I’ve never left Hickory in my life.”

“What are all these?” asked Coral, pulling a very heavy volume from a tangled pant leg. “Blood and Glamor, Five Thousand Years of Fine JewelryHow to Fight the Unseen …?”

Poppy snatched the books from Coral’s hand and tried to stuff them back into the suitcase. “I’m going to need research.”

“Leave them out, it might make the buggy ride go by faster. I’m certainly going to need entertainment.”

Poppy stopped her battle with the suitcase and looked up, startled. “You — you’re not coming.”

“Pops, I’m wounded.”

“But you don’t want to come!”

“I never said that,” said Coral, crossing her arms airily. “I’ve always been game for a vacation. You were the one playing detective.”

“Coral, we can’t just let that poor girl go mad!” said Poppy, furiously. “We have to help her!”

“And if she really is mad, how are you planing on helping her then?”

Poppy decided to try a different tactic. “You’re curious.”

“I am not!”

“You are!” said Poppy, now smiling wickedly herself. “You were just as taken by what Louis said as I was. You want to know if there really is a curse.”

“Of course not!” puffed Coral, inflating indignantly. “I’m coming to keep an eye on you. Heaven knows what trouble you can get into up there on your own.”

Poppy didn’t reply. Instead she smugly held out the history book.

Coral looked ruffled, but took the book. “I’ll be down by the buggy,” she said stoutly and left the room, disappearing down the stairs and reappearing under a large umbrella onto the waterlogged street below. Poppy watched from her bedroom window as Coral said something to the driver before renewing her efforts in closing the suitcase.

 

Rain continued to pelt little angry bullets against the glass as the buggy splashed down the street.

“He doesn’t know that we’re coming,” said Coral. “Louis Brealey. He might have hired someone else by the time we get to Crowe House. He may not need our help after all.”

“I doubt it,” said Poppy, as the tiny lamps in the compartment flickered.

“Why do you say that?” asked Coral, turning in her seat. “I still don’t understand why he wouldn’t hire a constable before trying to hire a private detective.”

“Some people like to keep delicate matters private,” said Poppy. “And when they do, they don’t go to all the bustle and clamor of guards. You go to someone who will be discreet. Seeing and hearing things isn’t something you share at the dinner table.”

“But you forget. He believes someone is out to harm Miss Crowe. He doesn’t think she’s loosing her mind. All he would need to do is tell the local constable that.”

“Unless he’s already tried and failed.”

“Hmm,” Coral tapped her puckered lips. “So the woman that Elsie Crowe keeps seeing—”

“Could be a ghost,” said Poppy, opening Blood and Glamor and turning the pages. “If the pearl’s has a famously dodgy history, it should be in here … I snatched it when I told Mr. Quigley I wouldn’t be at the bookshop for awhile—”

“What’s that,” asked Coral, her finger pointing to a corner of paper that was larger and thicker than the rest of the book’s pages.

“Nothing —”

But it was too late. Coral had tugged the corner and a folded, damp poster slipped from the book.

Poppy tried to snatch it back. “It’s nothing, Coral.”

“Are you collecting them, Pops?” asked Coral, unfolding the poster and revealing a soggy, though thoroughly dashing man.

“Mr. Quigley doesn’t like the Hickory Guard putting posters in his window. He told me to take them down,” said Poppy through her blush.

“And I’m sure you were going to toss it in the bin and just forgot, what with all the excitement of packing,” said Coral, her eyes glittering.

Poppy glared and snatched the poster back, stuffing it into her coat pocket.

“We’re here to discuss a cursed pearl, Coral,” said Poppy, stiff with dignity. “Not thieves.”

“Even if they’re very good looking thieves?”

Poppy ruffled vigorously through the history book. “Here we are. I told you it would be in here.”

Coral, still smirking in amusement, leaned closer, so that their bright red hair mingled in the dim buggy. The had many traits that were not alike, the York sisters, but their hair was the exact shade of vibrant red.

 

The Countess Pearl

Also known as Devil’s Eye, Pearl of Power, Widow’s Heart

 

“Don’t forget Poison Pearl,” Coral added. “I rather like the ring of that one, don’t you?”

 

The largest pearl to date. Jet black and deemed to be of the highest quality, the Countess Pearl is so unnaturally large that many specialists remark their uncertainty that it is in fact a pearl.

One of the most desired and sought after of gems, the Countess Pearl has acquired a troubled history, many believing it to be cursed. Most owners, with two exceptions to date, have died suspiciously, usually with the pearl still around their necks. The most famous of these deaths was Lady Gorena, who was known to wear the pearl daily. Of perfect mental health, which her sons repeatedly claimed, she later grew reclusive, to the point of boarding all windows and doors in her three story home and refusing entrance to anyone, including her sons. On the first of March, while walking her spit-fire dragon, Gertrude Dott heard a violent fight undergoing inside the Gorena home. By the time local guards arrived, all noise of a struggle had ceased. Once the guard managed to enter the house, as the front door was heavily reinforced, they found Lady Gorena dead in her bedchamber. She had been stabbed repeatedly, the knife itself clutched in her hand. The murderer is still at large.

 

“Well, there you go,” said Coral, no longer smiling and looking rather ill. “No ghost. Ghosts can’t stab people.”

“But people can’t walk through walls,” Poppy pointed out. “From the sound of it, it took them a great deal of effort to break down the front door. How did someone else get in without people noticing?”

“It doesn’t say that,” said Coral. “That probably got left out. Someone could have broken a window.”

“If you were terrified enough to barricade yourself in, would you forget to cover up a window?” asked Poppy, skeptically. “I bet they never found how the murderer go in and that’s why it never got solved. Or…”

A thought had just occurred to her that made her spine tingle unpleasantly.

“Or?” Coral pressed.

“Or …” Poppy swallowed. “The knife was in her hand…”

“Oh, Pops! She didn’t stab herself! That’s sickening!”

“Of course it is,” Poppy agreed quickly. Who would do something like that?

Coral and Poppy were silent, swaying slightly as the buggy rode onward.

“It does make you wonder what could make someone so scared to go through all that trouble,” Coral mused finally. “Boarding up every window and door … refusing to even let your sons step inside … mind you, they might have been dreadful sons. If I had a son like Freddie —”

“Maybe Miss Crowe will have some answers,” said Poppy.

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