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Author of Supernatural Mysteries

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December 30, 2016

Writing with Soul

December 27, 2016

Writing with soul. That seems like an easy thing to do, but it's a lot harder than it seems. Stephen King (who everyone knows is my favorite author) and JK Rowling have mastered infusing soul into the books they write. That's one of the reasons their books sell so well. For JK Rowling, she's not writing about a kid who has the greatest, most evil sorcerer who has ever lived out to kill him. She's writing about Harry Potter and what it was like for him to have the greatest, most evil sorcerer who ever lived out to kill him. I know. On the surface it doesn't seem like there's a difference between those two sentences, but there is.

Stephen King and JK Rowling write stories that are driven by their characters. That doesn't mean there's any less of a plot in their books. Quite the contrary, their plotting is excellent. What they do is take their amazing plots, and then let their characters drive the story forward. So we know how it feels when Harry shows up in Hogwarts and sees how famous he is. JK Rowling shows us these things. We get to see Harry join the quidditch team. On the surface, that may not have been critical to the plot. Many other authors would not have added it, but JK Rowling added so many wonderful details about Harry Potter's life that millions of people have come to love him. Reading a Harry Potter book wasn't like reading about a two-dimensional character on the pages of a book. We were right there with Harry the first time he faced off with Voldermort. We were there that first summer away from Hogwarts, when he didn't get any mail from his friends, and most heart-breakingly, we were with Harry in book seven when he turned himself over to Voldermort. I cried and cried and cried when I read that scene. And I rejoiced when he came back! We all did. And we did because JK Rowling knows how to write with soul.

That's fine for JK Rowling and Stephen King, you say, but I'm not JK or Stephen. I just started my first book. This whole, writing with soul thing is too advanced and not necessary. But I'm here to tell you that writing with soul isn't too advanced. Anyone can do it. It just takes a little time, patience, and love for your characters.

In Doomsday, a character close to Remy dies. Now, Remy is a pretty tough chick. She's strong, confident, and capable of facing down zombies (even though she doesn't really want to). I knew when I created her, if I didn't infuse her with soul, she would have come off as two-dimensional and unrealistic. So when her friend died, it gave me a chance to humanize her. So I have her visit one of her few trusted friends and break down at the death of this person she cared about. I also used that break down as a means to push the plot forward. The person she goes to for comfort has known her for a long time. He tells the reader, by way of his conversation with Remy, that he thinks Remy should investigate the death. And the reader gets a glimpse into why she doesn't want to. Well, she wants to, but she's scared. This scene is chock full of soul!

I love the Extinction series by Nicholas Sansbury Smith. These books are para-military books that take place during a zombie apocalypse and the author was still able to infuse his characters with soul. Giving your characters a soul is the difference between having a reader who cares about what happens to them or a reader who could not care less.
So when you're working on your next chapter, take the necessary time to infuse your character with soul. Don't just tell us how they feel about what's happening to them and around them, show us! Make us care about them. It will be time well spent.

Until next time...
Happy Reading

A Weekend in Baltimore!

October 7, 2016

The Baltimore Book Festival was last month and it was so much fun! I brought Maggie with me, she's one of my editors (Stephanie Martin is the other). We decided to make a weekend of it and head up on Friday after work.

We got to Maryland Friday night. We were both starving so we went to Ram's Head Tavern in Savage Mill. It was a meh, experience. Nothing like I remembered from when I lived there. But they did have a few good beers...


...Since I couldn't remember any of their selection I opted for the sampler. So did Maggie. Good stuff. If I remember correctly, the Wisteria Wheat was Maggie's favorite. I usually go for whatever is dark. Stouts and porters, and ambers.

The service was awful and I was pretty tired from working all day and driving, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.


The next day was go day! Maggie got us up and going early Saturday morning. We enjoyed our complimentary breakfast and then headed out, with one pit stop at Giant for book signing candy. Readers LOVE book signing candy. And we got the good stuff. Snickers. There was other chocolate in there, but all I really cared about were the dozens of tiny Snickers bars.

I found a pretty good parking spot, but getting all those books to the tent wasn't fun. Maggie got an injury midway. It was pretty slow going until a nice man took pity on us and helped us out.

I tried to explain to Magz what an 8 hour book signing was like, but I don't think she really understood until about 4 hours in. It didn't help that things were slow going at first. Then 4:30 hit and things picked up and books started moving. After that, the time flew by and all the sudden it was time to pack up...and enjoy our evening in Baltimore.

There are lots of places to go, so I drove Maggie around the city and let her choose. She chose the brightest, loudest spot we passed. Power Plant Live!

Power Plant Live! is a sort of entertainment complex that has about 5 different clubs in one spot. You pay a cover to enter the general area, then have access to most of the spots. And there are bars everywhere.

We danced a bit...to a band who only play 30 seconds of every song they knew. That's them in the picture. Surprisingly, people were enjoying the hell out of them, despite the fact that they only played 30 seconds of every song they knew. After we got tired of the 30 second hits, we went to the piano bar, passed by a space playing country music, and of course, had a drink or two.
Here we are. This is when we first got there. I think we were out till about 2, then were on our way back to the hotel where we...you guessed it. We crashed.

Next day it was time to head home.

It was a really good weekend. We have to do it again.

My next book event is this month in Havre de Grace. Check it out at: www.HallowRead.com.

 

Outline Killers

September 5, 2016

Plotter or Pantser?

That's the question asked in writer circles around the world. I am a proud, card carrying, plotter.

My plotting method is a bit crazy, but it works for me. First, I plot out the beginning of the book. I go as far as I can easily get. Once I'm happy with what I have, I write the first chapter. Well, usually I write the first few chapters. Enough to get a good feel for the characters and the story. Once I feel like I know what's going on, I revisit the outline and update it. Then I complete it to the end. This usually takes a few days. Then I return to the book, touch up the chapters I've written, and continue on with writing the story. Seems like it should be smooth sailing from there on out, right? You'd think so, but that's not now it goes. Ever. There are things that happen over the process of writing a book that kills the outline I created. Okay. Maybe kill is too strong a word. Let's say, severely cripples it.

Character Revelations - You're writing, and as you write your first draft you get to know and understand your characters better. The more you write, the more you understand them. They become real to you and hopefully, three dimensional. You understand what drives them, their past, how they feel about what's happening in their present. It's great. But then, sometimes while this is happening you have an epiphany that is so huge you actually have to re-work your entire book to accommodate what you've found out about your character. Let me be blunt here. Fixing the story to match this revelation is not an option. If you don't fix it, your story will ring false to readers. It will read as though the writer (you) were forcing things to happen just because you wanted them to happen. Trust me, do the heavy lifting. You'll be glad later you did. 

The Killer is not the Killer - Sometimes people tell me they weren't expecting one of my books to end the way they did. Often, I'm laughing to myself because I wasn't either. I'd planned and plotted out something entirely different. I thought someone else was the villain, but somewhere during the process of writing I realized I'd done the character I'd fingered for the crimes wrong. They weren't guilty at all. That character there, trying to look innocent, was the doer. Again, you can't ignore these types of revelations, even if it means a lot of re-writing. You ignore at your own peril. Remember, readers can always tell when a writer is forcing something to happen because it's what they want to happen. Do the work. It's worth it. 

Those are the two outline killers I can think of right now. If you have any, please feel free to share.

Happy Reading!

 

 

Creating Characters

September 2, 2016

I have a staring problem.

Honest. I stare at people longer than I should. Sometimes someone catches me doing it, too. When it's a man, often he thinks I'm flirting with him. But I'm not. I'm a writer and being curious about people is sort of my job. It's what makes me able to create believable characters. More than once I've been inspired by someone I've seen out on the street. Either they remind me of a character I've been struggling to make seem three dimensional, or I have an epiphany and realize my WIP is missing an important ingredient. That character. I never create them exactly how I see them, they're more of an inspiration. A starting off point. A foundation.

And from there, anything is possible!

People watching also helps me to understand people better. I'm blessed to have friends from all walks of life. I'm not drawn to any one particular type of person, rather, I'm drawn to all types of people. I have conservative friends and liberal friends, rich friends and poor friends, and everything in between. Educated and uneducated, and whatever falls between the two. I love getting to know them. I especially love my friends who throw dinner parties and invite me. Dinner parties are the perfect place to people watch.

What is it I'm trying to learn from staring at all of these people? Everything! The way they move, the way they interact with people who they love, as well as people who they hate. How they speak, if they swear or not, all of it is interesting to me. It all helps me to create the perfect character. My goal is to create a person that readers can practically hear breathing. I'm never sure how close I get to my goal. If I nail it or fall short, but I'm enjoying the process.

So if you ever see me out and about and catch me staring at you, don't worry. I'm just writing a book...and you may be in it!

Happy Reading!

 

Re-calibrating

August 20, 2016

Since I've gone indie, one thing that I find myself doing a few times a year is....

reviewing then re-calibrating if necessary. What I mean by that is, I step back and look at all of my stats and decide if I like what I see. If I do like what I see, I continue doing what I'm doing. If I don't like what I see, I re-calibrate.

Being an indie author is a lot different than publishing with a publishing house. With a publishing house, you have a built in visibility that comes from the reputation of the publishing house you publish with. I've said this before, but when I was writing erotic romance for Ellora's Cave, I could sell a ton of books without doing any promo myself. Ellora's Cave had a built in readership and reader trust. Those readers purchased every new release when they were posted each week. But as an indie, you have to build up that kind of following on your own. I complicated matters further for myself by changing the name I wrote under and the genre.

So what did I see on my last stats check?

1. I sell more books as a romance author than I do as a mystery author. Which is no great surprise, since romance is the top selling genre of fiction. Still, I really wanted the books I labeled as paranormal mystery to equal the sales of the books I labeled as paranormal romance. So far, that hasn't happened. And, I'm not willing to wait any longer for an uptick in sales. The truth of the matter is, every book I write has romance in it. Someone is always falling in love. The thing that changes is how much focus I put on the budding romance. In my Talhari series and St. Sebastians series, the focus of those stories is on the romance. Everything is about the characters falling in love. The mystery is secondary. In my Doomsday series and Bridgeport series, the mystery is out front and the romance is secondary.

2. Visibility is paramount. I'm not doing enough marketing to get the kind of visibility I need. When I wrote erotic romance and had a large readership, I did a lot of advertising. My book cover was on every romantic review site frequented by readers and I did a ton of interviews. When I had a book release, people knew about it. As Heather Elizabeth King, I've just recently started to use paid advertising. I tried Bargain Booksy a couple of months back and absolutely LOVED the results I had. My books sales shot up. I've also done more Facebook ads. I've seen success with some and not so much success with others, so I'm still learning what works and what doesn't work.

3. I still love being an indie author. Being an indie author is the equivalent to running a small business. As such, there's so much to learn. I started indie publishing back in late 2014, but 2015 didn't feel like I was focused on my present career because I spent the majority of the year re-releasing the Stella Rice series. That's something I did for readers who loved the series, and I don't regret that decision for a second. But having spent so much time focused on Adrienne Kama, I lost a bit of the steam I'd built up from the two releases I had before I began working on the Stella Rice books. 2016 feels like the first full year I've been working as an author entrepreneur selling Heather Elizabeth King books.

4. I need to be more consistent with my blogs and newsletters. Treat it more like a business. I was reading a book about indie publishing today and the author, Shelley Hitz, said something that really stuck out to me. She said that nobody would build a house without blueprint, so why would you strike out as an author entrepreneur without a solid plan. I'm paraphrasing. And I'll add, and if you have a plan and need to re-calibrate, don't be afraid to make the necessary changes. It's all part of the process.

Happy Reading!

The best cookie recipe ever!

July 26, 2016
Taste of Home Winning Recipes

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies...

Believe me when I say these cookies are amazing! The recipe isn't mine, though. It comes from the, Taste of Home Winning Recipes cookbook. Click this link if you'd like to have your own cookbook. Hands down, it's my favorite cookbook.

 

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup suger

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup baking cocoa

1/2 cup baking soda

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar

As you can see from the picture, you'll also need at least 3 bowls to mix ingredients in. The glass of wine is optional.

I'm a bit of a messy cook. The more ingredients, the messier I am. My goal is to start cleaning as I go, but so far I haven't been able to figure out how to clean as I go whilst enjoying my wine.

Directions

The first goal here is to create 24 peanut butter balls and 24 chocolate balls, like you see in the picture. Here's how you get there:

Get a large bowl and mix together: butter, sugar, brown sugar, 1/4 of the peanut butter. After that mix is nice and creamy, add egg and vanilla. Mix again.

In a different bowl, mix together: flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Add the creamy peanut butter mixture to the flour mixture and mix.

In yet another bowl, mix the confectioners' sugar with the remaining peanut butter. Mix until everything is nice and smooth and creamy.

Roll the confectioners' sugar/peanut butter mixture into 24 balls about 1 inch in diameter.

Divide the cocoa mixture into 24 pieces and flatten. To do this, I make 24 balls (larger than the peanut butter balls), then flatten.

Place one peanut butter ball into one flattened chocolate square. Fold the edges of the chocolate square over the peanut butter ball. Place this on a cookie sheet, seam side down, then flatten using the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar. Repeat this with the 23 remaining peanut butter/chocolate mix.

Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes. Let it cool, then eat!

And there you have it. My favorite cookies on the planet! Enjoy! 

 

The differences between writing horror vs. erotic romance

July 24, 2016

People have told me that they've read books I've written and had nightmares. This fills me with such joy. But I've also been told by readers that they've read something I wrote under my pseudonym and had to go find their husband after they finished the book. This also makes me happy. Some people think it's odd that the same person who inspires nightmares can also inspire "happy endings," but to me, there's not much different in the technique behind writing horror and writing erotic romance.

This is my blog, so what I'm saying here isn't a fact. It's just my opinion.

With that said, the biggest thing I have to do when writing a story is make the reader feel whatever emotion I want them to feel. It breaks down into three things:

1. Dialogue. You can tell so much about a character by what they're saying and how they're saying it. Are they typically an eloquent speaker who is suddenly spitting out staccato sentences? Are they swearing suddenly? There are readers who hate seeing cuss words in a book, but when you're writing a book you have to write as true to life as possible. If someone is being chased by a ghost, they're not going to say, "darn it ghost, you leave me alone!" I have a scene in Zoe Matthews, the Undead Ghost, and the Demon where Zoe and her friend Nora are chased by a ghost (in the original version it was a demon). When they finally get to safety, Nora says something like, "What the fuck was that?" Why, because you swear after being chased by something dead. I don't swear in real life, but under those circumstances I would.

2. But it's about more than trying to create great dialogue. I try to give the scene the right ambience. And I try to describe it enough so the reader can practically feel something creeping up on them as they read. I want the reader to feel like they can smell my world; reach out and touch it. My book should be playing like a movie in their head while they read. In Doomsday, there are a few pretty scary scenes that happen underground. Though that's kind of a cheat. So I did a few above ground scary scenes too. At Triune, on the streets, in the abandoned amusement park. The ambience has to be there for the reader to get scared. I remember watching "The Ring" years ago. That was one creepy movie. What made it even creepier was the atmosphere. There was an overall feel of darkness about that movie, which made it even scarier. 

3. Number three is the most important factor for me. I have to express how my characters feel. I can't just say they're scared, I have to show the reader how scared they are. In Doomsday, when Remy and Vincent are in the Underground and the dead people start to wake up, tough Remy lets Vincent hold her hand. Why? Because she's terrified. Dead people should stay dead, as far as she's concerned. She sweats, she wants to run, she wants to scream. Vincent's demeanor has changed, too. He's whispering to her and he's trying to get them out of there as fast as possible. If the reader doesn't see how scared your character is, they won't be scared either.

When it comes to writing erotic romance, all three points are the same, except the goal is titillation instead of fear. When writing erotic romance, getting the three details right was more of a challenge for me than when I write horror. Most of my erotic romance books are basically BDSM books (without the S&M), so getting it right is like walking a fine line. When I write Stella, hands down the most important thing I do is express how much she's enjoying herself. If I don't make sure the reader knows how happy she is, some of the scenes could make them uncomfortable. And you never want to make the reader uncomfortable.

The dialogue for the male characters has to be spot on, too. I don't worry if I'm saying something a man would actually say. What's most important to me is if I'm saying something I woman would want to hear. It's all fantasy and all about making the female readers happy. 

Atmosphere is a biggie, too. In the second Stella book, Stella goes with Jake and Dev to a fetish masquerade ball. Originally, Stella gets upset and they end up leaving early. But two of my friends test read the book and weren't fans of Stella and the boys leaving the party early. I had built up the scene so much that they wanted her to stay and have a good time. I ended up adding the scene where the three go up that staircase to the private room. And you know what, my friends were right. The scene is so much better with Stella having a good time.

So that's the world according to me. At least when it comes to writing fiction. :-)

Happy Reading!

 

Sunday Q&A Vlog - Improving as a writer

June 27, 2016

Sunday Q&A Vlog - Plotting of flying by the seat of your pants

June 27, 2016

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