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On Characterization…

I read and enjoy both plot driven and character driven books. I prefer to write character driven stories. After attending numerous workshops and seminars, I’ve learned that like plotting, how characterization is handled is individual to the author.

I find the variance among my favorite authors intriguing. With some thrillers I read, the protagonist’s appearance is vague. This seems especially true when the running character in a series is male. In others, the hero is easy to picture, his appearance is well detailed. But in both styles, the reader is given much more of the hero as a person, which is what is truly important. I like knowing how he dresses, what music he listens to, and what he does to relax. The part that pulls me in, engages me is when I learn what he’ll forgive. I want to see how he goes about analyzing a problem and what he has to do to solve it. What is he willing to do?

In romance, which is what I write, the hero and heroine’s appearance has a more dominant role in the story. By personal choice, I don’t make either the handsomest or prettiest person in the room. I’ve made them handsome and pretty, yes, but in the cases where I’ve done that, I worked to build in many aspects of their personalities. The hero and heroine’s attraction for each other is more than physical. In my latest book, Golden Chariot, I deliberately played down the physical. Is the hero, Atakan Vadim, a nice looking man? Yes. Is the heroine, Charlotte Dashiell, a nice looking woman? Yes. Their relationship and how it grows is based on respect, shared humor, and trust. They didn’t have to be the handsomest or prettiest in the room. What mattered was how they saw each other.

I chose to focus more on their goals, what they wanted for themselves and what path they took to overcome adversity. As I wrote them, I strived to uncover what they were willing to sacrifice.

In Golden Chariot, Atakan is an agent of the government. He prides himself on his professionalism. There is a point in the story that he must make a choice regarding Charlotte that jeopardizes his position. Charlotte, a nautical archaeologist, is driven to prove a controversial theory. She has one opportunity, which is the shipwreck project in the story, to find evidence for her theory or forfeit all she’s worked toward for years. That ambition drives her decisions even though it puts her life at risk.

While attending a Don Maass seminar I received a great piece of advice when developing characterization. I’m paraphrasing, but Don suggested having the characters do the unexpected. Your hero or heroine says or does something that he or she can’t take back. It doesn’t have to be a game changer but it has to have dramatic effect. This can also apply to the antagonist. He or she does a random act of kindness or shows an unexpected sense of humor. This doesn’t have to be a game changer either or have the same dramatic effect as the unexpected deed of the protagonist. But it does help to flesh out the antagonist as a character. It adds interest, he or she is not a one-dimensional villain.

I had finished the rough draft of Golden Chariot when I attended the seminar. When I did the second draft I applied Don’s suggestion. I had Charlotte make an unethical choice, foolish and knowingly wrong. Her choice had a dramatic negative effect on her relationship with Atakan. It ramped up the tension and gave her a new stressor. She had to regain his trust or lose everything.

The antagonist is a contract killer, cold blooded and without mercy. He was once with an elite Russian military unit that fought in Chechnya. I gave him a moment with a blind veteran of that war. It didn’t change him as an evil character but I feel it added an interesting side to his personality.

I think the most important part of characterization is your willingness as an author to dig deep. Don’t shy away from having the hero and heroine react in a way that makes the reader sit up and go, “Oh, no.” Or “Oh, yes.” 

GOLDEN CHARIOT 

By Chris Karlsen

Genre:  romantic thriller 

Myth, murder, and money clash in this gripping undersea adventure. 

BLURB: 

The rare discovery of a ship sunk during the time of the Trojan War has been found off the coast of Turkey, near Troy. Charlotte Dashiell is an American nautical archaeologist and thrilled to be part of the recovery team. The wreck may contain proof of her highly controversial theory about the Trojan War. 

          Charlotte is present when the Turkish government agent assigned to guard the site is murdered. Her possible involvement and a questionable connection to a private collector of black market relics bring her under suspicion. Atakan Vadim is the Turkish agent sent to investigate her. Unknown to either of them, the smuggler behind the murder plans to steal a valuable artifact and frame Charlotte for the theft…after they murder her. 

EXCERPT: 

          Shouts of “fire” came from all sides of the camp. The west wind blew sparks in the direction of the lab. They could lose the entire camp, but not the lab, not the artifacts.

          Charlotte grabbed an empty barrel from the fire line. She ran with it and started climbing the stairs to the shower stall’s water tank. A man’s large hand covered her mouth. His other hand brandished a gun. With the cold barrel to her ear, he walked her backwards down the few steps to the ground.

          “Don’t scream.” Little-by-little his palm came away from her mouth. 

About the Author: 

Chris Karlsen is a retired police detective who spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. Her father was a history professor and her mother an avid reader. She grew up with a love of history and books. 

She has always loved traveling and has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East (especially Turkey and the Greek Islands), the Caribbean, and North Africa. 

Born and raised in Chicago, Chris has also lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four rescue dogs. 

You can contact her at: chriskarlsenwriter@gmail.com  

Or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chriskarlsenwriter 

www.chriskarlsen.com

Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of GOLDEN CHARIOT!

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I am looking forward to the release of my children’s picture book and all the promoting and marketing that will bring. As far as writing projects go I have a series of books for first grade readers about Charlie and Wes and learning first aid. They get into all kinds of trouble and yes, blood may show up on the page.

I also am working on a project for third graders that includes reading, math, and learning how to research history, people, and places in their community. I also am polishing a prayer book manuscript for kids that I pitched to a publisher at a recent online conference.

I continue to write nursing and medical articles for several online sites. I do medical fact checking for two online sites and I am the blog editor for Stories for Children Publishing’s blog at http://familiesmatter2us.blogspot.com. I recently became involved in the art and illustration part of writing for children and will be working with the team at My Light Magazine.

My major writing tasks move me towards more publishing. I am looking to find a publisher interested in The ABC’s books that I am working on as sequels to The ABC’s of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane. My passion continues to be fiction for children with real life topics written in an entertaining way. Kids learn more if they are having fun.

About the Author

Terri Forehand is a nurse, wife, mom, grandmom, and freelance writer. She writes health related articles and both fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. The Cancer Prayer Book is her first in a series by Dreamwords Publishing. She has a picture book, The ABC’s of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane due out this year with Inkspotter Publishing. She writes from her rural home in Indiana. You can learn more by visiting her website at www.terriforehand.webnode.com or her blog for writers at http://terri-forehand.blogspot.com

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“When I lived in Vienna, I’d cross the Reichsbrücke every day and look over at the United Nations complex. I thought it’d make for a great setting for the abduction of the G-10 leaders. Coupling that image with today’s global religious, political, and financial situations, I developed the motivation for The Prophet’s Alibi,” says Korzep.

Humanity watches as chaos surrounds the modern world, markets crumble, and society struggles with their unsure future. The fate of the helpless world leaders now rests in the hands of a money hungry, political extremist group, who will stop at nothing to satisfy their ravenous greed. Up against the unpredictable and dangerous mind of a terrorist known only as “the Prophet,” Sylvia must rely on her militant training, quick thinking, and fearless commitment to rescue the G-10 and save the world from the brink of disaster.

About the book:

The President of the United States has been abducted.

While meeting with other world leaders in a unified Europe of the future, President Marge Haydon is among the members of the elite G-10 taken captive by militants who crash a peaceful inaugural luncheon. The terrorists, led by a mysterious man called the Prophet, now have control of some of the most powerful people in the world.

Sylvia Jensen is President Haydon’s personal assistant. She is a child of the new millennium, trained in anti-terrorism and modern combat. Whether it’s mere fate or divine intervention that puts her in the right place at the right time, she may be the world’s only chance at a peaceful resolution. But even Jensen can’t be sure who she’s up against in the gray area of foreign relations, and no-body knows the identity of the Prophet.

Jensen finds herself up against a power-hungry threesome who has already amassed almost seven percent of the world’s gold re-serves. These men want more, though, and now lives are at stake in the name of domination and greed. The world must watch and wait as world leaders suffer hours of terror and the world approaches the brink of disaster.

Author’s bio:

Timothy Korzep was raised with a Wall Street Journal in his hands. He soon began to work beside an elite core of fund managers, market strategists, and analysts, enabling him to navigate the often-intimidating financial field. His work took him to an impressive collection of cities such as London, Paris, Milan, Munich, and Hong Kong, which inspired the backdrop for The Prophet’s Alibi. Having published two previous books, Final Approval and The Kondratieff Crisis, he continues to pursue his passion for writing and currently lives in California.

Link to excerpt: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000509353/The-Prophets-Alibi.aspx

Link to purchase page: http://www.amazon.com/The-Prophets-Alibi-Timothy-Korzep/dp/1469737019

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Getting Out of Dodge City, Heading for L.A. on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe is a short novel that reads like a memoir and that will appeal to those interested in black American history and the dynamics of poor black American families from the early 1800s to the 1960s.

The story begins in 1821 with our narrator talking about the origins of the Atchinson, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroads, how they replaced the old Santa Fe Trail, and the impact they had on the people of Dodge City, Kansas. Author Clifton E. Marsh describes the city as “the dust bowl queen of America,” a dry place where “the wind and sand blew so hard a man could catch sand pneumonia.” It is in the heart of this city where our narrator’s family come from, starting with General Burnie, the imposing grandfather who was a laborer at the railroad. The tale spans three generations, from the grandfather to his beautiful daughter Marguerite who eventually moves to Los Angeles and marries Clifton, to her two sons, Jesse and Hugo, born from different fathers and who both live different painful lives that reflect the lives of other Black men during the 50s and 60s. Homelessness, street gangs, sexual and drug abuse are just some of the subjects explored in this story. 

Because it has lots of narration and exposition and very little dialogue, Getting Out of Dodge City, Heading for L.A. on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe reads more like a memoir than a novel. I was a bit put off by several punctuation mistakes and by the use of purple prose in some love scenes, but on the whole, this is a poignant, honest and heartfelt account about a black family trying to survive and improve their lives in the midst of a decaying society that is full of obstacles. 

This review originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine.

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Don’t forget the Mad Motor City. Detroit, Michigan. USA. A place in the Fourth World where the lines between common sense and criminal behavior blur. This is a story about an ex Vietnam veteran and retired Detroit cop who specializes in school security systems. He works for a private firm that plans to launch a series of coordinated school shootings that will boost revenues. When he uncovers the plot, nobody believes him except for some old friends. His victory to thwart the scheme costs him the lives of his wife and daughter. One good hearted, battled hardened veteran of mean streets and battlefield moments, the protagonist constantly slips between good and evil, day and night, angels and demons, friends and enemies, until he ends up dead center–crying bullets.

Author’s bio: John H. Byk, who writes under the pen name of Conrad Johnson, was born and raised in Detroit. After honorably serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, he returned to Michigan to obtain his Masters in English. Still wanting to see more of the world, he worked in the Merchant Marines as an Able Bodied Seaman aboard freighters, tankers and tugs around the world. He then returned to Detroit to teach high school English and Spanish. Now he lives in Michigan’s upper peninsula and writes crime fiction and is the host of the increasingly popular podcast blog, 2012writersALIVE.

Link: http://johnbyk.blogspot.com

Link to purchase page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005GOX2Q4

Link to book trailer: http://youtu.be/ksuO4XPtx-M

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ImageThe process Brandon and I have set up for ourselves is quite easy. We first come up with an idea for the story, the characters, their backgrounds, etc. Once the major details have been agreed upon, one of us writes the first chapter, let’s say it’s me. I then send it to Brandon so he can critique it. He then sends the chapter back to me filled with all his comments, to which I critique his critiques. Once we’re both happy with the chapter then he works on chapter 2. And the whole process repeats itself until we’ve finished the entire novel.

Though Brandon and I have developed a good working relationship, we also know co-authoring a story is not for everyone. The creative process is very personal, and some people have a hard time receiving negative feedback from someone else. But that is what needs to happen if they are to have any chance of finishing their novel.

For us, there have been the inevitable disagreements along the away, such as deciding on the structure of a particular scene, the way a sentence should be written, or the kinds of personality traits we want for a character in the novel.  In the end, the overall vision for the story is what mattered, to make it as exciting as we possibly could.  That always trumped the other’s feelings about the way a scene should be written or what to leave in or cut out of the story.  Usually, when one of us shared our reasons for why a certain part needed to be a certain way, especially when he felt pretty strongly about it, the other would usually defer to him, and then we would move on. In the end, the story always ends up being that much stronger because we both embrace the collaborative effort.

About the book: An 800-year-old letter discovered at an archeological site in Istanbul makes the astonishing claim the cross of Jesus still exists, and has been safely hidden away in an unknown location. Dr. Colton Foster and Dr. Mallory Windom, two leading archeologists, take on the hunt for the cross, but soon discover hired mercenaries are bent at stopping them at all costs. Their search eventually leads them to a small town in Israel, where they must choose between their growing love for one another and the future of the cross itself.

ImageAuthor’s bio: Mike Lynch’s first book, Dublin, came out in 2007, followed by When the Sky Fell, American Midnight, The Crystal Portal, and After the Cross. His next novel, Love’s Second Chance, will come out in 2013. He has also published numerous short stories in various magazines. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Link to author’s website or blog: www.mikelynchbooks.com

Link to excerpt: http://www.mikelynchbooks.com/PreviewChapters/tabid/66/Default.aspx

Link to purchase page: http://www.amazon.com/After-Cross-Brandon-Barr/dp/0982624204/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1

 

 

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ImageValerie Stocking was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and wrote her first short story when she was five. When she was eight, she won a short story contest in Jack and Jill Magazine. She wrote her first play at the age of ten. In 1966, when she was twelve, she and her mother moved to a small town in Florida where they lived for a year. During this time, Valerie experienced difficulties with the public school system, tried a Seventh Day Adventist school briefly, and then dropped out altogether. It was her experiences during this year that inspired The Promised Land. Later, she would finish high school, graduate from college and earn a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from NYU.

For nearly 30 years, she wrote and edited in various capacities, including copywriting, newspaper articles, and short stories. She wrote nearly 20 full-length and one act plays over a ten year period, which have been performed throughout the U.S.and Canada. She edited books for audio, abridging over 100 novels in a 6-year period. In 2010, she published her first novel, A Touch of Murder, which is the first of what will become the Samantha Kern mystery series. It was nominated for a Global eBook Award in 2011 for Best Mystery.

Valerie lives inSanta Fe,New Mexicowith her dog and cat, and is working on her next novel.

You can visit her website at www.valeriestocking.com.

About The Promised Land

It’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs ofConnecticut, Joy is moving toWillets Point,Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.

Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.

An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.

Interview:                                                                                      

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

Sure.  I was born inWaterbury,Connecticutand moved with my mother to a little town on the Gulf coast ofFloridawhen I was 12. I began writing stories when I was 5, and wrote my first play at 10.  Most of the jobs I’ve had have involved writing in some form or another.  I worked as an editor for audio books for 6 years, then I started writing plays in 1999.  I shifted from plays to novels about 6 years ago.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I began reading when I was 2, and was quite precocious.  I read Nancy Drew when I was 6, Dostoevsky when I was 10, and Dickens when I was 12.  I loved reading anything and everything.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

ImageMy book takes place in a fictitious town onFlorida’s west coast in 1966-67.  It is about a 12-year-old girl’s forbidden friendship with a biracial boy from her junior high.  Her mother takes up with the leader of the local Klan chapter, and there are explosive results.  I was inspired to write this story by living part of it.  While “The Promised Land” tells the story of racial strife during this time, it is also about the failure of the public school system to accommodate gifted students then, as well as adolescent alcoholism and drug addiction.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

I got the idea for this book in a nebulous sort of way a number of years ago, so I can’t really answer that.  But from the time I made the determination to write it, to the time it was released, took about 3 ½ years.  Publishing was the shortest part; that was 5 months. The rest was writing and rewriting, waiting for the editor’s comments, and rewriting again.

Describe your working environment.

I have an office in my house, but it is on the north side and is chilly in the winter, and also quite dark.  So I write in my dining room, at that table.  I face a window with a view of my wooden fence, so I don’t get distracted by that.  I do get tons of sunlight streaming in, and it is bright and airy. I love working there.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

What used to scare me most is that I’d dry up and have nothing left to write.  Now what scares me most is dying before I have time to get it all down!

Do you have any unusual writing quirks?

I write with a tall glass of homemade lemonade (water, ice, lemons and stevia) and a cup of hot herbal tea beside my computer.  I also mutter to myself constantly as I write.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

I went the indie route, and self-published through CreateSpace.  That suits me fine!  I have no desire or interest in being published by a traditional publisher.  I like doing things for myself.  I like having a say in the design of the book and the way it is promoted.  No one’s pressuring me to churn something else out in four months. No editor is coming back at me, telling me to change my story or my characters in a way that would make it not my story anymore.  I highly recommend this method.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot, and your royalties are much higher than they would be with a NY publisher.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yes indeed!  You can go to http://www.valeriestocking.com and read about me, my plays and my books.  I have a blog that comes out twice a week: Mondays is a potpourri of ‘60’s memories, the writing/publishing/marketing process, and paranormal phenomena. On Thursdays I publish a serialized mystery called “Color Me Dead.”  You can find the blog here: http://www.valeriestocking.com/blog/.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I have a completed draft of “Seen of the Crime” the sequel to my first novel, “A Touch of Murder,” which introduced private detective Samantha Kern.  I need to give that one more major overhaul before I send it to an editor.  Next up will be a ghost story.  I’ve been researching the paranormal for some time and am quite fascinated by it.  After that, probably another mystery or the sequel to “The Promised Land.” Then I have an idea for a stand-alone, about a perfect murder.  After that, a quirky romance, told through social media. And after that…

 

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