Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

Writing can be a solitary adventure— which is exactly the way we writers like it!

By nature, most writers are introverts and enjoy the company of being alone with their characters. But every once in a while we need a little wisdom to help us along this winding path to the bookstore shelves.

I’ve been writing for ten years and have published seven novels. Over this time I’ve collected a few tidbits of advice. Some I’ve found through others and some are from my own experience. I hope one of these resonate with you.

1. Try to write every day even if it’s only one page. All those pages add up and it helps foster the habit of getting words on paper in a timely fashion.

2. Write the book of your heart and take as long as you need.

3. Ignore trends. Write what you love, what you want to read.

4. Don’t edit while you’re writing. This is the most free your writing will be, let it flow. Even misspelled words, leave them there. It’s all about moving forward.

5. You are writing for your characters. You are the only one who knows their story.

6. Be grateful for the gift of imagination.

7. Writing is hard. Respect it as such.

8. Even though it may appear differently, there is no such thing as an easy success, no matter how famous the writer. Remember that we’re all in the same industry and we want it to be thriving.

    9. Don’t forget about the weather.

10. When in doubt, add a food scene.

Do you have any writing advice to share?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Cover and Trailer Reveal for DIADEM OF DEATH

On April 25th DIADEM OF DEATH, the second installment of the Nefertari Hughes Mystery series, will be released into the wild! The wonderfully talented Emma Dolan who designed ASP OF ASCENSION, once again exceeded my expectations for the cover. the end of this post is the spectacular book trailer made by the multitalented and all around cool guy, Tom Ryan.

What would you do for immortality?

Terry Hughes is looking forward to spending the summer with her boyfriend Zach before he goes to college in the fall, but when her archaeologist father announces he’s working on a project that will take him back to Egypt, all hopes of a romantic vacation are buried.

With her friend Maude’s company for consolation, Terry accompanies her father as they join his colleagues in Alexandria, where she’s reunited with her first crush, Awad — all grown up and an expert in translating hieroglyphics. He confides that the team is in a race to find Cleopatra’s lost tomb before a secret band of rebels steals Egypt’s last pharaoh and her diadem, a golden crown believed to possess powers of immortality.

But sabotage puts everyone on high alert, and Terry isn’t sure who to trust. As the line between ally and enemy begins to blur, Terry has to keep her wits about her and figure out who wants the diadem badly enough to kill — because one wrong step could mean the difference between discovering a tomb or being buried in one.

Available to pre-order from Chapters/Indigo.

Check out the Pinterest Board for more inspiration!

And now enjoy the official book trailer!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Most Common Characterization Mistake Writers Make and How To Fix It

ˈˌself əˈwernəs/
  1. conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
    "the process can be painful but it leads to greater self-awareness"

One of the most common characterization mistakes writers are guilty of is making their characters too self-aware. Inner monologue is a great tool, it lets the reader in on secrets, gives the character dimension, but it can also be the biggest stumbling block to the story.

There's nothing less satisfying than a character who analyses every decision, weighs the pros and cons, and keeps coming back to the same inner struggle over and over again. The reader gets it, there's a theme, but repetition kills the tension.

The good news is that this can be easily fixed!

Beware of using inner dialogue to provide an ongoing narration rather than what it really is, a response to immediate events. Keep it authentic!

And just like over analysing the decision, your character should be a little clueless about their faults, strengths, dreams/goals. These are qualities the character is supposed to discover through their struggle as the story progresses. By the end these traits will come to the surface and that's when the wonderful self-awareness happens in the hero's journey.

Okay, so how can you fix this?

Here are things your character should NOT do:

1. While in the middle of a crisis, they shouldn't be providing a narration as if they're an outside source watching with an emotional detachment.

2. They shouldn't label their emotions. Instead of your character thinking, "I'm so angry!" The anger should manifest itself in your character's actions and choices (without them realizing it).

3. The shouldn't analyse all the possible reasons behind all their emotions. "I'm angry because my boyfriend doesn't love me anymore." No, look at reason number 2. The analysing shouldn't come until they've made choices that lead to disaster. No one in real life figures it out that quickly so why should your character?

4. When your character is in a highly emotional scene, their self-awareness should be negligible. This is why when you're angry you shouldn't send that email right away. You wait until you're less emotional and thinking more clearly. Your character shouldn't use calm logic when they're being dumped by their lover. The place for this growth can begin during the following scene to provide a few subtle sparks of self-awareness (this hints at the coming revelation and is more enticing to the reader). 

Remember it's not just their flaws, their strengths should be waiting to be discovered as well.

Now go make your character clueless!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

10 Ways to Beat the Winter Weather Blues in Halifax

In all, the winter hasn't been that bad in Eastern Canada...and then March came along and ruined everything. Although, if we didn't have the weather I don't know what would talk about.

"Isn't this awful, I'm ready to move."
"Why did our ancestors settle so early?"
"I think I've got scurvy."
"Did you hear the forecast? We're getting more snow!"

March has finally left, but yes, there is another snow storm coming. I don't know about you, but storm chips aren't the happy cure they used to be (probably because I've eaten my weight in storm chips this year and my cholesterol is in the red zone.)

Anyway, since the only way to get to summer is to keep slogging through this weather, here's a list of substitutes for storm chips that will help ease the winter blues—or at least distract you from it.

10 Ways To Beat The Unending Winter Weather Blues

1. Grab yourself a cinnamon roll from The Old Apothecary Bakery.

2. Stroll through the Central Library, then grab a coffee from Pavia and settle into one of the spacious seating areas bathed in sunlight ont he top floor.

3. Go to a movie! Beauty and the Beast will make your heart full enough to melt away any bitter resentment.

4. Read a good murder mystery set in the summer. Okay, any book set in the middle of a sultry summer would be fine.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith

A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet

5. Go outside. Yes, I know this flies in the face of distracting you from the weather, but nature and fresh air do wonders.

6. Hot Yoga! Take a drop in class at Halifax Yoga. "I regret going to yoga," said no one ever. 

7. Do something crafty! Pinterest if full of easy DIY guides. Here are some easy peasy projects to do today.

Remake an old t-shirt into an infinity scarf!

Instantly freshen the air!

Spray glitter paint inside your lamp shade!

8. De-clutter your closet! Oh my nerves, it's time to get rid of all the winter clothes you DIDN'T wear this season.

9. Make a lemon meringue pie. It's sunshine for your mouth. Here's a recipe or just buy the speedy quick from a box version.

10. Buy yourself fresh flowers. Nothing puts a smile on your face faster than a bouquet of blooms.

What are your tips for surviving the winter blues?

Sunday, 12 March 2017

3 Essential Scenes That Reveal Character




1. the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. "running away was not in keeping with her character"
synonyms: personality, temperament, nature, disposition, mentality, makeup

Yes, let's talk about character! In previous posts I've discussed how to make your character jump off the page, and how to create believable villains. But today we're focusing on how to use certain scenes to reveal your character's...well, character.

1. The Monogram Scene
Imagine your novel being played on a stage. In the beginning of your story, give your main characters a scene or two that defines them as individuals; make them interesting enough to entice the reader to follow them through the story. These scenes must show who that character is at their very essence. 
Think of key words that describe your character. How can you show this? 

In NIGHT SHIFT, the protagonist, Daniel Gale could be described as vulnerable and lonely, but he also had a good sense of humour.
To help show this I have Daniel meet one of the clerks right after he gets hired.

Daniel didn’t feel insulted; he knew how scruffy he looked. He grinned, showing off his dimples. Flirting felt awkward, but he couldn’t ignore the lightness in his chest. “Actually,” he said, “I’m doing night security.”
     “Oh.” Her smile dropped. “Nice knowing you.”
     The air had cooled. “Sorry?”
     “The new night guards never stay for long.” She glanced around the area, and then leaned in so close he could see the sparkles in her eye shadow. “It’s like this,” she whispered. “Weird stuff happens at night.”
     “Weird stuff?” Daniel repeated, raising an eyebrow.
     “Unexplained phenomena after hours.” 
     Her eyes grew wide. “Strange noises, furniture being rearranged, displays messed up, lights going on and off for no reason.”
    “Sweaters unfold themselves?” he said. “Sounds terrifying. I hope I survive.”

Hopefully it shows him for what he is, a lost young man who remains hopeful this last chance might be the one he's been waiting for.

2.  The Momentum Scene 
Build that anticipation! Momentum in your story is created by your character making a decision and acting on that decision. The scope of the decision doesn't matter, it could be big or small. However, it is imperative to use this scene as your character's time to show their nature. And because your character has made a decision, this changes the plot and should create more obstacles for their goal. This is all about creating tension, moving the plot forward, and building momentum.  
In this scene from NIGHT SHIFT, Daniel is doing rounds after hours on his first shift, trying to convince himself the strange occurrences aren't ghost related. However, one moment becomes to real to ignore and he makes a rash decision. 

Daniel’s breathing slowed down. He twirled the keychain around his finger a few times, trying to think clearly. It must be those day-shift jerks, he reasoned. He looked at his digital watch—they only had four hours left to scare him into quitting. Daniel cracked his knuckles and summoned some of his bravado from his hockey days. Bring it on, he challenged.
    Strutting back to the piano, he grabbed the flashlight, trying to guess what their next trick would be. He was halfway to the elevator when the lights went out. He worked the flashlight switch, and then jiggled it up and down, but it didn’t work. “Shit,” he whispered.
Without warning, loud piano music cut through the silence and filled the empty room. Daniel’s heart threatened to explode. Someone or something was playing his mother’s favourite song—the piece he’d tried to play. He tossed the useless flashlight and ran to the elevator straight ahead.
Daniel’s outstretched hands made contact with the iron mesh. His fingers grabbed the edge of the gate as he swung into the blackness. But his feet never landed on the elevator floor. His legs just brushed against the greasy cables where the elevator should have been.

3. The Glimpse Scene
As a reader (and a writer) I need to find the character relatable, something that makes them real. Sometimes characters can seem too perfect, or too evil, or too...well, conceived by someone's imagination.  
And if a character isn't believable, the story won't feel authentic, thereby decreasing the reader's interest, they simply won't care what happens. This is why the glimpse scene is so important. It gives the reader an inside view of the character's humanity.  
It doesn't matter if your character is a superhero or a work-from-home accountant, there needs to be a human connection. To do this, show their fears, secrets, desires...all those things that make us human.

This glimpse scene in NIGHT SHIFT helps show Daniel's grief.

His backpack lay in a heap at the end of the bed. He pulled it over and rummaged down to the compartment close to the bottom. Carefully folded and dry in a plastic bag were several white handkerchiefs. His father had always carried one.
“If it weren’t for handkerchiefs,” his father once told him, “I wouldn’t have met your mom.”
Daniel sat on the hotel bed wishing for that moment back. Instead of brushing off his dad, he would have asked to hear the story about how his parents met. Years later, after the accident, Daniel would lie awake at night, making a list of all the things he never knew about his mother—even trivial things that never occurred to him. What was her favourite movie? Favourite colour? Favourite food? Did she like milk or sugar in her coffee? And what was the name of her favourite perfume?
He never asked his father these questions—it was too painful and the words felt clumsy in his mouth. As the routines of school and work gave a semblance of normality, Daniel quietly filed each one away, waiting for when his dad was ready to talk. But that time never came.
Daniel picked up a handkerchief and ran a finger over his father’s embroidered initial. It was something tangible that reminded him he had once belonged to a family.

Here are some quick writing exercises to help you get into your characters head.
  1. List as many bad habits you can think of (even some of your own). Is there a way to give one of these to your character?
  2. What does your character do when no one is looking. Sing? Dance? Make diabolic plans with homemade voodoo dolls?
  3. Take a few minutes to write a long list of key words that describe your character. Then cross out all the uninteresting ones until you have only three or four. How would you show those characteristics?
  4. Think about how your character was living before the story takes place. Is there a decision in their past they regret?
I hope this was helpful! Happy writing!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Read An Ebook Week!

Who wants a free ebook? Who wants many free ebooks?

You're in luck, my friends!

The 2017 Smashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion is taking place now from March 5-11 2017. All week long readers can browse the special Smashwords Read an Ebook Week catalog by coupon code levels and categories. After 11:59pm Pacific time on March 11, the catalog disappears.

How it works:

Click here for my Smashwords author profile. Both NIGHT SHIFT and BLACK FRIDAY are FREE to download this week. When you go to the checkout, use the promo code 'SFREE'.

Happy Reading!

And if you enjoy a book, please consider leaving a review on any buying sites such as Amazon or you preferred social media. It really makes a difference to the book's exposure. Plus, it warms the author's heart and encourages them to keep writing. So, matter.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Secret to Never Giving Up on Your Writing

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

I'm madly working on a secret project right now!

Okay, it's not that secret, but it makes it sound all mysterious and forbidden and I want to grab you by the suspenders so you'll keep reading.

Anywho, I've been trying to get a chapter written each day because I hate writing, but it feels amazing to have written, you know? I guess you could say I have a 'love hate' relationship with writing.

But the other day I realized I had gotten into the habit of thinking the same two destructive thoughts each time I opened my laptop.

1. I would look at the word count and think, There is no way I'm going to make this into a novel! Too much stuff has already happened and I have no plot left. (Maybe I'm trying to convince myself I'm almost finished) *evil laugh*

2. Then I would worry the story didn't have enough action. I need a fight scene, I'd think. Where can I fit in a fight scene? And what's going to be the next plot twist?

You can imagine how much I was able to write with that miserable frame of mind. *tsk tsk*

But...THEN! (light bulb) I started watching Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (based on the books by Douglas Adams) and had my mind blown! It's hard to describe exactly, but basically a bunch of weird stuff happens to four different groups of people who have nothing in common, but they're all connected by the most bizarre circumstances. The main theme Dirk kept relying on was that everything is connected and nothing is coincidence.

At the end there's an explanation you'll gladly accept because you've grown so attached to the characters you really think they exist and you want a happy ending for all of them.


More importantly—besides being entertained—I came up with a story telling slogan to keep me typing; Everything is connected and if you keep moving forward all the random stuff will eventually meet and it will be awesome.

Say it with me.

So that's what I think of now when I open my laptop. All the other stuff I can't figure out will eventually make always does.

What do you do to help you through slog through a writing project?

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