Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday Guest Post: Andrea R. Cooper

World Building

When writing the first novel in my paranormal romance trilogy, The Garnet Dagger, I created another world for my characters. However, when I was world building there were several things that helped me.

It has to be believable. Yes, I know this is a ‘fantasy’ world and we are only limited by our imaginations, but there also has to be logic. For example, if sharks swam in sand instead of the ocean, would they still have gills? Or would they have another way to breathe? Sometimes our own world can help us. Nature is fascinating. I used hornet behavior for my Bergone characters. If a hornet is killed, it releases a chemical or pheromone that alerts other hornets from its nest to attack. If this chemical gets on a person, clothes, etc. it can also trigger an attack.

Keep accurate notes. I made this mistake. I had meshed two mythological creatures into one and called it a different name. Unfortunately, I had to remove this snippet from my novel because when the editor asked what this was, I could not find the two sources I had researched years before. Notes are always a good idea even if you do not use the material in a current story as it may fit better in another.

There has to be some similarities with our world for readers to relate. If the world is too convoluted with otherworldly ideas and words, the reader may become lost. What I did was create a limited vocabulary the reader would need to know, and in some instances, I made it a similar word to our own or a lesser known word. Say you want a Rowan tree in your story, but you do not want to call it that. Looking up the other names and folk names of Rowan the encyclopedia has: mountain ash, Dogberry tree,  Old Norse raun, Quickbane, Quickbeam, Quicken, Quickenbeam, Ran tree, Roan tree, Rune tree, Sorb apple, Whispering tree, Witch wood, Witchbane, etc. Any of those names would work or a combination. Sometimes the Latin name tweaked with your imagination.

Finally, world building is massive, especially how different from earth you want it. Take it one step at a time. It is both extensive and rewarding. Ironically one of the best parts for me is a reader asking questions about the world cause they enjoyed it and the novel, but that it did not distract from the story and characters.

Thank you.

Andrea R. Cooper
Debut author of The Garnet Dagger
Twitter: @AndreaRCooper

Andrea’s Bio: Growing up in Houston, Texas, Andrea has always enjoyed creating characters and stories. But it wasn't until she was in her late twenties that she started writing novels.

What happened that ignited the writing flame in her fingers? Divorced, and disillusioned by love songs and stories. They exaggerate. She thought. Love and Romance are not like that in the real world. Then she met her husband and realized, yes love and romance are exactly like the songs and stories say. She is now a happy wife, and a mom to three kids (two boys and a girl).

Andrea writes paranormal and historical romance. When not writing or reading, one may find Andrea dancing in Zumba.

She believes in the power of change and counting each moment as a blessing. But most importantly, she believes in love.

The Garnet Dagger is her debut novel and is a paranormal romance with Crimson Romance.

Excerpt:  Chapter One
I’ve known death. For over half a millennia, I escorted many to death at the end of my sword. In the eyes of the dying, I watched it shroud them. Foolishly, I thought many more eras would pass before death came for me. It came so swiftly that I could not run; I could not escape. At a village, dressed in human clothes, I took in everything. By observing for eons, I understood and spoke their language. The world of mankind fascinated me. Their hobbled homes burrowed into the ground.

Rocks crunched on top one another with thatched roofs woven from straw. Never had I seen a home or inn that was higher than three levels, as if they were afraid of the sky. I delayed my return to my people as I watched human jugglers bounce torches and knifes. It was autumn equinox and the festivities would continue well into the night. Children laughed as they chased each other. A trail of leaves from their costumes twirled after them. It was dark when I reached the forest. Since I was already late, I hiked uphill to a shortcut rather than take the long path back home. I didn’t need to alert any of my kind near the barrier at this hour. Liana would wonder why I was late.

Tonight was the two month anniversary of our hand twining ceremony. One more month as was custom, and then we’d be wed. A gasp rustled through the trees. The roots shot a warning through to me with stifled caution. Adjusting my pack, I continued on instead of changing back into my Elvin clothes. After I passed the border which kept humans from entering our land, then I’d change. In the distance, I heard a groan. Curious, 
I spun in the direction of the sound. The autumn wind breezed through my worn human clothes, chilling me. But someone needed help. I turned in the direction of the sounds. Whatever made the noise should be a few yards ahead. 

I hiked slower than my normal speed, so as not to startle whatever human called out. My leather boots crunched upon dried, diseased leaves and bark. Horrified, I glanced up. Branches twisted around each other to suffocating. Lifeless limbs cracked in the wind. Flesh of the trees sloughed off in layers, exposing its bones. Gashes hollowed out chunks of warmth. Fragments of leaves clung to finger tips, marking sepulchers of the dying trees. Trees mourned with wails like splitting wood, and I brought my hands over my ears. I must flee before I became infected, they told me. Flee before the stain of this defilement creeps into you, they warned. Trees spoke to my kind, always had. Yet these trees were in such agony of death that I could not breathe. Felt as though my lungs had folded in on themselves, like a moth unable to break loose from its cocoon.

Nothing I could do for them, and if I lingered too long, whatever disease gnawed upon them may choke me. Where would I go if I carried something so foul as to devour trees from the inside out? I’d never return to Tamlon if I brought this infection with me. I drew away, but a movement at the base of a decaying tree to my right caught me. My night vision picked up the sight of a human. His sallow face seemed to glow in the moonlight. Poking out from rags lay his arms and legs, which resembled skin stretched over sticks. So cadaverous was his face, I’d have thought him dead if he hadn’t moved.

“Please,” he said and his voice sounded like cicada’s vibrations, “help me.”

“What ails you in this troubled place?” I wondered if my voice, foreign to my ears in speaking the human’s language, revealed my nature.

“I am lost.” His dark eyes crinkled around the corners. “Without strength to rise. If you would but assist me up, I’ll be on my way.”

I’d never touched a human on purpose before. Was it that that gave me pause, or dread that stilled my heart? My feet itched to flee. As soon as I helped him, then I’d leave. I gritted my teeth and reached a hand down.

His gnarled fingers snapped on my arm, making me wince. Jerking me forward, his face contorted. Surprised by his strength, I fell beside him. Blackness curled around me. Teeth, fangs, broke through the skin on my neck. Then I knew him for what he was, a vampyre.

Cooper, Andrea R. (2013-03-25). The Garnet Dagger (Crimson Romance) (Kindle Locations 60-67). F+W Media. Kindle Edition.

The Garnet Dagger Book Trailer  http://youtu.be/ISi0u9LoseM

Twitter: @AndreaRCooper
Website: www.AndreaRCooper.com

Contest Time!

Andrea is giving away an e-book copy of The Garnet Dagger to one commenter. The contest ends May 6 at 11:59 PM. Good luck!   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What a Weekend It Was

Southern Kentucky Book Fest and Writers Conference
April 19-20, 2013

Knicely Conference Center, Bowling Green, KY
This past weekend, I made the annual spring trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky,  home of Western Kentucky University.

My destination was the Knicely Conference Center. There, for two days, bibliophiles converge on a two-day event known as Southern Kentucky Book Fest. Friday is the Kentucky Writers Conference and Saturday is the Book Fest, which includes authors of all genres.

The Writers Conference has four sessions, with three workshops per session. The conference includes workshops on characterization, plotting, revision, and query letter writing, making it accessible to new writers as well as more seasoned ones.

My first workshop was David Bell’s “Creating Suspense in Fiction.” He pointed out that every story, not just thrillers and mysteries, should be a page turner, and that character creates plot. Other tips for creating suspense were raising questions in each chapter, delaying answers, starting in the middle of the story, and having an evenly matched protagonist and antagonist.

The second workshop was Brent Fisk’s “The Fine Art of Revision.” While geared toward poetry, the tips given could be used for narrative writing. Along with writing a first draft while your inner editor’s tied up and gagged, he advocates taking a fresh approach to universal ideas, and advises writers to listen to comments given by readers, even asking questions to clarify potential problems. Other advice: read the poem aloud, think about why you've written what you did, and put the poem away so you can approach it with fresh eyes.

Session three was “Chapter 1 Do’s and Don’ts” by Chuck Sambuchino. While he acknowledged “voice trumps all,” he made it clear there were certain elements editors and agents don't like. Some of the reasons for rejection included scenes where nothing happens and info dumping. The list of “Don’ts” included clich├ęs, flowery writing, dream sequences, and “laundry list” descriptions. He also advised against comparing your work to successful, best-selling authors and not looking to past books, because what worked for those authors then may not work now.

As for “Do’s,” he recommended introducing the protagonist soon as possible, mastering point of view, opening with a hook, and having characters act rather than do nothing. He also suggested writers look at page one of debut published authors to see how they start their books, and to query six or seven agents at a time, rather than all at once. This way, if agents don’t respond to your query, you can revise it and send it out to another handful.
Kristin Tubb

The last session was “Revision as Reconstructive Surgery” by Kristin Tubb. One of the things she emphasized was summing up your story in one word. If a scene or element doesn't work toward that word, either revise or cut. She also suggested asking why. Why is this character telling the story? Why this POV? Why this setting, plot turn, etc.?

Following Friday’s writers conference was the Saturday book fest, and the first one I’d attended. (Usually I return to Louisville on Friday.) But this year, Sherrilyn Kenyon was going to be there, and I didn't want to miss meeting her again. (I first met her at Hypericon.)

Dan Andriacco and Duffy Brown
Saturday was a great day for meeting new authors, including mystery writers Duffy Brown and Dan Andriacco. I talked to them about writing mysteries, Killer Nashville, and about being possible speakers at our local Sisters in Crime presentations. (It’s all about the networking.) :-)

I also met fellow Louisville Romance writers Katie McGarry and Alison Atlee, as well as Julie Kagawa, whom I’d met at Fandom Fest and Bethany Griffin and Kelly Creagh.

Bethany Griffin and Katie McGarry
Chatted with Kristin Tubb a little more about those ubiquitous revisions and writing YA. I think if I ever do venture into that area, it’ll be New Adult. I have a couple of stories that fit that category, but they’re unfinished.

Aside from buying books and chatting with authors, I attended Chuck Sambuchino’s “Create Your Writer Platform” and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Q-and-A panel.

Kelly Creagh and Julie Kagawa
The most important thing I took away from Sambuchino’s workshop was giving something of value to the reader. There seems to be a fine line between promotion and marketing and giving something your audience can benefit from. He also advises against trying to do everything, but focusing on those areas where you have the most impact. Social media can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Sambuchino’s book, Create Your Writer Platform, also discusses many of these principles.
Sherrilyn Kenyon

Switching gears now, a few paragraphs earlier, I mentioned Sherrilyn Kenyon being at SOKY Book Fest. What can I say? She’s a major influence, and the reason I stayed for the Saturday portion of the weekend. Her RWA speech (2011) still makes me cry. If I ever become a successful author, she is who I want to emulate, as someone who makes her readers and fans feel appreciated. 
If you get a chance to attend SOKY Book Fest/Writers Conference, go for it.