Why have an Acknowledgement page in a book? To publicly thank all those that helped in the creation of a masterpiece. It is a place to give credit to those who contributed in some form or another.
I struggled with what to put in my first novel on the Acknowledgement Page. Then it occurred to me, for the first book and for finally realizing a dream—it was the authors that I have read for years, who I should acknowledge.
So, here is my Acknowledgment Page from THE BLOOD STONE QUEEN:
I love to read.
I have traveled to exotic places, traveled the world, even traveled to other worlds. I have gone back in time and seen into the future.
I was there when the crime was committed and was a part of the process in solving it.
I have fallen in love and been romanced.
I have cried, laughed, rooted for the hero and the Boys in the Boat.
Writing a story took me on the same journey, just as if I was the reader, but also on a different journey. I lived and breathed the story. I traveled from earth to Tetonisk. Shared in Janee's grief, in her struggles as she found herself, felt it as she fell in love. The characters were just as real to me as the people in my life.
Writing was so much more than just stroking keys and watching text appear on the screen. It was a revelation and the beginning of a long-time dream.
It was also a lot of work and a long process. Write, rewrite, edit, revise, edit some more, delete, change, add, struggle with scenes and characters, revise again. It seemed like a never-ending process. And if there are some errors in the book, I take full responsibility for it.
It is here that I acknowledge all the authors I have read, all the authors just starting. I applaud your dedication, your drive, your ability to continue on. I respect and appreciate your dedication, and most importantly your time. Thank you for the stories you bring to life, the characters who capture us, and for giving us something more than just entertainment.
I was making great progress on This Time Tomorrow, a Y/A Fantasy, the second in the series of the Reluctant Young Queen. In My Undoing, the first in the series, the young queen's story was just starting. But in This Time Tomorrow her story stretched out on the pages, exploding as her story unfolded. Excitement started to build, new characters were introduced, tension rose, and she evolved into an amazing character. It was all very exciting, until one night when I awoke from a dream.
The vivid dream demanded my attention. I grabbed pen and paper and quickly jotted it down, prepared to file it away for a later time. Only Lucy, the character in the dream, would have none of that. She wanted her story told now, not later. She immediately planted the seed in my imagination and before I knew it, it had sprouted and grown into eight chapters. Her story unfolded faster than I could imagine it. Questions crept up, unanswered and filed away for research later on. The point was to keep going and just get it down before it was lost. I was swept into her world, unable to resist.
In the meantime, This Time Tomorrow was put on the back burner. Not a single word was written. I would sometimes try to locate the reluctant young queen, wanting to spend time with her, to continue her story - we were almost three quarters through the first draft - but Lucy would not allow it. It was all about Lucy; her willpower to have her story told was stronger than the young queen's. As the author, I had no choice but to write about Lucy.
Then one day, the young queen resurfaced, clawing her way to the top. Tired of waiting, she took on Lucy with full force and suppressed her into the to-be-continued category. The young queen once again claimed her throne and her story now continues.
It was her time now.
Lucy would just have to wait.
Welcome. As a long time reader, I have now explored the world of writing and have self-published my first short story, MY UNDOING. I live in the beautiful and inspirational Pacific Northwest, surrounded by water, wildlife and writers. My business, Armchair ePublishing, provides a service to authors in helping them prepare their stories for self-publishing. Being surrounded by so much talent made my creative juices explode and the craving to write burst out.
The problem with story ideas is – sometimes there can be too damn many of them. Add to that, characters, each vying for your attention, screaming, "Pay attention to me."
I was writing the second part of the series of the young reluctant queen. The title, This Time Tomorrow. I was going gang buster on the story, about three quarters through the first draft, when suddenly a character, Lucy Donovan popped up and demanded, quite strongly, that I tell her story – A Shadow of Doubt.
I couldn't resist, so I left This Time Tomorrow for a journey into A Shadow of Doubt. Every once in a while a niggling plea from This Time Tomorrow would surface, asking me to return, but Lucy would just push them away. She was a very demanding and determined character.
I was weeding my way through a Shadow of Doubt, when an idea popped up for the Skagit Valley Writers League anthology. A Shadow of Doubt was shelved while I worked on The Cracked Cookie. Luckily The Cracked Cookie was a short story, so it didn't take long to tell.
I am now on Chapter 8 of A Shadow of Doubt. Sometime I ignore Lucy and work my way back into This Time Tomorrow, but I always return. Then last night happened, more specifically 5:30 this morning happened - A Dream. A dream so vivid that it woke me up and insisted I write it down. So, now I have to add He's A Prince to my story ideas.
Opening Scene from He's A Prince:
She was waiting deep in the woods. He told her to wait here ,to stay hidden in the darkness, he would return for her shortly. Suddenly she heard the pounding hooves of a horse approaching her. In a blur, he was there. The horse was heaving heavily from the exertion and she noticed the panic on his face.
Before she had a chance to ask what the matter was, he reached down for hand and said, "Hurry get on." She didn't hesitate. He pulled her up behind him and held on as he clicked the reins, almost jarring her off her seat. Then she heard it, the thundering noise of men on horses closing in on them. They were being chased.
"What did you do?" she screamed to be heard over the pounding noise.
"I took something that belongs to me," he yelled back.
"What?" she asked.
"A crown," he answered.
"You stole the crown."
– And so it begins. Another story idea. Another character demanding I PAY ATTENTION to them.
Who’s Writing this Story, Anyway?
What Happens When Characters Take Over
by Kathleen Kaska
As writers we’ve been asked the question many times, and have answered with humor, wit, and candor, only to receive that unbelievable stare in response. You know the one that says, “you can’t be serious.” So, a few years ago, when I was asked to write a piece for my writers’ group about how authors develop or invent their characters, I turned my answer into the following short story.
I met the old woman on a back road in Arkansas. It was a bright, breezy Thanksgiving afternoon. My husband and I were taking in the fall colors north of Hot Springs when we made the wrong turn back to town and had gotten lost. As he fumbled with the map, I lowered the window and I gazed out at an algae-covered pond. The air was heavy with the scent of pine and the ease of the moment seemed to settle in. Then I caught a movement from the corner of my eye. I turned and look. And there she was, standing by the car and smiling at me.
“Let me do it,” she whispered. “Let me be the one.”
“Do what?” I said.
“Let me be the one to kill the goddamn bastard.”
Introductions were not necessary, I knew who she was, and I was glad to see her. I had been waiting for two months, but I did not expect her to show up here.
Eighty-two-year-old Ida Springfield was the most cantankerous old woman I had ever known. From Two Horse, Montana, Ida was no bigger than a stick. A stiff wind kicked up and I grabbed her hand for fear that she would fly away with the fallen foliage. She stared straight ahead, pulling at her lower lip the way she does when pondering a critical situation. I studied her profile. Pulled tight from her face, her hair formed a long, thick braid, which hung down her back. A few gray strands had come loose around her temples and with small, firm birdlike hands, Ida brushed the errant hair back.
Everything about her was petite. Her thimble-size nose and slightly pointed chin gave a rather simple face some dimension. Her wrinkles were even tiny, almost as if they had been drawn on her face with a fine-tipped pencil. From a distance, except for the gray hair, she could easily pass for a woman several decades younger. One had to get close to tell Ida’s age. I wondered how close I would have to get to understand what Ida was all about.
“It won’t be easy, you know,” I said.
“Nothing good ever is. I’ll put the body in his car and push it into a pond.” She nodded toward the property across the road. “Like the one you’ve been staring at.” The look on her face frightened me.
“But one murder usually leads to another,” I reminded her.
I glanced at my husband—his nose deep in the Rand McNally, sorting out his own immediate problem, he ignored us.
“I know, sweetie. You let me worry about that,” Ida said. “Do what you do best: take care of the details.”
We returned to the hotel, just as the buffet crowd had begun to thin. This was the fifth consecutive year that my husband and I have celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday at the historic Arlington Hotel. The day’s routine had us hiking across the backbone of Music Mountain in the morning and cruising the back roads for the rest of the afternoon waiting for the families to feed first. We changed out of our grubby shorts and T-shirts, showered, and dressed for dinner in jeans and clean T-shirts and sat down at our favorite table next to the Venetian fountain.
Although the once succulent turkey now competed for dryness with the sage dressing, we preferred the quiet dining room after the masses had left. Over a bottle of Merlot, my husband and I discussed the murder. I told him about Ida and he agreed that she was the best candidate thus far. No one would suspect an old lady of killing her good-for-nothing husband, and sixty-five years later, her hateful son.
Besides, Ida wouldn’t give me a moment’s peace until I gave her the assignment. Despite my reservations about her ability to carry it off, and the fact that she was a pain in the ass, I was growing quite fond of the old gal.
Thanksgiving was the only time of year that I splurged on desserts. A sliver of pecan pie, and this year’s new addition to the dessert ensemble, a mocha-caramel cheesecake sat on my dessert plate. As I sliced a piece of apple torte in half, my eye caught a movement behind the fichus tree at the entrance to the Jockey's Bar. She stood there, head down, lips silently moving. I sat my plate down on the dessert table and rushed over.
“Ida, what happened? Are you okay?”
She pulled away putting more waxy leaves between us as if she needed protection from me. A throaty crackle behind me made me turn. I did a double take.
“She’s shy until she gets to know you, and then it’s Jenny-bar-the-door. You can’t shut her up,” Ida chortled. “Veda, come out from behind that bush and meet your boss.”
“My twin—she’s one special lady and she’s your motive, or my motive, that is. You see, Colter beating up on me is one thing, but the day he laid a hand on my retarded sister, I had to draw the line.”
“I get it now.” I licked apple torte crumbs from my thumb.
“Right. You thought I’d kill those two assholes because of my ranch, and you are right. I’d do anything to save it, but the real reason is because Colter comes home drunk and I catch him raping Veda.”
“Oh, Ida . . . I’m so sorry.” I turned around to reach out to Veda, but she had disappeared.
“She dies too, honey.”
“Pneumonia. With all the shit going on, Veda’s health starts to wear down.”
“I see—it might just work.”
“You gonna eat all that dessert, honey?”
I looked down at my plate, embarrassed by my indulgence and that Ida should know my weakness for sweets. Then she disappeared also, leaving me standing alone at the fichus tree.
This always happens in Hot Springs—the place must be my Muse. One year I met long, tall Sydney Lockhart, the protagonist in my second mystery series. As I was unpacking, she walked out of the bathroom and asked me why there was a dead body lying in the bathtub, the very bathtub where she had been conceived thirty years ago. Before I could think of a reasonable answer, she then asked if I had room for her and her two animals, a cat named Mealworm, and a poodle name Monroe. Regardless of the no pet rule, I welcomed them with open arms, and by the week’s end, we had the plot lined out for the first Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Arlington.
One of the miracles of writing is when my characters present themselves when I least expect it. What’s even more amazing is they often take over and tell the story for me. It’s almost like a seed had been planted a long time ago, and suddenly the conditions turn ideal, and the seed germinates—and for a moment, writing is simple and a heck of a lot of fun.
After two and a half years of searching and tracking down Curly Beeler and his gang, for shooting him and leaving him for dead, then raping and killing his wife and unborn child, along with stealing his stock and burning his ranch to the ground; Clay is checking out a small town before going in. Through a pair of binoculars, Clay Brentwood spots the man he's been searching for, standing in front of a cantina in a small town in southern New Mexico. Clay takes over the scene..
Pushing away from the boulder he'd been leaning against, Clay walked over and patted his horse on the neck.
"Should I ride in and try to enlist the sheriffs help, or inquire about some men to hire to help me round up Curly and his gang, or should I go in alone.?"
The horse gave him a knowing look.
"You're right. I should go it alone. After all it's not their fight, it's mine and mine alone. How many men did he have with him, was it nine or was it ten?"
The black stallion shook his head.
"You're right again. It was nine - nine, hardened gunslingers against just one man, me, with only surprise on my side. Think I should ride in with guns blazin', or just ride in and play it by ear?"
The big horse shook his head and pawed the ground. Clay scratched him behind the ears.
"First thing in the mornin', we'll just ride into town and see what happens."
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Where Does Your Stories Start?
What do you write first?
The beginning? The middle? The end?
By the time I start a story, I’ve already been thinking about it for quite a while. I know some of the basic plot points, such as where it starts, perhaps a few scene ideas, plus the climax. I also know who the story is about, including their basic appearance, back story, and a bit of personality. Finally, I like to know where the story takes place before I start anything (for a fantasy story, of course, more attention goes into this aspect than, say, a contemporary story, because the setting is a strong element of the fantasy genre…but that’s a whole other discussion). In that preliminary stage, I tend to take a lot of “what if” kinds of notes. What if this happens? What if that happens? What if the character reacts this way? These notes are my way of getting to know the story and the character before I start writing, so that when I do dive in, I have at least somewhat of an idea of how things will progress.
As far as the writing is concerned, I tend to work fairly linearly. I start at the beginning of the story and work my way toward the end. On occasion, I’ll write a piece of a later scene that I’m working toward, but it’s never a complete scene—usually just detailed notes with a few sentences I didn’t want to forget. Working from beginning to end allows me to view the story the way the reader will view it. It also allows me to keep better track of information and how things unravel, because my mind is moving forward with the story, rather than jumping around and becoming jumbled up in the details.
But that’s just how my brain works—every writer is different, and has a different process. I try to keep my process as straightforward as possible, so my creativity has room to breathe.
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Where Do My Mysteries Begin?
My mysteries always begin first with my infamous list, then a bit of history, followed by an extended visit.
The list has grown over the years and has been added to not just by me, but dozens of folks who have read my books. It has grown so long I would have to live well into the next century to write a book about each item on the list. Here are some of the latest additions: The Shamrock, The Bensen, The Excelsior, The Monticello, The Peabody, The Jefferson, del Coronado, The Biltmore, and the Crescent. If you haven’t already guessed, the list is made up of hotels—historic hotels—the settings of my Sydney Lockhart Mysteries, which takes places in the early 1950s. The hotels I choose have to still be in operation today.
Once I decide on a location, I give Sydney a reason for being there. This is where my research begins. I like to use an actual historic event to build my plot. For example, my latest mystery, Murder at the Galvez, takes place at the Galvez Hotel in Galveston, Texas. Looking through some old newspapers, I discovered a controversial project involving the development of Pelican Island, a small piece of land once used as on unofficial Confederate fort, complete with fake guns to ward off the enemy had a Civil War battle reached the Texas gulf coast. In the 1950s, the island was the depositary for the dredge from the digging of the Houston Ship Channel until the city decided to develop the island and turn it into a resort. The fictional murder that takes place in the book is associated with the project. In Murder at the Arlington I got a lot of mileage out of the illegal gambling that once took place in Hot Springs, Arkansas. And I couldn’t resist using the Driskill Hotel’s colorful ghost history in my upcoming book, Murder at the Driskill (Austin, Texas).
And finally, to give each story the feeling of authenticity, I have to spend several days or weeks at each hotel, soaking up the ambiance. Like the saying goes, “It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.”
Kathleen writes the Sydney Lockhart Mystery series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series published by LL-Publications. Her Sherlock Holmes and Alfred Hitchcock trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC Award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story, has been nominated for the George Perkins Marsh Award for environmental history.
Where Do My Stories Start?
This is such an interesting question for me, because there are several answers. Even though I write fairly chronologically, the story ideas often come through a variety of means.
I may overhear a phrase or sentence in a restaurant or grocery store that intrigues me, and get’s me to thinking about a story. This can attach itself to a character right away or a scene, or just an event. Once I get that sentence in my head, other things become attracted to it, perhaps a beginning or an ending, if the sentence feels like it’s mid-story. Or other people might have to be included if the sentence was part of a conversation and I wanted to keep it that way.
There are times when I’m walking in the woods and I’ll just get the whole idea for a story all at once. Of course, during the writing it changes, but the original idea could have been whole. Then there is rewriting. During rewriting, I might add or subtract information, scenes, details, anywhere in the book. So, even if I wrote the book chronologically, there are still events, problems, conversations, being inserted well after the novel is finished.
I teach a class where I discuss place, idea, character, and event, and go on to suggest that a book can be “primarily” about any one of these. A writer can start with anything, but eventually has to populate the novel with each of these. Things have to happen to someone, and they have to happen somewhere. Whether I start out in the middle or the end, I know I’ll have to include everything I can to make it a good story, so I’ll reenter the story again and again, just to be sure it’s right.
Terry Persun holds a Bachelor’s of Science as well as an MA in Creative Writing. He has worked as an engineer, has been the Editor-in-Chief of several technology journals, and is now marketing consultant for technical and manufacturing companies. Seven of his novels have been published. His science fiction novel Cathedral of Dreams won a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist Award, and his historical novel, Sweet Song won a Silver IPPY Award. His latest science fiction space opera is Hear No Evil.
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Do we channel our characters?
I am a beginning writer and I am starting to think (believe) that writers, at least fiction writers, are some sort of Mediums.
When I am writing and in that zone, I not only visualize my characters, I can feel them - their personalities, their feelings, who they are.
And sometimes, when I reread something I wrote, I think - that was not me. I must have wrote what they channeled through me; what they thought, what they felt.
I realized this the other day, when someone in my writing group, asked how I came up with the names of my characters in a young adult, Sci-fi/Fantasy I am writing. My answer was, "They just came to me." I knew then, that they told me - I channeled them. I just wrote down what they told me to.
Am I a Medium? At least with my characters I think I am.
It will be interesting when I decide to finally write a really intense character (probably an antagonist), what will that do to me? You hear about it with movie actors who get too caught up in a character, I imagine it can be the same for writers.
Let's just hope we can turn the Channel off once it is done...
I have enjoyed reading romances for over twenty five years. When I reached the love scenes (some of which were quite steamy), I had to wonder - What was it like for the author to write this? How did they feel? Didn't they feel a bit strange sharing this with the world?
I finally wrote my first romance and yes there are love scenes. I found that writing the love scenes were actually the easiest parts of the book to write. They just poured onto the screen. I went into the 'writing zone' and just wrote.
Later, when I went back to reread them, I thought, wow I wrote that.
When I read the scenes out loud to my husband, his response was, "Who did you copy those from?"
I took this as a compliment.
But, when it came time to share it with my critique group and a friend, who edited it for me, I was nervous. I felt like I was sharing a very intimate part of myself. Even though it was fiction, I wrote it. And, I will admit I was a bit embarrassed. I know - so what! It turned out fine and they were real troopers about it, but still.
I am a beginning writer and I still have much to learn. Dream Obsession was a great learning experience for me, including the writing of love scenes. Did you know that there were websites dedicated to 'how' to write love scenes, complete with terminology and very descriptive words? The research along is steamier than most books.
I will admit - I am quite proud of this short story.
My loves scenes, though pretty mild compared to others, do have a touch of STEAMY…
The Author in all of us
There is a story inside. One that needs out and to be read by others. It's there and now it's time for it to flow from author to the reader. Join us as we celebrate Indie authors.