Posted in A Stone's Throw, Characters

Only Children and Siblings in Novels

siblingsforblog I read an article about birth order recently for an online Gale Course I am taking on adolescents to help me understand the changes my tween daughter is going through. It got me thinking about the characters in my novels and other books I’ve read and what roles their siblings played. In my upcoming romantic suspense, “A Stone’s Throw,” both the main character, Alicia Fairmont, and her new romantic interest, John McKinney, are raised as only children. Alicia’s dead husband, Peter, has a sister, Pamela, who is seven years older. As only children, Alicia and John share some traits. They both tend to be perfectionists and can be stubborn in their beliefs.  Through flashbacks and additional information learned later in my book, we see that Peter Fairmont, a youngest child, is extremely self-centered. His older sister enjoys running the show.

What about other sibling characters in popular books  such as sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” and Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice?” What about Cinderella and her stepsisters? Hansel and Gretel? Cain and Abel? Feel free to post other famous literary siblings, their birth order and personalities. (and even your own if you’d like). I’m a last born or youngest, but there are 11-15 years between me and my two brothers and sister. My daughter is an only. My husband is second oldest.

Here is the link to the birth order article from my class.

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Posted in A Stone's Throw, Cats, Characters, Dogs

Interview with My Characters

interviewblogpostI decided to interview six characters from my upcoming novel, “A Stone’s Throw.” I conducted the interviews at the Cobble Cove Library, the main setting of the book. The people interviewed were:

Alicia Fairmont – Protagonist of “A Stone’s Throw.” She is forty-two, a librarian, and the widow of Peter Fairmont.

John McKinney – The newspaper publisher of the Cobble Cove Courier. He is forty-five, a widower, and Alicia’s new love interest in the novel.

Sheila Whitehead – The fifty-two year old director of the Cobble Cove library.

Jonathan McKinney, Sr. (Mac) – The eighty-year old founder of the Cobble Cove library who is semi-retired. He is John’s father.

Sneaky Cat – The Siamese library cat at Cobble Cove Library.

Fido – John and Mac’s old Golden retriever.

I asked all six the following three questions:

Without giving away any spoilers, what was your favorite and least favorite part of the book?

Why do you think Debbie chose you as a character in “A Stone’s Throw?”

What other characters did you like and dislike in the book?

The four humans sat around a table in the reading room of the Cobble Cove Library. Sneaky, the library cat, was in his cat bed by the Local History section, and Fido was at Mac’s side.

As the lead character, Alicia answered first. She shook her long, chestnut hair away from her face and paused as she considered my questions. “It’s hard not to give away spoilers, but I would say one of my favorite parts of the book was when John took me up to Cobble Point and showed me the view of the town and the cove. I think I started falling in love with him then.  As far as my least favorite part of the book, I think it was when I discovered something that implicated John in my husband’s murder, but I can’t elaborate on that without giving away too much of the plot.”

“I think Debbie chose me because I’m a librarian like she is, and I know authors prefer to write about what they know. I liked most of the townspeople in “A Stone’s Throw,” although it was hard to get to know Dora, the innkeeper, and Casey, the diner owner, at first. I also had mixed feelings about Sheila. The character I think I disliked the most was Detective Ramsay. He took the definition of ‘Bad’ cop a bit too far.”

Next up was John. He smiled, showing the dimple in his left cheek. “I really loved showing Alicia the town and walking around Dora’s garden at the inn. It was really fun to paint with her, too. I hated it when I had to admit my relationship with Tina, and it really hurt me when Alicia stopped trusting me.”

“Debbie probably chose me because I’m so good looking. Just joking. She needed a love interest for Alicia, and I filled the bill. It also helped that I was a newspaper publisher and was also dabbling at writing a mystery. I guess I was Debbie’s other half. Alicia was the librarian, and I was the writer.”

“I try to get along with most people, but Detective Ramsay really tried my patience.”

Sheila answered after John. She tossed her flaming red hair over her shoulder and kicked her boots out from under the table. “I liked showing my strength when I shoveled my walk with John after the snowstorm. I also really enjoyed having tea and chatting with Alicia when we were snowbound at the library. I didn’t like when I realized some of the stupid mistakes I’d made.”

“Debbie probably picked me because I was such a strong character, and I was close to John in a platonic way. I also didn’t like Detective Ramsay, and I almost told him where to shove it (excuse my language). I found Betty, the homebound, a bit exasperating, too, but I felt sorry for her.”

Sneaky meowed when it was his turn to “talk.” He jumped out of his cat bed and joined the group. “I liked the part where I got to sleep with Alicia and helped her find one of the big clues in the book. I didn’t like it when Alicia and John left me alone, and Mac forgot to feed me.”

“My cat sixth-sense tells me Debbie picked me for her book because I’m Siamese like her cat, Oliver. She also loves to write about cats and is even a member of the Cat Writer’s Association.”

“I didn’t like Sheila that much because she never wanted to clean my litter box and always left it up to Mac or John and even had Alicia do it.”

Fido barked for his turn. “I loved when John put me on the mission that was the pivotal point in the plot, but I can’t give that away. I didn’t like it when Alicia and Sheila doubted I was dog enough to help them because of my age.”

“I liked John and Mac the best because they were my owners. I didn’t like Detective Ramsay. He smelled bad literally.”

“I’d wager a bone that Debbie chose me because she had to consider the dog loving readers out there, but I also know that she likes all animals, even though she is partial to cats.”

Mac tapped his cane. “Don’t forget about me.  I loved the part where I told Alicia that things happen for a reason. That was the best line in the book. I didn’t like when John confronted me about issues in my past that forced me to reveal some things I’d done when I was young.”

“I would figure Debbie gave me a role in her book because I had the most experience and, if I wasn’t the smartest, at least I was the one who had the most sense.”

“The character I liked the most was John because he was my only son. I also grew to like Alicia a bunch. Sheila and I sometimes rubbed one another the wrong way, but I respected her. Ramsay was a rude guy, but he was only trying to do his job. Faraday was a lot nicer if you like cops.”

As the interview wrapped up, I thanked all the characters and told them I’d try being gentle when I edited their parts.

 

 

 

Posted in A Stone's Throw, Cats, Cloudy Rainbow, Romantic Suspense

A Writer’s Journey

journey1One of the hardest things I’ve had to accept in life is change, but, ironically, it’s usually been for the better. In the past nine months, I’ve lost over fifty pounds. I am slimmer than before I became pregnant with my daughter eleven years ago. I feel great. I am walking a half hour a day and am no longer out of breath, nor do I have any pains in my knees or legs that I’ve had in the past. The changes I’ve made in my diet and lifestyle have been gradual but persistent. It’s been a journey of determination, but it’s paid off.

My daughter is also on a journey as she enters adolescence. In the last year, I’ve seen her blossom into a young woman seemingly overnight. In a few weeks, she will be attending Middle School having made the decision to switch from the Catholic school she’s attended since Kindergarten. I know this will be a big change for her, but I’m confident she will meet new friends and expand her horizons academically and socially.

My writer’s journey is similar in many ways to my weight loss journey and my daughter’s growing up journey. It’s been slow but sure, and I haven’t always known where I’d end up. I’ve been writing since I was young. I recall my teachers praising my work in elementary school. I can still recall writing notebooks full of stories and novels in my teen years. When I learned to type, I was using a manual typewriter in those days. Making corrections with that chalky correction ribbon was darn hard!

After I married, I began writing magazine articles. I had two cats then (had cats all my life), and I used them for material. My special cat, Floppy, had asthma and then diabetes. I researched these health issues and wrote about them for veterinary journals. When Floppy passed away, I wrote “Cloudy Rainbow,” my self-published novel that I dedicated to him and my young daughter. Floppy was actually a character in it. At that point, my journey stalled. Working full-time as a librarian and caring for my daughter did not leave much time for writing.

It took seven years before I started again after a patron who’d read “Cloudy Rainbow” kept gently nudging me to write again. I began writing short stories and trying to sell them. I didn’t have much luck, but I also started a book. Somehow, the characters and plot of “A Stone’s Throw, my romantic suspense novel took shape. Writing a few pages each day, I ended up with 85,000 words. I spent several months editing it and sending it out to publishers for consideration. After posting a short pitch for the novel on Twitter, a few publishers contacted me for a query and sample chapters. Limitless Publishing requested the full manuscript and then offered me a contract. I signed with them and am now pre-editing the book before it is published. I am also working on another romantic suspense book, writing articles for my local paper, and Catster online magazine. I am enjoying this journey, although it is time consuming and difficult at times. As with any journey, it starts with a step in an unknown direction. You just keep walking, and you get there. I am meeting fellow authors through groups and social media, and I am learning from them, my fellow travelers on this path to publication. I look forward to sharing this journey with readers, as well. I hope they enjoy my tales as much as I enjoy creating them.

Posted in A Stone's Throw, Characters, Location

It’s all in the Location

mappic Have you ever read a book where you felt like you were transported to the place where it was set? Some people enjoy reading about certain areas before they travel there themselves. Others, are armchair travelers, who enjoy reading about faraway places they will never see in person. In my book, “A Stone’s Throw,” I have created a fictional, small upstate New York town called Cobble Cove populated by mostly middle aged and older residents. Alicia Fairmont, the book’s librarian protagonist, is only in her early forites, and her love interest, John McKinney, is forty-five. The library’s director, Sheila Whitehead, is a young grandmother in her early fifties. Mac, John’s father, is a spry but forgetful eighty-year old.

The town, built around a green, features shops owned and run by Cobble Cove residents – Irene, the gift shop owner; Duncan, the grocer; Camille, the bank teller; Ed, the postmaster; Wilma, the hairdresser; Claire, the baker; Dora the innkeeper, and Casey, the diner owner. There is also a special spot in town known as Cove Point that looks down upon the green on one side and the waters of the cove on the other.  It’s where John and Alicia have their first innocent romantic encounter.

Of course, one must not forget the library that was built over a century ago when the town was founded. The library is the focal point of the book.

As I am beginning the pre-edits of the novel, I am suggesting that a map of Cobble Cove be included. Would this make things easier to visualize? Thank you for any comments you’d like to post about this idea on the blog.

Posted in A Stone's Throw, Authors, Books, Characters, Romantic Suspense

Romantic Suspense vs. Mystery

gothic I consider my upcoming book, “A Stone’s Throw,” a romantic suspense novel, but it contains a mystery, so why isn’t it classified as one? There are many types of mysteries. Most people are familiar with the Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie detective mysteries or, more currently, the crime solving amateur sleuths featured in Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich’s books. “A Stone’s Throw” features two detectives, the nasty and arrogant, Ron Ramsay and the nice cop, Michael Faraday. Neither of them are very useful in solving the mystery but that is not why “A Stone’s Throw” is romantic suspense. Would you classify a Mary Higgins Clark novel as a mystery? What about a Nora Roberts book? Compare them to her JD Robb series  of books which are mysteries (but include romance, too).

The Romance Writer’s of America define romantic suspense as a subgenre or romance in which “suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.”

When I was a young girl in the 1970’s, my older brother gave me my favorite Christmas gift. It was the novel, “Winter People” by Phyllis Whitney. Once I read that book, I was hooked. I gobbled up everything Whitney wrote and then began reading similar authors – Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, and others. I was transported to faraway places. I fell in love along with the main character with the mysterious and attractive stranger who might or might not be a killer. These books, sometimes referred to as gothic novels, were very popular at the time. They were also a form of romantic suspense. Daphne Du Maurier was one of the master writers of this genre. All these authors were my teachers and mentors in writing because I was learning their style as I absorbed their words.

The Wikipedia defines romantic suspense as “a blend of romance and mystery.” According to the Wikipedia, “This blend of the romance and mystery was perfected by Mary Stewart, who wrote ten romantic suspense novels between 1955 and 1967. Stewart was one of the first to seamlessly combine the two genres, maintaining a full mystery while focusing on the courtship between two people. In her novels, the process of solving the mystery “helps to illuminate” the hero’s personality, helping the heroine to fall in love with him.”

As I matured, I progressed to other authors and sampled many genres. As a librarian, I had the advantage of access to a wide variety of reading material. However, I still had a preference for mysteries that featured a heroine thrust into danger who was saavy enough to save herself and find love in the process. I began reading Nora Roberts, Mary Higgins Clark, and others. I also realized that romantic suspense authors are not exclusively female and neither are the protagonists or main characters of these novels always women.  The prolific James Patterson writes novels that might be considered romantic suspense in addition to his mystery series.

So how would you define romantic suspense? Is it mystery or romance? It’s actually both and that’s why it’s such a popular form of writing and reading.

Posted in A Stone's Throw, Authors, Books, Characters

My Character, Myself

characterimageI was asked to write a synopsis with a character-oriented focus to help my publisher create some cover copy for my upcoming book. While doing this, I began to reflect on how I created the varied characters, some major and some minor, in “A Stone’s Throw.” I think it’s pretty obvious that the librarian protagonist, Alicia Fairmont, is based on me. While she’s not identical in her personality or looks, there are some interesting similarities. When the story starts, she has been a librarian for 17 years. I’ve been one for over 20. She and her husband have been married 15 years without children. I had my daughter after 15 years of marriage. She has chestnut hair (some people consider my hair reddish brown), and she is quite stubborn (I’m a Taurus, need I say more?).

What about the rest of my characters? Going back to my previous analogy of authors giving birth to their book, I believe that their characters are their “babies” that grow throughout the story.  In an online Gale Course I am taking on Mystery Writing, I am learning about the protagonist’s and antagonist’s flaws. No one is perfect, and characters share the same imperfections as real people, so it makes sense that they are based on real people – whether it’s the author or a relative, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance of the author. A character can also be a composite of more than one person. Characters are then shaped by their experiences, both the back story and the continuing plot.

Some authors create detailed sketches of their characters before even adding them to their manuscripts (I wish I had been one of those). Like me, others create characters as they write. It often feels that the characters create themselves.

Another type of character that adds interest to a book is the pet character. As a member of the Cat Writer’s Association, I am familiar with cat and dog mysteries such as those written by Rita Mae Brown, Carole Nelson Douglas, Shirley Murphy, Lilian Jackson Braun, Amy Shojai and others. While the cat and dog characters in “A Stone’s Throw” don’t speak or solve mysteries by themselves, they play important roles. Sneaky, the Siamese who is the Cobble Cove library cat, is modelled after my 15-year old Siamese cat, Oliver. Fido, the old, overweight golden retriever, is just the perfect type of dog for 80 year old Mac.

The most important thing about a character is that a reader can relate to that person and finds the person interesting, not a flat caricature. I believe one of my strong points as a writer is the way I depict characters. I hope you will agree when you read “A Stone’s Throw.”

Posted in A Stone's Throw, Books, Cloudy Rainbow, Romantic Suspense

Contract Signed!

contractimageYesterday, after around thirty emails and several document revisions,  I signed a contract with Limitless Publishing for my romantic suspense novel, “A Stone’s Throw.” Now the fun part starts. I received some welcome emails and was invited into their elite Facebook group. I was asked to complete some forms, financial ones for royalty deposits and taxes, as well as a cover questionnaire to help their graphic artist design my book cover. They also requested my bio, photo, and social networking list along with a short description of the book and a character-oriented 1-2 page synopsis to assist in creating the inside and back cover details.

Even though I’d previously self-published a novel, “Cloudy Rainbow,” I had forgotten how much work went into preparing the book for publishing. I guess that’s what it’s like when women forget the pain of labor, and writing and publishing a book is definitely like pregnancy. You have your highs and lows and, at points, wonder if it was worth it. But, afterwards looking at your adorable baby or your beautiful book cover, you know you would do it all again in a heartbeat.

What advice would I give those still trying to get into print – don’t stop writing. I made the mistake of doing that after my self-published book. My daughter was young, and I just couldn’t find the time. And, then, after a few years of one particular library patron’s prodding, I started again. That’s all it takes, one person’s gentle push. Not only did I finish writing “A Stone’s Throw,” but I started another that I am currently about a quarter of the way through. I have also written several short stories that I’ve been sending out for possible publication. I may compile them into a book one day. But one step at a time. I’m eager to see “A Stone’s Through” in virtual (eBook) and real print. I’m hoping readers like reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I may include some pre-launch book excerpts on this blog and on my Author’s Facebook page. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.