Posts Tagged ‘Characters’

When Gail Z. Martin invited me to post a blog as a part of the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign, I decided to make it personal.

I was one of those kids who was different enough to attract the attention of bullies. A girl interested in science, math, art, fantasy, science fiction, writing, etc. attracted unwanted and negative attention from some of my school mates. Junior high (middle school to you younger folks) was the worse – I was regularly spit on by several “popular” girls on the school bus.

Where are those girls now? I don’t know, and to be honest, I don’t care. The things which made me an outcast then, are the things which I value the most about myself now. But that self-assurance is hard-won.

I’ve dealt with depression and lingering self-doubt for much of my life, because of that long-ago bullying. Which gives me great compassion for those who are different or who feel like outsiders. And though I won’t name names, because it is not my story to tell – I can assure them that many of the writers and artists I’m friendly with have experienced either bullying, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or a combination of those things.

So what’s my message? First, don’t let bullies ruin your life. They don’t deserve that much power. You are unique and valuable. The problem lies with the bullies – not you. Second, when you see bullying going on, stop it if you can, or get help from an adult to put an end to the bullying. Third, don’t be a bully. Always choose kindness.

One of the best things about the science fiction and fantasy community is their willingness to accept those marvelously unique artists, writers, and fans who might be viewed as “outsiders” in the mundane world. And one of the best things about being a writer of speculative fiction, is I get to create and celebrate characters who are different – whether they have physical, mental, or emotional challenges – imperfect characters are the most interesting to read about. Why? Because they’re the characters most like us.

About the campaign:

holdontothelight-fb-banner #HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords (Jojen Reed)

Still re-reading the Game of Thrones books, so I thiought I’d use another George R.R. Martin quote. Both the reader and writer in me loves this quote. As a writer, you build your world and live in that world through the characters you create. As a reader, you have the opportunity to live the many lives of the many characters of the many authors you read.

What a wonderful gift books are to anyone willing to open them and begin to read. I, for one, hope to live a thousand lives (or more) as I discover the many characters residing between the pages of books. And I invite each of you to buy one of my books and discover some of the characters I’ve created.

Happy reading!

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I’m always interested in other writers’ writing processes. As a rather disorganized, write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer, I know I could be more productive if I’d become more organized.

I decided to check out one of my favorite writers, Marissa Meyer’s, writing process post. For those who haven’t discovered this author, she’s a very busy lady who has written a fabulous YA science fiction series, The Lunar Chronicles. (Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress are on my bookshelf, and I await the next book in the series).

Here’s the link to Marissa Meyer’s series of posts on her Writing Process.  (As a bonus, she’s added videos, etc. into the posts).

This series of posts not only gave me some ideas, it also helped me clarify my writing process! I realized I had much more of a process than I’d given myself credit for. I, too, start with an idea, do research, outline characters, etc.

Writers, how about you? Do you have any writing process tips you’d like to share?

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As a writer, one of the tricks to drawing readers into your world is to create well-rounded characters. Characters can’t be just two-dimensional sketches, they must have depth and complexity for readers to care about where they’ve been and what will happen to them now and in the future.

Author Stacy Couch does a nice job of examing well-rounded characters in her recent post on the Maryland/ Delaware/ West Virginia Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators blog, As The Eraser Burns.

Readers, which well-written characters do you enjoy?

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Costumes for Halloween, a masquarade party, Rennaisance Fair, or fairy festival are fun to wear. But not all of us have runway model looks. We need to remember not all princesses are petite. Not all princesses have blond hair.

As a fantasy writer, I try to make my characters diverse. Some are tall, some robust, some short, some dark-skinned, some scrawny, some curly-haired, some bald… In other words, I try to include the mix of people who surround me in this world.

I believe every girl has the right to be a princess – to see herself as lovely and special. Just like every young person has the right to see themselves as a hero. This post about a young woman who couldn’t find a princess dress to fit, reminds me that beauty comes in many sizes.

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Oct 2013 import 459 “Character, I think, is the single most important thing in fiction. You might read a book once for its interesting plot—but not twice.” – Diana Gabaldon

I agree with this quote. I return to books to revisit the characters I’ve grown to love. I enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books as a girl because of central character, Laura, and her family and friends. I re-read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, because I wanted to be like Jo. I’ve twice-read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and its sequels because of Katniss Everdeen. And I’m currently caught up in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress because of the characters.

Today’s quotable author, Diana Gabaldon, created two wonderful central characters: Claire and Jamie. And let’s be honest, most women would fall for Jaime.

Here’s another Gabaldon quote which would send many women into a swoon: “When the day shall come that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.” – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

How about you? Do characters draw you into a book? Do they make you re-read books?
(BTW, this photo and all others posted with Diana Gabaldon quotes were taken by me in Scotland).

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TerriBruce_OfficialAuthorPic Thanks to Terri Bruce, author of fantasy and science fiction stories with a literary bent, for stopping by and sharing the inspiration for one of the characters from her new novel, Thereafter.

But before reading Terri’s post, here’s a little bit about Thereafter: ‘Nothing in life is free. Turns out, nothing in the afterlife is, either. When recently-deceased Irene Dunphy decided to “follow the light,” she thought she’d end up in Heaven or Hell and her journey would be over. Boy, was she wrong. She soon finds that “the other side” isn’t a final destination but a kind of purgatory where billions of spirits are stuck, with no way to move forward or back. Even worse, deranged phantoms known as “Hungry Ghosts” stalk the dead, intent on destroying them. The only way out is for Irene to forget her life on earth—including the boy who risked everything to help her cross over—which she’s not about to do…’

Thereafter Spotlight: Gao by Terri Bruce

‘Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Vonnie! I’m thrilled to be here to talk about my newest book, Thereafter. Today, I wanted to share a bit about the character Gao, a Chinese philosopher that the main character, Irene, meets in the afterlife:

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Irene smiled as Ian’s words pulled her out of her reverie. He was watching her carefully across the campfire. Irene shifted position; she and the horse were using each other as a mutual backrest, and she wiggled against it, trying to find a more comfortable position.

Irene shook her head. “Just thinking about the cairns; I was wondering why someone would build an altar in the afterlife. If they are shrines, wouldn’t each one just send stuff to the person who built it?”

“People pray to their gods. One assumes they are closer here,” a high, thin voice at her elbow said.

Irene started. She looked up and then did a double take. The speaker was a middle-aged Chinese man. His long, black robe, Fu-Manchu mustache, and waist-length beard were straight out of a Hollywood movie.

He gave her a reassuring smile and a low bow. “Your pardon. I did not mean to startle.” As he straightened up, he suddenly brightened, a smile blooming across his face.

“Ah!” he said, gesturing to the horse. “Gives new meaning to the saying, ‘trying to save the dead horse as if it is still alive.’ Ha!”

Irene looked at the horse, but since she had no idea what the man was talking about, she didn’t know how to respond. She looked at Ian for help.

“Howdy!” he said to the newcomer. “Pull up some ground.” He sat up, moving his legs to make room, and patted the space next to him. “I’m Ian and this is Irene.”

The man gracefully dropped to a kneeling position. He gave Ian a slight bow and then turned to Irene. He smiled as he bowed to her. “Ah! Irene. A very good name.”

Irene raised an eyebrow. “Is it?”

“Oh, yes. Irene of Thessalonica, Irene of Rome, Irene of Macedonia, Irene of Athens, Irene of Hungary…yes, a very good name. Very auspicious.”

“Wow, I had no idea.” She hesitated and then added, as if revealing an embarrassing secret. “I was named for an actress.”

“Ah, yes,” the man cried with delight. “Irene Dunne. Very nice lady.”

Irene eyed him up and down once more, certain the guy was not from the twentieth century. “You…know her?”

The man gave her a gentle smile. “I have been here a very long time.” Then he bowed again. “I am Gao. A seeker of truth.”

thereafter_stolzer_72 When I was writing Thereafter, I knew that I wanted Irene to meet a philosopher in the afterlife. Originally, the role of the philosopher was envisioned as an Austrian named Martin who lived during the mid-eighteen hundreds. However, I realized my story lacked diversity—why were all the ghosts Irene encountered European? She already had Ian, an American cowboy from the late 1800s, and Andras, a Spanish knight from the late eleven hundreds. Given that I include people from any time and any place in my story, I decided to look for someone much further back in time—preferably from before the birth of Christ—and preferably someone with an Eastern philosophy/view-point.

In doing some other research for the book, I came across a reference to a Chinese philosopher named Gao, who lived around 300 BCE. Not much is known about Gao—none of his work/writings have survived; all that we know about him is anecdotes related via the writings of others, which was actually pretty perfect for my needs. The anecdotes gave just enough of an idea of the historical man’s philosophy/personality, but beyond that he was a blank slate. He was perfect for my story and in he went.

Another interesting thing about this scene is that Gao says, “Gives new meaning to the saying, ‘trying to save the dead horse as if it is still alive.’” This is the original/origin of the saying “beating a dead horse.” The saying is originally Chinese and has been changed slightly through translation and usage to the modern version that we now use, but originally referred to a futile action (trying to revive something that is already dead) rather than rehashing an old subject. It was too perfect not to include; here I had a Chinese philosopher and a dead horse, together in one scene, so how could I not drop in the original version of the saying as one of the many sly, geeky jokes I tend to include in my stories.

And there you have it—a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the character of Gao and his appearance in Thereafter.’

To learn more about Terri Bruce and her books:
visit her website and facebook page
and follow her on goodreads and twitter.

And you can buy Thereafter on
Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Smashwords.

Thanks again to Terri for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more Monday Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and occasional weekend, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a character-filled day! – Vonnie

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MaryHolland.JPG Thanks to author Mary Holland for stopping by and sharing the inspiration for her speculative novel and a bit about how she built her fantasy world. Enjoy!

In With The Out Crowdby Mary Holland

In the world of The Bone Road, it’s hard to have a living baby. The Deom people are divided into two moieties, or tribes, called Wid and Zeosil. Babies live if a Wid and a Zeosil mate with each other. If they are careless or unthinking or criminal, and a Wid gets pregnant by another Wid, or a Zeosil by a Zeosil, the baby will be a Shun. Shun are infertile, and often do not survive their birth. It’s a tough world and people have to make hard choices so their society can survive.

I came up with Deom society quite easily. When I was growing up in a working class town on the East Coast, the big division in my high school was between the Whites and the Italians. I was a ‘half-breed’ with an Italian last name, a non-Italian mother, and not a member of the Catholic Church. However, my last name barred me from acceptance as a ‘White’, so I had early experience as a member of the out crowd, i.e., Anyone Not Us.

The out-group gives the in-group a sense of belonging, importance, and meaning. In fact, the in-group cannot survive without having people to exclude and look down on. If everyone belongs equally, the classifications are meaningless and will cease to exist. Humans are very good at creating new in/out groups as the old ones lose importance: White/Black, Arab/Jew, gay/straight, popular/unpopular, it’s an endless list. Dividing people between Italian and White sounds ridiculous now. I can only hope that, with time, the other divisions become just as ridiculous. But we are all human beings, members of the same biological species, and a definition of species is the ability to cross breed. Miscegenation is not a biological term.

When I was creating the Deom of The Bone Road, I took this one step further. What if groups of humans couldn’t interbreed? What if the pairing of a Catholic and a Jew was biologically impossible? Or, inverting the idea, what if a Catholic and a Jew had to interbreed for humanity to survive? What kind of world would that be? How would the society be structured, how would they have children, how would they live? I always knew the world would be pre-industrial, certainly pre-technology, so how would a woman know if a man was a safe or proper mate for her? I thought about magic, which led me to divination, and then to the idea of a ‘divvy’, which is another word for fortuneteller. At that point I had my main character, Rhona, and her special skill.

World building in fantasy is wonderful for playing with concepts. If I have a major premise and I am logically consistent I can work out the rules of the world and structure my plot around them.

As I’ve said, The Bone Road is a tough world. The Deom don’t believe in a life after death, and there is no mourning. When a Deom dies, their body goes into the Road and their name is never spoken. The Deom grieve, but they grieve in private. Rhona brings bad luck down on herself when she mentions her dead mother’s name, and she knows she deserves it for breaking custom. She achieves her purpose, but she also lives with the consequences of her act.

Rhona is a powerful woman. Deom society is matriarchal, because property inheritance and moiety affiliation go through the women, so Rhona has never lived in a subordinate position. The idea makes no sense to her. I enjoyed writing her a great deal, and I tried very hard to present her as a woman who has strong feelings, a sense of honor, and no sentimentality.

Mary Holland Bone Road I tell the story of The Bone Road through three points-of-view: Rhona, her son Jak, and the girl Ani. My favorite character is someone the reader sees only from the outside: Matteo the Shun. This was deliberate, because Matteo is an enigmatic figure, and extremely reserved. I wanted the reader to see him as the other characters see him. Rhona tells her son part of Matteo’s story, but even she, who knows him best, only knows a part. Matteo is the ultimate outsider. He is a Shun, unable to breed, and traditionally despised by both Wid and Zeosil. He is also estranged from other Shun because he insists on living with Wid and Zeosil. And finally, he is a moneylender and extremely wealthy, so he picks up an extra ration of hatred from the less fortunate.

Because Matteo is such an excluded and despised figure, he has no allegiance or loyalty to any group. His vision of Deom society is clear and unencumbered. He relates to each person he meets as an individual. He judges them by their actions, not their status in society. And because he is an outsider, he’s the first to notice the disruptions and odd changes happening in the south and to understand the consequences. That’s the power and the great value in being an outsider: your mind is not locked into one way of thinking.

The Bone Road is a complete story in one volume, not part of a trilogy. But I might do another stand-alone story set in that world, and some of the same characters might be involved. A great deal of Matteo’s back-story wasn’t told, and he is, as I said, the type of character who sticks with you. After I finish my current, and new, project, I might revisit Rhona and Matteo and the Bone Road. Anything can happen. It is fantasy, after all.”

For more information about Mary Holland, visit her website: http://www.mary-holland.com To buy her books: Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/The-Bone-Road-ebook/dp/B007W6RDBY/ Smashwords (epub): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/153422 Lulu(paperback): http://www.lulu.com/shop/mary-holland/the-bone-road/paperback/product-20733757.html

Thanks again to Mary Holland for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an empowered day! – Vonnie

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Jaleta's CC Oatmeal Cookies The recipe for these delicious cookies comes from science fiction writer, Jaleta Clegg. These cookies are perfect for a book club or readers’ group get-together or for the kids when they get home from school. Like last week’s Oven Baked Chicken Bruschetta, Jaleta’s Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies get great reviews. And now, a few words from Jaleta and the recipe:

Have you ever put cooking scenes in your stories? I can’t stop myself. I love cooking and I don’t see that changing for people in the far future, when my stories tend to happen. Picture it: a starship flying through the cosmos, the crew gathered in the galley cooking dinner. I have a thing for RVs. I guess it shows in my books. Right now I’m channeling the Winnebago scenes from Space Balls and the kitchen scenes from Firefly.

I’ve got a main character that loves to cook. It’s her way to destress and connect. She loves playing with new spices and ingredients. Jasyn understands the role food plays in society. It not only nourishes our bodies but our souls.

I can picture Jasyn making a batch of these wonderful cookies in her tiny kitchen on her ship. I can also picture the other crew members – Dace and Clark – devouring them, just like my kids in my kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 c. butter

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 t. salt

2 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

1 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. white flour

2 1/2 c. quick cooking oatmeal

2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 c. dried cranberries (optional)

Cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs, salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Beat until very light and fluffy. Add flour, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. Stir until well mixed. Set aside while the oven preheats. Or cover and refrigerate for several hours. (Letting the dough rest allows the oats to absorb moisture and makes the cookies softer.)

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray. Scoop cookie dough in one inch balls onto sheets. Bake for 9 minutes. Let cool for a couple of minutes before removing from the sheets. Makes 5 – 6 dozen cookies.”

biosmall Jaleta Clegg loves writing what she knows – science fiction and cooking with the occasional bit of silly horror thrown in for laughs. She loves concocting dishes with bizarre names such as Chilled Monkey Brains, Radioactive Dog Spit, and Snake Surprise. New spices and strange vegetables are common on her table. Her children have learned to taste before complaining. You never know what you might enjoy until you try it. Find recipes on her blog every Thursday: http://jaletaclegg.blogspot.com and links to her writings at http://www.jaletac.com

Thanks again to Jaleta Clegg for sharing her recipe. Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from speculative writer, Jennifer Allis Provost.

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I love my readers, and so does my publisher. So, for a limited time, Cold Moon Press is offering its readers one of my stories, Blame it on the Trees, as a FREE eBook. Now, let me tell you how this eBook came to be…

Last January, I thought The Greener Forest, my 1st fantasy short fiction collection was complete. But Editor Katie had another idea: “You’ve got trees and tree images in all of these tales. I want one more story where the trees are a character that interacts with the rest of the characters.”

Yikes! Trees as a character. So, I thought about what sort of person trees might care about. I’d used fairies, a Brown Man, she-elf, applehead gnomes, swan maidens, mermaid, dragon, Mud people, and other nature spirits in the book’s stories already. I needed someone different. While leafing through A World of Baby Names [T. Norman] trying to find a name for a main character that might spark a tale, I spotted, Berg: “Directly derived from berg (mountain).” Woot! I’d found my name and my Faerie race: a giant.

I decided to write against type, and make my giant kindhearted. But where would a giant go to interact with others and why? My answers: a zoo, because he likes to hunt animals – with a camera, of course. What kind of job would a giant have? That’s easy – one where he counts gold, or in this case, money. So I made Berg an accountant. Besides being tall with big hands and feet, I also gave him the “typical” large, scary, yellow teeth readers associate with giants. But Berg is embarrassed by his ugly teeth.

Next, I need someone who chooses to interact with a giant. A damsel in distress seemed a reasonable choice. My damsel, Shelly, is a woman babysitting her nephew. Since opposites attract, I made her short and good with words rather than numbers.

And here’s where the trees come into the tale. From placing a wire-like rootlet on the path so the  stroller’s wheel gets tangled, to pushing up the sidewalk with a root and tripping Shelly, to shoving a teen into the grizzly bear pen – the zoo’s trees play an active role in the love story. And, yes, it is a love story.

blame it on the trees cover When Editor Katie suggested giving away one of my stories as a gift to my readers, Blame it on the Trees seemed a natural. Now, I needed cover art. I’d done a watercolor (with a few inks & a touch of acrylics) called Poet’s Moon which seemed perfect. A small square of the painting had been used by Scifaikuest as the cover art for their February 2012 issue, but over half of the painting remained unpublished. That half was filled with trees in the pinks and purples one often associates with Valentine’s Day.

So – a belated Happy Valentine’s Day to my readers. Visit http://tinyurl.com/vonnies-blame-trees-story for your FREE copy (or enjoy it as the last story in The Greener Forest should you like to read more magical tales). There is a time limit on the FREE, but I hope to have the eBook available for those who want a quick read for quite some time.

And should you decide to read either Blame it on the Trees or The Greener Forest, I hope you’ll take the time to “Like” the book and give it a brief review. Thanks, readers. I really do appreciate your support.

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