Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Character Development

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome to Segment 4 of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series, where we’re offering up a little taste of what you’ll find in this hot new writing reference of the same name. Ask the Authors 2022 features writing tips and advice on craft, publishing, and book marketing from ten talented authors and industry experts.

In case you missed some of the previous segments:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany – Writing Life Q & A session

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash – Pre-writing Rituals Q & A session

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Plot/Storyline Q & A session

This week we meet bestselling horror author Paul Kane, who shares his love of the horror genre in his essay, “Writing Monsters”, and bring you a Q & A session on character development.

Meet Paul Kane

Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over a hundred books, both fiction and nonfiction. Some consider him to be a master of the macabe. He has been a guest at numerous writing events and conferences, and he was the keynote speaker at the 2021 WordCrafter New Beginnings Virtual Writing Conference.

A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications Editor, he is currently serving as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen. His audio work includes full cast drama adaptations, he has also contributed to the Warhammer 40k universe for Games Workshop and writes thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins as PL Kane. Paul lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan and his family.

Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

And now, on to the Q & A.

Character Development

Nancy Oswald: This whole section was hard for me because I’ve never been good at planning a character. Lists aren’t helpful to me. What is helpful is to put your main character into the middle of their world and write from there. I usually have an ending or a direction in mind before I start writing, but there have been times when the character determines the story and not the other way around.

Do your characters ever surprise you?

Mario Acevedo: I never thought I’d be a writer who said that my characters have taken over the story, but it has happened. Big surprise, it was female characters. I’d have in mind a script for them, which they would rip to pieces and tear off on their own.

Paul Kane: Oh, all the time! If you’ve made them ‘real’ then they’ll suddenly do something that you don’t expect. That is to say, it’ll momentarily surprise you and then you’ll say: ah, of course that’s how they’d react because of… whatever it is you’ve seeded in their past. It’s really your subconscious putting things like that in, things you’ve set up and forgotten about, then when a character does something unexpected it’s only that you’ve forgotten how apt it was in the first place.

Chris Barili: Yes, all the time. If a character is predictable to me, it will be the same to a reader. So, I let them surprise me in whatever way they seem to need. Those surprises don’t always make the story, though.

Bobby Nash: All the time and I love it. In one story, a character let me know that I had the villain wrong. This character was the villain, not the one I had planned to be the villain. The kicker is that the story worked so much better once I realized that this character was indeed the villain.

Robbie Cheadle: No, my characters follow a pre-determined path decided by me upfront.

Kevin Killiany: Not exactly. I’m the only person living in my head—my characters only look like they have free will. That being said, the longer you work with a project, the more time your subconscious has to compost or ferment or percolate the ideas you’re building with—and that can lead to unexpected discoveries that give texture and dimension to the character. Sometimes my characters evolve over the course of writing and rewriting to the point that they person they’ve become wouldn’t do what the story required. Usually that’s an indication there’s something wrong with the story, not the character.

What makes a character interesting?

Paul Kane: I think it goes back to believability once again, which most things do. They have to be well-rounded, living and breathing people. If I get it right, the characters feel real to me. When I talk about them and what they go through, I talk about them as if they exist. You have to think that way in order for other people to believe them and believe in them. A lot of that means knowing your characters inside out, how they’d react to certain situations – in particular the ones you put them in. Would your character run away from a monster or just get stuck in, have a go, even if it meant dying to save others? That kind of thing. A lot of writers think giving characters quirks makes them interesting, but if there’s no reason for that to be there it just stands out. If you give your character gardening as a hobby, unless he’s fighting a giant plant then it’s not really something that should crop up in your story. The character of Alex Webber in Before was a lecturer, so that meant he was interested in making sure the next generation were educated and could make well-informed decisions. So when the future of the world is threatened, of course he’s going to fight against that; it’s just something rooted in his DNA. Those are the kinds of things that make characters interesting, not whether they sleep on the left or the right in bed.

Chris Barili: They have to be flawed. No one wants to read about perfect people with perfect lives and no conflict whatsoever. It is our characters’ flaws that make them realistic, and that set up most of the conflict in the story. After that, it is the act of exaggerating the characters, making them larger than life. Again, no one wants to read about normal people with normal lives. They want heroes and villains who are large and in charge. Would Dirty Harry have worked if he were a normal cop carrying a .38 special? No, because being a six-foot-four rogue cop with a .44 magnum in gleaming silver makes him stand out.

Bobby Nash: I don’t know. Interesting is like art or porn, I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it. I need to have something to connect to with a character. Once I have that connection, I understand the character.

Robbie Cheadle: My characters all must overcome a lot of adversity in their circumstances. I believe that the growth in the characters as they play the cards which they are dealt by life makes them interesting.

Jeff Bowles: I think I have an answer to that question: idiosyncrasies, idiosyncrasies, idiosyncrasies. The thing about real people is that we all have our strange little quirks that make us who we are. And these are behaviors and beliefs it’s taken us a whole lifetime to accrue. It pays to think of your characters as being a little odd under the surface. The problem with a lot of storytelling out there is that too many authors figure their characters exist to serve the story. They don’t, it’s the other way around completely. Let your characters speak for themselves. Let the breath a little, see where they really want to go next. Don’t push them into situations that don’t serve their full expression. Let them tell you who they really are.

How do you make a character likeable?

Paul Kane: Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you shouldn’t. I get reviews sometimes that say ‘the characters weren’t very nice’, but then look at some of the things they’ve been through. My psychologist Dr Robyn Adams went through a trauma at the hands of a serial killer, so is addicted to pain killers and drinks too much, leaps straight in with guys too often – because of something else revealed towards the end of Her Husband’s Grave. But you know what, she’s doing the best she can. Her flaws make her human, like all of us, and they make the moments of bravery stand out all the more. I think if you’re always trying to make your characters likable, you’re missing the point of making them believable. Not everyone’s nice all the time, there are grey areas – and that’s totally where your characters should be operating.

Chris Barili: You don’t have to make them likeable, just relatable. Thomas Covenant in White Gold Wielder (Stephan R. Donaldson) is not a likeable character at first, just a relatable one. He almost loses that with a deplorable act early in the book, bit manages to make it through, at least for most readers. I do know some who could not handle it and left the series behind.

Bobby Nash: I start with a likeable person as their base and build the character up from there.

Kevin Killiany: I never consider likeability. I try to make my characters as real as possible—which means complex, with parts some folk will like and parts some folk can’t stand.

How do you make your characters feel real?

Chris Barili: What are their fears and flaws? Read my article, “Character Blueprints” (Ask the Authors 2022) for the tools I use to do this.

Bobby Nash: As I mentioned above, I get to know the characters. Once that happens, they become real people to me. They have their own quirks, foibles, fears, flaws, strengths, and weaknesses. Just like real people.

How do you create a villain readers can love to hate?

Mario Acevedo: Readers must have empathy with all of your characters and understand why they do what they do. Their motivations must be consistent and compelling. One of my best villains was a female mad scientist who at first you cheered until you found out what she was up to.

Paul Kane: I don’t think there’s any magic formula, but the key thing with villains is again that they aren’t just cardboard cutouts. They can’t just be evil for evil’s sake, there needs to be reasons for what they’re doing. My bad guy for the Hooded Man books, De Falaise – essentially my version of the Sheriff of Nottingham – was motivated by the fact that he’d been kept down before the A-B Virus hit. He was a small bad guy in a big pond. The apocalypse gave him the freedom to create a kingdom of his own, so that was his motivation – and Robert, my Robin Hood, stood in his way. You got the impression with some Hood stories in the past that they just hated each other because one was bad, and one was good. In my books, just as Robert has his failings as a leader – for starters, he doesn’t want to be a leader and would much rather hide out in Sherwood waiting to die – so too does De Falaise have his good points, like his loyalty to companions like Tanek, his second in command. I mean, he is evil when you get right down to it, because some of the things he does are reprehensible, but there still needs to be some good in there. Having said all that, the most fun I’ve had writing a bad guy was The Infinity in Before. He’s a version of the Devil, essentially, and likes to meddle in human history. Writing lines for him, simply because he was a stereotypical big bad, was wonderful. It allowed me to put myself in the head of someone who has very few redeeming qualities, if any at all.

Chris Barili: I find that a couple of things can pull a reader into a love-hate relationship. First, a sense of humor. Even if it’s macabre or inappropriate, the ability to make us laugh endears even a harsh villain to us. You can also give that villain a good side by having him or her save a puppy or show some other admirable trait. Intellect combined with arrogance are a nice set of offsetting traits. But most of all, make them flawed like the hero. If they are invincible and pure evil, no one will want to read their stories. Take The Governor on the AMC series The Walking Dead. We find out early on that this otherwise despicable villain lost his whole family to the walkers and thus has them all locked up in his home as he hopes for a cure.

Bobby Nash: Same way as with a likeable character. I get to know them and understand why they do what they do. No villain thinks of themselves as the villain. Most villains believe what they are doing is right or justified. Very rarely is anyone evil just for the sake of being evil. Let the readers see the multiple facets of your heroes and villains.

Robbie Cheadle: Characters that do sadistic and unkind things are easy to make readers dislike. However, my characters all have redeeming features so the reader will end up conflicted, even when the character is behaving at his/her worst.

Do you ever create characters based on people who you’ve actually known?

Paul Kane: I think by necessity characters are mish-mashes of people you’ve known and other characters from books, film or TV shows, plus bits of yourself sometimes. I’ve never based a character wholesale on someone, as that way lies being sued, but I include certain traits from people I’ve known or still know. I was brought up with a lot of strong women around me, so I write a lot of tales with strong female protagonists. RED, my horror reworking of Little Red Riding Hood, is an obvious example of that. Rachael Daniels is someone who fights the wolf rather than running away from it, isn’t frightened to go up against a challenge. Her love-life might be a car crash, but she’s someone you want around when there’s trouble for sure.

Chris Barili: I will plead the fifth on this question, and all writers should, whether they have done this or not. Admitting that you have sets you up for legal action by others.

Bobby Nash: Oh, sure. I have many characters where the basis is a real person that I then built on top of to create a new character.

Robbie Cheadle: Yes, some of my characters are modelled off people I know. Grandfather Baker in Through the Nethergate has a lot of my father’s personality and characteristics. Michelle Cleveland in A Ghost and His Gold has some of my personality and characteristics, but she is more forgiving and generous towards her partner than I would be in the same circumstances.

Some of my characters are model on several people I have come across in a similar situation. For example, Tom Cleveland in A Ghost and His Gold is based on a combination of men in senior positions I have worked with in my own life.

Kevin Killiany: Every character is a composite of people I’ve known. Let’s face it, the only way to research people is to hang out with them a while. I never drop a whole person into a story—it’ll be A’s speech pattern, B’s fascination with baseball, C’s gestures, etc. Of course, those are just the starting points. As I know my character better everything will change, evolve.

Do any of your characters share traits with you?

Paul Kane: You can’t help but put bits of yourself in stories. I’ve talked about Alex Webber from Before being a lecturer, which I was for a while at college, so I could write about him with a degree of confidence and make sure it was authentic. I’ve always been scared of the dark and nighttime, which comes across in a lot of my stories. The little boy at the beginning in Of Darkness and Light – recently reprinted in the collection Darkness and Shadows – is very much based on me as a kid. Staring out into the darkness at bedtime and imagining all kinds of things lurking inside. But I think the writing also helps with tackling your fears, and in that particular story I could make the ‘creature’ in the darkness someone who was actually watching over the character of Lee Masterton, someone who would protect him from harm. He just didn’t know it at the time.

Chris Barili: All of them, of course. We cannot create characters without at least a little dash of ourselves in them.

Bobby Nash: Absolutely. There’s a little something of me in all of them. Some, more than others.

Robbie Cheadle: As mentioned above, Michelle is similar to me in some ways, but very different in others. She is a better me.

Kevin Killiany: Never the main character. But if there’s a plucky sidekick who alternates puns with sardonic commentary, that’ll be me.

What methods do you use to introduce readers to your characters?

Mario Acevedo: One of the techniques that F Scott Fitzgerald used to masterful effect was that he introduced his major characters in terms of their personality rather than merely describing their looks. I keep that in mind as I write my stories.

Paul Kane: I think it helps to show them doing something that defines them, so perhaps through their job. Most detectives are introduced through a crime scene for instance, and then we learn how good they are and what it means to them to be a cop. I introduced my main character Mitch Prescott – who at the start of The Family Lie is a PC – via a riot scene. He’s tried to tell the powers that be that there will be trouble at a demonstration, but they’ve totally ignored him, and of course – surprise, surprise – a riot breaks out in which one of his closest friends is injured. It forces Mitch to question what he’s doing on the Force, which leads to his dismissal when he confronts a senior officer about what happened, which in turn makes it easier for him to just go off and investigate what occurred with his father’s death in his hometown of Green Acres. But just from this one chapter, you realise he’s a man of integrity, a man who’s loyal to his friends, and a man who doesn’t like it when people don’t listen to his warnings – so you set up conflict for later when he reaches Green Acres and he’s being blocked at every turn.

How do you motivate your characters?

Paul Kane: I think that’s the same thing as what motivates us as people. We look after our friends and family, because we love them, and are sometimes motivated to do things we might not otherwise do because they’re in trouble. What motivates characters is the same as what motivates people in real life, because, remember, we’re trying to make those characters real. So, the father of murder Jordan Radcliffe – Jake – is motivated to find out who the killer is, not only because he loved his daughter, but also because he feels like he failed her. Failed her in life as a father, so he doesn’t want to fail her now in death. That’s a powerful motivating factor for any character. In my short novel The Storm, out through PS Publishing, the main protagonist Keegan is all about keeping the woman that he loves safe, even if it means battling giant monsters to do so. Love’s a big motivation for anything, I find, just like in real life. So are things like revenge or jealousy, the usual big ones.

Chris Barili: They are self-motivated by the situation into which I drop them. Usually, it is the will to survive that motivates them, but it can also be love, hate, rage, longing, and more.

Bobby Nash: How do I stop them? I usually have trouble keeping up with them.

Robbie Cheadle: My ghostly characters are motivated by the chance of redemption and moving on from their existence as spirits.

My physical characters are motivated by compassion and empathy for others and a desire to assist the spirits achieve the redemption they seek.

What kind of adversaries and obstacles do you create for your characters and what purpose do they serve?

Paul Kane: It depends very much on what the story is. Creating adversaries tends to go very much hand-in-hand with creating heroes. Myself and my wife Marie O’Regan – a terrific writer herself – do a workshop on this subject, and that’s one of the key elements. The hero or heroes dictate the villain or villains. Both are probably striving for something but pulling in opposite directions. In Arcana our protagonists are just trying to get freedom for magic-users, whereas the M-Forcers are trying to stop them, hunt them down and either kill them or put them in prison. Both have aims, but they’re the exact opposite of each other. The obstacles they face are very much dependent on the story you’re telling. It could be a man vs nature tale, in which your heroes are just trying to stay alive, so the setting would dictate what happens there. If it’s a shark, then you need to be at sea, if it’s snow then you need to be in the Arctic or Ant-Arctic, or you set it at a time of year when it’s snowing… My short story ‘White Shadows’, for example, is about a girl battling living snow in the middle of winter.

Chris Barili: Since most of the opposition to my characters comes from the antagonist, I always try to think, as I close a scene, “what could the villain do that would completely thrown the main character for a loop?”

Bobby Nash: Stories would be boring if there was nothing for the main character to overcome. Whatever the obstacle is, a villain, a test not studied for, a traffic jam, or whatever, gives the character(s) something to overcome or solve. Hopefully, your character comes out stronger on the other side of the obstacle.

What methods do you use to introduce readers to your characters?

Bobby Nash: We meet the characters in story. I let different characters be out POV in different chapters so we can understand them.

How do you give each character a distinctive voice?

Paul Kane: I think that just comes down to their personality really, who they are and what they do. How they respond to things, whether it’s trouble or something nice, will dictate their voice. So it’s all to do with character creation, and that believability factor again. If they respond in an authentic way, that will give them their voice. If you’ve created a strong female character, for example, they’re not likely to take a man bossing them around lightly. Indeed, they might even knock them out, depending on whether they’re a violent sort or not, or whether the provocation was bad. It’s things like that which give your characters a distinctive voice. 

Chris Barili: This seems to come naturally for me. And I think that come from listening. I did twenty years in the military and traveled all over the world. So, I have had the chance to listen to many different conversations in many different cultures, and all of that goes into giving a character their own voice.

Bobby Nash: Once I get to know the character, they tell me what their voice is and that’s what I write. It all comes down to creating a fully formed character.

How do you feel about killing off your darlings?

Mario Acevedo: I am ruthless. There’s a vacant lot in my neighborhood where I’ve left my darlings rotting in shallow graves.

Paul Kane: Do you mean editing, like killing off your words? Or killing off characters? I love editing, chopping bits and refining, making scenes better. That’s the part of writing I like most, apart from being finished and having written. Killing off characters you love is hard, but all part and parcel of being a good writer. If it serves the story, no matter how you feel about the character, then you need to just get on with it. I always knew that I’d kill off Jack in The Gemini Factor, even before I started, which was difficult because I really liked him. He became like a friend. It gave the ended weight though, gave it an impact that would not have been there if I hadn’t just bit the bullet.

Chris Barili: When it becomes necessary to the story, I have no problem doing so. Sometimes, they get in the way. Other times their story line needs its own story because it is taking over. Other times, the main character has learned to depend on them too much.

Bobby Nash: I do it all the time, so I guess I’m okay with it. Ha! Ha!

Robbie Cheadle: I was advised to kill off a few of my darlings in Through the Nethergate by my developmental editor. It was a little hard to let those scenes go but it was the right thing to do. Listening to good advice is the best thing a writer can do.

What methods do you use to evoke emotion in your readers?

Mario Acevedo: Writing fiction gives you the wonderful opportunity to present what characters are thinking or feeling, either through internalizations or visceral reactions.  I use these inner experiences to ground the reader in what the character is feeling and what is important in the story.

Paul Kane: There are all sorts of ways to do that, from killing off people readers have grown to love – as mentioned before – to putting them through the wringer, or even having them fall in love. If you’ve done your job properly, a reader will feel the emotions characters are going through. So when a character hates or loves something, or someone, a reader will feel that too. I once wrote a story about two ghosts falling in love called ‘Kindred Spirits’. The girl ghost has only just died, so she doesn’t know what she is, and the guy ghost is trying to help her because he’s been dead for some time. Hopefully a reader feels the sadness at the start that he feels, being alone where nobody can see or touch him, then the joy at finding someone else he can talk to and touch, even hug. To be able to cover the range of emotions like that in a short space of time isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding when it works.

Bobby Nash: It’s all in the characters and setting the mood. The emotion comes out of the performance of the character.

Kevin Killiany: Honesty

Which of your own characters was the most fun for you to write? Why?

Paul Kane: I enjoyed writing the character of Nick Skinner in Lunar, because he’s just your average guy in a bizarre situation, having to think on his feet and react to all these weird things that are happening to him. That was fun. And The Infinity, the bad guy in Before, as I’ve said. It was fun to write someone so evil that he’s verging on pantomime level, but that’s just how he is. There’s a scene where someone tells him to stop stirring, and he replies with: ‘I f**king enjoy stirring!’ Because he does. That’s what he’s all about. It was fun creating and writing him, especially writing his lines. The criticism I got the most about that book was The Infinity wasn’t in it enough, so you know you’ve done something right at that point. I’m toying with bringing him back in a short story or two, because you could go back in time and show him at any point – he’s been there at all the major turning points in history. It might be fun to do that…

Chris Barili: I really enjoy writing Frank Butcher, and most of his posse members. They’re some of the most complete characters I have built, and each has their own voice, their own flaws, and their own motivations.  And each has a weird past that helps flesh out their personality, so writing the is easy.

Bobby Nash: That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child or parent. They all have their fun moments for different reasons. I love writing Archer Snow, the surly, but funny grandfather in the Snow series. Tom Myers is also fun to write.

Robbie Cheadle: I have enjoyed all my characters. During the writing process they all become very real and important. Once the book is published, they are quickly replaced by different characters, which is why I haven’t attempted a sequel.

Kevin Killiany: Cadet Fatima Kielani. [I jotted her last name down several years ago when I was watching a news report on Syrian Kurds fighting ISIS—it was on the screen briefly. I assumed it was Kurdish (and have a major supporting character in Life on Dirt identify it as such) but I was wrong. I’ve since learned it’s most common in the United Arab Emirates (with about half as many in Jordan) and is also found in both Austria and Benin, but no one knows its origin.] [It is not the Hawai’ian girls’ name Keilani.] Fatima is a seventeen-year-old Spacer, first generation, born and raised on Tombaugh Station, who volunteers for an experimental program on Earth, even though (or perhaps because) she’s terrified of the place. My background is special education and mental health services, and I gave Fatima a condition that has fascinated me since before it had a name: Social Communication Disorder (Pragmatic Communication Disorder in the UK). In many ways it resembles the Autism Disorder Spectrum, but is in no way related. People with SCD are blind to social norms and nonverbal cues, and must work their way through everyday interactions. I also, because I am cruel and unusual, gave her a rare dissociative disorder: she has trouble recognizing, or feeling, her own emotions.
I have attached an entry from Fatima’s journal to illustrate both how she sees the world and how she interacts with others.

Which of your antagonists is your favorite? Why?

Chris Barili: So far, it’s a tie between Annie’s ghost of a mother in Smothered, and John Wesley Hardin in the Hell’s Bucher-based short story “Witch’s Kiss.” The first because I got to make her up and have her interrupt an intimate scene between her daughter and a man. The second because I researched him thoroughly and felt like I knew him well enough to write a story where this very real gunfighter did some very fictional things, and I feel like I did so without compromising his character.

Bobby Nash: The Controller in Suicide Bomb was a lot of fun to write.

Robbie Cheadle: I enjoyed Lucifer in Through the Nethergate. He was a young, good looking man with an interesting plan to manipulate modern trends and technology to invoke a third world war. I also enjoyed the hell he created.

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That’s all for this week on the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series . Thanks for joining us. Drop by next Saturday, when the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series introduces award winning multi-genre author, Mario Acevedo and offers a Q & A on Action, Pacing & Dialog.

Ask the Authors 2022

Don’t forget to get your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 from your favorite book distributor at the special price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series, through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

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Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends – The Zulus Part 2 #Beadwork #Traditionalstory

Last month for Dark Origins, African Myths and Legends, I shared an introduction to the Zulu people of South Africa, the Great Zulu King Shaka and the legend of the Buffalo Thorn tree. If you missed it, you can read it here: https://writingtoberead.com/2022/04/27/dark-origins-african-myths-and-legends-the-zulus-part-1/

This month, I will be sharing information about Zulu beadwork and the messages contained therein as well as a traditional story.

Zulu beadwork

The Zulu people of South Africa have a rich tradition of beadwork. Originally, bone, small horns, shells and small pieces of polished wood and stone were pierced to make beads that were strung together as necklaces and belts.

When the Zulus started trading with the Europeans at the end of the 18th century, glass and ceramic beads were introduced into their beadwork.

Traditionally, both men and women wore beaded belts called umutsha to which a piece of cloth was attached to cover the pubic area. The belts have conical brass buttons that fasten the belt at both ends.

The colours and designs incorporated into Zulu beadwork hold specific meanings. Red beads, for example, signifies intense and jealous passion or eyes that are red from watching for a loved one to return. Yellow signifies contentment, pink or green for poverty or coolness, white for faithfulness and purity and black to indicate a desire to be married.

The main shape used in traditional Zulu beadwork is the triangle where the three corners represent Father, Mother, and Child. The triangle is also used to indicate gender and marital status, for example, if the tip points upwards it represents an unmarried girl. If the tip points downwards, it means an unmarried boy.

Zulu beadwork is used to make traditional dolls and jewelry as well as beaded ostrich eggs and bead coasters.

In summary, beads are an integral part of African history and culture. The serve as a form of money, indicate wealth, are spiritual talismans and form coded messages for the recipient.

Traditional Zulu music:

The South African pre-battle Haka:

Reading of a traditional Zulu story

My reading of The Chief’s Daughter and the Cannibal, a traditional Zulu story from Myths and Legends of Southern Africa by Penny Miller:

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

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Review in Practice: Self-Publish Strong Books 1-4

Let me just start by saying that I’m a big fan of Andrea Pearson, the author of these books. I listened to her on the Six Figure Authors podcast, along with her two co-hosts, Lindsay Barker and Joe Lallo, all through the fall and spring semesters. So, when I found out we were going to be using Rock Solid Newsletter in our class, I jumped at the opportunity to buy the whole set, even though I only needed the one book for class. Which is just to say, that I knew these books would have lots of valuable information for me as an author before I ever cracked them open, and indeed they did.

In Book 1, Rock Solid Book, Andrea offers tips for making sure you have a book that readers will want to read. Book 2, Rock Solid Platform, gives advice on finding and acquiring fans who will read just about anything you write. Book 3, Rock Solid Promotion, discusses book marketing, protons and deals that sell. And finally, in Book 4, Rock Solid Newsletter, she tells how to set up your newsletter and automation sequence and clean your newsletter email list, so you know you have true fans who want to hear about you and your books, which increases your open and click rates and is more effective at selling books.

Self-Publish Strong Books 1-4 is filled with valuable information for independent authors, which I’m using to improve and grow my newsletter list, which is soon to become my readers’ group, and set up promotions for all of my 2022 releases. Andrea Pearson offers tips, advice and good strategies for producing a quality book which readers will buy, getting the word out about your books and finding readers who will buy them.

What she doesn’t do in Rock Solid Newsletter, is to instruct on the technical set-up of the newsletter, because each newsletter platform is different. I don’t hold that against the book though, as these books are not instruction manuals, but instead, they offer strategies to leverage your books into a better selling position. I managed to change my reader magnet and my welcome email so it will be delivered as intended. (I think,. I still need to test it.) And that’s where I’m stuck, because I don’t understand the technicalities of setting up an automation sequence, but I know I need to set one up. I may have to find someone to help me on that one. So, although I haven’t put all of the advice offered in Publish Strong Books 1-4 to use yet, I’m well on my way.

You can get your copy of Self-Publish Strong Books 1-4 here:

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Publish-Strong-Books-1-4-How-ebook/dp/B06X3W91BV

Or they can be purchased individually here: http://selfpublishstrong.com/books/

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Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a M.A. in Publishing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you.

She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”); and Where Spirits Linger (“The People Upstairs”). Her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, and her short story collection, Last Call, are both available in both digital and print editions at most of your favorite book distributors.

When not writing, she keeps up her author’s blog, Writing to be Read, where she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. In addition to creating her own imprint in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. As well as serving as judge for the Western Writers of America and sitting on the editorial team for Western State Colorado University and WordFire Press for the Gilded Glass anthology and editing Weird Tales: The Best of the Early Years 1926-27, under Jonathan Maberry.

In her spare time, she is bird watching, or hiking, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.

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Sign up for the Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for and book event news for WordCrafter Press books, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of Kaye Lynne Booth’s paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, just for subscribing.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Plot/Storyline

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back to the “Ask the Authors 2022” Saturday blog series.

If you missed them, you can catch the first two segments here:

Segment 1Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killany/Writing Life Q & A

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-Writing Rituals Q & A

This is the third segment for this series and today I’m going to introduce you to contributing author, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, who shares her essay about her own publishing journey in the book, and bring you a Q & A on plot, or storyline, from the WordCrafter writing reference anthology, Ask the Authors 2022.

Meet Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a writer of young adult and adult fiction in the supernatural fantasy, historical horror, and historical supernatural genres. Under the name Robbie Cheadle, she is a South African children’s author, publishing the Sir Chocolate series with her son, Michael, and a poet with 2 published poetry books.

To date, Roberta has published two novels, Through the Nethergate, and A Ghost and His Gold, along with several short stories in various anthologies including Whispers of the Past, Spirits of the West, and Where Spirits Linger, all edited and compiled by Kaye Lynne Booth, and Dark Visions, Nightmareland, Spellbound, Wings & Fire, and Shadowland, all compiled by Dan Alatorre.

Robbie is also a member of the Writing to be Read blogging team and co-editor of Poetry Treasures (2021) and Poetry Treasures 2: Relationships (2022), two poetry anthologies with contributing authors who were guests from her “Treasuring Poetry” blog series. When she is not writing, Robbie enjoys working in the garden and creating fondant and cake artworks to be featured in her children’s books.

And now for the Q & A.

Plot/Storyline

How do you feel about prologues? Love them or hate them? Why?

Mario Acevedo: I’m not a fan of prologues and as I see them as superfluous to the story. If you must include a prologue, then call it Chapter One to make sure readers like me won’t flip past it.

Paul Kane: I have no strong feelings about them either way. Sometimes I’ve used them, other times I’ve gone straight into Chapter One. I know some writers who say if you can avoid Prologues then do it and just start with the first chapter, but I think if it serves a purpose then there’s a place for one. I tend to include them in the thrillers, because it’s always an event that kicks things off – so for example in Her Last Secret, it’s the death of Jordan Radcliffe, in Her Husband’s Grave it’s the discovery of a body on Golden Sands beach, and in The Family Lie it’s a couple of campers who see a man on fire in the woods. I then split the narrative into parts, and in Chapter One I tend to introduce the main protagonist, so it might be the person who’ll be doing the investigating; someone whose eyes we’ll be seeing most of the events in the book through.

Chris Barili: I normally skip prologues in the books I read, especially if they’re more than two pages long, so naturally, I try to avoid them in my own writing. I tend to be of the mind that if it’s important enough to be in the story, I can be “Chapter One” or background info sprinkled throughout the story.

Bobby Nash: Prologues have their uses. I don’t think they need to be used in every story and I certainly don’t use them as an info dump. Sometimes, they work well.

Robbie Cheadle: I have no strong feelings about prologues. If the story requires one, then it should be there, if not, it can be omitted. I have not as yet included a prologue in one of my books.

Nancy Oswald: Not too fond of them. I think it’s better to jump right into the story.

Kevin Killiany: Prologues are essentially exposition—they explain the conditions or situation that make the story itself possible and necessary. Sometimes they contain information vital to the climax or outcome of the story that the writer could not figure out how to insert into the narrative itself. Like any tool they are not good or bad in and of themselves. I have, rarely, used prologues as placeholders in rough drafts; repositories to hold essential information until I work out how to work the really important bits into the narrative. Only one of my short stories ever went to press with both a prologue and epilog: “Simple Farmer”, Total Warfare, FanPro, 2006, a tie-in story for the Classic BattleTech RPG. They contained information long-time players knew, but new and less minutia-oriented readers would need to understand the story’s significance to the game.

What is the most difficult part of the story to write: beginning, middle or end?

Mario Acevedo: For me, the entire book is a challenge. I tell new writers not to sweat a perfect beginning because it’s often not till you write the ending do you figure what the beginning needs to say. The middle is called “the swamp” for good reason and the key here is to keep in mind the story question as you introduce plot twists.

Paul Kane: This changes, depending on at which point in the story or book you ask me. It’s hard to make a start on a project, because you’ve just got the blank page in front of you. But then it’s just as hard the next day to come to it and see another blank page… I tend to flag about halfway through and wonder what the hell I’m doing or wish I’d never even started it. The end is definitely the best part, if you’ve panned it well and can bring the book in for a good landing. There’s no more satisfying feeling in the world than having written the book. I always joke that I hate writing – which for a writer probably isn’t great – but I do love having written. Having a first draft that I can then tinker with. That’s my favourite part of the process if I’m honest, apart from getting the idea in the first place and developing that. But even at an early stage, you’ve got the whole mountain of a book to write ahead of you, which can be quite daunting. 

Bobby Nash: I don’t know if I would call it more difficult to write, but the middle is usually where I start getting bogged down. Knowing when to transition from the middle to the end can be tricky.

Robbie Cheadle: It is all the same for me. I have the outline in my head, and I write in that direction. I do not find any parts more difficult, and I am for consistency and fluidity throughout my stories.

Jeff Bowles: For me, a short story or novel isn’t complete until I’ve managed to synthesize a decent tie-up ending. It can be tough to do, especially if you aren’t using a road map or outline of some sort, which I often do just to see where the story takes me. Sometimes I do a lot of preplanning, and that can certainly help, but even then, things in the plot can and do change, which means a good ending can still be hard to stick. Beginnings carry all the burden of proof, the reason someone will or won’t want to read your work, but even they depend on where a narrative ultimately ends up. As the saying goes, the seeds of an ending are always found in its beginning.

Nancy Oswald: Each book is different.

What are the elements of a good plot?

Paul Kane: That it hangs together well and is pacy. That there are no flabby bits which are unnecessary. Every bit of your story should be relevant and serve a purpose; if you could take certain bits out and still have the same plot, then they weren’t necessary in the first place. That it moves along well from beginning to the middle, to the end, and leaves a reader satisfied; and by that I mean content that they haven’t just wasted a chunk of their lives reading it. It’s why I always plan, so I can see the shape of the plot and work out what sections need to stay, which can be salvaged, and which need to be jettisoned.

Bobby Nash: I tell stories that I hope are coherent, make sense, and are entertaining. If that happens and the characters work, I’m happy.

What is the best hook you’ve ever written? Why?

Paul Kane: Ooh, that’s a hard one. Do you mean at the beginning of a story to make the reader go on? I’d say probably The Family Lie – and reviewers have mentioned this a lot! It’s the whole thing of showing those campers hearing something in the woods, looking out and seeing a guy on fire among the trees. I mean, what on earth’s going on there? If it doesn’t make you want to read on and find out then I’ve really not done my job properly. Up there with that is probably the start of Servants of Hell. That purposely mirrors the puzzle box scene with Frank from The Hellbound Heart, where he’s trying to solve the Lament Configuration and summon the Cenobites. I have a very similar scene, but right at the end you discover it’s Sherlock Holmes solving the puzzle just as the Cenobites show up. We then go back and find out how he ended up in that situation, but man what a hook! I was the one on fire the day I wrote that.

Chris Barili: Probably the opening to Guilty, the prequel to my Hell’s Butcher series. It opens with the main character face down in a saloon, dead from a gunshot wound. His first interaction is with a bartender who is half-rhinoceros.

Bobby Nash: I love this opening to Snow Falls.

“Abraham Snow knew he was about to die–

–and the thought of it pissed him off to no end.”

What kind of stakes do you set for your characters?

Paul Kane: Usually quite high stakes. Even if it’s something that’s high stakes for them alone, something that means a great deal to them, but might not to anyone else. You have to give characters motivation, nudge them to do things they might not otherwise do, and the only way to achieve that is by making it a high stakes gamble for them. They might lose their marriage, kids, or even their life. It makes a reader keep on turning the pages to find out how they’ll get on. In Lunar, the stakes really couldn’t be any higher for my protagonist Nick Skinner: he needs to find out why the world became stuck at a certain point in time; what the white-eyed Loons are roaming about, killing people; and he needs to find out where the love of his life Dawn is. Track her down and save her. Hopefully you go along with him for the ride to find out how he gets on. 

Chris Barili: Again, that depends on the story and the genre. The stakes in a romance are a broken heart or happiness, while that in a horror story might actually be losing their heart.

Bobby Nash: Every story is different, but the stakes have to impact the character on some personal level. If the character doesn’t feel anything or there’s no stakes for them, the reader has no reason to get invested.

Robbie Cheadle: Through the Nethergate and A Ghost and His Gold were both about ghosts which have become trapped in between the physical world here on earth, and the afterlife. The reasons for this happening are different in both books, but the ghosts searching for redemption, so they can move on to the next level of existence is a common thread. The Soldier and the Radium Girl is different and is about a young couple’s quest for justice.

Do you write in subplots purposefully or do they develop organically for you?

Paul Kane: I work all those out beforehand, when I do my planning. That’s when subplots will occur to me and develop organically at the ideas level when I’m figuring it all out. As I mentioned, that doesn’t mean it’s all set in stone, there is always scope to change things if it makes the story better, but it allows you to figure out what main plots and subplots you’re going to need before you even start writing.

Chris Barili: Both. I plan some, and others pop up during the course of telling the story. If your characters are realistic enough, and you know them well enough you won’t be able to avoid the latter happening at least a little in your story.

Bobby Nash: A little of both. In writing series like Snow or Sheriff Myers, I know plot points for future books so I set up things that will pay off later. There are times, however, where I’ll decide something later and go back to set up the subplots and discover they are already there. Sometimes, my characters are smarter than I am.

Robbie Cheadle: Subplots do develop organically for me and are often a result of the interesting additional information I discover through my research as I go along.

Nancy Oswald: Develop organically.

Kevin Killiany: Subplots are always purposeful. In fact I always write complex or substantive subplots as individual stories in first/rough draft. Jigsawing the parts together—trimming, expanding, and polishing as needed—is part of the editorial process. 

How do you assure that all subplots are resolved at the end of the story?

Mario Acevedo: I don’t because I like messy endings. The main story question is resolved, but usually involves a compromise by the protagonist. Unresolved subplots are good places to hitch up a sequel.

Paul Kane: Well, they might not be – but that would be something you leave dangling on purpose. For example, and this is a spoiler, at the end of The Gemini Factor we find out that one of the main characters Deborah is pregnant with twins. This was part of the subplot of her falling in love with Jack, a twin himself, who ends up getting killed. So we don’t really see the resolution of what she does about having his kids… unless I do a sequel, which actually I’m intending to do at some point. So leaving things open-ended sometimes can shoot off into yet another story. Pulling on a story thread that you’ve left dangling.

Chris Barili: Well, first off, some are not resolved because I want them to continue into the next book. For those that wrap up in the current book, I create a plot line, usually color-coded, in my beat sheet for that subplot so I don’t forget it.

Bobby Nash: Keep good notes. There was one time I realized that I had forgotten to resolve a plot point and so I started planning how to resolve it and the characters showed me which way to go. It turned out far better than my original idea. That’s why I trust my characters to get me where I need to go.

Robbie Cheadle: I engage the services of a developmental editor to read my stories carefully and help me tidy up lose threads, tighten the storyline, and produce the best story possible. I am also fortunate enough to have two Beta readers who read my work chapter-by-chapter and help me resolve issues and lose threads or contradictions as I go along.

Kevin Killiany: Sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they’re hooks for the next story.

What methods do you use to add tension and conflict to your story?

Mario Acevedo: Make sure the characters, even those on the same side, have competing agendas.

Paul Kane: Well, I use suspense to ramp up the tension. And if you want to know how that works, just go away and watch a bunch of Hitchcock movies because he was the master. Show the bomb and the ticking clock under the table, but have the characters oblivious to it. That’s suspense, folks! As for conflict, you have to have characters with different points of view, just like in real life. Where do all the arguments come from in your own life? People who disagree with you on a certain course of action or about beliefs. Just look at something like The X-Files, which I watched from start to finish again recently. Mulder’s the believer, Scully’s the sceptic, and we watched the arguments – as well as sexual tension – between them for many years. Opposing viewpoints, yet when the chips were down they worked for the common good; the perfect combination. In my novel Arcana, which is set in an alternate universe, I had a young M-Forcer whose job it is to police magic users, unwittingly fall in love with a member of a group of magic users he’s chasing. Then you ask the question: what now? Will he turn his back on what he believes for love? Or bring her in? Or is there more to what’s going on in the first place than they know? It makes for tension, conflict and… if you’ll pardon the pun, given the novel in question, sparks.

Bobby Nash: Character moments are good for this. There are also tricks you can do on the writing side. Short, choppy sentences speed up the action. Long paragraphs slow it down. That sort of thing.

Robbie Cheadle: It depends on the book in question. With my current novel, there is a lot of irony because a lot of readers will be familiar with the story of the radium girls. War stories include their own tension due to the conflict situations that are innate in the history. I make use of flawed characters so that they do things that create conflict situations through their own poorly thought-out actions and their strong ideas and views about other characters and the situations they are in due to external circumstances.

Nancy Oswald: If I’m bored the reader will be too, so I try to pay attention to that and analyze where the story gets slow (or not).

Kevin Killiany: Mostly I just add tension and conflict. You should always keep in mind that every character is the hero of their own story—every character has a reason for what they’re doing. Begin with characters you care about (Not the reader, you; fake it ≠ make it.) and give them compelling reasons for their actions. When the actions and the underlying reasons for those actions of two people you care about run contrary to each other, the conflict generates the tension.

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That wraps up the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series for today. I thank you for joining us and hope you found some of this useful. Next Saturday will bring you an introduction to contributing author, Paul Kane and a Q & A on Character Development. See you then.

Ask the Authors 2022

And don’t forget to grab your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 from your favorite book distributor at the special price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series, through the Books2Read UBL here: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Mind Fields: Crime Thrillers And Mystery Media

Mind Fields

I read everything. I read fiction, non fiction, biography, history, psychology. If libraries were edible there would be few surviving libraries. I would have been a Godzilla-like creature with an insatiable appetite for books, “The Monster That Devoured Libraries”. I’ve been reading voraciously since I was eight years old. I started my reading career with historical fiction, then turned to sci-fi and Fantasy. I detoured into crime fiction and mysteries but I put them down in my twenties and never returned until I saw the film “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. That rekindled my lust for good thrillers and I checked out the late Stieg Larsen’s epic trilogy. Then I turned to the somber depths of Henning Mankell, author of the Wallander mystery series.

Mankell is sixty four years old. I find this fact very much  in his favor. I like reading authors who’ve got some worldly experience, who are old enough to recognize the body’s fragility and are beginning to be on speaking terms with death.

Henning Mankell spends half of his year living in Maputo, Mozambique. He is director of a drama troupe called Teatro Del Avenida. What, I wonder, could be better food for a writer’s mind than to open himself to a world so utterly alien to his native experience?

Stockholm/Maputo, Stockholm/Maputo… here is a successful writer who is seriously engaged with the world. He’s not hiding in some comfy Swedish estate, churning out formulaic mystery books. His writing is many layers deep.

Mankell’s best-selling character, Chief Inspector Wallander, is a frustrating man. He’s frustrating to his daughter, he’s frustrating to his colleagues; he’s especially frustrating to himself. Somehow he never seems to get to that vulnerable place that allows his feelings to surface. He looks like a man tormented by an itch that he can never scratch. He walks around with three days’ growth of beard on his face, his shirt tails are hanging out, his eyes are bleary.

Somehow he always catches the killer, by thrashing his way through obscure connections, chasing ancient traumas, exposing religious zealotry and the classic motive to many a murder, old fashioned desire for revenge. Wallander’s like a gloomy Colombo. He always has one more question.

Mankell’s prose is austere and controlled. It evokes the Swedish countryside, from its thousands of Baltic islands to its birch forests and vast yellow fields of mustard and flax. Mankell also takes non-Swedish readers into the Swedish mind-set via references to Swedish history and attitudes.

There is a nostalgia for an “old” Sweden. Just as we in the U.S. have pre and post Nine Eleven mind-sets, the Swedes divide their recent history into periods before and after the assassination of their prime minister Olaf Palme in 1986. The crime was never solved and remains a collective national trauma.

Any sensitive reading of Mankell requires this awareness of the Swedish world-view. Americans are not great in being aware of other cultures and other histories. This is an opportunity to absorb Swedish culture from one of its iconic writers.

James Lee Burke

        A quote from the novel Swan Peak:

“There are occasions in this world when you’re allowed to step inside a sonnet, when clocks stop and you don’t worry about time’s winged chariot and hands that beckon you from the shadows.”

I flat out love James Lee Burke’s writing. He’s another writer with some miles on his old frame. His best selling series characters, Detective Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell are two of the most colorful non-heroes in crime fiction. Most of Burke’s novels move in and around New Orleans and the bayou country. The area’s history is like a character in itself.  The ghosts of civil war personalities haunt the landscape. Burke’s stories draw on the family feuds and crimes from the past. His plots involves the great great great grandchildren of  plantation owners and slaves. James Lee Burke’s writing is an invocation of living memory.

Certain structures appear in Burke’s narratives. There’s always an aristocratic family whose roots go back to ante-bellum times. This family has entanglements within the black community. The family is also “mobbed up”, albeit quietly, with the Giacano people in New Orleans. 

People whose grandparents were slaves still work  for this family. Some old blues man who plays the local dives witnessed a killing forty years ago. He won’t talk about it; he never talks about the “doings of white folk”. Dave can pry bits of information from the reluctant guitar man when he promises not to reveal his source. All the same, there’s a possibility that the old blues man’s body will float out of the bayou some time down the road.

Dave is a recovering alcoholic. The longing, the nostalgia for a shot of Johnny Walker in a glass of beer, is so authentic that Burke’s nascent alcoholism is clear as an empty decanter.

Burke knows the landscape of longing, of grief for an addiction that provided so much comfort yet brought so much destruction. This is why James Lee Burke is so good as a writer: he’s honest about who he is and his “real” personality bleeds across into his characters with perfect fidelity. 

Here they are, the inhabitants of James Lee Burke’s fictional world. Dave Robicheaux, Vietnam vet and PTSD sufferer. Alcoholic. A cop who resents authority. Habitue of AA meetings when the pressure builds. Lover of his wife and his daughter Alafair and his tame three legged raccoon Tripod and his un-neutered warrior cat, Snuggles. Best friend of Clete Purcell, a de-frocked homicide cop who now does skip tracing for bondsmen Nig Rosewater and Wee Willie Bimstine.

Clete is enormous, powerful, aggressive, self indulgent and frequently teeters on the brink of losing his self control. He is described as “an elephant falling down a stairs”. He still drinks and pushes Dave’s patient loyalty to the boundary. A fellow Vietnam vet, fellow PTSD patient, Clete was Dave’s partner in the homicide division of New Orleans Police Department.

In the old days they were called “The Bobbsey Twins.”

Burke mixes up all these characters to create stories with perfect pacing and addictive tension. He describes the color of light in Bayou Teche, the sound of the rain as it blows in from the Gulf. Someone out there creeping around the roots of the drowned trees is leveling a telescopic site onto Dave’s forehead. That someone may be a psychopathic ex-prison guard from Angola Penitentiary, a “gun bull”, a racist of the old stripe who once prodded prison laborers from the saddle of his horse, carrying a shotgun and ready to use it.

Burke’s villains have a whiff of sulfur about them, they aren’t quite human, they have a Satanic indifference to human suffering and a quick toughness that seems invincible.

These are some of the scariest villains in fiction. These are just a few reasons why you should read James Lee Burke.

His heroes are flawed, his villains terrifying, his victims pathetic and mute, his settings historic and laced with the colors of Spanish moss and the distant growl of alligators.

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Treasuring Poetry – Meet author and poet Yvette M. Calleiro and a review

Today, I am delighted to introduce you to poet and author, Yvette M. Calleiro. I have read and enjoyed a few of Yvette’s lovely books and I am also a fan of her poetry.

Which of your own poems is your favourite?

This is such a difficult question because I’m quite critical of my poems, most likely because many of them come from deep within my soul and scrutinize aspects of my mind and heart which have spent a long time being hidden. One of my favorites is “The Battle Within.”

The Battle Within

I am brave.

I am strong.

I am confident.

My reflection tells me so

Every morning and every night.

I believe her

Until at some point in the day

My inner voice awakens

And slithers through the slopes of my cerebral cortex,

Seeking a soft space to enter

And inseminate her vitriol.

Her termites gnaw

At the foundation of my strength

Until it shatters into splinters

And crumbles them to dust.

She pours gasoline to fuel the fire.

The flames scorch the blanket

That tries to shield me from

The stream of searing scenarios

Of what ifs and maybes and if onlys.

Her berating mantra

Batters against my brain,

Bullying me into accepting

Her truth as mine,

But I refuse to accept her broken record.

I refuse to let her have control.

She is not me

No matter how convincing she can be.

She lives in the darkest recesses of my mind,

And I have the power to prevent her

From gaining more ground.

I breathe deeply

Once

Twice

In

Out

Inhale peace

Exhale fear

I gently shut the doors

So her access disappears

For now.

She will try again,

But I’ll be ready

For I am brave.

I am strong.

I am confident.

Another poem that I’ve written that stands out to me is “Be In The Moment.”

Be In The Moment

BE

Such a tiny little word.

If you look too quickly,

You might miss it.

But, oh, what power it has!

Its life-sustaining energy

Stills chaos in an instant.

IN just being,

Allow your breath to calm the mind.

Slow down.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Notice.

Feel.

Let go.

THE beauty of life

Begins and ends with one breath.

Calm the mind.

Still the worries, anxieties, and negative thoughts.

Awaken your senses.

Feel the earth beneath you,

The wind caressing your hair,

The sun warming your skin.

Hear the birds serenading the world,

The laughter of a child,

The rustle of the trees’ leaves.

Smell the sea salt as waves crash upon the shore,

The freshly cut lawn on a dewy morning,

The percolating coffee.

See the puffy, white clouds as they lazily stroll by,

The precious poodle pulling excitedly on his chain

On his quest to mark a new territory,

The elderly woman tenderly caring for her roses.

MOMENT by moment,

Pause, breathe, and cherish

The precious life you are given.

Just be. Be in the moment.

What inspired you to write these poems?

I developed an anxiety order about a decade ago. It took me a long time to learn to manage it, and it is something that I actively attend to every day. My anxiety manifests through negative ruminating thoughts, and for a long time, they completely drained me of my strength and energy. Through many types of therapy, I have learned to regain control of those moments. I have setbacks every now and then, but more often than not, I prevail. “The Battle Within” depicts that struggle but also reminds me of my true inner strength.

Mindfulness and meditation are huge parts of my life. They are two tools that have helped bring me peace in my anxious world. I wanted to create a poem that emulated the calmness that comes when meditating, and “Be In The Moment” is what emerged from my mind.

What are your plans for your poetry going forward?

I’ve written poetry since I was 12 years old. Back then, they were silly, rhyming poems. I have since evolved as a poet  and continue to enhance my craft. For years, I only wrote free verse, but I’ve recently been learning about syllabic poetry through Colleen Chesebro’s #Tanka Tuesday challenges. Ultimately, I hope to publish a book of poems that encompass my life’s journey into poetry.

What is your favourite poem?

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Why do you like this poem?

This poem has always resonated with me. It speaks of choices that must be made and of accepting the consequences of those choices. Making decisions has always been difficult for me. I overthink the options and wonder about the options I don’t choose. This poem reminds me to embrace my choice and move forward. I also love using the poem in my classroom with my students. The conversations are always so rich and meaningful.

My love for poetry made its way into my newest novel, HYPE. One of the characters, Gaby, uses her poems to express her deepest, darkest emotions and secrets. Here is one of her poems:

A Lit Candle

For years, I was the beautiful centerpiece,

The elegant, most prized decoration of the home.

I was bright and cheery, tall and elegant.

Everyone always stopped to admire my beauty,

To comment on how special I was.

Until one day, someone thought

It would be a great idea to light a match

And see how well I could withstand the heat.

I could smell the rancid sulfur

As the matchstick caught fire.

It was then that I discovered what true fear felt like.

The sensation of the intense heat

Violating my wick

Was too much to endure.

I screamed and crackled

As the fire invaded my wick.

I cried tears of wax

As the blaze melted my beauty away.

I wished there was some way to stop it,

To keep it from taking away

All that was pure and perfect about me.

I wanted someone,

Anyone,

To blow out the flame,

To save what was left of my beauty,

But no one could hear me.

No one was even paying attention

To my withering loveliness.

I cried and cried

Until there was no wax left to cry with,

And when all my beauty was gone,

The flame finally burned out

And I was discarded.

No longer did anyone admire me.

No longer did anyone care.

I was alone,

Abandoned,

Dead.

Thank you, Yvette, for being a lovely guest.

My review of Hype

What Amazon says

Cici’s junior year in high school is going to be the best year ever. Popular co-captain of the varsity cheerleading team, she’s dating the starting quarterback. Even her jealous co-captain’s attempts to steal her boyfriend can’t curb her enthusiasm.

When her mom moves in with her fiancé, a handsome, wealthy man, only one small detail threatens Cici’s perfect life. The school’s social pariah is about to become her stepsister, and Cici wants nothing to do with her.

Everything changes when someone Cici cares about throws her life into a tailspin, and the one person Cici couldn’t stand becomes her only ally.

Warning: This story contains scenes of sexual assault.

My review

Hype was a most interesting read for me. I grew up and attended school in South Africa and my experience was very different from the life of a school girl described in this book. I couldn’t help thinking that the strict rules I grew up with were helpful in preventing some of the prejudices towards other people, based on their appearance and behaviour, that were described in this book. We wore school uniforms, had to tie our hair back and wore no makeup. We most certainly did not demonstrate affection towards the opposite sex during school hours. It was an excellent insight into school life in America.

Cici is a popular cheerleader and her boyfriend, Ryan, is on the football team and is also popular. He is voted Homecoming King which demonstrates his place on the schoolboy social ladder. Cici is an interesting character as she is totally self absorbed and selfish in many ways, but she is devoted to her mother and wants the best for her. This love is exploited by a predator to keep her quiet when she is sexually assaulted later in the story. Despite her giddiness and obsession with maintaining her social position at school, Cici is naïve and innocent. This aspect of her character is demonstrated a few times in the book.

When Cici’s mother, a successful lawyer who works long hours, decides to marry a man she met six months previously, Cici discovers that one of the most uncool girls in the school, a Goth the students call Grub, will become her step-sister. Cici is most displeased abut this situation and doesn’t want Grub raining on her parade. Cici, however, comes to realise that bad things can happen in life and these events can shape a person and cause them to exhibit certain behaviours in self defense. Cici comes to appreciate Grub when her own life spins out of control.

This book tackles the difficult subject of schoolgirl rape and I felt those scenes were well handled and appropriate for a YA audience. The horror of the situation was conveyed without the author going into to much detail. Sub themes are not to judge someone by their appearance, and not to trust people you don’t know really well. The book also covers the type of counselling and student support that is available in the American school system which was interesting.

I enjoyed this book and it is well written and and has good flow.

Purchase Hype by Yvette M. Calleiro

Amazon US

Yvette M. Calleiro Amazon Author Page

About Yvette M. Calleiro

Yvette M. Calleiro is the author of the Chronicles of the Diasodz fantasy series, HYPE, and two short stories. As a heavily addicted reader of both young adult and adult novels, she spends most of her time pseudo-living in paranormal worlds with her fictional friends (and boyfriends).

When she’s living among real people, she is a middle school Reading and Language Arts teacher. She’s been sharing her love of literature with her students for over twenty years. Besides writing about the various characters that whisper (and sometimes scream) in her head, she enjoys traveling, watching movies, spending quality time with family and friends, and enjoying the beauty of the ocean.

Yvette lives in Miami, Florida, with her incredible son who has embraced her love for paranormal and adventurous stories. She also shares her space with an assortment of crazy saltwater animals in her 300-gallon tank.

Twitter

Blog

About Robbie Cheadle

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Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with 9 children’s books and 2 poetry books.

The 7 Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie has also published 2 books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has 2 adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories in the horror and paranormal genre and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie writes a monthly series for https://writingtoberead.com called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.

Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/ where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

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Writer’s Corner: Where do I go from here?

I just finished up the spring semester at Western State Colorado University. We completed our class project, the Gilded Glass anthology, and.my solo project, Weird Tales: The Best of the Early Years 1926-27, which was quite the learning experience, but also a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the summer residency, where we will finish up our degrees and do a massive book launch party for the Gilded Glass anthology, and for each of our solo projects at the end of July.

Here is the release schedule for our cohort. Some of them are already out there. I’ve included the pre-order links in case you are interested in purchasing new renditions of any of these classic works. I think we all had fun bringing them back to life. And check out those fantastic covers!

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Today, I was listening to the last podcast episode of the Six Figure Authors podcast, and they were discussing their future plans now that the podcast is ending, (much to my dismay), and it made me start thinking about where I want to go with my writing career now that we’re wrapping things up and this chapter of my life is coming to an end. At the end of this summer, I will once again be on my own in my writing career. I hadn’t thought about it before, but summer’s end brings with it not only the book release event and graduation, but also the loss of access to my mentors Kevin J. Anderson and Allyson Languierra and the support and advice of my wonderful cohorts, and I have no idea what 2023 will bring. I need a plan.

This year, I’m set, with the release of the Poetry Treasures 2: Relationships poetry anthology this last semester, the launch of Ask the Authors 2022 writing reference anthology currently under way, and three short fiction anthologies planned for later in the year: Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales & Folklore an (August); Refracted Reflections: Twisted Tales of Duality & Deception (September); and Visions (October). (Hmmm… It seems this is the year of anthologies for me.) But, I need a plan for what comes after that.

Hmmm… I’m revising Delilah to be a part of the Women in the West series with hopes of getting that out by the end of the year, but I keep adding ideas for the series, so I may wait to release until I have at least one more of the books ready to go, so that might be in the plan for next year, although it was originally a part of the plan for 2022. Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Playground of the Gods science fantasy series, and the first book is actually with a beta reader right now. But I’ve also been tossing the idea trying it as a serialization around. If anyone has experience on serialization, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Either way, those stories will be a part of the 2023 plan. In addition, I’ve been thinking on a time-travel romance adventure story that I started in 2021, “The Outlaw & the Rockstar”, and those characters have been teasing my brain, so I’ll probably add that to the 2023 agenda. That will give me between 2 and 5 releases of my own books for the year, which isn’t too bad if I can pull it off. Of course, I’ll also want to do an annual poetry anthology and the annual writing contest and anthology, so I can add two more book projects to the agenda.

I don’t think I will be lacking for projects once I’ve bade academia good-bye. In fact, I’m tired just thinking about the whirlwind schedule I just outlined. But you know, I think it will be worth it, if it can enable me to move my writing career to a full time level. The first thing you need to do if you want to sell books, is to write books, so I’m sitting pretty good on that plane. I’m working to revive my monthly newsletter, which I believe will be one of my most valuable marketing tools, and organizing a multi-genre newsletter swap group to help spread the word on releases. I’ve got good lists for possible reviewers built for all the anthologies planned for 2022, which will work for the annual anthologies, but will have to be created for my own books, and this blog is a book marketing tool, too. It’s a place where readers can come to learn about my latest projects, and my readership is growing, so I think I’m on the right track there.

Well…, would you look at that? Why was I worried? I have a plan…, and I think it’s a good one.

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Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you. She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”); and Where Spirits Linger (“The People Upstairs”). Her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, and her short story collection, Last Call, are both available in both digital and print editions.

In her spare time, she keeps up her author’s blog, Writing to be Read, where she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. In addition to creating her own imprint in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. When not writing or editing, she is bird watching, or hiking, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.

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Sign up for the Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Newsletter for and book event news for WordCrafter Press books, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of Kaye Lynne Booth’s paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, just for subscribing.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Pre-Writing Rituals

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back for segment 2 of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series, with an introduction to Bobby Nash, who shares how to manage the many tasks which being an author entails, to the Ask the Authors 2022 Writing Reference Anthology, and a Q & A on Pre-Writing Rituals.

Last week, we learned a little about myself and author Kevin Killiany, in addition to the Q & A session on Writing Life. If you missed it, you can find it here.

And now on to this week’s post.

Meet Bobby Nash

Bobby Nash is not a man of action, a detective, or a hero, but he loves writing about characters who are all of those things and more. Bobby is an award-winning author of novels, comic books, short stories, screenplays, and more. He is a member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers and International Thriller Writers. On occasion, he acts, appearing in movies and TV shows, usually standing behind or beside your favorite actor. From time to time, he puts pen to paper and doodles. For more information on Bobby Nash and his work, please visit him at www.bobbynash.com, www.ben-books.com, and across social media.

Pre-Writing Rituals

Please tell us what genre(s) you write in and what type of research is required for your stories?

Mario Acevedo: I write commercial fiction—novels and short stories of supernatural fantasy, horror, and hard-boiled crime. My research is to make the story and setting sound as credible as possible.

Paul Kane: All kinds really. I’ve dabbled in a lot of genres and written in a lot of formats, from comics and audio scripting to TV and film. I started out doing journalism, so non-fiction, and had a couple of books out in that vein: The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy is probably the most well-known. Then I returned to writing short stories, because I was always writing those growing up; especially for English classes where the teachers would get exasperated at the length of some of them. I started sending these off to small presses and was lucky enough to get some printed, which then led to a collection. At the same time I’d been trying to write a novel, The Gemini Factor. I’d had a stab at a few before, so technically this was about my third or fourth novel, but the first I wrote with any serious intention of getting it published – which it was eventually, and there was even an anniversary edition which came out in 2020 through Gestalt Media. That was a horror serial killer thriller, by the way – and indeed most of the stuff I was doing back then was horror, and I carried on in that vein for a little while. Then around 2007, I pitched a book to Abaddon/Rebellion for their post-apocalyptic Afterblight series, which was a reworking of Robin Hood. They accepted that and it was my first mass market novel, so I’d shifted into SF at that point and wrote three novels altogether – gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man – plus a novella for them. I also wrote my first YA novel, The Rainbow Man, as PB Kane. At the same time I was writing short films like The Opportunity and The Weeping Woman, and then some audios – I adapted The Hellbound Heart into a full cast audio drama for Bafflegab – as well as working on and running conventions. More recently I’ve moved into writing straight thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins under the name PL Kane and the first of those, Her Last Secret, Her Husband’s Grave and The Family Lie, have all done very well. In amongst all that, I’ve written a couple of short plays too, one of which – One for the Road – was performed at FantasyCon 2015.  As for research, it very much depends on the kind of story you’re telling. Crime research is very different to SF, as you can probably imagine.

Chris Barili: I write in just about every genre, and I wouldn’t say one genre requires more research than the others. Rather, I’d say one series of stories requires it: Hell’s Marshal. Because it is set in the old west, I do extensive research to make sure it is accurate, or at least believable in light of the story itself.

Bobby Nash: I write in whatever genre the publisher wants. So far, I haven’t done a lot of fantasy, nor have I attempted romance or erotica. Most of my work has a thriller element to it. I also write a lot of action and crime fiction. Research varies from project to project.

Robbie Cheadle: My YA and adult books are all historical and most have a paranormal element. I do a lot of research for each book, plotting the historical events on a timeline and then overlying the events of my plot. A Ghost and His Gold had over thirty historical sources and my current work in progress, The Soldier and the Radium Girl, will end up have at least the same number of sources, possibly even more.

I also read a lot of books in the timeframe I am writing about, especially classic books that were written during the period. This helps me gain insight into the everyday lives of people living at the time and experiencing the historical events I’m writing about.

Nancy Oswald: I write mostly Colorado-set historical history for young readers. It’s not always in the same order, but I typically start by reading history of the area, but not always. I like to visit the sites and glean as much as I can about the area. For me, museums and history centers are a huge wealth of material. 

Kevin Killiany: Young adult, because the stories are more direct and revelatory of character. “Hard” science fiction (which means the fictional science is compatible with and based on real world science) and historical. Both require serious research, because accuracy is essential to the authenticity of the story.

How do you prefer to conduct your research: Live? Online? First-hand accounts?

Mario Acevedo: While the Internet is the most used because it is right in my computer, I continue to surprise myself with what treasures you find in newspaper microfiche, libraries, and visiting a place.

Paul Kane: I mainly do my research through a mixture of online searches, books and documentaries. For example for Her Husband’s Grave I did a lot of digging into psychology and serial killers, because my main character Dr Robyn Adams helps the police with their serial cases. For The Family Lie, I watched documentaries about cults and stuff like Jonestown, which led to some sleepless nights I can tell you. The cult of personality and all that. You get first-hand accounts in documentaries about subjects like that, so I haven’t needed to go to the horse’s mouth yet. Apart from in one instance, where I had a weapons expert called Trev Preston who’d help me with some of the details in the Hooded Man series. I’d ask him bizarre things like, is possible to take down an Apache Helicopter with a bolas – and he’d say yes or no. The answer’s yes, by the way, and that scene is in Broken Arrow

Chris Barili: I do almost all my research online.  Just don’t have time or resources to go visit far away places. That said, I did do some of that during two recent road trips.

Bobby Nash: I enjoy meeting and talking to people who do the jobs. I’ve talked with FBI agents, police, doctors, etc. about their respective jobs to get a feel for what they do. That adds a personal touch to the characters I have in those roles. On-line research is an invaluable tool to have at your fingertips. I also like to travel and visit locations where I can set stories and scenes.

Robbie Cheadle: I do all my research on-line and I like to use diaries, letters, and journals from the time, if possible.  Project Gutenberg is a wonderful resource for historical research.

Nancy Oswald: See above, but add first-hand accounts if they’re available. I usually save online for while I’m drafting, because inevitably I’ll need a piece of information that I couldn’t anticipate.

Kevin Killiany: I love a library—finding and searching through physical books—but these days the internet enables one to access more information quickly. Whenever possible, I visit locations used in my stories.

What are your best research sources?

Chris Barili: Town or county historians. As them the time and they will build you a clock.

Bobby Nash: Google is readily at my fingertips. Interviewing people is also a good source of information gathering and adds a personal touch.

Nancy Oswald: I like the online dictionary of etymology. Quick and accurate.

What do you look for in a source: Aim? Accuracy? Authority? Correlation?

Paul Kane: I think you’re always looking for accuracy, because it goes back to that thing of believability again. You need to be as accurate as you can with facts, just so the reader believes in what you’re doing. That said, it’s hard to research some of the things I write about, like monster cats coming back as ghosts and attacking people, but you just have to do your best. That’s where the imagination element comes into it. I recently wrote a story for a charity anthology that takes place in the universe of my novella The Rot, and I had to do tons of research into black mold to get that right – even just for short story. It’s that important.

Robbie Cheadle: I like my stories to be as historically accurate as possible, so I actively look for accuracy and correlate the information I find with as many other sources as possible.

Nancy Oswald: I usually check more than one source if I’m in doubt. For historical fiction I like to be accurate, but love, love, love historic photos for setting. 

What pre-writing exercises do you employ: Outlining? Free writing? Brainstorming?

Paul Kane: I rarely need to brainstorm, because Ideas come to me all the time and I jot them down. This means I’ve got tons of notebooks to draw on if I ever go blank… And I do plans, outlines and chapter breakdowns for novels. I might not stick religiously to them, but I find it helps me focus and keep on the straight and narrow, to keep going whenever I lose where I might be in the story. Like a kind of roadmap. You wouldn’t set off for a destination without having one of those – or a Satnav, or your phone – so why set off on a journey of many hours of hard work and 80 or 90 thousand words without an idea of where you’re heading? Some people wing it, I know, but I suspect they’re just planning it all out in their heads or their subconscious. 

Chris Barili: Yes. And more. Any tool I can get my hands on to make my writing better.

Bobby Nash: I rarely have time for pre-writing. Deadlines do not always allow for that. I spend my writing time writing. When I’m at the beginning of a project and creating characters, I will do free writing and just start jotting down notes as I get to know the characters. Sometimes, plot/story ideas will happen in this stage too.

Robbie Cheadle: I research each section before I start writing a new chapter. As mentioned previously, I have my ending plotted prior to commencing writing and that is the direction I write towards.

Nancy Oswald: Refer to answer about plotting or pantsing. Oh, it’s blank. None of the above. I think while I write most of the time, but I have used a time-line to plot on when I’m trying to track a fiction story-line and compare it to the actual historical events.

Do you try to write to market or write what you love?

Paul Kane: The quick answer is both. I’ve written stories just for the love it them, usually they’re new ones for collections – like ‘The Butterfly Man’, that was a story for a collection from PS of the same name. But I’ve also written for specific markets, like the Hooded Man stuff, or where an editor gives you a theme for an anthology. I wrote ‘The Shadow of Death’ for an anthology called Expiration Date, for instance, ‘Shells’ for an anthology called Terror Tales of the Seaside, and ‘Presence’ for Hauntings. So at that point you’re totally writing for a specific market or theme. 

Chris Barili: Again, yes. I write to market within the boundaries of what I know and love. I won’t shoe-horn my writing into genres or labels, and while I write what I am passionate about, I don’t limit myself to things I know or share with the reader.

Bobby Nash: Write what you love. Writing to market can drive you crazy and often leave you unfulfilled. I speak from personal experience here.

Robbie Cheadle: I write what I enjoy and for my own pleasure. I would like others to enjoy my stories, but that is secondary to my primary aim of personal enjoyment. As a result, I have decided to continue to publish with smaller publishers rather than to try to get representation with a larger publishing house.

Jeff Bowles: I sort of try to do both at the same time, I suppose. I’ve always had this theory that solid, salable fiction can be fun and artistic, too. Crazy, I know, but that’s just how I feel! Anyway, I’ve sort of developed a unique style, and there’s certain subjects I seem to write about again and again, as it is with most authors, I think. When I try to write like other people, the results are mixed, so I learned a long time ago to try to hit the personal enjoyment metric and then sort out what I think is salable or not. It’s a fine line, one that’s almost always difficult to walk, but it’s almost always worth it in the end.

Nancy Oswald: I realized a long time ago I cannot write to a market. For one, living in rural Colorado, I can’t keep up with anything that resembles up-to-date or edgy. The last time I remember trying keep up with cool was when I was a teen (living in Denver) and I practiced doing “The Jerk” in front of a mirror.

Kevin Killiany: Obviously when writing tie-in fiction for a TV show or role-playing game, I have to write for the market. BUT I’m writing for that market because I love the game or show—you have to campaign constantly to get your foot in the door, and that requires a good deal of passion.
With my own, original fiction, I write solely for me. If you guys like it, that’s fantastic.

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That wraps up “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series for this week. Be sure to drop by next Saturday for an introduction to multi-genre author, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, and a Q & A on plot/storyline. (Okay, many of you already know Robbie, some of you quite well. Drop by anyway for the Q & A.)

Ask the Authors 2022

You can get your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 at your favorite book distributors at the special price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series, through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

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Roberta Writes – Author discussion with Dan Alatorre #Podcast #Lifeofawriter

Hey, Robbie Cheadle is interviewed by Dan Alatorre on his new podcast, “Authorsphere”. You should check it out.

I recently had a podcast discussion with Dan Alatorre. Dan is a USA Today bestselling author who has published more than 50 titles and is read in over a dozen languages around the world.

I have contributed short stories to a number of anthologies compiled and edited by Dan Alatorre including Dark Visions, Nightmareland, Spellbound, Shadowland, and Wings & Fire and I have learned a huge amount through working with him.

If you would like to listen to our discussion on a variety of topics including travel, interests, baking, and writing, you can do so here:

Extract from my short story Death Is About Choices which features in Spellbound

The drought was devastating the land.

“It’s terribly dry. The maize kernels are shrivelling on the stalks and the ground is cracked and parched.” The messenger shook with fear as he imparted this information to the Sapa Inca. The emperor…

View original post 1,180 more words


Growing Bookworms – Setting learning goals with your child

Just like adults, children benefit by setting learning goals for the year or even the term. Goals give all of us something positive and definite to work towards and we feel a sense of achievement when we meet our goals.

At the beginning of the school year, parents should sit down with their child and plan some goals for the year. This goal setting process should include identifying the specific areas the child needs to work on and the setting of realistic and achievable goals in order to measure progress in those areas. If your child is struggling with maths, for example, there is no point in setting a goal of achieving a distinction in the first term of the new school year. A reasonable goal would be an increase of 5% for each term, which will allow the child to improve his/her understanding of the subject and gradually build on their successes. By setting achievable goals your child will be motivated to work towards them. Unrealistic goals are demotivating and set the child up for failure.

It is also better to set goals that are unrelated to specific grades and performance measures as this destresses the goal setting process for your child. Goals that shift your child’s learning objectives and focus from passing tests and exams to a greater understanding of the topic and appreciation of the value of the subject matter result in a better attitude towards learning. In this way, a child that dislikes a particular subject because of anxiety issues can learn to enjoy the learning process involved in tackling the subject and learning material. A positive attitude makes all the difference to a successful learning outcome.

Parents need to be sensitive when discussing areas of academic weakness with their child and ensure they do not compare one child in a family unfavourably to another. Children are all different and have their own talents which may differ dramatically. It undermines a child’s self confidence if they feel their performance is being measured against that of a sibling. Comparing children can also make them both feel that their parents love is conditional on good grades and academic performance thereby increasing anxiety and stress even in strong academics.

Goal setting should always focus on the future and not reflect negatively on the past. If the child has had a bad term and failed a subject, the goal should set out positive steps to improve performance and not focus on a bad result that can’t be changed. Ask your child how they can use the learning experience of the difficult test or exam to do better next time.

Goals don’t have to be academic in nature. A child that is exceptionally shy can set goals to try and participate more in class activities and discussions. A child that is not sporty can set a goal to play a non-competitive sport for a term. After all, learning is not only about academics, it is also about learning to be a good citizen and contributing positively to society.

What do you think? Have you ever set goals with your child? Let me know in the comments.

This morning, I came across an excellent post by Bella from Thoughts ‘n Life blog about goal setting. It offers some good advice which you can read here: https://thoughtsnlifeblog.com/2022/05/09/setting-the-right-priorities/

Thinking about goals setting and keeping children focused and positive brought to mind this song from the movie Annie:

About Robbie Cheadle

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Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with 9 children’s books and 2 poetry books.

The 7 Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie has also published 2 books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has 2 adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories in the horror and paranormal genre and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie writes a monthly series for https://writingtoberead.com called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.

Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/ where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

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