What Makes A Great Character?

Businessman-Thinking1What makes a great character?  Someone who you’ll follow all the way through a story, his/her journey to overcome whatever dangers have been presented?
A colleague suggested readers are not interested in imperfect leads anymore, that part of the fantasy is indulging in the concept that there exists a perfect character that’s not only highly attractive, but also holds extraordinary abilities.  Was there ever a time when books followed an imperfect main character?  Sure, I’ve read quite a few books where that’s just the case.  From an alcoholic private eye who’s dying of cancer and decides to take on one last case, to a humble Hobbit having a grand adventure thrust upon him.  These sorts of characters are becoming less known in the modern realm of fiction, however.
A strikingly handsome detective who always out smarts the villain is a much more satisfyingsuperherowithcape read to many people.  These characteristics do not make our heroes great, but super.  Ever watch CSI and marvel at the fact that a small team of super humans can solve incredibly intricate cases in forty-four minutes?
Not everything in the world is so cut and dry, and not every person is so, well, super.  Often enough, a well rounded character is going to be a better one, in my opinion; someone who has faults, who makes mistakes, because these are the things that make a character relatable.  Likable, even.  You want to see them struggle, as morbid as that sounds, because you want to root for them to succeed in the end.  To overcome not only the obstacle represented in the story, but their own personal demons, their own private remorse and uncertain thoughts making them wonder if they truly are up to the task.  These are some of the qualities and imperfections I like to discover in a lead character.  They make me enjoy the ride, and sympathize with their journey.

Mega Mystery Sale!

 

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I love mysteries and thrillers.  If you follow me on this site, then you know what I’m about.  So, I was delighted when I discovered this mystery super sale going on today and tomorrow.  Every book listed has been reduced to .99 cents during this very limited time.  You know you want to check it out, right?  Sure you do!

By the way, if you haven’t read Monsoon Morning yet, it’s among the books in this sale.

Click the above picture and dive into the deals!

Official Cover Reveal!

The Cold, Bending Light will be released on May 20th.
I’m excited to share a first look at the cover with you today!
Want to know more about the book? Sign up for my Newsletter to receive exclusives, and keep checking back right here in the days and weeks to come!

Sign Me Up!

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New Book Announcement

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The New Novel Is Called…
The Cold, Bending Light

The Cold, Bending Light is one of those projects that was in production for a long time. When I recently looked at the source file, the creation date was surprising. Early 2015! Although I can’t say it was being written the entire time, I can tell you it’s conception began around then.
A form was taking shape. Notes were being made. Research was being done. Eventually, a rather extensive outline came into being. After that, I began to breathe life into a story close to my heart.
The Cold, Bending Light is a novel that wasn’t easy to write, but I’m glad I did. It’s gone through the betas and editor, and all of you will be able to nab your copy very soon.
Stay tuned right here, because the next few days will bring more information about the novel, such as the official cover art from Hillhouse Graphic Design!

Top Five Favorite Books Growing Up

A lot of things inspired me to be creative at an early age. Had it not been for the encouragement of my parents while growing up, there’s a good possibility that I wouldn’t have become a writer at all. They served as my earliest audience, my first fans, and fed my artistic endeavors to such a degree that I even wrote my first novel while in high school. Trust me, there’s no way that would’ve happened if it weren’t for them. A handful of teachers also contributed to my writing craft after telling me they saw talent with the words I hammered out on the page, but for the most part, I remember my earliest encouragement, and the things introduced to me that were the most inspirational. The books read to me, and the books I later discovered on my own, sparked my imagination and helped paved the way to becoming an author. So, without further ado, I present my top five books growing up that still manage to impact me today.

5. DUNE
I know what you’re thinking. How did you read DUNE when you were little? Well, the truth is, I wasn’t quite so little when I read it. My first introduction to Herbert was in high school, and it simply blew my mind. Spice Melange? Interstellar Travel dependent on one planet’s production of Melange? Mentats? When Paul first encounters the native inhabitants of DUNE, and becomes the prophesied figure that could change the face of the universe, I was amazed. It’s deep, it’s epic, but most of all, and it was an adventure like no other.

4. Journal of a Novel
Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, chronicled the writing sessions of John Steinbeck from January 29 to November 1st, 1951. He wrote these “letters” to his editor, Pascal Covici, who worked for Viking Press at the time, as a sort of warm up before he began the days work. It was a fascinating peek at what was going through Stenbeck’s head during the creation of one of his most pivotal novels. It was great to see the thought process, a sort of behind the scenes, and how he stretched his creative limbs before each session. If you haven’t given this one a read, you should.

3. Pushing Ice
If DUNE blew my mind, nothing in the science fiction field could ever do that again. Right?
Believe it or not, Alastair Reynolds did. It’s a grand adventure following a group of deep space miners who set off after one of Saturn’s moons when it abruptly breaks orbit and heads out of the solar system at increasing speeds. What they discover is a classic mystery that spans generations, and presents a devastating sense of enormity unparalleled in anything I’ve read since.

2. AKIRA
Yes, it’s an epic comic that’s broken up into six parts. No, it isn’t a novel. This tale of two best friends in a post apocalyptic future is not only epic, but gut wrenching as well. When a mysterious force awakens, dubbed by the military as AKIRA, it puts that friendship to the ultimate test. The ending will leave you breathless.

1. The Neverending Story
The novel that takes my number one slot is also my favorite from childhood. There were several close contenders, but they all paled in comparison to this highly imaginative story. There’s adventure and wonder around every corner, but the real surprise is how it involves the reader in it’s immersive plot. Sure, there was a movie adaptation, but it could never compare with this epic and beautiful tale. Heck, the movie only told half of the book, and it barely did that!

-Bonus-
The Princess Bride
Honestly, it’s inconceivable that this incredibly fun tale didn’t make my top five. William Goldman knocked it out of the park when he came up with adventure, full of true love, pirates, revenge, political mystery, and of course, rodents of unusual size. If you haven’t read this book, then perhaps you should go back to where we found you! Unemployed, in Greenland!

So, what did you think of my list? Did any of your favorites show up in my top five? What are your favorites?
Let me know in the comments!

2 Kindle Deals That Won’t Last Long!

Today, you can get the first two Montana Marrenger books starting at .99 cents!
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This is the best time for you to get into the series, and the Countdown Deals aren’t going to last forever! This means that every day, the cost will gradually return to it’s original list price.

Sure, I may be short changing myself by listing Monsoon Morning, a full length novel, at .99 cents, but you know what? That’s not the point. The point is that I want to share my work with all of you. I want you to fall in love with these characters and feel the intensity of the cases. YOU are the reason I write these stories!
Grab them while the sale lasts!
Click Here For Book 1
Click Here For Book 2

Fiction Writing: Three Common Mistakes

We live in a world where a lot of grammar rules are tossed out the window in favor of expression.  Sometimes, it’s hard to break away from them, especially when we’ve grown so accustomed to having them around in school.  There is such thing as a run on sentence.  Authors do use exposition to tell a story.  Most writers seem to agree that knowing when to break these rules for a strong effect is very much appropriate.
George Martin, Jim Harrison, and Cormac McCarthy are just a few very successful authors who break the rules they want to break, and the result is a strong impression on the reader.
So, what are the unwritten rules regarding fiction writing?  In my opinion, I don’t believe there are many rules to the medium.  The only rules, truly, are for basic grammar.  When it comes to your fiction writing, use common sense.  Write what you want, how you want, and be coherent.  To improve your form, read.  I can’t stress that enough.  How many musicians are out there that don’t listen to music?  Well, I don’t know how many, but there can’t be a whole lot.  Read a bunch of books, and develop your craft, your own style.
If you want to improve your craft, here are some mistakes new writers tend to make:

  • Name dumping.  Yeah, you know what I’m talking about here.  John Clemens scratched his northern Irish beard while sitting underneath the English Oak Tree and thinking about Marie Taggard, The Cobbler’s wife, who lost her sister Janet in the war against the Western French army led by Pepe La Pew.  Way too many names of people and places right off the bat.
  • Info dumping . You don’t want the reader to know every little thing about your MC right up front.  I know that you love your MC, you want everyone to love your MC.  Unlike you, however, it’s a relationship between that person and the reader and a relationship has to grow.  Start simple, and build as the story progresses.
  • Too many characters introduced right off the bat. This is common, and you should try to space it out a little.  If you have a couple of main characters, it’s perfectly fine to introduce them in the first chapter or so of your book.  If you throw in every side character in-between, however, the reader could get confused about who they are supposed to follow.

Do you find yourself making any of the above mistakes?  It’s perfectly fine to make them during your first draft.  Remember, the first draft of everything is ALWAYS crap.  Nobody is perfect.  For writers, the thing to remember is that you need to get the story out.  Finish it. Tell it the way you want it to be told.  If you want excessive run on sentences to carry your tale, then by all means, make it happen.  When it’s done, and you look back through your creation, that’s the time to make any corrections you may decide to do.  Change your mind about those run on sentences?  Change it.  Is your first chapter laden from excessive info dumping?  Break the information up.  That’s why they’re called drafts.  Once your book is written, you still have quite a bit of work to do.  It’s just the name of the game.

Tanglewood Release, Plus A Free Gift!

TanglewoodCover_f_paths.inddGood news for Montana Marrenger fans.
The Runaway Train is having a free run until 10/23 starting TODAY!
It’s my gift to you in celebration of my newest release!
Tanglewood, the third book in my Montana Marrenger Mysteries, has finally been published! Here’s a free sample for Tanglewood, if you’re wanting to check it out here first.  Enjoy!

 


Chapter One
November, 1994

“When’s Dad coming home?”
Maggie whirled around to find her little brother standing in the kitchen doorway.  His brown hair was tussled and there were pillow crease marks that made a bizarre tapestry of lines and circles along his cheek.  “You’re up early, Aiden.  Are you hungry?”
“Yeah,” he said in a squeaky voice that made her want to scoop him up in her arms.  He pulled out a chair from the small kitchen table and climbed into it.  “Where’s Dad?
“He’s at work.  Don’t worry, though.  He’ll be back before you know it.”
She turned towards the window.  The soft glow of morning revealed falling snow outside.  It was heavier now, and she just knew they would get another couple of inches added to the three feet that accumulated overnight.
Wind swirled up out of the trees lining the back yard.  The birch and cedars were the beginning of a large expanse of woods behind the house.  Their skeletal limbs trembled and creaked against the gusts.
“Daddy hates it when it snows.”  She washed her hands in the sink, observing the winter storm that had every school in the county closed.
“How could anybody hate snow?”  Aiden turned a confused expression towards her.  “I love snow!  Everyone loves it.  You can have snowball fights, you can build snowmen… You can even build a snow fort!”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”  She stepped away from the sink, pulled a carton of eggs from the fridge, and cracked one into a cast iron skillet that had already been heated up for herself.  “It’s not that Dad hates snow, exactly.  It’s more that he hates driving in it.”
Aiden followed her movements with wide eyes.  “Why?”
“Well.”  She glanced at him and smiled at the superman pajamas that rose up just underneath his knees.  “Driving in the snow can be kind of tough.  It’s hard to see the road.”  She scrambled the egg with a spatula.  “Hey, I thought we got rid of those pajamas?”
“Nope.”
“They don’t fit you very well anymore, kiddo.  We should put them in a box and take them to Goodwill with the other clothes from last winter.”  She scooped the egg onto a plate, poured a glass of orange juice, and set them on the table in front of him.  “I thought dad told you to do that.”
“He did.”  He forked the eggs into his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in a week.  “It’s just that these are my favorite.”
“That may be true,” she said while cracking two more eggs into the skillet.  “But somewhere out there is another little boy who may not have any pajamas to wear at all.  Just remember that.”
He gulped the juice and wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve.  “Maybe his mom and dad should buy him some.”
She aimed the spatula at him with her eyebrows raised.  “My point exactly.”
Hail pinged against the window, startling her.  Outside, the wind howled and the snow blew across the yard in sheets.
Aiden was oblivious to the raging storm outside.  “Do you think Dad will help me build a snow fort today?”
She glanced at the digital clock on the stove.  Their father had never been this late coming home from work before, and the thought of road conditions made a spark of panic race along her spine.  Her hand shook when she scooped the eggs onto the plate.
“Maybe.”  She said in a soft tone she hoped didn’t betray her worry.   The thought of food suddenly made her stomach churn, but she dug into the eggs with a fork anyway.  “Maybe all three of us will.”

Chapter Two
February, 2011

His breath came in short stabbing rasps.  Branches grabbed at his sweater.  Twigs slapped against his face.  It was useless to even try to be quiet when every cracking stick under his boots exploded in the stillness of the woods.
A sharp incline to his left revealed a glittering stream.  He grabbed onto a branch to keep from sliding down the hill.  His steamy breath blossomed in the frigid air as he examined the chilly water below.
Had the stranger followed him this far?  He wondered if he should turn back, climb into his pickup truck, and head to the warmth of the fireplace at home.
A snap sounded somewhere behind him.  He heard the crunch of snow.

Available at Amazon

 

Winter Project 2015 – Part One

The Monthers
There’s a crispness in the air. Each morning brings with it the chill of winter. You know what that means? It’s time for me to get to work on my winter project!
I’ve been reading a lot of articles and forums concerning people who publish books once a month. These monthers seem to be quite insane, writing as much as 10k words a week. To be honest with you, that’s just not how I operate, nor do I think I could ever operate. Especially since I have college classes to think about, raising a two year old, cooking, cleaning, drinking coffee, etc. One thing that I did manage to get from reading posts by the monthers was a few pointers as far as routine goes. One author declared that she writes 2k words in the morning, takes care of her daily life in the early afternoon, writes 1k more words in the late afternoon, takes care of dinner and kids, and then writes another 2k words at night.
That much effort deserves a standing ovation.
It made me think about something a colleague once said: “Do what you love, and treat it like a job.”
Do What You Love
With that in mind, I’ve changed up my routine a bit. Instead of writing once a day in the mid afternoon, I figured, since I’m waking up at the crack of dawn to get my eight year old ready for the bus, might as well write after sending her off. Well, guess what?
It worked.
Not only did it work, it worked spectacularly well.
Does that mean I’m going to write as much as the monther three times a day? Probably not, but it felt inspiring. It made me feel like making it my day job wasn’t so far out of reach. That’s a good thing, because wouldn’t you want to do what you love as a job? Well, I love writing, so there it is! Might as well make it happen.
Bet you want to know what I was working on. You do, don’t you? The anticipation is killing you, I can tell these things. Calm down, take a deep breath. (Breathes deeply, attempting to calm excitement).
It’s a brand new novel.
That’s right. A full length novel. I haven’t even attempted a novel since Monsoon Morning, and now here it is.
The cast is set. The outline is finished. As a matter of fact, I’ve been picking at the book for a couple of months and am already 10k words into it.
What Makes You Tick?
With this new series of blog posts, I’m not wanting to blab on about the story content of the book. Instead, I figured it would be cool to delve into the creative process and routine while working on it. What would inspire me to write particular scenes, what moods am I trying to evoke, does it feel successful?
If you’re into that sort of thing, then stick with me! I’ll keep posting, mainly because I think it could be an interesting study.
Are you a monther? Are you just starting a new writing project and trying to fit it into your routine?
Let me know in the comments!