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Saturday, 31 March 2018

Have you fallen down the research rabbit hole? You're not alone! .@susan_alia .@rararesources #gayfiction #scifi #wip

Susan-Alia Terry
talking about her research technique

I’m a “pantser” by nature, as in I write without an outline “by the seat of my pants”. As such, my research needs aren’t always known up front. What I usually end up doing is writing until the need for research arises. It was only after I began writing Coming Darkness, did I begin to research angels and demons. I was going a very traditional way with them until I realized that my story wasn’t traditional. The universe I was creating was unique and the supernatural beings needed to reflect that. As such, the essence and mission of the angels is familiar and based in lore, but in my world demons don’t exist. In this case, the research gave me a foundation and license to use what I wanted, to throw away what I wanted, and to create what I wanted.

The greatest length I’ve gone to so far for research, is taking field trips to capture scenes in Charleston. For instance, there is a scene where Lucifer and Michael walk from Lucifer’s house to a park. I located his house along Murray Boulevard, which leads to White Point Gardens. Early one morning I drove there and explored the neighbourhood. I walked the route to the park, and took some pictures, which I later used to refer back to the area. While I had been to the park before, the field trip made it easier to place myself in the scene. Finding the model for Lucifer’s house was pure serendipity. I didn’t have anything specific in mind, but when I saw it, everything clicked. I discovered Lucifer’s favourite tree the same way. He didn’t have a favourite until I saw that tree. I feel that the tree is an authentic touch I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t made that trip.

I love learning new things and for me it’s easy to fall down the research rabbit hole. Once I’ve gathered all this interesting (to me) information, I want to tell somebody! I’ve not gone so far with it as to mute the plotline, but I suspect it’s possible.  What I have done is throw in more information than is necessary, which then derails the flow of a scene. From the example above, when I first wrote about Lucifer’s house, I included too much information. It was cool and interesting, and I loved going deep with it, but the extraneous detail slowed the movement of the scene, and derailed the flow toward the important bits. It was hard to cut it, but it needed to be done.

When it comes to researching completely made up stuff, like aliens, I believe it’s all about the jumping off points. There are a bunch of avenues:

·       Sociological studies could give background on different cultures, which could provide a jumping off point for the character and culture of an alien species.

·       Research on earth habitats and animal adaptations to their environments could provide jumping off points for alien worlds and the types of species that live there.

·       Biological research could provide jumping off points for mammalian, reptilian, insectoid or aquatic life forms.

·       Research on what we know about different planets, and educated speculation about species that could survive there, could provide jumping off points for hard science, real world takes on alien species.

·       Researching decades of movie aliens could provide valuable information on how to create an alien species, and why certain choices were made.

Research is a wonderful tool. Not only does it help in creating the worlds we write about, but we also learn new stuff in the process. Can it get any better than that? I don’t think so!

Happy reading! 

Coming Darkness

Archangel Lucifer lives a comfortable life of self-imposed exile with his vampire lover, Kai. When the other Archangels come to him with a problem — Heaven is gone and their Father is missing — he refuses to get involved because not only is it not his problem, but it's probably some elaborate ruse they've cooked up to lure him back into the fold.
When he's personally attacked, he finds that he's wrong on both counts. There are other powerful gods at work, gods who believe the current creation is flawed and must be destroyed.
Amazon.com | Amazon.UK
Kai is thrown off balance when Lucifer disappears, and his life begins to spiral out of control. In the past, he never cared that he was looked down upon and called Lucifer's pet. But with Lucifer absent, he's left to navigate a world that doesn’t respect him. Since the only true currency is respect, he must gain it the only way his enemies will understand, through blood.
They say it’s never too late to find and pursue your passion. Turns out they’re right. Although Susan-Alia Terry loved to read, she didn’t start writing until she was in her late 40's.
A stint in grad school helped her hone her craft, and now she happily spends her days making up stories and figuring out how best to emotionally (and sometimes physically) torture her characters.

Monday, 26 March 2018

How do authors make their characters real? Keith Anthony tells us how. @rararesources @KeithAnthonyWS #tearjerkers #fiction #action and #adventure #win

How to make your characters believable
Keith Anthony
Fergus from "Times and Places"
I knew the basics of Fergus before I put pen to paper: a late middle aged man who has spent a decade soul searching, since the death of his 24 year old daughter.  He has grown anxious, feeling detached from the rest of the world, but empathising strongly with those who are vulnerable or a little different.  He has a deep relationship with Sylvie, his wife, borne of a long marriage and shared tragedy, even if there are few signs of surviving passion.  He is a man feeling a spiritual draw, but one marked by quiet searching rather than preachy certainties.  He is encouraged by a seemingly miraculous moment, but his anxieties are not supernaturally resolved and, during a three week cruise, they come to a terrible head.  
A bit like a river flowing from source to sea, tributaries of further personality joined that basic character as I wrote, and I hope Fergus grew into a fully drawn protagonist.  I made him easily irritated, for example by loud phone conversations, disingenuous cruise line communications and a trio of boorish men hogging the spa bath.  But I gave him a touching relationship with his twelve year old daughter, moved by her excitement when he takes her away, but anxiously asking himself “Would she still be pleased to spend time with her father when she became a teenager?”  He feels most comfortable with Sylvie and, dancing with her on the ship, he looks back on painful discos from his youth: “there how you danced mattered, here it didn’t.  He pictured his struggling youthful self without envy, he was happy to be when and where he was, in this time and place, dancing with his wife”. 
When adding new sides to his personality, they had to complement what had already been written... and yet a complexity in creating lifelike characters is that we are rarely consistent, but adapt with different people and dependent on mood: so Fergus is confident in a flashback when meeting his daughter’s boyfriend, but shy when avoiding an opportunity to meet the cruise ship Captain; he can appear somewhat child-like with his wife, but is strongly protective of the vulnerable.  He may be intolerant, but often shows deep compassion.
We are only given glimpses of what Fergus once did for a living – rushed sandwiches for lunch over a computer keyboard, occasional home-working, colleagues who were stuck in ruts – this could be any office job, but, whatever it was, one suspects he worked to live rather than the other way round.
What makes Fergus tick are the quiet things.  That soul-mate relationship with his wife, to whose calmness “he sometimes clung as if it were indeed a lifebelt and he lost at sea”.  The peace and beauty of their home: “outward journeys were never natural to them, as if travelling against an invisible current or an atavistic instinct.  Homewards invariably felt the right direction”.  The numinous natural world and a bumbling faith which leaves him feeling out of his spiritual depths on retreat, praying hard that “he wouldn’t be found out, that nobody would ask him what he did, that he wouldn’t be chased out of the retreat centre as the fraud that he felt himself to be”. 
These quiet tools – along with a mindfulness App - are what Fergus uses to manage his anxieties and, towards the end of the book, it is clear he finally achieves a breakthrough, though still not a full cure as, when an expected visitor is late, “an old foe revisited Fergus, suggesting various misfortunes that might have befallen her”.    
After his earlier apparent miracle he reflected how:
“He would continue to grieve for his daughter and he accepted that there would be moments when this would feel almost unbearable.  He was under no illusion that he was now a saint, rather (judging himself a little harshly) that he would still have his grumpy, anxious, lazy, antisocial personality...”   
But he was unfair on himself, because “Times and Places” shows Fergus, despite his occasional ineptness, to have great depths.  I sought, though, to make him a believable mixture of good and bad, but the former being his true nature, the latter the weaknesses he struggles against.  Like many of us, perhaps he could go a bit easier on himself and just maybe - while it doesn’t magic away all his problems - that breakthrough towards the end of the story means he finally does.

Times and Places
Ten years after his daughter Justine's death, an anxious Fergus embarks on a cruise with his wife.  On board, he meets a myriad of characters and is entranced by some, irritated by others and disgusted by one.  These turbulent feelings, combined with a sequence of bizarre events, only lead to his increased anxiety.
Amazon | Book Guild  | WH Smith | Waterstones 
In a series of flashbacks, Justine enjoys an ultimately short romance, a woman concludes she killed her and an investigating police officer is drawn into her idyllic world.  Fergus, haunted by poignant memories, withdraws in search of answers.
Back on the cruise, Fergus reaches breaking point, fearing he has done something terrible.  By the time the ship returns, his world has changed forever.
"Times and Places" spans Atlantic islands, the Chiltern countryside, Cornish coasts and rural Slovenia, all of which provide spectacular backdrops to a humorous and moving tale of quiet spirituality. 
Keith Anthony was born and brought up in the Chilterns, to where he returned after studying French at university in Aberystwyth and a subsequent spell living in west London.  He has a love of nature, both in his native Buckinghamshire countryside, but also in Cornwall and wherever there is a wild sea. 

Keith has been lucky enough to spend time living in France, Spain, Belgium, Serbia and Croatia, as well as being a regular visitor to Germany, and languages were the only thing he was ever half good at in school.  Since graduating he has worked in government departments, but between 2005 and 2008 he was seconded to the European Commission in Brussels and, thanks to a friend from Ljubljana he met there, has travelled regularly to Slovenia, getting to know that country well. 

Keith's other great love is music and he plays classical and finger picking blues guitar, though with persistently limited success.  He has always enjoyed writing, including attempts at children's fiction, and in 2016 he began work on his first full book with “Times and Places" the end result: an accessible, observational story, mixing quiet spirituality with humour, pathos and gothic horror, and setting it against a rich backdrop of the natural world.

Giveaway – Win 3 x Signed copies of Times and Places (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Friday, 23 March 2018

Bonnie and Clyde: Love and Poverty @cowboyvamp #alternative #fiction #crime #books

Bonnie and Clyde: Love and Poverty

When passion is the only bright thing in an otherwise dark world

Clark Hays

“People are rendered ferocious by misery.”

Mary Wollstonecraft — a writer, philosopher and fierce advocate of women’s rights (and mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein) — wrote these words more than 200 years ago, but they certainly ring true when considering the social and economic conditions that gave rise to the legend of Bonnie and Clyde.

Both were born into absolute poverty with no way to get out. Clyde’s family was so poor, when they moved to the slums of West Dallas looking for work they lived under their wagon for months. Like many young men at the time, Clyde wanted more than he could afford, and certainly more than spotty employment of the Depression era could finance.

Clyde’s first brush with the law came from failing to return a rental car on time; after that, it was stolen turkeys. Once he drew the attention of law enforcement, it wasn’t long before he entered a brutal prison system that used prisoners for profit — free agricultural labor — and ignored horrific conditions inside (Clyde was a victim of sexual assault). He was so desperate to get out, he chopped off two of his toes.

Bonnie had it better, but not by much. Options were limited for poor young women, especially in those days — a quick marriage and a hard lifetime of taking care of a large family was her best hope. She tried that, marrying a philandering criminal at 16. It didn’t last long. She always harbored dreams of a better life as a Hollywood starlet, but the slums of West Dallas didn’t offer many opportunities to get noticed. 

Then she met Clyde, and he noticed her.

We all know how it turned out after that — from desperation to crime, from crime to violence, and from violence to a gruesome death in a bloody ambush in which more than 100 rounds were shot at them, their bodies brutalized almost beyond recognition.

Poverty does not, of course, excuse a life of crime, but it’s certainly an enabler, and that’s the crucible in which Bonnie and Clyde were forged. They likely would have been reviled by their contemporaries and forgotten by history if not for one other element that transformed the anger and despair, the rage and hopelessness, into something else, something that transcended their crimes and cemented them into the popular imagination: true love.

Collectively, Americans — and even those outside of this country — largely remain fascinated by Bonnie and Clyde because, in spite of thieving and murdering, the violence and destruction, they found each other and held on until the bitter, violent end. Misery may render people ferocious, but hopelessness sometimes renders them inseparable. Bonnie and Clyde became the ultimate doomed lovers, finding the kind of love that eclipses all rational thought, all problems, all concerns with right or wrong. Their burned so brightly, it momentarily outshined the misery they tried to leave behind and the misery they inflicted on others.

The real catastrophe of Bonnie and Clyde, aside from the lives damaged and lost, is that they found in each other a love that likely could have sustained them on any path they chose. If things had turned out just a little differently, if Wall Street hadn’t plunged the country into the Great Depression, if the prison system had protected a teenaged Clyde from assault, of they’d tried their hand at different jobs, we might never have known their story.

But of course, their powerful love wasn’t enough to prevent things from spiralling out of control.

In our speculative history series about Bonnie and Clyde, we give them a second chance and an opportunity to atone. Their love becomes a lodestar, guiding them into a new life.

In the first book, Bonnie and Clyde: Resurrection Road, that new life begins when a mysterious government agent, Suicide Sal, plucks them out of the deadly ambush in Sailes, Louisiana at the last second and forces them to become federal agents, using their unique “skills” to save FDR from an assassin.

In the second book, Dam Nation, which publishes March 24, Bonnie and Clyde must stop saboteurs from destroying Boulder (Hoover) Dam. In Book 2, the notorious duo take firm steps on a path to redemption, beginning to see the pain their actions inflicted on so many innocent people.

Both “what-if” novels are fast-paced thrillers with sharp dialogue and plenty of steamy romance. The books also tackle, as an undercurrent, the poverty and systemic injustice that fueled the rise of Bonnie and Clyde, along with examining the plight of the working class in that era. These issues, such as the gaping wealth/income inequality and the influence of corporate power, are increasingly relevant to today’s economic landscape, making this retelling of their story alarmingly relevant.

But at heart, it was love thrust them into the realm of legend, and this takes center stage in the series. Now that Bonnie and Clyde have a (fictional) second chance, and an opportunity for redemption, their love is the only certain thing in a world of  shadowy allegiances, the constant threat of violence and the possibility of atonement.

Bonnie and Clyde: Dam Nation
The redemption of Bonnie and Clyde 
Saving the working class from a river of greed

The year is 1935 and the Great Depression has America in a death grip of poverty, unemployment and starvation. But the New Deal is rekindling hope, with federally funded infrastructure projects, like Hoover Dam, putting people back to work. Set to harness the mighty Colorado River for electricity and irrigation, the dam is an engineering marvel and symbol of American can-do spirit.

So, why is someone trying to blow it up? 

When an informant on the construction site is murdered, Bonnie and Clyde—spared from their gruesome deaths and forced into a covert life working for the government—are given their second assignment: stop the bomb and protect the thousands of laborers and families in the company town. It's their most dangerous mission yet: working for a living.

Can the notorious lovers put aside their criminal ways long enough to find out who wants to extinguish the American dream, and hopefully reclaim a shred of redemption along the way?

The thrilling story cuts back and forth between the modern era where a reporter interviews the now-elderly Bonnie Parker, and the dangerous 1930s undercover exploits of Bonnie and Clyde, as they are thrust into a fight to defend the working class against corporate greed.
 Dam Nation continues the explosive "what-if" series about two unlikely heroes fighting to defend the working class during America's Great Depression, a historical thriller with unsettling contemporary parallels.

Resurrection Road is the first book in the Bonnie and Clyde series.
 Dam Nation is the second book in the Bonnie and Clyde series.
“Crisply written, well-researched, thoroughly entertaining. As in Resurrection Road, Hays and McFall evoke time and place well in this sequel. The story’s politics are fresh and timely. Readers will find Bonnie and Clyde to be great company, and the novel’s framing story (the widowed Bonnie’s 1984 recollections) gives their relationship an extra layer of poignancy.” Kirkus Reviews
“A rollicking good read. The real history of the rise of unions and worker rights against the backdrop of a nation recovering from the Great Depression contributes an engrossing, realistic scenario; a vivid read that blends fiction with nonfiction elements in a way that makes the book hard to put down. Dam Nation is the second book in the speculative fiction series; but newcomers need no prior familiarity with the series, in order to find it accessible.” Midwest Book Review

An excerpt to whet the appetite...
What if?

The Texas Ranger looked up at Sal, a mixture of fear, respect and revulsion in his eyes. “Let’s pretend for a minute it wasn’t Bonnie and Clyde in that ambush,” he said. “Why? Why would it be different people in that car?”

“How would I know?” Sal asked. “I work for the government. I trust that the government has my best interests at heart. I follow orders. You didn’t.”

“I won’t be quiet about this unless you can tell me why anyone would try to save them outlaws.”

“If they were still alive, I would tell you that everyone has a purpose in life, and perhaps they are fulfilling theirs. And if they were still alive, I would tell you that you don’t use good dogs to guard the junkyard, you use the meanest goddamn dogs you can get a collar around.”

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

To ensure a successful book signing event in 10 steps! @rararesources @schristodoulou2 #literature #historical

Book Signing in 10 steps!

Soulla Christodoulou

Thank you for inviting me to contribute to your theme of ‘how to and tips of the writing trade’. I thought since I’ve been planning my first ever book signing event for The Summer Will Come I would share with you my plans for ensuring its success in 10 simple steps.

1.     The first thing I did was set a realistic date for the launch and release of the book. I thought carefully about how long I would need to do any beta reader corrections, get the book formatted and ready for release. In my case I have chosen the 25th March as it is the start of British Summer time and the timing fits in with the title of my book because the summer is on its way and so The Summer Will Come is perfect in so many ways!

2.     Once I had set the date I had to choose the venue to hold the launch. I wanted to choose a venue that was local, had parking, was not too big and which would be able to meet my requirements for offering food and drink. I have chosen a lovely little coffee shop which is run by a local Greek Cypriot woman.

3.     I confirmed the venue and timings with her. I confirmed what she was able to provide and support me with and how many people the coffee shop- would hold comfortably – combination of sitting and standing.

4.     List of guests – I began putting a guest list together and started with my nearest and dearest and worked my way out – family, friends, work colleagues, authors I knew, other writers, local press. I have since added names to the list as they come to me, so the list is organic and growing.

5.     The invitation and spreading the word – I designed the invitation using a blank book cover to keep the theme of the book. I included all the basic information but added that only cash sales would be made so people buying the book do not arrive with no cash on them. I have asked for an RSVP so that I can judge how many guests to expect on the day – this will inform my food requirements and number of books needed on the day for sales. I have sent this out across a number of different platforms including social media, SMS, What’s App, etc.

6.     Plan for the day – If people are going to make the effort to come to my book launch I too would like to make it interesting and fun for them. I have organised a book reading, a time for book signing, a Q and A which will give my guests the opportunity to ask me something about my writing and the book and of course some Greek Cypriot hospitality by offering complimentary food and refreshments. I have also ordered a puzzle of the front cover with an idea for a game as guests arrive!

7.     My A team – I realised that trying to organise every aspect of the party would be too much for me. So I rallied a number of people to help me with advance planning and of course help on the day. My sister is baking a cake and topping it with a cake topper of my book cover, my mum is baking some Greek Cypriot savouries, an aunt is making some cookies, my mum is making bunting in colours to co-ordinate with the book cover… I have organised someone to take photographs, someone to do the books sales (and organised a float for them), my cousin who is a florist is making floral table arrangements for me.

8.     Props and timings – I’ve had posters of my book cover printed, bunting, cake with book cover cake topper, flowers, mini framed book covers to have around the coffee shop and of Greek finger nibbles and refreshments and Greek music! I’ve also got bits mentioned in the book like the ticking clock, the red eggs, the little Bible, the Lefkaritika (lace) and the tsestos (flat woven basket) to make a table display. It’s about making it ‘real’ for the guests and creating a little bit of The Summer Will Come at the party.

9.     Plan my engagement with my guests – I will welcome them all personally as they arrive, I have chosen my extracts, have drawn up a list of who to thank, I’ve printed the poem from which I chose the title of my book so I can read it out.

10.  Book supply and gifts – I have organised some giveaways too which link to scenes and characters in the book – and a supply paperback copies based on RSVPs received for signing!

I hope you have found this useful! All that’s left to be had now is to have some fun! Enjoy the day and celebrate with my friends and family around me and of course, thank you too for your wonderful support. I wish all of you, too, lots of luck in what you are doing.


The Summer Will Come

Set in 1950s Cyprus, EOKA, British rule, the fight for Enosis (unity) with Greece and two Cypriot families, living in different villages on the island, are coping with the unpredictability of this fractious time. 

Circumstances over a five year period push both families to emigrate to London where, as immigrants, they struggle to settle, face new challenges, trauma and cope with missing  their homeland's traditions and culture.

Both families' lives cross paths in London and it seems that happier beginnings could be theirs. But at what cost?
A story of passion for a country in turmoil, family love, loyalty and treachery.

Born in London to Greek Cypriot parents Soulla Christodoulou spent much of her childhood living carefree days full of family, school and friends. She was the first in her family to go to university and studied BA Hotel and Catering Management at Portsmouth University. Years later, after having a family of her own she studied again at Middlesex University and has a PGCE in Business Studies and an MA in Education.

Soulla is a Fiction author and wrote her first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow over a few months while working full time in secondary education and is a mother of three boys.
She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and Children’s Creative Writing Classes. She offers writing services too in support of businesses, authors and students.

Her writing has also connected her with a charity in California which she is very much involved in as a contributor of handwritten letters every month to support and give hope to women diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her letters is featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’, released on Amazon in September 2017.

When asked, she will tell you she has always, somewhere on a subconscious level, wanted to write and her life’s experiences both personal and professional have played a huge part in bringing her to where she was always meant to be; writing books and drinking lots of cinnamon and clove tea!

She also has a poetry collection inspired by old phrases and sayings, Sunshine after Rain, published on Amazon and is releasing her second novel, The Summer Will Come in March 2018.
She is currently working on a third novel, Trust is a Big Word, about an on-line friendship which evolves over time into an illicit cyber relationship.