#inkripples Finishing that novel! #NaNoWriMo2017

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

It’s only the 3rd of November and it has already been one of the more exciting months this year. Two days ago, my romance novella, Romancing the Princess, was published as part of the Can’t Buy Me Love box set. I’m finishing revisions on another novel (non-romance), plus NaNoWriMo started! I imagine the topic for this month’s inkripples was chosen deliberately, with NaNoWriMo in mind.

I tried NaNoWriMo twice before, once successfully (the novel I’m now revising) and once not so much. This year, I’m well ahead with the word count and unless something downright shocking happens I’m confident I’ll finish the novel. I got the idea for the novel only a couple of months ago but I really ‘feel’ the characters and I have an urge to keep writing way past the required daily word count.

Amongst my reader friends, I’m known as someone who never gives up on a book. It has only happened a handful of times that I didn’t finish reading a book because it was so terrible. I’m like that when it comes to writing, too. When I get an idea and the characters start to reveal themselves to me, I’ll write like a woman possessed. My biggest problem is not finishing the novel, it’s retaining my interest long enough to go back to the story and edit it until it’s publishable.

Handpicked Bridie HallAn additional incentive to finish this year’s NaNoWriMo is also the cover for my novel which was designed by the super talented Eva Talia. I mean, looked at that? How could I not finish the story when I have this beauty to look at? It captures the essence of the love story, the vineyards as the setting, the guarded main character and the charmer who swoops in and shatters her protective walls.

My fingers itch the wrap up this post and open the file with the novel and start typing. 😉

 

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Career vs hobby #inkripples

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

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Writing has been my hobby ever since I could remember. Even before I could actually write, I made up stories and entertained other children with them. Later, I wrote them by hand in notebooks, later still I used an old typewriter with a defective letter p. Now I tap away at my laptop daily. But writing is still just a hobby.

I’d love to make writing my career, but sadly, I have to pay the bills every month. My consolation is that my day job has to do with books too. I translate and sometimes edit novels, so I get my fill of mysterious, romantic, intriguing stories on a daily basis. So far, I’ve been able to keep a perfect symbiosis between my job and my hobby.

I’m deeply convinced that having a day job which gets me away from my manuscripts but still deals with books has helped me largely to avoid any monumental cases of writer’s block. Translating other people’s work is inspiring and rewarding and it keeps me ‘fit’ for when I tackle my own writing.

It’s because of that I’m not sure I’d choose to dedicate all my time solely to writing even if I had the chance. I think I need some time away from it. I would feel too pressured to constantly write and write well if it were my job. So I believe my situation is pretty much ideal.

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I have so much to write and revise this fall!

 

How about you? Do you find you’re still inspired if you write for six or more hours a day? Or do you need to get away from it to rest your mind (and fingers) for a while?

 

World building #InkRipples

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

It’s been a long while since I wrote an #InkRipples post but the summer has been busy as I worked on a new novella to come out this fall.

But I couldn’t not write about world building as I’ve just finished reading the masterpiece that is Six of Crows.

My stories require little to no world building because they are mostly contemporary so they take place in a world we’re all familiar with. It doesn’t take much more than a place name or the mention of the season for the readers to find their bearing in the story setting. I would say my skills at world building are flimsy as a result. I’ve seen this most clearly when writing my current WIP which takes place at a royal court. I had to do a lot more research before I felt comfortable writing about royalty.

So I admire writers like Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas so much more because they create entire worlds in a way that makes them not just believable, but captivating and intriguing. Even though Ketterdam in Six of Crows is inspired by Amsterdam, the atmosphere Bardugo creates on the page is still unique and so authentic it simply sucks you in. It’s as though you walk those streets and smell the rot in the canals.

Of course, even contemporary stories require a setting so I could call that world building, too. But this is done on a much smaller scale, with descriptions of the surroundings, the details about buildings and weather. It’s important that all this is done through showing and not telling to attract the readers. It’s more about creating an atmosphere which supports the main story, rather than creating an actual world out of nothing. For that, I think magic is needed. Magic like the sort one sees in Six of Crows.

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But I suppose, no matter what sort of a world one is trying to set their story in – an imaginary world where epic things happen or a quiet neighborhood street – it’s all in the details. Even the grandest worlds are built from small pieces of information, descriptions and – most importantly – the characters’ reactions to them. The way the surroundings influence the characters shows best what sort of a world it is and consequently it also affects the readers most. Which is what we, as authors, wish: for the readers to respond to what we write.

Genre

Hearts must be broken is my novella that will be published in February as part of a Valentine’s Day anthology by Inkspell Publishing. It has had quite a journey from the first draft to the one which will be now published.

It started off back in 2014 as a sci-fi short story. But for a short story, the sci-fi element was too complicated, so I dropped that, and eventually I developed it into a suspense novella. Around that time, an editor friend has had a look at it. He suggested I trim it back down to a short story because novellas are notoriously difficult to sell. His description of it as a story in the thriller mode of Daphne du Maurier stuck with me.

I was familiar with du Maurier, especially with her novel Rebecca (did you know the Germans used it as a code key in WWII?). When I had trouble stating the genre of my novella for promotional purposes, I decided to research this “thriller mode of Daphne du Maurier”.

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Images of a creepy London from PS4 video game The Order: 1886

When I typed “Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, genre” in the search engine, the diversity of the hits only confused me further on the issue of genre. Turns out, Rebecca fits into a gazillion different genres. Amongst them: coming-of-age, psychological thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, family drama, horror, gothic, and more.

While Hearts must be broken can’t possibly be compared to the epic Rebecca, it, too, fits into quite a few genre slots. It’s definitely a romance (if it being published in a Valentine’s Day anthology didn’t give that away), but it’s also dark and intense even though I dropped the sci-fi element. The love story isn’t all fluff and rainbows, it’s a lot grittier, suspenseful, with a mystery the protagonists have to solve if they hope for a happily ever after. The setting may be the twenty-first century London, but at times, it feels a bit gothic with the fog shrouding the streets and footsteps echoing through narrow alleys.  Whooo … 😉

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Anyway, I hope you’ll like the mix of genres in the novella. I always prefer for the genres to be a bit mixed up instead of a straight up romance or hardcore thrillers. It adds to the complexity. What’s your preference?

Inspiration at the bottom of a coffee cup #amwriting

I suppose most people start their days with coffee or tea. I prefer the former and I make myself a large cup of coffee every morning. I turn on my laptop while the coffee brews and get my breakfast ready, although that is optional while the coffee is not.

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A lonely tree at the bottom of a coffee cup.

It takes about one or two sips before I wake up properly. I have the bad habit of reading the news while I eat. I browse a few online news websites and check my emails. I find it easier to respond to emails with a fresh dose of caffeine coursing through my veins. Once I get to all the emails and send some of my own, I slowly – and I mean slowly – get to work.

What I do in the mornings largely depends on what I am currently working on. If I have any revisions in progress, then that is what I start with because I find it easier to get into revising than writing. I re-read any comments or suggestions from the editor or any notes I left when I last read the text and start from there. Editor notes are invaluable as they see your text from a different point of view, and even if one doesn’t agree with what they have to say, their suggestions might still spark a new idea or offer inspiration.

Around ten o’clock, the first dose of caffeine has long been used up and I brew a fresh cup. I’m a sweet-tooth, so I raid the cupboards for a dessert to go with it. A smallish one, of course, as I prepare a quick lunch around noon. Sometimes it’s just a sandwich, sometimes a salad. It is unavoidably followed by another cup of coffee.

If I was editing in the morning, I try to switch to writing in the afternoon because I find it more stimulating to mix things up a bit. It gets tedious to revise a text all day long, except if I’m on a tight deadline and I don’t have a choice. At the moment, I’m working on a vaguely dystopian YA I’m not sure yet where it is going to go. I’ll let it surprise me and allow the characters to lead me wherever they want to.

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My latest manuscript.

I try to write 1500 to 2000 words by four o’clock, but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s just 200 words, but if it’s a difficult passage or the part turns out to be really good, I’m just as satisfied with it as I would be with 2000 words that need heavy revisions.

At five past four I rush to wash up the coffee cups that fill up the sink before Husband comes home and gives me a lecture on the negative effects of too much coffee. After we eat dinner, I innocently suggest we could have a nice cup of coffee. He eyes me suspiciously, but he’s long learned not to ask how many I’ve already had. 😉

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On the Slopes #newadult #novella

My new adult novella, On the Slopes, is forthcoming in June 2016 from Inkspell Publishing.

Snowboarding means everything to Charlise, but she hasn’t met Sam Miller yet.

Charlise is a snowboarder with a promising career ahead of her. Despite the fact that her father hates her risking her life on the slopes that had taken the life of Charlise’s mother she is determined not to give up her career the way her mother did when she fell pregnant. Charlise wants to win medals, lots of them.

The last distraction Charlise needs is the American freestyle champion, Sam Miller, who utterly enthrals her with his wit and friendliness. Refusing to risk her career for a relationship, Charlise returns home for Christmas, determined to sort things out with her father. But the holidays culminate in an epic fight, and with a repeat of the painful breakup with Sam. However, new discoveries from her family’s past might change Charlise’s mind about Sam …

 

To see whether Sam is more than just a distraction for Charlise, you’ll have to wait until June! But I’ll be giving you a sneek peak at the gorgeous cover soon. And it is gorgeous, I swear.

Characters & #authorsfornepal

I read the Goodreads interview with Sarah Dessen yesterday. In it, she talks about writing relatable characters. If anyone, she can write relatable characters, right?

But I don’t think the fact that the readers can identify themselves with the characters is the only thing that makes her protagonists, or the protagonists of any other book  popular. I think the other dimension a good character needs is a special trait, something unique that makes them unforgettable.

When I read a book, I want to feel with the characters because if I’m not emotionally invested I’ll stop reading. It doesn’t mean the characters need to be flawless, in fact, the more flawed they are, the juicier. But despite their sins, they need to be redeemable, they have to have something that makes me believe in them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the promise that there’s something good in them beneath their bad behavior; sometimes a convincing explanation of their motivations is enough.

So that’s the relatable part. But the second thing is their uniqueness. Because I don’t really want to read hundreds of books about someone who is just like me. Instead, think Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. You don’t easily forget her, do you? I read the books more than five years ago and I still remember her vividly because she’s unlike any other character I’ve ever read about. She’s not a particularly good character, either, but thousands of readers were thrilled with her portrayal because she was so different and because the reasons behind her actions were so well explained.

I think the trick to writing a memorable, but convincing character is finding the balance between the two sides of any human being: what makes us individuals, special, different, and what makes us belong.

On a different note, thank you to everyone who bid on the items I offered for the Authors for Nepal auction. The signed books are already on their way to the highest bidder and the winner of the critique package has also been contacted. A big thank you!

Other items are still available to bid on, so go on over to eBay and donate for a good cause and in turn win goodies from amazing authors.

Authors for Nepal #authorsfornepal

You’ve probably all heard of the disastrous earthquake in Nepal, leaving thousands dead and countless more with no place to live and no food and water. To help a little bit, some pretty amazing people set up an auction on eBay, with prizes from authors, agents, mentors and so on.

I’m offering signed copies of Letting Go and My Summer Roommate, and the chance to have the first three chapters of your YA novel critiqued.

You can also grab signed copies of works by Lisa Glass, Keren David, Mel Sherratt, Holly Martin, Liz Fenwick, Cathy Cassidy and a number of others. You have about two or three days left to bid (depending on when the auction went online), so go donate for a good cause. A lot of people need our help. Thank you!

Marcus Damanda talks about the hidden strength in characters

Marcus Damanda’s horror/suspense YA novel Devils in the Dark has just been published by Evernight Teen. The book is the first in a trilogy and the second title is coming very soon!

devilsinthedark2To most of the Facebook Fifteen, bullying Audrey Bales was just a game—until two deep cuts with a Swiss army knife changed everything forever. Audrey didn’t want attention anymore. After five weeks at Fairview High School, Audrey wanted to die.

The doctors did the only thing they could with her: they put her away.

But in Fairview, Virginia, the nightmare is only beginning. The chat session had not gone unobserved. The Facebook Fifteen have drawn the attention of an ancient evil that lives only to punish those who would prey upon the weak.

They are the ghosts of 1,000 dead children—1,000 suicides—and their master…

Their master likes Audrey Bales.

And as Audrey attempts to heal her mind and body, far from home, their master prepares for the revenge he will unleash upon her return.

 

Marcus is here today to discuss hidden strength in characters.

 

HIDDEN STRENGTH: ROOTING FOR FLAWED OR VULNERABLE CHARACTERS

Hi, Bridie. Thank you so much for inviting me here. It’s very exciting to talk a little about characters with you, since that’s what I fell in love with in MY SUMMER ROOMMATE. As soon as you approached me on this, I knew I wanted to hit that issue, because you paint your own characters with such mastery and care.

I’ve written about flawed and unlikely heroes since I was a teenager. Returning to public school in the eighth grade after four years of religious education left me, more or less, friendless for a year or two as I made a rough adjustment to the life the other neighborhood kids understood as normal. It was a difficult time. My dad enrolled me in karate just so I could defend myself. I fell in love with little people who did—or attempted—big things: Jerry Renault from THE CHOCOLATE WAR, Jack Sawyer from THE TALISMAN, Eowyn from THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Reading about strong characters who accomplished great things took on the reality of a video game to me, whereas these lost, lonely souls with hidden strength called to me. They made me wish I had my own great adventure or calling. Even biblical Moses, the very voice of God in the Exodus, suffered from a speech impediment. My first vampire book featured an albino boy whose own mother forced him to dye his hair black and wear blue contact lenses—he was abhorrent to his own mother.

But it wasn’t until last year that I started writing with female protagonists. The second of these, Audrey Bales, is the lead in my current book, DEVILS IN THE DARK, and at the beginning, she’s as vulnerable as kids come: manic depressive, psychotic, suicidal—but with a heart the size of the Gulf of Mexico, and with a fiery kernel of fight that only waits to be lit.

I tried to hint at this hidden strength in a line from chapter one, even as she plans on killing herself at the behest of her online tormentors. A line she types in response to the torment, directed at the worst of her enemies, seething with defiance: “Stick around. This is for your benefit.”

And yet, I want to be clear. This book, and the trilogy as a whole, is the story of a girl who learns to live. I hope my readers will root for her. I know I did, in the writing of it.

 

Thank you, Marcus! I can’t wait to read your trilogy. It was great pleasure to host you on my blog.

Connect with Marcus on Facebook or Twitter. And be sure to add Devils in the Dark on Goodreads.

Drawing my way through the story

Since I blogged SONY DSCabout research last time I thought I’d share a little bit of what the research for my next book includes. Using Google maps to refresh my memory about the prettiest Paris spots that I visited a couple of years ago is easy. One of the more difficult tasks is putting together a fictional fashion collection.

I’ve always liked drawing croquis and designing and sewing my own clothes, which probably explains why my protagonist wants to be a fashion designer. But I’m beginning to realize putting together an entire collection that revolves around a central theme is a lot harder than I anticipated.

I think quite a few more attempts will be needed before I nail it, huh? 😉 I have to get re-accustomed to using a pencil again. But it’s an enjoyable process.