Snippet Time – Reaper’s Deliverance

Hey, everyone! 🙂 sorry for the lack of posts over the past week or so, I’ve had one of those weeks where you just don’t stop spinning around with work and family. You know the kind of week, right? Anyhoo, to make up for it, here’s a snippet from my new paranormal WIP, Reaper’s Deliverance, and I’ve got a post coming tomorrow about the first line of any book, so keep an eye out! Enjoy! 😀

(Also, my MC here swears quite a lot, but I’ve beeped them out. LOL)

*****

Copyright © Deklofenak at bigstockphoto.com

Copyright © Deklofenak at bigstockphoto.com

This is a joke. A sick joke one of the others is playing on me. Ryder let out a shaking breath, digging his nails into the soft flesh of his palms as he shook his head vigorously. Thoughts tumbled one over the other in his mind, shifting against each other in a flurry of colours and faces. The fear in the pit of his stomach squeezed at him, and he felt the hairs rising up on the back of his neck in response. Limbs trembling, he staggered backwards, away from the nightmare in front of him. The hooded figure simply crooked its finger again, letting out a deep, mournful sigh.

Ryder blew in and out a few calming breaths, drawing himself up and sticking his chin out proudly. Come on, Ryder, what the f*** are you frightened of? It’s a joke. Making the decision firm in his mind, he swallowed back the bile that threatened to erupt from his throat, striding across the hall confidently. His footsteps echoed sharply back to him, the hard rubber soles of his boots hitting the floor with uncustomary heaviness. Stopping just shy of the two figures, Ryder felt a chill travel along his skin, lifting hairs with it in its wake, as he parted his dry lips and passed his tongue across them. “So, who’s the joker? Is it Greg? Matthew? It was Matthew, wasn’t it?” He let out a dry chuckle, his nerves jumping at the croakiness of his own voice.

When no response came from either of the figures gazing down at him with their dark expressions, anger flared in his gut, his natural reaction to anything being withheld from him. It was a reaction every probation officer and police officer had ever seen from him. Temples throbbing, Ryder glanced from one to the other with wild eyes, screaming, “Tell me who the f*** it was!”

“It’s no use shouting, young man. I’m stood right in front of you, and I can hear perfectly, despite my age,” the cloaked man intoned. His voice boomed across the hall, and the resonance of the tone brought memories of worlds long since passed, of lives come and gone in the blink of an eye. He lowered his crooked arm, the fabric of his cloak whispering as he shifted down the steps to come closer. Ryder lifted his boot as if to take a step back, but held his ground, tensing his jaw. The man paused for a second, holding the staff out for the woman by his side to take. She gripped it silently, grasping the wood with both hands as she brought it before her and rested on it.

The man brought his hands up to the hood, pulling it back deliberately. Ryder bit his tongue to prevent whimpering as the deathly countenance of the figure was revealed. His skin was as pale as snow, both eyes milky-white and blind, no hair on his head. Wrinkles covered his skin, but there was something youthful about the way he held himself. “Gilbert Ryder Thompson, I am sorry to greet you here, for one so young. This,” he continued, gesturing around the grand space with raised arms, “is the Hall of Rest.”

“What is this? What’s going on?” Ryder bit out, taking the step back with his boot as he swallowed hard to coax saliva back into his dry mouth.

The figure fixed him with both milky eyes, and uttered, “My name is Ankou, and this is my wife, Morrigan. We are the Guardians of Death. It is our solemn duty to help those who have died…pass over into their next life.”

The words slammed into Ryder like the truck had slammed into his fragile body. Air seemed to evaporate from his lungs, and he clutched at his throat, wheezing for oxygen as his stomach twisted.

 

Taken from ‘Reaper’s Deliverance’, copyright © Miranda Stork, 2014. 

Manic Monday Rolls By Once More – Your Writing Style

Good morning, folks! 😀 I know it’s Monday, but don’t hide under your duvets. Just think of it as Tuesday Eve. 😛

Now, I’ve got today’s blog post below, but first I want to share some awesome (well, to me at least) news with you guys! I’m a suspense/horror SEMI-FINALIST in The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards, with Vigilante Of Shadows! Okay, so I didn’t make the top 5, but I’m still ecstatic that my little book was good enough to be noticed for at least semi-finalist. 😀 And IN the top 5 is a book from one of my best writer friends, Trish Marie Dawson! (Her book is I Hope You Find Me, and I suggest you pick it up ASAP. It is an amazing book, and the reason I ever got to know the lovely lady herself.) So go, Trish! 🙂

 

What’s your style as a writer? No, I don’t mean all those little gorgeous additions you put in afterwards, like chapter headings and such. What I mean is…would someone pick your book up, and instantly know it was yours? There are certain writers in the world whose style is so well known, that even under pen names, you know who they are. (Clears throat over a certain recent crime thriller) It’s not about good or bad, or who likes it and who doesn’t – it’s about adding to your brand. We as indie authors do so much to ‘brand’ our Facebook pages, our Twitter pages, our covers, our marketing…that sometimes we forget the strongest ‘branding’ is the very style of our writing.

So how do you know if you have a style? What sets your books apart from everyone else’s? It can be a certain way you write, how you describe things, or even the very structure of your plotlines. Let’s pick that apart a bit more, huh? 😛

 

Description

This can be a good thing, or a bad thing. There are authors who describe too much – this is also ‘style’, whether it’s right or wrong – and then they are known for stretching out how a sofa looks over two pages. But by the same token, writers can be known for not describing enough. Too short, and the writer feels like they’re rushing through the rabbit hole with a jet-pack on. So after you’ve got the length of descriptions right, what else are you going to tweak about it? Well, it really comes down to what you like as a writer, as you are going to stuff away those tit-bits for later and recycle your own version. A big clincher for me with any book is character descriptions, I can’t get enough of them. I think (I hope!) this comes across in my books, as I always enjoy a character-driven story just a hint more than a story-driven one. So how you describe your characters can have a big impact on your style. I like to include facial movements a lot. And the eyes can be a true window into how anyone is feeling. If someone twitches, what is it for? If someone’s mouth curls, what kind of smile is it? I like to lead the reader through the tiny details, the ones we won’t miss when we’re actually stood having a conversation with a real person.

 

Structure

So, the next point – how do you lay out your plotline? Is it linear, or non-linear? for my books, I like them to spiral off in many directions at once, joining together at the end to give the conclusion. I’ve tried NOT to do it, but it seems to be a natural thing – so I’ve accepted it as my ‘style’. I write primarily in third-person (I’m not sure how it could be done successfully in first-person, but I’m sure someone has done it 🙂 ), so it allows me to be a fly-on-the-wall of many different characters, giving the reader a view that the character themselves may not have. If you already know what the villain is planning, and the heroes are walking into the trap – what will happen next? It also allows for a lot of explaining in parts that every character can’t be at. (A recent historical series on the TV, based on a certain Plantagenet family, is a good example. It was written from the POV of one female character, which meant it was very difficult to accurately tell the reader what happened with certain battles.) Or is your style linear? Do you lead the reader down a winding path, with curiosities along the way? The way you structure a story can add a lot to your branding, as generally readers will always prefer one way or the other.

 

Recycling

What do you re-use in your books? Now, I don’t really mean using the same structure for another book, and changing the names – I’m pretty certain that’s NOT the way to go. 😀 But do you have a set of rules for characters? Are the heroes always a ‘type’ or person, are the heroines? I like to have strong men and women in my books, but they always have flaws – sometimes severe ones. I’m interested in how a person’s past can affect them too, so I like to either throw in a flashback to their past, or have them telling someone. Sometimes I let the reader guess why they are the way they are right until the end. My villains are never black and white either, as everyone has some good in them. They’re nearly always definitely the ‘bad guy’, but I like to give them redeeming features – sometimes, my ‘bad guys’ can end up helping the good guys, if only for a while. This just happened at the end of Keeper Of Shadows. So how do you write your characters? Do they have a particular ‘style’ of their own? Is there something about your characters that would let someone know they reading a ‘By So-And-So’ book?How can you make them yours? Use something about them that makes them ‘yours’ – after all, they live in your head! 😀

 

So what’s your style? What else would you add to this list? 😀

Manic Monday Once Again!

Merry morning, everyone! 🙂 Well, I was away over the weekend, and WP didn’t bother to put up my scheduled posts. Will I ever get the hang of this internet thing? LOL So, anyhoo, the Manic part of Monday is…that Scrumptious Saturday and Sunday Snippet are both part of today’s post! Scrumptious Saturdays will be from some of my favourite book-related recipes, and Sunday Snippet is…well…a snippet. And it’s from Daughters Of Brigantia again, as this WIP seems to be taking over for now. Well, let’s move on! Or should that be backward? Anyway, enjoy! 😀

 

Scrumptious Saturday

Two of the books I loved most as a child were Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass. (Not to mention pretty much every other book and poem by Lewis Carroll, but that’s for another day.) A recipe mentioned within, that was a firm favourite with the Victorians, was Mock Turtle Soup. Now, I’m not about to get a turtle, OR a chicken for today’s dish, so vegetarians don’t worry! This is 100% veggie-friendly. 🙂 (However, there ARE eggs in the recipe. Please use a vegan egg substitute for a vegan-friendly version.)

Mock ‘Mock Turtle Soup’

Ingredients

  • 1 lb potatoes, or other starchy vegetables
  • 3 qts water
  • carrots (chopped)
  • 3 stalks chopped celery
  • onions (chopped)
  • 12 ozs catsup
  • 21/2 ozs worcestershire sauce
  • lemon (quartered)
  • 11/2 tsps salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • flour (browned)
  • hard-boiled eggs (chopped) (Or use Vegan Egg Substitute)

 

  1. Boil the potatoes to a firm but soft-at-the-edges consistency; add all ingredients to the potatoes in a large pot; cook 1 to 1.5 hours.
  2. Keep lid on for first 1/2 hour.
  3. Add browned flour gradually, stirring constantly.
  4. Add 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs; cook another 1/2 hour.
  5. Browned flour: Brown 10 tablespoons flour in a skillet, stirring constantly. Add a little water to make a thick paste.

 

Enjoy your literary soup! 😀

Sunday Snippet – Daughters Of Brigitania

 

*Please bear in mind there may be some errors, as this is still a WIP. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Darting into her roundhouse, Aiia was glad to see it had been left as how she remembered it. Snatching up a fresh change of clothes, she pulled them on and reached for a jug of water, splashing it into a bowl. As she attempted to clean up her face and hair, a jolt of panic ran through her again. Of all the people who had been in that crowd, only Aiia understood the curious look Cartimandua had given the messenger. She’s going to say yes to their truce. Yes! To the same bastards who killed Gaisio, and would have killed any of us when they landed. After scooping up a hammered bronze mirror to check her reflection, she ran back outside, to make her way into the great hut. Cartimandua would not be happy to see her, but she had little choice—she had to be there.

Two guards were stood to attention at the main doors, but neither of them even blinked when she sped past, keeping her eyes downcast to prevent them recognising her. As she slipped into the darkness of the roundhouse, she ducked in behind the servant girls, perching herself in a dark corner to listen to what was said. Cartimandua and Venutius were seated in their thrones, the messenger sat on a bench the other side of the fire. It crackled and jumped, an unwelcome addition to the hot day, but necessary for the feast to be laid out in the evening.

After making sure that the messenger was given wine and food, Cartimandua settled back into her throne, and fixed him with a wry smirk. “I suppose you have been told we are barbarians and savages, yes?”

The messenger looked up from his drink with a stutter, feigning surprise. “Indeed not, your majesty. We have no knowledge of yourselves, with the exception of our late emperor Julius Caesar’s writings. He merely mentioned how your land was triangular was was at least two-thousand miles across.”

Venutius gave a frown, interrupting, “Excuse me…miles? What are these?”

Coughing on his bread, the messenger hid a smile, replying, “It is a unit of measure, your majesty. For example, it is about a mile from your gates to the very bottom of the valley below.”

“Ah, I see.” Venutius leaned back into his chair, stroking his moustache thoughtfully. Waving an arm he continued, “So I suppose you mi—“

“We did not come here to talk about measurements,” Cartimandua reminded him tartly, turning her attention back to the messenger and adding, “And my husband is not ‘your majesty’, he is merely Prince Regent. You may refer to him as ‘my Prince’. Now, what of these gifts? Are they to bribe us, then?”

The messenger scoffed at the statement, choosing to ignore Cartimandua’s jibe about her husband. Venutius himself bristled at the statement but said nothing, simply sending a dark glare into the back of the queen’s head. The messenger leaned up with a smug lilt to his dark eyes, and crooked a finger at one of the soldiers. They jumped up smartly and strode to the chest, bending down only to click the lock open.

Even Aiia let out an awestruck breath at the sight. Bright terracotta pots lay within, filled to bursting with glass beads in every hue, amphorae of wine and oils. Cartimandua tried to appear unruffled, but she slid forward on her seat to better view the luxuries within the chest. It appeared all the more like a treasure trove for the current situation the tribe was living through. She held her hand out as the soldier passed over a string of amber-coloured beads, running them through her fingers like a gift from the gods. “And all of these…are if we choose to join your empire, I presume?” she responded, ruefully placing the jewellery back down again and staring quizzically at the messenger.

He shook his head. “No, these are yours to enjoy. Rome does not offer up toys as if you were spoilt children. We merely wish to show you what Rome could give you. If you were to sign the treaty…there would be many more gifts.” He gave a charming grin, his stern countenance momentarily shattered. “Rome does not forget its friends. But, I should warn you. Neither does Rome forget its enemies.”

His words were not taken lightly, and the Queen rose her gaze to his, the fires casting dark shadows across her eyes. “Is that a warning?” she answered quietly, her tone ominous.

The messenger’s chewing slowed once more, and he gave a slow swallow, leaning forward on his worn seat. The fire reflected off his brass armour, giving him the impression of being made of fire. “Only if you choose to be an enemy.”

 

Like this snippet? Why not sign up to my newsletter here, where you can be kept up to date with all my releases, including Daughter Of Brigitania. 😀

(Taken from ‘Daughters Of Brigantia’, Copyright © 2013 Kathryn Northwood. Do not reproduce, use, copy, or include in any way in any format, digital or print, without prior permission of the author.)

Manic Monday – Here Again!

*Yawns* Is the weekend over already? No, I needed more sleeping-in time! *has to be prised away from quilt* Oh well, guess we all have to plough on and get Monday over with. As it’s Manic Monday again, (and I’m now caught up with work after being off), I thought today’s post could be about choosing characters in books – at least from a writer’s point of view.

How do our characters come to us? Is it in a coffee-addled haze? Is it in a dream? Or is it from someone we know? Characters can come from all these sources, but at some point, each one is going to need some extra tweaking and planning. So what’s the process of character creation?

The Coffee-Addled Haze Character

Otherwise known as, I’m-actually-writing-something-else-right-now-but-I’m-procrastinating-and-this-came-to-me. The coffee-addled character most often turns up when we’re supposed to be doing something else. Usually writing. This character is the least offensive, but the most certain one to bug you until you write it down. Somewhat whiny and hyper from the addition of caffeine, this character will push your story process aside and demand to be carefully noted down on a bit of paper, sure to be forgotten again. They have a short shelf-life, as most of them are forgotten once a writer gets back to the careful task of doing the story again. But bits of them may pop up in background characters of many books, breeding like rabbits, useful because of their barely-worked-out details beyond how they look.

Only 52 cups? *scoffs* Beginner.

Only 52 cups? *scoffs* Beginner.

The Dream/Nightmare Character

These characters are easily the most slippery, and yet can be the ones to make the biggest impression. Dream characters (otherwise known as the good guys) can turn up in the sweetest of dreams, and sometimes the sexiest. Often used as fodder for the heros and heroines of stories, they make a big impact with their presence, appearing realistic enough for noting down, but fuzzy enough to have bits added on to fit their book. Often they seem to come semi-naked, perhaps from having to squeeze through the membrane of dreamland. No one needs gooey bits on their nice clothes.

Nightmare characters are much the same, but are most prominently used for the villains of a piece. Depending on the attractiveness of the character, they can emerge to become a villain that is both hated and lusted after, quickly earning the inst-hatred of all other characters. Fond of dark rooms due to their inability to find light switches, they often hang about in corners, waiting for a moment where the writer is worrying about that book they can’t find in the spare room. An uglier villain will have the same impact, but will most usually be used as part of a ‘team’ of villains in anything but horror novels.

No more characters in dark rooms. Hell, no. I have to get some sleep!

No more characters in dark rooms. Hell, no. I have to get some sleep!

The Hey-Don’t-I-Know-That-Person Character

This is both the easiest and hardest character to make up. Being based on someone the writer may know, the overall character has a good grounding in realism, how they look, and how they react to events. However, the character must be tweaked to avoid absolute recognition, especially if said character is less than complimentary. (Beware, writers can and will take notes if you annoy them. Don’t blame me if you end up in Mr Nightmare’s dark room. *gulp* ) Not everything can be reversed, but usually the character becomes an exaggerated version of the real person, perhaps even to the point of becoming an annoying feature to the reader. They are then usually irritated by the character until said character finally perishes in a remarkably comic death.

Exactly, Tom, exactly. You can't have people you don't like just popping up and being eaten by a shark. Can you?

Exactly, Tom, exactly. You can’t have people you don’t like just popping up and being eaten by a shark. Can you?

The Mary-Sue Character

Arguably the character with the least development, and usually female, this character is like Marmite – either loved in the extreme, or hated in the extreme. The character will usually have a basic description of looks, but they tend to adapt easily to allow readers to ‘imprint’ themselves.  For example, “Her blond-black hair.” Or similar. The character will display little emotion to events happening around them, unless it’s to point out that the event is ALL about them and no one else, and possibly to stamp their feet until an equally drippy hero/heroine comes in to save them. Unable to do much for themselves, the poor Mary Sues must flap their arms and gasp a lot until someone turns up to move the story along for them, allowing the reader to finally move onto the next piece of self-centred action.

A typical reaction from a Mary-Sue. Beware, ladies and gentlemen, we may need mops.

A typical reaction from a Mary-Sue. Beware, ladies and gentlemen, we may need mops.

The Historical Character (usually just added to Historical Fiction, but can turn up anywhere)

These are the character based on actual figures. Much like the Hey-Don’t-I-Know-That-Person Character, they are covered in great detail, but unlike them, the Historical Character must be studied carefully to understand their inner thoughts. Easily one of the most exciting characters to discover, the writer can use actual events and decisions of the person to work out what they would have thought of a situation. Part-Encyclopaedia, part-psychic abilities, this character should have the earthy charm of the realistic person, but the otherworldly dreaminess that can only come from being pushy enough to decide the inner thoughts of one of history’s greats.

Cat and bubbles may not be included.

Cat and bubbles may not be included.

The Perfect Character

This character is as rare as blue mushrooms growing on your head, and twice as yummy. Usually the secondary character who becomes a hero or heroine in the second book, they tend to have a hefty back-story artfully woven into the novel in bits and pieces. They will be good-looking, but not too good-looking, and everything you want in a hero, but not too much. In a word, flawed. These tend to become the characters the writer will think of with most fondness, They are most commonly found in the most angsty situations, offering much-needed back-up to the main character, or giving worthy advice in the middle of the plot twist. As they enjoy being in the centre of any tension-charged situation, these characters can often end up dead by book three, simply to pull out the emotions in the reader to urge on getting rid of the villains. *sniff*

The usual reaction to a character of this calibre.

The usual reaction to a character of this calibre.

So what do you think? What other characters could go up here, what have I missed? I’m sure there’s plenty more. 🙂

Just another Manic Monday!

Morning, folks! 😀 That’s right, Mondays on the blog are now officially Manic Mondays! That means anything goes, so hopefully it gives you a giggle on that most hated of all weekdays. Today we’re going to take a look at book covers, along with more gifs. Always the gifs.

Now, it goes without saying that you need to get a book cover professionally done when you write a book – and that doesn’t mean you need to spends hundreds of dollars or pounds, but simply make sure it’s done by someone who knows their way around photoshop AND knows what readers want to look for.

1. Have a clear idea of what you want.

As a cover designer myself, I’ve often been a little frustrated by authors coming to me with what I thought was a clear idea, and wanting it changed completely (not tweaked) halfway through. If you don’t have a clear idea, neither will your designer or your readers. Try taking a look at books in a similar genre to your own, and mark out what you like about different ones. This can help you to decide what you want on your own, and also let you see what’s popular.

If Tennant can't decide, then we're all in trouble.

If Tennant can’t decide, then we’re all in trouble.

2. Trust your designer

Once you’ve got a clear design in your head, and given a brief to your designer, you now need to be prepared for a few things to be tweaked. If they make suggestions of things they either wouldn’t do, or would change, listen to the ideas. They know what they’re talking about – they do this for a living! I’m not saying do away with your idea altogether. But a common issue, for example, is wanting a lot of stuff on your single cover. New authors especially can want this, as you feel the need to get across as much of the book as possible. But sometimes less really is more. Take note of your designer’s suggestions, remember your own design, and talk it out together to create the perfect mock up.

That's all very well, Doctor, but can you make a fabulous cover in two weeks? I don't know about that.

That’s all very well, Doctor, but can you make a fabulous cover in two weeks? I don’t know about that.

3. Avoid the clichés. 

If I had a pound for every romance cover I’ve seen with a typical kissing couple, or a shifter book with a semi-naked man and wolf’s head on, I’d be a very rich woman indeed. Not only does it make your cover look like the other thousands of similar books out there, it looks as though you only gave your cover two seconds of your time. I’m not saying you can’t use these things. There are circumstances where they could be used in a very different way from usual, and it creates a fabulous cover. But for the most part, I would steer clear unless you’re 100% certain. Try picking something else out from your story that could be used – an object even, rather than people. Perhaps there is a particular piece of jewellery your main character wears? Do they have a penchant for that certain house? Maybe it’s a landscape that captures the feel of your characters. Think outside the box, and avoid doing what everyone else is doing.

Exactly.

Exactly.

4. Does it represent what happens in the book?

While you need to go outside the box, don’t forget it is that box that still defines your book, so don’t stray so far it’s unrecognisable. A sensuous, kissing couple surrounded by roses on a crime thriller is going to look very odd. The cover should attempt to be a 30 second pitch in one image. It doesn’t have to be the whole plot, or even a whole chapter, but it has to get the main thread across. Perhaps the whole book leads up to the reader finding out your main character is in fact a witch? In which case, it would be fine to have mystical symbols dotted around the image. Perhaps another angle is that someone holds a particular ring that can kill her? Maybe make the ring the focus, and stick to dark colours for the background, making the ring really glow or stand out in some way. It can be a punchy image, but it gets across what the book is about.

If you happen to be stuck in a glass case or box, please punch a big hole in the side so you can escape. Thank you.

If you happen to be stuck in a glass case or box, please punch a big hole in the side so you can escape. Thank you.

5. Make sure you like the final design

You’ve followed all the rules above, the mock ups have been tweaked within an inch of their lives, and the cover looks perfect. But do you like it? There’s no point having a cover that looks great, but you don’t like it – because you’ve got to market it. If there’s something you want tweaking with the final layout, tell your designer. If they’re a good cover designer, they won’t have a problem perfecting it for you, it’s what they’re there for!

I NEEEEED this cover. You have no idea how much. #CoverFeels

I NEEEEED this cover. You have no idea how much. #CoverFeels

6. Be prepared for change

No matter how much you love your cover, or how perfect it is, they do have a shelf life. (See what I did there? *giggle*) Think of any product you’ve ever bought, and especially any contemporary book. If you bought it more than a year ago, does the cover still look the same now? Two years ago? Chances are more likely it’s either had an update, or it’s changed altogether. This is because covers change to reflect adapting trends, or even because it’s slipping behind on sales – a refreshed cover can bring in fresh readers. I’m not saying change it every six – eight months – although if you’re doing your own covers and you’re able to do this, I say go for it – but aim to change the cover every few years at the very least. You might just be surprised how much it can give a lift to a book. 🙂

Gits. Just....GITS!

Gits. Just….GITS!

Click here to see my own cover designs, and even consider purchasing one from me. Whether you want one of my stock covers, or you want a brand new design from scratch complete with a trailer, you might just find what you’re looking for at Moon Rose Covers. 😉 www.moonrosecovers.com

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