How to begin a book (or not)


January 16, 2019  •  No Comments

How to begin a book? Book beginnings tend to go two ways with me: either out of the gate like a shot or in a dithery fashion that means I begin chapter one about twenty times, erase it, make it chapter three, erase it, then go back to whatever it was I wrote the first time.

Some people would say that the latter method results from a failure to plot and/or I didn’t understand the story well enough. This might be true. Most of storytelling is a mysterious process and though people throw theories at it, I doubt it will ever become an exact science. The story might be stalled because my tea was the wrong temperature and/or one sock was inside out. More likely is that I used up my allotted number of story beginnings early on in my writing career, since I started ten stories for every one that I finished.

Half the theorists say the story should begin in the regular, everyday world of the protagonist. The other half advocate for a major explosion. One wonders about the protagonist’s propensity for bomb-making.

The best way to connect these dots (at least some of the time) is to consider that there is exterior action (incendiary vampires, or whatever action you are proposing) and interior action (whatever character growth the protagonist will undergo). What we’re looking for to launch the story is conflict. It could be the start of the action plot (kaboom!) or it could be a high point of conflict for the interior plot (or both, if you can make them realistically coincide).

I’ll throw my advice into the mix: If in doubt, start with the interior plot, but make it a big moment. Show the character sweating so we like that person but understand how he or she desperately needs to change.

Examples of a high-conflict interior plot opening could be a fight, the character getting fired, or the character doing something else high-risk. Whatever flaw they have, demonstrate it to the max. This makes a nice bookend with the end of the novel, where you can show them reacting a different way to the same situation. That’s a straightforward demonstration that they aren’t the same person they were at the start.

Chapter one: Billy gets in a bar fight

Chapter thirty-one: Having developed people skills, Billy de-escalates a similar situation.

This is a stupid-simple example, but you get the point. There is a difference between flashy and important. Billy might win NASCAR and that might make up the bulk of the exterior plot, but it’s important on a personal level that he is a functional human being so that he stays out of jail and weds Mary-Lou.

Put another way, remember that HIGH STAKES are important to open the story, but the HIGHEST stakes are those the protagonist carries inside them. If in doubt, start your story there.


Because it’s a new year


January 14, 2019  •  No Comments

There’s a lot in the news that makes us think things never change, and certainly not for the better.  But not everything HAS to be this way. Imagine a world without war, or kings, or those who have or have not.

I’m a fan of the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, who has (literally) dug into the history of neolithic Europe (6500 to 4500 BC).  This is my simplification of the picture she paints:

The folks who live here in the late Neolithic period are mostly farmers, although there are craftsmen (like potters) and traders. Tools are primarily flint. They keep dogs, sheep, pigs, goats, and cattle. The village is formed of concentric circles of houses with common areas in the middle. There is no big, fortified house for a chieftain. Instead, the larger buildings house communal gathering places and some of the bigger families. Inheritance and marriages are organized along the female bloodlines. Some members of those large families are the priestesses of the village, and small temple sights are scattered among the houses.

At the end of their lives, the townspeople are buried with grave goods signifying their role—tools of their trade, or ceremonial accouterments. Craftsmen are honored, both male and female alike. There are no separate houses or burial grounds for the rich. This suggests a level of economic equality.

Most significantly, there are no fortifications, weaponry, or evidence of war. There are no signs of territorial aggression.

This is the culture that builds huge megalithic stone and wood structures. There are graves, such as at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland. There are also stone circles or henges at Avebury and Stonehenge in England. The henges are particularly interesting, since these structures are communal property, not designed for the elevation of a single individual or dynasty. Construction required significant dedication and labor. Avebury, by one estimate, required 1.5 million person hours. Talk about collaboration!

My point? We tend to think of great big monuments built by kings and pharaohs, but these megaliths were put in place by a peaceful society of Stone Age farmers and craftspeople. This went on for thousands of years, until warrior tribes conquered Europe and put their kings in place. After that, people began building fortifications instead.


Frostbound: The Dark Forgotten coming up

Sharon Ashwood
January 1, 2019  •  No Comments

Last year, my goal was to re-release my Dark Forgotten series (Ravenous, Scorched, Unchained, and Frostbound). I had three purposes in mind:

  • To get the books in the hands of new readers at a sensible price
  • To give myself the chance to revisit the world and build on it if I so choose
  • To get some indie books into the world so that I can build my sales

Check, check and check. I’m just about to release Frostbound, the fourth in the original series, which gets me up to date. I was slow on this one in order to get Gifted out the door in time Frostbound: the Dark Forgottenfor Christmas but, hey, I really wanted to do a holiday-themed novella. I hope you enjoyed it!

Doing an edit pass of these books was educational. I can see improvements from book to book and also how much I’ve learned about writing since. This is completely natural and healthy.  However, at times I’m troubled by errors that got past the previous professional editing team, but I have to let that go. It’s history. Probably much of what’s bugging me are only things I’d notice but, as a professional, I want to put out the best possible product. In any event, the books are better now than before, and that’s what counts.

Case in point—today I added a new final chapter to Frostbound. After a reread, I thought a more fulsome wrap-up would improve it. Poor Talia needed a bit more time to adjust to the new hellhound in her life—not to mention the rest of the pack—and we were all waiting for election results. Now there’s a few more questions answered. Not everything, of course, because Joe and Darak and the rest still have stories in the future.

Release date will be mid January, 2019. For more on this book, look here.

 

 

 


Favorite Supernatural Holiday Carols

Sharon Ashwood
December 6, 2018  •  No Comments

Who doesn’t like a playlist of holiday favorites? Whether you’re rocking around the Yuletide tree or mixing punch in your festive cauldron, no party is complete without a soundtrack of traditional and contemporary tunes. We consulted with the good folks over at CSUP—the station that puts super in supernatural—to get their most-requested numbers for the season.

Here we go with the countdown:

  1. God Rest Ye Hairy Gentlemen
  2. Silent Night, Howly Night
  3. Here Comes Santa Claws
  4. Jingle Hells
  5. We Three Kings Disoriented Are (aka the mummy song)
  6. O Come, All Ye Fateful
  7. The Little Dragon Boy
  8. It Came Upon a Midnight Drear
  9. What Child is This? (Theme from The Gingerbread House in the Woods)
  10. The First Nom Nom (the werewolf did say)

 

For those of you planning a sing-a-long this season, drop by the station for song sheets and a hot drink between now and New Year’s Day. Our doors are always open! As for whether you ever leave again, your mileage may vary.


Truck parade


December 5, 2018  •  No Comments

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the truck parade that passes at the end of my street.  It gets a little longer each time, a few more of the growling monsters donning antlers and lights and transforming into glittering wonders for the crowd. I love the ridiculous, joyful, contrariness of it all. I love that these big dirty workhorses can be the belles of the ball once a year, and that hundreds stand in the cold to cheer them on.


In which I make a movie about applesauce


December 4, 2018  •  No Comments

Every so often a nifty toy comes my way, and this very simple video maker (Lumen 5) thrills me to bits. Some of the photos in this are mine, too, which adds to the fun. The content is self-explanatory–nothing profound here, just an applesauce recipe in pictures rather than a boring old index card.  Visit https://lumen5.com/ a try for yourself! I bet it would make a great virtual greeting card, too!

 

 


10 Holiday Gifts for Your Supernatural Friends

Sharon Ashwood
December 3, 2018  •  1 Comment

Christmas poinsettiaChristmas shopping can be challenging at the best of times, but the non-humans on the list can present special problems. Need ideas for what to get the vampire with centuries of clutter in his garage or the mermaid who needs everything waterproofed? Here are some suggestions from our retail experts:

  1. Get that vampire a month’s rental on a storage locker big enough to house his spare coffin collection!
  2. For the shifters we suggest many, many lint rollers or a rechargeable hand vacuum!
  3. For the fussy feline shifters, how about modern art that doubles as a scratching post?
  4. As a stocking stuffer, nothing beats fake human teeth for the vampires!
  5. A definite must have: non-toxic chew toys for the werepuppies.
  6. Environmentally friendly dry cleaning options for the mummies on your list.
  7. Steaks
  8. Stakes
  9. A personal crossroad for that special demon. Top seller: something on Route 666.
  10. High-strength spray adhesive is a thoughtful present for those zombies who just can’t keep it together.

 

Just remember, whatever you choose, it’s the thought that counts—or possibly the deliciously fresh brains that just manufactured that thought …


Gifted hits the road!

Sharon Ashwood
  •  No Comments

Gifted is having a wee blog tour.  Here are the dates and places!!

December 3 Mythical Books
December 3 Ogitchida Kwe’s Book Blog
December 4 Supernatural Central
December 4 Boundless Book Reviews
December 5 Ramblings of a Book Nerd
December 6 Urban Fantasy Investigations
December 7 Stormy Vixen’s Book Reviews
December 10 Celia Breslin
December 11 Saph’s Books
December 11 The Book Junkie Reads
December 12 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, and Sissy, Too!
December 12 T’s Stuff
December 13 Don’t Judge, Read
December 13 Fang-tastic Books
December 14 Paranormalists
December 14 Lisa’s World of Books
December 17 Roxanne’s Realm
December 17 JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder
December 18 Momma Says: To Read or Not to Read
December 18 The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
December 19 SImply Kelina
December 20 Jazzy Book Reviews
December 21 Teaser Addicts Book Blog
December 21 Authors’ Secrets
December 21 I Smell Sheep

 


Corsair’s Cove Orchard: The Complete Set


November 30, 2018  •  No Comments

 

The Corsair’s Cove Orchard series is now available as a complete set in paperback. This includes all three novellas and both short stories in this series, which is a respectable 396 pages of the quirky town, its ghosts, and the characters I, as one of the authors, forget aren’t real people. Here’s the back cover copy:

Let Corsair’s Cove draw you home again …

Corsair’s Cove has a reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the Pacific Northwest. Back in Prohibition days, it was a roaring hive of rumrunners, flappers, money, and betrayal. Big Tom Macfarlane and Marigold Mayhew met in the old apple orchard, loved hard, and died young, but their story isn’t finished. Because some betrayals have consequences that echo down through time … and demand the kind of resolution that only true love can bring …

That same apple orchard has now been sold to the local carpenter to make a home for his bride—and has become a bone of contention. Who knew that the cider apple that made Joe Johannsen’s family famous during Prohibition—an apple thought to be extinct—would still be growing there? When Joe and Siena Panati discover the secret recipe hidden in plain sight, will it mean their future—or will it tear their friendships apart? Then Sam Wilson’s return to the Cove for an antique car rally triggers a series of ghostly visitations. The last thing he needs is for Marigold’s ghost to reveal herself to Haley Struthers, the botanist who discovered the apples. But Haley has something very real to be afraid of, and only Sam can help her. It all comes to a head when Lora Trelawney returns to the Cove. With the help of Spike the bartender, she discovers that some secrets aren’t meant to be kept … even from herself … and love is the only way that the Cove’s Jazz Age secrets will ever be resolved …

Readers have fallen in love with Corsair’s Cove, its small-town atmosphere and quirky characters. The Reading Café called the Chocolate Shop novellas “swoon-worthy love stories sure to sweeten your life.” The Orchard series simply raises the bar—giving you stories as tasty as a slice of homemade apple pie!

 


Blood, Sweat and Words Podcast

Sharon Ashwood
November 26, 2018  •  No Comments

I was asked to do a spot on Blood, Sweat and Words, so I chatted about writing about a paranormal Christmas–check it out here.