July 31, 2015 • No Comments
So, when I was about to begin A Study in Ashes, I was hunting about for some reference material on female colleges. I found plenty of references to the fact that such things existed, but not much detail until I got my hands on this book. I blogged about it here.
To my delight and trepidation, the Baskerville Affair (and A Study in Ashes in particular) has been made part of a college course! http://cdmyers.info/Steampunk.html
It raises some interesting questions about the use of history in what is essentially fantasy. I tend toward a real or real-ish setting because it grounds the story in an “ordinary world” that is the foil of the fantasy. I don’t think it is “bad” or “good” to include a certain level of historical detail but I do think it’s important to make what’s included reasonably accurate.
The other benefit of researching is you never know what you’ll find. The entire setting of the Dartmoor laboratories is a real place I discovered by chance. It’s an old farm and the ruins of a gunpowder mill. However, it serves delightful cream teas and holds pottery classes. The Hound of the Baskervilles was an old collie, I’m afraid.
July 6, 2015 • 9 Comments
A member of my local writing chapter has just released a fantasy book. As it’s a genre very close to my heart, I thought I’d introduce it here. Please welcome Sylvie Grayson and the first volume of Khandarken Rising: The Last War. This is brand new to me and I look forward to reading it!
What do you usually write?
I have been writing contemporary works, with an emphasis on suspense, romance and attempted murder. I like the way suspense pushes the story along with greater speed and purpose. It keeps the reader reading (and the writer writing 🙂 ) when there is danger lurking and bad guys looking for their own goals.
How is this book different from your others?
The Last War: Book One, Khandarken Rising, just grabbed me by the throat. I read every genre, and enjoy them all. But some books speak to me more at different times than others do. The whole world of Khandarken rose out of the mist, as far as I’m concerned. And I loved writing it. The idea of creating a new world, with different issues, and another focus was very freeing. I hadn’t realized it would be this way, but felt it opened up so much to me. I’m currently working on Book Four of the series.
Will this be your new focus?
Perhaps. Because I have a few contemporary books calling to me too. So if I am free to move back and forth between contemporary and sci-fi/fantasy, it just seems like the best of both worlds. It is also more of a challenge in some ways. Working on Book Four has forced me to go back and really study my notes for the first three – some of the details have evaded me and I have to remind myself of all the nuances of that world. Each book takes me into a different part of the territory and the surrounding countries, and it’s been so much fun creating that.
The Last War: Book One, Khandarken Rising
The Emperor has been defeated. New countries have arisen from the ashes of the old Empire. The citizens swear they will never need to fight again after that long and painful war.
Bethlehem Farmer is helping her brother Abram run Farmer Holdings in south Khandarken after their father died in the final battles. She is looking after the dispossessed, keeping the farm productive and the talc mine working in the hills behind their land. But when Abram takes a trip with Uncle Jade into the northern territory and disappears without a trace, she’s left on her own. Suddenly things are not what they seem and no one can be trusted.
Major Dante Regiment is sent by his father, the General of Khandarken, to find out what the situation is at Farmer Holdings. What he sees shakes him to the core and fuels his grim determination to protect Bethlehem at all cost, even with his life.
Sylvie Grayson loves to write about suspense, romance and attempted murder, in both contemporary and science fiction/fantasy and has published romantic suspense novels, Suspended Animation, Legal Obstruction, and The Lies He Told Me, all about strong women who meet with dangerous odds, stories of tension and attraction. She has also written The Last War series, a sci fi/fantasy adventure, the first book of which was released in June 2015.
She has lived most of her life in British Columbia, Canada, in spots ranging from Vancouver Island on the west coast to the North Peace River country and the Kootenays in the beautiful interior. She spent a one year sojourn in Tokyo Japan. She has worked as an English language instructor, a nightclub manager, an auto shop bookkeeper and a lawyer. She lives in southern British Columbia with her husband on a small piece of land near the Pacific Ocean that they call home, when she’s not travelling the world looking for adventure.
February 17, 2015 • No Comments
I did an interview with Between Dreams and Reality, which reviews in both French and English. There’s a great giveaway there, so spread the word to any steampunk lovers!
The brooch is by Copper and Lace and I confess to wanting to keep it …
February 14, 2015 • No Comments
January 25, 2015 • No Comments
A writing friend caught a picture of Silks at Powell’s over the holidays. Thanks for sending this, Jennifer McKenzie!
December 31, 2014 • 11 Comments
I’ll start by saying that I am a great admirer of John Truby’s work. Although I take exception to the idea that all fiction should be written like a film script (a book can do so much more than a movie), there is much to be learned from scriptwriting techniques. John Truby has a brilliant grasp of storytelling, and I highly recommend his books. His newsletter has some pretty good insights, too.
Based on these warm and fuzzy feelings, I took advantage of a half price sale and ordered his Blockbuster software. I figured there was something I might learn there. What I learned was that they were marketing for a Mac operating system from lo, many generations ago and customer service at Truby’s Writers Studios is not speedy, either by phone or email. Mind you, if all the Mac users taken in by this sale are contacting them, what a surprise. Plus, it is the holiday season, when they apparently have time to market but not to answer the phone.
So, I’m posting this as a public service announcement. BE ABSOLUTELY SURE that your operating system is covered before ordering any software. Don’t be stupid like me. Even on sale this stuff isn’t cheap (thank heavens I only ordered the basics and none of the add-ons!). And as I know a lot of you are also writers on Macs, I advise caution with this particular product. Double check and check again.
To be fair, I will post here about any response I receive from the company, whether they make it right, offer a refund, or whatever. If they make me a happy camper, I’ll move on to giving a product review instead of just a consumer beef.
ADDENDUM: I’ve heard back from the mothership and they gave me the code to activate the software. Of course, it took some poking around to convince the program to give me the window in which to enter said code, but that eventually got it up and running. If I close the program, it’s really slow to reopen. Despite their conviction that it runs on Yosemite (which it does) I get the idea from the Mac’s grunting and grumbling and slow response that the Mac OS is not the program’s happy place. Two more advisories: one, the software has not got any instructions with it. I recommend getting Truby’s book or other supplementary info–I’ve already read the book so I’m further ahead. Also, if you don’t get the genre add-ons, it’s missing a lot of info. In other words, some of the clickable bits don’t work.
However, all that being said, the software is really good for sorting out ideas. Yes, it can be done on paper and yes, I’m fully capable of much of this stuff on my own but the program prompts me to examine things I hadn’t thought about yet. I’m just beginning a project and in the last hour I’ve focussed the conflicts really effectively. That, for me, saves on rewrites. I have some big projects I’m eager to load into this puppy because I can already see how it will help them along.
I’ll keep going and report back later.
December 29, 2014 • No Comments
Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, was the greatest spymaster the world had ever seen. But when he asked Dr. Dee to summon a demon the result was unexpected, especially for his orphaned niece Lucy. Sir Francis’ duty as her guardian was to find Lucy a suitably aristocratic husband, not to let her fight demons and witchcraft for the Queen’s Secret Service. But his and Lucy’s duty to protect Queen and country from enemies both natural and supernatural kept getting in the way. And so did all those demons . . .
This book caught my interest enough to want to say something about it. I’m always fascinated by Walsingham and Dee, and (in my opinion, anyway) to mix those two figures with a free-floating futuristic intelligence (aka demon) and Elizabethan privateers takes a special kind of authorial swagger. This is a very ambitious premise.
It’s also a bit of a different style of book. It’s the kind of narrative that wanders from one point of view to another, feels free to introduce historical sidebars, and takes its time with the material. It’s not for those who like their stories as high-velocity bullets, pared down to the bare necessities. Rather, it’s for those who like wry humour, unlikely juxtapositions, and storytelling outside the box.
Was it successful? Yes, I believe so. I like quirky books and this one was refreshingly unlike anything else I’ve read lately.
Want to find out more? Click HERE to read an excerpt on the Baen Books site
December 21, 2014 • No Comments
.Took my mom for our annual Festive Tea at the Empress Hotel. It’s always elegant, delicious and the correct degree of overindulgence. It’s a family tradition and I’m grateful each time that I have the blessing of her company and the luxury of the treat.
December 14, 2014 • No Comments
Congratulations to Karen Krack – you’re the lucky winner of Shereen’s book!
December 8, 2014 • 58 Comments
I’ve been a fan of Shereen’s stories for years, so it’s with great delight that I welcome her to my blog. If you like fairy stories, romance, adventure, and the occasional talking broomstick, I highly recommend these books. This blog contains sound advice for writers, but readers should note THERE IS A CONTEST FOR A FREE BOOK BELOW!!
Grant Me Five Wishes
The best way to improve our writing is to pay attention to what our readers want. Though it might sometimes feel as if they ask for the impossible, satisfying reader-needs is a sure fire way to win their hearts.
So what do readers want? Why, it’s simple. They want writers to grant them five wishes.
WISH #1 – Indulge me – This wish is not about drinking hot chocolate on a cold winter day, but it could offer an avid reader an equivalent amount of enjoyment. We grant this reader wish when we pay homage to writing basics. Eliminate typos, revere grammar, be concise, and use literary techniques with skill to the point where readers becomes so immersed in the story, they are unaware we have even used such tools. Mastering this wish will take patience, practice and persistence. Start by building a relationship with yourself through your writing – write every day, week, month and year. Then begin to edit with a reader in mind.
WISH #2 – Convey me – This wish speaks to suspension of disbelief, which in turn is linked to meticulous research and solid world building. Whether our story is a mystery or a paranormal, a contemporary or a historical, we must convince our reader that he or she has just bought a train ticket to our fictional world. If that world has unusual elements, then explain them up front so the reader can enjoy the ride without being bumped out. If we have twists and turns, lay the ground work so those shocks are absorbable. Paint vivid and atmospheric sceneries, employ a captivating conductor (an engaging narrative voice), populate the train with intriguing passengers (fully fleshed-out secondary characters) and ensure the main characters are people a reader will be enthusiastic about spending time with during this exciting journey.
WISH #3 – Intrigue me – If this train ride gets boring, a reader might be tempted to get off at the next station. To avoid this, ensure all scene changes and chapter ends have solid hooks crafted to make a reader say, “Maybe I’ll read just
a little longer.” A Beastly Scandal’s editor had a favorite question that she would scribble at the end of my scenes: “And then what?” Every time I read that, I wanted to reply, “Well, keep reading and you’ll find out.” But what she meant was, “What’s to keep me from putting this book down right now?” Give the reader a reason to keep reading.
WISH #4 – Amuse me – Karl Iglesias, in his Writing for Emotional Impact, devotes eight pages to this reader wish. He believes that a reader always tries to second guess a story line. It’s part of the fun of reading. So inject humor, plot twists and endearing character quirks. And if we can intermingle surprise with suspense, that train will be chugging on late into the night.
WISH #5 – Delight me – This final wish is about a story’s ending. But this wish does not simply refer to a happy ending where the hero and heroine end up together, though that is a strict requirement of any book labelled a romance. To truly satisfying a reader by the end of a story, we must tie up all the story threads. It’s about ensuring the ending is solid and strong enough to justify the reader having spent their precious money and time to travel with us. It’s leaving a reader sighing with pleasure at the end of their journey and then wanting to buy another train ticket from us.
As writers, are we up to granting readers these five wishes? Of course, we are. But we could use a life line. There are many books on how to edit well, but authors also need insightful feedback from the people who have our backs: critique partners, contest judges and editors. If their comments always make us feel proud and pleased about what an excellent writer we are, we need a stronger supporter who can be fearless about hurting our feelings when necessary. Someone who will at times make us so furious, that we passionately gripe to family and friends about how wrong this person is about our work.
We need this type of honest, uncomfortable feedback to force us to re-examine our work with a critical eye. To clearly see both what’s working, and what isn’t. And don’t be afraid of your righteous anger. That fury can trigger creative breakthroughs. When we’re royally cross, we gain the courage to step out of our comfort zone and shed those easy answers with which we normally pad our work. This process is necessary to ensure our story doesn’t wander, will read faster and stays laser focused to hold a reader’s undivided attention until the very last stop.
Remember, our goal is not simply to write a good book. Our goal is to win a reader’s heart. To do that, we must craft stories that leave our readers in awe, and forces them to ignore their TBR (to be read) piles while they anxiously scour the internet or bookstore for our next book. And curse us if we haven’t yet released it.
My recent release, a paranormal Regency novella, is part of a Christmas anthology, One Winter’s Night. Below is an excerpt from this Goldilocks-inspired, Regency romance, A Season for Giving, where you are about to meet one of the three “bears.”
December 20, 1812, London, England
CHRISTOPHER DE WYNTER skimmed his hand across the page as he wrote down the time, date, location, and purpose behind this final experiment. Flickering candlelight from three lit candles accented his perfectly-written script. His mama used to say his writing was a work of art. It was in Christopher’s nature to be precise, a useful trait for his work with volatile mixtures.
And important work it was. He designed trigger mechanisms for guns that soldiers in combat could use in a dependable and safe manner. He had recently been inspired to use a small canister linked to a braided rope-type fuse in place of the less reliable fuses made of straws or quills filled with black powder. He hoped that one change would greatly reduce the hazard of accidental explosions.
With the war still raging, the navy had gone to great lengths to ensure Christopher’s work was kept top secret. If successful, his new fuse could hasten the end of the war and save numerous lives. Still, such an invention was best kept out of the hands of the enemy. Only his family and his naval commander, Sir Trigg, were privy to his work.
Christopher had been given permission to use the Royal Arsenal’s laboratory in Woolwich to work on his theories. Its location, on the outskirts of London, was far from his family home in Mayfair, so on those nights when he worked late, he stayed in the barracks nearby.
While there, he still took pains to ensure his most dangerous work was conducted only when no one else was likely to be nearby. He scheduled his tests when his colleagues had left for the evening or were at church on Sunday when the adjacent offices were certain to be empty.
Despite painstaking precautions and triple checks of his routines, occasional unexpected explosions did occur, and they were hard to keep quiet. Come daybreak, neighbors nearby were known to complain about the loud blasts at night and charred debris spewed on the streets. Those annoyances were tiny compared to the stir that would be caused if such disruptions were to happen in his laboratory at his home in Mayfair, where the ton of London, with strong connections to members of Parliament, resided.
As for his own safety, Christopher, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a predisposition for working with chemicals, had spent the last couple of years surviving the dangers of his chosen profession. It helped that he had a special family talent that enabled him to escape an imminent blast. An unusual inheritance passed down over many generations had kept him out of harm’s way.
The story went that one of his ancestors, a Spanish gypsy, had been a tightrope dancer in a circus until, in retaliation for a perceived wrong, a witch had cast a curse that clashed with the gypsies’ protection spell. Christopher was unclear about the specifics and uncertain if he even believed in such far-fetched tales, but all direct de Wynter descendants could race like a gazelle, scale walls as nimbly as a squirrel climbed trees, and leap like a startled Yorkshire hare. On occasion, a de Wynter was known to even defy gravity and rise straight up in the air.
A Season for Giving by Shereen Vedam
After one unsuccessful season, Miss Honoria Gilbert knows just what she wants in a husband. And she’s finally found him. But Christopher de Wynter isn’t your typical English gentleman. He’s living a double life, doing undercover work for the crown, and has no intention of letting anyone get too close. But then again, he’s never been up against the power of a young lady’s Christmas wish . . .
I have a Kindle copy of One Winter’s Night to offer as a prize to one randomly chosen commenter. To enter:
- if you’re a reader, share a wish you’d like writers to grant you
- if you’re a writer, share one of your readers’ heartfelt wishes
Shereen Vedam was born in Sri Lanka but her roots are now firmly planted on Canada’s West Coast. After thriving for 5 years in friendly Winnipeg with its -40ºC wind chill factor, she decided sandals and shorts for 9 months of the year was preferable to 6 months of parkas, snow boots and frozen nose. Vancouver Island’s magical rain forest, with its ancient cedar, red-barked arbutus and giant weeping sequoia, inspires her writing. Among her published works, you’ll find heartwarming historical and fantasy romances that have a healthy dollop of mystery, with a pinch of magic.