Writing A Series

Today, as promised, I have the pleasure of welcoming Canadian author Kristina Stanley as my Guest on Writing Wings. Kristina is the author of “Blaze“, which is Book 2 in the Stone Mountain Mystery series. I recently reviewedBlaze” and I am looking forward to the release of Book 3, “Avalanche“, tomorrow.

Over to you, Kristina.

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Thank you, Roland for having me on your site today. It’s a pleasure to be here to write about writing.

Writing a Series

Can you imagine being buried alive in an avalanche? Did you know a buried person can hear rescuers searching for him but can’t speak about because the pressure from the snow is keeping his mouth closed?

This terrifying knowledge is what I first learned about avalanches when I was researching BENEATH THE SNOW. I spoke to a man who’d been buried and survived, of course. He was generous enough to share details that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

THE HISTORY:

So why am I telling you about this when the title of the post is Writing a Series?

BENEATH THE SNOW was the working title for AVALANCHE. It’s the first novel I wrote. I then went on to write DESCENT and BLAZE (working title BURNT).

As I wrote the first novel, I wasn’t aware I was writing a series. When I finished the novel, I knew Kalin Thompson and Ben Timlin had more to say.

By the time I had three novels in the Stone Mountain series finished, I learned a great deal about writing. Working with my agent, together we decided BENEATH THE SNOW should be retitled as AVALANCHE and rewritten to be the third in the series instead of the first.

Kalin Thompson (the protagonist) needed more knowledge and experience at a ski resort if she was to investigate a large theft and the disappearance of her brother at the same time. The title changed because by then we knew all the titles in the series had to be a one-word titles.

THE BENEFIT OF WRITING 3 NOVELS:

Having three novels in a series written gave me the opportunity to develop the character arcs across the series, plant information in the first two novels that would lead to the third, and be consistent with the setting.

I also believe writing three novels before approaching a publisher gave me time to develop needed skills.

CONSISTENCY IN MARKETING:

The covers for all three novels have a similar look and feel. The fabulous Ryan Doan created the artwork based on the setting of the series. The font, the text placement and cover layout are the same for each book. If a readers see my books on a shelf, they will know they go together. Because we knew ahead of time where the series going, the DESCENT cover was designed with the long term goal in mind.

Avalanche Cover Final

A Little About AVALANCHE

(To Be Released Tomorrow!):

On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name. As threats against her escalate, she moves closer to uncovering the guilty party. Is Kalin’s faith in her brother justified? Or will the truth destroy her?

A Little About Kristina Stanley:

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her first two novels garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE for the Debut Dagger. Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is also the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES.

Before writing her series, Kristina was the director of security, human resources and guest services at a resort in the depths of the British Columbian mountains. The job and lifestyle captured her heart, and she decided to write mysteries about life in an isolated resort. While writing the first four novels, she spent five years living aboard a sailboat in the US and the Bahamas.

Find out more about her at www.KristinaStanley.com.

 

Links to the Stone Mountain Mystery Series:

DESCENT: myBook.to/Descent

BLAZE: myBook.to/BlazebyKristinaStanley

AVALANCHE: myBook.to/Avalanche (on sale for a few more days only.)

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Erratic Schedule

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This post is an apology for my failings in the weeks and months ahead.

You’ve been warned.

I’ve even got some sneaky excuses that might even be genuine.

First, I have to warn you that my posts will appear erratically. I will attempt some kind of weekly post, but no wild promises lile, “I will post something every Tuesday”. Attempt can mean that nothing will appear.

There will be a few guest posts, like this Friday’s post from Kristina Stanley, whose novel “Blaze” I reviewed recently. Her latest book, “Avalanche”, is released on Saturday.

And there will be the intermittent book reviews, like the one that I should write for my current read, the “Dying for a Living” Box set, by Kory M. Shrum. It feels like a slower read than normal as the set has three books, and I know that there are two more out there. Will I get that far?

Finally, I will try to write my monthly IWSG posts, although that may be a fail come October. That’s because of September 20th.

QM2For those that don’t know, that is the date when we embark on the QM2 and head for the USA, and the next stage in our life-adventure. Yes, we are selling our home in Harlech, North Wales, and by the end of September should be in our new home in Boise, Idaho. There we will have my wife’s family to support us. Bliss.

Although the IWSG post for October is on Wednesday 5th, our computers will still be in a container between Wales and Idaho. In fact, our possessions may not arrive until sometime in November. Okay, we have a small HP Stream notebook for travel, but I’m still adapting to it.

The HP Stream will get its second outing next week, when we head to London for my interview with US Immigration on Wednesday June 29th. Checking emails is probably the most that I will achieve, but don’t expect any comments on your blogs or here.

In fact, with all the preparations prior to the move, I’m already commenting less, visiting fewer blogs, even writing less. That is likely to become the norm as time sails on. Cruising on the QM2 will be a kind of luxury, but connecting with the cyber-world will be off the menu. Just seven days pampering ourselves perhaps. As for the dogs, they travel first class, with their own cabin/kennel, steward, bedtime biscuits, poop deck, designer jackets, and more.

queenmaryNot looking forward to the road trip though. Getting from New York to Boise will be a challenge for all of us. At least, Juanita’s son Jason will be driving across to collect us.

Anyway, by October – maybe November – there will be a large backlog to catch up. Or should that be a Backblog?

I’ve deliberately evaded any reference to aggravating health issues, but they seem to be growing. The niggling bladder, the stabbing spasms, rebellious limbs, the depression, the exhaustion, and the frustration never go away. Sometimes I can escape into another world, either one of my own creation, or a book I’m reading, or a game that takes me to a ‘a galaxy far, far away’. But never for long. Too soon I get interrupted by the MaelStrom or MonSter.

I’m praying that a change of climate, from the dampness of Wales to the dry warmth of Idaho, will be the healing touch; along with the loving support of family.

Hopefully, by December and the holiday season normal service will be resumed.

 

 

 In The Midst Of Life -a review

When I devised my point system, I wasn’t expecting a book to slip to the third star position. But I hope my review justifies this score.

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In The Midst Of Life (D.I. Angel Mystery #1)

by Roger Silverwood

Twenty years ago, a nurse in a hospital for the criminally insane was brutally and savagely murdered by a patient.

It later turned out that the patient had had his medication withheld by another nurse, who had been stealing and selling drugs for her own gain – and her subsequent disappearance triggers the beginning of a gruesome trail of enquiries.

Then the disgraced nurse’s sister arrives in Inspector Michael Angel’s office with news of a murder, and fears for her own safety.

With some mysterious clues – a dead woman wearing one stocking inside out, an American class ring, and two dead cats – and a lot of clever humour, Inspector Angel scrambles to find the killer in south Yorkshire.

Despite obstruction from the Chief Constable, the doggedly determined and charismatic Inspector Angel stubbornly ferrets out the suspects.

By relying on his eternally willing right hand man, and resorting to an unusual strategy, he manages to narrow the long list of suspects down.

But are his suspicions right?

And can he stop the killer before anyone else is cut down In the Midst of Life…?

‘In the Midst of Life’ is the first novel in the DI Michael Angel series.

*

The blurb for “In The Midst of Life” intrigued me, and the opening chapter hooked me. But as I read more this novel proved a disappointment. Maybe it was because I had just read three excellent crime novels.

Or maybe it was Inspector Angel. I found him irritating, although some readers have called him a strong character. I disliked his attitude towards his colleagues, which was more than racist in places. Maybe he is based on real cops, but I hope he’s in the minority.

I felt uneasy about his approach to solving crimes, not least the way that he reacted to some video evidence. He also seemed to be more concerned about petrol station robbers than the murder. Or was that the writer? Was there a subtle clue here that I missed?

The plot had me guessing until the resolution, but too much was revealed at once, and it didn’t read right. This wasn’t an Agatha Christie reveal that has this captivated reader flicking back for clues. I felt cheated when Angel revealed things that were never set up earlier.

I came away wondering if that was his main reason for not worrying about the murder. Or was that because the victim was a woman? But then Angel’s not a misogynist just a stereotype. And what’s with a police force with no women?

However, Roger Silverwood still needs some credit for not only writing one book and getting it published, but also a whole series. That takes something. Shame the plot fell short.

*

So did I learn anything from reading “In The Midst Of Life”? Well, I realised that I must avoid putting off readers with my protagonist’s attitude. Researching the modern police force is essential, so I’m glad to be in touch with two North Wales police officers – one of them female. Finally, the plot resolution must tie into previous events, even if there are red herrings and hidden clues.

 

 

 

 

Writers, Have You Rocked The Vault?

Yesterday, I posted a review of The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces, and today I’m celebrating its release date with authors Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. Congratulations ladies. 🙂 

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As this is there day, they have the comm, or the floor, here at Writing Wings.

 

It is a writer’s job to draw readers into the fictional story so completely that they forget the real world. Our goal is to render them powerless, so despite the late hour, mountain of laundry, or workday ahead, they cannot give up the journey unfolding within the paper-crisp pages before them.

Strong, compelling writing comes down to the right words, in the right order. Sounds easy, but as all writers know, it is anything BUT. So how do we create this storytelling magic? How can we weave description in such a way that the fictional landscape becomes authentic and real—a mirror of the reader’s world in all the ways that count most?

The Setting Thesaurus DuoWell, there’s some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Urban Setting Thesaurus: Police Car.

And there’s one more thing you might want to know more about….

Rock_The_Vault_WHW1Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of Writers Helping Writers is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking…if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!

 

 

The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces

Tomorrow, June 13th, Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman are expanding their indispensable Thesaurus family by adding The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Natural and Personal Places and The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces.

“We are very excited about these books, and hope they’ll change how you think about setting and description. Sensory detail, a large part of each book, is an especially powerful way to draw readers into our story’s world, so we really need to get it right.”

For Angela’s taster visit: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2016/06/launch-mock-post/

However, here is my review of The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces.

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As a writer, one of my most referred to books is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, so I was excited to find the Thesaurus family had new additions. I was not disappointed when I delved into The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces.

The Thesaurus is well laid out, with three parts, starting with some insightful and useful sections that explain why setting is so important, and how writers can enhance their creations by using it well. Setting is too often the poor relation of characterization and plot, but, as Ackerman and Puglisi demonstrate, it can lift your writing.

As they say, “We are very excited about these books, and hope they’ll change how you think about setting and description. Sensory detail, a large part of each book, is an especially powerful way to draw readers into our story’s world, so we really need to get it right.”

These eight sections include: The Setting as a Vehicle for Characterization; The Setting as a Vehicle for Delivering Backstory; The Crown Jewel of Settings: Sensory Details; and Common Setting Snags. These were informative, and made me aware of all the opportunities that I was missing in my own writing.

The main body of the Thesaurus contains a collection of over 100 diverse settings arranged under helpful headings: IN THE CITY; RESTAURANTS; RETAIL STORES; SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT AND ART VENUES; and TRANSPORTATION. There is plenty of options to choose from when finding the most suitable location – for instance I choice the settings ALLEY, BAR, RACETRACK, and POLICE CAR as the starting points for my exploration, and just these locations led down a multitude of avenues.

Each setting contains a wealth of suggestions on the SIGHTS, inside and outside, although you definitely don’t need every one. These are just great prompts and reminders. Then you get the same on SOUNDS, SMELLS, TASTES, TEXTURES AND SENSATIONS.  The suggestions don’t stop there. There are POSSIBLE SOURCES OF CONFLICT, PEOPLE COMMONLY FOUND HERE, SETTING NOTES AND TIPS, and another thought-provoking paragraph that demonstrates techniques – the SETTING DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE for each setting.

For me, these EXAMPLEs demonstrated what was possible and the techniques available to a writer. Full marks to the authors for their well-crafter slices of fiction, that demonstrate what is possible with Settings.

Perhaps the feature that got me dashing along other avenues most, was the RELATED SETTINGS THAT MAY TIE IN WITH THIS ONE. This lists those other settings, and in the eBook links to them. So POLICE CAR took me to the Police station. Prison, Courtroom etcetera. It was hard to stop exploring this Urban world. If that’s not enough, there are even related settings in The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Natural and Personal Places, so the two books work in tandem.

The final part of the book contains tools to aid you in applying all these gems, as well as a list of all the Rural Settings, Recommended Reading, and more information on the first class team behind the Thesaurus family.

After this wordy exploration of the invaluable Urban Setting Thesaurus, I’m off to buy The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Natural and Personal Places as its sister thesaurus is a tempting taster of what to expect. Both have to be an essential part of any fiction writer’s library. They will be part of mine.

Bad Moon Rising – a review

I’ve been sticking with the crime fiction for my reading, although my next review is of a darker offering. But I was engrossed once again, not least because the forensics in this was so well researched and described.

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Bad Moon Rising (D.I. Paolo Storey #1)

by Frances di Plino (Goodreads Author)

*** SEMI-FINALIST in the KINDLE BOOK REVIEW 2012 competition ***
*** FINALIST for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014***

One more soul is safe.

Brought up believing sex is the devil’s work, a killer only finds release once he has saved his victims’ souls. Abiding by his vision, he marks them as his. A gift to guide his chosen ones on the rightful path to redemption.

Detective Inspector Paolo Storey is out to stop him, but Paolo has problems of his own. Hunting down the killer as the death toll rises, the lines soon blur between Paolo’s personal and professional lives.

For anyone that likes their crime fiction dark and gritty, then I recommend “Bad Moon Rising” by Frances di Plino. The killer is believably twisted by his religious calling, and his identity is cunningly hidden from Detective Inspector Paolo Storey, his colleagues and the reader.

Frances di Plino has crafted a memorable detective, complex and tragic like some of the finest flawed characters. When I finished the novel, I wanted to know more about him and where his life was going. I must read the next book in the series.

The depth of characterisation doesn’t end with the protagonist and antagonist. Even the minor characters are well portrayed, and stand out in their own right. There is also a strong sense of the complex workings of all aspects of the police, including forensics, but told believably.

The personal interactions weave around the investigation, especially with Paolo Storey, whose own attitudes often drive the action. This takes the story to another level, where all the elements are working seamlessly to create a relentless story…a dark tale that seeps into unexpected crannies.

The twist was unusual, but that is the sign of a clever author. Find a new angle and make it work. I’m intrigued what Someday Never Comes (D.I. Paolo Storey, #2)  will add to this excellent series opener.