Exciting News and a Contest!

Book 2 cover

 

Exciting news!

I finally have a release date.

The second book of The Seeker Files

“In Search of Healing”

will be released on

May 15th!

 

Here is the blurb for “In Search of Healing”.

Having survived her first few months at HSI, Agent Aletta is settling into her partnership with Lirim. She is coming to terms with her newfound gift and the threat to her welfare is finally over. Or is it?

Aletta had left everything behind to start over at HSI. But her past is not content to remain where it belongs, in the past. Drawn reluctantly back into her past, she and Lirim race against time at they try to figure out who is behind the attacks on the Canticum Opera Company.

Struggling to fully harness her gift and running from her past, can Aletta and Lirim figure out who is targeting the Canticum Company before time runs out?

 

Are you excited? I know that I am!

 

However, my first book, “In Search of Justice” is in need of some love.

book cover

It’s all just fun and games until someone dies.

In a world where supernaturals and humans live side-by-side in peace, that peace can be suddenly shattered. That’s when HSI (Human-Supernatural Investigation) comes into play.

Agent Aletta Sheridan has been with the department for only a little over a month when she’s handed a new case. A murderer is on the loose in Isenton and it’s her job to track the killer down.

Fiercely independent, Aletta is forced by her superiors to partner with another agent. With only a handful of clues to follow, will they be able to stop the killer before anyone else dies?

 

So I propose a contest.

Here are the rules:

  • Read my book. It’s available on Amazon, just click this link: In Search of Justice. It’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited and it’s only $2.99 if you don’t.
  • Leave an honest review on Amazon. I’m not looking for an ego boost, I really want to know what people think of it.
  • Come back to this post and leave a comment letting me know that you’ve done these two things

 

But if this is a contest, there must be a time limit and some prizes. So the time limit is 10 days, it will be closed at Midnight on April 30th, 2018.

Here are the prizes:

  • 10 reviews – I will post a sneak peek for In Search of Healing
  • 15 reviews – I will post an interview by the main characters from The Seeker Files
  • 20 reviews – I will post the first chapter of In Search of Healing
  • 25 reviews – I will post a never before seen bonus story from Lirim’s viewpoint.
  • 30 or more reviews – A random reviewer will be chosen to name a character in my third book in the series: In Search of High Society

 

If we pass more than one milestone, the prizes accumulate. So if we hit 15 reviews, I will post the prizes for both 10 and 15 reviews. And so on and so forth.

 

So let’s see if we can’t hit the grand prize and win all of them! I’m looking forward to reading your reviews.

I have decided that limiting it to April 21st is too short of time, so I have moved the deadline to the end of the month. Looking forward to reading your reviews 🙂

Featured post

R is for Realistic

When I read a book or watch a movie, one of the things that irritate me the most are unrealistic scenarios or characters. I’m not saying plot lines, movies and books that explore the possible are some of my favorites. I love Lord of the Rings and all the Star Wars/Star Trek movies. (Yes, I am neither a Star Wars nor a Trekkie, but enjoy both. Shocking, I know.) No, it’s the impossible that annoys me. Like in the movie Wonder Woman where she leaps the gap and climbs the tower. Yes, I know that she’s a demi-goddess, but it was enough to pull me back to reality and away from the storyline.

 

demotivational_poster_star-trek-VS--star-wars_20110403010012_reg

 

When we read or watch a movie, we participate in something called the Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

A willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment

Word Origin: Coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Source: Dictonary.com

 

However, there comes a point when something is just too much for our minds to take and we are jerked harshly back to reality. So how can a writer stop from passing that line? That’s a hard question to answer. The patently ridiculous is obvious. For example, in a western, floating cyber cows that can shoot laser beams from their eyes will immediately pull us from the storyline as we shake our heads and wonder when that happened. But on the other hand, what if they have subtle chips that have GPS in case rustlers happen to take them? I would be willing to keep reading and see where this goes.

However, when you have characters, unless you have Superman, keep it within human limitations. And remember, even Superman had a weakness. Kryptonite reduced him down to human standards. What readers and viewers want are flawed heroes, people that they can relate to. Perfect characters can turn people away even faster than bad prose can.

Superman kryptonite

 

So what is a book or movie that you found totally impossible?

Friday Feature – Author Cassondra Windwalker

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I’d like to thank Kat for this opportunity to connect with new readers. I’m Cassondra Windwalker, a dabbler in nearly every genre of writing so far who occasionally even manages to get something published. More to the point, I’m an avid reader myself who strongly believes that the dialogue between reader and writer, between bard and warrior, is what gives any word life. To that end, I’m also grateful to you for indulging me here for a moment.

 

Rilke said something about how the great duty of lovers is to guard one another’s solitudes. The great duty of writers is to find the words that bridge those solitudes, that allow one solitude to commune with another. The writer offers up her invisible parts in a mirror to the reader, who gazes into the glass and finds his own invisible parts there clearly shown. No matter the genre – science fiction, mystery, steampunk, literary fiction, poetry, romance, graphic novels – the stories that persist are the ones that work on unfolding human nature itself, that try to uncover what, if anything, defines the human apart from either the clay or the divine.

 

As a writer, then, the only parts of myself I’m interested in unveiling are the parts that my readers might find secretly familiar: in other words, all of them. I’m ruthless in the display, breathlessly tearing apart bone from sinew from flesh and laying them all bare to be adored or vilified or disregarded. What frightens people is that I am as swift to flay the flesh of others as well as my own, be they a passerby on a city sidewalk or a lover caught in stolen moonlight.

 

It’s not fair at all, but then, there’s nothing fair about love. Love for us mortals is about finding our being in something that we are doomed to lose. We can’t change the ending – it’s the same for all of us. So we have to make meaning in the chapters that we get to write. And I mean to write every chapter that I can, and make ink of all the blood I find.

 

My erotic work of magical realism, Parable of Pronouns, is available for sale now on Amazon in both ebook and paperback formats and is free on Kindle Unlimited at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078RSGM2Y. My psychological thriller/political satire Bury The Lead will be released by Black Spot Publishing this September. You can reach me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CassondraWindwalkerWrites and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WindwalkerWrite.

 

Q is for Quiet

We live in a noisy, thriving world. It is proof that life is always around us. Whether it is the city or the country, there is always noise. In fact, there is nothing more unnerving then total silence. I’ve only experienced it a few times in my life and thankfully it has only lasted for a few moments. It usually happens at night, when everyone is sleeping. The lights are off, everyone is sleeping, and even the wind has died away. The silence is deep enough to wake you up and you lay there, straining to hear something, anything. Then the refrigerator kicks on and its familiar hum is soothing, allowing you to sleep back into sleep.

 

quiet.jpg

 

So how do you tune out all the distractions so that you can concentrate and write? Oftentimes, it’s too noisy to write, other times, it’s too quiet. For me, I use music to write to. It helps block out environmental noise so I can concentrate, but it’s not so quiet that I start focusing around me to see what’s wrong. (I grew up with three brothers, the only time the house was quiet was when they were sleeping or planning something. They often wondered how mom caught onto their schemes, but when it grew quiet she knew that they were up to no good, lol.) I tend to go with songs that I know well, they are enough to keep me centered in my writing but I’m not distracted trying to figure out what they lyrics are or who the artist is.

 

I also use music to help me when I’m writing. I have songs that fit perfectly with certain characters, so I play those when I have to get into their personality. I have playlists with sad songs, upbeat songs, suspenseful songs, so whatever emotion I need to capture can be evoked by listening to them.

Music-and-Emotions

 

So what are your feelings on quiet?

P is for Plot

It is probably no surprise that I chose Plot for the letter P. Despite the fact that I am a pantser not a plotter, every story requires a plot. However, instead of writing about how to develop a plot, I thought that it would be fun to show you how I develop a story.

Usually I don’t get the start of a story, but am thrown right into the middle the middle of a scene.

“Laine walked at a brisk clip down the sidewalk, searching for the bookstore. She sighed in frustration, tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. When she’d stopped for directions, they’d seemed fairly straightforward, walk two blocks, turn right, walk another three and the store should be on her right. However, her quarry was proving to be elusive as this was the third time she’d circled these two blocks without a sign of the store she was searching for.”

Now this leaves me with so many questions. Usually when I have snippets like this and I’m in the middle of another story, I ignore them and they fade away. Sometimes, however, they don’t fade away but come back repeatedly. So after about the 48th circuit of Laine down that sidewalk, I give in and sit down with her for a chat.

Sitting down, I start by looking for her full name and appearance. She is Elaine Narrows, somewhere in her late twenties, she is about 5’7”, curly bright auburn hair, wearing a tan pantsuit with low heels. Her occupation is that of lawyer, although she refuses to say what particular branch. She’s used to keeping her cards close to the chest and doesn’t want to give away any more information until she judges me trustworthy.

Having met her, I know have to unravel what led up to her going in search of this bookstore. She is obviously a smart woman, so she wouldn’t just randomly go off in search of a bookstore. So what made her go looking and why that particular bookstore? I have to go back to the where it started.

And suddenly a scene unfolds before me, an office, your basic office, with dove gray walls, metal file folders, and a couple of potted plants in the corner. It’s Monday, not even 9 a.m., and the day is overcast, cloudy and gray. Laine is sitting at the desk, her hair neatly pulled back in a French braid and a cup of coffee steaming on the corner of the desk. However, it is the occupant of the chair on the other side of the desk that catches my attention. A teenage girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen. She is thin, too thin, and there is desperation in her eyes. She has long brown hair pulled into a sloppy braid and a lip ring, a simple small hoop. She is wearing an oversized green canvas jacket that she’s huddled into and her hands are clenched in a death grip. Ah yes, here is where the true story begins.

When I reach this point, the story usually gains a life of its own and it isn’t too long before I reach the scene that started it all, Laine’s search for the bookstore. So for me, the story usually starts with a glimpse of a scene from somewhere in the middle of the story, a pivotal point in the story that will change everything. I then have to do some detective work to find out where the story begins and then follow it to its logical conclusion.

So how do you plan a story?

 

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O is for Observation

Something that you may not know about me, I am an introvert. Now a lot of people like to throw around the introvert/extrovert label and say that one or the other is better, but that simply not true. An introvert is someone that recharges when they are by themselves, an extrovert is someone who is recharged by being around people. There is nothing intrinsically better or worse about being an introvert or an extrovert, it’s simply how you get your energy.

 

Now you might be asking yourselves what does this have to do with writing? A lot actually. I get my energy from being alone, from having my own space. Does that mean that I hate people and want to be a hermit up in the mountains? No, actually the opposite is true. People fascinate me, I love to observe them, to see how they interact, what is meaningful to them. I can spend hours watching people interact, watching how they interact, how they respond differently to the same situation. Human expressions can vary so diversely, it’s fascinating.

So I challenge you, go to a public place, a mall, a park, a coffee shop. Sit there and just watch people for half an hour to an hour. It’s amazing how much life you can see in that short amount of time.

extrovert_introvert

N is for Narrow

As writers, we are perforce required to narrow things down. We have to decide which genre to write in, who or what our main character or subject is, what time frame they exist in. We do it of a necessity so that we don’t overwhelm ourselves or our readers with either too much irrelevant information or too confusing of a plot line. Books written that way tend to get set aside quickly and only very rarely picked back up.

So when is narrow too narrow? Usually, we like to present our information in a simple linear fashion. Picture if you will, a simple dirt path that leads to a rope and plank bridge over an impassable gorge. It is straightforward and it gets you from point a to point b, negating the impossible obstacle that is the gorge. The bridge, or narrow viewpoint, is necessary to reach the endpoint.

 

bridge

 

Now imagine if you will that same bridge, but instead of over a gorge, its in the middle of a beautiful mountain meadow. Does it make any sense to be there? Does it serve any purpose? No, but we have become so focused on that bridge as the only way from point a to point b that we have failed to see its lack of usefulness in this situation. That it is cutting us off from the beauty and possibilities that surround us. So narrow minded focus can be a good thing, but only if it used in the right places.

 

mountain meadow

 

What is a book that has either too narrow a focus or not narrow enough that you will never finish/read again?

M is for Money

Due to tiredness, I made a mistake on yesterday’s post, L is for Language. Today is the halfway point, not yesterday. My apologies for the mix-up but congratulations again for everyone that has hung in there. Also, thank you to everyone who has stopped by and read my blog. Without you guys, there wouldn’t be a reason for a blog. Now, onward to the post!

 

money

 

Money is such an ingrained part of our daily lives that we rarely consciously notice it. It is there, after all, we work to pay our bills, we shop for things we need, we save up to go on vacation. In fact, on any given day we probably use and think of money at least twice if not more. We know our currency down to its smallest value. For Americans, it’s the penny. We often have a jar filled with it sitting around our houses somewhere.

 

So how does money translate into writing? We have to consciously bring it to the forefront of our minds as we write. Is our character poor or rich? Do they budget everything or are they a free spirit that struggles paycheck to paycheck? When they travel, are they familiar with the local currency or do they struggle to pay and make change. Because of this, are they easy prey for con men and tricksters? What if they are robbed in a foreign country? What are their options?

 

fantasy money

 

As a fantasy writer, I often do world building for my stories. Part of that includes currency. This includes types of currency, is it made from precious metals, cheap metals, wood, paper? Value of currency, is it based on a very regulated system like each coin increases value by 10 or is it a more random system where each item is valued independently of each other? This is always a very fun part of writing for me.

 

Finally, there is one more type of currency: Barter

:to trade by exchanging one commodity for another

: to trade goods or services in exchange for other goods or services

  • farmers bartering for supplies with their crops
  • bartered with the store’s owner

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Your character has a specific skill set, how can they barter it to obtain what they need? How do you set values for such diverse things? This is always a challenge to decide, but it allows you a lot of flexibility in your storyline.

 

We have now reached the end of the second week of the A to Z Challenge. Only two more to go! So tell me about a time when you bartered for something. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Feature Friday – Author Helen Starbuck

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Becoming a Writer

Copyright © 2018 Helen Starbuck, all rights reserved

 

People write for a lot of reasons. Writing for me has always been an escape, a way of dealing with life, and my favorite form of entertainment. The say if you don’t like the way things are, then rewrite your story. I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. My writing career got its first boost when, as a young teenager, I fell in love with Paul McCartney. My best friend and I wrote romantic stories about Paul and Ringo and it was a way to fantasize that was endlessly entertaining. I view those now as my first attempts at writing a romance novel.

Growing up I read voraciously, in fact my mother complained that I needed to put the books down and go out and ‘do something.’ I was doing something, it was just in my head and she couldn’t see it. I was never part of the ‘in crowd’. No matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t fit in. As a result, I wrote about my disappointments, about my desires and my hopes, and about guys I had had crushes on from afar. Writing about this made the lack of social grace and connection more tolerable. I think watching people and studying them, trying to figure out what makes them tick, like I did in high school, helped me write.  I think most writers have this interior life that drives them and that they use to fuel their writing. We grow and learn from other writers who inspire us.

I still watch and listen to people to hear their speech patterns, to listen to their stories, to get a feel for a character. Sometimes it’s quite amusing listening to those around you, like the twenty-something guy on his way into Home Depot talking on the phone who said, “Yeah, man I’m done. I’m having a garage sale and she’s the featured item.” I still laugh when I remember that. What perfect dialogue, his frustration and his humor visible in one line—a line I intend to use in one of my stories.

The urge to tell a story has always been strong for me. I love mysteries and suspense novels and it always helps if there is a little bit of romance to spice things up. I grew up in Colorado and I write a mystery series set in Denver with an OR nurse as the protagonist and narrator. Professionally, I am an OR nurse so I write what I know. I have learned as a nurse to listen to what is said and what is not said. People tell nurses things they rarely tell other people and you get a great sense of the human experience.

My first book, published in October 2017, is The Mad Hatter’s Son, An Annie Collins Mystery. It’s a tale of love, friendship, betrayal, and consequences. Annie Collins, a nurse used to caring for others in the OR, is drawn unwillingly into the chaos that is her long-time friend Libby Matheisen’s life. With puzzling symptoms and a plea for help, Annie wonders whether Libby is really ill or whether there’s more to the story than what Libby is saying. Faced with Libby’s apparent suicide, Annie is beside herself with guilt and unable to stop asking questions to uncover the truth. The answers to these questions don’t come without a price. Faced with a friend’s life that has derailed, pursuing the mystery of her illness and death threatens to derail Annie’s life as well.

The Mad Hatter’s Son is loosely based on a patient I helped take care of years ago. She had very puzzling symptoms and it took her doctors a long time to figure out what the problem was and it was a shocker. The story is not about that patient, but the circumstances are similar. I am working on the second book in the series, No Pity In Death, which I’m hoping it will be published in the fall of 2018, if everything goes according to plan. It’s a continuation of Annie’s story and involves her helping to solve a rash of patient deaths at her hospital.

 

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The paperback and e-book are currently available on Amazon and at the Tattered Cover in paperback. The audio book will be available in late May 2018. You can connect with me on my website www.helenstarbuck.com where you can sign up for my newsletter and read a teaser chapter from the next book. There are hints at the books planned for the series and a link to a radio interview I just did on Clear Creek Radio. You can also connect with me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/helensstarbuck/  and on Twitter @helensstarbuck.

 

L is for Language

So we are now on day 13 of the A to Z challenge which means that we are officially halfway through the challenge. Can I get a cheer anyone? Kudos to everyone who has made it this far in the challenge, it’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun at the same time.

halfway point

Today, what I love about writing is L for Language. I absolutely adore words. I love the way they can have so many different meanings and spellings. For example, take color and colour. They are both spelled correctly and mean exactly the same thing, the only difference is that the first one is commonly used in American English while the second is used in British English.

 

 

Another thing I love is discovering the etymology of a word. I was watching “As Time Goes By” with my mom the other night (It’s a British comedy with Judi Dench) and the word firkin came up. Now, I always though a firkin was a type of flask used for drinks like whiskey, but my mom was unfamiliar with the word so I looked it up out of curiosity. A firkin is actually a small cask that holds about 11 gallons.

 

ORIGIN

Middle English ferdekyn, probably from the Middle Dutch diminutive of vierde ‘fourth’ (a firkin originally contained a quarter of a barrel).

Source: Bing Search

 

It’s fun to see how words evolve and change. There are even new words being added to the dictionary ever year. For example, two new words are chillax (chill out and relax combined) and bling (flashy and expensive objects, often ostentatious). They are in the dictionary, I checked.

And when writing, there is always the search for the perfect word. You might know four words that mean roughly the same thing, but depending on context, one will be more appropriate than the others. Let’s say that your character is having problems choosing between several options. You have the options of ‘Several, myriad, so many, a lot, tons, and a bunch’. Depending on the formality of the situation, you have choices. For a less formal situation, you might go with something like, “Becky knew that she had tons to do, but she needed to just pick one and start.” On the other hand, if your faced with a more formal situation, it would be more like, “Princess Maria looked over the myriad suitors that sought her hand and wondered how in the world they would be able to house all of them in the guest quarters.”

There is a downside to words too, though. I am a voracious reader with a fairly large vocabulary. However, most of it has been gained through reading, so sometimes when I’m talking I have no idea how to pronounce a word and leave my listener baffled and myself in a state of embarrassed humor (it’s happened often enough that I pretty much just see the humor in it anymore).

 

So what is your all time favorite word?

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