Posts Tagged ‘C.D. Hersh author’

We’re over at Soul Mate Publishing Author blog today talking about writing time travel. We have a couple of time travels WIPs so we’re interested in the subject. While Catherine was looking for some photos to go with that blog (which she didn’t find) she came across some interesting sites related to time travel which we thought would be fun to share with you today.





The picture of the Jesus look-a-like  on this Pinterest board is hard to swallow, since we don’t know what Jesus looked like, unless you believe the Shroud of Turin is his image. But the Keanu Reeves, Nicolas Cage and Sylvester Stallone pictures make interesting cases for time travelers look a likes. Guess that would be a device that would work in a time travel story.

Anyway, we found it interesting, even if you don’t believe that time travel is possible, or even like time travel stories.

We’d love to hear what you think about time travel. We love it–writing and reading about it that is.

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Last week we talked about repetitive word usage and challenged readers to write an essay without repeating any words. We took our own challenge. On our guest blog at SMP authors, you will find a 263 word piece entitled Words–How Many Can You Write Before Repeating Any. Since Catherine knocked out last week’s little paragraph with ease, she thought, “How hard can it be?” and started on the guest blog that same day. Hours later, and at least four runs through the software program Donald purchased, she finished.

Here’s a sample of the SMP Blog.

Distinctive choices matter when penning books. Readers won’t always see repetition nor understand why they like something better, yet will notice differences between tomes which provide fresh communication over and above those that do not. Terminology overuse creates dull writing, lacking snap, sizzle, sparkle–things booklovers desire.

To see the rest of the blog, hop on over to the SMP Author blog site.

Today’s writing tip: Make a list of the words you know you use over and over and keep it nearby when writing. A quick glance before you start writing will help you remember your pitfall words. Over time, you may be able to eliminate a great deal of your repetitive words on your first draft.

Do you know what your most overused words are? We’d love to know.

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Violetta Rand has posted a new book review of The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles) on her Splash of Romance in Your Life site.


For more information about the book click here .

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The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word brainstorm as: a sudden inspiration or idea.  I don’t know about you, but the brainstorming we’ve done for our book The Promised One and the subsequent series The Turning Stone Chronicles was not a sudden inspiration or idea. We tossed ideas around for several hours before we hit on a title for the series. Then we spent more time brainstorming the world, the plot, our characters, and the various books. Along the way we discovered some tips for effective brainstorming that we’d like to share.

  1. Everything is fodder for an idea, no matter how bad it might sound at first. If you tweak it enough, you might be able to use it.
  2. Two heads, or even three are better than one.
  3.  Invite a non-writer to participate. They might have a different take on the subject.
  4. Ask “what if…” , then ask it again, and again.
  5. Throw the first five thoughts out. They were the easiest to come by so they may not be the best solutions.

Do you have a favorite brainstorming technique?

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We’re over at Meggan Connor’s There’s a Bee in my Bodice blog with another interview and an excerpt from our book The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles) We hope you’ll come by and leave us a comment.

And, now, for today’s writing tip:

Many writers have trouble finding the right title for their books. No so for us. In fact, the title and the entire idea for our book series The Turning Stone Chronicles actually came from a road sign that said “Turning Stone.” We started brainstorming what a book entitled The Turning Stone would be about, and our book series was born, complete with a series title. The one thing we didn’t think about when we came up with our title was how many other writers might have a similar title. We should have looked at that, because when we searched for our book title, after it had been released,  lots of writers had similar titles to ours. So, we suggest, before you settle on a title, take a quick perusal around the internet to see if you have a unique title. There’s nothing wrong with having a similar title as another book, but your book will stand out among the crowd if you can choose something unique.

How do you find your book titles?

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Come join us today at the SMP author site where we’ll talk about why collaborative writing works for us. Hope you’ll drop by and leave us a comment. We’ll be back here next week with more new content.

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Today we’re pushing contests to help you get your work ready for publication. In our humble opinions, contests are a great way to get your manuscript out in front of editors and agents. Catherine has entered a number of contests as a solo author and we’ve even dipped our toes into the contest pool as coauthors. Even if you don’t win a contest, or place in it, you usually get feedback which is always helpful. Fresh eyes and virgin readers see the weak spots in your manuscript and notice things you and your critique partners missed.

Here are three contests for romance writers that are open right now:

  • The Heart of Denver Romance Writers The Molly. Deadline May 31, 2013. First pages, up to 30, of your manuscript plus up to 5 (unjudged) pages of your synopsis. First round judges; published and unpublished authors. Final round judges; editor, agent, or publisher. For more information go to http://www.hodrw.com/contests/
  • Northwest Houston RWA Annual Lone Star Writing Competition.  Deadline June 8, 2013. First 25 pages, Electronic entries only. First round judges; two published authors and one unpublished. Final judges: a panel of three romance industry professional. For more information go to http://www.nwhrwa.com
  •  New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book. Open June 1, 2013 to July 1, 2013. Synopsis and first chapter/prologue, 30 pages maximum. First round judges; published authors. Final judges: one each in category, agent, editor and multi-published author. For more information visit http://www.njromancewriters.org or email PYHIAB@njromancewriters.org

If you’ve got your book ready, or even the first few chapters, why not take the plunge and send it in to a contest? Some contests don’t even require that your book be finished. But be aware that, if it’s good, an editor or agent might want to see the whole thing. It happened to Catherine as a solo author. Fortunately, she was prepared.

Have you entered your books in any contests? Did you place, win, or just get some good feedback?

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Today we will be guest blogging at Soul Mate Publishing Author Group. Please click on the link to join us. We’re excited to be part of the Soul Mate Publishing house and are looking forward to the publication of our first book in the Turning Stone Chronicles series The Promised One.

We’ll be back at our own blog site next week with more writing tips.

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Writing Lessons From Downton Abbey ©

Recently, we’ve become addicted to Downton Abbey, the British produced PBS show  set on the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in Yorkshire County, England. The show, which begins in 1912 shortly after the sinking of the Titanic, follows the lives of the family and servants living in the impressive country home of Downtown Abbey. The show is the most critically acclaimed English language television series of 2011. By the third season, it was proclaimed the most widely watched television series in the world and had garnered 27 Emmy nominations. Most watchers rave about the wonderful costumes and the unbelievable house and grounds as the reason to watch this show. While those are great, we like the show because anything England fascinates us—well, maybe just Catherine, and we found ourselves laughing out loud at the dialogue. We also were intrigued with the interplay between the social classes.

As we do with most shows and movies we see and love, we began to dissect Downton Abbey to see what makes it tickle our fancy so. Here are a few things we discovered in our analysis.

  1. By the end of season two we counted over 33 regular cast members with equally interesting drama and story lines, both upstairs where the aristocracy lives and downstairs where much of the servants’ drama takes place. The writer of the series says he planned for all the characters to have equally interesting lives.
  2. Every character has a place in the story, from the lowly kitchen maid to the crusty, pompous dowager countess of Grantham. No character is window dressing or extraneous in the story line, and at some point everyone interacts, even the kitchen maid and the dowager countess.
  3. The show is filled with short scenes that jump around. Although it’s not a technique we would recommend for a book, because it can make a storyline choppy and hard to follow, it works in the show. When you have a minimum of 17 characters  per show, who have to share one hour equally, there would be no other way to get in every character, in our opinion.
  4. What you, the viewer, know is never repeated as an explanation on-screen by way of dialogue. Instead you see the reactions of the characters when the crisis is revealed to them. This approach makes figuring out what is happening difficult if you come in late to the story, but it made us want to find out what the elusive references were all about. In other words, we got hooked looking for the reasons for all the fuss.
  5. Only one or two characters get the zinger lines. The dowager countess of Grantham has some lines that make us howl, and they fit her character perfectly. This sort of thing only works when you set your characters’ attitudes and personality up right.
  6. There’s always a character, upstairs and downstairs, that you love to hate.
  7. There’s a character that you love to hate who partial redeems herself.
  8. There are lots of characters with whom you can empathize.
  9. The lovers are kept apart. The push-pull of romantic relationships is the basis of a compelling romance and Downton Abbey does it well. Even the earl and countess of Grantham, the couple whom you think is happily married, have a few moments of doubt about their relationship. We were so wrapped up in their relationship we found ourselves groaning out loud, verbally urging the earl not to cheat on his wife. Matthew and Mary, the couple you want to see happily married, spend two seasons getting to the altar. Even when they marry there is plenty of foreshadowing that trouble will follow in season three.
  10. Downton Abbey is a grand scale show that watchers are naturally drawn to.

So what lessons can you, as a writer, draw from this award-winning television drama?  Here’s what we’ve come up with, aside from creating a compelling world for your book.

  1. Give every character in your book equally interesting lives and purposes.
  2. Make sure no character is there for window dressing. If they don’t serve a critical purpose to your story, get rid of them.
  3. Don’t be afraid of short chapters or scenes, but use them sparingly. It’s harder to follow the written word when you jump around than it is to follow the visual changes in a movie.
  4. Don’t repeatedly explain what is happening or provide info dumps. Your reader is smart enough to remember what she’s read and clever enough to figure things out.
  5. Make your characters’ voices distinct. Everyone can’t have the funny lines or be the snarky character. Also, you should be able to tell who is talking by what they say or how they say it.
  6. Include a character, usually the villain, whom your readers will love to hate.
  7. Make sure the characters you love to hate have at least one redemptive quality to keep them from being one-dimensional.
  8. Include characters your reader can emphasize with. This would normally be your hero or heroine.
  9. Keep your lovers apart if you are writing a romance or have a romance in your book.  This keeps your readers pulling for them and turning those pages to be sure you will give them the Happily Ever After ending they hope for.
  10. Dream big. You might not have a castle to use as your story backdrop, but that shouldn’t stop you from reaching for the stars.

Are you a fan of Downton Abbey?

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My husband and I watched the movie Fred Claus the other night. It’s the story of Santa Claus’ older brother (bet you didn’t know he had one!) who found himself in the position of the less favored son. (Makes sense since Nickolas became a saint.) It was a cute story about a dysfunctional family and how they sorted their problems out one Christmas.

What caught our attention wasn’t the dysfunctional family story, but the story the writers found in back story of a new character they created to compliment a well-known character.

This isn’t the first time someone has used this plotting trick. Gregory Maguire did something similar when he wrote the book Wicked, the story of how the wicked witch of the west became wicked. He went on to write an entire Wicked Years series featuring familiar and new characters from Oz.

The upcoming movie Oz: The Great and Powerful, which opens in March 2013, is a prequel to both the Frank Baum’s novel and the 1939 film The Wizard of Ox. Oz: the Great and Powerful  tells the back story of the Wizard of Oz.

The new television series Once Upon a Time also uses this plot mechanism. Have you ever wondered why the wicked queen hated Snow White so much, beyond the simple and obvious she’s-prettier than-I-am motive? The writers of this series tell the queen’s back story and have turned all the fairy tales in this series sideways. If you don’t watch it, it’s a great show.

Chances are you’ve read Wicked or seen the stage play, have heard about Once Upon a Time, or plan to see the movie Oz, the Great and Powerful, or seen some other movie or read a book that turns well-known stories upside down. If you’re like me, you wished you had come up with those ideas.

So how can you and I find ideas like this? The key is to think outside the box. Here are 5 suggestions you can use to change the norm into the abnormal.

  1. Consider placing your classic characters in another time and space and see what happens to them.
  2. Look for an interesting minor character in a story and figure out what makes them tick. Then give them a life and a back story, and, yes, back story is okay here because it is the premise of your story.
  3. Find a classic story you love and turn it on its ear. Think Jerry Lewis as Cinderfella.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go outside the conventional box when considering options. I may not like vampires that can walk in sunlight and twinkle, but there’s no doubt lots of readers do. Readers can often suspend what they know about a subject if you give plausible reasons for the changes.
  5. Apply and unexpected plot twist to a well-known character or set of circumstances. In Once Upon a Time the writers took Little Red Riding Hood and made her the Big Bad  werewolf. Her magical red cloak protected her against her curse—and Grandma knew her secret, but Red didn’t.

In all the stories mentioned, we did not see the twist coming, and that’s the kind of thing writers, and readers, want. We walked away from each of these stories saying, “I wish we had thought of that!”

Do you have a favorite book that has used this creative back story method?

© C.D. Hersh

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