Monday, April 21, 2014

Guest Author Angela Campbell

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Angela Campbell to talk about making your writing more visceral. Welcome Angela!

Thanks, Eleri, for having me as a guest today.

The third book in my psychic detective series releases in June, and I’m itching to hear what people think. This will be the fourth book I’ve had published, and I’ve started noticing a trend.

My first book, Cry Wolf, released in 2011, and people read it and said, “That was a great book, Angie. I loved it.”

Then the first book in this particular series, On the Scent, released in 2013, and I heard, “I really liked Cry Wolf, but On the Scent was so much better!”

Then the second book in the same series, Something Wicked, released a few months later, and those same people said, “I know I really liked Cry Wolf and On the Scent, but your stories keeps getting better and better. I can’t wait to read the next one!”

This is both good news, and a bit nerve-wracking — I really hope my next book lives up to those expectations! It’s good because it means I’m growing as a writer, and since I want to keep growing, I’ve stepped back and investigated what I’ve been doing differently so I can keep doing it, and improving upon it.

The answer is pretty simple, I think. I’ve tried extra hard to increase my skills at writing viscerally without being redundant when I do.  Since my background and training is largely in journalism, where it’s the norm to tell and not show, I’ve always struggled in my fiction writing to paint a scene — and not simply tell you what the scene looks like. The first writing advice most fiction authors hear is to show, not tell, and I think this rule should be stuck to every speculative fiction writer’s monitor above all others.

Since I’m writing about psychic characters, writing viscerally is extra important to me. These characters rely on their senses, and have extra senses, to navigate the world I’ve created around them.  I want readers to not only feel what my characters are feeling, but to understand why they’re feeling what they feel. Oftentimes, the world I’ve created for them is, well, kind of dark, so it’s important for that darkness to flow through the pages and reach out and embrace my readers. Sometimes I do a good job. Sometimes, not so much.

So what techniques have I employed to make this style of writing a habit? A few things. One of them is kind of a cheat, but it’s something I recommend if you struggle with the whole show-don’t-tell rule.

The book The Emotion Thesarus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression is available on Amazon for a reasonable price, and it offers examples for writing a variety of emotions in characters. If you visit the author’s website, a free companion PDF of additional emotions is also available for download:

I’ve also started observing people more carefully. Everyone reacts differently to different situations, but there are some very common gestures we all tend to make when we’re nervous or excited or sad. I’ve also started paying more attention to my own reactions because, let’s face it, the old rule to write what you know isn’t without merit either.

Of course, the real trick of writing show-don’t-tell is to keep from getting overly melodramatic or too clichéd with your characters. This is why editing, and beta readers and critique partners, are so helpful, in my opinion.  It’s easy sometimes to not notice you’ve written a cliché — “quirking an eyebrow” while “a shiver ran down his spine” — but you’d better believe others will. Oftentimes, all it takes is a simple workaround to come up with a fresher alternative — “fear trickled down his spine in frosty beads of sweat.”

What tips do you have for writing  powerful, concise show-don’t-tell? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!


You can learn more about Angela Campbell and her books at Follow her on twitter at @angelacampbel.


Angela's latest...

Psychic medium Alexandra King is sick of being pestered by her boss's dead mother demanding help to reunite her two estranged sons. Determined to get some peace and quiet again, Alexandra follows a lead in finding the younger Collins brother to Charleston, South Carolina, where she immediately meets the hottest man she's ever laid eyes on and finds herself a willing participant in seduction. Of course, her one-night-stand turns out to be none other than Dylan Collins — her boss's younger brother and a homicide detective who believes psychics are a complete waste of time. 

All Dylan wants is a few hours of pleasure to take his mind off of the case haunting him. A serial killer is stalking the streets of The Holy City — a killer who calls himself The Grim Reaper. When the woman he'd just spent the night with turns up and offers her services as a psychic consultant on the case, his ardor quickly cools. Last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a con artist. 

It doesn't take long for Dylan to realize Alexandra is the real deal - and the killer's next target. Dylan's protective instincts battle his reluctance to get too involved with a woman he isn't sure he can trust. As they get closer to finding the killer, they also grow closer to one another, but will Alexandra's secret agenda destroy their chance at happiness — if the killer doesn't strike first?

Available now: 
Amazon   |   Amazon UK  |   Amazon Canada   |   Barnes and Noble (U.S.)  |   Nook (UK)   |   iBooks |  Google Play  |  Kobo  |  HarperImpulse   |   ebooks by Sainbury's

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors

Back to my cowboys this week. This is from Gun Shy, sequel to Reaper's Touch:

Her expression curdled into a scowl but before it could get all the way there, Lyle bent his head and kissed her. Just a touch, a light press of flesh to flesh, nothing more than a question. When her mouth opened beneath his, he groaned at the rush of warmth that flooded his body and his hands left her hips to frame her face. He angled her head to deepen the kiss and she responded with the same rising desperation he felt. He’d known it would be like this, touching her. Like opening a floodgate and he’d only wanted to be standing on solid ground first. He was just beginning to realize that there was no solid ground where Janie was concerned. He’d been falling since the moment he met her and it didn’t seem like he’d be hitting bottom any time soon.

Thanks for stopping by! If you'd like to join the weekend writing warriors, the main site is here. You sign up, post eight sentences from any work published or unpublished and then check out the offerings from the other participants.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Guest Author Veronica Scott: Researching Ancient Egypt

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Veronica Scott to the blog. Veronica writes both Science Fiction (Escape from Zulaire, Wreck of the Nebula Dream) and Paranormal Romance. I'm a big fan of her Egyptian Gods series so I was very interested to learn more about how she goes about researching ancient Egypt. Take it away Veronica...

Thanks for inviting me to be your guest today!

I’ve combined my love of paranormal romance with my fascination for all things ancient Egyptian and wrapped the package up in mythology for my Gods of Egypt connected series. While this is lots of fun, it also gives me excuses to lose myself in research, which pretty much all authors enjoy. No matter what you’re researching, you can spend hours on the internet and it’s guaranteed you’ll end up going down many a side path. You find one shiny, intriguing nugget of information that compels you to learn more. And that’s not even talking about pinterest and tumblr!

I also maintain a large library of actual books, most of which I list on my blog under the topic of overall historical accuracy. At some point I realized I probably owned a lot of the books I’d need if I was pursuing a degree in Egyptology. Thankfully I’m reading for pleasure and there won’t be a test – other than the pass/fail decision whether Readers enjoy what I eventually produce.

So how do I pursue this research? I don’t write strictly historical novels because I wanted to have the Egyptian pantheon of gods and goddesses take direct action in the events. So right there, we’re outside the boundaries of what’s acceptable for historically accurate. I don’t want my novels to be “wallpaper historicals” either though, where I just toss in a few cool looking Egyptian words and make reference to the pyramids and I’m done. I want the Reader to be in ancient Egypt, even if it’s the paranormal version. And there are some plot conveniences I want for me, like actual coins and people not getting married at a very young age, so I do some deliberate anachronisms.

Let’s take my latest novel MAGIC OF THE NILE. Since it’s a sequel to PRIESTESS OF THE NILE, I’d already done the research into the Crocodile God Sobek, hero of the first book and major player in the second. But for this book, since we spend time at the temple Tyema runs, I researched how Sobek’s temples were organized 4000 years ago, a lot more details about crocodiles, how processions were conducted, which deities were important in the capital city of Thebes, the hierarchy of an Egyptian temple’s priesthood, what Pharaoh would wear for different activities, what foods would be served on a big feast day…

I needed my hero Sahure to be very dashing, so he’s a charioteer, which was about as dashing as you could get in 1500 BCE. That led to research on chariots, including a wonderful NOVA special, called “Building Pharaoh’s Chariot.” (Available on dvd.) Watching a team of British researchers attempt to reconstruct the chariot of ancient times, with the help of Egyptian craftsmen, basically by studying tomb paintings and the few actual surviving chariots, was amazing.  But where does Sahure need to be in his gleaming, horse-drawn vehicle?

Well, turns out there was a chain of fortifications along various Egyptian borders, including at the Southern Oasis of Kharga, located on a major caravan route. I’d already researched caravans pretty heavily for a sequence in DANCER OF THE NILE. That’s one nice thing about writing a series – I can build on the tidbits I’ve learned before.  Also, research suggests plot points and vice versa. Since I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, this approach works for me! Now I know all about Kharga, including the topography and weather.

At one point, Sahure needs to tell Tyema about a battle he’s fought in beside Pharaoh. I drew a suitable tale to adapt from translations of  4000 year old eyewitness accounts of actual warfare and gave my character the right ‘memories’ to share with the heroine. So I also needed to be able to talk about his weapons and tactics. Back to researching bows and arrows of the time…

Were the native people of the Southern Oasis descended from the goddess Sekhmet? They certainly thought so, which sent me off to ponder all the cool facets of her powers and background.  Sekhmet became a major player in certain events that take place in my book. In many cases there are alternate versions of the myths surrounding an Egyptian deity so I’m free to choose the aspects that work for my story and to extrapolate other ideas for my plot.

A lot of the research I do never shows up directly in the novels, so if by now you’ve been thinking that my books must be pretty dry, dusty tomes, possibly akin to the textbooks, let me reassure you. I have to be able to put myself in the headspace of ancient Egypt, so I can create characters who are believable residents of that time and place, even while they’re having these amazing adventures. I don’t have to show off all my research (except maybe in blog posts LOL). If it doesn’t serve the plot, it doesn’t go in the book, but the knowledge might influence the story’s direction.

It’s trickier than you might think though and I know I don’t always succeed. Let me give you an example from the first draft of DANCER OF THE NILE: “The chariot bounced over iron hard ruts…” The problem? The Egyptians didn’t have iron at this point in time! So I changed it to “bronze hard”…but to a modern reader that’s an unfamiliar phrase and it took me completely out of the flow when I read it. Eventually the line became: “The chariot jounced over deep, hard ruts…” Sigh. But on with the adventure!

About the Book

After a childhood spent scorned and ignored by her family because of her crippled foot, Tyema was magically healed by Sobek the Crocodile God, then installed as the High Priestess of his temple. But Tyema is still haunted by her memories, scarred by the abuse she endured. Despite Sobek’s protection, as an adult she’s become a near recluse inside the temple grounds…
Until Captain Sahure arrives in her remote town, sent from Thebes on an urgent mission for Pharaoh, requiring High Priestess Tyema’s help. From that moment on, her quiet, safe life is upended in ways she never could have expected.
But after a whirlwind romance with Sahure, the two part as Pharaoh orders him to undertake another assignment on Egypt’s dangerous frontier, far from Tyema’s remote town.
Heart-broken, Tyema is ready to return to her life of loneliness, official duties and, now, regret. But the Crocodile God has other plans for his priestess: she must uncover the sorcerer who threatens Pharaoh’s life with black magic. Soon enough, Tyema finds herself thrown into the chaos of Pharoah’s court, neck deep in intrigue and danger. Just when she thinks she can’t take the pressures of a very public court life and her secret investigation for the Crocodile God any longer, Sahure re-enters the scene.

But is her former love there to help or to hinder? Can they resolve their differences and work together to find the dark sorcerer who threatens Pharaoh and Egypt and find their future together? 

About the Author

Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog,  Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Snippet

Hi guys! If you're stopping by today for Weekend Writing Warriors, I'm not participating this week. One of my very favorite bloggers, Jen from That's What I'm Talking About, invited me to post an excerpt from Reaper's Touch for her Sunday Snippet feature. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out. It's a little longer that my normal eight:)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors

Continuing from last week with my fantasy romance WIP. This jumps ahead just a bit. Janek is speaking with Seril, the man in charge of the outpost. Oh! And at this point Janek still thinks Lorel's name is Denra.

“Let the magi chase down the children and convince their parents that they mean no harm.” Janek remembered the way Denra had stiffened against his side when he’d mentioned the touchstone. “The people here already view it as a sacrifice. They think we’re stealing their children.” 

Seril idly swung his jewel-studded staff. “Only because it’s so difficult to imagine the glory of the city from this pigsty. If they understood what an honor it was to be chosen, they’d push their children on us.”

Janek wasn’t as certain of that.

Question for you guys. I'm struggling with structure. This story breaks into three acts with plot resolution at the end of each act and a year or so separating the sections. It's epic fantasy with the romance arc developing over the course of the entire (3 act) story. Each part is about 40-50K words. I can't decide whether to combine all three acts into one full length novel (and cut length) or leave them as separate novellas. Would you read a romance that ends with the couple apart if you knew there was another story coming? Any thoughts or opinions are welcome.

And as always, thanks for stopping by! If you'd like to join the weekend writing warriors, the main site is here. You sign up, post eight sentences from any work published or unpublished and then check out the offerings from the other participants.