Misleading Plots

I admitted on Instagram the other day that I’m at a crossroads as an author… Not only am I considering shifting genres from historical fiction to historical fantasy (gaslamp fantasy?), but I’m also taking a hard look at my recurring writing habits with an eye to improve.

While reading WRITING FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION by Orson Scott Card, Philip Athans, and Jay Lake, I realized a hard truth… my plots misdirect the reader. This would be ok if it were done with well-crafted intention, but of course, that is at the reader’s discretion about how well I’m doing that.

Now, clearly I’m improving or I wouldn’t have won the 2017 Self-Publishing Review award for THE LAST APRIL. Even so, I’ve been learning more about the types of stories that populate fantasy and sci-fi and instead learning more about how I should be crafting my historical fiction. Isn’t that funny?

The book mentions four story categories: milieu, idea, character, event, a.k.a. “there and back again,” “answer the question,” “character transformation,” and “bring the world back to order.” At least, that’s how I’m interpreting these to help me dissect my own writing.

Card mentions readers get frustrated when you start with one category yet end with another. This made me reflect on some of the criticism I’ve received for my published works.

For instance, HAUNTING MISS TRENTWOOD starts as an “idea” story. Mary’s father crawls from his grave and we end the first chapter wondering why she is the only one to see this or if she’s losing her mind. The question the story needs to answer, at least based on the set up, is why is Trentwood haunting his daughter? Those who have read the book know this is actually a character story, because the mysteries culminate in a couple character transformations, and while we solve the mysteries, the characters are the true point. I have readers who love this, and readers who felt misled by the gothic nature of the first chapter.

THE LAST APRIL also begins as an idea, but it is more apparent that is has to be a character story because anyone who knows anything about President Lincoln’s assassination knows it had nothing to do with anyone in Ohio. Or at least at this point in our understanding of historical events, that is true. Anyone who has never learned anything about that event will feel misled by the premise. Anyone who is aware will realize this book is about the characters and the feeling of being one small individual caught in the storm of national events.

So anyway, it’s making me wonder why I start my stories on an idea but end with character transformations. I’ve always said I’m a character-driven writer, I’m proud and excited by that fact. The obvious thing to do is stop writing “idea” beginnings and instead write “character beginnings.” Putting this into practice will certainly be a challenge.

Have you read a book that you felt misled you? Did it work for you, or were you left wondering what happened?

THE LAST APRIL winner of the 2017 Self-Publishing Review Award!

I’m happy to announce that my latest book, The Last April, was announced the winner of the 2017 SPR Award. I would guess hundreds of books apply to this contest since the Self-Publishing Review (SPR) is a well-known and highly-valued resource for book reviews and editorial services.

SPR has been highlighted by The Guardian, The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes, and Writer’s Digest as a reputable venue for vetting your work.

I am beyond honored and humbled by this award. As the first prize winner, I receive:

  • A GOLD Amazon Reviews Package (30+ Verified Customer Reviews)
  • A Lead Story Editorial Review on SPR
  • An author interview, shared with almost a quarter of a million readers
  • A virtual book tour of 1 week, with 15+ blogs
  • A Category and Keyword analysis for Amazon
  • Rosette artwork for the ebook and paperback book
  • And more!

Thank you so much to everyone who supported and contributed to the journey of The Last April, including my writer’s group at Wild Goose Creative, my beta readers, Ali and John, my editor, Cindy from Second Set of Eyes, and my cover artist, Jenny from Seedlings Design Studio. Most especially, my husband, who reminded me when to go to sleep when I burned the candle from both ends to meet my (self-imposed) deadline.

Stay tuned for updates on my first ever author fair experience, hosted by the Marion County Public Library in Central Ohio!

Happy reading,
Belinda

Howl-O-Ween Giveaway featuring The Last April & Haunting Miss Trentwood

This year, I’m giving away digital copies of Haunting Miss Trentwood and The Last April! Keeping it simple this year, you can tweet a message, visit my Facebook page, or post a comment below to win copies of my popular eBooks.

Thanks to The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island blogs for hosting this giveaway hop! If you’ve never done one of these, I’m part of a bunch of bloggers who all signed up to give away prizes. At the end of this post is the full list of bloggers giving away prizes.

1865 Civil War (2017)
YA Sweet Drama

1887 Victorian England (2010)
YA Gothic Comedy

I’m always looking for bloggers to review, so if you do happen to win, I’d love to see your thoughts on your blog, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble!

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You Should Watch “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film”

This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching Pressing On: The Letterpress Film. This was the result of a Kickstarter campaign and it is a lovely work! I’m a big DIYer and Maker in general, so this film was right up my alley regarding doing something slow and methodical with your hands to get a sense of accomplishment… while also collecting and sharing the history of letterpress.

It’s truly a lovely film and worth your time if you can get access to it. I seriously want a mini letterpress now in my home because of this film. I love paper, and have too many paper journals already.

Anyway, go see this film! I know I’ll be waiting for the DVD distribution!

Also, a lovely review for The Last April was written this past weekend by Emma Lucas, a book blogger and Instagrammer. I’ve included some snippets for fun:

CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4/5
….It was educational, intriguing, and explained history to me through the eyes of Gretchen. The thoughts and feelings of both sides are exquisitely communicated through the use of dialogue and of newspaper articles, the issues surrounding ‘fake news’ (as often seen today!) were still prevalent all those years ago, with newspaper bias and genuine reporting mistakes, which led to wide struck panic and confusion and something that we can all understand.

….Overall, I would highly recommend this book, both to adults and young adults a like, for those with an interest in war fiction, of historical fiction or as an educational tool to learn. I would strongly suggest the book to any teachers who may be looking to educate students in an engaging way through story telling. Kroll’s writing is crisp and very easy to understand, and when I begrudgingly had to put the book down, it was very easy to pick it back up again.

Adults may find that the story is lacking in terms of gore, details on deaths etc, however as this is set for a younger audience this is more than understandable and did not in anyway impede my enjoyment of the book.

However, although the story is set in the past, unfortunately uncertain political times are a general constant somewhere in the world. The novella raises themes of hope, fear, and looking toward the future during these times, so will always have relevance.

I love following Emma’s book reviews because she always chooses a tea to correlate with her reading.

She suggests you read The Last April with Taylor’s of Harrogate Sour Cherry tea, because it’s “punchy as Gretchen’s attitude with a slight bitterness of Aunt Klegg, with the sweetness of Karl. Perfect accompaniment to this read!”

Camp Chase Soldier Statue Toppled

Is it is surreal that I wrote a story about a Confederate soldier released from Columbus, Ohio’s Camp Chase prison camp given current events. I learned just now on Facebook that the cemetery I visited back in June, with mixed feelings I might add, had its soldier statue toppled.

What’s ironic about the Camp Chase cemetery and the existence of this statue at all is that it was raised by Union officer William H. Knauss, who led the first memorial and later wrote a book about the prison. His intent was to honor these Confederate prison fatalities as Americans, not Confederates, as labeled on the arch. Since Columbus has the largest Confederate cemetery outside of the former Confederate States of America, one might take a cynical view to Knauss’s efforts.

Was he just trying to make money? Did he want the fame and glory of a book tour? It doesn’t seem like it… he raised money to renovate the cemetery, to put walls around it, and to invite those with Union and Confederate leanings to remember that which made the United States a singular rather than plural noun.

That said, glorifying a piece of the past is quite dangerous. If there are statues depicting Confederate officers, then there should also be statues depicting the slavery they fought to protect. And not the minstrel song and dance slaves, but those which depict liberation. If the point is to “remember our history,” then let’s remember history holistically.

It’s a semantic quibble to argue whether the American Civil War was about slavery or states’ rights. The Confederate government went to war with the Federal government for their right to determine whether slavery was legal or not, which does, in essence, make the war about slavery.

Lest we forget, a number of the statues toppled so far were built during the heydey of Jim Crow laws and the anti-Civil Rights era to act as reminders that people died to keep slavery around, and that there are generations of families who might, if pushed, do so again.

It is time we reevaluate how we pay homage and how we hope future generations interpret such symbols of homage.

Author Interview with Laura Bendoly

My writer’s group is full of amazing people full of clever words and heart-wrenching plots. Today, I want to share my interview with fellow Columbus young adult writer (contemporary, not historical), Laura M. Bendoly.

Read to the end to find out the winners of THE LAST APRIL from the April Showers blog hop and Goodreads Giveaway.

What should readers know about your writing style?

I’d say my work is character driven. I begin most stories from the point of view character and start to imagine how she would observe the world. What her vocabulary is like, who she’s interested in, who she is nervous around, what she eats, when she goes to sleep, how she prepares breakfast. Once there, the style evolves to suit that character. Sometimes it’s slap-dash informal, all unfinished sentences and a lot of slang. Other characters urge me to write much more formally, and I always put humor in the voice of a secondary character.

There is usually a mystery to solve, either as primary plot or secondary, and also some degree of magic. I use magicians, alchemists, dragons, healers, mermaids, angels, prophets, and saints as vehicles of extraordinary action. These aren’t typically the primary event in the story, because the climax needs to be human in scope and reasonable in its resolution. But there’s a fair degree of the supernatural in a secondary character who helps out.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Huh — when I find the book that stole my plot/character/awesome ending. Hate that. Of course it happens to every writer. But whey does it have to happen to me?

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Reader’s block, never. Writer’s block, all the time. I don’t stop writing, I just tend to get blocked in that I write in circles. I sometimes repeat the same scene again and again and don’t realize it.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Find a secondary art form you love as much as writing. That keyboard will make you a crazy person who no one wants to be around. (I found photography!!)

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have researched Russian art, folklore and mythology, Scottish/English and Irish fairy tales, I’ve gone to grave sites and holy stones, I’ve traveled to many libraries and bought a lot of expensive books, I’ve read a lot in French. I researched Laerka at least four years before it went to press. It will be more like five years’ research with my WIP. It’s not for everyone but I really want to know my subject.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I base them on the culture I’m writing about (Russian, Irish, French, etc), I try to make the name sound like something that character does. For example, my current work has the protagonist Irene. She is quite like a nature goddess, or nature queen. Queen in French is “reine.” Sounds like the ending of “Irene.” Aslo, Irene sounds like “serene,” which my character is. See how it goes?

What is your favorite childhood book?

I loved and still adore The Little Prince. One of the best fairy tales for all ages. Breaks my heart every time I read it. Also The Giving Tree. Tears are starting to come right now.

How long does it take you to write a book?

A first draft can be as fast as four months, but the whole finished, edited version, at least two years. I rewrite most pages three times.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I believe in writer’s boredom. Everyone gets bored in their own head. You need fresh ideas and clean space. It’s good to vary your writing location.

Tell us about your latest release!

Laerka is Southern Gothic tale of rescue involving a group of teenagers and a Russian crime ring that sells girls to night clubs in Savannah, Georgia. One particular victim, Laerka, is a Danish girl who transforms into a mermaid when in water.

The Russian crime boss who masterminds the trafficking changes into a “Vodyanoy” dragon when he hunts girls for the illegal skin trade. Savannah native sixteen-year-old Stella Delaney finds Vodyanoy’s first victim floating face down in the marsh.

Can she save Learka from this fate? Is she in danger, herself? Could Laerka be a crook herself? She and the traffickers share the same prison tattoo so who in this forbidding landscape can be trusted?

Purchase your copy today.

Thank you, Laura, for sharing your answers with us! I’ll be sharing my answers to these questions next month!

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway: THE LAST APRIL book box

Happy official launch day for THE LAST APRIL! I’m so excited to share this book with friends, family, and co-workers at my Columbus book launch party on April 15th. For those of you unable to attend in person to enter the event raffle and potentially win a copy of the book, continue reading.

1865 Civil War (2017)
YA Sweet Drama

One lucky contestant will win a book box that includes a free print copy of THE LAST APRIL as part of my participation in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza giveaway blog hop. The Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza blog hop is a great opportunity to win prizes by hopping between author / reader blogs and entering their contests.

To win a free book box complete with a signed print copy of THE LAST APRIL, please enter using the Rafflecopter below on April 15th – 30th. Not sure you want to enter this giveaway?

Here is the back cover blurb:

Spontaneous, fifteen-year-old Gretchen vows to help heal the nation from the recently ended Civil War. On the morning of President Lincoln’s death, Gretchen finds an amnesiac Confederate in her garden and believes this is her chance for civic goodwill.

But reconciliation is not as simple as Gretchen assumed. When her mother returns from the market with news that a Confederate murdered the president, Gretchen wonders if she caught the killer. Tensions between her aunt and mother rise as Gretchen nurses her Confederate prisoner, revealing secrets from their past that make Gretchen question everything she knows about loyalty, honor, and trust.

The Last April is an entertaining, thoughtful novella of Ohio after the Civil War, meant to encourage readers to reflect on themes of fear and hope in uncertain political times.

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If you want another chance to win a print copy, you may also enter the Goodreads Giveaway for THE LAST APRIL.

The Last April Cover Reveal

It’s official! We combined elements of the two cover concepts to create this beauty. I’m thrilled. I’m in the process of writing press releases and tweaking my Facebook event for the book launch. I’m wrapping up final edits and will be working on interior formatting this weekend.

My goal is to have the proof in hand before the end of March so I can do a rush order for the April book launch party.

Onward!

The Last April Cover Concepts!

So very excited that my cover artist sent me these last week. We’ve decided on a concept that actually combines the best of both… the blue color scheme, more of the corn stalks, switching the flags (Gretchen is Union, Karl is Confederate)… but ultimately we’re going with the left cover.

I’m so excited you guys! This is happening!

If you’re in the Columbus, OH area, you’re invited to the book launch party. I hope to see you on April 15 from 2:30 – 4:30 PM for snacks and beverages and fun times in general!

Check out my Facebook event for more information..