Monday, October 31, 2016

Writing About: Halloween


Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love everything about it and the fact it occurs during my favorite season (autumn) makes it all the more special and fun.

Halloween stories are a blast to read and write. Even a chapter or two is fun in a novel. I admit to being drawn to stories about this spooky, exciting night. I’m cackling like a witch just writing this post. So here are several things to consider for your Halloween story.

1. Decorations

Halloween is a holiday that lets us transform the inside and outside of our houses with plastic skeletons, spider webs, scarecrows, foam tombstones, fake blood and orange lights. The character in your book could decorate their house of visit someone who has a decorated house. For a children’s or YA book, the parents can surprise their kids with a haunted house when they come home from school.

2. Goodies

Who doesn’t dropkick their diet when Halloween comes? It’s impossible to buy candy for trick-or-treaters and not steal a piece or two…or ten. Then there’s the other yummy goodies like caramel apples, popcorn balls, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice coffee…pumpkin anything. Which I personally love.

Image from Pixabay

3. Pumpkin Carving


A trip to the pumpkin patch and a fun carving scene is a must for a family-oriented Halloween story. Describe slicing into the pumpkin’s thick flesh, scooping out the stringy guts, the smell of the fresh pumpkin and picking out the seeds for baking.

4. Scary Movies

It’s not Halloween without scary movies. For a romance story, imagine your couple cuddling on the couch with a bowl of popcorn while they have a marathon of Michael Myer’s movies. This would be a cute date night.

5. Fun

Halloween is full of fun activities. If you write a story centered on this holiday consider adding one or more of these: hayrides, corn mazes, haunted houses, pumpkin patches, fall festivals and costume parties. The last two are perfect for adult stories. Imagine your character going to a fall festival with friends and meeting someone. And at a costume party it could be a mystery. Who’s behind the mask?

Image from Pixabay

6. Costumes

Kids are all about the costumes, so if there are kids in your story, a couple of discussions for what the kids want to wear and a scene showing the mom putting it together are nice to include.

7. Trick-or-Treating

If your MC has kids, trick-or-treating should be a scene. Show the kids in their costumes. This is always fun to describe. Then write about the candy-seeking shenanigans: going door-to-door to beg for candy, plastic pumpkins full of candy and aching feet after walking around the block.


So now that I laid out the highlights of Halloween, go write a scene! Not for a book but for a fun prompt. Go ahead!



QUESTIONS: What do you like/dislike about Halloween? Do you dress up? I do because I’m a big kid at heart.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween and The Day of the Dead / Guest Post by Tamara Narayan



Today Tamara Narayan is taking over my blog. ENJOY!


Image: Trish Hamme


'Tis the season to be...

Scared? Scary? Reflective? All of the above?

At the end of October, two different holidays occur. Both involve imagery of skeletons. Both involve those who have passed to the great beyond. As an author, Halloween and The Day of the Dead are ripe topics for plucking out intriguing plots, characters, and setting details. Here's a guide to get you started on your research.

1. The History.

The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, started in Mexico at least 3000 years ago. Wooden skulls were used in rituals and dances to honor the dead. Death was not viewed as the end, but the beginning, something to be celebrated. When the Spanish conquistadors showed up 500 years ago, they viewed these practices as “pagan” and “barbaric”.  The Catholic Spanish moved the holiday from August to All Saint’s and All Soul’s Days (November 1 and 2) as part of the effort to christianize the ritual.


Image: Wendell


Two thousand years ago, the Celts in what is now Ireland, the U.K., and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. The start of winter and end of harvest marked a fearful time. On October 31 or Samhain, they believed the spirits would return to earth “causing trouble and damaging crops.” To ward off spirits, food and drink were left on doorsteps and people disguised themselves as ghosts if they went out.

Later the church would change the name of Nov.1 to All Saint’s Day or All Hallow’s making Oct. 31 All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween.


2. Traditional and current practices.


Image: Ian Burt


Day of the Dead: At midnight on October 31, the gates of heaven open to let back the spirits of dead children. These spirits visit their families on Nov. 1. The spirits of adults come on Nov. 2. Families make altars in honor of the dead and visit graveyards to decorate their family member's grave and perhaps have a picnic. Some cities have dances or festivals and people dress up like the dead.



Image: Eric Frommer


Halloween: On Nov. 1 hundreds of years ago, poor people would go door to door, begging for food in exchange for offering prayers to their benefactor's dead. This was called "souling". In another tradition called "mumming" or "guising" people dressed in costume to ask for food in exchange for a recitation of poems, songs, or jokes. Such folks might carry a hollowed out turnip, carved with scary faces, with a candle inside to light their way.

Such traditions traveled to America with Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 19th century, where pumpkins replaced turnips and became jack 'o lanterns. Around the 1930s, vandalism along the lines of outhouse tipping, opening farmer's gates and egging houses became a serious problem. This may have led to a push for family friendly activities like the trick-or-treating and parties we have today.

3. Clothes/Costumes.


Image: greyloch


Day of the Dead: Women may wear long, flowing dresses of bright colors with lace, sugar skull make-up, and a crown of marigolds. A cartoon of a skeleton woman in a fancy hat was drawn to pick fun at the upper class, but today Calavera de la Catrina is an icon of the holiday. Men may where suits with their sugar skull make-up.

Halloween: Modern costumes run the gambit from terrifying (creepy clown) to beautiful (Grecian goddess). You can dress up as "The Donald" or a hotdog. Whether you buy one at Wal-Mart or make your own, the possibilities are endless.

4. Decorations.

Image: Todd Mecklem


Day of the Dead: The altars, or ofrendas, are covered in white cloth. Candles, flowers (typically marigolds), pictures of the deceased, and religious objects can be included. Children's altars may have toys and candy. Ofrendas for adults may hold the deceased's favorite food and drink. Sugar skulls, a glass of water, incense, and banners are also traditionally placed on ofrendas. Families may spend up to two months' salary making their ofrenda. These same things are used to decorate graves as well. All of these elements are used to guide the spirits back to the earth to reunite with their families.




Halloween: Traditional decorations include symbols of the harvest such as haystacks, pumpkins, and fall leaves along with spiders, bats, black cats, skeletons, and witches. These days you can go to Spirit Halloween or Target and enjoy life-sized electronic figures howling and shrieking as their eyes light up, along with fake severed limbs, zombie decals, and plastic skeletons of dogs, vultures, and even spiders. (Wait! Spiders don't actually have skeletons! Oh well.) The only limit is your budget.

5. Food.



Day of the Dead: Besides offering the spirits their personal favorites, there is pan de muertos, or dead bread. This sweet, soft bread can be baked in the shape of bones, skulls, animals, or angels. It is often flavored with anise seed and covered in a glaze of melted butter and orange zest (or cinnamon).

Halloween: Soul cakes were offered to those going "souling" (see above). These currant-flavored pastries are a cross between a cookie and a scone. Bobbing for apples may not be popular anymore, but back in the day, the first person to catch one in their teeth would be the next to marry. Another apple tradition was to peel the skin off in one long piece, toss it over your shoulder, and then look to see what letter the peel most resembled. That was supposed to be the first letter of your future husband's name. Today it's all about the candy: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Three Musketeers, BlowPops, and Candy Corn. There's something for every sweet tooth.


Image: Mattysflicks


6. Drinks.

Day of the Dead: Atole is an ancient Mexican beverage served warm, thickened with corn meal and flavored with brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and sometimes chocolate.

Halloween: Apple cider.

7. Mood.

Day of the Dead: Whether somber or exuberant, the tone may depend on the length of time since the deceased's passing. In any case, this is a time of celebration and remembrance. Spirits are welcomed.


Image: Kevin Dooley


Halloween: Today it's all about fun. Maybe you'll terrify your neighbors with a full-out fake graveyard in your lawn or twenty-foot-tall inflatable spider. Or maybe you can't wait to put on your costume and get a bag full of candy. Whether it's a party, costume parade, haunted hayride, or haunted house, being scared is part of the excitement. Spirits are to be feared.

8. A note on cultural appropriation.


Image: Jim Johnson


While both Halloween and The Day of the Dead mark occasions for the return of spirits, the holidays are not interchangeable. For those who celebrate Dia de los Muertos, this holiday is personal. They are celebrating the soul of their mother, their husband, their child. They wear sugar skull make-up as a gesture of honor and respect. Therefore, they may feel the use of sugar skull make-up by those who know nothing of these traditions is wrong.




In my novella, Heart Stopper, Dallas is caught between these holidays. While he grew up trick-or-treating, his wife is Mexican. His daughter, Tessa, wants to make an ofrenda for her aunt. Yet Dallas can barely stand to talk about his sister, because he still feels responsible for her death.

When things start disappearing from their house, Dallas thinks it's a prank. Ten plastic bags, nine pens, eight pictures. What will go next? As the countdown continues, he is terrified his sister's spirit may somehow be responsible. What does she want? What one item will vanish on November 1, the day the gates of heaven open?


And now for the best part. 

Drumroll please....

From October 31 through Nov. 4, this collection is FREE!! 

(Assuming I signed up for the KDP 5-day freebie thing correctly. Man, I hope I signed up correctly.)

If you want to get more trick-or-treat freebies on Halloween (or offer one of your own), go visit Patricia Lynn here.

Interested in a book trailer? Go here.

The author is available at www.tamaranarayan.com.


QUESTIONS: Learn anything you didn't know? How do you feel about the cultural appropriation of Day of the Dead?


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Y - Your Questions Answered




In the U Post for this series, I opened the floor for all of you to ask me questions about my books, blog, writing...anything.


Here are your questions and my answers:


NOTE: Diedre, Yvonne, and Lidy Wilks all asked me a similar question, so I chose the first version asked by Diedre.


Diedre Knight's Question: With your website, newsletters, blogs, and editing on the side going on, how do you ever find time to write new books?

My Answer: I plan ahead. I’ve already started writing my blog posts for next year. If I set aside a day, I could write 5-10 posts. With my newsletter, I can put together 3-4 in an hour or two with most of the content done. For the IWSG Newsletter, I create a few pre-made issues and add the content when I get it. If I have to edit for a client, I edit up to a certain page count each day, and then I try to write in one of my own books for the rest of the day. Marketing my books is another matter, I’ve spent hours and days doing that. I do lose writing time, and it does suck.

***

Loni Townsend's Question: Are you feeling better yet?

My Answer: I am much better. Thanks, Loni! (And Alex, who also asked this question, and everyone who wished me well.)

***

Nick Wilford's Question: Which of your books have you most enjoyed writing, and why?

My Answer: This is tough. I want to say one of Avrianna Heavenborn’s books (more on her in a later answer), because those were the first books I wrote and completed. I also want to say Tsunami Crimes, because it turned out to be the easiest book I've written. On the other hand, (I guess I have three hands?) I want to say the book I’m working on now because it’s just so much fun! I’m back in the fantasy genre that I enjoyed so long ago but got away from. It’s a three-way tie! :D

***

Karen Wojcik Berner's Question: How did you get your publisher?

My Answer: Well, I was Googling publishers that accept romance short stories, and the first one I found was The Wild Rose Press. I checked out their requirements and sent off a query letter for Hurricane Crimes. I was in a bad place at the time, so when I was asked to send them the full manuscript, I was in shock. I sent it, and then the Senior Editor for the Crimson Rose Line wanted it!

***

Elizabeth Seckman's Question: Who is your favorite character you've ever written and why?

My Answer: Avrianna Heaveborn. She’s the detective in my short story, Ghost of Death. I have written a series for her, going deeper into who she is and all the things that make her unique. I’m working on getting representation for book one of her series. *fingers crossed*

***

Alex J. Cavanaugh's Question: Why the fascination with disasters?

My Answer: Disasters happen everywhere, to anyone. Nowadays, they are happening more often, too. I think it’s the unpredictability and the power of them that really draws me in. You just never know.

***

Chemist Ken's Question: You provided such a wonderful writeup on how to put newsletters together. How have you been doing with yours? Any new tricks you've discovered?

My Answer: My newsletter is going great. I have a happy number of subscribers, and I’m having fun with it. The trick is to offer your readers something. It can’t be all me-me-me or my book this, my book that. I like to offer recipes, teasers for a current work-in-progress, and giveaways. I try to do one special thing in every newsletter.

***

Elizabeth Otten's Question: Where did you learn this abundant amount of information about writing, publishing, blogging, etc.?

My Answer: I did a lot of research and learned along the way.

***

D.G. Hudson's Question: Have you experienced many disaster events yourself?

My Answer: I’ve experienced category 5 (and lesser) hurricanes, tropical storms, severe thunderstorms, mild flooding, and a brush fire (started by an arson) that almost took my childhood home.

***

Pat Hatt's Question: Which disaster would you find the worst to be in? Zombie apocalypse?

My Answer: For the world, a zombie apocalypse would be the worst. Personally, it would be a tsunami. I’ve been horrified by them since I first saw “Deep Impact.” I can’t swim well, and I have a fear of drowning.

***

Lidy Wilks' Question: What show would you spend your entire weekend binge watching?

My Answer: When you asked this, I was binge watching the first two seasons of "House of DVF." I love fashion, and this was the only thing I could concentrate on. I’ve also binge watched "The Walking Dead."

***

The Beer Guys' Question: Do you have any characters roaming around in your head that you want to write about, but haven't found the right story to put them in yet?

My Answer: Nope. As soon as they introduce themselves to me, I know exactly what their story is about. But I do have way too many characters roaming around in my head who need their stories written.

***

Shannon Lawrence's Question: Is there a different genre that you have the urge to play around in? Something that pokes at the back of your brain sometimes?

My Answer: Western. I have one story idea with cowboys and outlaws that would be fun to write. Of course, there would be a romantic storyline. But I have so many other stories that need writing first that I’m waiting until I have time to really learn about this genre before I attempt it.

***

Jeffrey A. Scott's Question: Have you ever had to delete a loved character completely from one of your stories?

My Answer: Never. I make sure all of my characters, even the minor ones, have a purpose in the story. Doing that ensures that they’re not dispensable. If I cut a character out, there would be a hole, something missing from the story. It could be something as simple as comedic relief, which is important to balance out the tension in some of my stories.


***

Carrie-Anne’s Questions: A) Have you ever had the experience of characters talking to you and demanding you do things much differently than the way you'd planned? Did you change the storyline accordingly, or stick to the original plot exactly? B) Have you ever been surprised by the appearance of a completely unplanned character? 

My Answers: A) I have had some characters go off and do things a bit different, which resulted in unplanned scenes, and I always let them do it. I’ve realize that giving them freedom made the storyline that much better, but I was always able to keep the plot pretty much the same. B) Unplanned characters have popped into my stories. Mostly it happens during moments that need them, and they waltz in to save the day. One of these surprise characters was Detective Thorn from Seismic Crimes. He wanted to be in the story, and I let him. After that, he dictated everything he wanted to do.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Hobbies / Character ER



A hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure, such as reading and gardening.

Giving your character a hobby is something fun you can do. Whenever your character needs a break from the craziness of your plot, let him/her sink into their hobby for comfort (for a short scene). This can also be fun for readers as well.


Here are some hobbies your character could have:

Belly Dancing
Boating
Cake Decorating
Coin Collecting
Fishing
Gardening
Golf
Hiking
Jewelry Making
Juggling
Knitting
Origami
Painting
Piano Playing
Pottery
Quilting
Reading
Running
Scrapbooking
Sewing
Soap Making
Wine Tasting
Wood Working
Writing
Yoga
Zumba


Describe your character enjoying a hobby or two in your book. Use vivid details and try to include facts or steps to what they're doing. Adding a hobbies may make readers smile if they enjoy the hobby you describe. You might also attract new people to that hobby.




QUESTION: What are your hobbies?


Friday, October 21, 2016

If I were a Mobster BlogFest - Say Hello to...Disaster Chrys



If I were a Mobster Blogfest

Today is the day! I hope everyone had fun creating their posts and will have a blast all day (and maybe throughout the weekend) visiting the other participants. Now is a great time to meet new friends. :)



Here is my mobster profile:

My Mobster Name: Disaster Chrys (given to me by Sage), but those in my Mob call me Diz for short.

My Rank: I’m the second-in-command, of course. I don’t want to have the pressure of ruling an entire Mob, but as co-leader I get to have a lot of fun issuing orders, intimidating the boys, and being an overall bad ass chic. *wink*

Crime Zone: Central Florida

My Look: Sleek, neon green hair past my shoulders. I realize this makes me easily recognizable and even visible, but I’m notorious for it. People say they only catch a glimpse of green hair when I carry out my plans. I have a small spiral (the symbol for a hurricane) tattooed on the side of my right cheek. I wear all black and coral lipstick for a feminine touch.

Weapon of Choice: Long, extra-sharp pencils. I have a belt full of these “writing utensils,” which I can throw like darts or use as impaling instruments.

Mobster Vehicle: A black four-wheeler. I don’t drive on the highways or main roads, because I don’t want to be spotted, so I use dirt roads and back-roads.

What I’m Known For: Leaving a note scribbled on a torn piece of notebook paper. What do these notes say? (Check out my catch phrase.)

My Catch Phrase: Disaster Chrys Strikes Again!

Name of my Mob Leader: Nate Chur (aka Nature)


Now can someone turn me into a comic book "villain?" :D


RELEASE DAY!

Title: 30 Seconds Before (Prequel to 30 Seconds)
Genre: Mainstream Thriller
Page Count: 60 (novella)
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press


BLURB:

Blake Herro is a cop in the Cleveland Police Force. Ever since he was a child he wanted to do right by the city he loved by cleaning up the streets and protecting its citizens. Red, a notorious mobster, has other plans.

On a bitter December night, ten police officers are drawn into a trap and killed by Red’s followers. Blake wants to bring down the Mob to avenge his fallen brothers and to prevent other cops from being murdered. Except the only way he can do that is by infiltrating the Mob.

Every minute he’s with these mobsters he’s in danger. Around every corner lies the threat of coming face to face with a gun. Will he make it out of the Mob alive or will he be their next victim?


BUY LINKS:

***

SALE!

To celebrate, 30 Seconds, the follow up story, is on sale for 99 cents!

Sale Oct. 21st – Nov. 4th

SALE LINKS:


***

Now please hop around to the other participants:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

X - XOXO - Romantic Teaser




Most of my posts in this blog series contained exciting excerpts. And no wonder…we’re talking about disasters and crimes, but these books are romantic-suspense. So, for the readers who enjoy the romance, this post is just for you.


Here is a special romantic teaser from SEISMIC CRIMES:

He stepped into the shower and stood a breath away from her body. “I wanted to thank you.” She swallowed. The bar of soap forgotten between her hands. “You already did. Outside the police department.”

His eyes bore into her. “Not like this.” He dipped his head and took her lips. His touch electrified her, creating a whirlpool in the pit of her stomach. She parted her lips for him, and he immediately filled the space to explore her mouth.

The first time they kissed, Beth had tasted the danger inside Donovan. It was toxic and delicious. She was able to shackle her desires then, but he persuaded her to unleash them. She sank into his passion, faster than quicksand. She had almost regretted the act and thought it had poisoned her judgment, putting her in greater risk. Now that she knew he was good, and after what they had been through together, she could no longer deny her clawing needs.

Donovan eased back. She looked at him, hungry and aching. He took the bar of soap from her and slicked his hands with suds. With a soft touch, he ran his hands over the healing gash on her chest. The contact both stung and aroused her. She closed her eyes as his hands left a sheet of bubbles up her neck, down her arms, and across her abdomen.

***

*Screeeech* Sorry to put the brakes on this steamy (and I mean that) scene. If you want more, you’ll have to get Seismic Crimes. *wink* 


To read more:

Digital:





QUESTION: Do you enjoy romance in books?



Prompt: If I were a Mobster…
When? October 21st, 2016 
Where? On your blog!

For more info: If I were a Mobster Blogfest Sign Up


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