Monday, 31 March 2014

Making use of history in fiction

I wrote on my reading blog last week about historical fiction and how historically accurate it should be. Some writers and readers think that it should be akin to academic research in accuracy, others that the story always comes first.

There are other ways to use historical facts in fiction than writing historical fiction. I like to add little details every now and then to give my characters some depth. My characters are long-living vampires and shape-shifters who have witnessed centuries of history first hand. It would be odd if that didn’t show somehow. One of my pet peeves is characters who don’t have personal history beyond the book, and it’s doubly annoying if the character has lived for centuries.

For example, the hero in Warrior’s Heart, Jasper Grayson, has fought in the Battle of Killiecrankie. It took place in July 1689 between Highland Scottish clans who supported King James VII of Scotland/James II of England, and troops who supported King William of Orange. Jasper fought for William.

The importance of the battle for my book isn’t in details or historical accuracy. It has personal importance for the hero, because he was wounded there and it changed the course of his life. It’s a random battle, chosen because it fit the timeline, and I didn’t burden the book with everything I learned about it. In romantic fiction like my Two-Natured London series, there isn’t that much room for details anyway.

The sites of Jack the Ripper's murders
In the upcoming book, Her Warrior for Eternity, I added a much better known historical detail, Jack the Ripper. It came about rather accidentally and is only an aside to the story. It’s not necessarily needed, but it gives the story some colour.

Jack the Ripper, or the Whitechapel Murderer, is the name given to a serial killer who killed women in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The connection to my book is more superficial than actual. There is a serial killer afoot in my book who kills women and leaves the bodies all over the City, a district adjoining Whitechapel, and some of the action happens on the historical sites of those murders. At least, as far as I was able to determine; the map of London has changed a little since those days. I don’t work the details of Jack’s murders into my story, nor are the murders meant to resemble each other.

Again, the details aren’t important. The name is enough. Readers will make the connection the same way the characters do in the book. Hopefully it will give the readers a notion that the hero, Jeremy Grayson – who, by the way, fought in the Battle of Killiecrankie too – has lived for centuries, not merely existed.

The use of history doesn’t have to be exhaustive – and exhausting – list of dates. Sprinkling it here and there is sufficient to give the characters a past and readers a notion that the story doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Monday, 24 March 2014

In anticipation of my next book

I promised last week that I would tell more about my next book. It’s the fourth in my urban fantasy/paranormal romance series The Two-Natured London. The first and third books were about shifters and the second about vampires. Now it’s vampires turn again.

Like the second book, Warriors Heart, this fourth book concentrates on the Crimson Circle, the organisation of elite vampire warriors. Warrior’s Heart was about Jasper Grayson who found his match in Philippa Audley, a DI and a modern vampire. The next book is about Jeremy, Jasper’s younger brother by a couple of years and his constant companion for over three centuries. Now that Jasper has found someone to share his long life with, Jeremy is feeling lost. Until he meets Corynn Sparks.

Cora is a human woman. She should be perfectly safe from the Circle’s age old enemy, the renegade vampires, but she finds herself their target. So Jeremy sets out to protect her. And then everything goes wrong.

I’ve yet to decide on the name. At the moment, I’m calling it Her Warrior for the Eternity. Here’s the blurb:

A serial killer is on the loose in London and only the vampire warriors of the Crimson Circle know that renegade vampires are responsible. One night on a patrol, Jeremy Grayson saves a human woman from becoming the next victim. The chance meeting ignites his hunger, marking her as his mate. He needs to keep her safe, even if he can’t really explain to her why.
Even if he has to wipe her memory so she doesn’t remember him.
The only drama Corynn Sparks needs in her life is finding a job after she graduates from college. But then a vampire declares she is in mortal danger and puts her under his protection. He is a complication she doesn’t need. She can’t dream of a man who will live for centuries while she grows old and dies.
Only, she carries the vampire gene. She has to choose between her human life and the sunshine, and her second nature. If only she could trust him to spend the eternity with her.
And then the choice is taken from her.

If everything goes as I have planned, the fourth Two-Natured London book will come out in May. Until then, why dont you look into the previous books in the series.

Monday, 17 March 2014

That bothersome second draft

I’ve been busy writing the fourth Two-Natured London novel. The yet to be named book is about Jeremy Grayson, brother of the vampire warrior Jasper who was the hero of Warrior’s Heart. I hope to publish it in May.

This fourth book has been easy to write. Partly its because I already had so much of the background created for the previous books, and partly, because for the first time I outlined the book from the start to finish. The latter wouldn’t have been possible without the first, however. I’m a pantser and don’t always know where my stories will lead me, but familiarity with the world made the outlining easier.

Easy though the writing has been, what I have in my hands is only the first draft. Usually, I edit quite a lot as I go, but I haven’t done much of that either this time round. So, a thorough second draft is needed.

Second drafts are annoying. Gone is the creative buzz that drives the author during the first draft. Now it’s about finding the holes in the story, improving the character development, deepening the plot, and cutting off the storylines that are unnecessary.

I already have a notion of some of the changes that I need to make to my book. A plot emerged later in the story that has to be introduced in the beginning. My heroine has a hobby that becomes very crucial for the story, so I have to emphasise it earlier. But even with a clear picture of what is needed, the work ahead of me is daunting. 

To make the task a tad easier, I turned to the Internet for inspiration and found a list on the BookBaby blog. It is meant for writing fact, but with a little tweaking it works for fiction too. I hope you find it useful:
  • Print your draft with page numbers so you can keep the pages in order.
  • Gather your tools. I use red pen, but sticky-notes and highlighters can be useful as well. If you know that your story will require large changes, scissors and tape might come in handy too.
  • Read through the draft. Make notes in the margins about the work needed. Does the chapter require more depth, reorganisation, or cutting completely? How do they fit within the whole? For a long and complex story, it can be useful to colour code the sections that go together and go through those storylines separately. Colour coding is useful, too, when you have to move chapters or paragraphs to new places.
  • Cut and paste, i.e. physically reorganise the pages or paragraphs.
  • Once you have finished, go through the reorganised draft one more time to see that the new version makes sense. Then it’s up to actually moving the pieces that need moving, and deleting the sections that have to be cut in the document itself. There may be some rewriting ahead as well. The book is far from finished yet.
You can read the original list here.

So this is what I’ll be doing next, though hopefully my book won’t need quite that much work. I think I’ll be ready to reveal more about the book in my next post. Stay tuned. Until then, you can read the Warrior’s Heart so you’ll be ready for the next book.

Monday, 10 March 2014

5 reasons why I like Tweetdeck

“Hi, my name is Susanna and I’m a Twitter-holic.” 

I don’t know if Twitter-addicts Anonymous exists yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. I don’t need an intervention yet – I think – but Twitter does hold most of my social media interest. And it takes much of my time that would be better used otherwise too.

Many users find Twitter annoying and confusing, however. I’m sure I would find it annoying too, if it weren’t for Tweetdeck, a browser app meant for making your Twitter use more effective. Since I passed a personal Twitter milestone last week, 3000 followers – thank you all, by the way – I thought to share with you why I like Tweetdeck so much.

1. Tweetdeck allows you to follow all your lists at the same time

You can organise all the lists you follow in columns and view them side by side, simultaneously. If you have many Twitter lists, you don’t have to jump between them in order to check them out. Of course, this is only useful to you if you already have created lists. If you haven’t, I suggest you’ll start with that. Even without Tweetdeck, lists make Twitter more enjoyable, especially if you follow thousands of accounts.

There is no limit to how many columns you can add. However, only a handful of them fit a regular sized monitor at the same time, even if you choose the narrowest column width. If you have dozens of lists and want them all on Tweetdeck, you’ll have to scroll a bit to follow them.

TIP: You can organise the columns by moving them sideways. Put the most important columns together so you can follow them on one screen without scrolling.
TIP: If you have large lists with prolific tweeters, divide them into smaller lists.

2. Tweetdeck allows you to keep tabs on your notifications

You can make a column for your notifications. That way you won’t miss your new followers, retweets and communications. If you have a lot of notifications activity, you can even add separate columns for @ mentions, followers and favours to make it easier to handle them.

TIP: If you have many twitter conversations, add a column for @ mentions to keep tabs on them.

3. Tweetdeck allows you to follow a single user

You can make a column for a single user too. If you’re a Justin Bieber super fan, and don’t want to miss anything he tweets, or if you want to follow a single news source, for example, you don’t have to put them on a list to pick them out. Create a special column for each account. Or if you have multiple Twitter accounts of your own, you can add a column for each. It’s easier to retweet between your own accounts that way.

TIP: Create a column for your own tweets too to keep an eye on what you’ve tweeted.
TIP: If you have multiple Twitter accounts, the easiest way to create a Tweetdeck profile for each is to put them on different browsers to avoid signing in and out all the time. 

4. Tweetdeck allows you to schedule tweets

I occasionally schedule my tweets. Most of my followers live on the opposite side of the globe so they’re never around when I’m on Twitter. One or two tweets a night (my night, their day) reminds them that I exist too.

Another good use for this feature is when I have a lot of interesting articles or posts to share. Instead of dumping them on my followers all at once, I schedule them. It saves my time too.

It’s very easy to misuse this feature and schedule spam-like tweets to fill your followers’ timelines. Try to avoid doing that.

TIP: Twitter is about communication. Don’t schedule all your tweets or you’ll miss people responding to them.

5. Tweetdeck allows you to ignore most of your timeline

If you have aimed for quantity instead of quality in the accounts you follow, you may have created a timeline where no one tweets anything that interests you. You don’t have to add a column for your main timeline, ‘home’, as it’s called on Tweetdeck, so you can avoid seeing most of your tweets.

I have personally chosen everyone I follow on Twitter, but among 3000 accounts, not everything is always worth keeping an eye on. The best content providers are on the lists, but I still have the home column too. I have, however, moved it out of sight so that the streaming of the tweets won’t distract me.

TIP: Even if you move the home stream out of sight, check it up regularly.

So this is why I like Tweetdeck. Is there a feature you like the best that I didn’t mention? Please, share it in comments.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

My new paperback

The long-time readers of this blog might remember that I began a paperback project last April for my book Which way to love. For one reason or another, the project took a long time to finish. The book is my worst selling so I wasn’t in a hurry with it. Mostly though, the delay was because I wasn’t happy with the original cover and didn’t have time to design a new one. I made a new e-book cover eventually, but it was still quite an operation to make a paperback version of it too. It wasn’t until January this year that I had all the pieces together, the insides and outsides, and was ready to upload everything to CreateSpace.

It’s not quite as fast an operation to publish a paperback as it is to publish an e-book. There were all kinds of verifications to ensure the book met the qualifications. And once everything was in order and the book published, I had to wait for weeks for the book to arrive from across the world.

Now it’s finally here. I’m very happy with the insides, where everything looks just as I wanted, but the cover has some eyesores. They are my mistakes, however, some photo processing errors that didn’t show in the original file, but which the print repeats faithfully. Otherwise Im happy with it, the colours are exactly like in the original and the matte finish is very nice. Still, I may have to redo the cover – one of these days.

In the meanwhile, I know the process now. I only have to repeat it, preferably without mistakes, and have the rest of my books in print too.