Thinking the Plot is the Easy Part? Think Again…

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I love to write. We all know that.  But anyone can love to write and not everyone does it well. I’m humble enough to say that I’m no bestseller. I could be, no doubt about that… It is still a work in progress. But I’m not alone in my quest, swimming in the sea of literature millions deep and just as many wide.

The plot is essentially the foundation on which your story is built upon. I’m sure there will be those who argue with me. But even transparent characters can be made strong by a great plot. And there is no setting, no matter how fantastical, that can withstand a Swiss cheese plot. It must have a rhythm to it…a build up, a climax, and a resolution or ending. That is the one thing that really doesn’t differ from any fiction book or manuscript out there.

There are ratios out there for the recipe of a good book. There are some that say that only formally educated, with a degree, writers are worth a darn. I disagree with all those rules. The only one I do agree with is the rhythm. Anyone who tells you that you can’t write without a degree is wrong.

So focusing on the plot is so important. But think about yours…Is it twisted or predictable? If it’s predictable, are there elements to distract the reader? Is it slow moving? Is it boring? What elements have you included to make it more interesting? Characters and setting do not count. Get that all out of your head right now. If you think about a birthday cake, the plot should be the actual cake, the setting should be the frosting all over it, and the characters are all the pretty decorations on the frosting.

wedding cake

Generally, the plot starts with an idea. Just one idea. The people you see may not be named yet or have hair color or eye color, but you see them living out this idea and it builds. Things happen, conflict usually ensues, and it comes to an end with loose ties neatly tied up in a pretty little package.

I used to read historical fiction and for years, I would crack a book and want to get lost in this parallel world to my reality. Not trying to slam true, historical fiction, but they are all essentially the same. There is a girl, girl meets boy, girl refuses boy until the very end of the book where they run off into the sunset together and live happily ever after. I stopped reading books because they were all the same…down to the kinds of racy covers they graced the shelves with. I grew bored.

Do you want this to happen to you? I didn’t think so.

What’s the solution to this problem? BE ORIGINAL! You don’t have to be so far out there that people can’t relate to you, but for crying out loud, own the story! Do something different!

Here is my recipe for Noble Courage:

Peasant girl meets boy (love at first sight)->Peasant girl is sold to a ruthless lord and is taken away from where her love at first sight boy is->Ruthless lord’s patience is tested to the limits->Love at first sight boy searches for the peasant girl->Peasant girl develops feelings for the ruthless lord->ruthless lord develops feelings for the peasant girl->Greedy king comes for a visit->Greedy king thinks he can outsmart the ruthless lord and the peasant girl->Peasant girl outsmarts the greedy king->Love at first sight boy outsmarts them all->Ruthless lord must band together with the greedy king to save the peasant girl->There is no happily ever after->Peasant girl, ruthless lord, greedy king, and love at first sight boy find the ways to put their lives back together->Set up the book for the rest of the series.

WHEW! See how different my story is over others?

Now think of your story and compare it to others in a similar genre. Do you copy their formula or have  you stood out on your own?

What about twists and turns? I think they are pretty important. Even my recipe above would be a little boring without the psychotic antagonist, the beatings, the kidnapping, the paternal revelation, the secret wedding, the war, the dungeons, the death, the traitors, and the post traumatic stress of all of the above. Twist it up until your readers feel like they are losing their minds! Make them really think about what is about to happen and be floored when they are wrong! The unpredictability is what makes it all interesting. It makes a reader want to keep reading when they turn that page or end that chapter.

I’m not going to tell you to leave sex out of a story or to force the hero to win or even to allow your heroine to only have sex with one person through the life of the book. That is up to you. But be wary of your target audience and write appropriately. I have sex scenes in my books and the older teenage girls love them, but mine are not a YA category either.

I remember reading “Flowers in the Attic” when I was first in high school. There was sexual content in that book…along with the rest of the series. I wasn’t the only teen who liked V.C. Andrews either. My word of advice: No matter what you write, make it tasteful and make it matter. Don’t riddle your book with scenes that could be very offensive to parts of your audience. Keep it balanced nicely.

You know, even for as many people love my books, there are those who fan themselves and slam the book shut claiming it is too sexual in nature. Well, if this was a common complaint, I could understand them. But when my pie is 90% readers who think it was tastefully done and 10% those who think it was too adult, I will place my bets with the vast majority. If it was the other way around, I might omit a scene or two.

Okay. Enough about sex.

So I am just trying to say: There are no rules in fiction, but bad fiction should never go out there. Your story should always move forward at a pace that relates well to your book.

I’m not a big outline person at all. I hate them, actually. But I have made them to keep track of events and the age of characters. But to merely jot down your own recipe to your plot will help you to know how to fill in the blanks to get from beginning to end. If you find that your book is very “cookie cutter”, change it. Please, for the love of books, change it! There’s enough bland books out there to bore you into oblivion. DON’T fall into that category!

I hope I told you something you might not have thought about. It is sad to me that I stopped reading because of a lack of originality. But I also find it sad that my work is discredited as an “indie” author, so it must suck. I beg to differ. I challenge you to read my books and guess where the story is going to go. No, I DARE you to! Right now, all of my books are available on the Kindle and book one is going through an intensive overhaul to be re-published. I love to hear if I shock your socks off! I will warn you, there are few who guess how it will all end. Muahaha!

Are you up for the challenge…ahem…dare?!?

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! AWARDS TIME!

This has been a great week! Thank you to all who have interacted with me in comments, reblogging, and liking my work! Some posts take a HUGE amount of time and others don’t. But I’m all about giving back and extending my hand of friendship to those around me. The fact that you read my work and talk back to me about it means the world to me! Thank you!

So I want to give out some kudos to those who have been amazing this week. Now I want to do this each week, so you can rise through the ranks the more you visit and comment! I know, I know…I can’t hand out cool presents each week, but there are times I will do a random give-away for those who participate on a regular basis. I’m unpredictable that way.

Take a moment to take a peek at these awesome bloggers! Follow them, talk to them, love them!

Without further ado…Here are my awards for this week!

Royal Subjects: Award for following my blog!

photo attribution: guttenberg.org

photo attribution: guttenberg.org

 

Knights of the Crown: Award for comments on my posts!

Photo Attribution: Unknown

Photo Attribution: Unknown

 

Allies of the Kingdom: Award for reblogging my posts!

photo attribution: wikipedia.org

photo attribution: wikipedia.org

 

King’s Herald: Award for liking my posts!

Photo Attribution: Midsommer Actors via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Attribution: Midsommer Actors via Flickr Creative Commons

 

Thank you sooo much for your love and support! I couldn’t keep going without you!

If you feel so inclined to read my books, you can find them all HERE! Just know that I appreciate you reading!

Downton Abbey Meets Game of Thrones…

I was sitting in the coffee shop a few weeks ago, talking with my editor/publisher/friend at Twisted Willow Press. We were discussing things like merchandise, fun promotional ideas, and the progress of the new and improved “Noble Courage”.  It always helps to bounce thoughts and ideas off of another person and sometimes it can be lonely to be a writer as you have to keep your own secrets. I get tired of talking to myself so my times spent visiting with Jeriann are most important to me.

As we were talking that morning, I came to a realization: The Aspen Series is essentially Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones. 

When I actually said that out loud, Jeriann sat thoughtful a moment before nodding her head and agreeing with me.

What makes me say that, you ask? How could I possibly compare my work to such amazing treasures as these? Well, I don’t claim to be some super amazing author, by any means. But my series incorporates the raw brutality and a mentally insane antagonist of Game of Thrones but also the romance and elegance of Downton Abbey.

But wait! Those aren’t even in the same periods of history! Well, you got me there. They are definitely not at all similar, but they mix very well indeed!

It is said that those who love Downton Abbey also love the Game of Thrones series. So if they are correct in that assumption, I have a super great series for you… Game of Thrones is only a season long, so you will spend the summer totally bored without it! But at the end of this post, I will give you the link that will save you from boredom! And as you read through The Aspen Series, think of it as a television series, watch those characters come to life before your very eyes, and love it for the story that it is.

THIS

This photo is from spultured.com.

This photo is from spultured.com.

PLUS THIS

This photo is from Rob Leigh on mirror.co.uk.

This photo is from Rob Leigh on mirror.co.uk.

EQUALS THIS

Cast Dungeon

You can find the first five books of The Aspen Series HERE, along with the prequel. The last book, The Key of the Kingdom, is in the works now!

 

 

 

Each Day is a New Beginning…

Forks 357

Easter is a very special day for me on many levels.  This last year has held many milestones in my life and it is easy to feel bogged down and overwhelmed with life. As you withdraw from the things you love, it only makes you more sad and detached.

There comes a time for most people when you take time to reflect on how things are, how things have been, and where you want to go. But getting to this point can be slow and painful. This was me. A year full of great joy and equally great sorrow has left me feeling hollow and spent. I had given up on several goals and dreams, and I let others dictate the path I was walking.

Today, that all ends.

This is a day of reflection, at long last. It’s a day where I choose to grow and find my own way in the world. I refuse to allow other people to control the rudder on the ship of my life. I am the captain. I always was, but I let my crew influence how I performed instead of taking charge.

I have discovered what I am best at and what I love…what I am passionate about. This is the year to shine!

So many people feel that New Year’s is about making goals and resolutions. But such a special day as Easter Sunday brings my life into proportion and fills me with a new energy. I don’t strive to be famous or wealthy. I just want to make a difference in someone’s life. Don’t get me wrong, a bestselling novel would be amazing. But I’m content to know that my words and my actions have helped one person in my journey through my life.

So here’s to new beginnings! Here’s to putting together a different strategy for steering my life in the direction I wish to go. I hope you will join me in that journey.

I want to thank a few people for their support, whether they know they were influential or not, I love them all!

My husband is right up there at the top. But those who aren’t close to me physically are Seumas Gallacher, Jeriann Watkins, Cynthia Hepner, Arthur Browne, and several others who graced me with their own thoughts, posts, and books. Take a moment to visit these amazing friends of mine and perhaps they will grace your life as well!

If you feel so inclined, make a quick visit to my Amazon page and my website. I changed my site a little bit and would love observations and suggestions in making it even better! Feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

The Benevolent Light on StoryFinds!

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So a fellow writer, Cheryl Alleway, turned me onto this site for authors called Story Finds. This is geared toward allowing authors to showcase their work to a whole new audience of readers. My books are listed there and The Benevolent Light was chosen to be featured in their Medieval Romance Week! You should visit me there, read the excerpt of said featured book, and watch the trailer!

There is also a poll that will be taking place the 23rd through the 30th of March! Yes, that is next week as well! This is where you can go to vote on a cover to help that author win a little more exposure! So I would assume that all you readers will head over there on Sunday to vote for The Benevolent Light’s cover, right??

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Story Finds is a great way to connect authors and readers. The best way to support an author is to be supportive of events and spread the word. Your word of mouth means everything to starving artists everywhere! The best part about that is it only takes one or two seconds to “share” an author with your friends so you really invest very little time in showing your support! But I guarantee you that it means the world to that person who dedicates hours upon hours to fill your mind with images and stories with their words. A “like” is just not enough, guys. They are appreciated, but that “share” is the frosting on that cake of success.

If you really love an author, your thoughts on the books you have read are vital. Don’t think of it as a formal review. We want your honest, constructive thoughts. Keep in mind that if a book just isn’t your style, don’t just head to Amazon and bash it. You are entitled to your opinion, but being nasty to someone who may not deserve it could ruin their writing career. In any book, you should be able to find at least one positive thought…even if it is that you liked the cover.

Be loving, be kind, be supportive! That is what makes the world go ’round! Don’t forget to visit me on Story Finds!

What Aspen Series Character are You?

So an idea crept back into my head this afternoon and I came home from work to make it! What fun infographics are!! So… By reading the graph below, what character are you? Leave me your comment below!

easelly_visual

The Art of You “Finale” Part 12

Fly with the wings life gives you.

Fly with the wings life gives you.

 

 

 

 

It was a warm day, that third week of June when someone knocked at my door. Curious, I peeked out from between the blinds that hung in my front window and was very surprised to see Davis on my porch.

Opening the door, I felt a flood of emotions. “What do you want?” I asked none too friendly.

Davis pleaded with me through his eyes. “I need you to come with me, Ruby.”

I laughed at him. “Really? Well, I think not. Have a good one.”

I shut the door and he slid his foot in the way. “Please, Ruby. I need you to come with me.”

His insistence made me stop to wonder what was so important.

“Give me one good reason why,” I challenged.

“Well, I don’t have one. I have just been ordered to deliver you somewhere,” he said evasively.

I closed my eyes and rested my forehead on the edge of the front door. “I can’t bear it, Davis. This last year has been torture for me. I can’t go through all that again.”

“Come out of your cocoon, Ruby. Time to spread those wings wide and fly. Take a chance and get in the car…or do I have to put you there myself?” he added with a nostalgic grin.

I sighed and grabbed my purse shouting out to the boys that I would be back in a while. All I heard in reply was some noise that came out of their mouths mixed with the sounds of video games.

I found myself in the back seat once again. The car looked the same and it smelled the same. We drove through town and got onto the freeway that took us into the very outdoorsy town of Eagle. Taking the busy thoroughfare north, we pulled into the parking lot of a hotel by the river. I could see dozens of people poised with their cameras and ready to strike, as Jack had put it once. Davis came around and let me out and I just stood there not knowing where to go or what to do.

The cameras all clicked and flashed around me. Jack came out through the doors of the hotel. He smiled at me with that relaxed smile of his.

“Ruby!” he greeted pulling me into his embrace.

Shocked, I hugged him back but not knowing what to say or how to feel. I was shocked, to say the very least.

“What are you doing here?” I asked feeling breathless.

“Look. I have missed you and have thought of you many, many times over the last year. I came back here to take my stand against anyone who wants to tell me otherwise. You can see the art of me just as I can see the art of you. You taught me that. You have shown me that there aren’t many people who will ever just love you for who you are. And I know you don’t care about the fame or the money or you wouldn’t have been real with me last year. You are the one I want and you are just as pretty as the day I dropped you off…but I never said goodbye. You did, but not me. I didn’t want that to be the end. I’ve had my struggles as I am sure you have, but it is time I claimed my freedom too. Can you forgive me for how I handled ‘us’ last year and start again?” he asked me in front of all those cameras.

“I thought I hated you. I mean really hated you. I still want to hate you,” I started.

“Okay, I know you hate me. But think of what I was dealing with at the same time. You of all people should be able to understand all those emotions,” he defended himself.

I fluttered my eyelashes in irritation. “Let me finish. While I still want to hate you, I just found out that I forgave you a long time ago. I could never hate you because…well, because I love you too much. Maybe you don’t really want to hear that, but there it is.”

Jack laughed at my sentiment and hugged me tight again. I had found the door to save him when he cried for help and he led me from the darkness and into the light. We were there for each other when we needed each other the very most.

“For old time’s sake,” he said smiling huge and a sparkle in his eye.

Before I knew what was happening, he drew me up into his arms as he had the day we went for pancakes. The day his wife died. The day my dreams came to a screeching halt.

I squealed in surprise. “You still have those strong arms,” I remarked.

“All the better to carry you with. I plan to carry you anytime you need me to, Ruby.”

And then the prince took me into his castle where we would plot out the rest of our lives together. You notice I didn’t say “happily ever after”? Well, that’s because it is impossible to be normal people and not disagree ever, so I thought that politically incorrect to say. But I will say that he has made me very happy and I soar with those big butterfly wings from my cocoon, the very one he coaxed me out of knowing I was ready to fly.

The Art of You Part 11

Life is adapting to where you are placed.

Life is adapting to where you are placed.

 

 

 

 

The mail came that afternoon and coincidentally there was a letter from Jack Harrington’s offices in Hollywood. Ignoring the other bills that came that day demanding payment, I ripped his open and unfolded the paper. There was my photo card for my camera along with his scrawling handwriting that simply said: “I thought you might like this back. Thinking of you, Jack.”

There was no revelation of missing me. Just the card. I plugged it into my computer and they were all there. That anger came back and I thought I might pitch them to the media. I thought I might sell my story to the news. I thought I would write him a good thanks-but-no-thanks letter in response. And then I flipped to the photo taken on the couch and I realized I missed him a lot but I was growing to hate him at the same time.

My fury spun out of control and I cleaned my house. I made plans for what I wanted to do in restoring it. I would spend every last cent he gave me just so he couldn’t have it back.

When the boys came home, we went shopping and bought clothes. We bought new furniture. We went out to dinner. I spent money on food at the grocery store like I had never spent before. We had so much fun together and then spent the next several weeks painting the house and doing remodeling projects from off the internet. That was our Christmas, buying the things we never could before and I had a glimpse into Jack’s life. Acquiring all those things, but not having anyone to come home to. Oh wait! He had some beautiful blonde on his arm now. I growled in frustration and hoped she would spend all of his money in careless, frivolous ways until he was broke and too old to be the sexy hero in the movies any longer.

Several more months passed and summer approached. Daniel graduated from high school and I bought him a new car to take to college. He was accepted at a school in Utah so I wanted him to have some reliable transportation. Okay, I wanted to spend more of that money that I had earned with my life. I wanted to erase Jack from my life. And as hard as I tried, he wouldn’t just leave.

So I decided to just make him visible to me the way I wanted to see him. I took the photo of him on the couch and removed the color from it. Then, I printed it out and put it out on my pretty new dresser. I suppose I felt a little bit better.

With the weather turning for the better, I hired some guys to work on the house and spruce it up some. I was nearing the end of my bucket. I knew I would have enough to pay the bills through the end of the year so I decided to use the summer to take photos that I could sell once again.

I started going to the gym a few miles away and in two months, I was back into a size 10. Feeling better about myself, I started getting out. Daniel and I bought him some things for his apartment and began to prepare to say goodbye to him as well.

When I made it into a size 8, I celebrated with a new wardrobe. It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I could be content. I wasn’t as small as I had been, but I was showing some definition at long last. My waist was slimmer and my legs were strong, but I still fought the flab around my belly.

I started to go back to my hairdresser and had him bring back my Hollywood hair, short and sassy.

After one year, I put makeup back on my face.

“I’m not so ugly,” I reasoned to the mirror.

It had taken me a long time, but I did it. I was myself again.

We made it a point to stay busy and in truth, I hardly thought about those men in my life that I mourned. They grew to be ghosts of my memories.

The Art of You Part 10

The battle rages on.

The battle rages on.

 

 

Two days after Jack had left, I decided I had better get some photos ready for printing and mounting. I put the card in my computer and uploaded the ones I had. I was excited to see some of the photos I knew would be amazing. I gulped in panic when only six photos popped up and they were all of the carpet in the hotel room, like someone didn’t know how to use the thing. But the last one was a picture of a note.

“Don’t be mad. I’m sorry.

But I hope a few dollars in the bank will help out. ~Jack”

My ears were pounding with my pulse. I found it hard to gulp at the air. He had taken my pictures. While I had been sleeping, he stole my property. The anger I felt at the thought that he had messed with my livelihood did anger me more than his gracious rejection. I decided it was a good thing he had left or I would have told him what I really thought. Oh, who was I kidding? I wouldn’t have said anything more than I already had to him.

Curiously, I opened the internet browser and looked up my online banking. My hand flew to my mouth and I stifled a cry. I had three figures sitting in my at one time, overdrawn bank account. There was $100,000 sitting there. He told me everything was taken care of, that I didn’t need to worry. I believed him and I had felt safe with him.

Angry that he stole my pictures, I decided I wouldn’t use his money unless I absolutely had to. But I began to spiral into a depression, not unlike the one I’d had a few years earlier. It was a natural response to the lot I had been dealt in life.

But that depression continued and I sat on that couch just watching television and eating ice cream for months. Pathetic, I know. But I could barely get myself up to go to the bathroom.

Daniel turned 18 on me and that was hard because he was my baby. He was doing well in school and worked at a local pizza joint, applying for colleges to major in theater. But he was wise beyond his years and talked to me about how I had been acting.

“I miss my mom,” he said at last. “I don’t like this person who sits here and cries all day long. This isn’t the mom that raised me.”

How could I explain?

“I’m sorry, Daniel. I never planned for this to happen, I don’t like it either,” I said with obvious tears in my eyes.

“I know,” he said pulling me into an embrace. “But you need to get out. You need to take a shower. I think he’s around and not happy that you are just throwing your life away. I can’t seem to bring myself to move out on my own and leave you here like this.”

I cried, okay? I bawled like a little baby in my son’s arms. He helped me to the bathroom and started my shower water, laying my towel out on the counter beside my bathrobe. Then, he left me alone.

Stripping off my clothes, I didn’t even recognize myself. Where I was once a size 5, I was now in a size 14. That fun little rockabilly girl had flown the coop and left behind and old fat woman.

The shower felt so good and I just stood there a while feeling each stream of water hit my skin. I really had wasted so much of my life and now my baby was a man ready to leave the nest in search his own dreams.

Daniel cooked dinner that night and we all sat together at the table for the first time in several months. His fish was just the best. We made small talk with each other and it was then that they asked to hear the whole story. So I told them.

Neither one had much to say. It wasn’t their heart that had been broken or their pride that had been shattered. But I told them I would never trust another man as long as I lived. They just smiled.

“Well not from the couch, you won’t,” Daniel said shoving fish in his mouth.

I had to give him that one. I wasn’t doing anything from the couch.

Sleeping in my own bed that night made me feel strange. It was a combination of missing my husband being there and those nights sleeping at Shore Lodge with Jack on the couch. I didn’t quite know what to feel. But I uttered a prayer and fell into a deep and restful sleep for the first time since I had been back home.

I woke to snowflakes outside my window. It was late and the boys were gone to school so the house was quiet. I contemplated just staying in bed and remembered the conversation with my son the night before. It was time to get back to normal.

“Ruby, you have to do something with yourself. This isn’t you!” I scolded myself.

I slid out of bed and threw on my robe to make me a smoothie instead of having my usual bowl of sugared cereal. It was the first step.

I flipped on the television and changed the channel until it fell on the news. There was Jack, walking out of some fancy building with some young model hanging on his arm dripping in diamonds. He was all smiles, a little older but still handsome as ever. The headline at the bottom of the screen said this woman was his fiancé. I snorted out loud and shut off the television.

I felt steam build within me and a fury like none other fueled my soul.