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Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, June Breland Whatley

clip_image001As I head out on vacation with my family, I am featuring guest bloggers who write YA. I’m eager to share their insights in the genre close to my heart. First up is June Breland Whatley. She’s already written a nonfiction book and is turning her hand to a YA novel. Welcome, June!

One of the great things about YA fiction is that you can write in any genre as along as your main character is a teen. What genre do you write? Why?

I’m currently working on, Beware the Fallen. It is an Allegory, or some people call it a Speculative, because it is set in a ‘fallen garden of Eden’-type setting. I love writing about Christian discovery and growth for young people because research shows that possibly as many as 85% of Christian teens, when they go to a secular college, fall away from church and away from their faith. I would like to help instill a deeper understanding and deeper faith in our young people. We need young ‘heroes of faith’ today.

Which comes first when starting a story – character, plot, or setting?

That is hard to say. The original idea for Beware the Fallen came from some photos of a friend’s children. That gave me an idea for a story and I had my characters. Beware the Fallen has grown from there. But these days the plot comes first, although the characters in this book and the next #2 and #3 are the same. They have become very personal to me. They are like family that I want to help train. I guess I would say, characters come first and then they write the plot.

Most YA writers aren’t YA. How do you write authentically about characters younger than you are?

I was young once, although I don’t think that counts because things are so much different today. I rely on my grandkids for inspiration and the new words for this generation. My grandson is about the age of the main character Ashton, though he is more of a Mican by nature. (Just a teaser for the book.)

What are some other unique challenges about writing YA?

Building a platform of YA readers is a challenge. They ‘friend’ people their own age, but I haven’t found a way to get into their Social Media circle. Mostly I have parents and other writers on Fb, Twitter, etc. Does anyone have any tips to share? Part of the holdup is that the book is not yet published, but I’m working with an editor.

What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration for a story or character?

I guess that would be the horse, named Warrior. As I have mentioned, my characters for this series were inspired by some amazing photos. The photographer had the children dressed in ‘period’ costumes. There was even a horse in the pics that knelt to the little girl. I named him Warrior. He took on a personality and a role of his own. The whole story grew from those great photographs.

I will gladly send chapter 1 of Beware the Fallen to anyone who is interested. To receive your copy, send a (1.) friends’ request and a (2.) private message with (3.) your email address to either of the pages above and (4.) Like the page (if you enjoy the chapter). Thank you, and Blessings!

Thanks for stopping by! You can follow June on her Facebook at June Breland Whatley, author and June Ireland Whatley, author page.

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clip_image003My previous book is available, #LifeChange: A Treasure Hunt for More is currently available under the name June Breland Whatley on Amazon. It is nonfiction, for MG-Senior Adults. It is about a dream from the Lord and shows how some people fear becoming a Christian and how to protect oneself from attack, even after becoming a Christian.

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I earned a combination Master of Arts degree, in Education/Counseling, from Regent University. I have worked as a teacher, college counselor and a testing tech for a Neuropsychologist, but my life goal, through my writing and speaking, is to introduce people to Christ or give them tools to draw closer to Him.

The first book was on socialization, to the Homeschool Market, Will My Child Fit? Socialization no longer seems to be the issue, as it was twenty years ago, so it is out of print.

Beware the Fallen will be my third book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I earned a combination Master of Arts degree, in Education/Counseling, from Regent University. I have worked as a teacher, college counselor and a Testing Tech for a Neuropsychologist, but my life goal, through my writing and speaking, is to introduce people to Christ or give them tools to draw closer to Him.

Writing Tip — Benefits of Screenwriting

screenplayw-2651055_1280I have never had an ambition to write a screenplay. I’m having enough trouble learning how to write novels and short stories. But a few of my writing friends in American Christian Fiction Writers have written plays or tried their hand at screenplays. One author gave a presentation on the basics of writing a play for our chapter meeting. Some of her advice could also apply to novel writing.

I found this post on Almost an Author on the benefits of screenwriting when applied to writing a novel full of helpful insights. Some of the lessons the author describes I have learned from writing short stories. Over the past three years, I’ve tackled both nonfiction writing in blog posts, poetry, and fiction. I’ve learned there’s a lot of cross-pollination between these different genres.

Have you ever tried writing a screenplay? What was your most valuable lesson?

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Amy C. Blake

SONY DSCI’m so excited about May’s theme, creating characters, that I’m starting a day early! Here to discuss characters in her latest release is YA fantasy and suspense writer, Amy C. Blake. Welcome, Amy!

Which comes first when creating a story – characters, plot, or setting?

I usually have some idea of plot and setting, but I need to know my main character in great detail before I can do much with a story. Since what happens in the plot depends so heavily on my protagonist’s personality and background, I’d say character is the most important factor for me.

Do you use a different approach for villains and heroes?

My hero is a critical part of my story, so I get to know him/her completely before I start writing. While I also need to know my villain thoroughly, that character is somewhat dependent on my hero. In other words, I want my villain to be the best antagonist to fit my hero. For instance, in my Levi Prince series (my new release The Fay’s Apprentice is the third book in that series), Hunter is the perfect villain for Levi. Hunter is rich, self-confident, and insolent. Levi is poor, gawky, and self-conscious. In addition, the ancestors of the two boys shared a similar antagonism to theirs, a factor Levi is only beginning to understand by his third summer in Terracaelum.

Who was the easiest character you’ve created? Who was the most difficult?

The easiest character is a toss-up between Patience from Whitewashedand Levi from my Levi Prince series. Patience was easy because I tend to be impatient like she is. Levi was easy because he’s a homeschooled pastor’s kid like my own children. Christy from Colorblind was the most difficult because she’s super sweet but was also not a believer during much of the story.

What do you think is the key for creating main characters that readers can relate to?

I think it’s key that my main characters be real. They need to be basically likable people but with at least one flaw many readers share. As I mentioned earlier, Patience tends to be impatient. Many of us battle that tendency as well, so she’s relatable. However, Patience isn’t just impatient. She’s also kind to a young mother trying to pacify twin babies on an airplane, and I’m careful to show that side of her personality before I show her flaw(s).

What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration for a character?

My main characters are all homeschoolers, something I haven’t seen in the mainstream or Christian markets. As a homeschooling mom of four, I wanted to show that home educated kids are well-rounded, likable but flawed individuals, just like everybody else.

To follow Amy, visit her at the following sites:

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FaysApprentice_FlatOn Levi’s third summer at Camp Classic, he’s torn between two responsibilities. On the one hand, his parents expect him to watch over his little sister Abby, who has no clue their summer camp is a haven for mythical creatures. On the other hand, Mr. Dominic wants him to train at Fort Terra, a full day’s hike away from his sister, because of Levi’s previous encounters with the demon sorcerer Deceptor. Although he enjoys training with his friends, Levi finds life at Fort Terra difficult thanks to the ongoing tension between him and Hunter and the stress of having his former kidnapper Regin as his chaperone. When the woman Regin claims to be the evil sorceress Anna appears, Levi faces a whole new challenge. (Book 3 in the Levi Prince series)

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Award-winning author Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has an M.A. in English from Mississippi College and has written articles, devotionals, and short stories for a number of publications. She’s also writing two series for the Christian market, her Levi Prince YA fantasy series and her On the Brink Christian suspense trilogy.

WhitewashedColorblind, and Tie-Dyed, featuring three homeschooled girls on the brink of adulthood…and danger, are available in paperback and Kindle. The Trojan Horse TraitorThe Fall of Thor’s Hammer, and The Fay’s Apprentice, about homeschooled pastor’s kid Levi Prince and his adventures in Terracaelum, are also available in paperback and Kindle. She’d love for you to visit her website at amycblake.com.

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blog & Giveaway By Jen Turano

email imageI am excited to welcome Jen Turano as guest blogger today. Along with giving advice on writing historical romance, Jen is providing a signed copy of her latest book Flight of Fancy. To enter the drawing for the book, you must be a U.S. resident and leave a comment below. You can comment from now until March 3 at 5 p.m. EST. I will notify the winner that day.

I met Jen at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference in 2017. I overheard a conversation about Appalachia and said my YA novel was set in West Virginia, but I was from eastern Ohio. Jen said so was she, and we discovered we were both from the same hometown and our dads taught at the high school together. We hadn’t attended high school at the same time, so I didn’t know Jen when we lived there. Jen brings a sense of humor to everything from her plots to her dedications and emails. So happy to have you here to day, Jen!

What inspires you to write historical romances set during the Gilded Age?

 I first became interested in the Gilded Age after reading “The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York.” It was a riveting read, which then led me to read “Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt,” and after that “’King Lehr’ and The Gilded Age,” by Elizabeth Drexel Lehr, a memoir that lent a clear flavor for the times even if it was less than factual in certain chapters. At the time, in my humble opinion, I felt the Gilded Age was a somewhat overlooked period of history, so I thought it might be fun to rectify that. Because it was a time when men were making fortunes practically overnight, and society, especially in New York City, was becoming more powerful than ever, I knew I’d have enough fodder for stories for years.  

 Are there other time periods you would like to write about?

When I first started writing, not that those efforts will ever see the light of day, I wrote Regencies. I still adore that time period, but if I was going to write something other than Gilded Age, I’d write contemporary now.

 When creating a story, which comes first? Character, setting or plot?

I always start with character because, here’s the thing – readers don’t really connect with plots or settings, but they form attachments and develop feelings for characters. They don’t care about a missing locket, but they’ll care about the lady who needs to find that locket because it’s her only memory of her parents. If you can get a feel for your characters, know their desires and their weaknesses, a plot and setting should develop quickly after that. 

What’s the most unusual source of inspiration you’ve used in a story?

A goat – long story, but I was stuck, couldn’t figure out how to move the story forward, but  then this goat sprang to mind and I was back in business. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write historical romance?

Get to be an expert on the time period you want to write. Historical readers expect certain things in the stories they read, and if you’re unfamiliar with, say, the fact that Mrs. Astor was the queen of New York high society, a reader will know you’ve not done your proper research and there’s little likelihood that reader will pick up another one of your stories or tell her friends about you. You should also know the market – different time periods go in and out of fashion. A few years ago, you were hard pressed to sell a Civil War story, which made it very frustrating for those writers who’d written Civil War books but simply couldn’t find anyone to publish them – nor did they do well as self-published books because readers weren’t interested in that time period. Occasionally, certain periods come back in fashion, but it can take quite a few years for that to happen. Go to your local bookstore and library often to see what they’re displaying in their historical section, and then read as many of those books as you can because that’s a wonderful way to learn what is expected in your time period and what is not.  

Thanks so much for all the great advice!

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Check out Jen’s latest Gilded Age romance here!

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Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist.  When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO. Readers may find her at www.jenturano.com or https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/or on Twitter at JenTurano@JenTurano.

 

 

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Bettie Boswell

39760465_2130678013617363_178544449079476224_nMy friend Bettie Boswell is joining me today because as a writer of both words and music, she brings an informed view about how the two arts interrelated. Thanks so much for stopping by, Bettie!

Music and the written word have characteristics that are both similar and yet very different:  Patterns, rhythms, and lyrical phrases fill music and the written word. Both have meanings that are clear and hidden. Both reach for the listener’s heart and emotions. They move at varying tempos. They both involve pitches but what a difference between the two. Highs and lows move throughout the song and the story but again they have contrasts in meaning. A symphony has distinct sections and so does a story. Picture books may have a recurring refrain and so do many songs.

By popular definition, music is organized sound. The written story consists of organized words. Organization makes the difference between a rambling journal entry and a well-written novel.

Music begins with a BEAT that binds the piece and the performers together. The story has a heartbeat that ties the tale together through either a theme or an outline designed to show changes along a hero’s journey. In writing, the beat can also refer to actions that keep story movement going between conversations in quotes.

RHYTHM adds sparkle to the music by breaking up the constant beat. Rhythm forms patterns that repeat and change. Patterns reveal FORM in the music and make the music memorable and easier to perform. Surprising rhythms are exciting to listen to and make each composition unique. Certain rhythms indicate genre, be it Jazz or Baroque or Rock. When an author pens a story, they will follow certain word rhythms or plot types that will take them into genres such as Young Adult, Picture Book, Mystery, Romance, or Suspense.

PITCH in music makes the music sing as the melody moves through high and low notes. Stories also move through high and low events for the main character. Pitch can strain or relax the musician’s abilities. In the writer’s world, a pitch can be one of the most strenuous events that the author will experience. Will they easily sing out the essence of their story to an editor or agent, or will they over do it and ruin their chance at having their voice (story) heard?

Speaking of voice, in music there are many TIMBRES (tone qualities.) In a symphonic orchestra, a b-flat played on an oboe will sound very different from one played on a tuba or a viola, yet they are in tune with each other.  A singer can also perform the same note but he or she will have his or her own unique voice. Authors are encouraged to find their own voice for telling the story in a genuine way. They also need to find special voices for the players making up the orchestra of characters found in their book.

All those voices playing together create HARMONY or dissonance in the music or the story. When things go well there is harmony; when they don’t there is dissonance. Dissonance creates tension in both music and the story. It happens when two voices get too close and create a displeasing sound. Dissonance creates the desire to resolve the sound into something more pleasing. When those two voices give each other a little space, they find harmony and a happy conclusion is the result.

Writing is like being the conductor of an orchestra. The author keeps the beat and rhythm going and knows when to speed up or slow the TEMPO of the story. They know what voices should be part of the story and where to cue the reader that something is about to happen. They lead with quiet or loud words when approaching the DYNAMICS of each scene. They direct emotions by using smooth lyrical sentences, or staccato phrases to make a point. Just as a songwriter chooses the perfect lyrics for a ballad, an author finds words that are meaningful to their chosen audience and to themselves. They stand before that audience, give it their best (after many rehearsal hours of revising,) and hope that they receive a singing review for a work well done.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas to all aspiring writers and musicians,

Bettie Boswell

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Find Bettie’s Christmas short story “Fred’s Gift” as well as my country noir one “Debt to Pay” in the anthology below. Click here for ordering links.

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Bettie Boswell is an author, illustrator, and composer for both Christian and children’s markets. She holds a B.S. in Church Music from Cincinnati Bible College and a Masters in Elementary Education from East Tennessee State University. She lives in Northwest Ohio. Her numerous musicals have been performed at schools, churches, and two community theater events. When she isn’t writing, drawing or composing, she keeps busy with her day job teaching elementary music. You can find her online on Twitter @BboswellB and on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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