Category: Guest Post


Guest Post:Sharlene Almond

Hi all, today I’ve got a guest post from Sharlene Almond, author of Initiated to Kill, about the minds of serial killers and some of the commonalities that criminologists have found between them. Enjoy!

Initiated to Kill cover

Delving into the Criminal Mind – What we can Learn from Historical Serial Killers.

Who would have thought we would be living in a world in which we have grown rather fascinated with the workings of the criminal mind. With TV shows that delve into criminal profiling, movies and books exploring the depravity of a serial killer.

Criminology and Criminal Profiling is fast becoming a sought-out degree. Even the knowing the basics on Criminology can help a writer better understand why their antagonist and protagonist is doing what they are doing.

So, come with me and explore the sadistic minds of serial killers.

The Importance of a Childhood, and the Affect on the Brain.

As much as we might want to deny it, childhood can have a huge impact on the brain. The idea nature vs. nurture is something we struggle with explaining, especially when it comes to psychopathy.

After all, is it possible for a baby to be a psychopath? Or is there something absent in the brain, which is then triggered by trauma?

It is important to realize that a person’s interactions “shape the structural and organizational characteristics of our brain.” (Nancy Darling, Ph.D.)

Parenting affects the cortisol and alpha amylase levels in our brain. When children are in an environment that encourages positive responses and communications when feeling unresponsive to feelings, as opposed to encouraging negative responses through the exposure to violence, teaches the child that it is normal to react in a violent way in order to get what you want.

He believed even his parents feared him, which he relished all the more. His sometimes-tender self would suddenly change like a storm blackening the sky. His fits of rage caused people to scurry, delighting him, their terror—his drug.” (Initiated to Kill)

Children learn from the experiences they are exposed to the most. In the early years of their life, their main exposure is from their parents.

However, there are some children with underdeveloped or stunted amygdala, resulting in the areas of their brain connected with empathy, pain and fear to not develop effectively.

Psychopathy may be able to be recognized as early as around two years old. The benefit of recognizing and admitting the potential of certain children lacking empathy, means that those that surround them can help the children experience interactions which help to educate the child on the different responses for the different situations they come across.

Who is capable of being a Serial Killer?

“He would make friends easily; they seemed to flock to his charming and energetic self. But he got bored easily, so when they no longer amused him, he would just vanish, pretending they never existed.” (Initiated to Kill)

Serial killers don’t necessarily walk around appearing as though they are about to commit murder. Instead, many of them may appear ‘normal’. However, there can be some indicators that could cause a person to be more likely to commit vicious acts, and with other triggers, could be a violent combination.

Extreme antisocial behavior, voyeurism (watching a person in private setting), enjoys setting fires, and torturing or killing animals may lead to more serious acts of violence.

Other factors may be less noticeable. Some study results have suggested that male serial killers may have extremely high levels of testosterone.

Another genetic factor could be that they have abnormal levels of the brain chemical dopamine – which is responsible for motivation and pleasure.

Those with lower levels of dopamine require greater stimulation to achieve pleasure.

Do You See Them Coming?

No. Although, there are some traits that could indicate criminal tendencies, many proclaim how shocked they are when they discover who is behind sadistic acts.

Ted Bundy was considered a charming man, volunteering for the suicide hotline, and a college graduate. However, underneath that superficial exterior hid a psychopath that killed at least 36 women.

H.H Holmes was a well-known pharmacist that had a torture dungeon in his basement.

John Wayne Gacy was a shoe salesman, entertained children as a clown, and active in his community. However, was a serial killer of young men.

Richard Angelo, a volunteer fire fighter, respected nurse and an Eagle Scout. He was so obsessed with being a hero he would poison patients so he could revive them.

Philip Maroff, eventually known as the Craigslist Killer was a member of the National Honor Society, promising student, and part of the youth court in school.

The Taunting’s of a Serial Killer.

There is one part of the ‘murder game’ many killers cannot resist, and that is to taunt police or victims, show how clever they are, mock them, dare them to catch them if they can.

The Zodiac killer would mock the police for not deciphering his code. In 2018, his mocking finally caught up to him, and Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer was finally caught. It is believed he put in practice before the big events by breaking into people’s homes to steal a personal item, or leave something behind.

Of course, one of the most notorious killers to taunt police, and still to this day not yet be fully identified is Jack the Ripper. He would go into great detail of what he did to his victims, and send it personally to the Police Commissioner.

 Dear Boss,

“‘So now they say I am a Yid when will they lern Dear old Boss! You an me know the truth don’t we. Lusk can look forever hell never find me but I am rite under his nose all the time. I watch them looking for me an it gives me fits ha ha I love my work an I shant stop until I get buckled and even then watch out for your old pal Jacky

Catch me if you can Jack the Ripper

Sorry about the blood still messy from the last one. What a pretty necklace I gave her.”’” (Initiated to Kill)

The Happy Face killer become unhappy with the lack of attention he was getting with his killings, so he started writing letters to local media detailing his crimes and signing them with a happy face.

Taking on Different Personas

Serial killers could be considered some of the best actors, having to put on a fake mask for society, while their inner depths are raging with violent emotions.

Juana Barraza was considered Mexico’s first female serial killer, and often thought to have been a man for her physical strength and build. She would favor disguises like a nurse’s uniform to allow herself to get into older people’s homes, or would wear a pink Power Ranger costume.

The Phantom Killer, known for the white mask with cutout holes for his eyes and mouth would target couples in Lovers Lanes after dusk.

It could be considered strategic for killers to wear costumes to reduce the risk of any eyewitnesses recognizing them, or it may play into their role to become a different person once they have that disguise on.

James Eagan Holmes become known for his murdering spree, but more for is so-called fascination with the Joker from the Batman movies. At a midnight screening of the Dark Knight Rises, James shot 12 people at a movie theatre dressed as the Joker, dying his hair to look like him.

Other killers have keepsakes to use after their crimes to relive it.

Although wearing actual costumes during crimes isn’t all that common, serial killers tend to play with numerous roles to hide who they are, or to get a victim’s guard down.

Which could be why so many people are creeped out by clowns…

There is a theory to why there were so many different suspects in Jack the Ripper killings. One theory is that he dressed up in different costumes to throw off the scent and purposefully implicate others in the killings.

He acted, he played, and he enjoyed fooling people.

“Visiting the Red Cross, asking for military uniforms. Walking along the streets dressed in something different every time. Wearing a moustache or hat to disguise the color of his hair. He enjoyed fooling people, and he did just that. No one suspected who he really was, what he was really doing.” (Initiated to Kill)

The Urge to Continue Despite the Risk

One could say that killing may be like a drug, the high is addictive, the adrenaline pumping through the veins, the intense need for more, exposing the person to engage in more risky behavior to feed their addiction.

Serial killers are intent on self-preservation. Just like those that engage in behaviors to relieve stress, so to do serial killers.

Ted Bundy claimed he ‘craved’ killings as it helped him concentrate.

Israel Keyes was addicted to the thrill of the hunt.

“Elizabeth Wettlaufer… described a pressure that would build up before each murder and stated she started killing people to relieve anxiety.” (Joni E Johnston Psy.D)

Perhaps it is the boost of dopamine that occurs, resulting in feelings of pleasure. The more they do, the more they crave, the harder it is to stop, the greater the risk, the greater the rush.

What Happens if they are Never Caught?

The brain is capable of desensitization. Whether it is from external triggers like abuse, or intentional desensitization by continually exposing oneself to what they fear, confidence in what they are capable of doing can grow. Especially when they keep getting away with it.

“There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away… When this monster enter my brain I will never know… I can’t stop it, so the monster goes on…” (Dennis Rader, BTK Stranger)

The BTK Strangler killed multiple people in the 70s. Thirty years later, supposedly, he contacted the Wichita police again. Sending photographs of a murder in 1986, which had never been solved.

Thankfully, it would seem that finally this deprived psychopath was finally caught in 2005. Dennis Rader terrorized Kansas’s neighborhoods, which sent a flurry of home security systems to be installed. What could not have been foreseen was that Dennis Rader was the one installing these cameras, enabling him to become familiar with his victims’ surroundings.

So, what are the motives behind serial murders?

It is believed that one major motivation for serial killers is to seek that ultimate thrill. Serial killers like the Zodiac killer are motivated through the adrenaline rush of stalking their prey.

While others love the control they can exert over their victims, like Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitz ‘Son of Sam’.

Another factor to keep in mind is that even when sexual assault occurs, it does not mean they are doing it for sexual gratification, rather, it tends to be the use of acts to control and humiliate their victims.

Ted Bundy would fantasize about killing; however, initially found the first act so terrifying and nerve wracking that he thought he would never do it again.

Brenda Spencer was an interesting case of a problem sixteen year old obsessed over violent films, and had been involved with drugs and petty theft. Owning a BB gun she would kill birds and break windows. However, when her father gave her a real gun, her psychopathic tendencies came to the forefront.

Setting herself up at Cleveland Elementary School, she went on a 20 minute shooting spree, killing two adults, and wounding nine children.

Even though she seemed to love the spotlight, her claimed motive for what she did shocked all – “I just don’t like Mondays… I did it because it’s a way to cheer the day up. No body likes Mondays…” (Brenda Spencer)

How to Use Profiling in Writing?

So, why do we want to know all this? Well, for authors, especially for those that write mysteries or thrillers, to have some understanding of the psyche of the killer helps to bring the person to life.

A vivid picture is created, the person feels real, their actions feel real, and they slowly progress through the story.

The antagonist, in my opinion, is just as important as the protagonist. They are two opposing forces that eventually have to collide. And, I guess, what makes it even more interesting, is that for some antagonists, you can almost feel sorry for them, can almost understand how they became who they are. And perhaps that is why criminal profiling is so fascinating – to learn what we may be capable of.

To read more about Jack the Ripper and a present-day killer, you can find my historical/present day psychological thriller here.

Sharlene Almond author pic

Author Bio:

I live in Auckland, New Zealand with my partner and two Jack Russell’s (my babies). Historical based movies and documentaries are some of the useful tools to give me ideas for my next books. I have a diploma in Body Language and Criminology, enabling me to understand and portray my main character – Annabella.

At 32 years old, I also have diplomas in Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Freelance Journalism, Editing and Proofreading and Naturopathic Nutrition. These qualifications give me the ability to better understand the human mind, writing about it in a manner my readers can understand and connect with.

Currently, I am studying to specialize in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Dialectal Behavioural Therapy, and Medicinal Cannabis.

Author Website  Amazon Author Page  Twitter  Facebook  Pintrest  Goodreads  Instagram

Parallel Excerpt

I get a lot of chances to introduce you all to new authors thanks to Authoright, which is always an exciting prospect. It might be a little late for the tour, but this time, instead of a guest post, I’ve got an excerpt of L. J. Bacon’s Parallel. Enjoy!

Parallel ebook

Have you ever looked up at the nights sky and thought, with so many stars we can’t be the only planet with life such as ours? What if I was to say our planet isn’t the only one with life, in fact what if I was to say we are living part of a parallel life on ours! Unbeknownst to us we have a second existence on another planet in another universe, and what happens there affects us here, and vice versa, how do I know this, you may ask, well, until a month ago I didn’t know any of these things, I was just like you going about my days like any other person.

I woke as normal, at 7 am Thursday morning, had a shower and then got myself dressed, then had a coffee with some toast and was ready for the day ahead.

I live and work in a Dojo, with Mr. Mechin, first name Sato.

After my parent’s deaths, when I was only six, he took me-in and raised me as his own son, he is a very wise older man with long grey hair and thin goatee beard, slim in build and only 5/6 tall, but what an amazing martial artist, very disciplined respectful and full of honour. If all men were like this man, the world would be a much better place.

I’m not too sure how old he is, he has never said, I’m not too sure how it was he became my surrogate father, all he has ever said to me is that he knew my parents very well, and that their deaths were devastating to him, and thought it the right thing to do, to take me into his care and raise me. I can’t remember much of my parents, even their faces are a blur to me now.

Anyway, I went downstairs to the Dojo, and as usual Sato was there preparing for the days lessons, he greeted me in his usual manner, “Good morning Jacob my son how are you this morning?” To which I replied, “I am very well thank you, apart from another strange dream last night!” Sato replied, “Oh really, explain it to me.”

I had been having strange and very vivid dreams for about a week, Sato was very interested in them, and would have me try my best to recall them for him in great detail; it was as if they meant something to him.

So I closed my eyes and began to explain what I could remember; “It seemed so real. I was on another world the sky was dark and seemed to have two moons, the land was mountainous and black, there were these creatures, they looked almost human but were deformed.”

“Their skin was dark and shining in the moon light, their heads were bald and disfigured, some had eyes of red and others of yellow, with bodies very muscular and powerful looking, with hands that have claws instead of fingernails.”

“There was one standing in the center of a silver circle, then there was a huge flash of light which came from the sky, almost like a bolt of lightning but it lasted about a minute! And when it had raised back to the sky the creature was gone!

“The rest of these creatures started to go crazy in celebration, then I was back in our world, but now I wasn’t me! I was a woman and I was fighting this creature that I had watched disappear into the light, I was wounded and running for my life! I had a sword in my hand, its blade was covered with what I can only explain as black tar, then the dream suddenly ended, and I woke sweating and feeling very afraid!”

When I opened my eyes, I could see Sato looked worried, almost afraid, his head and shoulders dropped as he said in a very quiet, almost a whispered voice; “Thank you for telling me.” I replied, “What is wrong, you look concerned by what I have told you, it’s just a dream!” To which he replied in a very soft but concerned voice, “Yes just a dream, a dream, a nightmare,” as he slowly turned and started to walk away with his head dropped and shaking from side to side, I placed my hand on his right shoulder and asked, “What is wrong?” He was silent for a few moments, then turned and said, “It would appear the time has come for you to know all I have to tell, I hope I have prepared you well for what is about to come.” Then he said; “We should sit and I shall begin,” as he said this I felt a shiver up my spine, I have never seen him like this, so much concern on his face and the tone of his voice was like that of a man who had the world on his shoulders.

We sat on a training mat, he looked at me and smiled saying; “Where do I begin?” Then continued; “This may be hard for you to except at first.” Then with a deep breath; “I am not from your universe, I am from another planet much like earth, but in another dimension, in the past we visited your earth, to help your people evolve as we have.”

I’ve got a bit of a treat for you all today thanks to Authoright and the author, Davide Cortellucci. As part of the The Red Book blog tour, Mr. Cortellucci has offered up a blog post talking about his own ten favorite books. Enjoy!

THE RED BOOK D.Cortellucci - Front Cover

 

I’m an eclectic reader. I can read non-fiction and fiction of many genres, from Schopenhauer to the IKEA’s Nordic cookbook. Making a list of my favourite ten books, it’s a list hard to create. I’ve read so many good ones, but I made the cuts, and here they are.

1) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I read this book multiple times when I was young. It was my favourite book, and it still has a special place in my heart. When I was young, whenever I felt a little down or my life wasn’t taking the direction I expected to make, this novella came to the rescue. This is a story that’s full of bright light.

 

2) Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Reading the life of Siddhartha from start to end, all surrounded with spirituality, human necessities, and a sense of individuality with the whole and enlightenment, unlocked within me a different way to see life and the purpose of it.

 

3) Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

One of the first books I ever read. Full of proper lessons that should be learned when you’re a child, from not lying to knowing that change is possible and that we can become what we desire to be.

 

4) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling

My favourite book in the H.P. saga. This book is the real turning point from the more innocent side of the collection to a side that gives a full dimension of its characters. The characters, due to the events in the book, are forced to mature before their time.

 

5) Neuromancer by William Gibson

To me, this book represents the epitomes of personal cognitive dissonance, because I like and dislike this book simultaneously. One moment I love certain characters, and the moment after that, I’m bored with them, and then I love them again. And of course, I appreciate this book’s high imaginary futuristic settings that have inspired several books and movies.

 

6) Animal Farm by George Orwell

The best allegory on how a dystopian society can become a reality. The shift from equality to power. The oppression of the individuals, the inequity and the lies. A top book.

 

7) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

This book made me look at humanity differently. Not as a mass of individuals, but as a group of beings from the same species that are evolving homogenously together. Seeing the point of view of humanity as one single operating force, it’s something that can help us in the decision making of the present.

 

8) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I love this book. I think this is a story that appeals to many people. I love the fragility and at the same time, the strength of its characters. This book made me think, made me laugh and pulled the strings of my heart. A beautiful book.

 

9) Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This book was an enjoyable read. I liked the clash between the two mothers and the juxtaposition of the perfect family vs the nomad and artistic one. Ng’s writing gives dept to all the characters in the story. A perfect little storm that fell upon a small corner of America and on its bourgeois inhabitants.

 

10) Wasted calories and ruined nights by Jay Rayner

This little book just put a smile on my face. It’s like combining the shadiness of a RuPaul Drag Race contestant with the Michelin Star’s dining world.

 

10+1 Bonus) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Davide Cortellucci

Author Information

Davide Cortellucci is a writer and the author of The Red Book. He has spent the last few years working on an unnamed trilogy, friendly referred by him as Little Yellow Rubber Duck. The Red Book is the first book in the trilogy. He was born on the 25th of July 1978 in Belgium, to Italian immigrant parents. He grew up in Belgium, Italy, and in London, UK. Davide has done several jobs, from waiter to inventories, from sound engineering in shows to events manager, and many more. Davide is a college dropout with a couple of creative writing courses on his back. He has spent many years travelling around Europe, learning about cultures, and keeping an interest in the power of the mind. Davide loves writing stories that awaken the epic feeling within the reader. He now lives in South East London with his partner, he’s curious about life, and he also makes a great pasta sauce.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/D.CortellucciAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/d.cortellucci/

Guest Post : L. A. MacFadden

As promised, if a little late, here’s the guest post I mentioned back on Tuesday! Here’s L. A. MacFadden talking a little about what gets her interested in writing stories. Enjoy!

Myth Agent cover

Way back in the 1970’s I read Time and Again, by Jack Finney. I have a copy of it, but I haven’t ever read it again—it has stayed with me since that first time—as have a few other great books, such as  John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath—which changed the way I looked at the world when I read it in eighth grade. When I set out to write Myth Agent, I didn’t want to replicate any part of someone else’s book, but I did want to write something that would stay with some readers, like those books have with me.

I love to read old newspapers. The news stories of days gone by add to the history I have tucked away in my mind, but the advertisements in old papers from, say, 1850, always fire me up. Some flesh and blood person so long ago actually dipped their quill pen in an inkwell and wrote an ad for, let’s say, a room for rent. Then someone carried the advertisement to the newspaper office on foot, on horseback or some horse-drawn conveyance. And when the paper was printed and distributed, someone read it and made their way to the address in question to inquire about the room. Who was the person who wrote the ad? Why did they suddenly have a room to let? And who was the person answering the ad? What were their stories? It doesn’t take a lot to get my imagination working overtime.

I’ve spent plenty of time in antique shops and have hauled plenty of old merchandise home with me. I suppose it stands to reason, then, that part of Myth Agent is set in an antique shop owned by a woman named Odessa—the shop is called Odessa’s Quest. When I needed certain antiques in a few passages in the book I was able to refer to some of my own collection for details. It can’t get much handier than that! Another part of the book focuses on dreams; maybe because sometimes I wake up from sound sleep remembering very vivid story dreams. I guess Myth Agent combines two ideas—the writing advice I’ve read and been told so many times to ‘write what you know’—with my own advice to myself—’write what you don’t know but your brain just conjures up!’

People close to me are used to having me write things like the happy short stories I wrote for my children when they were young, or light-hearted romances ending in happily ever after. But the real reason I started writing the soft science fiction Myth Agent, is that I just wanted to shake things up! Now I’m working on the next book in the series, because I have to find out what happens next!

LA MacFadden author pic

About L.A. MacFadden

I was raised in small towns in Oregon, Washington, and Montana, and I am still a small town person at heart. I married my high school sweetheart in 1975, and after he got out of the Marines, we settled in western Oregon. We have two grown children, and two wonderful granddaughters. Being part of this family is very important to us.

Our home is out in the country, near the Columbia River Gorge. The wind here is frightful in the winters—sometimes it roars at eighty-plus mph for days. The fury of the wind causes boughs to grow only on one side of the evergreens! But the calm days here in this beautiful area make up for it. We live in a small house situated between forest and pasture, with a lovely view of Mt. Hood in the distance. When it’s quiet—no high winds—I’m in the perfect writing place. I’m not one of those people who can write in a crowded coffee shop—although I do frequent coffee house drive-throughs!

Myth Agent on Amazon and Goodreads!

Guest Post Grant Price

Hi all, this is the first post in a while I’ve gotten to host that focuses in on the getting published side of things. I found it interesting and hope you all do too. Enjoy!

The new end is the new beginning

“Too bleak. Pass.” When I started querying agents for By the Feet of Men, my dystopian cli-fi novel, this was the response I received from three different people within the first week. Okay, I thought, it just wasn’t for them. No need to worry. But it wasn’t until the fourth agent emailed me with feedback after requesting the full manuscript that I realised: I was going to have to rewrite the ending. Because it was indeed too bleak. As the agent said, it gave the reader nothing to cling on to, offered them little reward after spending 300+ pages with the characters they had become invested in, and effectively stated that the world I’d created was entirely devoid of hope. I perhaps should have realised that this is not the kind of message—especially in this day and age—anybody wants to walk away with.

The problem was that I was done with the dystopian world I’d created. I was exhausted after having spent two years sketching and erasing and colouring and shading. I didn’t want to go back in there, especially after my definitive (and naïve) gesture of christening the file “Draft 6_final”. Yes, I could have ignored the advice and continued to query. I could’ve taken heart from the stories of writers like Heller, Plath or Vonnegut who ploughed on in the face of rejection and refused to bow to the pressure of rewrites. But once a professional who looks at hundreds of manuscripts a month has taken the time to point out exactly where the flaws are in your story, you’d have to be pretty confident or (more likely) foolish to keep going down that same road. Artistic vision is great and all, but it’s better when other people get to experience your vision, too.

In the end, I thanked the agent, hid myself away and, even though I never wanted to look at it again, reopened the manuscript. Perhaps most surprisingly for me, it didn’t actually take long for a natural conclusion to appear. By the time I was finished, I had ended up adding three new chapters. They were good. They worked. They held up under the weight of the rest of the novel. The next time I submitted it, I received the following feedback: “strong ending with potential for a sequel”. That feedback happened to come from my future publisher. I signed the contract a week later. My new ending signalled the beginning of my career as an actual novelist.

With this in mind, here are my four tips for rewriting the ending of your work-in-progress even though you’ve sworn you’re absolutely, positively done.

 

  1. Listen to the advice you were given.

I touched on this above already, but it bears repeating: never be so unrelenting in your quest for artistic purity that you don’t listen to the advice of those around you. There is a difference between believing in a message that you absolutely want to tell the world and a story with a flabby midsection that requires a nip and tuck. Try not to take it personally, either. If somebody has made the effort to give you feedback, they probably did it because they found something in there that they believe is worth salvaging. Save your indignance for when you sell the thing and then start getting advance reviews from people who take just one sentence to trash your novel. And your dreams. And your belief in the goodness of humanity.

 

  1. Find enough enthusiasm to get it done.

Yep, this one is easier said than done. Enthusiasm doesn’t come in a can (unlike energy, which does). If you’re looking at that icon on your desktop and dreading clicking on it, it’s worth taking the time to think about why you wanted to write the thing in the first place. What compelled you to spend months hammering at your keyboard? What was it that got you believing that it was a story people should read? Writing a novel is like any long-term relationship: sometimes you have to remember how things were at the start to fall in love with the object of your affection all over again. You’ll then be able to see how far you’ve come – and to understand that it would be a damn shame if you threw it all away now.

 

  1. Go somewhere completely different to write it.

This is linked to point number two in that if you need to kickstart the engine that gets your fingers dancing over the keyboard once more, a good idea is to leave your usual haunt and try tackling that rewrite somewhere entirely different. For me, it just so happened that I went to Thailand a week after I received the feedback from the agent. I ended up sitting in a glass studio in the middle of nowhere with no Internet and no distractions, and wrote those three new chapters in just over a week. All inertia was banished thanks to a simple change of scenery. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a different country altogether; it could just be a park or a coffee shop where the barista tells you to wait a few minutes before drinking your beverage so you can “really taste it”.

 

  1. Compromise, but not too much.

The last item on the list may be the most important. Yes, you should accept and listen to feedback, but ultimately your book is your baby and you (hopefully) know what’s best for it. In other words, these rewrites become a balancing act. On the one hand, you may have to compromise on your artistic vision a little bit; after all, there’s a reason your novel hasn’t been picked up yet, and a fresh pair of eyes is much more likely to spot a thread in the tapestry that’s the wrong shade of blue than you are using your colour-blind tunnel vision. On the other hand, not all feedback is equally valuable, and if the response calls for you to rip up half of your manuscript and forget the reason you were writing it in the first place, then it may be worth taking a step back and looking at what you can change for the better while retaining the soul of the piece. If, for example, somebody doesn’t think a character works and they outline exactly why they believe this and their reasoning rings true, then this is a good basis for a rewrite. If, on the other hand, somebody simply doesn’t like a character because of the way they speak or act, this isn’t necessarily an invitation for you to lobotomise that character or do away with them entirely. Ultimately, you’re the boss.

By the Feet of Men cover

Amazon Link

Guest Post Ian Jones

Alright, last stop on the North of the Rock blog tour. Here’s Ian Jones’ top five things about being an author. Enjoy!

North of the Rock cover

Top Five Things About Being An Author

  1. Give yourself a chance. If you have an idea, no matter how vague or incomplete make a note of it as soon as you can or it will be forgotten. I learned this the hard way. Once it is there in black and white, even if there are only a few lines it will always get you back into thinking about it again.
  2. Be confident, don’t let self-doubt get in the way. This happens to absolutely everyone and it has been a major factor in me never going into the public domain in the past. I believed that I was writing for myself, because I enjoy doing it. But then a couple of people read what I had written and I got good feedback, and I started to believe in myself more.
  3. I can write whatever I want. I can change completely whole areas of a city if I feel like it and nobody can criticize me for doing it, and this is a great thing about being an author. Anyone can come up with an idea and just write, real life facts become unimportant. My only exception to this is when I am writing about an action that is taking place, possibly the police or similar then I do try to be as correct as I can be. I really don’t want to upset anyone especially those who have difficult jobs to do!
  4. Try to write when you can. This is important as lots of great books get started and never finished, and it is often difficult to find enough time. I do have a ‘real’ job, which does make it difficult but I do work at finding time, even if it just an hour or so to write. Of course, there are times when I sit down and the words just flood out, then others when I struggle for a paragraph. But I think that is the nature of it. If I could have this as my sole profession I believe I could probably complete two books a year.
  5. Enjoy it. I have never wished to be a millionaire, or for fame. In fact I hope to spend my entire life in happy anonymity. So for me I am just happy to write and to eventually see it printed. Of course it could well turn out that ultimately In have sold very few books, well at the very least at least I have had a really good time doing it.

Ian Jones author picture

Author Information

Residing in London, Ian Jones lives with his wife and daughter, a cat Gloria, tortoise Gary and three fish; Daphne, Velma and Scooby. He currently works at a Taiwanese hardware company, looking after Europe and works as an Electrician in his spare time. Ian Jones has been writing since he was twenty years old, though he mostly wrote black comedies and seemed unable to finish a complete novel. Fortunately, ten years ago, Ian Jones tried his hand at writing thrillers and published his very first novel, The Handsome Man. Since then he has had many other books published via Kindle Direct. Lost in Vegas is actually the second book that he wrote.

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Hey all, as promised, I’ve got a guest post for you all from Nick Lovelock. He’s talking about his favorite parts about being an author. Enjoy!

Gemenicia

My Favourite Things About Being An Author

I’ve always been a very imaginative and creative person, which more often than not has caused problems especially in school when at which time I was supposed to be studying American Political Change after the Civil War. However my margins were full of doodles of steam tanks, Gatling guns and l sorts of Steampunk ideas that started my journey of bringing it all to life. These doodles the prologue of the illustrations that appear throughout Gemenicia, and so far I have worked through over thirty A5 notebooks that are filled with ideas and practice pictures. I love the idea that I can be working non-stop on every different aspect that makes up one of my novels, or in this case the fifteen novels I have planned for the future.

Being an Author was something that I never envisaged myself doing from an early age, as I went through a few phases that began with wanting to be a lepidopterist, then an Archaeologist, and finally a musician. However nothing has come so naturally to me than writing, it’s something that I find incredibly easy, to come up with an idea from simply thinking or looking at something new. Filling up one of my notebooks which I carry around with me at all times with notes that will come up with or doodles that will one day become the illustrations that feature throughout my future novels.

The influences I have for the most part seem to be relatively obscure to others of my generation, and I love the fact that I am able to bring new life to them through homage’s and parodies, giving them a chance to reach a wider audience. World building has always been a major passion of mine, beginning with sand castles and moving to Lego Kingdoms. I loved to mix medieval with futuristic and build extremely complex models that would remain as they were for about a week, then another influence would come along and I would start trying to imitate that. However building with Lego has its limitations, and now that I have the chance to build an infinite world through being an Author, and that is a feat only possible through such a creative outlet, that and being an artist or film maker.

Being an Author gives me the opportunity to create characters that are given much more opportunity to grow and mature than others are with an hour and a half of screen time. It’s a challenge to give them a multi-coloured personality through the media of writing, but it’s a challenge that I find very fun to attempt. My first major change in the way I approached Steampunk fiction came when I was exposed to David Lynch’s masterpiece Twin Peaks, and it gave me the idea for which the following three novels after Gemenicia will feature. The idea of a great fantasy world having real people that have real life problems, that a small amount of fantasy that they can’t really comprehend will give all the story I need. This opportunity to put my theory into action is what I find to be the best part of being an Author.

Seeing the final product for which I have worked so hard on a feeling that doesn’t come around very often, and holding the first produced copy of Discoucia and then Gemenicia is what the magic of being an Author is all about.

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Nicholas Lovelock lives in a small village in Oxfordshire and has already published Discoucia, the first part of the Alavonia Series which spans multiple novels set to be released in the future. He enjoys riding around the countryside as well as illustrating his own works, as can be seen in his second novel Gemenicia. These Illustrations in stark black and white provide a glimpse into the world of Alavonia and how he sees it, as well as showcasing the different locations and characters that make up the Alavonia series universe.

He is a keen musician capable of playing the electric guitar as well as the acoustic and the piano, often trying to play like his musical heroes David Gilmour, Jimmy Page and Jeff Lynne. His coin collection has transformed from a hobby to a passion and obsession as he attempts to collect one of every issued coin in Great Britain. He is over halfway in that respect collecting such treasures as a 1675 Charles the Second Crown and an extremely rare Edward the Seventh Half Crown of 1905, and has begun metal detecting in an effort to tick some boxes in the Hammered Coinage section.

His love of Steampunk literature and cinema has been with him from a young age when he first saw the film ‘Wild Wild West’, sought out the original series and discovered a world of fantasy that he has painstakingly tried to pay homage to in his novels, to bring the wild west to an English setting and to create something that has never been done before.

History has always been a major passion of his as he makes many references in his literature, from characters whose personalities resemble those of eccentric historical characters or monarchs. The ability to change history through literature was one of the things that attracted him to become an author in the first place, to create similar timelines and put a unique spin on the mundane.

Nicholas Lovelock

Hey all, check it out, guest post! So, tropes are an interesting thing, sort of common details that pop up in a lot of stories with regularity. They aren’t bad on their own but, just like anything else, using them badly can ruin a work of fiction. Courtesy of Reedsy’s Desiree Villena, here’s five she’d happily be rid of.

5 Terrible Tropes That Need to Die in 2019

Since the dawn of storytelling, we have read… and read… and read the same tropes: popular characters, plot devices, and even whole storylines that are used repeatedly in literature. Whether it’s the accidental meet-cute or the “chosen one,” we all have those tropes that make us good-humoredly roll our eyes a bit whenever we see them.

But sometimes tropes aren’t just silly and fun, but distractingly unrealistic. Worse yet, they can be unrealistic and problematic — especially in genres like science fiction and fantasy, which are traditionally dominated by white men. Luckily, this trend seems to be changing… but that doesn’t mean these often-harmful tropes aren’t still pervasive.

Which is why I’m here to shed light on five terrible tropes that need to die in 2019. You’ve likely seen all of these at some point, but I’ll provide examples from both books and media so you can identify them in other works. I’ll also link to the original TV Tropes pages, so you can read up on them further if you like — and to give credit where credit is due for their amazing trope titles. Now, are you ready to learn the (t)ropes?

1. Instant Expert

Ever read or seen a battle scene where someone drops a gun, and the protagonist — despite never having used a gun before — picks it up and uses it perfectly to defend themselves? That’s the essence of Instant Expert: someone who has no prior experience with a particular tool/skill is somehow able to utilize it instantly and easily, usually to dramatic effect.

To be fair, this trope is more impractical than outright harmful. But it can definitely sidetrack the reader, even if it’s flimsily “explained,” such as in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. In the second book, Stone of Tears, Richard Cypher expertly wields the eponymous sword on his first try — supposedly because it encompasses all the skills of its previous owners. Cue eyeroll.

This trope also tends to be a hallmark of, shall we say, less sophisticated literature. The notorious Twilight saga employs Instant Expert in Breaking Dawn, the installment in which Bella Swan finally becomes a vampire… and immediately masters all the skills that the other centuries-old vamps have been perfecting for, well, centuries. And while it’s not like any of us expected a great deal of consistency after four books of supernatural madness, couldn’t Stephenie Meyer have thrown in a time jump or something?

Needless to say, Instant Expert is mostly employed for convenience’s sake and I understand the inclination to use it, especially in fast-paced narratives. However, I also feel that one of the most satisfying things for a reader is seeing how the protagonist actually learns to master something unfamiliar. So a word of advice to writers: don’t disregard the context for expertise, because context makes heroic moments that much more fulfilling to the audience.

2. Black Dude Dies First

Ah, Black Dude Dies First: the signature move of countless horror, drama, and even science fiction works. As you can probably surmise, this trope is another not-so-realistic one. It also presents a real challenge in terms of diverse representation. After all, if the only person of color gets killed right at the beginning of the story, the boat has pretty much sailed on diversity for its remainder.

Black Dude Dies First tends to be more of an onscreen phenomenon, but it’s critical for authors to avoid as well — especially since it won’t look great if they ever adapt your book into a show or movie. And even the most experienced writers can sometimes fall victim to this one, such as Nora Roberts in her paranormal romance novel Morrigan’s Cross. This book follows a gang of immortal sorcerers, warriors, and other such entities, and is pretty epic in scale… but its tired depiction of a black guy being the first to kick the bucket detracts from the story, and makes the reader wary of other overused tropes and odd character/plot choices.

Another particularly egregious example of Black Dude Dies First occurs in the second Alien movie, Aliens. Though the series gets points for a heroine as badass as Ellen Ripley, the first character to die at the hands (tentacles?) of aliens in this particular movie is Private Frost, a black man — and another black man, Sergeant Apone, quickly follows. Yes, we all know that someone has to die in order to keep the stakes high…. but would’ve been nice if it weren’t these guys in particular. In any case, it’s high time for the trope itself to die, in literary, cinematic, and every other form.

3. Stuffed Into the Fridge

Also referred to as “fridging,” getting Stuffed Into the Fridge is another unfortunate fate that typically befalls female and/or minority characters. Of course, they don’t have to literally be stuffed into a fridge (the trope takes its name from an infamous scene in the Green Lantern comics), but they do have to be killed and then presented in a threatening way to another character. This character is almost always a male hero, and often the family, close friend, or significant other of the dead character, so they’re incited to take revenge on the killer.

In theory, this trope is merely gross, but given that it overwhelmingly affects female characters, it also seems pretty sexist — and even when it’s not happening to a woman, it’s almost always a minority character of some sort. Predictably, it’s used mostly by male authors, such as Scott Lynch in The Lies of Locke Lamora and Glen Duncan in The Last Werewolf. In the former, a man’s daughter is killed and delivered to him in a barrel of horse urine; in the latter, the main character’s gay companion is decapitated and his head left in the trunk of the MC’s car. (Perhaps the decapitation aspect and the equine aspect are both subtle references to The Godfather?) But cultural references aside, I think we can all agree this trope is prejudicial, gratuitous, and should be eliminated for the sake of readers and viewers everywhere.

 

  1. Beauty Is Never Tarnished

And in a similar vein to Stuffed Into the Fridge, we have Beauty Is Never Tarnished, another ridiculous (though less macabre) trope involving female characters. The premise of Beauty Is Never Tarnished is what it sounds like: no matter how much action or duress a female character experiences, she will still emerge looking aesthetically pleasing.

Like Black Dude Dies First, Beauty Is Never Tarnished is another trope that’s more common in movies than books, but can still come into play with on-page female characters. Phèdre, the protagonist of Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, is one such object of this trope. Regardless of fairly severe physical injuries, Phèdre’s scars are rarely mentioned, and her lovers (Kushiel’s Dart is an erotic fantasy novel) don’t ever seem to comment on them. Perhaps this is merely a function of the “erotic” angle — people’s lovers never really care about their imperfections, after all — but it’s definitely unrealistic for Phèdre’s scars to not even come up in conversation.

Another, perhaps better-known example: as much as I love the Star Wars movies, they almost unfailingly keep Princess Leia’s beauty weirdly untarnished. She has super-elaborate hairstyles that never seem to come undone, and her clothes and makeup are always, as the kids say, on fleek. I look worse after walking down the street on a windy day than Leia does after being dumped in a literal trash compactor. So while those cinnamon buns are undoubtedly iconic, writers and on-set stylists alike should take more reality into account when formulating their female characters’ “looks.”

 

  1. Black and White Morality

Finally, let’s talk about Black and White Morality — a trope that anyone who’s ever read classic fantasy will no doubt recognize. Again, this one is pretty much what it sounds like: the idea that morality can be broken down into two distinct camps of good and evil, directly opposing each other and usually involving a Good Guy and Bad Guy who must fight to the death (spoiler: the Good Guy almost always wins).

I’m not saying that every single novel needs to be grimdark, but works that operate under strict Black and White Morality tend not be very believable… especially when they don’t give any particular reason for the bad guys to be bad. This is particularly prevalent in children’s books, like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe — a fantastic story, don’t get me wrong, but one that’s predicated on the White Witch wanting to kill Aslan and rule Narnia simply because she’s a wicked person. (She gets a bit more backstory in The Magician’s Nephew, but it still doesn’t explain her motivations in much depth.) Yes, C.S. Lewis was probably just trying to make his themes more palatable for the younger set… but we should also remember that children understand more nuances than grown-ups tend to think.

Of course, some of these tropes are more pernicious than others. At best, they distract and diminish the reader’s engagement with the story; at worst, they perpetuate stereotypes and poor praxis for storytelling. Luckily, just being aware of them should make you much less likely to use them in your own writing.

Comment below with your least favorite tropes and why you dislike them!

 

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She tries her best to avoid using terrible tropes.

You can check Reedsy out here!

As ever, I really enjoy it when I get the chance to host a guest post from an author. Even more so when they’re interested in coming back later with another one. Damien’s previous guest post can be found here and, notably, Big Red has released just this week. Definitely worth checking out, links for that are down below. Enjoy!

A few years ago, I decided to become an app developer as a bit of a side project. I was already busy with looking after my two young children full-time – while working a part-time job – so that didn’t leave a lot of spare time. Despite the time constraints, I was driven.

More than anything, I wanted to grow this side-project from something that earned me some pocket money into something that could provide for myself and my family. One of the goals that spurred me on was the idea that once I achieved this, I could then focus my time on what I really wanted to do: write novels.

With the odds stacked against me, I landed several contracts and for a while, it really felt that my goals would come through. And then… everything fell apart.

Three projects crashed and burned in epic fashion. Months of hard work went up in flames, forcing me to re-evaluate my priorities. I spent an entire day soul-searching, really trying to peel back the layers and asking myself what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My thoughts drifted back to my list of goals and as I thought about those fantasies of becoming a writer, it struck me like a lightning bolt.

If I had all this time to focus on app development, wouldn’t that mean I had plenty of time to write too?

Without hesitation, I cut my losses and dug out a few pages of a story I had started two years previously. Based on a dream, this story followed a bunch of teenage cadets trapped in a vicious and brutal war while their country collapsed around them. With renewed determination, I picked up where I left off and had just over one hundred thousand words done within three months.

I spent another six weeks with edits and rewrites before I began submitting to agents and publishers. Within three months, it had been rejected upwards of thirty times. Unfazed, I decided to self-publish and after a surprisingly good start, book sales inevitably waned until they became practically non-existent.

I remember having another heart-to-heart with myself and asking if I really wanted to keep going with this. Unlike with app development, I had finally found something I was passionate about, so I dusted myself off and dived back in again.

Spurred on by another vivid dream, I set about writing what would become Big Red. Again, the standard rejection template emails came flooding through my inbox. Gritting my teeth, I prepared to self-publish again when something happened.

In a Twitter pitch-war, several different publishers liked my tweet about Big Red! Out of those, I got my first request for a full manuscript followed by an offer of a publishing deal. To this day, it still feels like a dream come true.

I wanted to share this because I’ve failed at a lot of things in my life. It can be painful and raw, but I’m a firm believer in taking the positive (as much as possible) out of everything that happens in life. If I hadn’t failed with my app development venture, I would have missed knowing this feeling. I’m doing something I’m passionate about and watching a story I crafted come to life in book-form. It’s amazing!

Whatever it is that you want to do; whatever your passion is, go for it. Yes, it will be hard and there’ll be plenty of times when you’ll want to give up but push yourself to keep going. Failure is good – it’s not taking action on your dreams that is the real enemy.

Big Red cover

Big Red

By Damien Larkin

We have always been here…

Traumatized by the effects of Compression travel, soldier Darren Loughlin holds the key to the fate of Earth’s Martian colonies. With his Battalion decimated, his fractured memory holds the only clues to the colony-wide communications blackout.

With time running out, Darren pieces together his year-long tour of duty with the Mars Occupation Force. Stationed in the Nazi-founded New Berlin colony, ruled by the brutal MARSCORP, he recounts his part in the vicious, genocidal war against the hostile alien natives and all who question Terran supremacy.

But as his memories return, Darren suspects he is at the centre of a plot spanning forty years. He has one last mission to carry out. And his alien enemies may be more human than he is…

https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/

Damien Larkin is a part-time Planning Analyst and a full-time stay-at-home father of two young children. He enjoys turning terrifying nightmares into novels and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland.

Links:
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Hank Quense Guest Post

Hey all! We’ve got a returning author with a guest post for you today, Hank Quense. It’s a nice interview with the super patient and deeply professional Faux News Network reporter Marcia Hammerhead regarding his new novel, The King Who Disappeared. Enjoy!

TKWD EbookCover

Author Interview:

This is Marcia Hammerhead.  I’m the cultural reporter for Faux News Network.  I love literary fiction and I love going to symphonies and ballets. My boss knows this, so what does he tell me to do?  Every time Hank Quense, an unknown scribbler of genre fiction, comes out with a new book, I have to interview him, but at least I don’t have to read and review the books.  Let’s get started.

—————————————-

Marcia Hammerhead: Mr. Quense.  What is your latest atrocity?

Hank Quense: It’s a fantasy novel called The King Who Disappeared.  The main character is a king who spends two hundred years under a sleep spell.  When he awakens, he finds his nemesis is still alive and the king wants revenge. The book has a lot of political satire in it.

MH: It sounds just as dreadful as all your previous books.  I suppose it’s filled with silly fantasy creatures.

HQ: It is.  Besides humans, there are elves dwarfs, half-pints —

MH: Half-pints?  What’s a half-pint?

HQ: They are also called halflings.  Hobbits in other words, but I can’t use the word ‘hobbit’ because Tolkien’s estate trademarked the word.

MH: Why don’t you invent your own creatures instead of stealing other authors’ work?

HQ: I do.  The novel has dwelfs.  They’re half elf and half dwarf.  They tend to have all the bad features of both races and none of the good traits.  The story also has yuks in it.  Yuks are like orcs but aren’t as friendly.

MH: I’m getting a headache just thinking about these matters.  How many books have you foisted on the unsuspecting reading public?

HQ: I have 23 books on Amazon right now, both fiction and non-fiction.

MH: Good heavens!  You’re like a plague.  Fortunately, you’re almost completely unknown.  Otherwise civilization would be in a crisis mode from reading all your drivel.  Have you considered retiring from writing to do something useful?  Like delivering newspapers or pumping gas?

HQ: Nope.  I’m almost finished with the first book of a scifi series of three novellas.  I’m also writing a non-fiction book that integrates self-publishing and book marketing into a single project.

MH: I can’t stand the thought of interviewing you several more times. Maybe I should retire.  Well, I can’t go on.  That’s it for this interview.

HQ: Thanks for having me on again, Marcia.

M: Why is that whenever I interview you I have an urge to go out and buy a large bottle of wine?

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Hank Quense writes satirical fantasy and sci-fi. Early in his writing career, he was strongly influenced by two authors: Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Happily, Hank has never quite recovered from those experiences.

He lives with his wife in northern New Jersey, a mere 20 miles from Manhattan, the center of the galaxy (according to those who live in Manhattan). They have two daughters and five grandchildren all of whom live nearby.

For vacations, Hank and Pat usually visit distant parts of the galaxy. Occasionally, they also time-travel.

Besides writing novels, Hank lectures on fiction writing, publishing and book marketing. He is most proud of his talk showing grammar school kids how to create a short story. He used these lectures to create an advanced ebook with embedded videos to coach the students on how to create characters, plots and setting. The target audience is 4th to 7th graders. The book’s title is Fiction Writing Workshop for Kids.