IF I GO – A new novel by K. D. Dowdall August 2017

 

 

 

 

“A death in the family finds 32 years-old anthropologist, Lilly Allaire, returning to her hometown to solve a deadly mystery that has haunted her since childhood.”

Lilly Allaire returns to her hometown after the unexplained death of her cousin, Dax. Both suffered a traumatic psychogenic event as teens that left them with no memory of the event. Lilly is determined to solve the mystery with her childhood friend, Noah. She falls in love with him, but she is suspicious of his past. Was he somehow evolved and is her life at risk?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EVIL SPEAKS – An Interview With Author S. Woffington

evil-speaks-34403446INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA WOFFINGTON, author of Evil Speaks, book #1 in the Warriors and Watchers Saga, an epic mythological fantasy series released February 2017

Early reviews:

“Be prepared to be engrossed! Between the awesome fight scenes, in-depth characters, and all the creatures, your son or daughter won’t want to put this book down! . . .remarkable job entwining Greek Mythology, Greek History, and these modern-day teenage misfits. . .the author incorporates characters with different abilities. She helps break down stereotypes that often plague special children.”

Courtney Barnum, Kelly’s Thoughts on Things blog

“In my last years at Harcourt, I can’t remember reading one single fantasy MG or YA that was half as interesting as the world you have created…. So brilliant! Between the fight scenes and the stories and people and creatures…, it was truly a roller-coaster adventure.”

Editor, Evil Speaks

What is Evil Speaks about?

The lords of the underworld have joined forces to open the ancient gates of evil. Seven teens must stop the gates from opening: Kami is deaf, Amir is blind, Zuma is overweight, Layla is gorgeous but lazy, Chaz is in a wheelchair, Benny is a loner, and Raj is as angry as the purple dagger-shaped birthmark running down the side of her face. They are quirky teens who must become warriors. But they can barely save themselves.

What made you put special needs characters in this series?

It wasn’t intentional so much as these characters appeared to me from all of my interactions with special needs individuals over the years—they inspire me. My website has stories of RL Warriors (Real Life). I wrote these characters into a screenplay around 2002, but I set that aside to work on my novel Unveiling. When I went back to it, the story had evolved into an epic mythological fantasy. I always wanted these characters to be superheroes. Clark Kent has flaws; he’s a bit of a bumbler, but as Superman, he is confident, can fly and has superpowers. In Evil Speaks, Amir is blind and vain about his looks but in the underworld, he has super vision; Kami is deaf but she gains super hearing, and Chaz is in a wheelchair but he can walk in the underworld. If regular people like Clark Kent can become superheroes, so can children with challenges. As in life, each character must also grapple with his or her personal problems. Layla, for instance, is gorgeous but insecure. She has low self-esteem; she feels her beauty is her only asset and she didn’t work for that.

How long did it take you to write Evil Speaks?

I will answer that by saying my first novel Unveiling took years. It was historical and multicultural and required massive research. I also gutted it twice to change directions. In hindsight, this seemed like a waste of time. With Evil Speaks, I sat down and came up with a repeatable plan, using the 8-essential plot points and 3-act structure. I worked on character development before anything else. Then I filled in my plot-planner scene by scene. It was a lot like writing the bones of a screenplay. I like to write full days, not piecemeal. I set a goal to crank out the first draft over summer vacation. When I sat down to write, it flowed easily from scene to scene, changed at times, bust stayed on course. I knocked it out in ten weeks. The revisions took months longer, and I ultimately added a chapter. You can find a section titled “Writing Lessons” on my editor’s website at SWoffington.com, where I lay out the system point by point for others. Start with “Writing Lessons: Introduction” under Recent Posts or pick a topic from the list.

What do you like best about the fantasy genre?

You can go anywhere, do anything! You can create entire universes (or underworlds) full of crazy characters and locations. History (or mythology) always comes into play for me. It’s clearly just part of who I am as a writer, as are international settings. Evil Speaks is an international quest.

You work as a developmental editor as well. What mistakes do you see most often?

I love helping authors hone their fiction or improve their techniques. Every author I’ve worked with has strengths and weaknesses: maybe the dialogue is strong but the descriptions and details are weak; or the descriptions are amazing but the dialogue is stilted or it does not fit the character or all characters sound alike. Two basic concepts are critical to every manuscript: 1) avoid passive verbs (every page must have strong active verbs), and  2) “show” don’t tell, meaning write a scene and let me see the glistening sweat dripping down the side of someone’s face, plopping onto the contract and wicking the freshly penned signature into a  fuzzy black Rorschach image; don’t say “He was sweating as he signed the contract” (this is also passive).

You advocate inclusion on the WarriorsandWatchersSaga.com website—can you tell me about that?

Since writing Evil Speaks, I’ve learned that special needs children are bullied five times more often than other children. I’m shocked by this. I put tips for education, intervention and inclusion on my site for parents and educators. I’m using Deer Valley’s “Disability Awareness Activity Packet” in the classroom. Prevention starts with education. Along with that, every parent, educator or librarian should ensure our children read literature with special needs characters. Books create closeness to characters, and that creates empathy in the reader. Empathy can enable children and adults to leap past the page to make friends with special needs individuals and include them in society.

You’re working with a publicity company for the launch of Evil Speaks. What has been your experience with this?

I love it! I interviewed many companies. One company would have worked to increase my on-line presence alone for $500/month, but I wanted more. I chose Smith Publicity, because they have a long track record of working with authors. They helped me design a campaign to fit my budget. I decided to make the investment, because I’m writing a 7-novel series. It seemed prudent to get the word out on book one. The publicist sends review requests to book bloggers, sends out requests for author interviews for radio or television, sends out press releases, lines up book signings, and more. I wanted a team approach, and that’s what I received. I’m very happy with my publicist Katie. She works as hard for me as I do for myself. The Smith Publicity website is packed with media tips for authors, such as “101 Book Marketing Ideas to Promote Your Book.” In short, do your homework, have realistic expectations, and stick to your budget.

Brief Bio:

  1. Woffington is a California native, whose thirst for adventure began when reading1001 Arabian Nightstales as a child. In her twenties, she lived in Saudi Arabia and England, spent months in Italy, and traveled extensively. After completing UC Irvine’s Humanities Honors Program, she earned dual Master’s in English and Creative Writing from Chapman University. Her stay in Saudi Arabia inspired her debut novel Unveiling, which won Honorable Mention from Writer’s Digest SP e-book awards. Woffington teaches middle grade students at a Montessori school. During Summers, off, she writes fiction and works as a freelance developmental editor.

Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes.  (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.  As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.  

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Secret #3: 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.  

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

IN CONCLUSION

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

The 7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters

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Writer’s Digest Guest Post by Elizabeth Sims says: No matter what sort of character name you’re pursuing, heed common sense and follow these seven tips to make sure you pick the best names possible for your story.  What’s in a character’s name? Everything!

  1. Check root meanings. It’s better to call a character Caleb, which means “faithful” or “faithful dog,” than to overkill it by naming him Loyal or Goodman—unless you want that for comic/ironic purposes. Some readers will know the name’s root meaning, but those who don’t might sense it.
  1. Get your era right.  If you need a name for an 18-year-old shop girl in a corset store in 1930s Atlanta, you know enough not to choose Sierra or Courtney, unless such an unusual name is part of your story. Browse for names in the era you’re writing. A Depression-era shop girl who needs a quick name could go by Myrtle or Jane; it will feel right to the reader. Small public libraries will often have decades’ worth of local high school yearbooks on the shelves. Those things are gold for finding name combinations from the proper era.
  1. Speak them out loud. Your novel might become an audiobook or an e-book with text-to-speech enabled. A perfectly good name on paper, such as Adam Messina, may sound unclear aloud: Adam Essina? Adah Messina?
  1. Manage your crew appropriately.  Distinguish your large cast of characters by using different first initials, of course, and vary your number of syllables and places of emphasis. Grace Metalious (a great name right there) demonstrates this in her blockbuster Peyton Place, as do any of the successful epic writers like James Michener and Larry McMurtry.  Example: The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus.   Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus. Organized by subject, theme and situation categories, it’s the perfect writing reference to break out out of any writing funk.  Order now from our shop and get a discount!
  1. Use alliterative initials.  Employ this strategy to call special attention to a character: Daniel Deronda, Bilbo Baggins, Ratso Rizzo, Severus Snape.
  1. Think it through.  You might notice that in most crime fiction the murderer rarely has a middle name or initial. Why? Because the more you explicate the name, the more likely there’s a real person out there with it. And reading your story they might become upset and try to sue you or come after you some night with a bayonet.
  1. Check ’em again.   When writing my novel, The Actress, I needed a name for a Japanese-American criminal defense attorney, and the name Gary Kwan burst upon me. I loved the name and used it in the book. Only thing was, as soon as the thousands of copies of hardcovers were printed and shipped to stores, I heard from a reader who pointed out the simple fact that Kwan is a Chinese surname. I cursed loudly and decided: a) that I would ALWAYS check name origins, and b) that Gary Kwan had a Chinese grandfather who adopted a Japanese orphan who became Gary’s father. Or something like that.

[Abridged] Naming characters just right is a challenge, but give it some time and thought, and you’ll start to find the fun in it. Study the names great authors have come up with, let your mind loose to play, do your research, and above all, trust your ear.  And if worse comes to worst and lucky enough to just bump into your character in a dream—where you can ask him yourself.

 

 

A Witch Has Been a Walking

20110908235103_x5zuv-thumb-600_0A Witch has been a walking in the fields in front of me,

Three Crows on a bough, and seven shadows in a row,

Cast by seven Poplar trees. In a little pool of water iced,

I hear the sounds of fairy bells. A Witch and Witches, one

And nine, flowers floating like singing birds, and precious,

Jewels, a hanging from the trees. But, when I spoke, like

A dream which vanishes in the light, so vanished were,

They, one and all.     De La Mare’s Songs of Childhood, 1902

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InHabited to be published March of 2017! A very Witchy Tale!

MISTY ROSES

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I can walk down garden paths,

And wander through the misty roses,

Until I find a resting place,

Where my love can find me.

I can sit on velvet skirts,

Upon a mossy knoll,

And ponder on the changing skies,

Until my love can find me there.

I can listen to a whip-her-will,

Cry her mournful tune,

And wonder if she lost her love,

As mine was lost to me.

I can lay me down on fragrant beds,

And watch as posies toss their sleepy heads,

Until I dream my heart away,

And wait until my love can find the way.

 

FREE AT LAST

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FREE AT LAST

I am free at last,

My spirit rushes through me,

Like whistling wisps of air,

Swirling through the trees.

And as I leave the earth,

Spiraling so high,

I reach out to touch the sky.

As I blend into a windy world,

Brushed with blue-lit hues,

The timeless winds, rush to me,

To breeze my fears away.

And I find to my surprise,

My spirit’s restless wanderings,

Like a windstorm running through me.

Until, at last it gathers force,

Like a rolling thunder moves,

The heavens to explode,

Into electric rhythms,

Beating in mid-air.