Guest Post: Bryan Johnston – DEATH WARRANT

Good day, book people. Authors provide excellent advice on how to write. Many will simply say “read” in order to gain insight into what works and what doesn’t. Others may advise on studying the craft of writing, informally and formally. No doubt this is all great advice. However, today’s guest, Bryan Johnston, an accomplished writer and author of Death Warrant has some slightly different advice to give to would-be writers. He suggests you watch movies. Please help me welcome Bryan Johnston to the blog and let’s learn a bit more about watching movies and the craft of writing. Thank you, Mr. Johnston, for joining us today. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Watch movies to help you write your novel
by Bryan Johnston

 

I’m a huge movie fan. I even had the great good fortune to review films on television and radio for a decade. (Sweetest. Gig. Ever.) At first blush, one would think that writing a screenplay and writing a novel would be quite similar. It’s still storytelling, right? However, they are very different disciplines. An old colleague of mine, Mike Rich, who wrote the films Finding Forrester, Secretariat, and The Rookie, among others, told me recently that when he tried to write a book his editor was constantly on him to be more descriptive. He didn’t have the luxury of images on a screen to help the reader visualize something. In movies, characters are revealed through action and dialogue, while in novels the development of the players is brought to life through description and internal monologue. However, you can still learn a lot about how to structure your novel by watching movies. Case in point: scenes.

In a standard three-act movie that runs 120 minutes there will be, on average, between 40-60 scenes. About a dozen scenes in the Set-Up (the Hook), twenty-five scenes in the Confrontation (the Middle Build), and about another dozen scenes in the Resolution (the Payoff). 25%/50%/25%.

When I began writing my current work in progress, I started as I always do with a story outline and then began making short one or two-sentence descriptions of what took place in each scene. I wrote these descriptions on sticky notes and stuck them to my closet doors. I know that there’s actual software for this (Scrivener comes to mind) but I’m too tactile for that. I like to be able to stand back twelve feet from my wall of scenes and take it all in before invariably moving the sticky notes around as the story evolves.

And this is where it got interesting.

I had my sticky note scenes broken out into three acts, but I’d done it purely on instinct. I thought, hmmm, this scene wraps up the first act nicely, this scene wraps up the second act nicely, and this scene makes a strong conclusion. I hadn’t counted scenes, I hadn’t figured out the 25/50/25 percentages, I wrote it how I saw my story play out like a movie.

Here’s how the scenes are numbered:
Act 1—13 scenes
Act 2—24 scenes
Act 3—13 scenes

None of this was planned. It was completely instinctual. And if you ask me, I’d say it probably had something to do with the fact that I’ve watched a gazillion movies and the structure had ingrained itself in my head purely through osmosis.

Some writers feel flopping on the couch and binge-watching Netflix or watching a Quentin Tarantino marathon is time you could be spending writing the next great novel. I say don’t feel guilty in the least. Watching stories on the screen is a great way to see how a narrative arc is structured and carried out. As a learning tool, I’d give it two thumbs up! ♦

Death Warrant

by Bryan Johnston

June 1-30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Death Warrant by Bryan Johnston

Death Makes Great TV.

Frankie Percival is cashing in her chips. To save her brother from financial ruin, Frankie―a single stage performer and mentalist who never made it big―agrees to be assassinated on the most popular television show on the planet: Death Warrant. Once she signs her life away, her memory is wiped clean of the agreement, leaving her with no idea she will soon be killed spectacularly for global entertainment.

After years of working in low-rent theaters, Frankie prepares for the biggest performance of her life as her Death Warrant assassin closes in on her. Every person she encounters could be her killer. Every day could be her last.

She could be a star, if only she lives that long.

Praise for Death Warrant:

“I absolutely loved Death Warrant! This will definitely make the ‘Best of 2022’ list.”
—Elle Ellsberry, Content Acquisition & Partnerships, Scribd

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: June 21st, 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 074430508X (ISBN13: 9780744305081)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Bryan Johnston

Bryan Johnston takes tremendous pride in being an eleven-time Emmy award-winning writer and producer during his 25 years in local network television. Following his career in broadcast, he became the Creative Director for a Seattle-based creative agency, developing concepts and writing scripts for companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, T-Mobile, and Amazon. He has authored several books and written for numerous magazines and websites. Bryan lives in the Seattle, Washington area with his wife, two kids, and one large Goldendoodle. He is a devout movie lover, sports fan, and avid reader. His one great hope is for the Seattle Mariners to make it to the World Series before he dies. He’s not holding his breath.

Catch Up With Bryan Johnston:
www.BryanRJohnston.com
Goodreads
Twitter – @BryanRJohnston
Facebook – @bryan.johnston.370

Join us in the InstaChat at #bryanjohnston

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Guest Post: Susan Ouellette – THE WAYWARD ASSASSIN

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Good day, my bookish peeps. I’ve got to admit, I hate admitting I’m getting old, if not old-er! Remembering events that took place in the 1960s and 1970s is daunting (and aging). Then I hear my nieces and nephews refer to events that took place 20-30 years ago as a long time ago just feels wrong on so many levels. But then I remember that they’re between the ages of 14 and 27 so it is a long time ago for them. Susan Ouellette, author of The Wayward Assassin, stops by today to discuss just that, passing time and writing about world after a significant event. Thank you, Ms. Ouellette for taking the time to join us today and sharing with us. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. I hope everyone will enjoy your words of wisdom, follow the blog tour, and add The Wayward Assassin to their TBR lists. The blog is now all yours.

Writing about the Post-9/11 World
by Susan Ouellette

Since the publication of my first book, The Wayward Spy, which takes place in 2003, I’m often asked why my stories take place “so long ago.” The same holds true for the sequel, The Wayward Assassin, which takes place in 2004. Hey, wait a minute, I think. It wasn’t that long ago. Then I do the math . . . oh, right.

So why do my stories take place when they do? Well, I started writing this series in early 2001. At the time, the books took place in the future, albeit by only a few years. The villain in my books was a terrorist named Osama bin Laden. Of course, everyone over the age of thirty knows who he is. But when I first began thinking about writing spy thrillers back in the late 1990s, few Americans had ever heard of bin Laden. The only reason I was familiar with him was that it was my job to understand the threats facing the United States. At the time, I was working on Capitol Hill for the House Intelligence Committee, where we received numerous briefings about bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network. Fast forward to September 11, 2001. When the second plane hit the second tower in New York City, I knew immediately that bin Laden and al-Qaeda had to be responsible.

In the dark days after September 11th, I decided to cut bin Laden from my stories. I didn’t want to give him any more publicity than he’d garnered as the mastermind of the most deadly attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. So, I changed the story’s villain to a female terrorist named Zara, who, if I do say so myself, is a far more interesting character than bin Laden would’ve been. And having my protagonist, Maggie Jenkins, square off against another woman? It added so many layers to these stories that I knew right away I’d struck fictional gold.

When I decided to take another shot at getting published a few years ago, I considered updating the first book (The Wayward Spy) so that it would take place around 2018. But I soon realized that doing so would present a problem for the second book (The Wayward Assassin). ASSASSIN’s plot is anchored by an actual event that took place in 2004 (no spoilers!). If I catapulted The Wayward Spy setting ahead by fifteen years, then I would’ve had to remove the 2004 event and rewrite The Wayward Assassin entirely. I decided I couldn’t do that because that particular real-life event made such an impression on me that I simply had to write about it. I had to try to make sense out of a senseless act. I had to insert Maggie into that world and have her fight the evil she encountered. And whether it’s 2004 or 2022, Maggie Jenkins is the everyday hero that thriller fans crave. She’s bold, clever, unpredictable, vulnerable, and stronger than she knows. ♦

The Wayward Assassin

by Susan Ouellette

March 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Revenge knows no deadline.

Although told to stand down now that the Chechen rebel who killed her fiancé is dead, CIA analyst Maggie Jenkins believes otherwise and goes rogue to track down the assassin. Soon it becomes clear that failure to find Zara will have repercussions far beyond the personal, as Maggie uncovers plans for a horrific attack on innocent Americans. Zara is the new face of terrorism–someone who doesn’t fit the profile, who can slip undetected from attack to attack, and who’s intent on pursuing a personal vendetta at any cost.

Chasing Zara from Russia to the war-torn streets of Chechnya, to London, and finally, to the suburbs of Washington, D. C., Maggie risks her life to stop a deadly plot.

Praise for The Wayward Assassin:

“Ouellette, herself a former intelligence analyst for the CIA, imbues the exciting action with authenticity. Readers will want to see more of the wily Maggie . . .”
Publishers Weekly

“Every once in a decade you read a book like The Wayward Spy, which is thrilling, addictive, and sends you reading more thrillers, but you’ll go back to this stunning book by Susan Ouellette and reread this tour de force.”
The Strand Magazine, a Top 12 Book of the Year

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: March 15, 2022
Number of Pages: 416
ISBN: 0744304784 (ISBN13: 9780744304787)
Series: The Wayward Series, Book 2 || Each is a Stand Alone Book
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound.Org | CamCat Books

Author Bio:

Susan Ouellette

Susan Ouellette is the author of The Wayward Spy, a thriller that Publishers Weekly calls a “gripping debut and series launch.” She was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, where she studied international relations and Russian as both an undergraduate and graduate student. As the Soviet Union teetered on the edge of collapse, she worked as a CIA intelligence analyst. Subsequently, Susan worked on Capitol Hill as a professional staff member for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). Since her stint on Capitol Hill, she has worked for several federal consulting firms. Susan lives on a farm outside of Washington, D.C. with her family.

Catch Up With Susan Ouellette:
www.SusanOuellette.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @susanobooks1
Instagram – @susanobooks
Twitter – @smobooks
Facebook – @SusanOuelletteAuthor

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Guest post: Joanna Elm – FOOL HER ONCE

Hello, book people. I don’t know about you folks, but I’m heartily tired of winter. We’ve been having 40, 50, and even 60 degree days followed by 20 and 30 degree days with either snow or ice. Although I enjoy snuggling up on my reading chair with a blanket and cup of tea to read, I’m sick of the inclement weather (and clearing off snow and ice, not to mention washing my car because of the salt). Even though I’m not a fan of the colder, darker weather, I seem to gravitate towards darker themed mystery and suspense thriller reads during this time of the year. I’m always amazed at how authors depict their villains in these books. How do they get inside these character’s minds and make them not only believable but terrifying? I’m very pleased to welcome Joanna Elm, author of the soon-to-be-released Fool Her Once. Ms. Elm will be providing us with a glimpse into crafting a believable villain. I hope you’ll enjoy her presentation, add Fool Her Once to your TBR list, and follow the tour to learn more about this book and author. Thank you, Ms. Elm, for joining us today, I can’t wait to learn more about your take on “the antagonist.”

The Antagonist
by Joanna Elm

The antagonist or villain of a psychological thriller is probably the most important character in the novel. As Bob McKee, the screenwriting guru, says: “The antagonist, and his negative energy drive the story.”

When I set out to write my third thriller, Fool Her Once, I knew who the antagonist was and what he was going to do in the plot which involved Jenna Sinclair, a female investigative reporter. Jenna had outed the secret, illegitimate son of a notorious serial killer, and her tabloid article had tragic consequences.

So, when bad things start happening in her life a couple of decades later, Jenna fears that the son is still out for revenge. She decides she must track him down and stop him before he harms her daughter.

Initially, in early drafts, my story focused on Jenna’s quest to find the serial killer’s son. I had plotted some of the bad happenings that Jenna attributes to him and the sort of leads she could pursue to find him. I focused on her reactions to what she perceived as his stalkings and vengeful actions.

But he was still mostly a fuzzy personality in my outlines. Very quickly, after attending seminars, workshops, and writer bootcamps, I realized that I needed to know a lot more about him. It just wasn’t enough to say that his motive was revenge.

At one writer workshop I attended, I outlined my story for Fool Her Once to Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler, a mentor at the workshop. He immediately responded: “Your story is really about the antagonist isn’t it? Who is he? What does he really want? Is he a psychopath like his father?”

I realized those were key questions I had to answer before proceeding with my thriller. I had to be clear in my own mind exactly what my antagonist wanted/expected to gain from his misdeeds, and how far he’d succeed in getting what he wanted.

I was also well aware of the generally held view that an antagonist cannot be all evil without becoming a cartoon character. The antagonist must be a well-rounded, 3-D character to be credible. Think Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Yes, he was a repulsive killer, but his relationship with FBI agent Clarice Starling made him a little more human and acceptable. And, did we really want him recaptured at the end of the movie???

In other words, an antagonist, however brutal, must have some redeeming features. Especially because at some point in a psychological thriller, the antagonist usually draws the protagonist into danger by earning her trust.

In one of my earliest drafts for Fool Her Once, therefore, I decided to write the antagonist’s chapters from his first-person point of view. It allowed me to get to know him and to dissect every move he made. I needed to establish why he was doing what he was doing, what he wanted to achieve by pursuing the heroine, and how he was going to earn her trust.

So, I gave him some likable and charming traits. Of course, since the heroine believes that the serial killer’s son has inherited his father’s psychopathic gene, the reader should wonder if my antagonist’s personality really is charming or if he’s like the majority of psychopaths, and knows how to fool people by “walking the walk and talking the talk” of normal individuals.

In one recent book club meeting I attended at which the group discussed Fool Her Once, a reader remarked about my antagonist: “He always has an explanation or a justification for what he’s done.” She pretty much hit the nail on the head. As Bob Mckee states, antagonists in thrillers never believe they’re evil or wrong. “Do evil people think they’re evil?” McKee asks rhetorically in his “How to Write a Thriller” webinar. “No,” he responds. “They have their reasons, their justifications.”

In other words, an antagonist in a thriller usually believes he’s absolutely justified in committing whatever horrible deeds he commits.

Readers of the final published version of Fool Her Once will not meet the antagonist as a first person character. I was advised to revise him by rewriting all his scenes in a third-person POV. Which I did—although I found it very useful and more than a little chilling to inhabit my antagonist’s mind so intimately for a little while. ♦

Fool Her Once

by Joanna Elm

February 1-28, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Fool Her Once by Joanna Elm

Some killers are born. Others are made.

As a rookie tabloid reporter, Jenna Sinclair made a tragic mistake when she outed Denny Dennison, the illegitimate son of an executed serial killer. So she hid behind her marriage and motherhood. Now, decades later, betrayed by her husband and resented by her teenage daughter, Jenna decides to resurrect her career—and returns to the city she loves.

When her former lover is brutally assaulted outside Jenna’s NYC apartment building, Jenna suspects that Denny has inherited his father’s psychopath gene and is out for revenge. She knows she must track him down before he can harm his next target, her daughter.

Meanwhile, her estranged husband, Zack, fears that her investigative reporting skills will unearth his own devastating secret he’d kept buried in the past.

From New York City to the remote North Fork of Long Island and the murky waters surrounding it, Jenna rushes to uncover the terrible truth about a psychopath and realizes her own investigation may save or destroy her family.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller (Domestic)
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: March 1st 2022
Number of Pages: 416
ISBN: 0744304938 (ISBN13: 9780744304930 – Hardcover)
ISBN: 9780744304923 (paperback – large print)
ISBN: 9780744304817 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780744304794 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09QRFG5QR (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09RJR3WGW (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | BookShop.org | CamCat Books | eBooks.com | Goodreads | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Author Bio:

Joanna Elm

Joanna Elm is an author, journalist, blogger and an attorney. Before publication of her first two suspense novels (Scandal, Tor/Forge 1996); (Delusion, Tor/Forge/1997), she was an investigative journalist on the London Evening News on Fleet Street in the U.K. She also wrote for British magazines like Woman’s Own.

Then, she moved to New York where she worked as a writer/producer for television news and tabloid TV programs like A Current Affair. She was also the researcher/writer for WNEW-TV’s Emmy-award winning documentary Irish Eyes. In 1980, she joined the Star as a reporter, eventually becoming the magazine’s news editor and managing editor before moving to Philadelphia as editor of the news/features section of TV Guide.

After completing her first two novels while living in South Florida, (Nelson DeMille described Scandal as “fresh, original and unpredictable”) Joanna returned to New York, enrolled in law school, graduated summa cum laude, passed the NY Bar exam and worked as principal law clerk for an appellate division justice in the prestigious First Department. She has been married to husband Joe for 35 years, and has one son.

Catch Up With Joanna Elm:
www.JoannaElm.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @authorjoannaelm
Instagram – @authorjoannaelm
Twitter – @authorjoannaelm

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Guest Post: Emily C. Whitson – BENEATH THE MARIGOLDS

Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson Banner

Good day, my bookish peeps. We’re almost at the end of another week and I hope you have great plans to get in some reading this weekend. Have you ever wondered why some readers are only attracted to fiction vs. nonfiction and vice versa? Or why some readers only want to read stories with a HEA (happy ever after) and others want blood, guts, and lots of fighting in their stories? I’ve often pondered this query and then took it a step further and asked myself, why are some authors drawn to writing romance and others horror? I’m incredibly honored to present to you, Emily C. Whitson, author of Beneath the Marigolds today. Ms. Whitson will be answering one of my questions today from her perspective, writing what you like. Thank you, Ms. Whitson, for taking the time to join us today. I hope your graduate studies are going well. So readers, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, sit back, and visit with me and Ms. Whitson for awhile. (Psst…I hope you’ll take some time to follow the blog tour and add Beneath the Marigolds to your TBR list!)

Write What You Like

By Emily C. Whitson

You’ve probably heard the phrase “write what you know.” It’s a popular adage for new and aspiring writers. Yet, while writing about personal experiences does remove the research aspect of writing, I don’t always agree with it. In my experience, it’s more helpful to write about what I like. What do I find interesting? What do I want to learn more about? What lights my fire?

The truth of the matter is: I love pop culture. In particular, I love reality dating shows, like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. What a fascinating idea to let one woman date twenty-five men and pick one to marry in six weeks — that is insanity!

I think a lot of people assume I don’t like reality dating shows, as my book critiques some aspects of the experience, but I really enjoy them. I don’t always agree with the end goal and the means of getting there, but I think it’s a fun and entertaining idea — a perfect setting for a writer’s imagination. I mean, is it just me, or has anyone else ever watched a reality dating show and thought: that girl’s gonna get murdered? The stakes are high, the emotions are high; the characters drink too much and eat too little. It’s a perfect recipe for conflict, which is at the heart of every good story.

And this leads me to my next interest: crime. I love crime stories. I can talk to you all day about true crime podcasts and Law and Order: SVU. At one point in my life, I may have been embarrassed to say this. What sane person is intrigued by murder?

Luckily for me, others seem to share in my fascination, so I feel more comfortable discussing it. And while I can’t speak for everyone, I believe part of the interest is due to the human psychology behind crime. Why do people act the way they do? What drives them to the edge? What forces in society contribute to crime? I think we’re drawn to what we don’t understand, and for me, that’s unforgivable acts of violence, like murder. Storytelling helps me better comprehend and explore that topic.

While writing can be a tool for self exploration, it’s a fallacy to only write what you know; that’s like only reading books about yourself. Part of the magic of storytelling is the human connection it builds — the ability to learn about other experiences, other lives, other viewpoints. Intelligence, to me, is not the ability to steadfastly and single-mindedly argue a point. Rather, I believe true genius is being able to hold two opposing ideas in one’s head and see both sides of the coin.

So forget about the old adage, and write about what interests you. For me, I’ll continue to explore the intersection of pop culture and crime, the dark side of celebrity and Hollywood glamour. And I’ll have a great time doing it.

Beneath the Marigolds

by Emily C. Whitson

October 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson

Playing on our universal fascination with reality TV, Emily C. Whitson’s Beneath the Marigolds is The Bachelor(ette) gone terribly wrong.

When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.

Ann quickly realizes there’s more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?

Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the “journey to true love” and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive.

Praise for Beneath the Marigolds:

“Cleverly plotted…Whitson’s debut novel is an intriguing new entry in the women’s suspense genre, driven by dual first-person narrators and tension-filled parallel timelines.”— Carmen Amato, Silver Falchion Award Finalist and author of The Detective Emilia Cruz Mystery Series

“Exhilarating twists and turns…a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl.” — Helen Power, author of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place

“A fun, propulsive read…this book cleverly combines the archetypes of “reality TV” and the “trapped-on-a-remote-island” mystery that will perpetually keep you guessing.” — Marcy McCreary, author of The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller/Psychological
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: September 21st 2021
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0744304202 (ISBN13: 9780744304206)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Author Bio:

Emily C. Whitson

Emily Whitson received a B.A. in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as a marketing copywriter for six years before pursuing a career in fiction and education. She is currently getting her M.Ed. at Vanderbilt University, where she writes between classes. She is particularly passionate about women’s education and female stories. This interest stems from her time at Harpeth Hall, an all-girls college preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee. When she isn’t volunteering, writing, or in the classroom, Emily can usually be found with her dog, Hoss, in one of Nashville’s various parks. Beneath the Marigolds is her debut novel.

Catch Up With Emily C. Whitson:
EmilyCWhitson.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @emilycwhitson_author
Instagram – @emilycwhitson
Facebook – @emilycwhitson

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Guest Post: Helen Power – THE GHOSTS OF THORWALD PLACE

The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power Banner

Happy Tuesday, my bookish peeps. Do you have any idiosyncrasies related to reading? I know some people that will only read print books and others that will only read a story that has a happy ending. I’m willing to give pretty much any genre a try, but I have a strong preference for digital reading, namely ebooks. Yes, I know these might simply be called preferences, but we readers also have our rituals, such as no reading while the television is on, only reading in the morning/night, preferring a certain cup or beverage while we read, etc. Well, authors have their idiosyncrasies and rituals when writing as well. I know some authors that will only write in longhand with a certain type of pens. Other authors only feel comfortable writing using a typewriter, manual preferred, and others that only feel comfortable writing in the morning or late evening. Today’s guest, Helen Power, is the author of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place and she will be discussing with us the importance of ritual with regards to writing. Please help me welcome Ms. Power to the blog. Thank you, Ms. Power, for taking the time to visit with us today, the blog is all yours.

The Importance of Ritual

Whenever I get the interview question, “Do you have any rituals?”, my brain immediately conjures up images of pentagrams and flickering black candles. Then I realize that the interviewer is asking about writing rituals, not satanic rituals, and I sheepishly provide a dry answer.

Sometimes I think that a satanic ritual would actually be a lot easier. There’s a specific formula to follow in order to summon a demon, but one in order to summon your creativity? There’s a lot more to it than dressing in black from head to toe, gathering your closest friends in a cemetery at midnight, and slaughtering a goat.

Creating a writing ritual is both easier and more complex. No, you don’t need to know how to read Latin, but you do need to know yourself: what inspires you, what makes you more productive, and what distracts you.

For those of us who have a full-time job that’s not at all related to writing, it can be difficult to switch gears to embrace your creative side. Sure, I’m a librarian—but I’m an academic librarian, which means that I rarely see a fiction title during work hours, and most of my day involves research consultations, teaching, managing the engineering collection, and scholarly writing. I’ve discovered that developing little tricks and routines are infinitely helpful in wrapping my head around the seemingly insurmountable task of finding the time to write a novel.

There are many different ways of getting into the right mindset for writing. For some people, it’s as simple as brewing a cup of tea and sitting at their laptop. For me, I like to storyboard. I know what you’re thinking: Most writers storyboard. But for me, I’m both a planner and a pantser, which means I rarely stick to what I’ve planned. While I usually write mysteries and I know how my stories will end, it’s the journey that constantly changes for me. Storyboarding has become a bit of a compulsion. Every time I go to write, I plan out what the next third of the book will look like. That planning process makes what could be an overwhelming task feel a lot more doable. It even gets me eager to start putting pen to paper. Usually, my first couple of scenes stick to this new plan, but then I start to deviate. New ideas and opportunities present themselves to me within those pages. For instance, I might realize that one of my characters’ personalities suggests that what I had planned further down the line doesn’t quite mesh with what they would really do, since by writing that character, I’m getting a better grasp of their internal conflict. The next time I sit down to write, I take a look at the new scenes, the notes for changes that I’ve jotted down, and create a new storyboard and a new plan of action accordingly.

But what about defeating writer’s block? Usually the storyboarding approach helps me, but I have other tricks up my sleeve. I often use the Pomodoro technique, which is a productivity hack that can be used for anything, not just writing. I set a timer for twenty-five minutes of uninterrupted writing. Even when you’re incredibly busy or extremely distracted, fitting in twenty-five minutes should not be too daunting of a task. I’ll do what I can during that time, and once the alarm goes off, if I’m still not inspired, I’ll try another tactic or give up for the day and tackle the household chores that have somehow piled up during that twenty-five minutes.

I also use music to help me get into the right mindset. I’ve curated playlists for different characters, stories, and moods. I, personally, like to go for walks when I have a bit of writer’s block, and I listen to these playlists and keep a notebook handy. I think my neighbours all either know I’m a writer or they think that I’m spying on them. Either way, it makes for some awkward eye contact after they catch me outside their house at dusk, notebook in hand, scribbling vigorously.

And then, of course, there are times when inspiration strikes. Usually, it happens to me right in those moments when I’m falling asleep or when I’m relaxing in the shower. My eyes fly open and words start flowing. Sometimes, when there’s a thunderstorm outside, I feel compelled to drop everything I’m doing because the atmosphere is perfect for weaving a spooky yarn. I find it’s important not to ignore when the mood strikes, but it’s not always a convenient time to write. Nevertheless, keeping a notebook with you at all times so you can jot down those brilliant lines or ingenious plot twists is critical. You can’t guarantee that you’ll remember them later, when it’s actually an appropriate time to write.

There are a lot of different approaches to creating a writing ritual. Some people will disconnect from the internet or hide their cell phones, because the siren call of Writing Twitter is too enticing to ignore. Others will have a designated “writing spot,” a special armchair or a desk where they do nothing but write, which tricks the brain into being more productive when they’re in that location. Ultimately, what works for one person won’t work for another. It comes down to experimenting with different types of rituals to see what works best for you, whether it’s curated playlists, meditation, or dancing naked under the moonlight.

The Ghosts of Thorwald Place

by Helen Power

October 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power
Trust No One. Especially your neighbors.

Rachel Drake is on the run from the man who killed her husband. She never leaves her safe haven in an anonymous doorman building, until one night a phone call sends her running. On her way to the garage, she is murdered in the elevator. But her story doesn’t end there.

She finds herself in the afterlife, tethered to her death spot, her reach tied to the adjacent apartments. As she rides the elevator up and down, the lives of the residents intertwine. Every one of them has a dark secret. An aging trophy wife whose husband strays. A surgeon guarding a locked room. A TV medium who may be a fraud. An ordinary man with a mysterious hobby.

Compelled to spend eternity observing her neighbors, she realizes that any one of them could be her killer.

And then, her best friend shows up to investigate her murder.

Praise for The Ghosts of Thorwald Place:

“[An] enticing debut . . . Distinctive characters complement the original plot. Power is off to a promising start.” —Publishers Weekly

“A creative, compulsively readable mystery—haunted by strange entities and told from the unique perspective of a ghost. I couldn’t put it down.” —Jo Kaplan, author of It Will Just Be Us

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller/Supernatural
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: October 5th 2021
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0744301432 (ISBN13: 9780744301434)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Author Bio:

Helen Power

Helen Power is obsessed with ghosts. She spends her free time watching paranormal investigation TV shows, hanging out in cemeteries, and telling anyone who’ll listen about her paranormal experiences. She is a librarian living in Saskatoon, Canada, and has several short story publications, including ones in Suspense Magazine and Dark Helix Press’s Canada 150 anthology, “Futuristic Canada.” The Ghosts of Thorwald Place is her first novel.

Catch Up With Our Author:
HelenPower.ca
Goodreads
BookBub – @helen_power
Instagram – @powerlibrarian
Twitter – @helenpowerbooks
Facebook – @helenpowerauthor

Tour Participants:

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Helen Power and CamCat Books. There will be Five (6) winners for this tour. Each of the winners will each receive 1 print ARC edition of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power (US, Canada, and UK shipping addresses Only). The giveaway begins on October 1 and ends on November 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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