My main intention with A Gost and His Gold was to describe the events and circumstances of the Second Anglo Boer War which resulted in the anger and resentment that remained among the different cultures and populations after the war and set the stage for the future of South Africa.
Gold, and people’s desire for wealth, is a repeated theme of this book and is included in the title, together with ghost as this book is historical but has a strong supernatural thread.
I had the general themes for A Ghost and His Gold in place prior to starting the writing of this book and I expanded them as it progressed. The main themes are as follows:
The impact of greed and corruption on countries and people;
Bad decision making and their effect on soldiers and civilians;
Evil perpetuating the development of hatred and evil;
The effect of war on the political and social development of a country;
The individual mindset versus the group mentality including pro-war propaganda;
The reality of war
This is an extract from one of the war scenes during the siege of Mafeking which illustrates some of these themes:
“The stench of sweat and tension hung in the air as the camp waited silently and watchfully in the cold. My taut nerves made me certain that vengeful eyes were watching us from the cover of the surrounding vegetation. I twisted my head this way and that, looking for any signs of movement in the heavy darkness. I saw nothing. The only sounds were the heavy breathing of my comrades and the crunch of hard ground as they shuffled their feet.
At 4.30 a.m. the bark of the first gun rent the cold early morning air. It was still dark, and the flash shone brightly, momentarily dazzling us. Shells from the 7-pounders followed, soaring through the air and exploding around the target in brilliant flaming balls.
“The railway line’s been pulled up about half a mile from here.”
The news travelled along the lines of men, just as C Squadron prepared to charge forward.
“The armoured train isn’t coming.”
I watched C Squadron surge forward as a mass, each man focusing on his own steps, knowing that if he fell, he would be trampled by those coming afterwards.
This is it, I thought as my men readied themselves to follow. There is no flight option left. Now we must fight to win or be slaughtered like pigs.
I ran, legs pumping and bayonet held at the ready, to the discordant notes of the supporting artillery guns and the Maxim which intensified the din and swirled around me like an insane orchestra. I was conscious of the men of my squadron around me, as well as those of C Squadron about three hundred yards ahead of me.
A great surge of comradery surged through me as these men, my brotherhood, charged forward through the smoke, directly into a hail of bullets from the Boer musketry. Death seemed certain, but, at this precise moment, this did not matter to me; a cloud of red anger and lust for blood having descended over my mind.
The anger prevented fear and grew in its intensity as the occasional figure, including that of Captain Fitzclarence, dropped around me in small explosions of red.
C Squadron reached the fort, which was hidden by bushes, and the guns roared; the sound of the discordant orchestra growing and swelling. My men and I slowed our forward momentum as we watched more ghostly forms falling, to lie in ghastly bleeding piles on the ground.
The few men still standing started to fall back, shouting at my squadron to follow suit.
“The walls are too high … Impossible to mount without scaling ladders.”
Their shouts filled the air, mingling with the gunfire and moans, groans and cries of the wounded.
One of my men, William, and I picked up Captain Fitzclarence as we slowly and deliberately retraced our steps. The blood lust had faded from the men’s eyes and their moods had turned sullen. Expressions of dejection had settled on some faces.
The Boers stopped their fire as soon as the retreat commenced, and the resultant silence felt heavy on me, like a shroud. This behaviour by the Boers reinforced my belief that they are decent men. They could have picked a lot more of us off during this retreat if they’d kept shooting.
Moving backwards, lugging the heavy body, was immeasurably hard. My overtaxed leg and back muscles trembled, and my sweat slicked hands slipped and slid under the captain’s arms. I expelled a huge sigh of relief when William and I were finally able to lay our burden down at a designated spot near to the stranded armoured train. My legs refused to hold me up any longer and I sank to my knees.
That was when I noticed the blood. A bullet had grazed my chest and I hadn’t even noticed. Blood had stained my shirt and was running down into my trousers. It was strange how the moment I saw the blood immense pain seared the right hand side of my chest. It was like being slammed with a club.”
GIVEAWAYS: (4) e-book copies of A GHOST AND HIS GOLD
After Tom and Michelle Cleveland move into their recently built, modern townhouse, their housewarming party is disrupted when a drunken game with an Ouija board goes wrong and summons a sinister poltergeist, Estelle, who died in 1904.
Estelle makes her presence known in a series of terrifying events, culminating in her attacking Tom in his sleep with a knife. But, Estelle isn’t alone. Who are the shadows lurking in the background – one in an old-fashioned slouch hat and the other, a soldier, carrying a rifle?After discovering their house has been built on the site of one of the original farms in Irene, Michelle becomes convinced that the answer to her horrifying visions lie in the past. She must unravel the stories of the three phantoms’ lives, and the circumstances surrounding their untimely deaths during the Second Anglo Boer War, in order to understand how they are tied together and why they are trapped in the world of ghosts between life and death. As the reasons behind Estelle’s malevolent behaviour towards Tom unfold, Michelle’s marriage comes under severe pressure and both their lives are threatened.
Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.
Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.
Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.
Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.
Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.
“Overbeck enchants readers with his picturesque details about a remarkable old town and keeps them on the edge of their seats with unpredictable plot twists.”–ReadersView
My series is called the Haunted Shores Mysteries for good reason. For my stories, the setting ranks up there in importance with interesting characters and a twisty whodunit puzzle. In some ways the setting comes first and defines each tale. I work hard to craft a narrative and choose a social issue that exudes organically from this specific setting of my books.
BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE, the first entry in the series, takes place on the beautiful, scenic Eastern Shore, home to memorizing sunsets and some of the best sailing around.
Amidst this natural grandeur, the area and the people struggle with a dual personality, part New England culture and part still stuck in a southern (as in Confederate) past. This dichotomy is one of the aspects that makes the Eastern Shore so interesting and made it the perfect location for my mystery about a young man who is murdered as a result of bigotry and prejudice.
The setting for my second novel in the series, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY, was chosen with just as great a care. I found Cape May to be the perfect locale for my tale of a bride slain on her wedding night, her murder tied to an even more heinous crime, human trafficking. With its prime location near the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes, Cape May has easy access to major shipping routes in the Northeast for all kinds of commerce—including the illicit varieties. And it is one incredible resort. On the Shore side, the town boasts one of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast, the most impressive collection of Victorian architecture this side of the country and a storied, one-hundred-fifty-year old history as a go-to resort.
And for the pièce de résistance, that is, the Haunted part, Cape May is recognized as the most haunted seaport on the East Coast.
All in all, I believe, a perfect setting for my ghost story/mystery. But readers are the best judge.
Here are a few of their comments.
“Sooo atmospheric. Cape May, with its history and Victorian mansions, has no end of ghostly stories. And the Haunted Bride is a doozy.”—V. Williams, an Amazon reader
“I enjoyed Mr. Overbeck writing style, and I could easily visualize the scenes through his detailed descriptions. I definitely recommend this book. Five stars!”—another Amazon reader
“The hauntings were very descriptive, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these scenes. There’s immense research involved here which I appreciate. Randy Overbeck’s writing style is stark yet descriptive.”—N.N. Light, an Amazon reader and reviewer
“Henshaw’s character is immediately interesting, and his surroundings are so well described that the story is for me, completely believable.”—Goodreads reader and reviewer
There is an unbelievable but true sale on the entire Haunted Shores Mysteries series! BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE-$.99, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY–$1.99, SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER (pre-publication price)—$2.99.
For all of you who don’t know him, here is a lovely bio of Author Randy Overbeck, along with a excellent Blurb over his book, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY
Dr. Randy Overbeck is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for more than three decades in a range of roles captured in his novels, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent. His thriller, Leave No Child Behind (2012) and his recent mysteries, the Amazon and B & N No. 1 Best Seller, Blood on the Chesapeake and Crimson at Cape May have earned five star reviews and garnered national awards including “Thriller of the Year–ReadersFavorite.com, “Gold Award”—Literary Titan, “Mystery of the Year”—ReadersView.com and “Crowned Heart of Excellence”—InD’Tale Magazine. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation “Things Still Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.
BLURB—CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY
No matter how far you run, you can never really escape a haunted past.
Darrell Henshaw—teacher, coach, and paranormal sensitive—learned this lesson the hard way. With his job gone and few options, he heads for Cape May to coach a summer football camp. The resort town, with gorgeous beaches, rich history and famous Victorian mansions, might just be the getaway he needs. Only, no one told him Cape May is the most haunted seaport on the East Coast. One resident ghost, the Haunted Bride, stalks Darrell, begging for his help.
He can’t refuse. Joining forces with Cassie, a street-wise teen and another sensitive, he investigates the bride’s death and discovers her murder is connected to a far greater horror. But can Darrell and Cassie expose those behind the crimes before they end up being the killer’s next victims?
To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit theauthors’ tour pageon the 4WillsPublishing site. If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please clickHERE. Thanks for supporting this author and hiswork!
There are so many benefits to attending Writers’ conferences. They offer writers the opportunity to get to know and relate to others, and the RRBC’s 6th Annual Writers’ Conference & Book Expo, is no exception. Here you will meet new people, greet old friends, and get acquainted with the latest works by authors you know and love to read.
There will be games, prizes, surprises, and other goodies, so be sure to visit each Author Booth, take a look around, then leave a comment for your chance to win each Author Booth’s door prize!
There is a Scavenger Hunt Game to play, a 2 Truths & a Lie Game to play, and more! In each Author Booth, you will find a clue, and if you find the correct answer to all the clues and are the first to submit your answers, you could be the winner of an awesome prize!
Of course, we’ll have our READING ROOM open, and one of our members is going to blow you away showcasing their talent!
If you’re into BINGO, purchase your BINGO cards and join us for a game or two!
And what we all wait for every year – our RAFFLE! Yes, each year, we raffle off (7) $100 Amazon gift cards, and this is open to the public, so go on and snag your tickets today! Raffle tickets are only $5! How awesome would that prize be? Some of them also include additional goodies like other gift certificates, ebooks, and more! Enter for your chance to win one or more of these $100 Amazon gift card gift baskets. The more tickets you buy, the greater your chances of winning. (Please do not purchase more than 7 tickets).
This year for the first time ever, we’ve added our BEST BOOK COVER CONTEST! This contest is open to the general public, so go ahead and enter your book cover(s) now! Share your comments with us, and let us know which one you think is best!
Sir Chocolate Books – Sir Chocolate and the baby cookie monster story and cookbook
(7) Paperback copies / 1 of ea book in the series(2) 15 Amazon gift cards Please leave Robbie a comment anywhere along the tour for your chance to win one of these awesome prizes.
This is my favourite of the Sir Chocolate books to date because I think it is the most imaginative. I love the idea of a runaway toddler who needs help finding his mother. The baby cookie monster has a body made from a wedge of shortbread and long nose with a serrated edge that he uses to cut chunks out of the houses in Chocolateville.
“His body was shaped like a shortbread wedge, He had a long nose with a jagged edge, For cutting food into bite sized squares, He looked like something out of nightmares.”
Of course, the villages are devastated to wake up one morning and find their grass flattened and their houses and walls damaged by the baby cookie monster, but Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet know his is just a baby who needs his mother. With the help of the vanilla fudge bird, Mother Cookie Monster is found, and to her great joy, her baby is returned to her.
How to make a fondant and Easter egg panda bear
You will find the step-by-step instructions on Youtube here:
You can download a PDF of the step-by-step instructions here:
Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet find a lost baby cookie monster. Join them on an adventure to return the baby to its mother and learn how to make some of their delicious recipes at the same time.
Robbie Cheadle is a children’s author and poet.
The Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.
Robbie has also published books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.
To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site. If you’d like to schedule your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE. Thanks for supporting this author and her work!
Thank you for dropping by. Robbie appreciates it, and so do I.
Hello Everyone, I am being featured at the Writer’s Treasure Chest by Aurora J Alexander.
A.J. and I got to know one another when she was living in Switzerland. We had many opportunities to get together and discuss the craft of writing. She lives on the Pacific Coast now, and I, for one, miss her. A.J., thank you for inviting me. Shalom aleichem,
P.S. I have closed the comments on this post and have put the link to the blog post on Writers Treasure Chest below. Thank you for dropping by her blog.
At the age of eight, I wrote and established my first newspaper in our dinky little neighborhood. Staff members-one person. Me.
Being without a typewriter, I wrote it by hand. Personal computers were a thing of the future. I didn’t tell my parents about it. I desired to spotlight the positive changes in my community and give what I used to call the other people a different light on how they perceived black people. It was a fact that when we made the news, that meant we had done something wrong and was going to jail.
To get writing materials, I went door to door selling the paper to my neighbors. I charged twenty-five cents a piece for each edition.
When my parents finally found out about it through a neighbor who was bragging to them about my inquisitiveness and my ideas, needless to say, they were furious, and I received a spanking that I haven’t forgotten until this day. But, on the other hand, my parents were concerned and worried about what would happen to me if I kept thinking about things that I wasn’t supposed to think about.
Let us fast forward to two thousand and twenty-one. The dream deferred at eight has awoken. It has taken some years. I’ve had to slow my pace when I didn’t want to and quicken the pace when I had found something I like and had no desire to move on. But, the dream was still there. It was deferred but incubating.
Today, I am happy to say I have the privilege to work with THE PIPELINE Magazine and with the woman who has made this magazine what it is today, Nonnie Jules. Beside her is her very talented Editor, Karen Black, and a lady we all admire whom we call Lady Harriet, Harriet Hodgson, with her own personal column. To work with these three has opened doors that fascinate me and extend my writing ability.
I thank God that my deferred dream of writing for a magazine has exploded into something beautiful years later. THE PIPELINE is an RRBC Monthly Publication and can be read by all. The link for the June issue is posted below.
One of the most inspiring persons I have met at the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC), the home for RRBC and RWISA Writers, is Harriet Hodgson. This spunky woman has written 42 books and is still writing. She truly embodies what RRBC is all about. Thus, it is a pleasure and an honor to have the woman I have titled Lady Harriet on my author’s website. Welcome, Lady Harriet!
Harriet, having forty-two books circulating throughout the world, do you ever suffer from the dreaded disease authors know as writer’s block?
Writer’s block. Say these words to an author and they may wince. I’ve heard dozens of writer’s block stories. I’ve seen television movies about writer’s block. I have friends who talk about writer’s block constantly. Sorry as I am for these writers, I don’t understand them.
A writer’s job is to write and that’s what I do.
All writers, including me, have times when the words don’t come. My solution is to take a short break and figure out the problem. I’m a nonfiction writer. When I can’t find the words, it usually means more research is required. First, I search my bookshelf for resources that may help. Next, I surf the internet and look for articles that may help.
An hour later I’m back writing.
I’m so busy writing I don’t have time for writer’s block. My goal is to write each day. Whether it’s warm-ups with email messages, revising yesterday’s copy, or editing copy, I meet this goal unless I have medical or family appointments. Does the goal of daily writing work? You bet. This goal has led to 42 published books. Yesterday I started a new book and it’s shaping up well.
Harriet’s latest book is Grief Doodling.
From the very first page, Grief Doodling invites action. Topics range from the benefits of doodling, to why doodling is fun, to doodling tips, and responding to doodling prompts. The prompts, based on grief research, promote self-worth and healing. This is a hopeful book—something all grieving kids need.
For those of you that may not know Harriet, here is a Brief Bio of this awesome Lady.
Harriet Hodgson, BS, MA has been a freelance writer for 42+ years, is the author of thousands of print/online articles and 42 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, and Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support.
Harriet is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website. She is a contributing writer for www.opentohope.com, The Grief Toolbox, and “Grief Digest,” now an online magazine.
A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, public health, Alzheimer’s, and caregiving conferences. She has appeared on more than 185 radio shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN.This award-winning author loves writing so much she writes in her sleep. GriefDoodling: Bringing Back Your Smiles, written and illustrated by Harriet, is her latest book.
Thank you for dropping by to support Harriet along her tour. To follow along with the rest of her 7-day tour, please visit the “SPOTLIGHT” Author forum on the RRBC site and don’t forget to pick up a copy of her book above! Lastly, we ask that you LIKE and SHARE this post, as well as the “SPOTLIGHT” Author page, to your social media, to enhance Harriet’s support!
I seem to have disappeared after my book release, but I haven’t. I have been taking classes, writing feverishly on five submissions for writing contests, and preparing my marketing plan for Turn The Light On so that I could get it into motion. There were many things that I had to learn also about YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook that I hadn’t known before the book was published, and I have had fun learning these things most of the time.
Today, I am revealing the book trailer for Turn The Light On. Many thanks to 4WillsPublishing. They have been marvelous in setting my desires into the type of book trailer I wanted to have.
I am smiling because I know how customer desires can frustrate a creative department. My wishes were on a very long list of what I wanted to happen, and each one was taken very seriously by 4WillsPublishing. They jumped right in the boat with me. It reminded me of the concerts I give here. My musicians jump in the boat with me, which is one reason my stage appearances are successful. And so it was with 4WillsPublishing. They stepped in the boat with me. For that, I am grateful.
I hope you have enjoyed the above Book Trailer Clip. It is my first one, and it is very special to me.
Nicole Souza has released her new book, Sins of Our Mothers and I have the privilege of interviewing her. Join me as Nicole talks about how she approaches her writing.
Welcome Nicole. It is indeed an honour to have you on my blog. First, tell us,
Why did you select to write about babies that were disabled, handicapped or had some kind of debilitating disease?
In the novel, the notion that the children at the Defect Research Center are defective, which in this world suggests they didn’t develop correctly or fully in the pod (artificial womb), is actually a coverup for the truth that the children being researched are male. In the world of Sins of Our Mothers, only women exist. They know nothing of any other sex or type of human within their species. They’re taught in school that Mother Earth (the deity in the story) creates the “seeds of life” that bequeath posterity to all living things, including humans/women.
Between now and fifteen hundred years in the future when the story takes place, women seized control of the government, all scientific research, and education. In order to establish world peace, they had to erase the existence of men who ruled unjustly from the beginning of time. They accomplished this by removing them from society, keeping them contained in remote settlements around the globe, and harvesting their sperm for IVF-style pod impregnation. They created a fictional story around this to convince future women the seeds that fertilized their eggs simply came from special plants in the earth.
Of course, to maintain this façade, they still needed women’s pods to bear male children for sperm production. Part of the lie they created is that any child born with a male body simply didn’t develop correctly in the pod and needs to be sent into research where they can be raised and controlled by the government. Instead of being labeled male, those children are labeled defective.
How long did it take you to create a world around your protagonist and antagonist?
From the first draft to publication was around eight years. It was especially tricky to get the antagonist just right. In this particular story, the antagonist is not only the mighty military general, Sarah Love, and other women in power, it’s also a concept, a theory, a political philosophy.
The protagonist, Lyratelle Faith, is a hyper-observant woman with a particular appreciation for, and devotion to, truth and agency. Her enemies are anyone forcing onto her and those she loves beliefs contrary to those she most cherishes, as well as any philosophy that preaches something other than truth and agency as the primary pillars of excellence.
In past drafts, Lyratelle faced a variety of antagonists. Those portrayed in the final version of the book are the ones I felt best balanced the need for both human and theoretical antagonists. But, man, did it take time for me to get it right!
3. Does any of the book relate to your own life experiences?
In college, I made an astounding observation: nearly all my straight, married girlfriends, and those with a live-in boyfriend, were the sole providers in their relationships. This alone wasn’t all that strange. What was strange was that every single friend in this situation told me their husband or boyfriend was profoundly unhappy and had developed at least one addiction that was affecting their relationship. Though all relatively close to my age, these weren’t just friends here in the states. These were women of multiple ethnicities and cultures.
Some spoke English, some didn’t. Some had children, some didn’t. Some were students, some had mortgages, some were renting. Some lived with parents or in-laws. The one thing they all had in common was an unemployed adult man depending on their salary. The most bizarre detail was that not one of the women with children depended on her partner for childcare, even though he was home all day. They either relied on relatives or paid for professional childcare. They all blamed their partner’s addictions.
The men’s addictions ranged from simple things like alternate realities to more intense things like pornography and even detrimental things like alcohol and destructive drugs. Some of the men were students. Some were college graduates, some high school graduates. All had essentially disappeared from their families, their communities, and society—a trend I began to notice extended far outside my circle of contacts.
While several of these couples split or divorced, many pulled through and have progressed together. The fact that so many people precious to me—wonderful, intelligent people—intersected in this weird place all at once felt significant. I remember thinking, “These women literally do everything. They could just remove the men and their lives would remain the same, but without the stress of supporting a grown man and his addictions. All women really need from men is their sperm, right? Aside from that, are men even necessary?”
Settlement 1163 in the novel represents the struggles of these men and others I’ve met since. Lilac City, where the women live, represents those and all women who bear and raise their children, as well as support their families, alone. While the burden of supporting men in their homes is gone, they still, unknowingly, support the men in the settlements through taxes. But the emotional burden of feeling like they do everything alone doesn’t exist in the book because the only world the characters know is a completely female one.
The first draft of Sins of Our Mothers sent me on an arduous journey where I discovered for myself that, not only are men necessary, but masculinity is infinitely more valuable than those currently in power would have us believe. There’s a lot of talk nowadays about toxic masculinity. What’s not being talked about is how essential masculinity is to a free, successful, harmonious society. If we’re to live truly free, achieve our potential as the twenty-first century generation of the human family, and ensure future generations can liberally pursue happiness, we need good men.The final draft of the book is, I hope, a depiction of what I learned along that journey
Nicole, you have mentioned so many things that has created within me a desire to read your book. It sounds very engaging. I thank you also for the excerpt that I will post at the end of our discussion. Let’s take a few minutes to talk about your writing habits.
Some writers write in the morning, others at night, and then others in the afternoon. When do you take the time to write?
I wish I could say I get up early, go for a jog, and get my writing done in the morning. Alas, I’m a sluggish, lifelong insomniac, so I write most productively in the evening or at night. I typically collect my thoughts throughout the day, making a mental outline of what I’ll work on. Finally, when my body and mind are fully awake several hours in, I sit and focus on getting those thoughts written down. This usually lasts well into the night. In fact, the only times I do write in the morning are when I notice the sunrise lighting my window and tell myself it’s time to stop and go to bed.
Is it important for you to write every day? And if it is, why is it important?
Writing every day is a lofty goal. While I do try to dedicate time each day to honing the craft, resetting my mind and eyes is essential to completing any project. Sometimes, after distancing myself from a project for a few days, I’m able to see much better where it’s lacking. If I’m truly dedicated to telling a story, a day or two of rest doesn’t set me back. I’ve found rest actually propels me forward.
I strive to always have a side project to work on. That way, I can write a little without the pressure of getting it just right and simply enjoy the practice. I’ve written a few one-draft short stories with a specific reader in mind. When finished, I send the story to the muse knowing they’ll get some enjoyment out of it. Et voila! I’ve met my goal for the day.
I never beat myself up for missing a day. Writing can’t become a chore. If it starts to weigh me down, I step back, and reevaluate where I’ve got it wrong. Often, the answer is to give it a few days, work on myself for a bit, and dive back in when the time is right.
Let’s talk about your writer’s voice. How did you develop it? Did it matter to you to find your own voice?
Having my own writer’s voice is important to me. I don’t want to sound like another author. Though being able to imitate the greats would be an accomplishment of sorts, it wouldn’t be my accomplishment. Writing, for me, isn’t like being a classical concert pianist. I don’t want my recitals to be the same songs, played with the same techniques, audiences have been listening to for centuries. Yes, they can still enjoy and be moved by those songs, but the performer has to produce the joy the audience feels. And I find more joy in creating something completely new than trying to redo what others have done.
That’s not to say I’m not often tripped up by clichés and lazy writing. I do occasionally find myself using expressions past writers popularized. It’s challenging to freshly express a common feeling or reaction. It’s also not to say I don’t recognize and appreciate those who blazed the trail for stories to be told so easily nowadays. All writers today stand on the shoulders of giants.
I’m still developing my writer’s voice. As I engage in projects of varying genres and points of view, I typically struggle to hear myself at the start. As I get going, I discover ways to showcase the unique qualities of my writing. It’s such an awesome moment when you see both story and storytelling becoming completely yours.
I’ve learned to patiently allow myself as many failures as it takes to get it right, and inch along. There’s a critic around every corner, ready and anxious to tell us where we got it wrong. It’s up to us, individually, to track how far we’ve come, to remind ourselves how far back we started, and how much we can still improve. Maximum potential is never reached without growing pains.
How do you get to know your own characters? Do you write out a character profile or do you just start writing?
For me, character development is the most fun, yet daunting, aspect of storytelling. In the beginning, I just started writing. As the first draft of the novel developed, I learned I needed a system to help me get to know the characters better. I often didn’t know how one would react in a scene, what they would say, or what they even believed. To assist my chaotic brain, I developed a system I call SPEMPARFS, an acronym for: spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, psychological, artistic, romantic, financial, and social.
This is in order of importance as I like to get to know my characters in a certain way. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes know a character’s physical traits or financial status first, it just means when fleshing out a character, this works great for me.
I begin with a character’s spirituality because it will tell me more about them than anything else and inform other attributes. I end with their social life because that’s when I’m ready to have them interact with other characters. Knowing their social status and personality helps a ton with dialogue! Most importantly, I can establish how that character is viewed by other characters, and how she views them.
Here are a few questions I ask myself in each category when developing a character:
Spiritual: What are the character’s fundamental beliefs? Is she steady in them or figuring them out? Is her spirituality relevant to the story? What aspects of her belief system need to be included? How do her beliefs inform her behavior? What’s her inner drive? Does that change throughout the story? What deities exist in her world? What’s her relationship to them?
Physical: What does she look like? How tall is she? What is she physically capable of? Does she struggle with her health? What scenes will showcase her physical abilities or lack thereof? Does she have a healthy relationship to food? Does her physical health inform any talents? What are her physical goals? What color are her eyes and hair? Does she have any scars? How did she get them? What’s her lineage and ethnicity? Do her reproductive organs function well? How does her menstrual cycle affect her?
Emotional: Establish a default emotional state. What sets her off? What excites her? What makes her cry? Does she cry often? Does she struggle to express emotion? Does emotion drive most of her choices? Does she have control of herself? Is she balanced? Temperate? Which are her most common emotions? What’s her typical daily mood and what most often changes it?
Mental: Is she formally educated? What did she study? Is she street smart? Does she speak more than one language? Is she a good teacher? Does she thirst for knowledge? Does she care how the world works? Is technology important to her? If the story is fantasy, and school as we know it doesn’t exist, what programs helped her gain knowledge and experience? Is she a master in those? Did she fall below average?
Psychological: Is this character straightforward? Manipulative? What mental illnesses run in her family? What about her past informs her psyche? Is she stable in relationships? Confident? What comforts her when scared or alone? Can she be trusted with the tasks required to reach the story’s end goal? Could her psychological struggles become strengths used to achieve her goals? What terrifies her?
Artistic: Everyone is an artist. Everyone creates something, even if just a concept. How is this character artistic? Is she an architect? Painter? Songwriter? Does she play an instrument? Does she express herself through dance? Does she want to change the world somehow? Which of her talents could help? What are her dreams? What keeps her up at night?
Romantic: What is her romantic status? What characteristics does she look for in a mate? Is she in a stable marriage? Does marriage as we know it exist in her world? What bothers her about her current romantic situation? Is she afraid of romance? How does her body react to attractive potential partners? Is she driven by sexual desire? Is she a virgin? Is sex sacred to her?
Financial: How does she make a living? What’s her home like? Her neighborhood? Does she rent? Are there new forms of currency in the story? What’s her status in her society? Is she comfortable where she’s at? Is she ashamed of her poverty? Prideful about her wealth? Embarrassed of how she’s made money in the past? Is she honest in her financial dealings?
Social: Who’s in her inner circle? Is she outgoing? Shy? Where does she meet up with friends? Does she trust them? Does she hang around shady people? How do her friends influence her decisions? Does peer pressure sway her? Does she get along with her coworkers? Boss? Neighbors? Family? Is she important in society? Is she respected? Is she a nobody? How does this change throughout the story?
Even after completing the SPEMPARFS, I refer to them often throughout the revision process.
5. I’ve heard some writers say that reading is not important to them or they don’t have the time to read. Is reading important to you and do you read other authors or only authors in your genre?
I love to read. It definitely makes me a better writer. When I see how other authors set up heartbreaking moments or compile little details into a mind-blowing reveal, I’m inspired to discover ways to give my readers similar experiences.
I love dystopian novels, the genre Sins of Our Mothers fits into. The Giver by Lois Lowry was one of the first full novels I read, and it captivated me in ways nothing else ever has. The idea that I could make an argument by illustrating through storytelling what the world would look like if the opposite of my argument came true was inexplicably beautiful to my young mind.
I do, however, venture out of this genre often. I enjoy romance, horror, mystery, psychological twists that move me in unexpected ways, really anything that keeps my attention until the end. I’ve even been profoundly inspired by manga, which is about as different of a storytelling artform as you can get from Sins of Our Mothers. To me, the ultimate success as a writer would be to create a character as impactful as Levi Ackerman from Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama, my favorite fictional character of all time. From his backstory in the underground to his later encounters with the beast titan, his entire character arc is just phenomenal.
I think reading for a writer is a lot like eating for a chef; you improve the more you experiment. Just because someone specializes in Italian cuisine doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy, and be inspired by, excellent Thai food. There’s no way every possible combination of seasonings will ever be achieved, which just means there’s no limit to a person’s capacity for creation.
Beautiful! Thank you for taking the time to be specific about your writing habits. By the way, I too believe that writers must read. We can learn so much from another author.
Thanks for dropping by, Nicole and for my readers, an excerpt of Sins of Our Mothers is posted below.
Chapter 2 Juley 17, 1513 P.C.
“Oh, glorious Mother Earth.”
Grace’s mother, Faye Angels, who diligently served as Prophetess to the northeast region of Lilac City, fell to her knees with a theatrical sigh. “How generous You are to Your creatures. We’re unworthy to touch Your soil.” She dug her fingertips in the dirt. “Yet we do so that we may be filled with Your goodness.”
Lyratelle grimaced across the circle at Grace, who responded with a shrewd grin. The most dedicated worshipers in the circle, the true believers, wore ceremonial sackcloth dresses wrapped twice around their bodies, secured by a half-inch rope, homemade from twelve lines of twine. They decorated their untamed hair with wildflowers every morning before service and formed a circle around Faye, who led them in a verse of “How Great You Are” before regular citizens arrived to recite the ceremonial prayer.
Lyratelle attended worship once a month—the minimum requirement before being fined for shirking her duties as an inhabitant of Mother Earth. She couldn’t stomach more than that.
Faye looked to the pale sky, raised fistfuls of dirt over her head, and hummed as it rained down upon her. “I bathe in Your magnificent soil that yields the seeds of life. Let it cleanse me.” The dirt and wildflowers clinging to her hair created the illusion that a garden grew from her head. The remaining dirt on her hands she rubbed over her shoulders and arms.
The women surrounding her, including Lyratelle and Grace, fell to their knees. The dirt was soft and cool on Lyratelle’s ankles and the tops of her feet. They gathered handfuls of dirt and sprinkled them over their heads while repeating in unison, “I bathe in Your magnificent soil that yields the seeds of life. Let it cleanse me.” Lyratelle, of course, only mouthed the words, refusing to participate in the ways she could control.
She did, however, appreciate the beauty of the Chapel Garden, the “holiest” room in the church. It was essentially an enclosed sandbox filled with soft, fresh dirt. Flowers in decorative pots were placed along the walls. Smaller pots hung in every corner. The ceiling was convertible. When closed, it was a tented tarp guiding rain or snow to the gutter. When open, it revealed the morning sky. Lyratelle loved the orange and purple stripes remaining from sunrise.
“We thank You,” Faye trembled with passion, “on behalf of all Your creatures, for the seeds Your miraculous being produces, graciously given, which bequeath posterity.”
“We thank You,” the women sang, rubbing the excess dirt on their shoulders and arms.
“We thank You on behalf of plants and insects.”
The women echoed, “We thank You on behalf of plants and insects.”
“On behalf of fishes and fouls.”
“On behalf of fishes and fouls.”
“On behalf of beasts and women.”
“On behalf of beasts and women.”
“We ask that You continue producing the seeds of life. Help our brave sisters, the Harvesters, to find and gather them safely. Oh, Mother Earth, lead them to healthy seeds, that they may avoid defectives.” She cupped both hands around her face and inhaled the scent of the soil. “Today, we include a special prayer for the Harvesters injured in the explosion yesterday. Heal them. Bless them. Ease their pain.”
The women repeated, “Heal them. Bless them. Ease their pain.”
“This is our prayer,” Faye concluded. “Amen.”
While the others chorused “Amen,” Lyratelle breathed a sigh of relief.