Excerpt 6 from Hammil Valley Rising

Cronyism Rears Up

Sid is Jim’s dire enemy, obsessed with paying back Jim for an imagined wrong in the past. Time to call on a “friend” in Sacramento, the State capitol.

See more about Hammil Valley Rising, part 1 of Freelan: The Dawning.


Excerpt 1 from Hammil Valley Rising

Hammil Valley Rising, book 1 in the Freelan seriesSo many authors are doing free offers now on various bookselling sites, but that approach seems a bit excessive for very long works like my Freelan series. (Give away the whole book!?! Not practical.)

As an alternative, I will be from time to time posting excerpts, beginning with this one from Hammil Valley Rising, the first book in the Freelan Series. This excerpt shows the kind of thing against which one of my main characters struggles almost daily.

Hammil Valley Rising is 218k words so far (I’m doing a final read-thru and still finding spots to refine), took six months to do the first draft, several more months for initial edits, two more months for me to do a structural overhaul based on the followup novels in what has grown into a series (see my WIPs page for the list so far), and several more months of editing. Enjoy!

Excerpt from Hammil Valley Rising

(I post excerpts as images to counter content scrapers out there used by unscrupulous people to grab site content.)

Site Revamp Includes New WIPs

Having delved into some “side trips” in my writing endeavors (a collection of short stories, a romance novel, and a series of fantasy stories), the time to add them to this site has come. The homepage shows representational images. You can see details by clicking on the images or go to WIPs on the menu at the top of the page. That link takes you to a page listing all my WIPs so far. You can scroll up and down or use the links on the page to jump to particular titles or sections.

Along with that restructuring, a new site logo seemed appropriate. Hope you like it.

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 5

This is not a movie review. There’s a point at the end of this, so please bear with me. Thanks.

I recently watched a romantic comedy movie on DVD and noticed at the end of it that it had a lot of similarities with an earlier romantic comedy movie starring the same actress. The first movie was much better – sweet and funny with that heart tug moment at the end. This one had some very not funny scenes (you can usually tell when someone is straining to attempt humor) that included a male stripper who definitely didn’t qualify for Chippendales in Las Vegas, gratuitous nudity by the hero and heroine, one cliché after another, and a climax scene that almost exactly mirrored the climax scene in the earlier movie. The cast of characters was also similar, including a father who had built up a business that he wanted his son to take over, that son wanting to go his own way, and a grandmother with a weak heart who would probably keel over if she found out the truth of the convoluted situation. The earlier movie had been a major hit, so I guess they wanted to have lightning strike twice. As far as hubby and I are concerned, it didn’t.

Now to my point: it’s tough to be original.

When it comes to romantic comedies, this is especially true. Certain elements are needed. And at just the right moment, you have to have that climax scene and a short time later that heart tug moment. That’s okay. It’s how you approach them in your writing that makes the difference between a great romantic comedy (the earlier movie mentioned above) and a “gee, that was okay” romantic comedy (the later movie mentioned above).

A cuppa to go with my writing!As I sit rereading the manuscript for the fourth book in my series after a two-year gap of time, I see the clichés and the downright muddles. But the ideas are original and shining through, and most of the writing is clean or easy to straighten up. Makes me feel good.

And so I continue.

Keep going, watch out for the tired old plot elements and clichés. If you must use them, make them your own.

Time for a cuppa hot tea. Thanks for stopping by!

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 3

Working on a series of novels (not what I started out to do but what evolved over a couple years) has its benefits. Three come to mind as I sit rereading a manuscript.

The main benefit is that character and plot developments can be edited in the earlier manuscripts to fit the things coming out in the later ones. For example, in the third manuscript of the series, Beyond Hammil Valley, I had Rose handling a handgun like a pro, yet there was nothing in the second manuscript, The Hammil Valley Effect, about how she acquired such knowledge. Not being published yet and wanting that background in place, I had the opportunity to go back into that second manuscript and show what had occurred. Of course, I could have simply told it in the third manuscript as a flashback, which, had that second manuscript been published, I would have done.

Another benefit is that we can rethink that earlier work. My first manuscript, Hammil Valley Rising, was originally meant to be a standalone romance novel and was titled Hammil Valley Rose. So many ideas crept into it that a second manuscript was a total necessity as was that title change. And the second manuscript led to the third one, which led to a fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and so on. At present, there are fourteen manuscripts that are in “first draft” status, and the first one, Hammil Valley Rising, that is nearing “final manuscript” status (it was final, but my continued writings gave me the idea of revamping it, which meant that my helper/editor/contributor hubby has to read through it again, and he is doing so as time allows).

Finally, and possibly the biggest benefit, I have more opportunity to catch typos. Too many self-published authors are not spending enough time on proofreading. Tedious but very necessary. My trick is writing, letting some time pass, and then going back to what I’ve written. Reading aloud also helps, but I quickly get hoarse.

Hope my shared thoughts here help you in your writing journey.

Please check out my WIPs.

Thanks for stopping by! Time for chocolate.

Killing Your Characters

There is a hierarchy among your characters – main, secondary, occasional, and cameos. Some are killable, and others aren’t, or so many literary “experts” say. They claim that main characters are in the “not killable” category. But it’s open season on the others. In reality, killing your characters is totally at your discretion as the author. However, you have some things to consider before you bump off any of them, especially the main characters.

1. Method

You can go traditional (sickness, shooting, stabbing, choking, poison, accident, etc.) or offbeat (complex situations that often mean the victim has to be in just the right spot at the right time). The genre in which you are writing will help determine this as well as how you do the deed.

  • Romantic fiction – less detail and more traditional. (Rodney put his hands around her throat and squeezed until he knew she was dead.)
  • Horror – the gorier and more offbeat, the better. (Rodney slashed her throat with his long-bladed knife and laughed as the blood spurted from her carotid artery, lapping up the drops that splashed on his face.)
  • SciFi – high tech and unusual. (Rodney injected the nanobots into her throat and watched as they multiplied into a bulge in the side of her neck, slowly suffocating her.)
  • Murder mystery – a bit of gore, realistic, and possibly a bit offbeat or startling. (The woman’s body was lying on the floor, showing clear signs of strangulation. Rodney just shrugged as the Police Detective studied first the body and then him, saying, “The person who finds the body is often the killer.”)
  • Action/Adventure – same as murder mystery but a bit more “active.” (Rodney stepped back as the Police Detective entered the room to examine the woman’s body, seeing clearly the marks of two strong hands on the throat. Rodney took a step to run away, and the detective grabbed him. A knockdown, drag out fight ensued.)

The British murder mystery series Midsomer Murders is full of situations that rely on improbabilities – that victim being in exactly the right spot at the right time, etc. It works for them. The series is intended to be a somewhat lighthearted approach to characters biting the big one. If you don’t intend humor, think through your character’s death very carefully. Make it believable. (The more I work out my own death scenarios, the more I see these improbabilities in TV and literature.)

2. Approach

You can dive right in and kill off a character in your book’s opening – a popular technique in an age when writers have to have a “grab the reader” opening in order for a publisher to take interest in their opus. Or you can build up to it, being careful not to give too much away. Sometimes you might be rolling along and see the perfect opportunity to whack a character. Just be sure you’ve done the right setup. Going back and rewriting earlier scenes (or even an earlier manuscript that’s part of the same series) might be necessary.

Thinking ahead is definitely key, but you can always go barreling along with your writing and then back track and add in necessary set up items later. For example, an important scene in the first chapter of Beyond Hammil Valley (book 3 of The Freelan Novels series) has a main character killing an occasional character who first appears in The Hammil Valley Effect (book 2 of series). The entire scenario was given careful thought. I had to have everything work logistically as well as fitting the characters. What I found is that book 2 hadn’t really set the stage for this event (my character had to have the right skills to carry out the killing), so I had to go back to that manuscript and do some additions and editing, an advantage of not having the series in publication yet. I also killed off a main character (protagonist) in book 3. Again, the scenario had to be given a lot of thought, with the stage being set in advance. Not to give away too much, he pissed off the wrong person (also a protagonist) who had friends “in all the wrong places.” Another example spans several manuscripts (as of the writing of this post, but things could change). In Year 8 of The Freelan Journals series a secondary character dies of a health condition that is diagnosed in book 3 of the series. (I’m a non-discriminatory character whacker! No level in the hierarchy is safe.)

3. Risks

Your biggest risk in killing off a main character is that your fans may not be the least bit happy about it. In fact, they may revolt.

A couple examples:

  • Agatha Christie killed off Hercule Poirot, had to bring him back.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, had to bring him back.

Sometimes, though, you have to do what you have to do. A main character’s death might be needed to make a point, such as when bestselling author Ayn Rand killed off a heroine in one of her novels (I don’t want to specify, it would be a spoiler). You may have to kill off a main character to move your story along. The death of that main character may spur another character to revenge, for example.

Final Word

Killing off characters willy-nilly is not the best answer. Nor is killing one off because you’re bored with him. I would have loved to have kept that protagonist going, but frankly his time had come, plot wise, and I had his replacement lined up and ready to go – someone far more insidious. Know when your characters’ time has come, keep it believable, and make sure it fits your genre.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

See also: More on Characters and Crafting Your Characters

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

The Ceres Stratagem Added to Line-up

A line-up of the book series currently in progress got a bit of shaking up in the past few days. These things happen a lot in the world of literature. Our writing overtakes our planning, sometimes.

Originally, there was planned a romance novel. That novel turned into a trilogy, The Hammil Valley Saga which is now a series called The Freelan Novels. That series spawned a follow-up series, The Freelan Journals. And now, after reviewing the first book of that series, we have separated it out “from the herd,” as the expression goes, to be part of the series but yet standing alone as a key step in the push for freedom.

The Ceres Stratagem is that first book. It covers Years 6 & 7 of Freelan, beginning as the first five tumultuous years of that new nation ended and life settled a little, or so many there thought. Those years were the Great Transition from a life where government intruded into every aspect of people’s existence to a life that was truly free. A warrior for freedom and one of the key people who had helped in that adjustment was a man who now calls himself the Scribe of Freelan. He has set himself the task of relaying to you the struggles and victories not only of Jim and Rose O’Connell and other residents of Hammil Valley but of all freedom-loving people against those who feared them and sought to re-institute control over them.

The novel is drafted and waiting for the review process to begin. Meanwhile, our efforts to publish the first three novels continue.

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.