FINDING INSPIRATION FROM STORY CHARACTERS By JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

FINDING INSPIRATION FROM STORY CHARACTERS

By

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

JoAnnSmithAinsworth@gmail.com

 

Readers tell me that Lady Lynnet, the Anglo-Saxon sight-impaired heroine of my medieval romantic suspense novel, OUT OF THE DARK (ISBN 9781386717690), is inspirational.

 

Why?

 

Lynnet doesn’t make herself into a victim. She acknowledges the limitation of diminished sight but knows her other senses have become stronger. Acute hearing. Retentive brain. Heightened sense of smell.

 

How do I weave diminished sight into a medieval story?

 

When still a child, Lynnet lost a good percentage of her sight to disease. As an adult, while staying in the king’s London residence with her family, she gets disoriented and lost in the cellars. While there, she overhears three men in a distant corridor plotting a conspiracy against the king. She cannot see them, but she’s certain she can identify them by their voices. She joins the Norman sheriff in his investigation, despite putting her life in danger by doing so.

 

Let’s look at how she ended up in medieval times.

 

When faced with a blank sheet of paper, I decided to write a first novel having Anglo-Saxon characters. Why? Because Ainsworth is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning the property of Ains. It dates back to the 900’s A.D. in Britain. During research, I found those times too turbulent for a romance novel. For love to blossom, I needed peaceful times, not warring factions. Plus, my female character needed to have some say in the direction of her life to make the storyline work.

 

I found peace during the reign of the third son of William the Conqueror. It was also a time when Anglo Saxon laws still had some clout, during this early transition into Norman rule, and women had some say in who they married. Since the deceased queen had been Anglo-Saxon, I made my heroine into a distant relative of the queen so that it would be more difficult for her enemies to be openly aggressive.

 

Having decided on Britain in 1120 A.D., I then needed a problem which my heroine would have to rise above. I chose blindness.

 

I soon discovered that it’s difficult getting around a castle with no disability accommodations. She needed some sight. Consequently, I ended up making her able to see shadows and movement.

 

How did I come to choose lack of sight as my heroine’s challenge?

 

When I was a student, I did some temp clerical work for the Disabled Department at a community college. The department was run by a blind woman. She amazed me. These were the early days of accommodations for the disabled. In fact, she was helping design many of the future accommodations. In the meantime, she had to make her way around structures designed for people with sight. Through her, I saw how much of her life she could control, despite a disability.

 

She traveled around the campus and to local restaurants without a guide dog. She had a reader for her correspondence (these were the days before voice-activated computer software) but she set up and ran meetings, used the phone and directed office staff in their work despite a lack of sight.

 

I thought, wow, here’s a disability that’s not a disability if you work around it. I decided my heroine could find her way around a castle that she knew as a child when she still had sight—especially since I gave my heroine part of her sight back.

 

I wrote the whole manuscript by imagining what I would do if I’d lost my sight. When I was finished and before I sent the manuscript to a publisher, I contacted the Society for the Blind and asked for someone to review the manuscript. They referred me to the School for the Blind, which referred me to a retired, sight-impaired instructor. The manuscript had to be printed in 16 point type for her to be able to read it. It took almost a ream of paper. Two months later she had her recommendations on what to change. In a few cases, we couldn’t logically get Lynnet out of a situation, so I added a touch of paranormal to the storyline in the guise of a ghostly grandmother who points out which way to turn.

 

Why should this heroine inspire us today? She’s a woman who doesn’t give up or give in.

 

Her only weakness comes from the fact she believes her parents that she’s flawed and that, because of her blindness, unlovable.

 

The Norman sheriff proves them wrong.

 

 

Let me know if you’ve also found a story character that is truly inspirational.

 

OUT OF THE DARK DESCRIPTION (ISBN 9781386717690)

As a blind woman seen as a flawed commodity, Lady Lynnet is used to the idea that she’s unlovable. But her parents’ plan to force her into a loveless marriage is too much. Wandering, upset and lost in the cellars of the king’s castle, the darkness doesn’t frighten her, but the murder plot she overhears chills her to the bone. Worse, no one believes her, and the only one she can turn to is a Norman sheriff whose voice sounds disturbingly like one of the conspirators.

Basil, Sheriff of London, is battle-hardened, fiercely loyal—and torn apart. He’s falling in love with the Saxon beauty, and he longs to show her she is worthy of love despite her physical limitation.

But the very corruption she is helping him root out may implicate his own half-brother. How can he turn his back on family—for an Anglo-Saxon woman?

 

 

AUTHOR BIO

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth is the author of six published novels. She earned a B.A. from UC-Berkeley, an M.A.T. from Fairleigh Dickenson University, and M.B.A. studies from Pepperdine University. Ainsworth lives in northern California.

 

To learn more about this award-winning author, visit www.joannsmithainsworth.com.

 

LINKS:

For more, visit:  http://www.joannsmithainsworth.com.

Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth

Facebook:  JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page (https://www.facebook.com/JoAnnSmithAinsworthAuthor?ref=hl) and Profile Page.

Goodreads Blog:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1366481.JoAnn_Smith_Ainsworth/blog?format=rss

 

Contact her at JoAnnSmithAinsworth@gmail.com.

 

BUY LINKS:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/Zgbls6

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/HMX2KH

Books a Million (BAM) –   http://www.booksamillion.com/search?id=6000031779635&query=joann+smith+ainsworth&where=Books&search.x=22&search.y=8or http://tinyurl.com/ld8czbf

 

…and at an independent bookstore near you – http://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder

 

 

 

 

Reviews of Out of the Dark: (251 words)

Out of the Dark is a medieval with a tightly woven plot and vivid descriptions of time and place. It is strong with intense characters, a murder plot, and a love story making JoAnn Smith Ainsworth an author to be appreciated. I loved it. —Lettetia Elsasser, Reviewer, Affaire de Coeur Magazine

 

 

In Ainsworth’s suspenseful and entertaining tale, there are a number of well fleshed-out and intriguing characters, including the ghost of the heroine’s grandmother. The story moves quickly and is exciting without a lot of blood and guts. —Susan Mobley, Reviewer, RT Book Reviews

 

 

I enjoyed Out of the Dark. I especially found the relationship between the tough mother and the intellectual father intriguing. —Enduring Romance

 

 

An interesting book.  Lynnet is not made out to be a weakling despite her blindness. —Joyfully Reviewed

 

 

Out of the Dark is an absolutely fantastic book….The supporting characters are well written with a rational for all they do, however twisted. The dialogue is structured to match the time but does not require an Old-English translator. —Anya, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance

 

 

This is a heart pounding read…truly an intrigue that keeps the reader to the final scene. —Reviewed by Patricia from the Bookaholics Romance Book Club

 

 

Fresh exciting medieval romance with suspenseful plot.…. she packs enough history into this medieval romance to please medieval lovers…. If you are a medieval junkie, OUT OF THE DARK has a fresh sense of originality that will undoubtedly make romance a special treat. —Reviewed by Merrimon, Medieval Book Reviews

 

 

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Shimmer the Glowworm finds her Glow by Shelby Herman

 

ISBN-10: 1502509539

ISBN-13: 978-1502509536

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Paperback: 54 pages

October 3, 2014, $14.99

Genre: Children’s

Grade Level: 3 – 4

 

 

Also available in ebook format

With an uplifting message and vibrant illustrations, this tale is filled with inspiration for every child that has ever forgotten…just how bright they SHINE!

Children adore this fun adventure that is layered with relatable lessons.

Shimmer the Glowworm has a low glow and sets off on a journey hoping to find her glow out there somewhere.  Each time Shimmer meets a new friend, she inspires them.

Ollie the Owl recognizes that we all have inner wisdom and we can share our ideas with others.

Cray the Chameleon realizes how special his uniqueness is.

Kiki the Kangaroo understands the importance of expressing her talents rather than downplaying them.

Scout the Raccoon discovers the value of exploring new things and not giving up.

As Shimmer the Glowworm heads back home, she realizes that when she encourages others to SHOW YOUR GLOW, her glow shines the brightest!

The theme song SHOW YOUR GLOW further enhances the message.

Show Poster

How Much of It Is Magic? by Molly MacRae

A writer friend asked me an interesting question the other day. To give you some background—I’ve been on a roll the past few years, gathering good press on my books, and good sales. Specifically, the books have been reviewed in the four journals that librarians and booksellers pay attention to, there have been Goodreads giveaways for advanced reading copies (ARCs) and regular copies, BookBub deals on e-book editions, and some of the books appeared have on “best of” and “noteworthy” lists. So the question from my friend is, how much of this is the publisher and how much is magic?

 

I love magic and, because one of my secret ambitions is to be a magician, I’d be happy to believe magic is all there is to it. Being more realistic than that, I know the publisher arranged the giveaways and deals and the reviews arrived because the publisher sent out ARCs. I’m also a fan of good luck, though. (In fact, luck literally is my name—MacRae means “son of luck” in Scottish Gaelic.) So I know that giving away and sending ARCs didn’t guarantee the book would be reviewed favorably or reviewed at all. And showing up on those lists? There’s definitely luck involved, including the luck of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right product. My Highland Bookshop Mysteries take place in Scotland. Call it the “Outlander Effect,” but Scotland is hot right now. And the publisher gave the books gorgeous, classy covers (that being my completely unbiased opinion, of course). So, yes, luck is involved, and that brings me to my “Game Theory of Getting Published.”

 

I’ve been lucky in many ways, including the good fortune of having a dad who loved pondering all kinds of things and sharing those ponders with me. One of them was his theory of games, which is this: The best games, the ones people play over and over, require a balance of skill and luck. Skill, so people can learn and improve their chances of winning; luck to add the elements of hope and surprise that bring people back. My theory is that publishing is one of those games.

 

There’s definitely skill involved in getting published. It starts with writing the best book you can. Then revising to make that book better. And then getting an editor you trust to help make it even better. This is true whether you’re traditionally or self-published. Also falling into the skill half of the balance:

  • Learning to use social media to build and promote to a fan base
  • Learning to network with other writers to learn from them, and so you can share each other’s good news and achievements
  • Joining professional writing groups such as Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Murder Must Advertise
  • Adding to your skillset by asking questions in those organizations’ email groups
  • Being nosy by reading other people’s questions in those groups. You might be surprised when you read the many generous answers and a lightbulb comes on in your head. Nosiness, for a writer, is a tremendous skill to cultivate

 

But despite all the skill in the world, there is an element of luck in publishing. We’ve all heard stories about writers who find agents by bumping into them in bars at conferences. And we’ve heard about writers whose series have been dropped, despite good sales, because of the painful culling of the mass market cozy mystery herd or the sad demise of the publisher. Luck, good and bad, abounds in this game. If you hone your skills, though, you give yourself the advantage. Your skills will help you position yourself, so that when luck is flying overhead, ready to fall into someone’s lap, yours is in the right place to catch it.

 

Is any of the above a map for a sure route to publishing success? Hmm, or is that where the magic comes in?

 

About the latest book:

Crewel and Unusual, book #6 in the Haunted Yarn shop Mystery Series, finds the ever-resourceful Kath Rutledge and shop ghost Geneva tangled up in an embroidery rivalry—and a murder.

 

Bio:

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” Crewel and Unusual, book 6 in Molly’s award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, will be out January 1, 2019. She also writes the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990 and she is a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her at www.mollymacrae.com and www.killercharacters.com.

 

Links:

Website: www.mollymacrae.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molly.macrae.9

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/MollyMacRae/

Twitter: @mysterymacrae

 

Buy links:

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781643130088

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/crewel-and-unusual-molly-macrae/1128938755?ean=9781643130088

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Crewel-Unusual-Haunted-Yarn-Mystery/dp/1643130080/

A Book Is Like a Deck of Cards by Peg Herring

There’s an old story about a soldier required to explain why he has a deck of cards in church. I recall mention of four gospels and ten commandments; if you want to know the rest, look up Tex Ritter. For me, the four suits in a deck demonstrate what a successful book requires.

A book needs a heart, because fiction without emotion is a bunch of dead words. Readers want characters we feel for, a plot that excites us, and words that strike a harmonious chord. Even good nonfiction writers like Bill Bryson and Malcom Gladwell succeed by creating bridges between readers’ emotions and the information the book presents. It all adds up to heart.

A book also needs a spade. Every written work requires digging: into setting, syntax, and a dozen more areas specific to the story. Many times I thought I knew a subject until I began writing about it: How did medieval people get from one place to another? What exactly is a parallel universe? And how do I spell pharmaceutical? Details make a story come alive if they’re correct. An author’s spade uncovers tidbits that strengthen the story’s heart.

A book needs a club (actually, more than one). First is the “club” around the writer as she writes, people who advise, encourage, beta-read, etc. They might be professionals or talented amateurs, family or paid help, enthusiastic supporters or sharp-eyed critique-partners. Other clubs join the party as the book moves forward: the team that “builds” the book, the fans who promote it, and book clubs that discuss its merits. No writer is an island, unless she hides her work under that big rock on her little atoll.

Finally, a book needs a diamond: value on the market. This is the oddest of a book’s suits, because some really bad books earn lots of “diamonds” while some excellent ones don’t. The why of that is often a mystery.

To understand which books earn diamonds, look first at the other three suits. How lively is the book’s heart? Was the best information spaded up, engaging language unearthed, and excess “dirt” scraped away? Were the clubs consulted thorough and honest? With promotional hype, diamonds can still pour in, but savvy readers eventually tire of authors who stray from dedication to hearts, spades, and clubs.

Like real diamonds, book revenues don’t just appear but are mined using knowledge and effort. How can the existence of a book be made known to the public? How can readers be enticed to try it? How can satisfied readers be encouraged to tell others about it? The mining process is hard, but it’s essential.

Some authors benefit from creating a prominent persona. (Think Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”…No wait. Don’t do that.) First impressions are lasting, so one should think carefully about the image she wants to create. I once sat on a panel with an author who knitted for the entire hour. I think it calmed her nerves, but audience members I spoke to afterward claimed it made her look unprofessional and disinterested. Other possibilities sometimes suggested as selling techniques, like wearing costumes or having a bullying sales pitch, can backfire, creating the wrong mood and driving customers away.

Book covers are important first impressions, helping or hurting sales. My cover artist and I thought we had a cute cover for KIDNAP.org, but readers found it cartoonish (Spooky House below). Today, authors can change book covers that aren’t working, so I asked her to do a new one (see Woman with Duct Tape). It sells much better. Research reveals that a cover has only a few seconds to catch a reader’s eye. If the message is too bland, too lurid, too whatever, that eye goes on to the next one. While we shouldn’t stint on any aspect of producing a book, the cover is a bad place to pinch pennies.

All of a book’s “suits” require hard work, but finding diamonds is often the task authors are least prepared for. Build a platform. Achieve name recognition. Plan ahead so series books group themselves. Write blog posts. Maintain an interesting website. Run ads on whatever spot on the internet is hot right now. Talk to book groups. Make the acquaintance of librarians. Get as many legitimate reviews as possible. Sign people up for your newsletter and make them glad they joined. Et cetera, et cetera.

If you’re thinking you’ve heard this advice in other places, you’re probably right. Still, with a lot of heart, diligent spadework, clubs for input, and knowledge of where diamonds come from, you’ll begin to see success. Those first diamonds will be little, maybe even chips, but for many authors, that’s enough to make playing the game worthwhile.

BIO: Peg Herring reads, writes, loves mysteries, including the Loser Mysteries and the Simon & Elizabeth Historical Mysteries. She lives in Michigan with her husband, a very old cat, and her alter ego, Maggie Pill, author of the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries. Maggie is much younger and cooler.
Universal link to KIDNAP.org: https://www.books2read.com/u/mZ58rl

Why I Love Blogs—Reading and Writing for Them by Marilyn Meredith

The first answer to why I love blogs is I love to write—no matter what it is, I enjoy writing. Writing a blog post is a joy. I’m able to come up with a topic, expound on it in 500 words or less and it will appear for others to enjoy.

 

Of course, I have my own blog. Over the years I’ve been a regular on several blogs, but now I’ve cut that down to two others besides my own.

 

Appearing on someone else’s blog is a great way to introduce yourself to another group of people—hopefully, some of them are readers who might be interested enough to check out one of my books.

 

For years now, I’ve been doing blog tours as part of a new book’s promotion. That’s why I’m visiting P.J. Nunn today, to promote my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Tangled Webs.

 

When doing a blog tour it’s a challenge to come up with enough interesting topics to engage readers. The main reason I chose this topic for P.J.’s blog, is she’s one of the first to introduce blog tours and is a true supporter of authors.

 

Do I think a blog tour helps with the sales of a book? Anything one does helps. In the past, when I appeared on a tour, sales increased.

 

There are many things one can do to promote a book, but for me, blogging and blog tours are two of my favorite promotion tools.

 

Thank you, PJ, for hosting me today.

 

Marilyn, who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith

 

Blurb: Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter.

 

Link: https://tinyurl.com/yabj9z9f

 

Bio: F. M. Meredith who is also known as Marilyn once lived in a beach town much like Rocky Bluff. She has many friends and relatives in law enforcement. She’s a member of MWA, 3 chapters of Sisters in Crime and serves on the PSWA Board.

 

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com

Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith

Twitter: @marilynmeredith

 

Tomorrow I’m heading over to https://pat-writersforum.blogspot.com to discuss Never Giving Up in the Tough Times.

Do Authors Write About What They Know? Lea Wait’s 19th Century Childhood

            No matter how old I may feel on some days, I was definitely born in the mid-twentieth century. But readers of my books (both contemporary mysteries and historical novels) often ask why I incorporate historical details in all of my work.

The answer is simple. In many ways, I’m more comfortable with the past than the present.

I’ve never lived in a house or apartment (I’ve lived in Boston, New York City, New York State, New Jersey, and Maine) built after World War I. Uninsulated plaster walls (usually clam shell plaster,) solid wooden doors, and fireplaces in many rooms feel normal to me. The house I live in now, which I’ve used in several of my books and which my family has owned for seventy years, was built in 1774 on a Maine island, and then moved to the mainland in about 1832. (New Englanders were the original re-cyclers. People still move houses rather than tearing them down.)

But, perhaps even more important than lying in bed at night and imagining who else slept in the room, and what they were like, and what their days were filled with, I also grew up in a family that valued the past.

Our bookcases were filled with nineteenth-century novels that I read and loved.

My father was a nationally known numismatist (collector of paper money) and wrote several books on the subject. My sister collected the wood engravings and cartoons of Thomas Nast (now donated to a museum) and was an expert on his life and work.

In the early twentieth century my great-grandfather, who I knew as “the upstairs Papa” when he was in his nineties, had a shop on Beacon Hill in Boston where he sold imported Irish and Scots linens, lace, and crystal. His oldest daughter, my grandmother, was an antique doll and toy dealer. When I was a child she took me with her to visit other dealers, to help set up her antique show booths, and to attend auctions. (I made my first auction purchase when I was ten: I paid $1 for a first edition of the Encyclopedia Americana.) When I was in my twenties I became an antique print dealer, with the help of my mother. Since (like almost all antique dealers) I also had a day job, my mother was able to attend auctions and shows when I couldn’t. We sold antique prints for over thirty years.

(Note: Maggie Summer, the protagonist of my first mystery series, the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, is also an antique print dealer, and I include information on antique prints throughout the eight books in that series.)

So when I began writing the Mainely Needlepoint series, it seemed logical – if not essential – that I include an antique dealer (Sarah Byrne) in my cast of characters, and that my Mainely Needlepointers not only create custom needlepoint, but identify and restore antique needlepoint. And that I include quotations from samplers and early needlepoint at the beginning of each chapter.

In the latest in my series, THREAD HERRINGS, published last week, Sarah takes my protagonist, Angie Curtis, to her first auction. She explains how auctions work, the differences between dealers bidding and people attending to buy for their collections or homes, and why it’s important to recognize the differences. And, of course, Angie is tempted, and bids on a worn eighteenth century needlepointed coat of arms.

When she takes removes her purchase from its frame she finds a mysterious paper hidden behind the stitching. And, of course, she has to investigate it. And, of course, her investigation leads to a murder …

Was I born in the nineteenth century? No. But I think I’d feel comfortable there.

 

 

BIO:  USA Today best-selling author Lea Wait lives on the coast of Maine where she writes three mystery series (the Shadows Antique Mystery series, the Mainely Needlepoint series, and, under the name Cornelia Kidd, the Maine Murder series.) She has also written seven historical novels set in 18th and 19th century Maine for ages 8 and up, the most recent of which is Contrary Winds, a YA mystery, and a book of essays, Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine. She invites you to check her website, http://www.leawait.com, which includes free links to prequels of many of her books, and to friend her on Facebook.         

New novel & no ideas? So wrong! By Lala Corriere

Writer’s block is when even your characters won’t talk to you.

Writers know when they’re nearing the end of their manuscript. This stage is engulfed with rampant emotions. We’re proud of ourselves for achieving such a huge endeavor and yet we’re sad to say goodbye to some if not all of our characters we’ve so thoroughly crafted.

And then it might hit us. We want to write the next bestseller. And, horror of horror, we haven’t developed an inkling of an idea.

Fear not! As they say, rip something from the headlines!

My novel, TRACKS, includes a focus on the ongoing opiates crises. Difficult research that proved devastating and scary.

Recently, I went to the headlines and ideas flooded, literally with the terrifying approach of Hurricane Florence and its aftermath. If you write suspense you might consider a pre-meditated murder. The evidence is washed away and a body might just disappear, as well. If you write romance, do you see young strangers holed up in a safe place for days, surviving, and falling in love? Looting could be pre-meditated with homes earmarked with the goods, or the single property your antagonist needs to trespass to steal just one thing.

The gas explosions north of Boston might not be accidental but rather targeted in your great novel. A grudge against a new developer?

I’m not into writing about politics or religion, but you? I’m guessing there’s plenty of fodder out there to weave a tail around, like the Nevada professor whose attempted suicide to protest Trump failed and he now faces felony charges to include discharging a gun within a prohibited building and carrying a concealed weapon?  The dude left a $100 bill taped to the mirror tagged for the janitor. For the adventurous, you’ll find a story set in Russia or North Korea, as ripped from the headlines and made your own.

More obscure news stories? Today I found several:

  • The discovery and opening of a four-thousand-year old Egyptian tomb. This could make for a fun and wickedly delicious plot.
  • A sex doll brothel opening. A legal means to release violent urges, claims the company.
  • The man charged with sexual child abuse when faking he had Down Syndrome.

Nothing strike your fancy? Keep looking and cooking up your creative spins on current news, or old news with new life.

I’m writing my seventh novel, Lethal Trust. It’s based on a true event that’s happening now, sans the murders. Because of the relationship to a true story with the lives of very public individuals, I have to use extreme care in changing everything including cities and names. I don’t need their lawyers knocking at my door. Still, when I first learned about the basic facts I knew murder had to be involved, my way.