Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Adding Tension + #Suspense to Fiction #amwriting

I infuse a lot of suspense into my novels, since in addition to romance, each of my books also involves some type of paranormal mystery: either spooky hauntings that need to be unraveled, or supernatural secrets that pose a dangerous threat.  Recently, I was invited to meet with a local writing group as a consultant, and one of the topics they asked to cover was methods of injecting suspense and tension into a story.  Here are some of the tips we discussed:

*Conflict is key.  There should be conflict in every genre of commercial fiction.  To increase tension, load on the conflict, both internal and external, to keep characters from their goals.

*Escalation of story problems, which add new questions beyond the hook (ex: the mystery of Brandy’s disappearance in Silver Lake—questions move from “Could be ghosts be real?” to “Is Brandy’s ghost really trying to communicate?” to “How can we help her communicate?” to “What really happened to her five years ago?” etc.).

*Stack the odds against the protagonist.  People love to root for the underdog (ex: In The Hunger Games, Katniss is from a very poor district and goes into the games with inadequate training from her mentor and little support from sponsors).

*Make the stakes high.  This does not necessarily mean the entire world will end if the character does not meet his or her goal, but the consequences of not meeting a goal should be extremely negative or even disastrous for the character.

*Give characters impossible choices (ex: Katniss in The Hunger Games—she either must kill other kids (both morally reprehensible and potentially difficult) OR be killed herself.  Neither is a good choice, but she could decide morals take precedence over her own life.  However, her family’s existence depends on her survival, as she provides the source of food.  Plus, she’s promised her sister she’ll survive.  So now we have a truly impossible choice: Kill other kids, who are trying to survive themselves and kill her, including the friendly boy from her district, OR be killed herself, break her promise to her sister, and possibly condemn her family to death.)

*Have some plans fail (ex: In The Martian, the abandoned astronaut’s first attempt at creating a water source fails spectacularly, decreasing his odds at survival).

*Create urgency.  A time constraint is useful for this (ex: The Finest Hours—the Coast Guard rescuers will have to reach the foundering tanker before it sinks into the stormy ocean, or everyone on board will die.)

*Use foreshadowing.  Foreshadowing is used to both build suspense and prepare reader for an event or scenario that otherwise might come out of nowhere.  There are many methods of foreshadowing, from blatant to extremely subtle.

*Make readers care about the protagonist.  Again, there are many ways to do this, including using deep POV to connect reader to character, creating engaging characters with realistic flaws, and avoiding “Mary Sues”.

*Use dramatic irony to create apprehension.  This can be employed when writing from multiple POVs.  (ex: In Gull Harbor, the reader sees what the bad guy has planned for Claire from his Point-of-View chapters.  However, neither Claire nor Max know—this knowledge is only between the reader and the villain.)  

Happy Writing!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fiction Writing Course in #Hyannis! #CapeCod #amwriting

I'm thrilled to be teaching a new "Fiction Writing and Publication" course this June, back at Hyannis Center on Main Street in Hyannis.  For the last few years, I've taught this popular class for both Cape Cod Community College's Center for Corporate and Professional Education and for the Town of Falmouth's Community School in a number of locations, and I've met so many aspiring authors and hopefully helped them on their writing journey.  I've even read some of their finished manuscripts and visited their writing groups, which has been so rewarding.  If you're interested in writing a novel, or exploring publishing options, and you're in the Cape Cod area, consider joining us!  The press release is below:

Ready to Write That Novel?

A course offered this summer in Hyannis provides instruction on writing fiction and guidance on publishing options.

For many writers, a quote by Nobel Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison summarizes the beginning of the journey: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  Many people dream of writing a novel, but aren’t sure how to begin.  Even once a manuscript is finished, the choices within the publishing industry seem to grow every day.  Literary agents continue to seek clients for the big publishing houses, smaller electronic presses have become a force in the new digital world, and more options than ever exist for those looking to publish independently.  Unfortunately, this type of growth has also resulted in many sites looking to take advantage of authors eager to publish and promote their work.  The entire process can become overwhelming quickly.

A four-week evening class offered by Cape Cod Community College’s Center for Corporate and Professional Education aims to offer guidance to aspiring authors.  “Fiction Writing and Publication” will be held at the Hyannis Center on Tuesday evenings, June 6—June 27, from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.  Bestselling author and Mashpee resident Kathryn Knight will teach the elements of successful fiction writing and outline the various options in the rapidly changing publishing industry.  Key concepts such as voice, POV, the hook, Goal-motivation-conflict, and character development will be discussed. Idea inspiration, common pitfalls, and query letters will also be covered.  Finally, avenues to publication - from self-publishing to small and digital presses to seeking agent representation - will be explored.

Hyannis Center is located at 540 Main Street.  Pre-registration is required; please visit Cape Cod Community College online or call 508.375.5010 to register.  Cost is $99, no materials or experience needed.

One of the reviews left by a class member!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tips From Our #PuntaCana Trip #travel #vacation #majesticelegance

With our oldest son graduating this June, we realized this year might be the year both our kids would have the same week off for spring break. As hard as it was to wrap our minds around that, we did manage to set aside the disbelief long enough to try to pick a destination that would have something for everyone in our family--both the parents and two teenage boys, ages 15 and 18.

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana

Based on some friend recommendations, we decided on the Majestic Elegance in Punta Cana.  Clearly we weren't the only ones who had heard good things, because a friend who takes my fitness classes was there with her boyfriend, and we also met another couple there who were "friends of friends" (the power of social media!)

So I thought I'd dedicate this post to what we liked and what we'd do differently for anyone considering a trip to Punta Cana's Majestic Elegance!  If you're looking at this resort for your own vacation, you know it's all-inclusive in terms of both food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, and it offers plenty of activities for all ages.

First thing I wished I'd known earlier was a piece of info I gleaned from my friend at the gym--there's a Facebook page dedicated to the Majestic Elegance, filled with tips and suggestions relating to this specific resort.  You can find it here, and you have to click Join to get approved.  Although I found out about this only right before our trip, I did find plenty of valuable information in the posts.  And, on the one cloudy day, I asked for thoughts on what to do and was immediately provided with tons of ideas (I chose Spa Day followed by drinks in the pool just like any other day!).

I also took a picture of the daily schedule while I was there and posted it for others when someone asked, which people appreciated.  So if you're on FB, definitely join the group and peruse the lists of things you should bring, tips on restaurants, the best activities, etc.  I won't list everything here, since it's already over there, but I'll say the things I saw suggested that I *didn't* bother bringing, that I wish I'd had brought, include a power strip (if you have a lot of people charging things, there just aren't enough in the rooms) and a Yeti mug (to keep the beverages cold or hot).  

My scuba diving lesson
In terms of activities during the day, we tried a couple of things, with mixed results.  There was a free scuba diving lesson in the pool one day, so we signed up for that.  It was really cool to try, as I'd never done it before (although my characters in Silver Lake do), but of course one 15 minute trial in the pool is not enough to be allowed on an actual open water dive.  They do offer a way to get certified while you're there, but we were not interested in devoting more of our time or money to it on this vacation.  So I'd say this is just something to try for the novelty if you have time, but not a "don't miss".

A Sergeant Major looking for more
bread ~ bring an underwater camera
if you want to take snorkeling pics!
We did pay for a snorkeling expedition, since we've all done it before and enjoyed it.  I can't say I'd recommend it unless, like us, you have some kids who really want to go.  The area the boat took us to was extremely crowded with boats and groups of people snorkeling, so getting a flipper in the face was a common occurrence.  You could see some beautiful fish, and we were given bread to feed them, which they ate of our hands, and that was cool.  But it was not the serene, peaceful experience I was hoping for.

On our way to the snorkel site, though, we spied a row of shanties on the beach, right up near the water, about a mile from our resort.  It's a bunch of rustic shops and bars, owned by locals, and so we decided to make that an excursion for another day.  We walked along the beautiful beach for exercise and did a little shopping.  The caveat is that this is not an area run by the resorts, so while it's cheaper in terms of prices, the vendors are a bit aggressive to get the business and earn a living. But we were glad to pick up a few souvenirs, and if you like jewelry (who doesn't?), make sure you bring home some larimar - a rare blue stone found only in the Dominican Republic.  I purchased a pair of larimar earrings and a ring with a larimar stone that also reverses to an amber stone (really cool), and the grateful shopkeeper also threw in a free beaded bracelet and two carved wooden pendants for my sons as a thank you.

The shanty shops along the beach

Our resort had a lot of crazy activities on the beach, which was fun for laughs, but if you're looking for peace and quiet, you'll want to find chairs further away from the beach bar and buffet area.  We enjoyed watching the various contests, and my husband and son participated in one competition on the beach which was billed as "soccer" but really just involved a soccer ball, two teams, and a bunch of relay races.  So, it wasn't what they expected, but it was hilarious to watch and everyone was having fun.  The entertainment staff does a really great job.

The staff also gets everyone riled up during the famous "foam party" in the pool.  Now, I'd never heard of a foam party when I first saw it on the schedule.  But I guess it's the thing to do now when you're on a tropical island drinking "free" drinks and forgetting the stresses of regular life.  I figured it would be a younger crowd and really had no intention of making a point to be there.  But my husband and I were walking back from the beach when it began, and we wandered over to take a look. People of all ages were dancing and drinking in the foam-filled pool as music blasted and foam continued to spray.  Very soon our plans to hit the gym before dinner were replaced by "When will we ever again have a chance to party in a pool full of foam?"  Just as we set our things aside and waded into the foam, I saw my friend from the gym and her boyfriend in there as well, and soon the four of us were dancing through foam and doing shots at the pool bar.  So, yeah, it turned out to be the right call in terms of a memorable afternoon!

The foam party!  I'm on the right, waving by the bar.  Fun!

The shows were another thing I underestimated.  But I thought they were excellent.  We watched both a cirque-du-soleil type performance and a tribute to the music of Micheal Jackson, and I thoroughly enjoyed both.  I was too tired to make the music of the 80s show, but I heard from our friends it was fantastic, and I'm disappointed I missed it.  

So, those are some of the things we fit into our whirlwind 5-day vacation in beautiful Punta Cana.  I wish we'd had more time to explore outside the resort, but we still did a lot and managed to leave time to do absolutely nothing but relax in the sun!  And don't forget some good books to have for the beach and pool ~ if you enjoy some steamy romance and/or spooky suspense, try one of my romance/ghost mysteries!  Safe and fun travels!

This was my favorite activity of all~
lying in the sun by the crystal clear
water, with my Kindle in my hand!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Signing #Books in #Falmouth! #CapeCod Cape Cod

I have lots of events coming up, both book-related and personal (how could my son be old enough to graduate high school????), so it's going to be an exciting spring, despite the dismal weather on Cape Cod so far this year.

First up, this Wednesday, May 17th, I'll be participating in a Bingo Night Fundraiser in Falmouth.  This sounds like a blast - I wish I could play!  The suggested donation is $20 (proceeds to our local AARP), and that gets you 20 games (wear red for a bonus card!).  Complimentary light appetizers and a cash bar too!

Where do I fit in?  There are a whole bunch of local artists and vendors setting up for shopping before and in between the games, and we've all donated to the cause as well as offered prizes for raffles.  The complete list of vendors is below, so if you're in the area, please consider stopping by!  

Wednesday, May 17th

5:30 to 9:30 at the Holiday Inn Cape Cod
291 Jones Road Falmouth

Shop with local artists and vendors:

PartyLite, Beachbody, LuLaRoe, Thirty One, The Pampered Chef, Paparazzi Jewelry, Athena’s,
Arbonne, Younique, Ruby Ribbon, Usborne Books, Reine’s Creations, Nanny’s Knits, Pruvit, Scentsy,
Chloe’s Coastal Creations, Fanny Anne’s Boutique, Limelight by Alcone, Dragonfly Dreams, Tastefully Simple,
Cape Cod Kettle Corn, Tinia Herman Photography, Cape and Island Candle Co., Jewelry…Just Because, Tigers Eye Jewelry, Sophia’s Crafts, Washashore Whimsy, Shoreline Designs, Betty Doiron Designs,
Kathryn Knight Books, Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski , & Royal Health Group!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Send a #Book for #MothersDay ~ #Romance + #Haunting #Mystery

Mother's Day is here!  My kids know that reading is my favorite past time, and they have a list of books I can't wait to load on my Kindle.  Many ebooks cost less than the price of a card, and provide hours of enjoyment...not to mention relaxation, as reading is a proven stress-reliever!  So why not email a suspenseful romance to all the moms in your life?  

This is such an easy and thoughtful gift--all you need is an email address.  Don't forget friends, sisters, aunts, wives, grandmas...and yourself!  Then pour your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and experience the emotional roller coaster of falling in love, along with the spine-tingling suspense of a haunting mystery.  Both SILVER LAKE and GULL HARBOR combine the elements of a second-chance romance between first loves, a spooky ghost story, and a sultry summertime setting...a page-turning combination sure to please.  These books have been #1 Kindle and Nook Bestsellers on multiple occasions and have been reader-rated finalists at the prestigious RomCon convention.  (Silver Lake is currently on sale too, at $1.99!)

Like GULL HARBOR, my fourth title, HAUNTED SOULS, is set on beautiful Cape Cod, and the haunting mystery in this steamy romance was inspired by the oldest wooden jailhouse in the country, which still stands along Rt. 6A in Barnstable Village.  Built in 1690, it's reputedly haunted.

Sending an ebook as a gift is easy on Amazon--you just click the books link (see the bolded titles above), go over to the silver "give as a gift" box on the right side of the page, and fill in your recipient's email address.  Then you can include a personal "Happy Mother's Day" note if you wish, and you're done!

Barnes and Noble also has a similar "Buy as a Gift" option (to the right of the orange "Buy Now" button) if you need a Nook format!  Each book tab at the top of my blog has links for the different retailers under the book title.

So treat yourself--and your favorite moms--to a love story this Mother's Day, and lose yourself in the passion, mystery, and suspense--Happy Reading!  And I hope all the moms out there have a wonderful, relaxing day :)


Monday, May 8, 2017

My #Cat Had Non-Recognition Aggression #cats #pets

My beautiful mom with 3 of
our pets, circa 1970
I've had pets my entire life, as far back into my childhood as I can remember. Usually at least three in the house, but never less than one.  I thought I knew quite a bit about pet behavior after all these years, and I did know enough to guess one of our cats, Max, had a possible bladder infection two weeks ago, and that something like that was serious enough to warrant an immediate trip to the Emergency Vet (of course, it happened on a Sunday).  I recognized some of the same symptoms displayed by a cat we had when I was a teen, and remembered male cats are more susceptible to bladder issues.  I was in the right ballpark, but it was much more serious than an infection--Max had a complete blockage of the urinary tract.  A life-threatening condition.  He was whisked into the back room, shaved and sedated, and then catheterized.  

This was, of course, terribly upsetting for the humans who love him.  And then I also worried about the effects of his absence on his biological brother, Jinx. These two kitties were born in a shelter together, fostered together until the reached the required age for adoption, and then adopted together by our family.  They had never even spent a night apart.  And Max required hospitalization for three days.

Jinx and Max on their favorite perch

I couldn't wait to reunite the brothers once I excitedly hauled the cat carrier back into our house.  I gently pulled Max out and set him on his favorite perch on the cat tree.  Jinx came padding down the stairs to greet me, and I scooped him up and set him beside Max, exclaiming, "Look who's back!  You're brother's home!"  

Jinx took one sniff of Max, then let out a nasty hiss as his fur lifted from his back.  With a low growl, he leapt away, tail swishing.  For the rest of the day, he stalked poor, tired Max wherever he went, swatting at him when Max was in range.  I was beside myself.  I've had cats all my life, and I've never, ever seen anything like this.  I even checked Max over to make sure I had brought the correct cat home from the Emergency Vet.

Once I had verified Max's identity, I called up Google, trying to figure out exactly what to type in.  Finally, I think I wrote something like "My cat came home from vet and other cat" at which point "hissing" filled in as a suggestion. Good enough.  I clicked and quickly discovered that this had happened to other people who had cats who were best buds before one headed off to the vet.  In fact, it had a name: Feline Non-Recognition Aggression.

On the one hand, I was relieved this was an actual thing, and not terribly uncommon either.  On the other hand, I was devastated.  My cats were so close, inseperable brothers, and now Jinx LITERALLY did not recognize his litter mate.  Max smelled different, like the other animals in the hospital and the IV meds that had been pumped into him for days.  His legs were shaved to allow access to his skin and veins.  And he'd been absent for three days.  Jinx behaved like I'd brought some unknown enemy cat into his house, and he was not happy.  And poor Max had no idea why Jinx was behaving that way. Could a serious illness and three days at the vet erase the two years they'd spent together, since birth?

Max's new haircut

There are a number of posts and articles that discuss how to handle Feline Non-Recognition Aggression, so if you're experiencing it yourself, there are suggestions out there.  Basically, you have to take things slow, and go through the motions of re-introduction as though the two have never met before.  I wish I'd known about the possibility of this occurring before I tossed them together, but at least I was able to find help quickly and start trying to fix things.  And thankfully, with all the pets we've had over the years, I've had lots of experience successfully introducing animals to each other.  The one thing I didn't know about was a type of diffuser that emits an odorless (to us) substance that calms cats.  I purchased one quickly here and plugged it in where they spend the majority of their time.  I kept everyone apart at night until things got better.  And, things DID get better, much to my relief.  So take heart if you've found this blog because you are experiencing something similar.  Max began to smell like himself again, Jinx figured out who he was, and their cozy relationship was back to normal after about four days.  Best buddies again!

I caught them grooming each other last night - yay!

Now, to figure out how to make them both like Max's new "special food"...

Friday, May 5, 2017

Saying Goodbye to My #Dad #grief

The tumor appeared right after Thanksgiving, a hard marble on the side of his neck.  By March, it had grown to the size of a softball, and chemo and radiation had begun.  But my father lost his battle with throat cancer last week, at the end of April, and I'm still reeling with grief, shock, and the finality of saying goodbye.  Of never hearing his voice again, never laughing with him again, never hugging him again.

Reading The Night Before Christmas, 1970

So I thought I'd dedicate my blog post today to a few of the stories about my dad that relate to my love of reading, and by extension, my desire to become an author myself.

I absolutely credit my dad with my passion for reading.  He loved to read.  So beyond just reading picture books to me as a child, my father made sure I had stacks of novels, chosen to match my interests, once I could read myself.  He would visit the library each week, and head straight to the Children's Librarian, who would help him pick out the weekly haul.  Usually, the subject matter revolved around horses and young riders (Winter Pony, Summer Pony, Misty of Chincoteague, The Blind Connemara), animals in general (Benji, The Incredible Journey, Charlotte's Web, A Cricket in Times Square), mysteries and adventures (Encyclopedia Brown, all the Choose Your Own Adventure books, Baby Island)...but sometimes other genres and subject matter made it into the pile, just by virtue of the sheer amount I could read in a week.  It was difficult to keep up with.

So when I was in second grade, a book titled Jane-Emily, by Patricia Clapp, came home from the library.  The tag line read "A ghost story...and a love story".  I.  Was.  Hooked.  I'd found my ideal mix of elements: a spooky haunting, mixed with romance (in this case, a very sweet romance, set in the early 1900s).  I read it over and over again.  I made my best friend read it.  Since then, we're both still scared of those silvery reflecting balls that sit on pedestals in yards.

Jane-Emily introduced me to paranormal romantic suspense, and this childhood favorite has made a lifetime mark, impacting what I write as an author--yep, combinations of ghost stories and love stories, although the romantic element in my novels is decidedly steamier, as my books are meant for more mature readers.  But I still go back to revisit Jane-Emily from time to time--my copy from eBay sits on the bookshelf--and I even read it to my two boys when they were little.  And I may never have discovered this book without my Dad's dedicated trips to the library to keep me reading for pleasure.

The second story is from a family vacation to Bethany Beach (where I now get to sign books on occasion) when I was around 12 years old.  We made sure I had my usual stack of books to tide me over for the week, but since it was summer and we spent the days relaxing, I read even faster than usual.  I was done in the first three days, and four more days with no new reading material just wasn't acceptable.  At that time, the main strip of Bethany consisted of just a few stores, certainly no independent book stores.  But the Five and Dime had a display of Nancy Drew Mysteries.  Some I'd read, but a few I hadn't.  My father purchased the ones I had not yet read.

Those lasted another 24 hours, and then we were back to square one.  At this point, he started inquiring about libraries, and we were directed to a little mobile library, literally a trailer, serving the summer residents of Bethany Beach.  They made it very clear that they didn't allow vacationers without permanent summer addresses to borrow books.  The risk of loss, keeping track, etc.  I don't remember if my father wore them down with an argument, or just left some cash as collateral, but I do remember I walked out of there with a bunch of books.

Bethany Beach, 1970...well before my
Nancy Drew Mystery days

Good memories.  Even as adults, we traded titles we enjoyed, and he would pass along all the new releases he'd picked up at the bookstore.  I know every time I find a book that pulls me in, and takes me on a fabulous journey, away from the stress of everyday life, I'll think of him, and thank him silently for fostering my love for stories.