Category Archives: research

Goodreads Giveaway of SUNKEN TREASURE by Katy Lee

Hello Readers, Katy Lee here.

Lots of good news to share with you all.  First, I am holding a9780373446216 Goodreads Giveaway for my September romantic suspense release, SUNKEN TREASURE!  You have until August 31, 2014 to enter and can go right to www.KatyLeeBooks.com to press enter.  Simple as that.

Romantic Times Book Reviews announced its review of SUNKEN TREASURE yesterday.  Here’s what they had to say:

4 Stars! Compelling. A Page-Turner!  “Shipwreck diver Gage Fontaine is trying to outrun the pirate after his treasures. He unwittingly places fisherwoman Rachelle Thibodaux in danger when he leads the pirate to her boat. Rachelle has been in hiding due to the shame she feels over her father’s criminal past. Now she must work with Gage to survive. The use of a female pirate is a nice twist on the movie-fantasized life of pirates and treasure hunters. Bible verses are nicely tied to the storyline. The analogy of God seeing us as lost coins is encouraging.”  ~RT Book Reviews Magazine

And now it’s time for my other news.  This week I accepted and signed a contract with Harlequin for four more Love Inspired Suspense books.  I’m super excited about this new series that involves fast cars and fast-paced suspense!  Stay tuned for pictures of me driving a Ferrari!  All in the name of research.  I LOVE my job!

Thanks for stopping by to hear my news.  Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of my September release, SUNKEN TREASURE  at www.KatyLeeBooks.com!

 

The Research Quagmire

 

Happiest of Scribe Days to you! What’s Scribe Day? July 7, of course. Seventh day of the seventh month. Seems like a good day to celebrate!

Fireworks

The Scribes have come a long way since that fateful day in 2011 when we launched this blog. We are all now published or, in my case, about to be published–FETA ATTRACTION releases January 6! Cover reveal coming soon, I promise. Yeah, I’m the caboose on the Publication Train, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait.

One problem I never thought I’d have three years ago was being on deadline. Oh, of course I’d heard of other writers being in a mad race to finish and turn in a manuscript to an editor–I just never really considered that someday I’d have a pony in that race.

So here I am, in the middle of the third book of my series, which is due in a couple of months, and I’ve found myself bogged down. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been researching. Ah, research. My Strange Addiction. I keep waiting for the producers of that television show to call me.

I’ll say it now. I. Love. Research. Love it. Give me a computer with an internet connection and I’ll happily research anything, for hours on end. Genealogy and local history are my two danger zones. And both of those topics feature heavily in my Greek To  Me Mysteries, set in the Thousand Islands, situated between New York State and Canada in the St. Lawrence River.

Kraft%20Thousand%20Island[1] My latest research obsession? Don’t laugh. Salad Dressing. Thousand Island salad dressing, to be exact. Next time you open a bottle of that pink creamy stuff to pour over your greens, you might be interested to know that the origins of this dressing are shrouded in mystery. There are three competing versions of its Creation Myth, all with a northern New York connection. And based on my hours of poring over old cookbooks at Project Gutenberg and Archive.org and some more obscure digitized public domain materials, I think I’ve come to a decision about which of those myths is the most likely to be true. Not that I can reveal it just yet, LOL! But if you’re interested in a summary, click here.

But for a book to feel authentic, a writer needs to do her research, right? So the hours were necessary. Well, yes, but only up to a point. My story only needed a minimum amount on this topic–and yet my investigative journalist-like nature overtook me and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. See, I’d like to be the one to break a story like that. Someday, I just might do it.

Research can enhance your storytelling. Or it can be a huge timesuck-slash-avoidance behavior.  The research doesn’t mean much if you don’t get the words down on paper and out the door to a waiting editor.

So, I am allowing myself one more hour of research on this topic–for now, until book 3 is finished. I ordered a DVD of a local PBS documentary which claims to have found the smoking gun in the Thousand Island dressing and when that comes, I will watch it. But no more hundred-year-old cookbooks. No more searching the Internet for contemporary accounts of salads. Pinky swear!

Do you do research for your writing? Can you stop anytime you want or do you get obsessive? What’s your favorite salad dressing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results of Survey

Welcome to my first post in our awesome new home!

PJ here. I hope you’ll find the updated digs engaging, user friendly, and informative. I, and each of my Scribe sisters will continue providing you with twice weekly blog posts, rotating through on Mondays and Thursdays so that each of us will be with you only once a month. The good news is that posts will be left active for the three days in between so more folks will have time to pop in, visit, and leave comments.

So, I’ll be back here Thursday, March 6th with my next post. By then, I’m sure I’ll have something super exciting to share with you!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss anything.

Now, for the results of our survey, based on 25 responses:

1)      Do you think blogging is a useful endeavor for authors?

58% said yes, 12% said no, and 30% said maybe.

2)      How many blogs do you currently subscribe to?

52% said (0-5), 24% said (5-10), and 24% said (10 or more)

3)      What types of blogs do you follow?

68% said Writers blogs (tips on industry info), 12% said Readers blogs (from your favorite authors), and 20% chose “other” with responses indicating personal hobbies ie: photography, travel, mommy sites, and such.

4)      What do you like to see on a blog or website?

40% chose an Active site with daily blogs from different authors, only 12% liked the idea of a static site, while 44% preferred an Active site with contests, reviews, and guest bloggers. 36% chose “other’, responding with comments suggesting that 2-3 time per week blogs were plenty. Also noted was that the respondents would like to continue seeing insider industry information, marketing tips, as well as book reviews, entertainment, interactive conversation, and guest bloggers blogging on writing related topics.

5)      What would make you subscribe to a blog?

52% chose “Industry Insider info on self-publishing”, 36% would subscribe to “writing craft blogs”, and another 56% of respondents also chose “A variety of interesting, entertaining, and informative posts.” 12% who said “other” said all of the above and one commented that if they were to follow an individual author they would sign up for their newsletter.

6)      Which of the following would most likely make you unsubscribe to a blog?

Almost 46% said “too frequent posts”. 12.5% said too infrequent posts, while 25% said “inconsistent/unfocused content”.  17% sited ranting, offensive, or boring posts as reasons to unsubscribe, along with posts that are too long, inaccurate, rude, or irrelevant.

And lastly,

7)      What would you like to see at the Secrets of 7 Scribes in the coming year?

We heard everything from “no interviews” to “more interviews”, the “writer’s journey” to “more about how to get published”. Requests were made for posts on “what agents are looking for” and “sneak peeks into the writing process and related topics about each author’s journey.” “Theme weeks/months” were suggested (LOVE that one!), and a few votes for and against holding contests were noted.

I don’t need to tell you that polls like these can be terribly skewed, depending on the questions, how they are worded and the pool of respondents. As such, there was nothing scientific about the survey and most people who responded were probably writers, given that’s the readership we’ve attracted over the years. Taking these factors into consideration,  our results aren’t too surprising, but I enjoyed reading the comments and we have lots of food for thought!

anorexic top 10-4I’ll end by giving a big thanks to all who responded. We heard you, and hopefully you’ll stick with us and see what we have in store for you. We appreciate each and every one of you who engage with us here at the Secrets of 7 Scribes on a regular basis. We hope you’ll continue to do so.

In the meantime, the randomly chosen winner of the critique of a query letter, synopsis, or first chapter was Julie Glover. Congrats Julie!

What do you think of our survey results? Agree, disagree, wondering how you’ll live without our daily posts? As always, we’d love to have you comment and pitch in your two cents.

Pot smoking teens and other family dramas

Hey readers,

PJ Sharon here on a lovely autumn day in the Berkshires. I’ve actually seen a few patches of yellowed leaves on the trees and the star-filled nights here are getting cool.Crane This crane will likely be taking flight to warmer climes soon enough.

It’s also the time of year for the spreading of colds and such.*sniffle…sniffle*

I guess I can’t complain. It’s the first time I’ve been sick in a few years and it gives me some needed downtime to rest and reflect…and write.

As I swim through the murky middle of my current work in progress, PIECES OF LOVE, I’m reminded of my own teen dramas and those of my many siblings. You see, I grew up in a pretty crazy, dysfunctional family. Lots of alcohol, a dash of mental illness, secrets, lies, some seriously scary and frequent catastrophes, and lots of drama! Yes, we all loved each other in our own way, but each person in that house of seven children and three adults, was flawed. As we all are. It’s what makes us human. It’s also what makes us interesting to paint into the canvas of a story.

There’s a reason that I write YA dramas that touch on  taboo topics that encompass everything from grief and loss of a loved one, to teen pregnancy, bulimia, the effects of war, and even sexual abuse. I draw as much as possible from personal experience and from all that I have seen to be true in the human condition.

So when I began PIECES OF LOVE, I wanted to make sure to give Ali’s plight its due. Not that I’ve ever lost someone to an alcohol overdose or been arrested for marijuana possession, but I’ve certainly seen my share of these kinds of family dramas to draw real emotion and conflict from them. Understanding the motivation behind why people do what they do is a key element in making your fiction believable. As is sharing accurate and interesting detail to utilize your setting to enhance your character’s journey. Since I’ve been on a Mediterranean cruise, I have lots of insights into how Ali sees the world anew with each port she visits. It’s been fun and interesting to revisit the places I went and relive it all through her eyes, watching her transformation from self-centered, immature teen trying desperately to avoid dealing with the painful realities of life, to a young woman who learns to appreciate the people in her life who love her.

Here’s the blurb for PIECES OF LOVE:

Sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to smoke pot and play guitar. What’s the point in planning for the future? Her world is shattered by her sister’s accidental alcohol overdose at college, and she is arrested for marijuana possession a second time. Her mother’s breakdown is the final straw that forces Ali to spend the summer with her Grandmother in Malibu.

But problems aren’t so easily dismissed. After Ali steps over the line one too many times, she’s certain her life is over and that she’s destined for juvenile detention. Her ‘Malibu Barbie’ grandmother, Maddie, takes desperate measures…a Mediterranean cruise…for seniors. If overwhelmed and motion sick Ali needs further torment, Maddie has decided that her granddaughter’s childish name could use an upgrade and renames her Lexi. Can a new name and a French haircut fix everything that’s wrong with Ali’s life? Maybe when Ethan Kaswell says the name.

Eighteen year-old Ethan, the poster child for being a good son, who is stranded on the cruise when his famous heart surgeon father is kept away by an important consultation, finds Lexi irresistible. Although he’s smart enough to see that there is no future in falling for a “vacation crush,” Lexi’s edgy dark side and soulfully sad eyes draw him like an anchor to the bottom of the sea. As she spirals out of control, will she bring him down too, or was he already drowning? Maybe by saving her, he can save himself. 

Greece2011 224 (2013_02_16 18_14_38 UTC)Visiting such ports as Portofino, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; and Rome. From the Greek Islands to Tunisia, North Africa; and Barcelona, Spain to Dubrovnik, Croatia; you’ll see the sights and walk on sacred ground with Ali as she learns about herself, her family, and what it means to love someone–even when you have to let them go.

Infusing our own experiences, we can create flawed but redeemable characters who are on a journey of self-discovery. The more vividly we can paint that portrait, the more we bring the story to life with their color, depth, and the rich texture of emotional reactionary drama that makes us connect to them in an intimate way. When the character’s fatal flaw forces them to face the consequences of their actions and choices, and we see them grow, it’s satisfying and uplifting. Readers heart’s are touched. It’s what all writers strive for and is so challenging to do, and do well.

One thing I’m sure of is that we can’t shy away from addressing tough issues when writing for teens, but we have to be willing to step fully into their shoes to get it right. Knowing that “pot” is now mostly referred to as “weed” and other such specifics, are important for authenticity, and can only be known if you hang around teenagers and ask questions. It’s been my experience that they are most willing to share their opinions and ideas when I tell them why I’m asking. They seem to appreciate that I’m willing to have an open dialogue and that I’m not interested in judging them. I don’t think any of my teen library group kids are “potheads,” or “stoners” as they call them, but they are fully engaged in the youth culture in a way that I am not.

I’m hoping for the book to be ready for release in the first part of 2014. A cover reveal and the ability to pre-order the book through Smashwords should be coming up at the end of November. I’m also working on recording a theme song for the book–possibly two, written by yours truly!

So if you’re a writer, write what you know, ‘they’ say. I agree. Either draw from your own experiences, or find a way to walk in someone else’s moccasins for a mile or two. Your characters will be so much richer for it! Just be real, and let your characters take the story where it needs to go. You might even experience some healing as you create/or re-create a painful real-life event that still holds you back from being the best you can be–just like your characters.

I often have to remind myself that ‘do-overs and make-believe are not only allowed in fiction writing, but encouraged.’

Today’s unlocked secret: Infuse your personal experiences into your writing to create vivid, authentic, and memorable characters. Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough problems, and keep it real.

I’m heading back to bed for more rest. I have to be better for my trip to Nashville and New Orleans later this week, where I’ll be at my step-son’s wedding and doing some research for book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I hate getting on a plane and being THAT person who gets everyone else sick. I’m also thinking my sinuses aren’t going to appreciate the flight…uggh!

To happier thoughts and my original statement in this post, I really do love it here in the hills. Our town has the cleanest air on record in Massachusetts, and has one of the healthiest ecosystems. I routinely see lots of wildlife, including a host of various birds here. Although with hunting season commencing, and flight of the migratory bird populations, that will likely be less now. Blue heronI am so grateful to live where I live and feel blessed to be part of my small community.

As such, I’m participating once again at the Granville Harvest Fair coming up Columbus Day weekend (October 12-14). I’ll be hanging out in front of the library signing books with a few other authors. If you’re in North Central CT or Western MA, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. There’s tons to see and do. I swear, we have one of the BEST harvest fairs in New England!

Do you write what you know, or rely on a mix of research, empathy, and experience? I’d love to hear from you about your process and how you make your characters authentic.

Cliffhanger or happy ending?

PJ Sharon, here to hang with you on a rainy Tuesday morning. And speaking of hanging…I thought I would pose a question to you, my faithful readers, writers, and book connoisseurs.

When reading a trilogy, do you like the second book to end on a happy note, satisfying our endless appetite for romance, or do you prefer the cliffhanger ending that leaves you breathlessly awaiting the next book?

For me, a good cliffhanger gets me every time. Don’t get me wrong. I love romance and I live for the HEA endings that are a hallmark of all my favorite books. With a trilogy, however, I expect my HEA to make its appearance in the final installment. In books one and two, I want to be led on the merry chase. I want suspense! Will they get together, or won’t they? Will everyone survive, or will someone be killed off? I think there can be–and should be–a complete story arc in each book, but the over arcing theme of the trilogy requires phases that bring your characters one step closer to their happy ending–just not too soon. Each book in a trilogy needs its own goal, motivation, and conflict, and we expect some resolution to come at the end of each book, but how much resolution is enough to be satisfying, and how much should be left open for book three? These questions are for professional research, of course. I’ve rewritten the ending of WESTERN DESERT, book two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, four times! I so want to get it just right before I release it on the 24th of this month and dive into book three.

The word famous novelist hard at work on his next bestseller!
The word famous novelist hard at work on his next bestseller!

How do you all feel about it?

Blogs to Help Enhance your Work by Katy Lee

Writing fiction is more than getting your character from point A to point B. Your characterpics needs to experience the world and everything in it just as we do in our everyday lives. Our days are filled with intrusions like weather and sickness, but there are also things in the world that have the ability to cultivate us like the arts and architecture around us…most times when we’re not even looking for it.

Now I could spend a lifetime reading and studying the things in our world just so I can write them into my stories, but if I did I’d never get anything written. As much as I would love to spend my days at the library, or better yet, traveling the world to experience everything in it, it’s just not possible. But I also can’t neglect the fact that these things exist in my life and in the lives of my characters. So what do I do?

Well, while I wait for my cruise tickets to come in the mail, I have found a group of blogs that offer little tidbits of information a little at a time. Ideas and information that I can file away to use in moments where my stories are flat and are in need of some excitement or detail.

So today I wanted to share some of these go-to blogs that help enhance my work. I hope there is something in here for you, too!

1)      http://www.redwoodsmedicaledge.com/

stethsThe Redwood’s Medical Edge Blog is medical facts for your fiction. Jordyn Redwood, a nurse by day, author by night, designed her site to help both historical and contemporary authors learn methods to write medically accurate fiction. She fields medical questions from followers, analyzes medical scenes, and posts on topics that can increase the tension and conflict in any story. No one person can be an expert in all things so she also hosts medical experts in other areas: EMS and obstetrics to name a few. Historical authors who have done research in a particular medical area such as civil war medicine are also featured. You want to know the protocol of an accident with injuries, or an illness a baby could have but go undetected? Jordyn is your woman.

2)      http://gailingis.com/wordpress/

Gail Ingis is known as a “Renaissance Woman” for her varied accomplishments. She is a professor of history of architecture & interior design, photographer, artist juror, writer, design critic, and founder of the nationally accredited Interior Design Institute. On any given day, her blog can be about how lighting affects a room, drinking coffee in a café in Portugal, or a description of a Victorian era chair. You never know when your character might need to sit in one. Whatever the topic may be, Gail’s information can bring a flare for the exotic into your stories.

3)      http://www.dailywritingtips.com/

Not just for writers. Whether you are an attorney, manager or student, writing skills are essential to your success. The rise of the information age – with the proliferation of e-mails, blogs and social networks – makes the ability to write clear, correct English more important than ever. (See my blog from last week about good writing here.) Daily Writing Tips is about that. Every day they send out a grammar, spelling, punctuation or vocabulary tip. And we can all use extra tips.

4)      http://www.romancingthepalate.com/

Finding a passion for food in every love story is R.L. Syme’s motto for her blog. I took a heart applefood class with Rebecca Lynn last year and she helped me learn how to use food like another character in my stories. She brought life to cooking and eating and encouraged us to incorporate the feelings we experienced into our books, so our readers could feel them, too.  *This blog is in the process of being changed, so not much is going on there these days. I’m looking forward to her updated site soon.

Until then, I recently found this one and it has the same premise:

5)      http://platedromance.wordpress.com/

Romance on the Plate: Taste the Emotions…Feel the Food. Here is a quote from the site to show how food helps to bring your character to life:

“He could not control his curiosity; he could smell the delicious aroma of caramelizing onions wafting from the copper vessel that was fired up on the stove. He stood upon a chair in the kitchen and watched as his mother evoked the magic of food……”

I feel like I am standing on that chair and inhaling right along with the child. Which is what we want to do for our readers, so they can get a taste, too.

The Unlocked Secret: Experience is key, but if you can’t experience it yourself, find a source that has. It will make your writing authentic. Check these sites out for ways to enhance your writing. If not these, I’m sure you can search for sites that meet your genre and style.

Question: Do you have a go-to blog or website for expertise or vicarious experience? Please share in the comments below.

And as always, thank you for your Tweets and Shares.

Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas? Alison Stone Wants to Know

Alison Stone (200X300)As writers, that has to be one of the biggest questions we get. Ah, I hate to sound cliché, but ideas are everywhere.

 
For my book Random Acts, I read an article about a young girl who had been pulled over for speeding. The police took her into the station and bullied her into signing an agreement to be a drug informant. A drug informant! This college student had never been involved with drugs. But in exchange for leniency for her speeding ticket, she was pressured to be an informant. Fortunately for her, her father was a lawyer. He not only went to the police, but to the media.

 
I then searched the Internet and learned this wasn’t an isolated incident. In 2008, a woman in Florida was killed when she was forced to purchase drugs undercover after being caught with a small amount of cannabis.

By now, my wheels were turning.

For my second book, Too Close to Home, I used an idea that had been bouncing aroundTCTH Alison Stone (200X300) in my head for years—longer than I had been writing. I used to be a manufacturing engineer for an automotive parts supplier. As a twenty-some-year-old female engineer, I was well aware the guys on the floor liked to yank my chain. One guy told me that once someone drowned in one of the large tanks used in the manufacturing process. He claimed he was murdered in retaliation for a drug deal gone bad. I have no idea if “his” story was true or not, but in my story,Too Close to Home, drugs are smuggled through a manufacturing facility and into Canada.

 
Ideas can also be generated by thinking, “What if.” When I learned Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense was looking for more Amish stories, I started brainstorming. The Amish generally shun technology. How could technology wreak havoc in their Plain world? Then it hit me: What if a plane crashed in an Amish field? What if the heroine’s brother was killed in a single-engine plane crash in an Amish field and she has to go there to claim his body? What if while she’s there, the FBI hero starts asking a lot of questions?
Original Plain Pursuit Cover

This idea became Plain Pursuit which will be released by Harlequin in June 2013.

Here’s the blurb: When her brother is killed in a small Amish town, Anna Quinn discovers she’s an unwelcome outsider. But the FBI agent investigating the case is right at home–because Eli Miller was born and raised in Apple Creek’s Plain community. Eli left his Amish faith behind long ago, but his heart is rooted in a local cold case he can’t forget–a mystery with strange connections to Anna’s loss. Desperate to uncover the truth, Anna and Eli are faced with stony silences and secrets…secrets that someone wants to keep buried in the past.

 
It’s fun to see an idea grow into a book, then be summarized in a few-sentence blurb.
Once I was outside chatting with neighbors and one of them stopped, looked at me and said (in all sincerity), “This isn’t going to appear in a book, is it?”
I smiled and said nothing. I don’t make promises I can’t keep.

 
So tell me, If you’re a writer, where do you get your ideas?

Also, Random Acts, originally released in eBook format, is now available in print.Random Acts Alison Stone (200 X 300)

Blurb:Bitter experience left Danielle hesitant to open her heart. When a family crisis brings her home, the hard-nosed attorney is forced to face the man that let her get away. And that her sister’s accident was staged to mask a beating.
Though Patrick guards his heart, seeing Danielle again reignites their old flame. But no way will he bring her into his daughter’s life, not when her values on faith and family are so different from his own. Yet they must work together to bring a criminal to justice before everything is destroyed—including their second chance at forever.

Links for Random Acts:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Random-Acts-ebook/dp/B00795G1X4/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1362254466&sr=8-2
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/random-acts-alison-stone/1108890294?ean=9781609289386

ALISON STONE writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense and Samhain Publishing. Her debut novel, Random Acts, was a finalist for the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award in the unpublished inspirational category. Alison lives in Western New York with her husband of over twenty years and their four children where the summers are absolutely gorgeous and the winters are perfect for curling up with a good book—or writing one. Besides writing, Alison keeps busy volunteering at her children’s schools, driving her girls to dance, and watching her boys race motocross.
Website:www.AlisonStone.com.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Alison_Stone or @Alison_Stone
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonStoneAuthor
Blog: http://alisonstone.wordpress.com/