Thursday, September 30, 2010

Deanna Raybourn: Playing What If In Historical Fiction

I wanted to take a minute and thank Deanna Raybourn for taking time out of her day to blog for us.  She is an award winning author and you'll see her many accomplishments in her bio below.  She also has graciously included an excerpt from her latest Novel, Dark Road to Darjeeling.

Deanna Raybourn
I am so happy to get the chance to introduce myself to the Greater Fort Worth Writers! I write historical fiction with a twist—specifically the award-winning Lady Julia Grey mystery series which traces the adventures of a Victorian aristocrat as she sleuths with the help of Nicholas Brisbane, a private enquiry agent with a few secrets to hide. The first book in the series, Silent in the Grave was my attempt at macabre elegance, a whimsically ghoulish murder mystery set within the conventions of ninteenth-century England. Within it are all the elements I love best in fiction: a historical setting, a female narrator who is sometimes oblivious to her own faults, a simmering whiff of sexual tension, and a twisty, unpredictable unknotting of mysterious circumstances. The specific story itself was suggested when I read a single line in a book about poisons. It gave a brief, tantalizing mention of a murderer whose ingenious method inspired me to play every author’s favorite game, “What if…” In finding the answers, I wrote Silent in the Grave.

The second book in the series, Silent in the Sanctuary, was my chance to explore the traditional English country house murder. The snowbound setting of Bellmont Abbey provided a tense, close atmosphere where resentments and past hurts could simmer under the surface pleasantries of a Victorian family Christmas. Writing it was a very different experience than writing Silent in the Grave. For the first book I was able to take as much time as I wanted, and the work stretched over two years. When it came time to write Silent in the Sanctuary, I was behind almost as soon as I began because of contractual constraints. The pressure I felt to deliver the book quickly seeped into the novel itself, heightening the atmosphere of the isolated and murderous setting.

In Silent on the Moor, I blew the fresh air of the Yorkshire moors into the series, and once more the setting became a character itself. The isolation of the second book is repeated and deepened in the latest installment. Far away from the bustle of London or the familial and familiar warmth of Bellmont Abbey, the characters are thrown together with little outside distraction. Here all that they have been avoiding or evading is brought home to roost, and many lingering questions from earlier books are finally answered. Of course, new questions are raised and new complications arise, complications that will see these characters well into the fourth book and beyond.

And the fourth book, Dark Road to Darjeeling, just hit bookstores this month! This book gave me the opportunity to combine three of my favorite things—tea, mystery, and travel—as the series journeys to a tea plantation high in the foothills of the Himalayas. Dark deeds are buried in this lush setting, and the investigation is perilous. But once more, Lady Julia rises to the challenge, proving once again hat she is more than equal to the task of unmasking a murderer.

I am hard at work on the fifth book in the series, and I hope you join Lady Julia on her adventures!

Deanna Raybourn / Bio
A sixth-generation native Texan, Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio, where she met her college sweetheart.  She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history.  During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel.  After three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time.
Fourteen years and many, many rejections after her first novel, she signed two three-book deals with MIRA Books.
“Sex, lies and awesome clothing descriptions” is how one reader described Deanna’s debut novel, Silent in the Grave, published in January 2007.  The first in the Silent series, the book follows Lady Julia Grey as she investigates the mysterious death of her husband with the help of the enigmatic private inquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane.  From the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to a Gypsy camp on Hampstead Heath, Silent in the Grave deftly captures the lush ambience of Victorian London.
The series continues with the second book, Silent in the Sanctuary (January 2008), a classic English country house murder mystery with a few twists and turns for Brisbane and Lady Julia along the way, and continues with Silent on the Moor (March 2009), set in a grim manor house on the Yorkshire moors.
March 2010 saw a departure from the series with the release of The Dead Travel Fast, a mid-Victorian Gothic thriller that chronicles the adventures of novelist Theodora Lestrange as she leaves the safety and security of her Edinburgh home for the dark woods and haunted castles of Transylvania. Deanna returns to Lady Julia and her companions with Dark Road to Darjeeling (October 2010). With an exotic setting in the foothills of the Himalayas and the introduction of an arch-villain, Dark Road to Darjeeling promises to be the most exciting Lady Julia novel yet.
Deanna plots her books from her home in Virginia.  After one too many hot Texas summers, Deanna and her husband packed up their daughter and moved to the mid-Atlantic state, where they enjoy the fall leaves but deeply miss good Tex-Mex cooking.
Still Virginia has been good to this author.  Deanna’s novel Silent in the Grave won the 2008 RITA® Award for Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. The Lady Julia Grey series has been nominated for several other awards, including an Agatha, a Daphne du Maurier, a Last Laugh, and two Dilys Winns.
You can find her blogging six days a week at, and be sure to sign up for her newsletter, check out her contests and book trailer videos, and catch her latest appearances at Friend her on facebook, follow her on twitter.

Excerpt/Dark Road to Darjeeling

To his credit, Brisbane did not even seem surprised to see them when they appeared in the dining room and settled themselves at our table without ceremony. I sighed and turned away from the view. A full moon hung over old Cairo, silvering the minarets that pierced the skyline and casting a gentle glow over the city. It was impossibly romantic—or it had been until Portia and Plum arrived.
            “I see you are working on the fish course. No chance of soup then?” Portia asked, helping herself to a bread roll.
            I resisted the urge to stab her hand with my fork. I looked to Brisbane, imperturbable and impeccable in his evening clothes of starkest black, and quickly looked away. Even after almost a year of marriage, a feeling of shyness sometimes took me by surprise when I looked at him unawares—a feyness, the Scots would call it, a sense that we had both of us tempted the fates with too much happiness together.
            Brisbane summoned the waiter and ordered the full set menu for Portia and for Plum who had thrown himself into a chair and adopted a scowl. I glanced about the dining room, not at all surprised to find our party had become the subject not just of surreptitious glances but of outright curiosity. We Marches tended to have that effect when we appeared en masse. No doubt some of the guests recognised us—Marches have never been shy of publicity and our eccentricities were well-catalogued by both the press and society-watchers—but I suspected the rest were merely intrigued by my siblings’ sartorial elegance. Portia, a beautiful woman with excellent carriage, always dressed cap-a-pie in a single hue, and had elected to arrive wearing a striking shade of orange, while Plum, whose ensemble is never complete without some touch of purest whimsy, was sporting a waistcoat embroidered with poppies and a cap of violet velvet. My own scarlet evening gown, which had seemed so daring and elegant a moment before, now felt positively demure.
            “Why are you here?” I asked the pair of them bluntly. Brisbane had settled back in his chair with the same expression of studied amusement he often wore when confronted with my family. He and Portia enjoyed an excellent relationship built upon genuine, if cautious, affection, but none of my brothers had especially warmed to my husband. Plum in particular could be quite nasty when provoked.
            Portia put aside the menu she had been studying and fixed me with a serious look. “We are bound for India, and I want you to come with us, both of you,” she added, hastily collecting Brisbane with her glance.
            “India! What on earth--” I broke off. “It’s Jane, isn’t it?” Portia’s former lover had abandoned her the previous spring after several years of comfortably settled domesticity. It had been a blow to Portia, not least because Jane had chosen to marry, explaining that she longed for children of her own and a more conventional life than the one they had led together in London. She had gone to India with her new husband, and we had heard nothing from her since. I had worried for Portia for months afterward. She had grown thinner, her lustrous complexion dimmed. Now she seemed almost brittle, her mannerisms darting and quick as a hummingbird’s.
            “It is Jane,” she acknowledged. “I’ve had a letter. She is a widow.”
            I took a sip of wine, surprised to find it tasted sour upon my tongue. “Poor Jane! She must be grieved to have lost her husband so quickly after their marriage.”
            Portia said nothing for a moment, but bit at her lip. “She is in some sort of trouble,” Brisbane said quietly.
            Portia threw him a startled glance. “Not really, unless you consider impending motherhood to be trouble. She is expecting a child, and rather soon, as it happens. She has not had an easy time of it. She is lonely and she has asked me to come.”
            Brisbane’s black eyes sharpened. “Is that all?”
            The waiter interrupted, bringing soup for Portia and Plum and refilling wine glasses. We waited until he had bustled off to resume our discussion.
            “There might be a bit of difficulty with his family,” Portia replied, her jaw set. I knew that look well. It was the one she always wore when she tilted at windmills. Portia had a very old-fashioned and determined sense of justice. If she were a man, one would have called it chivalry.
            “If the estate is entailed in the conventional manner, her expectations would upset the inheritance,” Brisbane guessed. “If she produces a girl, the estate would go to her husband’s nearest male relation, but if she bears a son, the child would inherit and until he is old enough to take control, Jane is queen of the castle.”
            “That is it precisely,” Portia averred. Her face took on a mulish cast. “Bloody nonsense. A girl could manage that tea plantation as well as any boy. One only has to look at how well Julia and I have managed the estates we inherited from our husbands to see it.”
            I bristled. I did not like to be reminded of my first husband. His death had left me with quite a generous financial settlement and had been the cause of my meeting Brisbane, but the marriage had not been altogether happy. His was a ghost I preferred not to raise.
            “How is it that she does not already know the disposition of the estate?” Brisbane asked. “Oughtn’t there to have been a reading of the will when her husband died?”
Portia shrugged. “The estate is relatively new, only established by her husband’s grandfather. As the estate passed directly from the grandfather to Jane’s husband, no one thought to look into the particulars. Now that her husband has died, matters are a little murky at present, at least in Jane’s mind. The relevant paperwork is somewhere in Darjeeling or Calcutta and Jane doesn’t like to ask directly. She thinks it might seem grasping, and she seems to think the matter will sort itself out when she has the child.”
I turned to Portia. “I thought her husband was some sort of wastrel who went to India to make his fortune, but you say he has inherited it. Is the family a good one?”
            Angry colour touched Portia’s cheeks. “It seems she wanted to spare me any further hurt when she wrote to tell me of her marriage. She neglected to mention that the fellow was Freddie Cavendish.”
            I gasped and Brisbane arched a thick black brow interrogatively in my direction. “Freddie Cavendish?”
            “A distant—very distant--cousin on our mother’s side. The Cavendishes settled in India ages ago. I believe Mother corresponded with them for some time, and when Freddie came to England to school, he made a point of calling upon Father.”
Plum glanced up from his wine. “Father smelled him for a bounder the moment he crossed the threshold. Once Freddie realised he would get nothing from him, he did not come again. It was something of a scandal when he finished school and refused to return to his family in India. Made a name for himself at the gaming tables,” he added with a touch of malice. Brisbane had been known to take a turn at the tables when his funds were low, usually to the misfortune of his fellow gamblers. My husband was uncommonly lucky at cards.
I hurried to divert any brewing quarrel. “How ever did Jane meet him? He would have left school at least a decade ago.”
            “Fifteen years,” Portia corrected. “I used to invite him to dinner from time to time. He could be quite diverting if he was in the proper mood. But I lost touch with him some years back. I presumed he had returned to India until I met him in the street one day. I remember I was giving a supper that evening and I needed to make the numbers, so I invited him. I thought a nice, cosy chat would be just the thing, but a thousand details went wrong that evening, and I had to ask Jane to entertain him for me. They met again a few months later when she went to stay in Portsmouth with her sister. Freddie was a friend to her brother-in-law and they were often together. Within a fortnight they were married and bound for India.”
            I cudgeled up whatever details I could recall. “I seem to remember him as quite a handsome boy, with a forelock of dark red hair that always spilled over his brow and loads of charm.”
            “As a man grown he was just the same. He could have charmed the garters off the queen’s knees,” Portia added bitterly. “He ended up terribly in debt and when his grandfather fell ill in India, he thought he would go back and take up residence at the tea plantation and make a go of things.”
            We fell silent then, and I glanced at Plum. “And how did you come to attach yourself to this expedition?” I asked lightly.
            “Attach myself?” His handsome face settled into sulkiness. “Surely you do not imagine I did this willingly? It was Father, of course. He could not let Portia travel out to India alone, so he recalled me from Ireland and ordered me to pack up my sola topee and here I am,” he finished bitterly. He waved the waiter over to refill his wineglass and I made a mental note to keep a keen eye upon his drinking. As I had often observed, a bored Plum was a dangerous Plum, but a drunken one would be even worse.
            I returned my attention to my sister. “If Father wanted you to have an escort so badly, why didn’t he come himself? He is always rabbiting on about wanting to travel to exotic places.”
            Portia pulled a face. “He would have but he was too busy quarrelling with his hermit.”
            I blinked at her and Brisbane snorted, covering it quickly with a cough. “His what?”
            “His hermit. He has engaged a hermit. He thought it might be an interesting addition to the garden.”
            “Has he gone stark staring mad? Who ever heard of a hermit in Sussex?” I demanded, although I was not entirely surprised. Father loved nothing better than tinkering with his country estate, although his devotion to the place was such that he refused to modernise the Abbey with anything approaching suitable plumbing or electricity.
            Portia sipped placidly at her soup. “Oh, no. The hermit isn’t in Sussex. Father has put him in the garden of March House.”
            “In London? In the back garden of a townhouse?” I pounced on Plum. “Did no one try to talk him out of it? He’ll be a laughingstock!”
            Plum waved an airy hand. “As if that were something new for this family,” he said lightly.
            I ignored my husband who was having a difficult time controlling his mirth and turned again to my sister. “Where does the hermit live?”
            “Father built him a pretty little hermitage. He could not be expected to live wild,” she added reasonably.
            “It isn’t very well wild if it is in the middle of Mayfair, now is it?” I countered, my voice rising. I took a sip of my wine and counted to twenty. “So Father has built this hermitage in the back garden of March House. And installed a hermit. With whom he doesn’t get on.”
            “Correct,” Plum said. He reached for my plate and when I offered no resistance, helped himself to the remains of my fish.
            “How does one even find a hermit these days? I thought they all became extinct after Capability Brown.”
            “He advertised,” Plum said through a mouthful of trout grenobloise. “In the newspaper. Received quite a few responses, actually. Seems many men fancy the life of a hermit--and a few women. But Father settled on this fellow from the Hebrides, Auld Lachy. He thought having a Hebridean hermit would add a bit of glamour to the place.”
            “There are no words,” Brisbane murmured.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Zero Tolerance Policy

Tony Devito has completed one novel, and is working on his second. He also writes childrens fiction and short stories. This is one of his short stories.

Zero Tolerance Policy
 A Short Story by: Tony DeVito

Olivia Paige quietly closed the door of Ted’s apartment behind her as she exited. “Oh well, one more notch on my lipstick case.” She removed her gloves, started her car and drove home quietly reflecting on her life.

“One good man. Is that too much to ask?” For thirty-five years she’s dreamed of one thing - love. True love, not one night stands. But finding a good man was like unraveling Gordian’s knot.

All too often she poured her heart into a relationship only to find her new lover was unworthy. It’s not that she wanted things to end this way, she just had to set it right. After all, how much can a woman be expected to take?

She had given Ted every opportunity to prove himself. Olivia was so disappointed when she watched Ted return home late tonight with some obvious floozy. No, Ted was not going to be the man of her dreams, or anybody else’s. It was really bad luck for Miss Floozy that she happened to come home with Ted tonight. A few short hours ago Ted had told Olivia he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t join her for dinner.

Olivia paused at a traffic light while a police cruiser passed in front of her. She thought it odd that his presence didn’t bother her in the least. She should feel some remorse, but they deserved it. Shortly that police officer would have his hands full in investigation. She would be sleeping well at home by then.

As her light turned green and she rolled forward, her mind wandered to other men she had known. Robert seemed like a prince, until he tried to dump her. And Steven had said all the right things. What a player he turned out to be. After their first love-making session he avoided her. But she found him. He won’t play anybody again.

Upon arriving home Olivia washed her hands and face and prepared for bed. She locked her revolver back into it’s red velvet lined box, wondering if and when she might need it again. Handling a weapon turned out to be one of the best skills her father ever taught her.

The light went out and Olivia’s head hit the pillow, alone again. She fought back the urge to cry. No, she was a tough lady. Like Scarlet O’Hara, tomorrow would be another day. Olivia would not give up trying. “There must be someone out there. But who?”

Olivia was drifting off to sleep when the thought occurred to her. “Andy, in accounting. The new guy.” She was certain he had smiled at her last week. Maybe she needed to make a trip to accounting tomorrow and check things out. She knew just what she’d wear. Her black skirt with the high sling back pumps. The same outfit that got Ted’s interest. Oh yeah, this would work out fine. She smiled and closed her eyes, dropping peacefully off to sleep.

Picture from

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Fun-What American Accent Do You Have?

Okay, you only have to spend five minutes talking to me to know I'm from the South.Take the quiz for yourself to see how accurate it is. If you can’t see the quiz results below, you can cut and paste this link into your browser:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The South
That's a Southern accent you've got there. You may love it, you may hate it, you may swear you don't have it, but whatever the case, we can hear it.
The Northeast
The Midland
The Inland North
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Monday, September 20, 2010

John Foxjohn Talks About Writing

RJ: It’s our pleasure to have John Foxjohn as a guest. John, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You seem to be everywhere today, so I’m especially glad you could fine time to share your thoughts with us.

JF: Thank you Ruby, it is my pleasure and I appreciate you asking me. If it seems to you like I am everywhere, just think what it feels like to me. I am extremely busy and love every minute of it. There was a time when I used to gripe about being busy, then one day it dawned on me what it was like before—I’ll take busy…. :-)

RJ: What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? What has disappointed you most?

JF: This may sound a little corny, but it is, honestly, the people, readers and writers that I get to meet, talk to, and exchange ideas with. I get disappointed with writers who want instant success. They don’t realize the work that goes into writing.

RJ: What inspired you to write your first novel? What ignites the passion and galvanizes you to write a new book?

JF: I read a book when I was twelve years old about Crazy Horse. I have no idea what drew me to Crazy Horse, but I decided right them that I was going to write a book about him one day. It took me forty years and ten years of research, but Journey of the Spirit, the first book I actually wrote is a historical novel of fiction about Crazy Horse.

I have some highly successful mysteries and romantic suspense novels, but many people think Journey of the Spirit is the best I wrote.

I love to write—love to plot new scenarios and especially love to create new characters. This is a little known fact, I have two series going, but I have created at least one new character per book.

RJ: Do you write every day?

JF: I write every day. Not always on my WIP—I am constantly trying to improve different aspects of writing. I strive to write the perfect setting in a couple of sentences.

RJ: Can you tell us how your early career as a homicide detective influenced your ability to write police procedurals?

JF: I wrote Journey of the Spirit, one of my best-sellers, first. Because I wasn’t published, no one wanted to touch it. A writer gave me one of the best pieces of advice that anyone has given me. She told me to write what you know. After investigating over three-hundred homicides, I knew how to kill people.

I see so many writers who try to write something they don’t have a clue about.

My background really does two things for me. First, I don’t have to do the extensive research on the material. I know it, so all I have to do is write the book.

Second, and just as important as the first, I have a platform to write murder mysteries that is not common in fiction.

RJ: You’ve said that your books are all about characterization. What do you do to develop your characters to the point that the readers want to cheer them on?

JF: First, I think writers need to know how to develop characters. You may be sitting there saying, Duh!” But the truth is, many writers have no idea how to fully develop characters with all three dimensions.

I’m teaching a class online, right now, on scene and sequel and how to build emotions into characters—developing the mental and spiritual dimension of characters through goal and conflict. But to be honest, most of the students are struggling because they have never done it.

Second, I create my characters from the ground up. I am like Dr. Frankenstein in that regard. There is not a single thing that I do not know about them. I know exactly how they will think and react in any situation.

For my last novel, Tattered Justice, I had fifty-four pages of questions on Kayla, my protagonist.

RJ: In your opinion what makes a good thriller, or crime novel?

JF: Conflict, conflict, and conflict. It really is that simple—without it, no genre can be successful. That goes doubly true in mysteries and suspense. Add in great characters who have to overcome overwhelming obstacles and in a small amount of time, you have the makings of a real good thriller.

RJ: Your latest novel, Tattered Justice, is a romantic suspense told from the female POV. This is a bit of a departure for you. What particular challenges did writing in a different gender POV present?

JF: LOL, it was a huge departure from what I usually do. Before I started it, my editor told me it would be the biggest challenge of my career. It was that, but not for the reason you or she might think. When people ask me how I did it, I tell them I just thought what I would think, how I would act, and I wrote the opposite. I get a good laugh out of that one.

To be honest, that is nothing but promotions—I had no problems writing Kayla. All my critique partners are women and they were jealous. They thought I wrote a woman better than they did.

When they had questions about my characters in Tattered Justice, it was always about the men.

I know there is this huge belief that men and women are totally different, but it simply isn’t true when it comes to creating them. I made Kayla—she has the weaknesses that I understand and the strengths I wanted her to have, and still remains a woman and a lady.

I am one that doesn’t buy into “A man would never do that, or a woman would never do that. In my lifetime, I can assure you, whatever you say a woman wouldn’t do—I have just about seen them do it, and the same for men.

What made Tattered Justice so hard for me, is that the protagonist in the story is a criminal defense attorney. I knew absolutely nothing about defense attorneys, and until I started researching the book, I had never set through an entire court case. I had testified in hundreds, but detectives go in testify and leave. The only part of a trial they see is the part they are in.

RJ: Could you tell us a little about Tattered Justice? Is it a stand alone or a series?

JF: Tattered Justice is a stand-alone. The protagonist is forced to defend a woman who is accused of murdering a best-selling romance author. There is a major problem. The client is the protagonist’s ex-best friend and she would rather see her in jail.

RJ: Would you share a little about your current project with us?

JF: LOL, my editor thought that Tattered Justice would be the biggest challenge of my career—she was one book off. Poetic Justice, my WIP, is without a doubt the most challenging. In fact it may be the most challenging book I’ve ever written.

In the story, a young woman is kidnapped by two East Texas rednecks, held for a week, raped repeatedly, sodomized, and when they are finished with her, they shoot and dump her in the garbage. Only she doesn't die.

When victim’s attackers are arrested and brought into court for arraignment, she shows up and kills both of them on camera in front of witnesses. She’s guilty of murder, and they are going to put her to death. The protagonist, Kayla, thinks the shooter should not be put to death.

She believes the woman is mentally competent and therefore not guilty. She is going to attempt a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity—a defense that  rarely works in Texas and never in East Texas.

In the mean time, as she and the district attorney fall in love, someone tries to kill her to stop her from representing the woman. LOL, I told you I loved plots.

RJ: I can  see that! What tools do you feel are a must have for writers?

JF: Patience, the willingness to learn, maturity, thick skin, and refusal to give up

RJ: You have a blog and website for readers to visit. Do you recommend websites and blogs for unpublished authors?

JF: Web sites more than blogs. If writers are going to have blogs, I suggest they go in with others—that way they only have to do something on it once a week.

RJ: Would you like to tell the readers anything about yourself? What are your future plans?

JF:I plan to keep writing and hopefully, keep learning. I have had some success—this summer, I presented a class at the RWA national convention. I became the first writer to present a class at Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writer of America national conventions. 

When is enough, I don’t know—haven’t gotten there yet. I do know this, I get to do what I love.

 RJ:  John,  thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your knowledge. I wish you much success  and  hope you'll come back and visit again.  Tell us where we can purchase your books.

JF: My pleasure and thank you! My books may be purchased at,,  or at my homestore on my website

And if any of you have a comment or question, I hope you will ask now.
A multi-published and best-selling author , John Foxjohn was born and raised in the rural East Texas town of Nacogdoches. He is a Viet Nam veteran, Army Airborne Ranger, former policeman, homicide detective, retired teacher and coach. John is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Elements of Romance, Kiss of Death, Lethal Ladies, Sisters-in-Crime, East Texas Writers Guild, League of Texas Writers, and more online writing groups than he can count. He is a full time writer and speaker and lives in Lufkin, Texas, but travels extensively across the U.S.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Posted by Ruby Johnson
This is a neat little tool from the I WRITE LIKE  website. They also have a store where you can purchase the latest writing books and accessories.

Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.

Any text in English will do: your latest blog post, journal entry, comment, chapter of your unfinished book, etc. For reliable results paste at least a few paragraphs (not tweets).

Have fun. I write like James Joyce!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


By Michelle Miles

Hello, all! I want to thank Ruby for inviting me over to Greater Fort Worth Writers today. I’m excited to be talking about one of my favorite subjects: worldbuilding.

Whether you’re creating an exotic city for your action/adventure or you’re making up a new fantasy realm complete with magic, worldbuilding is an important part of the story. I’m certainly no expert, but there are some tips I’ve picked up and to keep in mind when building your new world.

  • Set up the rules and stick to them. Ask yourself these questions: What are the exceptions? Is there magic? What are the rules of magic? Once you set up the rules, don’t break them unless you have a really compelling reason. Make sure it’s not a plot device and you’re breaking the rules because you can’t figure out how to get your characters out of a jam.

  • Study other cultures, past and present. By studying how other cultures live, their religion, their traditions, their exchange of goods and money, you can learn a lot about who they are. How do they talk? Dress? Do they have any sacrificial rites? When do they worship? What do they worship—one god or multiple gods? If you know this, you can start building the foundation. Other things to consider: politics, military, art, marital customs, education, monetary system, sporting events.

  • Draw a map of your world. I think this is my favorite thing about writing fantasy. When I can envision my world, I start to draw maps. Coastlines, mountains, forests, towns, the center of the ruling king or queen. It’s great fun. I just get out my map pencils and grid lined paper and draw what I think it should look like.

  • Decide the history and mythology of your world. Because your world wouldn’t exist without this. We all have history and learn from it, so what history do your characters share? What is your world’s timeline in relation to the characters? Maybe you want to call them “years” or “eras” or “ages”. The most important thing is to decide what it is, and write a brief history. It sounds like a lot of work upfront, but it’ll help when you’re ready to write the story.

This is only scratching the surface of what you can do when you create a world. These are things I take into consideration when I begin a new project that involves worldbuilding.

If you’d like a list of questions to ask yourself when beginning a new universe, you can find them at SFWA’s website by clicking here: This is a lengthy, informative list that will aid in beginning your new frontier.

Another great resource is Holly Lisle’s website: A wealth of information for writers!
Michelle Miles
Happy worldbuilding.
Michelle Miles began writing long ago in junior high when she and her then-best friend wrote and illustrated their own Indiana Jones comic books. Star Trek fan-fiction quickly followed, as did Star Wars. Later, she dabbled in her own science fiction stories and historical fiction - princesses, towers, and handsome princes! Michelle finally found her footing on contemporary ground with her first novella. A time travel series followed along with three more contemporaries.

For more information about her current releases and to sign up for her monthly newsletter, visit Michelle’s website at You can also friend her on Facebook and MySpace and follow her at Twitter.

Her latest contemporary, SEX LUST & MARTINIS, is available now from Cobblestone Press.
Other Books by Michelle Miles:
Take Me I’m Yours (2009)
Available from Cobblestone Press

Nice Girls Do (2007)
Available from Samhain Publishing - eBook

Talk Dirty To Me (2006)
Available from Samhain Publishing - eBook

A Break In Time: Book 2 (2007 / 2008)
Available From Samhain Publishing – eBook and print

A Bend In Time: Book 1 (2006 / 2007)
Available from Samhain Publishing – eBook and print


Friday, September 10, 2010

Michele Miles on World Building Coming Monday

Michele Miles

Have you ever wondered how authors come up with worlds for their characters?
Michelle Miles writes in several genres but finds she enjoys creating other worlds best of all. On Monday, she will share her ideas on effective world-building.
 With a hectic full time job, a son and a fiance, she finds time to write late at night. She began her writing career in serialized fiction before breaking into e-publishing with her first contemporary novella. She is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America, as well as President of her local chapter, Yellow Rose Romance Writers, and is a native Texan residing in suburban Fort Worth.

Michelle Miles began writing long ago in junior high when she and her then-best friend wrote and illustrated their own Indiana Jones comic books. Star Trek fan-fiction quickly followed, as did Star Wars. Later, she dabbled in her own science fiction stories and historical fiction - princesses, towers, and handsome princes! Michelle finally found her footing on contemporary ground with her first novella. A time travel series followed along with three more contemporaries.

When she’s not writing, Michelle is an avid hockey fan, a coffee drinker,and a shoe fanatic.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


By Ruby Johnson

"A garden should require no more time than it takes to drink two cups of coffee in the morning and two martinis in the evening.”-Dan Franklin

Dan Franklin’s unique philosophy on gardening worked in providing him a beautiful, but easy care garden, because he relegated his gardening to manageable amounts of time according to his two cups of coffee and two martini equation.


I’m not suggesting that you grow a garden, even though the benefits emotionally and physically are great.
However, the theory of managing your writing time using this formula has merit.

 How much time do you spend drinking coffee or tea in the morning? Thirty minutes? One hour? How about the evening after work? To unwind, another cup of coffee or tea? Or a beer? Or a Martini? One hour? If you’re a non-drinker, then equate it to watching a one-hour TV program.
If you’re passionate about your dream of writing a novel, then you learn to combine tasks to create a succession of scenes and sequels, tiering of layers and textures for characters, and a believeable plot.You learn what works and are willing to change what doesn’t.
You write incredible amounts of back-story, fitting it into the story where it makes most sense. Each change is a step toward a successfully designed story.

In a garden, if a plant doesn't thrive or look right in a particular location,  you move it to a place where it will grow and provide a stand-out color.

 In a book,  you put your scenes on roller-skates and move them back and forth until you find a space where they will provide the most zing.

A good novel is a product of careful planning and patient experimenting just like a garden. But once you start a book, it requires tending.  A garden requires fertilizer, water, weeding,  and fighting  pests each day. As an author you plan, you write, you add, you move, you fight self-doubt, then you create with your words  and they become a picture of artistry created by you. You find the time to do it.

In the fall, you fertilize, you save the seeds, you plant the bulbs you choose the colors, and you plan your next garden.

To begin your next novel, you find ideas, you choose the characters, you plan the plot, and you start the next story. You just write it.

What you get may be a thing of unexpected beauty.

What do you do to keep yourself on track with writing?

The pictures of flowers are mine and you may use them as long as you link back to this blog and do not sell them for profit.-- RubyJohnson

Monday, September 6, 2010


The Labor Day holiday means different things to people. To some, it is a day to cookout with friends and family. To others, it is just the first monday in September and they get the day off. Still others, who are working, see the true value of the day as they keep hospitals, police departments and  retail stores running. Most of us celebrate what all americans can do to make this country great and if we have jobs in these tough times that makes this day even better..

Friday, September 3, 2010


By Ruby Johnson

No author writes a novel or an article without some research, unless the topic is one-dimensional and/ or they already know it very well.

One thing I learned early in my life as a lecturer was I had better know all the facts. If there was information I was the least bit unsure of, someone in the audience always asked a question about it. When you’re in front of 300+ people you do not want to be like the White House Press Secretary and say, “I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you.” You don’t have that option once a book or article is in print. You can almost do more damage to your reputation with a major error in research than any other.

Over the years, I've developed a system that helps me when I research a topic. I started doing this years ago by trying to show professional students what they needed to know about a town if they planned to accept positions in a particular area. The following are a few tips that might help you in research for your next book or article.

Record The Sources Of Information.
This can be in a paper notebook, file CD, flash drive, or special novel computer notebook. This notebook can contain people and addresses of those who have agreed to be resources, book titles, websites, article titles, excerpts, but must be arranged so that the information is easy to find.

Choose A Locale For Your Story.
If you’ve chosen a real town or city, try to visit the city to get a real feel for the area. If you’ve walked the streets, and know the businesses on the streets, it gives your story more authenticity. If your city is located in the mountains of Montana, the people and the city are going to be really different from those living on the beaches of Florida.

Ask Questions About The City

What is the size of the city. A small town is very different from a large city in the degree of privacy. A friend told me she moved, to work in a small town, and stopped by a liquor store to pick up wine and before nightfall she was a confirmed alcoholic.

Who Runs The City?
Who is most important? Learn the names of the mayor, city manager if there is one, members of city council, city workers in charge of streets and maintenance, Officers and employees of the police department, sheriff’s department, number of schools and name of superintendents, principals, and libraries.

What churches,(names of ministers), lawyers, doctors, dentists, hospitals. and types of businesses make up the city?

Is there a city transportation system--bus, trolley, cabs, streetcar, trains, horses or does your character have to fight rush hour traffic every day?

Are there hotels, motels, apartments, boarding houses, bed and breakfasts, residential homes, other types of shelter?

What kinds of eating establishments are in this city or town—fast food , fine dining, or both.What is the income level of the occupants-- high, moderate, low?

What is your character’s social standing? Do they hang out at the country club, local dives or church functions?

What is the weather at different times of the year--scorching hot in the summer, frigid in the winter, humid, full of flies and mosquitoes, foggy, smog?

Choose The Historical Period For Your Story

The local history of your town if it is a real place.
Events that happened during this period of history. Were there wars, depression, civil rights marches, rebellion of young people, political upheavel, major changes in moral and social values?

The styles of clothing men, women, and children wore.Look at women for instance. They wore long dresses in the 1800’s, shortened the hems in the late 1920’s, lowered them to mid-calf in the 1940’s, just below the knee in the 1950’s, and wore mini skirts in the late 1960’s.

What food they ate, i.e. there were not hamburgers in the 1700’s.

Speech of the day. Current day slang has no place in a historical novel. No one in the 1800’s would talk dirty to a refined woman or say “Hey Dude”.

Choose A Profession For Your Character:

Contact people in the field you’re interested in and interview them. Ask if they will be a resource to you while you develop your story. For instance, if you’re interested in crime, contact your city police, state police, local sheriff etc. Learn how the department is set up, education needed to do the job and how they work. Many will let you go on a ride along in a police car.

Use The Internet.
Don’t rely on it for all of your information.

Wikipedia is full of information that people have added, though not necessarily accurate. It pays to double check sources from this site.

Utilize Sites Of the State And  US Government.
Many government agencies have their own websites and also have public information officers. The FBI’s site is chock full of information and they have agents who can help you and even arrange a tour of the FBI in Washington if you’re in the area.

Use The Research Facilities At Your State And Local libraries.
Check the publication date and compare with recent materials on the topic you’re researching. For instance, as new evidence emerges, many discoveries in medicine change in a ten year period. If you’re going to use a source, make sure there are other sources verifying your information.

Much of the information you find, you won’t use, but it can give you a greater feel for your subject, town, character, book or whatever you are looking for. You’ll soon find yourself purchasing books and developing a library of information of your own that you can use for years to come.

How do you research for your book or articles?

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