Monday, December 10, 2018

Novel Quest #3: How Many Characters?

How Many Characters Before Chaos?

Here's the problem all writers face. Often when we are creating our tales, we create great characters which we love. You adore them (or love to hate them) and formulate their looks, history, loves, food choices, fashion, and everything important. But you can have too much of a good thing. One caution I would share is to define your story early on and determine if you have too many characters to keep track of. Sometimes it can be confusing for the reader. 

I will admit I have been guilty of this in the past. I love my characters, but they can get lost in the story of you have so many in a tale. When I was a novice writer, and especially for those of us who create epic fantasy series, it so tempting to have a cast of multiple characters in the novel. That is fine, but you need to review if you have too many. I have learned over my years of writing sometimes you need to step back and seriously consider if you need to take out some characters or merge them with another. A great character never dies, so do not fear. If they do not fit in one novel, you can do another one for them. 

More to come. In the meantime, read more fantasy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Novel Quest Post! Character, character, character!

Novel Quest: The Importance of Characters!

When creating any story, the most important thing to me are my characters. Great dialogue is key too, but that is another post. A great character can pull you into a story, making the journey a wonderful experience. They drive the story. You can write tons of battle scenes, create an elaborate plot, and threaten the world, but without wonderful characters, you're screwed.

The creation of great characters is an individual thing for most writers. My characters, like my tales, are fully developed entities with a soundtrack and wardrobe detail.  Often when writing a scene after doing painstaking outlines and chapter setups, a minor character will spring to life and demand to be in the tale. This happened to me with  my Familiar's Tale series. Both Darcus and Princess Opaline were drafted as minor characters, but they became integral to the story. It worked.

With my new novel in progress, The Bastard Sorceress, Sabine Fable grew to full life once I had her name. I struggled a bit with a new original story and the challenge of doing a novel  from her point of view-until I had her name. I love names. I have been complimented on the names I have given my characters. Names shout volumes about a character. For this lead heroine, I wanted an individual, someone scrappy, knocked down by life but still proud and fighting. Once I had this, she blossomed into a fully formed character with a vibrant personality and her dialogue flies off the page. I imagined how she looked, what she liked to eat, her hair, eyes, all of it.When creating, play with names, research the net and name books, imagine their faces, how they dress, and write down their background. A good character has a full bio. 

So pay attention to developing your characters. They are the core of your tale.




Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Novel Quest! Part 1:The Insanity Equation!

Novel Quest #1
The Coffee, Chocolate, &Insanity Equation

By Verna McKinnon

Okay, I'm going to try to do more blog posts about writing-specifically the process of writing a novel in progress and share my process with you. It will be as I create a specific novel in fact: The Bastard Sorceress. I will share the frustrations and glories as I create my newest novel and lead heroine. Yes, because in my writing universe, heroines rule. I do have heroic men in my tales, but the central character in most of my novels are female. In fantasy and science fiction, I feel I can break free of the tropes given to women in traditional novels. Good storytelling is also key. Make them interesting and toss out stereotypes. Experiment. Write. And write some more.

The Bastard Sorceress is a fantasy novel about a young woman named Sabine Fable. Yes, she is a bastard, but that is only the tip of the wand for my heroine's story arc. She has many troubles and is hopelessly flawed. She is not the rose without a thorn. In many ways she is all thorns, but that's why I love her. But she is good and strong too, despite the obstacles in her path toward magic.

I have been working on a new fantasy novel for a few months.I created the main character (Sabine Fable) about two years ago. She is brand new for me. My initial story idea for Sabine was different, but both she and her tale evolved into something new. That's the thing about ideas. Things change. Nothing is ever written in stone. A good character can lead you down a new road!

In creating a story, you must experiment with your ideas. Sometimes as you put together your book bible, where you organize your world, characters, cultures, etc., for the novel, things just shift. It is usually a good thing. Do not fight it. 

With each Novel Quest entry. I will go over the steps for creating your novel. Chapter revisions, character lists, dialogue tips, blurbs, and more. 

Right now, an idea or character is key. Start with that! Run with it. Play "what if." One of my favorite writer guides was Ray Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing. If you do not have a copy, get one! 

Take copious notes as your drink too much coffee and eat chocolate chip cookies. And do not fear the insanity. Creative people are not normal any way. Just accept it and write on.

More to come. Until my next Novel Quest more fantasy!

Verna McKinnon


Friday, November 9, 2018

Tree of Bones Promo sample

Hi All:

As I am learning about doing supplemental ads for my novels, I find it can be fun. This is my promo for Tree of Bones, A Familiar's Tale, Book 2. Not perfect, but I think it fits the mood.

Monday, November 5, 2018

New book promos!

Hello Familiar Friends!

I have been learning the daunting task of creating my own promos for my books. I did another new ad for Bardess of Rhulon and one for my Gate of Souls! Feel free to share these! What do you think? I swear, this is harder than writing a novel!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bardess of Rhulon! A new fantasy novel!

I am excited to announce the release of my newest fantasy novel, Bardess of Rhulon, now available for pre-order on Amazon! To order the Kindle edition, follow the link, 

I am thrilled about this new book because it introduces a new story and new characters! You will meet my main character, Rose Greenleaf, a vibrant and spunky heroine who dreams of becoming a bard and risks everything to follow her calling. Her new path leads her to adventure and new friends, but danger from unseen enemies at the court where she gains the patronage of Prince Culain Ironheart. 

I hope you love the tale. I will keep you updated on news for the paperback edition release. Until then, read more fantasy!


Verna McKinnon


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The role of women in fantasy and science fiction

Lately, I have read blogs and articles about the role of women in my chosen genre, fantasy and science fiction. This includes both the authors and the characters/tales.

For women authors, the genre is full of fabulous women. I do know there has been cases where women who submitted with a male name instead of a female have gotten better responses. This sucks, and needs to stop. It is not everywhere or everyone, but even a little bit of this attitude needs to I command it. I am not sure why there is still a lingering attitude, but then the publishers are run on corporate ideals bot just or creative ideals. You can say the same for Hollywood. it is not whether the project is good or well cast, but how much money it will make. When I read an article about a female author who submitted to agents and was refused, but when she submitted the same material with a male name, she got good responses. Women have always suffered from the double standard. We need to keep fighting, channel our inner Xena or Buffy, and bust down the doors of stupid narrow-minded trolls and demand equal time.
 Image result for female fantasy authors

There have been incredible female authors in the genre and we must not forget about them. there are too many to list them all. Tanith Lee, Octavia Butler, Andre Norton, Ursula K. LeGuin,  Julie Czerneda, Naomi Novik , C.J. Cherryh, and many more. We are there. Some of us are very well known. Some are rising (I hope to be the princess royal of heroic fantasy). Prejudice is everywhere and in all businesses and all societies. We need to fight it. David Eddings Polgara the Sorceress is always a favorite.
For characters in fantasy and science fiction, it has been an evolutionary process. Stop and think about it. How things begin is based on who has control of the pen and the publishing. But things have changed and are ever changing. The shallow or vague concepts of female characters by authors like Tolkien and Robert E. Howard are products of the time. They have evolved. I adore Captain Kathryn Janeway and Deanna Troi form Star Trek shows. Buffy and Xena were revolutionary. In film, who can forget Sarah Connor, Princes Leia or Ripley? Early tough chicks we love. Yes, I used the word chick. It can be a strong positive term. I love it. Claim it.  Don't whine.

Image result for Sarah Connor Terminator 1984

The current rush of comic book films has many female characters in the fight, which is good. I do miss seeing fantasy and science fiction  away from the comic book genre though. I am looking forward to some upcoming BBC productions of War of the Worlds and His Dark Materials from the books.

We can rule this genre. We can have a voice. Until later, read more great female authors!

Verna McKinnon

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Myth of Strong Women in SFF...and Oreos

Hello Familiar Friends:

It has been a long time since I posted a blog. I have been very involved with a lot of things, mostly writing new tales and attempting to master social media to promote sales for my two books out there in the abyss of Amazon. I have wondered if it was worthwhile to continue blogging with the mass of social media swarming around us.  Plus social media platforms like Facebook and twitter have been a storm of political chaos, which had me in its grasp too. But, maybe it is?

I try to post interesting articles about my beloved fantasy and science fiction genre on Twitter and Facebook.  One article I ran across, which I shall not name, but a rather confusing article with a definite attitude about what strong women are and why aren't there any real strong women in science fiction and fantasy. There were other issued addressed in this person's blog-but first I want to address the point on strong women in fantasy and science fiction, or the lack thereof.

No strong women? Really? That sent me into tizzy as I gobbled some oreos and tried to understand this blogger's reasoning. I had trouble getting through the article to be honest. The author of this piece argued women as only being seen as strong if they kick butt, or they were submissive like Bella Swan. She made points about fantasy and science fiction being gender biased. There was a section on how common rape is overused in the SFF genre as a means to show women will never be equal with men.  There was much note about how it was "male genre. The blogger referred to characters as being either too strong or weak, with no balance in between. They long for more developed characters. I do not agree with this blog. Let me explain....

Any genre has issues, but I do not think this author is very well read in the SFF genres, at least in my personal opinion. Maybe they have seen too many comic book films, which are not the best examples for three dimensional characters male or female. The common bestsellers are not always the best example of any genre. Twilight set female characters back 50 years. Has this person read any Tanith Lee, Davis Eddings, Neal Gaiman, Octavia Butler, Ray Bradbury, Martha Wells, or even my work?? Yes, I name myself. Indie writers deserve attention too. Really-I have several strong female and male characters that are not black or white in development. There are tons of great books out there with fully developed female and male characters. If you want to talk TV, look at Babylon 5, X-Files, Stargate SG1, and Stargate Atlantis,  and even some Star Trek for good role models. Do not look to vampire TV unless it's Buffy. 

For myself, SFF in book or media form has had on opposite effect on my perspective. I treasure SFF because it showed women could do more than bake pies or be just the hero's girlfriend. We all have our opinion. This is mine.

More to the meantime read more fantasy!