January 31, 2011

Monday Mess: Likable Characters

So, if you've been here recently, you know I'm working on revising a very long novel entitled REMNANT. One piece of feedback I received was about a secondary character called Lahonti. Though Lahonti is secondary, he plays a pivotal part and even enjoys a few POV scenes. The problem? He was deemed unlikable. UNLIKABLE. From beginning to end, so much so that my reader skimmed over his parts towards the end of the book. Wow. That's a problem, considering Lahonti undergoes a character arc and helps bring about a significant change in the hero.
I ran this by my writer's group, one who has read the story, and one who hasn't. This is important. Talking through a problem with people who have or have not read your book can be so helpful. Fresh perspective is GOOD. As I expressed my concern about making this character less unlikable without changing who he is, an interesting question came up.
Carla asked, "Are you in Lahonti's head?"
I thought about that before I answered. I thought back to his backstory. I began talking, and this is basically what I said:

Lahonti has the heart of a soldier. War is all he's known since the age of fifteen. He witnessed his mother's and brothers' murders, and lost a sister as well. He is obedient to authority, his father's (a good man) particularly, and is extremely loyal. He has hardened himself against emotion, even the prospect of love, as a protection against loss. He is awkward in expressing generosity, kindness, and hope. He would do anything to protect those closest to him. He doesn't know what to do with who he is after war is behind him. He doesn't know how to proceed or what to hope for. He doesn't know what to do with the feelings he has for the heroine. He comes across as stubborn, hard-hearted, and cocky. As his world changes, he is floundering in all he believes in. But he wants to do what is right. He stumbles when it comes to knowing what right is.

Yeah, my writer friends agreed, I'm in his head.
But only a small portion of these glimpses are in the story. In order to make Lahonti likable, I need to up his reader's sympathy level. I need the reader to understand his turmoil, and wish him well, so they keep reading him. But I can't make him a sentimental softy. It wouldn't work with where he's been. And I can't just info dump (just cut and paste the above and stick it somewhere in the first chapter, right?). The challenge is to bring out Lahonti's hidden psyche a little at a time, but early enough on that the reader develops sympathy for him, so as he goes through his character arc, or growth, he is cheered on. So when Lahonti makes a mistake or says the wrong thing or loses his temper, the reader doesn't roll his eyes and skip the page, but cringes and says, "Aw, c'mon, Lahonti, I hear you, but you're better than this! Keep trying!" I need to make the reader care.

Here is a simple example of how I'm trying to go about this. We all love the before and after shot, right? The first chapter opens at the end of a battle. The toll has been great and Limhi (Lahonti's father) switches from warrior to physician. The enemy has not quite withdrawn, and they have a friend wounded on the battlefield.


Lahonti surveyed the grizzly scene and Limhi followed his gaze. Three days of fighting in this area alone. The first killed were beginning to rot beneath their brothers who fell after them.
“I would not name it a victory.” Lahonti was somber. Always somber.
Limhi looked around suddenly. “Where is Kir?”
“Safe. In a tree.”
“Of course. A bat.”
“A lethal bat.”
Limhi raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
Another moan. “Lim…”
“It is Aram.” Limhi narrowed his eyes to locate him.
“Aram? He is not laughing, now.”
Limhi shot his son a look. He shook his head in disapproval, but Lahonti was unrepentant.
“He delights in this, Father. You know that.”


Lahonti surveyed the grizzly scene and Limhi followed his gaze. Three days of fighting in this area alone. The first killed were beginning to rot beneath their brothers who fell after them.
“I would not name it a victory.” Lahonti was somber. Always somber.
Limhi looked around suddenly. “Where is Kir?”
“Safe. In a tree.”
“Of course. A bat.”
“A lethal bat.”
Limhi raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
Another moan. “Lim…”
“It is Aram.” Limhi narrowed his eyes to locate him.
“Aram? He is not laughing, now.”
Limhi shot his son a look. He shook his head in disapproval and Lahonti dropped his head.
“I'm sorry. But he delights in this, Father. You know that.”

Did you feel the difference? *Please say yes* I think it's going to take little tweaks like this and barely noticeable peeks into Lahonti's psyche to make the difference between unlikable and likable. Or at least relate-able. It matters, even for secondary characters.

Any advice or thoughts?

January 27, 2011

Thursday Authorial: The Kiss of a Stranger

I love Thursdays. It's all about other writers! And today, it's about Sarah M. Eden and her new book, THE KISS OF A STRANGER.

Who knew one unexpected kiss would lead to so much trouble? But, this is regency era England, and each and every character is so absolutely deserving. At once comical and sensitive, KISS was delightful. Sarah is now among my new favorite authors. Her writing is clean, concise, laced with humor, well-researched, and moves at a clip. And the characters are alive, breathing, struggling, and inadvertently falling in love.


Thanks, Sarah. You've done it again.

Oh, and Sarah and fellow authors Marion Jensen and Robison Wells have launched a new podcast. Check out The Appendix: A Podcast for Writers. Their first episode is up!

January 26, 2011

Very Fun News, Nacho, & Barry Manilow

I forgot to blog my good news! It's a little silly and crazy but really fun and I'm anticipating my teenage daughter running and hiding in the closet under the stairs from the results because when she asked, "Does this mean you will be involved with something potentially embarrassing?" my resounding answer was "YES!" I think I may have thrown my arms up in the air and twirled.

LDStorymakers holds a great big huge writers conference every Spring. As part of the conference they hold two contests. One is a First Chapter contest, inviting any unpublished/uncontracted writers to enter. I don't qualify for that. Yay! The second contest is a Music Lyrics contest. The entrants choose a popular song, any song that can be found Karaoke-style, and write their own lyrics. The subject must be writing, being a writer, getting published, etc. The winner gets to be involved in a music video featuring his or her song. IT'S FOR FUN.

The video will be shown in front of lots of writerly people at the conference lunch. Yikes.

I make up my own lyrics to songs all the time. Ask my kids. This one is sung to Barry Manilow's Oh, Mandy:

"I remember all my life, doing dishes once or twice. My mom would ask and I wouldn't even question, I'd stand at the sink and do my best to help her, Oh Children, well you can't all have to go to the bathroom. Your mother needs help, Oh Children, someone empty the dishwasher now, before I call for your father, Oh Children . . ."

It's a wonder I don't get more help.

So, with the contest on my mind, I was driving in the car and a great song came on and blammo, I was singing new lyrics. When I got home I was all giddy and hurried and wrote them down, worked on them off and on all evening, let them sit, then sent them off to LDStorymakers the next morning.

Then, I forgot about it. Well, it was clear back in October! If only it were that easy to forget manuscript submissions. Every once in a while, I'd hear my song, though, and it would remind me and I would smile at the idea.

So, guess what. I WON! *skip around the room*
And the song is a secret so I CAN'T EVEN HINT. I think I'll be able to post the video after the conference, though. I'm excited and nervous and it will be fun. And my daughter will have to hide in the closet for like, a whole week.


January 25, 2011

Tuesday Edit Crunch: Beware AutoEditor App

I've uploaded this *App and it's driving me a little crazy.

First off, if any of you know me, you are already scratching your heads, asking, "Krista uploaded an app?" and looking out the window for other miraculous oddities, like flying cows.

Secondly, I didn't seek out this app. In all this new programming to become a published author, all this learning how to edit and revise, cleaning up manuscripts and getting rid of needless words like that, there, which, was . . . keeping subjects and verbs in agreement . . . undangling participles . . . it must have been attached to a doc or some Adware or something. Riding piggy-back on an eye-opening article about dialog tags, no doubt.

Thirdly, I seem to be stuck with it. It is embedded deep within the recesses of my processor and even when I think it has been silenced, somebody says, "What time are we meeting at?" and BLAMMO, the AutoEditor App cringes and runs a full scan to correct the infarction. Fortunately, so far I seem to be in control of any audio response, and allow an audible correction only for my children and, occasionally, my long-suffering husband.

I'm struggling right this very second. *struggles, clenching teeth, holding breath* Bah!

"At what time are we meeting?" Or simply, "When are we meeting?"

*breathes deeply*

See what I mean? I don't even know what that placing 'at' at the end of a sentence is called! Is this how I am to spend the rest of my days? Stumbling as I read? Taking second glances as someone speaks? Interrupting otherwise pleasant thoughts with red pen marks and grammar hunts? Imagine what happens when something comes up and I don't know the correction! I don't pretend to know it all. Excuse me, but "lay" or "lie"? "Laid" or "lied"? I've begun to use, "fell" instead. "I'm tired. I think I'll go fall down." Oh, to be Annette Lyon! But wait, I think she may suffer from this app as well. As a matter of fact, I'm sure of it.

 *eye twitch*

At least I can take comfort in that I am not alone. Perhaps it's a virus? Just this morning I received an email from a friend who lives in Hollywood and works in the film industry. Sam (Samantha), expressed her frustration with this very thing. Allow me to share.
Today, I went to the store after work and was ambushed on my way out by a self proclaimed 'artist' (always cause for concern).  The following conversation ensued in the state of California:
MORON:  Hi, do you got a minute?
SAM:  No.  *walks away*
MORON:  Do you mind if I walk with you a little bit?
SAM:  *sigh of instant defeat*
MORON:  I'm selling my music.  Would you be interested in buying some hip rap music?
SAM:  No.  I don't like rap music. Good luck though.  *walks away*

MORON:  *still following Sam*  Hey, you know who you remind me of?
SAM:  *big sigh*  Oh please, no.
MORON:  It's a actor.  His name is Michael J. Fox.  Hearda him?
SAM:  *sincerely* Yeah, he's awesome.  *incredulously*  He's also a dude.
MORON:  I know.  You seen that one movie, "Teen Wolf"?  You look like him.  It's yo hair.
SAM:  *squints, exhales, turns and walks away speechless and ticked off that she didn't have a comeback, but mostly disturbed that he said "a actor" instead of  "an actor"*

Oh, Sam, I feel for you. I really do.

*Not an actual App. I'm being facetious about my hyper inner editor.

January 24, 2011

Monday Mess: Cutting Board

I've begun working on my writing goals for the year and have 9,144 words in my new wip. I think I may reach my goal of 50,000 by the end of April! My other goal has been waiting patiently. I wanted to get a solid start into the new project before I took on side work. But it's time to begin. Which leads me to this morning's (and this blog's first) Monday Mess.

My challenge is to take a 184,095 word speculative historical adventure romance (I should probably narrow that down, too) and peel away about 70,000 words so it's heart can be heard loud and clear. I've done this before, but not to this scale. I chopped 60 pages from The Orchard before it was officially accepted. That's about 15,000 words (I'm going with 250 words per page, which seems to be my average).

For Remnant, I'll have to find a way to chop 280 pages. *gulp* Oh, my poor little darlings.

I am going to go with what worked for me last time. I'm printing out an editing draft of Remnant (1.5 spaced, no page breaks, 2-sided, ink saver mode hard copy), punching holes, and slipping it into a 3-ring binder. I have red pens and a highlighter. I have my reader's notes (thanks, Rob). I will also print out this:


That will go on the bulletin board over my desk.


January 20, 2011

Thursday Authorial: BUMPY LANDINGS Blog Tour

I have been fortunate in reading some enjoyable books lately in several different genres. I like to mix it up and mood has a lot to do with it. So, what does one read after a psych-thriller?
Something sweet, tropical and fun, sprinkled with cringe-worthy coming-of-age awkwardities and challenges. There I go making up words again.

I recently finished Donald J. Carey's novel, BUMPY LANDINGS. I met Don, after already being Twitter friends, at The Book Academy writers conference back in October and it turned out we attended most of the same classes, AND we were both new authors expecting our first books out soon. I am pleased to be part of Don's blog tour and am happy to review his book.

I immediately felt compassion for Jordan MacDonald, the main character, as he is just trying so hard to be a man, to do the right thing, to follow his heart. But obstacle after big Hawaiian obstacle is clonked in his way. To build up his courage, Jordan tells himself he's changed because of his mission, that he's a man now. And then he goes and does very naive and sweetly sophomoric things. Often with disastrous results. What makes him loveable is his heart is always in the right place, despite his over-bearing, exasperating mother, a rather large bully, and a surprise girlfriend who, after all the making out, has no interest in Jordan's dreams. I wanted Jordan to succeed.

Jordan dreams of flying. And figuring a way to make Kehau, the lovely elusive Hawaiian girl, fall in love, real love, with him. Watching Jordan deal with blow after blow, hitting some hard life lessons, was a pleasure, because I got to see him grow, bit by bit. It was a bonus, to watch him grow in the lush surroundings of the Hawaiian Islands. The author does not leave the reader wanting in scenery, and I was submerged in sights, sounds, and scents. And tastes!

One of the dishes mentioned several times in the story is panipopo. I asked Don for the RECIPE and today I made panipopo. I was in desperate need of Island music. I hummed the Hukilau song. I also took some pictures.
Pouring the coconut pudding over the raised rolls.

Baked to bubbly perfection.

The 12 year old couldn't wait. This was right out of the oven.

I didn't even ask how many the 15 year old ate. They were a hit with everyone!

It was a lovely vacation, Don! Thank you!

January 16, 2011

Folks, We Have A Winner!

My 100th follower was STEPHANIE BLACK! Stephanie is the author of Cold As Ice and three other mystery/suspense novels! A 2lb bag of Chocolate-Covered Cinnamon Bears will be sent her way as soon as she sends a shipping address to kristalynnej at yahoo dot com. Thanks for following, Stephanie!

Now, to draw the name for the $20 Amazon Gift Card! *drum roll please*

The winner is KATE PALMER from Running on Dirt Roads! Woohoo! *applause* Kate was my 5th or 6th follower EVER and still visits regularly! She has also recently had a book accepted by Covenant so go check her out. The gift card will be sent electronically, so I need a preferred email address sent to me at kristalynnej at yahoo dot com.

Thanks to everyone for participating! I had a bigger response than I thought I would, and surpassed the 100 mark I was aiming for. And I even lost a follower, so hey, that keeps me humble, right? Let's just say it was someone cleaning out their Google Reader for the new year. Let's say that. On the other hand, Ali Cross joined my Friends list, which I didn't even know I had and am still unsure of what it does, but thanks, Ali! It's nice to have friends.

I learned this about contests: they only need to be 2-3 days long. After Wednesday I was ready to call it and draw winners. Still learning.
I really can't wait until I can give away a few of my own books. Until then, I think my future contests will be centered around great books written by other people or Amazon gift cards.

Thanks, everyone! I had fun!

January 13, 2011

Thursday Authorial: Mr. Monster

Before we get to this week's review, I want to remind you of my *100 Followers* Contest! We have two more days before the drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card! And look! We've reached 110 followers! Thank you! For rules (which are EASY), see here.

I Am Not A Horror Story Reader.

But Dan Wells' debut YA thriller I Am Not A Serial Killer was buzzing around the author internet and I bit. As tasty as that appetizer was, the follow-up in the series, Mr. Monster, lives up to its main course potential. Here is my review on Goodreads:

Mr. Monster engaged me, held me, and made me walk very fast when I had to park far away from the school gym and walk by myself in the dark to meet my family at a basketball game.

Again, sociopath John Cleaver is at once inviting and sinister, controlling Mr. Monster and tasting moments of "normalcy", struggling with the idea of being a hero in the name of small-town justice, versus what he knows Mr. Monster really yearns for.

It was a big "Oh no" moment for me when I realized John was no longer in control, and Mr. Monster was much more subtle than I thought him to be. Huge jump in my respect for the author at that point. Wow.

I like being surprised, and Dan Wells did a good job with that. Kept me on my toes. And creeped out.

I did want to see more emotion from Brooke at a critical point, more pause and tension built, but otherwise, a very satisfying (if you call being left on the edge of your seat with your fist clenching your hair and your jaw dropped open satisfied) read. Can't wait for the next one. I've got to see where this goes. I expect it will be grizzly. And a shock.

Being the hero isn't working. Mr. Monster is out.

*rubbing hands together* When's dessert?

January 11, 2011

Tuesday Testimonial: An Author's Playground

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say. 
 ~Sharon O'Brien

I began a new story last night. I was going to put it off because I was just given some feedback on Remnant. Robison Wells read all 184,059 words (more or less) and amid his positive raves, suggested (among other things and without too much surprise) that I make it shorter. Much shorter. But that is a post for Monday Mess, wouldn't you agree?

In order to tackle the revisions of Remnant, I will print out the manuscript, put it in a binder, and grab the red pen. In order to do that, I need a printer. Which I have ordered. From Amazon.com. It's on it's way (thank you again, Shanda at LDS Womens Book Review, for the gift card I won over Christmas), but until its delivery, a story was circling, and I couldn't sleep until I had at least written a scene, fleshed out names, and landed a setting.

I love this part of beginning a new story. The very basics of creation. There is a shadow of a plot, yes, and since I'm a moderate outliner, that will come. But this is how I start. The scene in my head is written down. I don't know if it will be the opening scene, and it really doesn't matter at this point. Characters gain physical traits and adopt a certain sound, and attract a name, first and last. The scene becomes very focused on characters and movement and I wonder. Where in the world are you?

Yes, I talk. In my head. Okay, maybe I might whisper, but only sometimes. I think.

BAM. I know where they are, the scene opens up. Of course that's where they are and I think I'll have to work in a trip because it's been awhile since my last visit.

I stayed up until 2:54 am.
I'd forgotten how time flies when you're playing in your head. I woke up with the words I had written running through my mind, ideas shooting around in my periphery.


*REMINDER: Enter my 100th Follower Contest here! Comments below will also gain you an entry after you become a follower.

January 10, 2011

You Deserve This. Really.

Many bloggers format their posts into specific categories for specific days of the week. Marriage Monday, Word Nerd Wednesday, I Need Friends Friday . . . you get the idea. I've done this as well, but a bit sporadically because every so often I run out of steam on a topic, but keep it on the back-burner just in case.
With my new determination to make my blogs everything they need to be, I have revisited the weekly organization idea of my posts and this is what I've come up with:

Monday Mess
This spot will tackle concerns or setbacks* I'm figuring out. Because I have those, and why not share, right? And it's Monday. 'Nuff said.
*I'm not a complainer and I rarely whine, so you will not find either of those lovelies here. Often.

Tuesday Edit Crunch/Tuesday Testimonial (depending on my mood)
Both of these have been around for a while. Edit Crunch explores editing tips, tricks, and rules I've picked up along the way, and Testimonial consists of me finding an awesome, mind-opening quote and applying it to my writing journey. You can already search both of these tags underneath the beating heart on the sidebar and find some helpful posts.

Thursday Authorial
This is my chance to share the love. I feature books, authors, contests, etc. It's a party. Again, you can search this tag to find past love-sharing. Tha-thump. Tha-thump.

Weekend Wanderings
For Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, whenever inspiration strikes. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you need a space for the maybe. The miscellaneous page of my blog.

My promise:
I solemnly swear to keep my posts short and tidy, do my best to be fresh and interesting, and to shout out news about my novels (and yours) to the best of my ability. I'll respond to comments with sincerity and gratitude. Or wit, as it is called for.

Disclaimer: Self-promotion is necessary and makes me cringe.

Okay! With that out of the way, I've decided to have a contest! I am *4* followers away from *100* and I think it's about time we reach the century mark. The prize?
A $20 Amazon Gift card!

The rules are easy.
~Become a follower of this blog if you are not already one and leave a comment on this post or any following posts this week. Established followers may enter by leaving an amazingly astute comment. I'm a lenient judge.
~Extra entry: Share the love. Tweet, Facebook, or blog about this contest and let me know about it!
~Bonus: Be the *100th* follower and you'll get a special treat! It involves CHOCOLATE.

Contest ends Saturday at 10pm. All entries will be put into a very special receptacle of some sort and names will be drawn. Good luck! And thank you!

January 6, 2011

Thursday Authorial: Life Is Good

Thanks to Norma Rudolph, my invaluable writing group-mate and author of THE WATCHERS, coming this Spring through Leatherwood Press, for this cheerful award.

There are a few things I now must do to accept this award. They are:

1. Thank and link back to the person that gave this award.
2. Answer the 10 survey questions.
3. Pass the award along to another blogger who I think is fantastic.
4. Contact the blogger I’ve picked to let them know about the award.

Now for the questions:

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this; if you are not anonymous, do you wish that you had started out anonymously so that you could be anonymous now?
  • There are way too many anonymouses in that question. For my thoughts on anonymous COMMENTING, click here.
2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.
  • I am continuing to chew this peppermint taffy even though I feel a little piece of wrapper in there, and I will continue to chew until said wrapper is isolated, at which time I will spit it out. That way I will still get all the candy.
3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

  • My Aunt Julie's eyes, my Aunt Jackie's mouth, my Uncle Steve's nose, and my mom and dad's hopes. There are a lot of other people in there, too. Thanks, everyone. No pushing.
4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?
  • A rootbeer float. If possible a from-the-tap A&W Rootbeer Float.
5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?
  • Read, write, exercise. Get my hands on a rootbeer float. Call my sister.
6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?
7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?
  • The shy one. Who desperately wanted to say things. 
8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?
  • The Halloween night at the haunted house when the boy I liked stepped in front of me and took my hand to protect me from the deranged mad scientist looking for blue eyes.
9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?
  • I'm pretty much just me. Blah. Here I am. I like spreading the word about other authors and events, though. Sharing the love.
10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?
  • Read a book. But there are a few people that I would gladly interrupt the reading for. If, you know, it wasn't an exciting part.

Thanks, Norma, that was fun! Now to pass the award along to:

Julie Wright. I just finished her book, My Not So Fairy Tale Life, and I love her voice. Check out her new book, Cross My Heart
Traci Hunter Abramson, Julie Wright, Melissa J. Cunningham
And she's really fun to sit across from at dinner. Thanks, Julie!

January 4, 2011

Go On. Go, Throw Up.

The title of this post is taken from the gag reel of Disney Pixar's Monsters, Inc. I thought it appropriate. I just hit the send button and submitted Grace & Chocolate to my editor. And yes, after I did it I looked over the first few pages of the ms and found a couple small needed edits. NEVER FAILS. I'm not freaking out, though, like I did the first few times I submitted a novel. It's still a darn clean edit. But the anticipation, the hoping, the hand-wringing agony begins.

Time to start something new to take my mind off it. A little bit, anyway.

For a peek at Grace & Chocolate and a chance to listen to the awesome soundtrack, click HERE.

Hope you enjoy it!

January 3, 2011

Fine. I'll Make Some Resolutions.

I am generally a positive thinker-bright side-little Miss Sunshine-everything will be okay-of course it will work-type of person. I make no apologies. It's what works for me. But honestly? New Year Resolutions make my stomach twist.
So naturally, I was putting this off. But yesterday I kept thinking of things I should probably work on, and I know if I don't write them down I will forget the goals I actually think I have a shot at. So here you are, in black and white, embedded into bloggy archival memory for all the world to see. I give you permission to ask me at any time, "Hey, Krista, how's that dinner menu going for ya?" I reserve the right to not answer.

~Begin a new book (NEW, I say), and have 50,000 words by the end of April.

~Finish above book.

~Study the weekly New Testament reading assignments for Sunday School.

~Make a dinner menu plan, however skeletal, each week.

~Devote more energy to blog and followers. *waves*

~Work out twice a week.

~Make a book trailer.

~Spend more time with my kids. (All of us on our laptops in the same room doesn't count.)


There! Happy? Notice I didn't include "remember birthdays" this year. I've given up on that one. Let it go.

And Happy Birthday.
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