Tuesday, October 31, 2017

13 Bookish Costume Ideas

My family doesn't really celebrate Halloween, but we all know the best part is dressing up, right? Actually, it's the food. Even I like to do that sometimes, so I've compiled a list of bookish characters that are good enough for me to actually dress up as ... if I was dedicated enough.

Prepare yourself. Some of these have spoilers, but no order or numbers. XP

Mary Poppins {Mary Poppins}

because a parasol, flowy dress, red lipstick, and hat

Maria Von Trapp {The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers/The Sound of Music}

hello, her party dress and a captain, please?
also, super simple in the hair department
bonus points if you use drapes

Parvin Blackwater {A Time to Die}

a little dirt, fur skirt, and hiking boots
bonus points for the missing hand

Aleah Valinor {Sentinel}

silver hair and green eyes are a must
after that you can go in scrubs or fox pajamas if you feel like it
an orange kitten is also suggested

Odette Menkels {The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest}

aka female Robin Hood/swan princess
blonde fishtail side braid

America Singer {The Selection}

perfect for redheads who want poofy dresses
or jeans on a Saturday

Anyone {The Mysterious Benedict Society}

Any character would work here!!!
Kate - red striped shirt and a bucket
Sticky - bald with glasses and a dictionary
Reynie - green sweater vest and logic
Constance - rain gear and fit throwing
Mr. Benedict - you're going to need a wheelchair

The Dread Pirate Roberts {Princess Bride}

Buttercup's great and all. But Zorro-esque is better

Pollyanna Whitaker {Pollyanna}

basically, go shopping with a rich aunt for new dresses
maybe don't fall out of a tree ...

Anne Shirley {Anne of Green Gables}

another good redhead option
a slate and puff sleeves complete the look

Scarlett Blaine {Chasing Jupiter}

wavy hair, freckles, a bicycle, and peach pie!
(guys can go as Grandpop Barley with peanut butter and a red tie)

Cassandra Mortmain {I Capture the Castle}

hand-me-down 20s fashion is the goal
it won't matter how out of style you are

Eliza Doolittle {Pygmalion/My Fair Lady}

black and white, ridiculous bows and hats, and a parasol
it doesn't count unless you talk properly!
Okay, so some of these outfits were from movie versions ;) This post goes to show the importance of detailing outfits in your writing! Otherwise, they're really hard to cosplay! Who would you dress up as?

On a much more important note, it's the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the Whittenberg Cathedral. You're all invited to my church for a fun celebration/history lesson this Sunday! ;D

Saturday, October 28, 2017

5 Abi-Invented Plotting Methods to Try

In the true spirit of NaNo, I shall try to win you all over to the plotter side today!!! Just kidding, I'm really more of plantser, but I almost always end up using all five of these plotting methods per story. Only then am I confident enough to begin the first draft.

(These are in the order I usually do them, but it doesn't actually matter!)
Okay, so I have this adorable little notebook that I got from T J Maxx a while back (obviously, where else?). It was like $3 and I loved it. It's tan with rounded edges and says "Shakespeare never tweeted a sonnet" on the front. *heart eyes* It has become my official jot down place for new story ideas and developments. Whenever something brilliant comes to me about an undeveloped story idea, I create a new little entry. Nothing fancy, but I love having it in one little place.

So it's got Kansas research for Martin Hospitality and stories from my grandfather for the book I'd like to someday write on his ancestors. Name lists and random new plot twists corresponding with my many Pinterest boards.
Okay, so this isn't a real method, nor is it strictly mine haha xD But yes, Pinterest storyboards! They are the best. And no they are not girly. Even guys can do this. I suggest you make your storyboards public if you care a thing about followers, because that doubled my following pretty quickly. And who doesn't want to see what I will someday write about ... right? Don't be selfish and do this just for you; share the love ;)

Anyway, you should have a place for any serious story idea/WIP in you have so that as pins drift across your feed, you can save them to your boards! Some people go all aesthetic, but I'm a mix of character faces, sayings that fit the story, settings, and aesthetic images. :P And I'm enough of a maniac that when I first get a story idea ... I actually hunt for pins through a gazillion different searches to get me started. It's like having all your inspiration in one little place.
I'm not the only one who does this either, but I decided to do this all on my own! In short, I use a shortcut to personality type my main characters so that I understand them better. Do not use the actual test (it will take you hours to do this). I use this chart from Pinterest instead ;)

If you're anti-Myers-Briggs, move along. But if you want to know my entire process for this step, I wrote an article about it on Project Canvas that you can read here. :) #selfpromotion
This is a new thing for me! I've only done it with my WIP Matinee Regulars. 

It's all organized because I put some categories up in a blank Google Doc and go to town rambling about anything I've thought up that falls under that heading. The point is to have all my thoughts and ideas on paper, but under headers that categorize the themes and flow of the plot. Having all of that in the back of my head gives me stronger writing, and I often have to look back at it to remember what big point I had coming next.

(Sorry, I feel like this is really hard to explain without showing you one of my pages, but #spoilers.)

The first header I use is PLOT. I decide which type of plot I have using Step 2 of this pin and make their breakdown mine. Then I commence rambling under each so I can see the flow of events, but also throw out all the details in my head. This narrative arc pin is also helpful, but I have a hard time combining the two ... so I usually check to make sure the flow of this is woven in. I usually have an "other details" section, too just to make sure everything floating around in my head lands on paper.

CHARACTERS is my other main header. Using the same pin, I choose my hero type (Step 3) and make a list of which characters might fit which type listed in Step 4. Then I have a romantic relationship section where I pull the 5 steps from this pin. I go ahead and consider points for each step, although the pin is really designed to help you think about different options with relationships.

It's kind of hard to explain rambling in an orderly fashion, but ... there you go! Definitely take a look at those pins and see how you can use them to your own purposes. They're the best I've found!
If you are super anti-plot and don't care about anything I've said so far ... this is the method for you. It has saved me so many times! And it's super simple. Before you start drafting a chapter, make a quick bullet point list of things you think should happen in that chapter. This helps me keep threads going and gives me a general pattern to follow throughout the chapter. Sometimes I need to write more than that, and sometimes I don't get that far because ... pantsing :P

For Martin Hospitality my lists would have looked something like this:

  • feed/mention the cat
  • include Farris development
  • mention apartment noises
  • go to church (sermon on forgiveness)
  • nursery with Clair
  • lunch with Bradley
  • have Hollie's car break down

The first three are things to weave in so the themes keep running through, and the others are actual plot points to keep the story going. A simple key to sanity. ;)
Okay, so are you a plotter (plot things), pantser (fly by the seat of your pants), or plantser (mix)? What methods do you use to plot? Which one of these appeals to you the most?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Doubt the Stars by Maddyson Wilson // Book Review

I think most of you regulars know by now that as much as I'd love to have the time to beta read and review ARCs and friend's books ... I just don't have the time! Now imagine me signing up to read an ARC on an impulse for two reasons: 1) a paperback ARC and 2) an amazing blurb.

I'm telling you guys, blurbs are important! Without such an excellently written blurb, I most certainly would not have agreed to review this ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy). My impulse paid off, though! It made for great reading material on my first train ride. I have no regrets. ^.^

How far would you go to save the damned?

Celeste Adair lives in a world painted gray. She's spent the last five years of her life stuck in a mental institution because she told the truth: there was an angel on the roof of her foster home. Since then, she's been slapped with labels she didn't deserve and words she didn't ask for. 

Luke Enoch lives in a world painted a fire red. He and his sister, Clover, have been living on the streets of Brooklyn for the last five years, running from the police because Luke has been accused of lighting the house fire that killed their parents. Luke has sacrificed everything to keep Clover safe and will do whatever it takes to make sure she doesn't suffer the same fate he has.

After waking up from what they thought to be their final breaths, Celeste and Luke find themselves trapped in the year 1392 with a single mission: protect Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers. With the centuries-old war brewing, the only shot they have at keeping Romeo and Juliet alive is keeping them separate. But, when fate (and a trigger-happy prince) steps in, there aren’t many things Celeste and Luke can do to stop all of Verona from falling into war. With the line between good and bad erased, Celeste and Luke will have to risk everything to keep the star-crossed lovers safe--even if it means losing each other.

You cannot blame me for falling for that blurb, amiright?! I mean ... come on.
Maddyson Wilson is a sixteen year old author and actress who has won multiple awards for her writing, including the 2014 and 2017 NC Young Playwright's Festival, and the 2009 Celebration of Poets. Most recently, her original play, "Glory Days" was showcased in the Hickory Playground. Maddyson resides in North Carolina with her parents and three dogs. When she's not writing, she can be found on stage at her local theatre or aimlessly surfing the internet.
You know how this works by now. I ramble and then sum it up on a scale of ten. :) (Or if you're in a total cheapskate mood, here's my shorter review on Goodreads.)

As I've said, it's the premise that initially hooked me. Like why did I not think of that?! As a huge fan of Shakespeare, I really enjoyed that entire element to the story. All the timey-wimey and angelic elements were not only very neat, but surprisingly easy to follow. Gotta love that ;) It was well executed, so I'm happy. :)

I really loved all the character interactions. I mean, let's face it. Most of these characters were just gold. Celeste is so dismal and snarky, and Luke tries to be better than that, but he's broken, too. Romeo and Juliet were a little crazy sometimes, but dude I forgot how young they were ... o.o And sticking all the angelic, crazies, and Shakespeareans in a Verona time loop was just a good call, okay?

The villain was spot on. Creepy prince who's a horrible person ... but also makes good points ... and wants help from a protagonist? Hmm ... And then there's Ramona. Another horrible person with a soft spot. No "true" villains--just messed up people who've decided to act like it instead of push through like the MCs.

Honestly, all the brokenness is part of what made me like the story. Was there more language and violence than I typically enjoy? Yes. But it was done effectively and not excessively for the most part. (I still recommend something like 16+ because of this, though.)

And in the midst of all the brokenness, I could see the allegory to Christ. This was the true beauty of the book. Beyond the great premise, nice execution, and downright epicness of Shakespeare-meets-Peretti-meets-asylum ... there was God. No, He wasn't a character. But every now and then a line would slap me, and I could see the truth behind it. The Jesus story behind it. It's done in the least blatant way possible, but I found it completed the story.

All in all, I really had no idea where this book was going the entire time, but I also kept from getting too lost. The ending was glorious in that it tossed something unexpected at me and took a huge turn. Then, ya know ... ended. -_-

Boiling all of that down, my result is 7/10 shrooms. I'm taking one off for more nasty language than I wanted, one for the occasional choppiness and minorly confusing elements of the story, and one because honestly, I wanted more Romeo and Juliet. They were side characters in their own story--the blurb told me as much. But they weren't as deep as anyone else ... and I wanted more. 

So here's to hoping Book 2 will give me some answers, clarification, character development, and light. :)
I know, I can hear you saying what else could there possibly be?! But hey, this is important.

You can befriend the wonderful Maddyson in all of these places:

And, if you'd like to give the book a read (if witty, broken, fantasy, retelling-ish tragedies on a time loop are your thing) then it is available for pre-order HERE.
What are your thoughts on that premise? How much of a turn-off is language in a book for you?

((Oh, and speaking of pre-order ... watch for a paperback Andora's Folly! Soon, I promise.))

Friday, October 20, 2017

War of Loyalties Cover Reveal

A Friday post! Because my Fridays have freed up and that makes me happy :) And because the cover reveal  is today only.

First up, I have an absolutely GORGEOUS cover for you. No, it's not one of mine, so I'm completely unprejudiced in saying that!!

This cover is for Schuyler McConkey's War of Loyalties which is being published this fall!! You guys, I am SO excited for this book! Like ... more than I get excited about famous people's books.

I first learned about it through Schuyler's blog and immediately liked the concept. There are so many unique characters. And it's historical fiction, which is obviously the best ever. (Do not fight me on this one.) But I'm getting ahead of myself! First the cover, then the blurb.

April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his American medical work. But when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered. 

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham's British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his a new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after an encounter with death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn't as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

That should excite you, no matter what you enjoy reading! ;) I'm so glad that Schuyler is going to be able to publish her novel this year, the centennial of WWI, during which the book is set. More specifically: November 30th!

Until then:

Check out more about War of Loyalties at My Lady Bibliophile
Are you as excited about this book as I am? What makes a good cover in your eyes?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

10 Ways to Get Your Characters to Love You // Guest Post by Claire Banschbach

Today I have Claire Banschbach on the blog to talk about how to treat your characters properly! And I love what it boils down to. Pay attention, as her points describe the most notorious favorite parts of every story!

As writers and authors, we all like to joke about how our characters hate us. And sometimes it might not even be a joke. I mean, there’s a reason that “writer’s block” can be explained as imaginary friends not talking to you.

So, in order to keep the words flowing and characters talking, I’ve compiled an easy list of ways to get them to like you right off the bat and even at word count 120,000. (I write fantasy okay? :P)

  1. Don’t kill them off – You might think this is a given, but resist that frequent occasional urge to pare down the cast. 
  2. Make sure there are lots of furry animals for them to cuddle in times of stress – puppies especially. 
  3. Have the antagonist offer them warm cookies right before s/he threatens to destroy the world – not only would that be a crazy plot twist, but everyone would have a chance to sit down and relax for half a second before making the mad dash to stop villainous plans. 
  4. On that note, basically just make sure there’s lots of cake/cookies/ice cream available in general – the more food, the better. Make a stop for tacos occasionally. 
  5. Make sure they have regularly scheduled naptime – always important. You might as well power nap while they are. 
  6. For heaven’s sake, DON’T TELL THEM what’s going to happen before the end. Lock that information away and throw away the key. But don’t forget which way you threw it – make them think it’s going to be a happy ending. But maybe they’ll just hate you at the end. You know what, scratch this rule. 
  7. Maybe only break one or two fingers or ribs – in one chapter. I kid. Sort of. Go easy for a few chapters. Let them have a chance to recover for a hot second. 
  8. When sending characters off on a long journey, give them some sort of aerial transport. It’ll make things much easier – nobody likes walking everywhere. Especially all the way across the known world to throw a piece of jewelry in a volcano… ;) 
  9. Skip the love triangle – all complaining and moaning about this specific trope aside, it just makes it easier for the hero/heroine to concentrate on saving the world. And decreases the angst factor by like ten million. 
  10. Give them a day off – saving the world is a lot of work. Let them hang out with their buddies, have a beer/tea/whatever beverage of choice, have a snowball fight, feed a friendly dragon…whatever. ☺ 

Claire M. Banschbach is a native West Texan. She discovered a deep and abiding love for fantasy and science fiction at a young age, prompting her to begin exploring worlds armed only with an overactive imagination and a pen while obtaining degrees in Kinesiology from Texas A&M and Physical Therapy from Texas Tech University.

She talks to fictional characters more than she should while struggling to find time for all their stories. She currently resides in Arlington, TX where she works as a Pediatric Physical Therapist.

You can connect with her on Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Blog | Instagram

So there you have it. All joking aside, what are some things you tend to do that make your characters not like you so much? Do you think any of the above might help smooth things out? :P Anything I missed? Let’s talk in the comments!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

How I Write A Blog Post

A long while back I wrote a blog post on how I write a chapter. In fact, it was my ninth post, and inspired by Katie Grace's post on how she writes a blog post. While I'm sure my process for chapters has changed as I've selected new projects, I have now found a consistent method for writing a blog post. Even though it's not a proven successful formula, it's a formula nonetheless. ;)

You've probably noticed the pattern in how I post. My way is not the only way to do it; everyone finds their own pattern. But I do encourage you to find a blog post pattern if you haven't already! Mine goes like this:
  1. Title
  2. Introductory Paragraph
  3. Post Header Image
  4. Opening Paragraph
  5. Point One Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  6. Point Two Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  7. Point Three Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  8. (Repeat until all points are covered)
  9. Closing Paragraph
  10. Ending Tildes
  11. Concluding Statement and Question
Of course, that's only how it goes when I'm writing a topical post. And sometimes I don't have points that vary enough to bother outlining with headers. This post, for example. I could have put FORMULA above the outline there, EXCEPTIONS above this paragraph, etc. But it seemed a little pointless ;) Posts like reviews and blog tours are going to look quite different.

My schedule for posting is every Saturday, with occasional posts on Tuesdays if I have extra content. Sometimes I agree to do posts for other people that require a specific date that could be any day of the week, but that's fine. Aiming for consistency is my goal. And I'm pretty sure I haven't missed a single Saturday since I began in February of 2016! Because I'm sure you want to know, I've done posts in as little as twenty minutes and taken as long as 6 hours. I'd say my average is about 1.5 hours for each blog post.

As for my process of actually drafting a post, it usually looks something like this:

  • make a couple bullet points as an outline/guide
  • write the post, using bold and italics as I go
  • save the post as a draft to finish later (sometimes)
  • create images on Canva by duplicating
  • reread the post, adding links to people's names
  • use Blogger's preview feature
  • (hopefully) fix any weird formatting issues that came up 
  • schedule post (if necessary)
  • add labels
  • customize permalink
  • share the post on social media

And that's basically it! 
Fairly straightforward, right? (If you're not familiar with blogging, don't let this post scare you; it's not as complicated as it sounds.) How do you write your blog posts?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm An Award-Winning Author!

It costs money to enter book awards, so I've only entered a few. Is it bad to say I don't even really remember which ones? Entering Readers' Favorite in April was definitely a spur-of-the-moment decision. But, oh my goodness!!! It was SO worth it ^.^

I decided it was worth the $100 entry fee when Martin Hospitality received a 5-star review from Readers' Favorite that I didn't know was complimentary for entering. Needless to say that review made me very happy! You can read it here. And I thought no more about it.

Then on October 1, an e-mail announcing the winners of the 2017 Readers' Favorite Awards hit my inbox about the same time crazy-excited Hangouts messages appeared from Ivy Rose. She sent me this screenshot:

Martin Hospitality won Honorable Mention in the Christian Fiction category!! Yes, there are 140+ categories and therefore a lot of winners. But that made it really hard for me to choose a category! And this is a worldwide competition. One of the most popular there is. So I am beyond thrilled that I made the cut!!

Here's another picture of the announcement ... it's so surreal. You can view all the official winners here.

My primary reward is that I now have two shiny badges that I can share and even put on my gorgeous firstborn book if I feel like it :)

Another perk is that I'm invited to mail them 3 of my books for them to display and potentially sell at their booth at the ginormous Miami Book Fair International ... the largest book fair in the nation. So that's super exciting and I'm mailing them today! I'll take all the exposure I can get. Which means I want to figure out how much press release is complimentary and how much is part of their services for a small fee. At a minimum, my Google rankings should go up!

So I want to thank you all for your tremendous support and excitement. Between Martin Hospitality winning this award, and the drafting of Matinee Regulars going unbelievably well, I feel like my writing career has taken a huge leap lately! And you guys are one of my greatest resources. Please know that I do not take you for granted ;)
Honestly, I don't even know what else to say except ... celebrate with me?! Besides all the loving words you guys will put in the comments (because you're awesome like that), if you feel led to share about this on your social media accounts, please tag me @abitheauthor so I can enjoy them and share them with my followers!!! You guys are the best. It's literally enough that you're just here for me to share this news with because otherwise, I would've exploded! ^.^