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Blackbirch: the beginning by K.M. Allan

I want to introduce the fabulous author K.M. Allan and her debut novel Blackbirch – The Beginning. I had a little fun with Kate’s interview and asked her to answer four random questions. Hopefully, something a little different from the other interviews she’s done, to give her readers another dynamic to how she develops her stories. Let’s begin…

K.M. Allan – Author of Blackbirch the Beginning

What was your hardest scene to write?

There are a few action scenes toward the end of the book. To ensure it was clear; who was standing where, and what was happening, was a skill I had to quickly learn. I confused some of my early beta readers, even though it all made sense to me, but I think I got there in the end, and it was a nice surprise to learn that I like drafting action scenes.

What is your favorite childhood book?

I was a huge fan of The Babysitters Club series and really wish I had of kept them all. I am pretty sure at one point I had most, if not all, of the books.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Definitely getting started. I can be inspired and organized, all ready to write, and procrastinate instead. Once I start writing it’s great, it’s just the act of getting started that’s difficult.

What was your favorite scene to write and why?

There’s a scene where Eve Thomas is being watched by something or someone she can’t see and it was interesting trying to capture the tension and creepiness on the page. I remembering being alone when I was drafting it and needing to go and be around people afterward, so hopefully, that means I pulled it off. 

If you want to stalk, I mean follow Kate, you can find her hanging out at Facebook and Instagram; talking about her kitten Dash, and letting us know how her series is coming along. Go check her out – she’s really friendly!!

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/k.m.allan.author

https://www.instagram.com/k.m.allan_writer

Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor. 

The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft. 

Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin. 

Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones. 

To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.

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Buy Links

The book can be bought at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Book Depository, and Kobo. All the buy links are here: https://kmallan.com/blackbirch/

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I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kate on this series, her characters are truly compelling and her story hauntingly beautiful. Tell me my wonderful community: Have you read Blackbirch the Beginning? Do you think it’s something that might interest you? And what magnificent projects are you working on at the moment? Don’t be shy, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Improve your Writing by Removing Crutch Words.

Completing a rough draft of a novel is a huge success. However the real work comes from revising. Working with critique partners to help develop the plot and character arcs. But what happens after you’ve done a few rounds of revision? Where do you go next? How can you sharpen your manuscript?

We all have words that we over use, words that we rely on to tell or show the story. Words that we’ve peppered our page with. Soon, you and your beta readers will being to notice the words you rely on, and with diligence you can begin to remove them from your work.

Because I write fantasy-romance, I tend to over use body parts; eyes, mouths, certain gestures for my characters like shrugging or curling their hands into fists. When over used, our readers pick up on them, which brings them out of the story. These become our crutch words.

A great tip is to create a checklist sheet. Jot down a list of your culprits and search your document, preening them out. Don’t forget body parts, facial expressions, or words that you identify as over using. Then edit out the crutch words. Try rewriting the sentence using different words? Ask yourself – do the words adding any meaning to the sentence? Will its removal, alter the story? Can the crutch word be replaced with an alternative description? Thus eliminating the obvious eyesores before your readers identify them.

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#TIP. Word document has a Find tool that searches and highlights the specific word in your manuscript, making it easy to alter or remove.

Air caution, when using the thesaurus. While its function is invaluable to us authors, it runs the risk of stripping our unique voice from the story. I must admit to replacing a word for a recommended substitute and losing the original meaning by not understanding the definition.

A rough idea, is to limit those pesky crutch words to just once per page. Of course, you don’t have to stick to that. Changing a lounge, to a front room, mid-scene is going to be jarring. As would using flowery prose to describe a lagoon, just so you don’t say water too much.

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Some genres – I’m thinking romance – expect to have an emphasis on certain body parts. Eyes in particular, because it shows emotions, and builds tension. Reading in your genre will help you identify those crutch words that have become acceptable to use.

My last tip is to read your work aloud. We’re often too close to our work to see fault. But by sounding out the writing, our brains have the ability to process the information, thus picking up on crutch words.

Yes, it’s tedious hard work, but with persistence and a thorough revisions your writing will improve. I believe in you!!

What is your main crutch word? Don’t be shy. I love it when you share your thoughts and opinions.

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Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Defining Your Writing Voice

We all hear it, time and time again, from agents and editors and publishers… we want VOICE! But what exactly does that mean? And how can we start to define our own Voice in our writing.

Over the last year I’ve started receiving some great feedback from Editors and Agents, great Voice, wonderful writing style. And yet, I’ve had no full manuscript requests. So I wanted to dig deeper into what wasn’t working in my manuscripts. It turns out, I’d developed the wrong kind of Voice.

Don’t get me wrong, the industry wants a writers voice and their style to come through, but what they also want, also NEED… is our characters Voice. Both the POV of the character (their voice), and the writers (Our own voice), need to blend together to create a wonderful voice that draws the reader in.

If your struggling with the concept, or want to improve your own writing, I strongly recommend reading – Voice. The secret power of writing by James Scott Bell. In his bite sized book, he sets writing exercises that help hone and develop Voice. He gives examples of Voice in literature to help the reader understand the many different aspects of voice and how we can cultivate a different style of voice for different genres.

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Perhaps it’s easier to develop a characters voice in first person POV, over second person POV, because the writer is filtering everything through the characters perspective. And to make matters more confusing, some novels are written in an omniscient narrator style, where the writers voice carries the story.

The main points that I’ve learnt is when describing a setting, do it through the characters eyes, taking into account their mood, their background, their current goals and their character wounds. I’d been describing them through my POV. What I wanted to convey was a stunning visual world full of hidden emotion. Some characters don’t care what the sunset looks like, or what dress so-and-so is wearing. Oops!

I’ve tried to write my second novel Mischief and Mayhem in deep third person POV, unfortunately, to much of my own voice carries the story. So it’s time for a complete rewrite. I’m on the lookout for new critique partners who understand Close narrator – Third Person POV, and loves fantasy-romance. If you’d like to work with me, please comment below.

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Do you have any tips on how to develop your character voice? If so, I’d love to hear all about it. Don’t be shy, we’re all here to learn and develop our craft.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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How to Revise your Manuscript Using a Reverse Outline – Review of Jeni Chappelle’s webinar.

Hello my fellow writers and welcome! This week I’ve completed my fourth manuscript; a speculative fiction called Entangled of around 90’000 words. Finishing the first draft is a fantastic moment, but it’s also only the beginning of a novels journey to completion. I’m currently in an odd position where I have three novels all at different phases of the revision process. I must admit the task of tackling a first revision is still as daunting as it was the first time. I recently attended a webinar by editor Jeni Chappelle who has a wealth of experience, so I thought I’d share it with you.

The first part of editing may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s vital: Put the MS down and forget about it. Leave it on the hard-drive or locked in a draw and focus on something else. When the time comes, you’ll want to be as objective as possible. You’ll want to forget about the subplots and character arcs. You’ll need to switch your brain from being a creative writer, to an analytical observer. Time and distance from your WIP will help.

Jeni talk us through the three phases of revision, the first one is to look at the structural elements of your story. The plot and character arcs are the foundations of your novel. It’s fundamental to do this type of revision first; the set up if you like, to see if the novel works.

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While I’ve always started my process by reading through the whole manuscript, making notes on the things I want to change or clarify – Jeni opens up a whole list of vital question to ask during this process. Jeni gets us thinking about the internal goals and conflicts of the characters. The webinar gives the key to unlocking all of the hidden workings behind a successful story.

I found Jeni’s friendly approach not only welcoming but also easy to understand, despite the in-depth scope of the lesson. During the half an hour webinar, Jeni helps distinguish the importance of identifying the plot and pacing, and much, much more.

Jeni teaches writers how to Create a reverse outline. If you’re having heart palpitations at the thought of this, trust me, you’re not alone. A reverse outline is an overview of your novel, enabling the writer to structure their novel. Stories should follow a novel structure, their are many to choose from, but I prefer to model my stories on the three act structure.

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Once we’ve identified the gaps in our manuscript its time to start editing. Perhaps your MC needs clearer defined goals, or the pacing is too slow to start. Maybe some of the scenes need to be switched around to enable the story structure to flow.

The process will be different for everyone, the important part is trying. That’s where you’ll learn and grow as a writer. Once you’ve finished the first round of revision, you may choose to ask a critique partner to help out. They will be able to point out any areas you may have overlooked.

Send your work out to beta readers and return the favour by critiquing their work. This is the stage I’m at with my third MS Crown of Lies. It’s a valuable chance to put into practice the knowledge you’ve gleaned from revising your own work. While it can be daunting, it is undoubtedly the most valuable skill you’ll learn as a writer.

If you’re stuck and you’re searching for professional feedback, you may want to work with a developmental editor, or simply get feedback of your submission package. (This is the stage I’m at with my second novel, before I query again.) Today’s post has been influenced by one of Jeni Chappelle webinars. She is a co-founder of #RevPit over at Twitter. Check her out – subscribe to her newsletter. Not only does she have great content and she’s also a fantastic editor too.

What resources do you use when editing? Do you like to use the reverse outline method, or do you tackle the issue in a different way. I’d love to hear all about your process, please share your experiences with me.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Writing (or not writing) During A Pandemic

Being creative during a pandemic can be a struggle. Not only is the world full of fear, but it’s also loaded with stress. If you can’t write, don’t beat yourself up about it. We’re living in uncertain times, making sure you take care of yourself and your family is the main priority. But to ease the burden, here’s a lighthearted post about how I’m dealing with the situation.

Keep active.

This translates to hoovering in my pajamas, washing the dishes while staring out of the window and daydreaming. I like to let the lemon-fresh soapy suds lull me into a peaceful bliss while I conjure up new plots.

Keeping the kids busy.

Signed up to Disney+ so we can all watch our favorite films. I’m taking advantage of being emotionally carried away by Marvel magic. Sigh! Chris Pratt. Besides, endless games of monopoly and Uno are getting old fast. It’s like an extended Christmas holiday with less booze.

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Keep expectations realistic

I now understand that two ‘family sized bars of chocolate’ are supposed to last a full week. Apparently, stocking up on treats does not count as essential shopping. BUT, when I next make the perilous ‘social distancing’ trip around the supermarket – I’ll buy more chocolate (and maybe booze).

It seems everyone else has gone baking mad, meaning bags of flour, paracetamol and loo roll has suddenly become rarer than gold dust (who would have guessed). Thankfully, I can’t bake!

Take some ME time.

This means hiding in the bathroom; to either have an emotional break down, or to read a chapter (or three) in peace. Suddenly, I understand why my husband takes so long on the loo. Sneaky!

Draw strength from the situation

Sometimes we need to pull on our inner reserves, knowing that we will get through this madness. A good tip is to call upon your Spirit Animal. I have called upon a hamster: I like to eat, hibernate, gaze at the world side and then do as little house keeping as possible.

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Humor can be a great way to cope with difficult situations. So why not get creative and share your spirit animal with me. You know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Powerful Influences in Writing.

We explore the world around us through things we hear, see and experience. So I guess it’s natural to expect the current crisis to slip into our writing. Should we sensor our words to protect other peoples feelings? Should we avoid subjects, because they might be deemed inappropriate?

As writers we’re told to research, to write what we know, to have empathy for our fellow humans. This is how we learn to write from their perspective. With the Coronavirus pandemic on the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s not surprising it slipped into my latest WIP.

I think in times of crisis it’s the artists responsibility to dig a little deeper.

~ Bruce Pavitt.

Yesterday, I did a hard cull of all traces of the conspiracy theory I’d just invented. It was too close to the bone, and too horrifying to write. I had palpitations thinking about the potential persecution I’d face.

I’m a strong believer that we don’t need anymore fuel added to the fear-fire. And yet, I’m aware of the benefits to writing about what scares you. The unknown, the strange, the grotesque. How else are we suppose to make sense of the things that form our day-to-day world?

There is no ‘right’ way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there – just get to work and make something.

~ Lisa Golightly

In this time of crisis, when everyone is maintaining a calm, sensible approach. I wonder how many writers are releasing some of that pent up anxiety and terror onto paper?

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Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share? Are you writing about the current crisis? Has something similar slipped into your work? Please share your experience, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Writing character flaws

The reason why character flaws, or big problems, are so important, is because this is what our character is going to overcome. To master, to change, to learn to strengthen or resolve. This flaw will be planted right from the beginning, showing the character in their normal setting, struggling with something that has a negative impact on their life. By the end of the story, we will see the character transformed, back in their normal world, but living a little more imperfectly.

Every story requires a specific character to fulfill the story arc. A character’s arc is a much an integral part of the story as the plot. They should compliment each other through the specific conflicts that will appear because of the characters flaws.

The point of a story isn’t to just save the world, or to get the girl/ boy. It’s to see and feel the world through your characters POV. Show the reader what’s different now that your character has set out to achieve everything they wanted. Whether they achieve their goal, or not, is not important. Overcoming a flaw and getting something they needed is.

Needs are internal goals, things that can transform a character: Redemption, forgiveness, love, acceptance, fear, survival, trust, responsibility, faith or selfishness.

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As writers, we understand the necessity of a great character arc. To create goals, wants and needs that unravel through the story. Wrong plot or wrong character, and the story is, at best, not going to achieve its full potential. Or, at worst, it’s going to fail.

In Wonderwoman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo, Diana wants to prove her worth to the Amazons. Diana knows none of the other Amazons respect her as an equal and this plagues her thoughts. Driving her to enter the mortal lands to save the planet from war, intent on proving to her fellow Amazons that she was worthy of living amongst them.

In Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Agnieszka loves her family, friends and her village. She’s distraught when she’s chosen by the Dragon to spend ten years in his castle. Agnieszka’s goal is to return home, she wants to escape, but she needs to transform into the woman who helps her loved ones escape the curse of the Woods.

Both Diana and Agnieszka are driven to protect their loved ones and to return home. However, their developed characters, filled with strengths, weaknesses, and flaws, would have resulted in very different arcs. Thus changing the whole plot.

I imagine if Diana had been chosen by the Dragon, she would have fought her way out of the castle early on, maybe even incapacitating the Dragon. She would have fulfilled her goal of returning home, , but the corrupt Woods would have devoured her beloved village.

I imagine if Agnieszka had lived with the Amazons, she would never had been called to take action in the first inciting indecent. She would have happily stayed on course, and the story would’ve ended before it even started.

Picking the right character, or characters, if you’re writing multiple POVs, is essential to the development of the story. But don’t worry Pansters, we can always evolve are characters, and/ or story during the editing phase: In fact, I often do.

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How do you define your character flaws, or the big problems they’ll face to bring about transformation? Are you an avid plotter, developing your characters before they appear on the page? Or are you a little like me, developing the problems as they arise, and then backtracking during the editing phase so that everything aligns? Share your writing process with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Figurative Language – Writing Tips

Ways to use language in literature.

There are many ways in which we can convey meaning within our writing, figurative language uses words to deviate from their literal interpretation to achieve either a powerful effect, or a subtle nuanced one. Writers use techniques such as metaphors to create powerful imagery with in their settings, adding depth and substance, whilst playing with the sound and flow of the words.

What’s the most common method of figurative language you use in your writing? And what would you like to explore more of? Share your preferred writing style with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.

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Why Writers Need Validation to Grow

We all crave validation. We all desire acknowledgement and acceptance. It is one of our fundamental needs as a human. Despite this yearning, I’ve battled with this concept. In a modern society, we’re led to believe that we’re failing unless we push aside these impulses and set to the hard work of getting to know ourselves, of loving ourselves and not needing validation from outside sources.

I’m crying ‘bullshit’ to the notion, we don’t need validation. Yes we do! We’re hard wired for it, in fact, it’s how we learn and grow. But sometimes we get caught up in our reasons for needing it.

In this post, I’ll be explaining the subtle difference between: Excepting who you are; putting yourself out there, battling rejection and criticism to obtain validation of something you’ve worked hard for. Over: Not appreciating your own worth; grappling for validation to prove you exist.

I want to point out that neither of these ways are wrong; if anything, it strengthens my argument that validation is vital to us. Because we, as conscious beings, will often go to great lengths to achieve those fundamental needs.

Dream Big and Let Nothing Hold You Back
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Lets talk about this subject as if we were exploring our story’s themes: Forgiveness, Revenge, Love, Fear, Redemption, Survival or Acceptance. There are many more, but in my second novel, Tali a nymph flees home and bargains her freedom, all in the bid to gain validation from an external source. She wants acceptance.

Taking the theme of Acceptance, I then developed my character, Tali, by asking questions. Why would she sell her soul to gain validation? Why can’t she love herself and follow her own path? How will she discover her own path? And who will validate her experiences to help guide her on her way?

Did you notice a change in those questions? The last two help get a growth mindset. Tali starts the story by giving all of her power away. She’s pleasing other people to satisfy their needs, gleaning what little attention she can get. Tali’s character arc takes her on a journey: She begins to understand her own self worth. She conquers her demons, regains her freedom and starts living her life to the fullest. Yet she still craves that validation, now she gets it from her friends.

Love Heart Hope Fantasy romance writer author Lorraine Ambers

I’ve parodied that example to us as writers: We work tirelessly, often alone, hanging onto the hope that we may one day get a glimmer of attention from an agent, a publisher, or a reader. This can sometimes feel overwhelming, where we feel desperate to sell our soul, I mean our book, to anyone that shows it any attention. Stop. Take a deep breath.

We need to know our own self worth; not every agent or publisher is right for us. Don’t forget we’re still on our journey. Take the time to improve, learn, grow and try again. Get validation from beta readers, critique partners, or a writing group. And fear not, I’m sure there is still plenty of validation to come.

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How do you get validation as a writer? Do you think it’s important? Share your comments, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.