Friday, March 28, 2014

The Evolving Character (Guest Post by Aida Jacobs)

Most readers might think that the plot of a story is the most difficult and important thing to nail down for a writer. In some cases, that is true...writer's block is in fact a very real thing. A writer will often go months without a visit from their muse before finally being flooded with inspiration.

It's a genuine handicap that all writers must bear.

However, sometimes it's the characters and not the plot that prove problematic to an author. Some take shape easily in an almost organic way, while others require more concentration and thought. Then, there are the characters who take on lives of their own and completely evolve into something different from what the author originally planned.

I myself can draw from a personal experience that happened a mere two days ago. I was making notes for my next book while listening to one of my playlists, when a song about pirates began playing. Instantly, my brain was flooded with backstory and little factoids that I decided to use on a character that I was in the process of developing. However, in spite of the fact that all the information I was adding to the character profile (something I highly recommend doing so you don't lose track of anything important in regards to any given character), I couldn't help but feel that the character simply wasn't quite right. She was good, make no mistake, but she just wasn't quite there yet. So, after sitting and staring at my computer screen for about an hour without avail, I got up to get a drink. In that moment, a line of dialogue floated through my head and prompted me to take all the information and backstory that I had been trying to fit into the previous character and instead use it to create a completely different character that will end up playing an extremely vital role in my second novel. What happened to the other character I was working on? Don't worry about her. I still have plans for her…just not in this particular book.

Where am I going with this?

I suppose the bedrock of my point is that while they might simply appear to be nothing more than words on a page, characters can be just as alive as any flesh and blood person. They evolve and they grow just like we do. Just when you think that you have a character figured out, they turn around and surprise you. Nothing about them is set in stone. It can't be. Otherwise, the characters become stagnant and don't contribute to the advancement of the plot. Every character in a story has a part to play, and it's up to you, the writer, to ensure that they get a chance to play it.

Is the character meant to make it to the end of the story and share in the protagonist’s victory?

Or is the character merely a catalyst that appears for only a short while in order make your protagonist evolve and advance within the story?

Both roles are vital. Just because a character doesn't make it to the end of the story, does not make him or her any less important in the grand scheme of things. Keeping this in mind, we as writers must never short-change any characters that float through our minds. We must give them each the proper amount of attention and take the time to flesh them out. After all, what starts out as a simple, throwaway character could very easily become a keystone to developing an idea later on in the story. This applies even to those characters that might be kicking around inside your head right now. You might not have a use for them at this particular moment in time, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have a need for them later.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Comments on Wordy Writing from Lauryn April

Wordy Writing:

Since 2012 I’ve self-published two books, Into the Deep, and its sequel Hidden Beneath, both young adult paranormal romances. There are a number of things I learned after I finished Into the Deep. But now, as I get ready to publish my third book, I find my writing is worlds apart from where it was in 2012. In March, I will publish my third book, A Different Kind, through Phantom Owl Press. 

I’ve gained skills in marketing, cover design, as well as overall understanding of the publishing process. However, I think the place where I’ve most improved has been my writing itself. Creating stories has always come easy to me. I’d like to think the stories I’ve created over the years have been good ones, if not great ones. But, my ability to tell those stories has greatly improved.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from self-publishing is how to remove wordy writing.

It’s hard to read through your novel and “cut the fat”. But, while it may hurt to pull out the red pen, it’s absolutely necessary. Recently I made a post on my blog, Words to Search and Destroy in your Manuscript, where I talk about specific words that when used often lead to wordy writing. In general, wordiness comes from using any words that you don’t absolutely need.

One word that isn’t on my “Search and Destroy” list is the word “that”. This word in particular is one that I’ve been aggressively removing from my next novel.

Tips to Removing Wordy Writing
1.       Take a break between finishing your novel and starting your revisions. Getting a little distance from your writing will help you see where you have problems.
2.       Pay special attention to areas that you had trouble writing. I find my writing gets wordier in the areas I apply the “butt in chair” method to. In other words, the parts I push through just to keep writing are often the wordier parts of my novel.
3.       Avoid passive writing. This is something you should be doing anyway, but I find passive writing tends to be wordier than active writing.

Here’s an example from my second book Hidden Beneath

This is the original passage from 2013.

“I loved you more than anything.” His voice was firm and unwavering.

I looked away from him as his words hit me with the weight of a wrecking ball, but he reached out and palmed my face, turning me back to him. His eyes locked on mine.

“I loved you,” he said again, and I felt the tears stream down my face. “Dammit, Ivy, I still love you.” 

The next thing I knew his lips were smashed against mine in a hard, bruising kiss. Tears were spilling from my crushed-shut eyelids, and I was kissing him back. His hand, which previously had been palming my face, was now tightly grasping my hair, and his other hand had a rough grip on my arm. It felt like I had been waiting a thousand years for that kiss, and in that moment not even the need to breathe could have pulled us apart. My hands were around Brant’s neck, and I tugged at his hair. My body was arching to reach his. I forgot about getting hurt - all I wanted was to feel him again.

This is what I would do now.

“I loved you more than anything.” His voice was firm, and unwavering.

I looked away from him as his words hit me with the weight of a wrecking ball. but He reached out, and palmed my face, and turned turning me back to him. His eyes locked on mine.

“I loved you,” he said again, and I felt the tears stream down my face. “Dammit, Ivy, I still love you.”

The next thing I knew His lips were smashed against mine in a hard, bruising kiss. Tears were spilling spilled from my crushed-shut eyelids, and I was kissing him back. His hand, which previously had been palming my face, was now One hand tightly grasping my hair, and his the other hand had a rough grip on my arm. It felt like I had I’d been waiting a thousand years for that kiss, and In that moment not even the need to breathe could have pulled us apart. My hands were twisted around Brant’s neck, and I tugged at his hair. My body was arching arched to reach his. I forgot about getting hurt - all I wanted was to feel him again.

I hope everyone found this post helpful. I think it’s important as writers to know that there’s always room to grow. Wordiness is something a lot of readers will overlook, but being able to catch it as a writer will lead to a stronger story.

Follow me on my blog, on twitter @LaurynApril, and check out my next novel, A Different Kind on Goodreads.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Creating Characters (Guest Post by B.R. Tracey)

Hi, I'm B R Tracey, self published author of It's A Ruff Life, which is the first book in a series of children's spy dog, secret agent, action & adventure novels. Volumes 2-5 are to be released very soon and books 6 to 8 are in various stages of production.

The most important thing about forming children's characters is to make them real. 

They have to become real to you. You have to know them so well that you know how they will react in any given situation. The more you know every facet of your character, the more they will jump off the page for your reader.

The way I developed Bella and Max, my two anamorphic principal characters of all my books, was by creating in depth profiles for them as well as using observations from animal and human behaviour.

I am constantly researching through watching current children's TV shows and reading children's books to keep ahead of the trends in language, fashion and other merchandise; so that my characters can always relate to my readership.

Some of the profile questions I asked myself about each of them was :


Physical description -

Animal attributes

Human actions





Favourite Food:


Special Talents:

Additional information ie: their background

This is by no means a comprehensive list of questions, but it gives you a starting point to get you going. As you fill in these questions you will find that tons of things pop into your mind and eventually you will get to the point where your characters feel as real to you as your friends and family.

In my house Bella & Max are often included in topics of conversation. Remarks like "Bella would do this," or "Max would think that," is quite a common occurrence. This is exactly what you want because when others start talking about your characters in such a natural way you know that they will be a great hit because they have taken on a life of their own.

If you enjoyed this post you can find out more about B.R. Tracey and "It's A Ruff Life" at the following links:

It's A Ruff Life on Amazon

It's A Ruff Life Blog

It's A Ruff Life Facebook Page

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Art of Cover Design (Guest Post by Jolene Perry)

We're excited to bring you a guest post from Jolene Perry. Jolene has successfully self-published as well as traditionally published dozens of contemporary romance novels under her real name and a couple of pseudonyms, and also designs her own covers. When we asked her to share a little bit of her knowledge with our followers, this is what she had to say.

So. I tried to condense all my thoughts on covers and cover design into a few bite-sized chunks...
We'll see how I did.

ONE - 
The cover is more about getting the feel of the book right than making sure the people are JUST LIKE your people. I see authors struggle all the time to find just the right couple and they compromise so many other aspects of the book for that ONE thing. Make sure that your cover shows the TONE of your book more than anything else. Show people what they have to look forward to. I think I did a good job of this in Falling - I see that cover and I know I'm going to get a fun love story. In After All, I found a girl who is JUST like my girl so I used the pic, and I've sold a MINOR fraction of After All than of Falling... (Yes, I'm working on finding a good photo for that one)
I also like to use bright colors, and it's helped me a TON. 
TWO - 
I have two points here -
FIRST - I'm a huge font nerd. HUGE. But just because I love a font and the font goes perfectly with my story and title and picture, doesn't mean it's going to be readable... 90% of the time someone sees your book, they're going to see a thumbnail. Keep that in mind when picking a font.
SECOND - really think about author branding with this. Jolene Perry is my real name and my font branding is mostly out of my hands b/c most of those covers were done by publishers and I had no, or very little, say. I've done a much better job w/ Mia Josephs - I use the same font a HUGE amount w/ the name Mia. And definitely always for the author name. Building recognition is huge.

Covers sell books. People judge books by their covers. Know your audience, look at the books that are selling well for that audience, and come up with your own version of this. Before you roll your eyes at me because I basically told you to copycat something - go look at the top 100 books in any given genre. Chances are that there will be similarities in cover design on at least half of them. Trends change. Font trends change. Picture types change. Know what's out there. So, follow that, but find a way to make yourself stand out ;-) So, see? I'm not actually telling you to copycat.

Wow. I had a lot more to say on this than I thought, lol.
Finally. Your cover, more than anything else, should be designed to sell your book.
Go with your gut, but get outside help. Outside of your crit group or your online besties.
And the question isn't - How perfect for my book is this?
It should be more like - Would you pick up this book?

I have sold more copies of My Heart for Yours than any other book. We've changed that cover three times, and this is the picture that has easily sold the most copies.
AND... Those are my thoughts on covers :-D

Thanks so much for having me!!!!

I wear juvenile T-shirts, worn-out chucks, and eat too much chocolate. I write. A lot. I make up words, drink Shirley Temples, and suffocate a little without my iPod.

Find Jolene Perry on

Monday, March 3, 2014


We're excited to present to you the official book trailers for Lauryn April's A DIFFERENT KIND (coming later this month) and Jen Naumann's PARANORMAL KEEPERS (coming March 11th)!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Indie Books Read: February

Here at Phantom Owl we support indie authors. We've asked book bloggers to share their indie book reviews with us, and at the beginning of every month, we're going to share with all of you the wonderful books they've suggested. We hope to not only bring attention to indie books, but also to promote the bloggers that are taking the time to read and review them.

The list includes books of all genres.

Books are arranged by rating.

Mind Static by Jen Naumann
April Books Rating - 5 Stars
Goodreads Rating - 4.44 Stars

Merlin's Children by Megan Joel Peterson
Bookwyrming Thoughts Review - 4.5 Stars
Goodreads Rating - 4.5 Stars

Lichgates by S.M. Boyce
Bookwyrming Thoughts Review - 4.5 Stars
Goodreads Rating - 4.10 Stars

The Moon Dwellers by David Estes
Bookwyrming Thoughts Review - 4.5 Stars
Goodreads Rating - 3.96 Stars

Touching Smoke by Airicka Phoenix
The Book's Thing Rating - 4.5 Stars
Goodreads Rating - 3.91 Stars

Ephemeral by K.A. Poe 
Bookwyrming Thoughts Rating - 4 Stars
Goodreads Rating - 4 Stars

The Princess Problem by Diane Darcy
Ice Queen's Bookshelf Rating - 4 Stars
Goodreads Rating - 3.6 Stars

Unbound by Georgia Bell
Bookwyrming Thoughts Review - 3.5 Stars
Goodreads Rating - 3.96 Stars

Grief: 5 Stories of Apocalyptic Loss by Michael Coorlim
The Book's Thing Rating - Unrated
Goodreads Rating - 4.43 Stars

Frances Elizabeth Willis by Nicholas J. Willis
SKJAM! Reviews Rating - Unrated
Goodreads Rating - 4.33 Stars

The Thirty-Ninth Man by D.A. Swanson
SKJAM! Reviews Rating - Unrated
Goodreads Rating - 2.88 Stars

Phantom Owl would also like to make a special shout out to Follow the Yellow Brick Road, for submitting Braedric's Bane by A.J. Nuest. However this particular book is published by HarperImpulse UK. Considering this is an Imprint of HaperCollins we do not feel this book fits the guidelines for this post.

If you are a blogger who would like to contribute to the "Indie Books Read: March" post, you can do so HERE. Reviews submitted must be for books read in March of 2014, must be self-published or  published by an independent or small press (Like Phantom Owl), and must be added by the reviewer not the author.

How can we improve this post? Let us know, leave a comment.