Today my Guest Post on The Story Reading Ape’s blog got published. I’m very honored he accepted my article.
Thank you so much for your friendship and ongoing support, Chris!
I’m breaking out of the YA Fantasy genre with my new book, stepping into an unfamiliar field. My latest novel has some crime, flawed characters, and a protagonist who doesn’t always make the best choices… and smokes like a chimney.
Now, as compared to the YA’ The Council of Twelve‘ series, I don’t have to limit what my characters say or do. I can add intimacy, attraction, passion, crime, and one or other swear word if I want.
And, I can add cigarettes. But is that a good idea? In a time when the world around us shrinks ‘smoking zones’ to a woeful nothing, where entire cities declare their public places smoke-free environment, and where health warnings are printed on every cigarette pack, should my protagonist smoke?
A while ago, back in Europe, when I was traveling with a friend, I went for dinner to a restaurant that belonged to a very nice Italian couple. It was in Rome.
You know, when you go to European restaurants, there are these eight-to-ten people tables for tourists, where they place you on, and unless the table is filled up, you won’t get served.
My friend and I had a lot of fun. I don’t belong to the people who always want to eat steak and fries or fish and chips wherever they go. I’d like to know what a country has to offer me. And here it was the same thing.
Confidently I told the waiter, I want to have the ‘house special,’ no matter what it is. He was a bit surprised and asked carefully, “Are you sure?” I confirmed that I was, indeed, very sure.
He brought us soup and salad ahead; then, the entrees were served. My friend got steak and fries, and I got the ‘house special’… it was a bird, a tiny bird. It was lying there, all by itself, on a small white plate.
The little head hung halfway over the plate; one of its eyes was open, one closed, beak, feet, and claws were still entirely there.
So far, I have always taken on every challenge I had accepted, even the ones to myself. But in that particular case, the question was not, would I really go through with this? The question was, “How?”
There is something we all can learn from American ‘Haute Cuisine’… One can eat everything imaginable on Earth, no matter what it is, provided it fits in a bun.
Lately, I was interviewed for the website of the Paranormal Romance Guild and was informed that the interview would be on the website today. Thank you very much for the great feature, Paranormal Romance Guild! I’m very excited!
Interview with AJ Alexander
by Sherry Perkins
AJ Alexander — author, poet, lover of Maine coon cats. Don’t know what a Maine coon cat is? It’s a ball of fur with attitude. But I digress…I met AJ through the Paranormal Romance Guild and an incidental Facebook encounter where she was holding the Halloween poetry contest she sponsors every year. She was looking for contest judges. I volunteered.
To be honest, I’d also been following her blog, “Writer’s Treasure Chest,” for quite a while as well. AJ’s blogs are filled with goodies such as writing and marketing advice, the occasional bit of comedic relief and even pictures of Maine coon cats. But more than that, she’s a writer who loves what she does — whether it’s novellas, poetry or paranormal romance and fantasy — and it shows.
She took a minute away from promoting her newest book, “Demon Tracker,” to answer a few questions.
1. Short stories, poetry, and novels–which is your favorite to write, and why?
I love writing novels (and novellas, in my case), and also, I write poetry, some of which I published on my blog “Writer’s Treasure Chest.” I enjoy the flow of the words and the rhymes when I write poetry. I could get carried away within the verses. The novel writing is my true passion. I have a straight plot; then I start knitting the “side-stories,” put my pen on the paper and start writing. Often there is even another one or two more side stories or unexpected characters coming up. I love the creating of worlds, weaving my imagination with the characters, and see how they develop.
All this is rarely possible with short stories. I’m not saying they’re a terrible thing, but they need a lot of planning to get one entire story inside of around 7,500 words. I love it to be carried away by the story, and it is almost a punishment to limit my fantasy into a word-frame.
A. J. Alexander is a talented classical musician who has won several music contests in her youth. She is an accomplished skier and loves to swim, amongst other sports.
She works for a global corporation as a part of the management team and travels a lot, also internationally.
A.J. Alexander lives in Southern California with her three beautiful active and demanding cats. In her rare free time, she loves to meet friends or go for long nature walks.
A. J. learned reading and writing at the age of four and realized quite early in her education that she loves painting pictures with words. During her school time, she won poetry as well as short story contests. Later on, she participated in writing and poetry workshops to learn the craft. During her time at university, her education as a writer turned toward creative as well as journalistic writing. A. J. published several poems and short stories under a pen name.
Currently, she is working on ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series, her first book in the series, ‘Soul Taker’ was published December 15, 2018, the second book, ‘Sundance’ is on the market since August 2019 and the third book in the series will be published in spring 2020. Writing fantasy books has always been her dream, and she looks forward to sharing her work with her audience. The need to write a novel had been nesting in her head for quite some time.
A.J. Alexander descends from an internationally extended, politically and entrepreneurially active family and was privileged to enjoy an excellent international education. In her spare time she volunteers for charity events, fights for animal rights and when needed serves as an interpreter to help great causes.
So now, let’s get into my interview.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Oh, I remember that day as it was yesterday. In the book, I read there was this beautiful, strong black stallion supporting our hero, and the horse died. I cried hot tears.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
If it would exhaust me, I’d not be a writer.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
The ‘need’ to become published as quickly as possible. Within that process, they just ‘leave out’ a few steps and don’t have a book at the end but some amateurish, poor result of a sloppy but fast project.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
In a way both. I am working on a book series, ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series. But I don’t want people to be ‘lost’ when they have the chance to buy book three in the series, I still want them to feel comfortable with the book and enjoy the read without the feeling of having missed something they should have read. I’d like each book to stand on its own as well as being part of the series. That’s my dream.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Start networking earlier.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It did slow my process down since I had to take far more time for marketing now.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I think I was about ten years old when I realized how powerful words are. Ever since then I tried to use them wisely. As much as they hold – they also can kill.
Do you base your characters on real people?
Not entirely no. Some of my characters do have certain habits, speak in a particular manner of people I know or resemble them a bit. But my characters are fictional and that’s how I like it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Six. Book 4 to 8 and an additional few stories in the series are either with the copyright lawyer, with the editor, I’m still working on them or are waiting until I pick up my work on them.
How many hours a day do you write?
That depends on what else I do. I cannot live off writing – I do have a job.
What did you edit out of your most recent work?
That was a part I like very much while I drafted the book. But during my work to type the draft into the computer, re-reading that paragraph, it just seems enormously awkward and does not really belong there anymore. I therefore deleted the entire paragraph.
Boy, have I been there, AJ. And it just kills you to have to do surgery on something that sounded so good when you write it, too.
How do you select the names of your characters?
First I pick names that I think match the character’s look. I search for them online, important to me is normally the meaning of the name and the origin. If I find the first names I like, normally I pick about 12 to 15 names, then I start doing the very same thing with the last names. After that, I start limiting the lists to the six or seven I like the most. I list the first names on the left, the last names on the right side, then I ‘connect’ the names that sound the best to me and combine the perfect meaning for my character. And that will be the name.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I work on ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series and usually I work on several books at once. For example, I type in the drafted book seven right now – to the same time I write additional stories and book 8.
Who is your favorite author?
There are so many talented authors, it is very hard to pick one.
What is your all-time favorite novel?
In what genre do you write?
Young Adult Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
AJ, I’d like to thank you for being a part of my newsletter this month. I know my readers have enjoyed getting to know a little more about you.
Readers, if you’d like to contact AJ about her books, writing, or to find out even more about her, check out her links below.
My guest post about book signings and how to be horribly underprepared was published today on The Story Reading Ape’s blog. Thank you so much for your ongoing support, Chris! What would I do without you?
When I was happily posting about my first book signing, a couple of weeks back, I was looking so forward to what is going to happen that I was completely unprepared. I mean, what exactly would happen? I hoped for people dropping by at my table, loving the book, buying it and I’d sign it. – Wonderful me.
Normally I am a very cautious person, and I love to go somewhere, no matter where, and be really prepared. That day I wasn’t. I didn’t have more than only a few days to get ready for that book signing, and I completely slept the preparation away. There were many other things going on as well, but that isn’t a decent excuse to be as sloppy as I was.
I was honored to be interviewed by Author Ari Meghlen who published the interview on her blog today. Thank you so much, Ari! I’m truly grateful for all your efforts!
This week’s guest post is an interview with the wonderful Aurora Jean Alexander, paranormal romance writer, and owner of the blog the “Writer’s Treasure Chest”. Enjoy!
Q01 – Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m doing quite many things, by thinking about it. I work for a government-owned corporation as a part of the management team and travel a lot, as well nationally as also internationally.
Currently, I’m planning to move to a new home, together with my three beautiful active and demanding cats. In my rare free time, I love to play the piano, go skiing or horseback riding, amongst other sports, meet friends or go for walks.
I learned reading and writing at the age of four and realized quite early in my life that I love painting pictures with words. During my school time, I participated in poetry and short story contests which I won quite often.
Later on, I participated in writing and poetry workshops to learn the craft.
Creative and journalistic Writing;’ were some of my favorites during my University time. Part of my poetry I published on my blog ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest.’
I’m working on a series of paranormal romance novels and novellas. Writing fantasy books has always been my dream, and I’m looking forward to sharing my first published work with my audience. The need to write a novel had been nesting in my head for quite some time.
Q02 – What is your dream goal for your writing?
To read the entire interview, please go to Ari Meghlen’s blog:
Yippee! A new interview with me. I’m very honored to be interviewed by Fiona Mcvie on “authorsinterviews”. This is exciting! Thank you very much Fiona!
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hello Fiona, My name is Aurora Jean Alexander, AJ in short. As of my age: I’m like so many other women and don’t like to talk about it. Let’s say, I’m a bit older than I look like but young enough to consider everyone else my age looking a lot older than me. LOL
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m from South East, preparing to move to the West.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up in a family involved into politics and was blessed with an excellent education in several countries, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in BA. I was very lucky. I’m living by myself with three cats, working a full time job and I am an author.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m working on a Paranormal Romance series of thirteen books and just completed book number 6. All books are in different states of “complete”. My first book is currently with my copyright lawyer and I hope he’s got good news for me. I would very much like to publish it.
When I discover a beautiful picture, I very often catch myself standing there, sunken into the sight and just enjoying. And then, I realize, very slowly, that I picture some of my characters interacting right at this wonderful place.
In book 6 of my series, I have some of my characters meeting in a clearing which I had kept in my memory like a valuable treasure, only to remember it the moment I needed it and used it for this particular story. And there’s not much I can do than to describe what I see in front of my inner eye. I figure this is one of the things I love about reading: releasing my fantasy. If I read about scenery the writer describes, I picture it in front of me and try to look at it the way it feels comfortable and decent for me. Don’t give me too…
Winter Wonderland Finally by Aurora Jean Alexander
It was Christmas, three weeks ago,
the grass was green, there was no snow.
The skies were blue, it was too warm
Green Christmas? Here? This needs alarm.
New Year came -no flakes in sight
The sun had fun, the sky was bright.
But unexpected, it took us off guard
we woke up to a white yard.
Even though it’s freezing cold
I still will say – and I am bold
Sometimes I like the soft white mass
It can be fun – and it’s got class.
Snowy bushes and white trees
are surrounding the lake that will go freeze.
In such a time I love a forest walk
What is the basic for a good novel – or novella – or short story – or even a fairy tale? Yes, it is the characters.
How do we create a character? Will it be one main protagonist or eventually a group, male, female?
Within all my so far written short stories I created female protagonists. I am a woman and therefore might better understand a woman (or girl) in thinking, speaking and logic. (Yes… females are logical too.)
I therefore decided to try and create a female character right here within this post together with you.
We are considering that this story takes place in 2015 Los Angeles.
Who is this character? Yes, she is a woman. But what I’m asking myself at this moment is: Is she shy or outgoing? Is she controlled or whimsical? Is she thoughtful or spontaneous? When she talks, how does her voice sound?
Our character is an outgoing but still controlled personality. She likes contact to other people and is quite social. Still she controls herself very much since she’s got secrets she does not want to reveal. That’s why she thinks nearly every action carefully through before doing something. Her voice is soft in volume but still strong and sometimes even velvety.
Where does she come from? Who are her parents? How did she grow up? How was her childhood? Does she have siblings or another person besides her family? How old is she?
Our woman is in her early/mid-thirties (33), comes from an old rich family and grew up quite spoiled. She had everything she could dream of and so did her brother. Her parents were amazing, even though she had her Dad working most of the time and her mother being nearly obsessed with her beauty, the girl wasn’t missing a thing. She also grew up with her uncle, her mother’s brother, who was a quite unlucky person and living in the guesthouse on the family property. Our girl considered him her best friend.
How does our character look like?
She is tall for a woman, about 5’11”. Her eyes are a warm chocolate brown, her hair is waist long and wavy, the color of ebony. Her skin is a soft honey color. She is slim from nature with small hips and endless legs but her entire body is a little more muscular than a regular female body and her breasts are barely cup size B.
In the middle of her right eyebrow a fine, white, about half an inch long scar cuts her brow bow.
What kind of relationships does she have?
Her parents are dead. She lost them when she was barely 20 years old. Her older brother has his own family and is not very fond of her and wants to keep her away as far as possible. He lives in Tennessee with his family. Her uncle is in prison. She has three best friends, one of them male.
What is she doing in our story? What is her ambition? What are her goals, what does she want to accomplish?
She is a children’s psychologist trying to support misused children. She as well has founded an encounter group and anonymous help line for abused children or young adults.
In many ways she is a very soft hearted and supportive personality. Her need, towards the outside, is to help. But her internal need, unfortunately, is to punish…
Is her a character flawless? If no, where is the hidden flaw? Is she going on someone’s nerves with that? Can it be repaired or hidden?
Yes, she is hiding what was within her childhood. She is hiding that she is not just out of the blue supporting these abused children – she has been going through this herself. She hides murderous rage and this is a secret she may never reveal. Can it be repaired? No, it might be too late for her.
Does she know she has a problem she is hiding or that she needs to work on what’s bothering her since her childhood? Is she aware she needs help? Does she show on the outside that she is torn between compassion and rage?
She knows the secrets she’s hiding, but she has buried them so deeply she is not aware that these problems need to be worked on. She believes strongly the more she supports others with their problems will help her too.
Is our character relatable, and if yes, how? Do we recognize a realistic woman who could have faced what she was going through? Can we imagine meeting a woman like her within our friends or even family? Can we identify with her and feel with what she’s going through?
Yes, she is someone we can imagine interacting with. She is someone we admire for what she’s doing, her work, her compassionate heart, her ability to reach out to the victims. We have no idea who in our real life has hidden secrets, so she wouldn’t be an exception.
Is there something that keeps her away from being some sort of super-woman? She is selfless, helpful, supportive, brave… but what with her rage? What is it that is dangerous to her?
She is an amazing person. One we’d love to be in touch with: an ideal woman in many ways. But there is this one thing that might break her – even destroy her: fear. Her rage is born within the darkness of her being scared to go through abuse again. She’s trembling to meet her worst nightmare again. her abuser.
What is her name?
Her first name is “Danica”, the Slavic word for “morning star”. (I found this fits since she is like the first morning light to many she supports)
Her last name is Baldwin. Derived from the Germanic elements „bald“ (bold, brave) and win (friend).
I do create most of my characters this way. Since most of my short stories are paranormal romance or fantasy I am free to extend the one or other character strength or flaw a little bit and do the same with the look of my protagonists.
You might ask: Do you have a list? And I will reply: Of course I do. There are uncountable lists of how to develop characters. One that works for me and which I used for this blog post is to find here:
I hope you do like Danica Baldwin and let me tell you: it was so much fun creating her together with you. Thanks so much.
This post was published first time as a guest post on Val Rainey’s blog June 15, 2015. Thank you so much Val!!
I am so proud to announce that I was invited to write a guest post for the blog of Val Rainey. I decided to write about how I create a character – and that’s exactly what I do within my blog post, together with the readers.