Fear is the mind killer.

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I don’t know about other authors, but I tend to give my characters traits and background stories that never make it into the novel. A prime example would be the fact most of my characters have phobias.

And of all my main characters, I think only one or two of them had their phobias actually show up on the page.

BC from The Wanderer with his fear of spiders, for example. Or, Bishan who hates cotton wool and would happily set all of it on fire.

And has.

I am a pantser of sorts. While I rarely fully plot out a story and I never have an outline, I do attempt to flesh out my characters fully. I want to know who they are since it helps me write.

How can you tell someone’s story if you don’t know who they are?

So, I keep book bibles on all my stories. At the moment, I use slender A5 individual notebooks from Muji. They’re the perfect size for keeping track of everything related to a story.

The first thing I do is to begin a sort of profile of my two main characters.

What do they look like?

Do they have tattoos?

Who are their friends, family, enemies?

What are their dreams, hopes, fears, etc?

Now, a lot of the time, most of the information will never make an appearance in the pages of their story. But, it makes them real to me. I’m not a visual person–I can’t conjure up their face in my mind’s eye, yet all the written details make them more real than if I had a photo of them.

I believe phobias tell you a lot about a person.

Maybe not a lot, but a little. Some fears are rational–some not so much. Cotton wool, for example.

Toshiro from One Last Heist has two great phobias that are connected–the Ocean…and drowning in it. His beloved Mack is afraid of darkness.

How about you? What are you afraid? I have quite a few phobias–heights, spiders, bugs in general. lol

What’s in a name?

Or a book title.

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Here Comes the Son went through a series of titles before I hit on the punny goodness of the perfect one.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the rejects.

1. Not the Devil

2. Devil on My Shoulder

3. Wicked Satisfaction

4. Morning Son

5. Son of the Morning

6. Son Set

7. Devilish

8. Kingdom Come

9. Wicked Saint

10. Wicked Inheritance

The Herb-a-Swore

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If you’ve read any of my books, you’ll know I LOVE a good swear. Sometimes inventive, sometimes conventional, I’ve rarely made a supposed ‘bad’ word I didn’t like.

In Here Comes the Son, I got incredibly creative with Lalo, one of the main characters. He doesn’t curse in a way you’d expect.

So here are a few of his greatest hits.

  1. Holy Crumbs
  2. Fudgesicles
  3. Son of a Carrot
  4. Son of a Cabbage
  5. Oh My Basil
  6. Basil It Up
  7. For the Love of Oregano
  8. For Fennel’s Sake
  9. What the Fennel?
  10. Crumbs

I think ‘basil it up’ is probably my favourite.

The Mile High….City

You thought I was going somewhere naughty with that, didn’t you?

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I’ve been to Denver probably four or five times. My husband was born just north of the city and lived there for the first forty years of his life. He knows the city inside and out.

He was a great resource when I began writing Here Comes The Son.

There are loads of interesting places and buildings to see in the Mile High City (The Library is my husband’s favourite.)

I thought I’d focus on food, partly because it features quite prominently in my story.

So here are ten amazing restaurants to check out if you’re ever in the area.

  1. Denver Biscuit Company – yum
  2. Bar Dough
  3. Uncle
  4. Maria Empanada
  5. Potager
  6. Cattivella
  7. Vinh Xuong Bakery
  8. Aiko Pops
  9. Rioja
  10. Fruition

There are loads more, but these are definitely top of my list.

And now, I’m hungry.

From straight pantser to ever so slightly plotting along.

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I used to be a straight pantser.  (Someone who writes by the seat of their pants instead of plotting with an outline, etc.)

Never did anything, not even writing down character notes, before starting a novel. My mind liked it, but my manuscripts became a bit of a nightmare to edit. It’s hard to keep track of characters, plots, and timelines when NOTHING is written down.

And your memory is a bit shit.

Now, I do better.

I plot a little. I’ll never be a true plotter. Outlines bore me to tears. So, I’ve found a compromise that works.

Stage One: Faces, Names and Places

Three things I usually do before anything else is to pick the location of a story, the novel title, and visual references for the characters.

I’m not a very visual person, so I definitely need an actual image to picture while I’m writing.

Stage Two: Build out a Book Bible.

I use thin A5 Muji notebooks and fill out little character questionnaires for the main characters along with notes about family/friends. I also jot down a loose timeline. I find this helps keep the novel on track, but also with writing newsletters and blog posts once I’m done with the book.

Stage Three: Media.

Before writing, I build two essential lists. A musical playlist, my current WIP has a mostly country music playlist. I also create a TV/movie list. I find watching shows or movies based around the theme of what I’m writing can really help me get in the mood.

For The Royal Marine, for example, I watched a lot of Bake Off. For the Grasmere trilogy, it watched Poirot, of course.

Stage Four: Let’s Play Pretend

This is the stage where I’m usually supposed to be giving myself a writing break, but I’m chomping at the bit to write.

Stage Five: Write

Self-explanatory that involves a lot of coffee, sobbing, and hitting my head against the keyboard.

If you’re a writer, are you a pantser or a plotter?