Alison Holt BooksA little about writing and a lot about life
As most of you already know, I just published the latest book in the Seven Realms of Ar’rothi series Duchess Rising. I absolutely love writing this series. I’m getting to know each character better and better with each book, and am looking forward to seeing what adventures and romances they get themselves into.
I especially like the cover for this one, which was created by my friend Deb Lewis, from Arena Publishing. As with most of my series, this one has very strong, kick-ass women characters who, much to the relief of my friend and reader Rob G., aren’t men haters and bashers. I definitely enjoyed getting to know King Leopold in this book. His personality and leadership really began to shine, and his obvious affection for his cousin, Duchess Bree Makena, shows through. His love for his ten-year-old son, Prince Darius, is evident as well.
Speaking of the crown prince, we begin to see how very much he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, although there are times where learning to be everything to everyone can be a little overwhelming for the young man. And of course, Kaiti, The Spirit Child is learning and adapting to Anacafrian ways while still learning about how she can help the Spirit Guides battle the Tevaiedin.
I also had fun with the healer Becca Solárin and her Shona lover, Nashotah. The two of them are reunited in Duchess Rising, which causes just a little bit of erotica and romance to appear for the first time in any of my books. Hey, what can I say? They hadn’t seen each other for a while, and well….
Anyway, here’s a brief summary of what you can expect when you once again enter the fantasy world of Ar’rothi:
If you love stories about smart, strong, capable women, swords, kings and queens and Spirit Guides, sprinkled with a touch of lesbian romance, this is the book for you. In Book Two of the fantasy series, The Seven Realms of Ar’rothi, Duchess Aurelia (Bree) Makena, first cousin to the king and the former commander of the elite Huntington’s Cavalry, finds herself once more taking up the sword in defense of her king and kingdom.
Stormy clouds of war are moving against Anacafria on two fronts; the Tevaiedin, the dark spirits of the seven realms, and Desdamea, the cruel and grasping queen of the neighboring country of Organdy, are both gathering their forces in a bid to dominate and destroy the kingdom. The Duchess finds her loyalties divided between her adopted daughter, who is the only one who can lead a defense against the Tevaiedin and her king, who needs her skills as a warrior and as one of the commanders of his elite troops.
Duchess Rising is the second book in a powerful and moving fantasy series by Alison Naomi Holt that will appeal to fans of Anne McCAffrey and Mercedes Lackey — one that blends the lyrical and mystical with pulse-pounding action.
Multi-tasking using Social Media seems to be all the rage these days. You say you’re a writer. Do you want to be a successful writer? Do you want to take your writing to the next level? Then I highly suggest you jump off the Social Media bandwagon and turn off your internet while you write. Why, you say? Here’s why…
1. Let’s say we’re true writers who allot so many hours per day to write. Remember, writing is a job. If we want to be professional writers, we need to, and must, commit to spending x amount of hours at our desks putting words on a paper. How many of us have been happily typing away, and a notification pops up on our desktop reminding us that today is Ralph’s birthday. We have only written 300 words so far out of the 3000 that is our daily goal. But, it’s Ralph’s birthday! Let’s just pop over to Facebook and wish him a Happy Birthday before we forget about it. Happy Birthday, Ralph! Oh look, Auntie Mame is getting a breast reduction done on her size FFF breasts this morning. Let me jus take a few minutes to wish her well.
2. Auntie Mame just happens to be on Facebook and sees our well-wishes. She shoots us an instant message and wants to tell us all about her ungrateful children who won’t call or write and who don’t care about the fact that she’s having major breast reduction surgery because all of the weight she’s carrying around on her front half is causing debilitating pain on her back half and she’s so happy we took the time to write and did we happen see this interesting article on the cute little puppy who dances the merengue?
3. Hmmm, there’s a puppy in the next chapter of our book. Maybe we should just take a minute to do a little research. We click on the link Auntie Mame so generously provided and find a cute little five-minute video of a Havanese puppy dancing in front of a delighted audience of oriental children. Wait, what’s a Havanese puppy? Let’s just Google that breed because we may just want to use that one as the second puppy who comes to meet the first one in the chapter we haven’t written yet.
4. Oh yeah, that reminds us, we only have 300 words written so far. Back to Word where we stare at the page a few minutes wondering what we’d written so far. Let’s just start at the beginning and re-read what we wrote because we need to keep the flow of the book going with just the same rhythm we had when we first sat down to write. Oh yeah, there’s that word we couldn’t think of in the second paragraph. Let’s pop over to the online thesaurus and try to come up with just the right word. Hmmmm, there’s one that might work, but what’s the exact definition of that particular word? Let’s click on the dictionary to find out. Oh! How cool! That word has a link to…
5. Wikipedia. Whew. Now we can really find out why the word we were going to use might not work because it was used in ancient Greece to let the hedonistic slaves know when it was time to come in to work for their owners. Uh oh, we know what that means…and we certainly don’t want our readers to think we’ve stepped into the slightly erotic zone in our writing. Phew, we dodged the bullet on that one.
Well, the time we allotted for writing is now over because we have to go make lunch and walk the dog. But wow, what great research we did, and we scored points with Auntie Mame and Ralph. And well, we did get those 300 words written, didn’t we?
We had several chicks arrive today. They’re barely three days old and already I can tell the timid from the bold, the strong from the weak and then, there’s this tiny little one that I have tucked up under my shirt because she needs just a little bit more warmth and extra care. Her eyes are closed, her wings are limp, and her breathing is almost nonexistent. She’s nestled in close to my chest, fighting to live as I write. Every now and then I feel her adjust a wing or reposition her teensy toes. I wonder if she’ll pull through, if she has that intangible ingredient that gives her that extra little oomph that I’ve seen in so many other wounded or weak animals throughout the years. I’ve found that the trait I’m hoping to encourage in this little Silver Laced Wyandotte, that intangible will to survive and to thrive, is found in all aspects of nature. It runs true in successful human endeavors as well. It’s the difference between a very talented shower crooner who is too afraid to sing in public, and, say, someone like Barbara Streisand, who ignored the naysayers of her youth and rose to the very pinnacle of her profession. Why does someone like Cesar Milan triumph while thousands of other wannabe animal trainers languish in obscurity? And, along those lines, since I love to write, I wonder why some people dream of becoming a writer “someday” while others crank out novel after novel after novel. Why do negative reviews completely derail certain authors to the extent that they never write again, yet others laugh at the negative comments and publish another book on the heels of that negative review? I think it has something to do with whether or not this little chick is going to pull through. If she has that drive, that little extra belief in herself, combined with the will to live—to succeed where others have failed and died. At some point, will she tell herself she’s just too tired to try anymore? Will she decide that the three days she’s been in existence have simply been too difficult to even want to go on? Over the years, I’ve spoken to many people who have a thirty page manuscript tucked into a drawer that one day they’ll pull out and dust off and hopefully crank out the other two hundred and fifty pages necessary to complete their book. But it’s just so hard to find time to write. It’s not fun waiting for inspiration to hit. It’s easier to simply say, “Maybe one day.” The successful ones are the people, and chickens, who shout out to the world, “Just let me write one more word, take one more breath, finish one more page, and swallow one more dropper full of sugar water.” They believe, unequivocally, that they’re going to make it no matter what. Nothing is going to keep them from their success.
I just heard a few tiny peeps out of this little chick. As I pull her out from under my shirt, her eyes are open again, her wings are tucked in tight and she’s telling me she’s ready to live. I guess she has that little extra something that all truly successful creatures possess. How about you? Are you ready to pull out that dusty manuscript and finish it? Do you have what this tiny little chick obviously has in abundance? Of course you do. Now get out there and put that one more word into your story, finish that next page, and start that next chapter. Decide to succeed. It’s really as simple as that.
Alexandra Wolfe has been trying to stay out of trouble. Honest! But with budget cuts being what they are, Alex and Casey find themselves putting on a uniform twice a month to help out the officers on the street. The ladies are right in the middle of rescuing an errant emu when their sergeant, Kate Brannigan tells them to meet her at the Rillito Race Track. There’s been a fire in one of the barns and a body has been discovered buried in a shallow grave. The tricky part comes when Alex discovers that the barn belongs to her mafiosa friend, Gianina Angelino. Tightrope walking is one of Alex’s specialties and when she begins digging deeper into the cause of the fire and Gia’s activities, well, let’s just say her balancing act is about to be tested to the limit.
I’ve been practicing a new technique that I learned from my friend, Harvey Stanbrough. If you are a writer, Harvey’s website is full of excellent material he’s written and collected on everything having to do with writing. He’s a great writer himself, but as a resource, I highly recommend him.
The technique I’m talking about is called “Writing Into the Dark.” It’s a wonderful way of writing that actually frees up writers to do what we’re meant to do—write. When I’m writing into the dark, I’m not planning the story—any part of the story—I’m simply following the characters around and reporting on what they’re doing. I’m listening to their accents and trying to write them so they make sense to the reader. I’m watching the street they are walking down and reporting on what I’m seeing.
This technique is so freeing I wish I could convince every writer I meet that they should at least give it a try. If you’re interested in looking into it, go to Dean Wesley Smith’s website here and check out number #24 of his lecture series. (No I’m not getting a commission for recommending it)
But that’s not the main topic of this post. I realized something after being hit over the head with it by Harvey the other day.
I am someone who is focused on putting out the best, cleanest book possible. By cleanest, I mean one with very few grammatical errors. I’m also very precise with my words because I know exactly what I want to convey, even with a single word. Now, I have always been very aware as a reader, that there are times when I’m completely immersed in a story and then, wham, I’m jerked out of it by something. For this post, it doesn’t matter what that something is. Suffice it to say, it happens.
What I never realized before, is that the same phenomena can happen to a writer. When I’m focused on the grammar, or the punctuation, or on finding just the right word, I’m jerking myself out of the story. I stop what I’m writing and do something else. That was an epiphany for me, and Harvey’s whack with a metaphorical stick is what it took to allow myself to write. If I come to a word that doesn’t work, I type the wrong word in caps so I can find it easily later, and I move on. Punctuation? Same thing. I’ll bold the sentence and move on.
The result has been a 1/3 increase in word count per day. Before this concept I was struggling to fit 2000 words into my writing time. Now, 3000 words fly off my fingertips, and the key thing I’ve noticed, is that my writing hasn’t suffered a bit! It’s still tight or edgy or funny and well written. The only difference is that writing is no longer a struggle!
I highly recommend trying this process to any writer out there who is struggling with perfectionism. I still go back at the end of the day to find the right word or the correct punctuation, but I don’t do it in the middle of my creative process.
Let me know if you try it and how it works for you. I’m really interested to see if it helps your writing as much as it has helped mine.
Writing mysteries comes easily to me since most of my adult life has been spent unraveling true to life mysteries as an officer in a large metropolitan police force. Solving cases is really nothing more than methodical fact-finding and taking the time to follow-up on every tiny scrap of evidence you can find. Can three words a four-year-old lisps while you’re trying to talk to her mom break a case? Of course! Well, if she says, “Daddy did it.” that’s a no brainer. But what if the mother is telling you the mailman did it, and the child whispers to her pink elephant, “Thath not twru.” A good detective would hear her and make note of what she said. A great detective would ask the mother to excuse them a minute, get down on the floor and start playing with the girl to see if he could get her to talk.
The Alex Wolfe Mystery series has been fun to write because Alex is like a dog with a bone. She digs and digs and gnaws and chews until she begins to drive everyone around her absolutely crazy. She does and says things to her superiors that would get me or any other officer fired in a heartbeat. I’m the type of person who comes up with the perfect comeback about two hours after the fact when I’m driving down the road playing back the conversation in my head. Not Alex. Her comments to her bosses are witty, biting or just plain outrageous and they’re constantly a source of contention between her and her fellow officers. Her methods are definitely not found in the regulation police manual, but they work.
One of my favorite by-products of writing books is the chance I get to answer questions from other writers. I love to teach authors how to write realistic police scenes or dialogue. Most people are pretty well versed now on police procedures because of all the reality police TV shows. At a seminar in Arizona, I was asked how one officer could handle a particular call so differently from another. In other words, how can Alex be successful when she’s so definitely “not by the book”?
Within the confines of the law, there is no one “right” way to do police work. There are many, many different ways to handle the same situation. For example, a cop walks up to a local gang member on the street and asks for identification. The gang member takes off running down the street. If the cop has twenty years under his belt, he’ll probably watch the young man running away and think to himself “Tomorrow’s another day.” He knows he’ll run into the kid again.
Now take the same scenario, but make the cop a twenty-one year old rookie fresh out of the academy. Everyone knows, the chase is on. The rookie keys his mike while he’s running after the suspect, breathing heavily while giving his location and making sure everyone in his division know he’s chasing a bad guy. Alex on the other hand might run to her car, drive around the block and be leaning up against her car with her arms crossed waiting for the guy to run out of the alley. Three very different responses, all of them acceptable. “How can the grizzled old veteran’s response be acceptable?” you may ask. Actually, they did ask at the seminar, along with about a hundred other questions that turned into a fun discussion on how these fifty and sixty year old writers could best capture a fleeing suspect.
Anyway, I digress. If you go back to the original scenario, the cop simply walked up to a man who was dressed in gang clothes and hanging out on a street corner. The man ran. Nothing illegal in that. Suspicious? Yes. Illegal? No. The veteran has probably worked the same beat for fifty years. He knows who hangs out where, when, and why. If he didn’t know this particular gangster, he’ll know who he is by the end of the day, why he’s there and what drugs he specializes in. He’ll notify the undercover street narcotics squad who’ll set up several buys and get the man off the streets for good. It’s the difference between short-term and long-term thinking. Rookie versus Veteran.
To me, it’s these types of differences that make police procedurals interesting and I like to put all different types of officers into my stories. So like I always say—Pop some popcorn, curl up by the fire with Credo’s Hope and get ready to be entertained.