Thursday, June 26, 2014

Five ways to use food as a tool in fiction

I recently had a reader who told me she felt the need to recreate one of the recipes I described in my book. She said it deepened her experience as she read. The funny thing is, the reader wasn't talking about one of my cookbooks--she was referring to a tool that I love to use when writing fiction. Food in fiction can be used to draw your reader into the story.

Little Women
Here are five ways to use food as a tool in fiction:

1. Use food to create a sense of place or invoke a certain response from your reader.

Let's say that you are writing a scene showing a family at Christmastime, sitting around the fire, and sharing time together. To help your reader really feel that they are there, describe the yeasty smell of cinnamon rolls as they come from the oven, or the taste of wassail as it slips down your character's throat. Your reader will insert their own positive experiences with cinnamon rolls and sweet drinks by the fire, and be drawn into the scene.

2. A taste or smell can help connect a later scene to an earlier one.

If you want readers to recall parts of an earlier scene that is critical to bringing later loose ends together, use a food or a smell to connect the two. For instance, in Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the peculiar smells of lavender and lemons are mentioned in a garden early in the book, and then, when the character has a vision of an earlier time, the smell of lavender and lemons is mentioned again, pulling the two scenes together in the reader's remembrance and helping them make connections that the authors did not have to spell out. 

3. Mealtimes are a great way to create a crucible that brings conflict to the fore.

Chocolate Frogs from Harry Potter
We all know that conflict drives the story forward. What better way to introduce conflicts than to sit all of your characters down at a meal and watch them duke it out? Think of Downton Abbey. You know as soon as you see them sit down for their fancy meal that the crap is going to hit the fan! And we are rubbing our hands in anticipation. Bring your characters together over dinner to form a crucible--a way to push characters into the same space and make them bring up the conflicts that are bugging them. 

4. Food can spark the reader's imagination.

We all love to eat, and food can bring wonder to the world your characters live in. Think of Willy Wonka with his color-changing gum, and Harry Potter with chocolate frogs and puking pastilles. One of my favorite foods in fiction are the Lumba Berry Pies in In A World Without Heroes (Beyonder #1), by Jason Mull. The character encounters lumba berry pie--a delicacy that is so addicting that the diner will never want to eat anything again. The only problem is, lumba berries have no nutritional value and causes the addicted eater to starve to death.
Lumba Berry Pies from A World Without Heroes

5. Foods and their preparation can be used as a metaphor for what the character is going through emotionally.

Having your character eat an ice cream or bake something from scratch can mirror what is going on emotionally in the character's life. In one of my books, a character burns the batch of cookies that she makes after having a disastrous date. The ruined cookies reflect the emotional state of the character and it pushes her over the edge (as an added tool, I used the burned cookies to foreshadow a later event involving a burning building).

The next time you want to introduce a setting, fuel the reader's imagination, or bring characters together to create a conflict, search your recipe box--you may find the answer to your plot holes in your next meal.


Authors-have you ever used food as a device in your writing?

Readers-What's the most memorable dinner scene or food you've ever read about?

Monday, June 16, 2014

GIRLS ON FIRE boxed set is now available!

Okay, so 10 Dauntless authors have put their books together into one amazing boxed set: GIRLS ON FIRE.

Here's what the boxed set is about: Ten powerful YA heroines kicking butt and fighting for love.

10 novels. 1 buck.

Get your copy today!

Click on each author's name to learn more about them and their individual books.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Do your characters arc?

Character arcs, a character's journey of internal change and growth, are an important part of making any story satisfying. It helps readers to relate to your story and root for your character. The external plot, the action and events of the story, affects every character, but do your characters grow and change on an emotional level?

Every character, and every character, has to start somewhere. We know that in the "ordinary world," at the beginning of the story, something is amiss—something is missing from the protagonist's life. That doesn't just mean a love interest or a murderer that needs to be brought to justice—there's something deeper, on an emotional level, that the character needs.

That could be love or justice—or it could be forgiveness, healing, resolve, courage, wisdom, etc. (Editor/author Alicia Rasley has a great list in her article "The Internal Journey.") This is what they gain in the end— what the story events mean to the character.

This is another instance where knowing the end from the beginning really pays off—if you know what the character will end up with, you know set them up in the opposite place: if they need love, they start off lonely. If they need healing, they start off damaged; resolve, dissolute; courage, afraid; wisdom, naive.

This also works the other way around—if you have the flaw at the beginning, you can look for ways to "fix" it throughout the story events.

You can also find your character's arc by by focusing on your character's strengths to find their weaknesses. This principle creates well-rounded, realistic characters without throwing in disparate and extraneous characteristics or fake weaknesses.

Sounds contradictory, doesn't it? The concept is actually centuries old, as Alicia Rasley explains in a blog post:
The heroic flaw is what opens the protagonist up to real trouble-- what causes him (and it generally WAS a him in the past :) to seek out trouble or fail to resolve it expeditiously. But here's the clever part-- the heroic flaw was often the other side of the heroic strength: "That which makes him great brings him down." (I'm paraphrasing, maybe bowdlerizing, Aristotle here!) This is so elegant, so classy, so inspiring, that even today novels can be transformed by that equation.
To do this, we take the character's strength to a logical extreme. So if her strength is that she's a self-starter, maybe her weakness is a logical extension of that: she can't ask anyone for help. If his strength is that he's naturally a very generous and loving person—but his weakness is that he tries to hard to please others and becomes a doormat.

Finding this flaw sets up the character's emotional journey. Their growth throughout the story is prompted by the external events of the plot. The external events may be what keep the reader turning the pages, but this internal journey is what makes the book have real resonance with the reader. Seeing people grow and change is a major appeal of fiction, and gives us the hope that we can all become better people. This internal journey is what makes a book truly compelling, and something that we continue to contemplate beyond the basic events of the plot.

There's a lot more to be said about character arcs—enough to fill a book, actually! So I did: Character Arcs: founding, forming and finishing your character's journey helps you to find the perfect arc for your character, make sure their change is prompted by external events and revise your character arcs for maximum impact.

What do you think? How have you crafted your characters' arcs? What are your favorite character arcs to read?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cover Reveal for the First Dauntless Collection: GIRLS ON FIRE

What happens when you bring together 10 award-winning, critically acclaimed authors? 

The GIRLS ON FIRE boxed set, coming June 16th!

And now we'd like to present you with the cover,
designed by Morgan Media!

For some reason, blogs all over the internet--including this one--are converting the blue in this cover to a washed out-grey. If you'd like to see it in all its original blue glory, 
click here to see in on Facebook!

Here's what you'll find inside this collection...

WITCH FALL – Amber Argyle
High Fantasy
Supreme in their dominion over seasons, storms, and sea, the witches have forgotten the unmatched destructiveness of mankind. And among the weapons men seek are the magical songs of the witches. Born of witches but raised among their enemies, Lilette searches for a way to heal the rift between mankind and the witches. But it may be too late to save either. For if there is one thing Lilette has come to know for certain, it’s that all things fall.

Paranormal Romance
For centuries, Alex Night and Emil Stone have yearned for Evie Starling. When both men claim to be her soul mate and tell her about an unbelievable past, Evie learns that she’s not the person she thought she was, and her soul is about to become the rope in an eternal tug-of-war.

AWAKENING – Christy Dorrity
When an ancient curse threatens McKayla McCleery's family, she must decide what in her life is real and what is fantasy. Based in Celtic mythology, Awakening is a gripping young adult fantasy that is rife with magic, romance, and mystery.

INEVITABLE – Tamara Hart Heiner
Visions of death plague Jayne, who thinks watching her sister die is the worst that could happen to her. But when she witnesses a murder, Jayne realizes that the next death she sees might be her own.

WATCHED – Cindy M. Hogan
Romantic Suspense
Change. She longed for it.
A murder. She will never be the same.

Allison O'Malley's long-lost father shows up and tells her about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan.

Futuristic Fantasy
Sixteen-year-old Gabriella Kilpatrick can shoot fire from her hands, which would be great if she didn’t get blamed for a blazing inferno that kills 17 schoolmates. Gabby will have to learn who she can trust, how to control her own power, and most of all, how to lead a Council of Elementals, most of whom have more control over their power than she does. If she can’t, she’ll find herself just like those 17 schoolmates: burned and six feet under.

Kickbutt faerie Violet is about to graduate as the top guardian trainee of her class, but when an assignment goes wrong and the human boy she’s meant to be protecting follows her back into the fae realm, a dangerous plot is set in motion.

PERCEPTION – Lee Strauss
Eternal Life is to Die For.
A spoiled genetically altered girl needs the help of a jaded “natural” boy to find her missing brother.

INTRINSICAL – Lani Woodland
The gene that allows the women in Yara’s family to see and communicate with spirits seems to have passed her over. Until the night she rescues a local hottie from an attacking ghost. Her act of heroism attracts the attention of the evil spirit, and she finds herself entrenched in the middle of a sixty-year-old curse that haunts the school, threatening her own life as well as that of her friends.

~ ~ ~
Publication date: June 16, 2014
Price: 99 cents for 10 amazing YA novels!
~ ~ ~


About the Authors:
Follow each author’s link to learn more about them and their books.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Indie Authors: Why You Should Get Your Book into a Multi-Author Boxed Set

Rankings accurate at time post was published
Rankings accurate at time post was published

Boxed sets are very popular at the moment, and some are doing really well. As an indie author, you can do this too! Here's how multi-author boxed sets benefit everyone involved:

Readers Get More Books for Less
Boxed sets generally have bargain prices. Many even go for 99 cents! As a reader, there's no way you can lose out. Even if you only enjoy a few of the stories in the collections, you're still scoring.

Authors Get More Sales of Follow-Up Books
The only time I wouldn't recommend putting your book into a multi-author boxed set is if it's your only published book. You're not going to see an improvement in sales; in fact, you may see a drop. However, for authors of series, having your first book available in a boxed set increases the sales of all the other books in your series from readers who may never have discovered you otherwise.

More People to Spread the Word
When you announce the release of your own book, you've got all your fans and contacts to help you. When you announce the release of a boxed set, you've got your fans and contacts PLUS the fans and contacts of every other author from the collection. This gives you exposure far beyond your own fan base.

Combined Marketing Efforts
It's difficult to come up with fun, original ways to market your books, not to mention time consuming to execute those ideas. When you've got a group of authors putting their brains together to come up with marketing ideas, all of whom will take part in carrying them out, it's easier for everyone!

Ads Cost Less
Ads can cost quite a lot when you're paying for them on your own, but when the cost is split multiple ways, it's far more affordable. Yes, it's the boxed set that's being advertised, but YOUR BOOK and YOUR NAME are getting visibility at the same time.

All that being said, I'd now like to announce that we Dauntless Authors are producing our own boxed set! We picked ten of our most awesome, kick-butt YA heroines and put them all together in GIRLS ON FIRE!

The cover will be revealed on June 9th
GIRLS ON FIRE will be released on June 16th

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