DRAWN Haunt – Just Because You Can

Edinburgh - Writer's museumThe DRAWN Haunt party continues today with a post about how to tame all those big ideas into one tightly written book.

The DRAWN Haunt is a month-long celebration for my award-winning novel DRAWN‘s 5th anniversary. All October you’ll find here book-related posts about writing, romance, ghosts, time travel and more. To catch all the spooky DRAWN Haunt posts, explore the blog, and check back often or subscribe to this site (see bottom of this post for how).  And for more about my novel DRAWN, click here. 

DRAWN was a complicated novel for me to write, but it definitely taught me a lot. So here’s the most important thing I learned…

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN

Fiction writers can create a story out of anything, and every character they put down on paper can have their own conflict, their own story line. This is both a blessing and a curse.

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In DRAWN, Marie Lamba deftly entwines romance and mystery, past and present, into a page-turning adventure. Buy it today and I promise you’ll be finished reading far too quickly! — Joy Nash, USA Today bestselling author

When writing my ghostly time-travel novel DRAWN, I knew I was creating what, for me, was a “big book.” Up to that point I’d been writing novels that took place within a tight one month time frame. My plots revolved around my town and were populated by people very familiar to me. “Write what you know,” they say, and I knew the worlds of my first two young adult novels WHAT I MEANT… and OVER MY HEAD very well. But DRAWN was a different sort of story.

Time is slippery in this time-travel book, involving a month-long time frame in the present, but also an eight-month long time frame in the past. The setting is present day AND 1460 England. I’m a bit familiar with modern England, having lived there for a semester and visited numerous times, but the past? Not so much. Intensive research was required. My characters in this new novel range from Italian-Americans, to British citizens, medieval lords and courtiers and servants. Add into this mix a plot line where the past and the future continues to be altered as our heroine travels back and forth in time and, well, you have a big book indeed.

And I struggled a bit to make sure it didn’t turn into one big mess. Which gets us to the heart of this post: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I can’t tell you how many characters I spun out into entire story lines with their own scenes and character arcs…and some of these characters don’t even appear in the book anymore. You might think the solution is an outline, but even when using an outline it can be hard to tell just how far to go with a character’s story or to know which scenes might be important.

Sometimes the only solution is to write it through and then cut cut cut! Sure, you are doing a ton of character research by writing those extra scenes. But when the character ends up being barely a minor one, it becomes a case of TMI. You don’t need all, or sometimes any of that stuff. And by heading off here and there on wild plot chases, you are wasting time, wasting your energy, and muddying your own clear view of things.

In DRAWN, I’d created this character Guncha, who quickly became one of Michelle’s friends after Michelle moved to England. Guncha was gossipy and romantic-minded, so she was the perfect person to give Michelle the scoop on things, and to nudge her in matters of romance when Michelle finds herself stalked by an unknown guy who also, by the way, mysteriously appears in Michelle’s sketches. But when it came to Guncha, I didn’t stop there. Before I knew it, Michelle was visiting Guncha’s house, sleeping over, meeting her family, learning of Guncha’s conflicts with her traditional family. And Guncha was planning an escape with a secret and unsuitable boyfriend, etc. etc. etc. Nearly one hundred pages later, I realized that my story had naturally strayed far from its central focus: Michelle and her encounters with Christopher Newman, the hot medieval ghost with a sketchy past.

So, refocus and cut cut cut! In the final book we only see Guncha at school and at a carnival. There is no secret boyfriend. No family to speak of. And Michelle wishes she felt closer to her, but realizes that she just can’t share her own secrets with Guncha. How would Guncha ever understand that Michelle’s budding new relationship just might be with a ghost? As Guncha implores Michelle to tell, but secrets continue to build, the reader is in on the gossip instead of Guncha, which is fun. So in this case, I would have saved a ton of time if I could have decided up front not only that Guncha was going to be a minor character, but also what her true function in the plot would be. This is a biggie, because if I knew this I could have smacked my own hand every time I deviated from this mission.

Sounds good, right? But what if your extra character’s story parallels and weaves into the main plot, adding intrigue and mystery? Why wouldn’t you stray into that storyline?  DRAWN involves an ancient murder, and a chilling curse that still lingers in the town’s castle. In the book, the Wallingford Papers (based on the real Paston Letters…look ‘em up if you’re curious) are a series of preserved family letters dating back to the 1400s. They detail the history of the murder, and the heroism of the Wallingford ancestors. But are all the letters actually in the public record? And are they to be believed? This plot is essential to the book, involving the fate of the ghost and pretty much everyone in the story.

Okay, so doesn’t it seem obvious that a scholar could be at the heart of rooting out this mystery? Since the Wallingford family reputation (and much of their success) hinges on their heroic background, wouldn’t you expect that family to do anything to keep their family name clean? So, is it that crazy that I created a scholar who in the ‘50s uncovered their secrets and was about to go public with it, before an untimely death? Flash forward to the present, and I also created Mr. Llywelyn, a history teacher at Wallingford Academy (Michelle’s new school) who was related to this very scholar and who is also fighting to uncover the truth of the murder, the papers and the death of the scholar, and…

Cut cut CUT!!! Jeesh. Do you see how the fiction writer’s mind can spin and weave and deviate from the main story path, even while she is following that very same path? Yikes, it’s like entrapment I tell you. In the end I had to give a long hard look at the story elements that were most essential. Yes, I wanted a scholar who was silenced, but I decided that this scholar would have absolutely nothing to do with the history teacher. The scholar now has merely a mention, just enough to add to the danger and the gravity of the treacherous ancient secrets being kept. As for Mr. Llywelyn? Well, he’s Michelle’s history teacher, instructing the class about the very era Christopher the ghost inhabits. The teacher’s role is now limited to occasionally adding in a fact about the Wallingford Papers, about the dangers of living at that time, etc., thereby ramping up the tension for Michelle when she realizes what these facts mean to a ghost she’s starting to have spooky good feelings for. I had to focus on Michelle as the hero, as the person who solves the mystery and makes things happen. No way should this be relegated to another character.

So again, a supposed major-player was reduced to a few lines. Lines that were necessary and served the plot. And beyond that? Well, this just wasn’t his story.

Sometimes writing a book is a process, sometimes it’s an ordeal, but it’s only successful if we give our draft a hard look and decide if scenes are moving us forward, and if our deviations are truly creating the book we’d set out to write.

As I get further along in my writing career, I’m training myself to create a clearer story line and to force myself to stick to that path. If the story is complex enough, like DRAWN is, there is no need to deviate and take elaborate side trips into other character paths. It’s enough, while plotting, to stick to the main issues and simply ask myself: And then what? And then? And then?

The answers, surprisingly, can equal a rich and complex novel.

 

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Writer Wednesday: On Writing Magic

*This post originally appeared on my DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour earlier this year at the wonderful blog site The Cozy Reader

MP900414028We writers have the best job in the world.  We get to perform magic, to make things mysteriously appear out of nowhere.  All writers do this when they write fiction, but when we are writing actual fantasy scenes, well, that’s more magical than ever.

The trick, as with all magic, is making the audience believe. In my paranormal novel Drawn, the main character Michelle De Freccio is an artist that draws and then meets Christopher, a hot medieval ghost with a sketchy past.  Okay, so you have to suspend some disbelief when you read books like this, but my job is to make everything as credible as possible.  I didn’t want to create something goofy, but a novel that is gripping and that feels very real. A story that truly draws you in. To do this, I grounded as much as I could in a gritty reality, and only put in a few spare touches of magic.

On the reality front, it helps to have a character like Michelle who is a born skeptic, and a cynical Jersey-girl to boot. She’s hoping to start over in England and have a more normal life (back in New Jersey everyone called the De Freccio’s the De Freakos…her family has an odd background and she was labeled a freak).

Even Christopher, who is technically a ghost to Michelle, is a realist living in his own world in the 1400s. Convincing both of them that they are linked in a time traveling relationship isn’t easy. People who are skeptics need some undeniable proof…and a touch of magic, like in this scene from the book, narrated by Michelle, when she realizes she’s truly in another time and invisible, among other things:

But Thomas Haston’s vision remains barely focused on Christopher. “Yes, master.” He bows his head. “I shall grab the reins.”

He hurries toward us. Straight toward me. He must be completely blind, because he’s going to walk right into me.

“Watch it,” I say.

He doesn’t walk into me. He walks through me. Like I’m a stream to be waded through. My skin feels itchy and a nasty saltiness fills my mouth. Christopher releases me and looks at me with horror. I look at my hands, expecting them to be see-through, but they’re solid. “What the hell?” I say.

“What in hell,” he says, his voice barely a whisper.

 

So who is the ghost here, and what, exactly is going on?  Here’s the end to that scene:

Christopher takes both my hands, gingerly, as if he’s afraid they’ll burst into flames. “What are you? A sprite? A spirit? A phantom?”

“I’m a freak,” I say. And burst into tears.

 

MP900444287While much of Drawn is based in realistic scenes, whether in the present or in the distant past, there are a few times when I really get to flex my magic muscles. One of my favorite moments happens when Michelle brings a book with her into the past, a book that reveals all the battle outcomes in the 1400s.  While Christopher would be able to use this information to his advantage, this will clearly mess with destiny.  Some things are just not meant to happen, so:

I run my finger over the text to where I left off. “The Duke, misreading his opponent, brought his forces for the Christmastime to the castle of…” Suddenly the page looks different. More white space. Less words.

“The castle of?” Christopher prompts.

I try to focus on the words. “…for the Christmastime to the castle of Sandall, but…” Something seems to move across the paper. My skin crawls, as I slide my eyes downward. I watch with horror as the letters at the bottom of the page disappear one by one.

I flip the page. Letters disappear from the bottom here, too. The white of the paper grows, eating away at the words. Frantic, I flip back to the page I was just reading. Completely blank. “Oh God.”

“What is wrong?” Christopher tries to sit up.

I flip ahead a few pages. Two paragraphs are left. I quickly read, “Henry’s forces had been gathering throughout the area for some time and the land was heavily for—” The rest of that word is gone, as is the rest of the writing on that page.

“Why did you stop?” Christopher says and peers at the book. He draws in his breath as the words I’d just read vanish like a fabric unwound by a pulled thread.

 

Every novel with a fantasy element must have its own set of rules.  In Drawn, messing with destiny can be killer, literally. The history book with its unraveling writing sends up a warning to Michelle, but she disturbs destiny anyway, and winds up putting Christopher’s fate in horrific danger…  Okay, I can’t say anything more about that without spilling too much about the story.

But I can say one other thing about writing magic: If you put a very real moment right up against a magical one, the contrasts can create a seriously strong scene. In this scene from Drawn, Michelle is in her own time being attacked by a bunch of thugs from “the wrong side of Castle Road”:

Drawn-ebook cover final borderAs rough hands drag me off the sidewalk, I shriek “Christopher!”

They laugh. “Calling your posh boyfriend?” Bobby says. “Guess he can have you when we’re through.”

I close my eyes and hear a scream. It’s not me.

My eyes fly open. Bobby cradles his arm. Blood seeps through his fingers. “Who did that?” He looks around wildly.

I back away and another guy tries to grab at me. He shrieks as his thumb is sliced off, seemingly by nothing. It lands bloody beside me. I catch a glimpse of a rusty truck in the street before I close my eyes and curl up in a ball. Tears streak my face.

There’s more terrified screaming, then I hear them run away.

“Michelle. Michelle?” someone says and touches me. I whimper. “It is okay. I came. They will not hurt you now.” I feel the hand rub my arm and he says, “Shh now. Shh.”

I dare to open my eyes and there is Christopher kneeling beside me, a blood-smeared sword in his right hand. He drops the sword and gathers me into his arms.

 

For some reason, this scene always gives me the shivers.  I guess I’ve always been a sucker for a brave hero in tall boots.  Now that’s magic!

Special Free Offer (this week only…)

Quick post to let you know that my award-winning paranormal DRAWN is available FREE in ebook format through a special promo this week only (11/12-11/16) through Amazon worldwide.  You can access it for US readers here and for UK readers here.

And special thanks to all the awesome sites who are helping tell the world about this special limited promotion.  Sites like FREE KINDLE BOOKS AND TIPS and SNICKS LIST.

Happy reads!

Marie

Reviews, News and Free Stuff!

Hey gang,

Lots of stuff going on out there…Reviews, news and free stuff, oh my!  Definitely update time.

First of all, here’s a freebie for you folks.  Today and tomorrow only, August 8th-9th, you can snag your own free ebook copy of my novel DRAWN through Amazon. Just click here.

I’ve received some awesome support for this free promo from a number of sites and people, such as Free Kindle Books and Tips.  If you are ever searching for top-rated free ebooks, this is a great place to visit and bookmark.  To pop by today’s listing, which features DRAWN (yeah!), click here.

I also highly recommend the site Flurries of Words, which gives top billing to the best ebook deals. They highlighted my novel here!

Another excellent site, Digital Book Today, has just featured an interview with me where I share the moment when I met a ghost in a dungeon, and then…well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself by clicking here.

And props also go out to the awesome review site Night Owl Reviews, who not only gave DRAWN a glowing “Top Pick” review, but also created a banner for the free giveaway of DRAWN just because they are so awesome at supporting authors!

In other news…the fab book review site Book Love 101 just posted this amazing review of DRAWN. The reviewer said: “I loved the passion between the two characters, the forbidden romance, the ever impending mystery that could tear them apart. Loved it all!…We’ve got forbidden romance, time travel, mystery, deception, heart break, and so much more! All put together to make one truly EPIC read! Five stars from me! I’d recommend this read to anyone!”

Zowie!  Needless to say, I’m thrilled.  If you’d like to read the full review, and check out other reviews by Book Love 101, just click here.

And the very cool review site Supernatural Snark is currently featuring a guest post that I wrote titled, “Catching a Spirit.”  I talk a bit about that thin veil between the past and the present, and share an excerpt from DRAWN where Michelle first meets a spirit who is all too real. It’s a bit of a tingly moment, and you can catch it (and tingle?) by clicking here.

Also, the fun review site Romance Bookie was nice enough to feature an interview with me on their site!  I talk about my inspiration for the novel, will there be a sequel (?), and offer a bit of writing advice too.  Read all about it by clicking here.

I have to say that this is just the tip of a wonderful iceberg of supporters. I wish I could mention every single one. The people who take the time to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. The folks who bother to Tweet about DRAWN and post about it on facebook and on their websites.  It’s overwhelming in a good way.

My gratitude goes out to you all!

Happy reads,
Marie

DRAWN is Rated “A Best Book”

Happy spring everyone!

SO happy.  I just found out that the review site Long and Short Reviews has rated my paranormal novel Drawn a “Best Book.”  This is high praise indeed.  Higher than their 5-star rating.  As the site explains it, the Best Book rating is reserved “For a book or story that is truly exceptional. You think about it when you’re not reading it. You wonder what happens to the characters when you finish. You would absolutely buy everything else this author had to offer. The highest praise – and reserved for only a few.”

So you know I’m smiling about this.

In case ya don’t know about Drawn, here’s the description:

She’s the artist that finds him in her drawings. He’s the medieval ghost that conquers her heart. And their time is running out. 
 
Michelle De Freccio moves to England seeking a normal life, but someone starts appearing in her sketches. Then he grabs her at the castle, his pale green eyes full of longing. She’s immediately drawn to him, but is Christopher Newman real? She’s either losing it, or channeling a hot ghost from the 1400’s. History calls him a murderer. Her heart tells her other truths. Now Michelle faces endless dangers…and a timeless love. 
 
A Night Owl Reviews Top Pick: “…an utter delight to read. I could not put it down. This is a fantastic romantic and tender story that will continue to enchant readers for years to come.” 

So… back to today’s write up.  At the Long and Short Reviews site, the reviewer said: I was drawn (pun intended) into this book from the first page and couldn’t put it down…The setting is wonderful…This story is so deftly created that I was in each setting and could easily “see” Michelle’s art without illustrations…It has the perfect amount of romance, and enough action and suspense to keep the most distracted reader turning the pages.

This review also gives a great spoiler-free summary of the novel, so if you want a feel for whether this book is for you or not, you can check out the complete write up by clicking here.

I’m also happy to report that Drawn is currently ranked #29  in its category of top sellers over at Amazon, and it keeps consistently getting great reviews from book bloggers and readers alike.  In fact, the novel’s goodreads.com page is full of praise from readers who have been saying stuff like: “I LOVED this book. It wa (sic) such a breath of fresh air. It was so well written and so entertaining i could not put it down.” And “This book was so unexpectedly amazing…”  To check out the goodreads page for Drawn (and to add your own reviews there if you’ve read the novel), simply click here.

If you haven’t already read Drawn, you can find an excerpt along with links to reviews and purchase info by clicking right here.

"I'm not Josie Grossie anymore!"

Thanks so much to my readers who have shared their love for my book.  I have no words to express how this makes me feel.  As Drew Barrymore says in Never Been Kissed, “I’m speechless.  This never happens to me. Words are my life!”

Marie

Feeling the Love!

This week, with Valentine’s Day less than a week away, I’m really feeling the love!

Over at my Valentine Blog Hop giveaway page, you can too.  All you have to do is click here and then leave a comment on that page about your favorite romantic movie and book. Then you’ll be entered to win a complete signed set of my novels What I Meant…, Over My Head, and my new paranormal novel Drawn, plus a yummy box of chocolates. PLUS you’ll be entered for a chance to win the Valentine Blog Hop grand prizes of a heart necklace or a $75 gift certificate. But you gotta hurry, cuz this giveaway contest ends on February 14th…

And speaking of love, and of Drawn, this week has been filled with some truly love-filled reviews of my new novel.  Share time!  Here goes:

“A fun, historical time travel full of creativity, beautiful scenes, and an engrossing mystery…I fell in love with the entire story…the setting was mostly amazing. The castle that Michelle meets Christopher in is spectacular.  And going back in time during that setting? Brilliant…I haven’t read too many time travel books and none that had such pure romance and a true mystery element to it…Their romance was very beautiful and endearing. I didn’t want to see it end. 5 STARS” — The Cozy Reader

“A clever and enjoyable paranormal romance with a love affair that fans of the genre are sure to swoon over.” — Tara Calaby, Agrippina Legit

Drawn has it all, 3 guys who are completely different, a castle, ghosts, an Earl who is in a spot of trouble, lest he know it, a girl who has a complicated family and a love that can endure centuries…an enjoyable read.” — Novels on the Run

“This is one of those books that has it all: romance, adventure, time travel, some creepy elements, a plot steeped in medeival history, and ghosts. What really makes the story work though is a lead protagonist that is impossible not to love. Her life is filled with adversity, from her psychic mother who left her to her grieving father to trying to fit in at school, and her troubles only increases when Christopher starts appearing to her. Yet she never backs down, and while uncovering the secrets of Christopher’s past, she also starts to make sense of her own life.” — Lucas Mangum’s Dark Dimensions

Plus some reviews have popped up on Goodreads.com saying, “A clever tale about family loyalty in both feudal England and the present day, the ending satisfying enough while hinting at the possibility of a sequel…Overall rating: Page-turner,” and “This book was so unexpectedly amazing…The plot was so fresh and new, unlike many other paranormal stories just being recycled and the characters were realistic…I really hope there will be a sequel, don’t get me wrong I love a stand alone novel but this one was so great I didn’t want it to end…”

To check out all the great Goodreads reviews (plus to find info about the giveaway I’m running there through the end of Feb.) you can visit Drawn‘s Goodreads page here.

So REALLY feeling the love!  Hope you get a chance to read Drawn and share your thoughts about it, and, of course, the LOVE.

Happy reads,

Marie

 

This Week’s Highlights!: DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour Continues

First, some quick updates:

*Drawn ebook is still on sale for just $0.99…but for a limited time…links are here.

**Also, through Valentines Day, you can enter to win all of my books signed, plus chocolates, plus have a chance at a grand prize…entering is as easy as leaving a comment: click The Valentine Blog Hop for the details.

AND NOW: News from the road…

The Drawn Blog Ghost Tour road, that is.

This week I’m criss-crossing the globe…I’ve packed my wrinkle free clothes, my passport and my writing journal… Well, okay, since this is a BLOG tour after all, maybe I haven’t packed anything. Maybe I haven’t left the country. MAYBE I’m sitting in my studio in my jammies all week long.

So? I’m STILL crossing the globe on this week’s tour, making not one but TWO stops in Australia, then racing back to the U.S. for the balance of this week.

But can’t we imagine that this author is wandering through cyberspace, a fashionable carry-on over one shoulder, and a well-read copy of Drawn under the other?  We envision this author as unstoppable. Her business-like heels click clack through the world’s airports.

Her passionate mission? To spread the word about Drawn, her new paranormal novel about a timeless love between teen artist Michelle, and Christopher, the medieval ghost with a sketchy past… Our world-traveling author won’t rest until everyone knows it’s gotten amazing reviews, like last week’s rave from The Author Chronicles, who said “If you’re looking for a book with an engaging protagonist, captivating plot, and paranormal twist, this is for you. Just make sure to clear your calendar first, because once you start, you won’t want to put it down!”

Our jet-setting author wants people to realize that if they like Twilight, Hush Hush and books by Beth Fantaskey, that they will fall in love with Drawn

Our trail blazing writer wants…well, she wants to get out of her jammies and into real clothes at some time this week, but never mind that.  On to this weeks highlights (the fourth week of the tour!), brought to you by the fabulous book bloggers on the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour!:

February 6th:  That’s today! Say a hearty g’day to our down-under blogger Novels on the Run as they host my guest post “Any Time but the Present.” I share why I think time travel is so seductive, plus some tasty excerpts from Drawn.

February 7th: Still in awesome Australia is blogger Agrippina Legit, who will feature a review of Drawn and an interview with me with that “Land Down Under” spin.

February 8th: We zoom back to the U.S. where The Cozy Reader posts her review of Drawn plus my  guest blog “Writing Magic,” where I share some of my own techniques for writing believable fantasy scenes…with examples from Drawn.

February 9th: Take a walk on the dark side at Lucas Mangum’s Dark Dimensions blog, where he’ll post his review of Drawn plus run an interview with me exploring the fascination with darkness and the paranormal…and the darkness that winds through Drawn.

February 10th: Twimom101 features a quirky Top 10 Q&A with me. I reveal some stuff… Er, hope I didn’t embarrass myself? If I do, please tell me!

As with any of these posts, leave comments and I’ll be sure to comment back.  See how dedicated I am? Even with ALL of this travelling.  Even with spending all day in my fuzzy slippers…er, I mean, my business-like heels…

Ah the glamour of being an author on tour!  Truly, there’s nothing like it…

To catch up on any of the fun you missed in the past few weeks on the tour (from authentic ghost photos, to reviews and interviews and posts that are illuminating and/or bizarre) just click here or on the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour tab at the top of my website at any time, and follow the links.

Bon voyage!