Friday, November 30, 2012

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: "Rooting a Story Firmly in the ‘Where’" by European Romance Novelist Hannah Fielding

Hannah Fielding, Author

European romance novelist Hannah Fielding  brings us a novel that truly “transports  you to another place," as described by one reviewer.  Her novel BURNING EMBERS is set in 1970s Kenya and incorporates the backdrop of the newly independent country. In the following article, she highlights the relevance of setting and shares some tips on how to use setting to enhance a story.

Prior to becoming a full-time author, Hannah reared two children and ran her own business renovating rundown cottages. Today she and her husband spend half their time in Kent and the rest in their home in the South of France.

Rooting a Story Firmly in the ‘Where’
By Hannah Fielding

I have always been a writer who pays keen attention to setting; to describing carefully sights and sounds and smells and tastes and textures. Since childhood I’ve loved writers who really paint a scene in your mind, and I knew when I started writing romance that I wanted to transport my readers to the time and place in which I situate the story. Place holds such power to colour a story, and I believe any story must be firmly rooted in the ‘where.'

I have written several novels now, and vivid setting is a common factor across each. From Andalucía, Spain to Venice and Tuscany, Italy to Alexandria, Egypt – these are books born of my travels; of poking around in back streets and cafes; of meeting locals and exploring landscapes – and, of course, of reading extensively on cultures.

For my debut novel, BURNING EMBERS, a passionate tale of the love between a young photographer coming to Kenya from England and an entrepreneurial plantation owner, I chose newly independent Kenya, Africa, as the setting. I had travelled to Africa as a young woman, and fallen in love with the people and the wild landscapes. I knew this would be the perfect colourful backdrop to a vivid and sultry love story with an undercurrent of danger and superstition. I chose to situate the action in 1970, because this was a pivotal time in Kenyan history, with new crashing up against old and a good deal of insecurity, and this offsets the development of the main character, Coral, from naïve girl to mature woman.

Here’s an extract from Coral’s first impression of the port of Mombasa:

Coral turned her attention to the gigantic cranes swiveling in the air. They reminded her of steel-fanged dragons on the lookout for their next victim as they lifted and lowered their strange cargoes bound for new shores. It was clear that the port was flourishing these days. Coral had kept up with the news in Kenya and knew that while the president, Jomo Kenyatta, was criticized by some for his increasingly autocratic governing of the country, Kenya was at least reaping the economic benefits of increased exports and aid from the West. A vision of a new Kenya seemed to be constructing itself in front of her eyes. And then, farther away to the right, where the marshy green belt of grassland sloped down gently toward the ocean, she saw an age-old scene. Magnificent, half-naked, ebony athletes went to and fro, some carrying on their shoulders and others on their heads, heavy loads brought in by rowing boats from larger vessels anchored off shore.

Such description is typical of my writing, and it seems to appeal to readers, for many of the reviews of the book mention the exotic setting and the sense that the book offers an escape in transporting the reader to another world and another time.

Tips on Setting

If you’re a writer looking to develop the setting of your novel, you may find the following tips helpful:
·      Think carefully about what setting best matches the themes of your story. Don’t be afraid to be different – an unusual, exotic setting is appealing to the reader.
·      If at all possible, visit the key locations in the book. Second best is to talk to others who have been there and to read extensively on the place – both books and online. Don’t forget to look up images too; a Google Image search can be very useful.
·      Write to appeal to all the readers’ senses, so they can really imagine scenes.
·      As well as broad brush strokes that convey a scene – green grass, a blue sky – look for small, interesting details. What unusual colours stand out, for example?
·      Don’t just describe the permanent aspects of a setting; also think about transitional details, such as weather and the angle of sunlight.
·      People are interested in people, so make people part of your setting descriptions.
·      Connect characters to settings. So instead of describing a place and then a person, weave the two together by considering how the person affects the place, and vice versa.
·      Go for walks often, in both urban and natural settings, and practise being mindful: aware of small details in the setting. Use walks as inspiration for writing practice, and soon you’ll find that you instinctively describe well.

More About Me

I grew up in a rambling house overlooking the Mediterranean. My half-French half-Italian governess Zula used to tell the most beautiful fairy stories. When I was seven we came to an agreement: for each story she told me, I would invent and tell her one of my own. That is how my love of writing began.
Later, at a convent school where French nuns endeavoured to teach us grammar, literature and maths, during lessons which bored me to tears I took to daydreaming and wrote short romantic stories to satisfy the needs of a fertile imagination. Having no inhibitions, I circulated them around the class, which made me very popular among my peers.

After I graduated with a BA in French literature from university, my international nomadic years started. I lived mainly in Switzerland, France and England, and holidayed in other Mediterranean countries like Italy, Greece and Spain. Once I met my husband, Nicholas, I settled in Kent and subsequently had little time for writing while bringing up two children and running my own business renovating rundown cottages.

Then, when my children few the nest, I created room in my life for writing once more. Now, my husband and I spend half our time in our Georgian rectory in Kent and the rest in our home in the South of France, where I write overlooking breathtaking views of the ocean.

My first novel, Burning Embers, has been a work in progress for many years. It is set in Africa - my homeland - and is inspired by travels to Kenya. I am currently working on books set in Spain, Italy and Egypt, which is a wonderful excuse to travel often and drink in passionate cultures and beautiful landscapes.


Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naive twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She's leaving the life she's known and traveling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance – the plantation that was her childhood home – Mpingo. On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral's childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumored that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighboring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father's death. Circumstance confirms Coral's worst suspicions, but when Rafe's life is in danger she is driven to make peace. A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fianc, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa. Is Rafe just toying with a young woman's affections? Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral's inheritance? Or does Rafe's troubled past color his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine? Set in 1970, this contemporary historical romance sends the seemingly doomed lovers down a destructive path wrought with greed, betrayal, revenge, passion, and love.


Twitter @FieldingHannah

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What the Experts Say: "Making a Make-Believe World Believable" by Epic Fantasy Author Jamie Marchant

Jamie Marchant, Author
Epic Fantasy Author Jamie Marchant introduces the world of  Korthlundia in THE GODDESS’S CHOICE – a sword and sorcery novel based on a Norwegian fairy tale. However, Jamie found it annoying that the female character was basically snubbed in the fairy tale. So she re-invented the crown princess as a strong heroine. As you'll read in her following article, she believes characters are a critical component of pulling readers into a make-believe world.

Jamie teaches writing and literature at Auburn University and lives with her husband, son, and four cats in Auburn, Alabama.  

Making a Make-Believe World Believable
By Jamie Marchant

Fantasy literature transports you from the mundane world into the strange and the magical. How does it do this? By making that world believable, in its setting, its use of magic, and in its characters. To transport you, the fantasy world must be as complex and rich as reality. While I don’t like works that give long lectures on the history and geography, a sense of both must be present in the fantasy world—this sense preferably arising naturally from the needs of the plot and unfolding bit by bit. For example, in THE GODDESS'S CHOICE the way we learn about the longstanding animosity and history of warfare between Korth and Lundia is through the king’s pressure on the crown princess Samantha to marry. King Solar believes her marriage is necessary to maintain the fragile peace between the joined kingdoms. The history and culture of the joined kingdoms flow from and enhance the story’s central conflict

Magic is an essential element of fantasy; yet to be believable, any system of magic must be both consistent and limited in scope. When the limitations on the wizard or sorcerer are clearly established, tension builds as he or she must work within those limits. The existence of magic doesn’t allow the writer to cheat. My hero’s Robbie’s magic lies in the ability to connect to the mind and body of another. It only works on living things. He can’t suddenly have the ability to warp metal even though that would be convenient. The use of his magic also depletes him physically, so he must be wise in its use. His strength is also his vulnerability.

For me, the most important element in creating a believable fantasy world lies in the characters. A believable world must be peopled with believable characters. In reality, few people are without flaws, but few are so bad that they have no redeeming qualities. Fantasy characters must be equally complex. Heroes must not be completely virtuous, and villains at least need sound motives for their villainy. Robbie is burdened with anger, and Samantha is headstrong and somewhat insensitive. On the other hand, Argblutal believes (with some justification) the throne is rightfully his and that he’d be a better king than a eighteen-year-old girl. When I read a novel, if I can believe a writer’s characters, I can forgive other inconsistencies with the work, but if I cannot believe the characters, nothing else the writer does can redeem the story. Depth of character is the key to believability in the make-believe world of fantasy.

Author Bio

Jamie Marchant lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she's been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She teaches writing and literature at Auburn University.

Her first novel THE GODDESS'S CHOICE was released in April 2012 from Reliquary Press. She is working on the sequel, tentatively titled The Soul Stone. Her short fiction has been published in Bards & Sages, The World of Myth, and


The crown princess Samantha fears she’s mad; no one but she sees colors glowing around people. The peasant Robrek Angusstamm believes he’s a demon; animals speak to him, and his healing powers far outstrip those of his village’s priests. Despite their fears, their combined powers make them the goddess’s choice to rule the kingdom of Korthlundia.

In Marchant's sword and sorcery novel, THE GODDESS'S CHOICE, Samantha’s ability enables her to discern a person’s character through their multi-colored aura, and Robrek’s makes him the strongest healer the kingdom has seen in centuries. But their gifts also endanger their lives. Royals scheme to usurp the throne by marrying or killing Samantha, and priests plot to burn Robrek at the stake. Robrek escapes the priests only to be captured by Samantha’s arch-enemy, Duke Argblutal; Argblutal intends to force the princess to marry him by exploiting Robrek’s powers. To save their own lives and stop the realm from sinking into civil war, Robrek and Samantha must consolidate their powers and unite the people behind them.

THE GODDESS'S CHOICE  is based on a Norwegian fairy tale, “The Princess and the Glass Hill.” Though Marchant's favorite fairy tale as a child, it disturbed her that the female character has no name and no role other than being handed off as a prize. Her novel remakes the crown princess of Korthlundia into a strong heroine who is every bit as likely to be the rescuer as the one rescued.

Book Excerpt

Chapter 2
            The Princess Samantha sat at her dressing table and glowered at her reflection as her maids dressed her hair. She detested balls and loathed the hundreds of suitors who flocked around her, spouting empty flattery: “I have never seen a lovelier flower, Your Highness!” or “Your eyes rival the brilliance of the stars, Your Highness!” If I hear that one again, I’ll vomit. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if even one of them meant it. Sometimes she wished . . . She pushed the thought away. She was the heir to the throne. She couldn’t expect romance.
            "Let us be painting your face tonight, Your Highness!" Ardra begged, in her north Korthian accent. Samantha's maid was as small and slight as the princess herself and had hair so blonde it was almost white.
“Yes, Your Highness,” Malvina chimed in. “Lady Shela’s maids said just yesterday we couldn’t possibly know our business ‘cause you never wear paint.” Malvina, more of a typical Korthlundian woman, was tall and broad and not nearly as pretty as Ardra.
“Lady Shela,” Samantha snorted in disgust. Shela wore so much paint she resembled some ghastly sea creature. Samantha knew she wasn’t pretty, but she was fond of the freckles that speckled her nose and thought the emerald green brilliance of her gown set off her white skin and auburn hair beautifully. Besides being appallingly uncomfortable, paint would absolutely spoil the effect. The princess gestured toward the huge portrait that covered one wall of her bedchamber. “Do you think Danu wore paint?”
Malvina shrugged. “The Princess Danu was said to be a powerful sorceress, Your Highness. She probably didn’t need to wear paint to attract men.”
Samantha laughed bitterly, as she thought of the army of men waiting below. “I wish not wearing paint was all it took to scare them off. They say Danu never married, and see how happy she is.”
Samantha yearned for Danu’s freedom. The long-dead princess was laughing as she galloped across the fields. Danu’s auburn hair flew out behind her in the wind. The stars on the forehead and chest of her horse shone against its gorgeous coat. Samantha loved this painting, which was just as well because it was bolted to the wall and couldn’t be removed without tearing her chambers apart. She’d decorated the rest of her bedroom to match. Tapestries of horses covered the walls. Her dressing table, armoire, and large four-poster bed had horses carved into the woodwork. A quilt, embroidered with horses and stars, was spread over the bed. The mantle over her fireplace sported figurines of horses in gold, silver, jade, crystal, and precious stones. Every new ambassador added to her collection.

Contact Information

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Friday, November 16, 2012

What the Experts Say: Writer Van Heerling

Van Heerling (& son), Author

Van Heerling joins us today to fill us in on his second novel DREAMS OF ELI – a story about the dreams of a Civil War soldier who wakes in a cave as a prisoner. Van writes to "immerse the reader in the story." When he’s not writing, he has a habit of talking to strangers. Van is also a cat-lover, husband, and father of a one-year old.

Q: Your stories are very different from each other – from a man and his lion friend in MALAIKA to a captured soldier in the American Civil War in DREAMS OF ELI. What inspires your stories? Where do you get your story ideas?

Van Heerling: MALAIKA emerged out of a life-changing dream I had had a few years back. As for DREAMS OF ELI, I have always been interested in the American Civil War. This story came to me with such ease it is difficult to convey. Perhaps I have touched on a past experience, perhaps not.

Q: How significant is the setting for your novels?  For example, in DREAMS OF ELI, how relevant is the setting of the American Civil War to tell your story? Could you have placed two men in a cave at any time period?

Van Heerling: I suppose I could have done that, but I fear it would be a completely different story. If I had placed Ezra and Eli in the French Revolution or during the Plague in England, I don’t think their story would carry well. There is a certain “patina” about the 1800s that caters so well to the plight of Eli, I can’t see him anywhere else.

 Q: How important is delivering a message to your stories?  Or are they purely for entertainment?

Van Heerling: I always have something to say. However I don’t purposely shove my agenda down the reader’s throat. At least I hope that I don’t do this. Somehow the message pours into the story in a way that it weaves in and out of it. My hope is that the reader has that “ahh ha” moment on their own in their own time. I have been asked several times what the message of MALAIKA happens to be. I will never tell. One of my greatest joys is to read and listen to what readers have to say. If you take a look at the reviews for MALAIKA you will find many interpretations.

Q: What do you do to make your characters compelling so that your readers care? Is it more or less difficult to create interesting characters in an historical and/or fantasy setting?

Van Heerling: For me genre doesn’t matter. I do my best to write the character as honest as possible, or I should say as realistic as possible. And when I don’t do this, my editor lets me know.

The number one thing I hear most from my readers is: “I felt like I was there in the story watching everything unfold all around me,” or something to this affect. This is my goal as a writer, to immerse the reader within the story. I want whatever they have conjured up in their minds to hang with them for days after finishing the story. MALAIKA is an emotionally charged novella. It is the kind of story that weighs on you. I once had a reader tell me she was reading the story while waiting for a meeting. She had to run to the restroom to escape the public humiliation of bawling her eyes out. For me as an author, I connected with her. I believe this connection is my job as an author.

Q: Who are your targeted readers? Do they want to be entertained, educated, and/or thrilled?

Van Heerling: I am in my thirties and male. To my surprise I have found an overwhelming response from women 25-65. I embrace this audience with open arms. I have also noticed I have a smaller male audience from 35-60. As far as the entertainment, education, and thrill factors, I would say yes to all of them, but I would add that they seek to connect on a deep emotional level as well.

Q: When you’re not writing, what do you do? Hobbies? Sailing? Knitting? Standup comedy? Favorite music?  Favorite authors? Do you have a muse? Dog or cat person? Tea or coffee? Beer or wine? Comedy or drama? Philosophizing?

Van Heerling: I have a brand new boy, my first and only so far. He just turned one. It was a tough beginning. He was born premature at one pound ten ounces. I am very proud to say he is progressing nicely. He keeps me busy.

 When I am out running around, I have been known to talk to random strangers. I guess this is a hobby, mixed with a bit of philosophizing. Recently I had a twenty-minute conversation with a near homeless Vet. He told me he’d served overseas and didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t press him but by the end of our conversation he’d told me about a few horrible missions he was involved in. Our talk was a confession of sorts for him. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us and to do it with an open ear and no judgments. I know I helped him that day. 

About Van Heerling

Van lives in Burbank, California with the lingering spirit of Redford—his adopted morbidly obese cat, which was more of a paperweight than a feisty feline, his wife and boy, and their very alive kitty—Abigail.

Van always enjoys hearing from his readers. If you wish to send your comments you may do so at 


Southern soldier Eli West wakes in a cave and discovers he is held captive by a soldier of the Union. Shot, drugged, and tortured, he descends into the darkness and the beauty of his unconscious, uncovering a time when he was still in love, a time before war, a time before everything fell away.


May 1863
Eli Age 26

          During a skirmish two days ago, while in retreat, I lost my company. Somewhere in the backwoods of Northern Mississippi I finish a piece of stale bread, stand up, and lay my rifle against my shoulder.
         It is not the crack of the enemy Enfield rifle round that startles me. It is the sifting whispers of the bullet as it splits the wild grass in my direction. The shooter, by the sound of it, is between four hundred and five hundred yards off. I know this because I have the same standard issue. The ball strikes me hard in the lower left shin. White searing pain shreds up my leg and body like a thunderbolt.
         I stumble. My rifle catches most of my weight as I plow it into the soft earth from where I had just risen. But the shock is too great. I lose  my grip--falling hard and fast to the cool soil where I crush my face against a large granite boulder. The flavors of shattered teeth and metallic blood sour my mouth. But all I can think about is the next eighteen seconds--enough time for my enemy to reload. The shot that I will never hear is upon me. I knew I would die in these woods. I just did not realize I would be alone. But at this end I do not want my brothers next to me. I want Cora. I wait for the final shot, but it never comes. Instead, blackness takes me.

A middle-aged man with the crushing weight of his american past seeks peace and a simpler life in rural Kenya. Armed with only his smokes and coffee he discovers a friendship with the most  unlikely of friends--a lioness he rightfully names Malaika (Angel in Swahili). But she is no ordinary lioness nor is he an ordinary man. Between them they share a gift. But not all embrace their bond and some seek to sever it. Discover this new world rich in human truth and sensibility.

Amazon Purchase Link: DREAMS OF ELI

Amazon Purchase Link: MALAIKA

Twitter: @vanheerling   



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Books Make Terrific Holiday Gifts

Books make terrific holiday gifts, but finding perfect books for friends and family is always a challenge. If only we could flip through a few sample pages on our own schedules. If only the bookstore could come to us. Well guess what readers, we’re doing just that!

Twelve amazing authors have come together to offer you an amazing opportunity to sample their latest novels just in time for the holidays—12 awesome samples and quirky holiday-themed interviews in one FREE downloadable PDF.

Whether you like to read mysteries, romance, young adult, women's fiction, or suspense—this group has a book for you.

First Snow – Christine Cunningham
After The Fog - -Kathleen Shoop
A Charming Crime -  Tonya Kappes
Come Back To Me – Melissa Foster
Read Me Dead – Emerald Barnes
The Halo Effect – MJ Rose
Dancing Naked In Dixie – Lauren Clark
The Last Supper Catering Company – Michaelene McElroy
The Hurricane Lover – Joni Rodgers
The Hounding – Sandra de Helen
Milkshake – Joanna Weiss
The Ninth Step – Barbara Taylor Sissel
Each excerpt is prefaced by information about the book and its author. Concluding each excerpt is an order page with clickable links to several online retailers. You can download the PDF “Holiday Sampler” here, and share it with friends by sending them this link:
So go ahead and sample these fantastic novels from amazing writers! And don’t forget to help spread the word!
Happy holidays and happy reading!

Friday, November 9, 2012

What the Experts Say: Fantasy Author Olivia Martinez

Olivia Martinez, Author

Fantasy author Olivia Martinez joins us to talk about her fun make-believe world in her new novel MISTFALL. A veteran and mother, Olivia is also a professional artist – meaning that she has sold some of her paintings. You might want to check out the brief excerpt at the end of her interview to appreciate her sense of humor. 

Q) How do you create a make-believe world that is believable and enticing to your readers?

Olivia Martinez: I think trying to make it somewhat believable that the world can exist helps. Keeping it simple helps too. In my world, genies don't live in lamps and they don't grant three wishes. I also used a little bit of history to anchor events that happen in the book.

Q) What writer do you consider writes the best novels in your genre? Why?

Olivia Martinez: I can't pick one or even two, it's impossible. I am, however, getting excited to read the next Karen Marie Moning book.

Q) What do your characters do or say that engage readers? How important is back story to help portray your characters?

Olivia Martinez: The main character, Mags, uses sarcasm as a second language. Though it may be the lowest form of wit, it's entertaining nonetheless. Hailz, a supporting character, has a psychopathic bunny killer type of personality. She's dark and twisted, but you can't hate her and you can't wait to see what horrible thing she does next.

I think the back story is important as it gives you an idea of the general character of the person. Without it you're sort of left with a two dimensional character. You have a general idea of who they are, but the reader can't connect with them to stay interested for too long.

Q) Is humor useful in creating a make-believe world?

Olivia Martinez: I think humor is necessary in any world.

Q) What is different about youth readers? What/how do you write to reach them?

Olivia Martinez: I think the youth my book is made for is definitely 16 years and older. Writing from the mind of a mid-thirties parent wouldn't be their cup of tea. Though I write for the age range of 16 and older, my character is in her mid-twenties. Just old enough for younger women to see themselves in the characters and just young enough for the rest of us to remember ourselves as those characters.

Q) What inspired you to write MISTFALL?  When did you first consider becoming a writer?

Olivia Martinez: Like most people, I've always wanted to write a book. One day I just decided to do it instead of think about it.

I've always liked supernatural, fantasy, and paranormal stories. We read to escape...what better world to run to than one that defies the laws of physics!

Q) Tell us something about yourself, e.g., do you like to read? Eat? Go to plays? What’s your favorite holiday, book, author, character, play, movie, celebrity? What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a muse? Do you like dogs or cats? What's your favorite charity?

Olivia Martinez: Oh my goodness. I like to paint and have sold a few paintings. I love Christmas. My house ends up looking like one of the windows of the old Marshall Field's. (I really go all out). I'm a dog person. When I'm not writing, I work as a hair dresser. I love to read. I have a reading habit that can rival a heroin junkie's any day! Let's see, what's left. I can't pick one author or play, I love them all. My favorite movie is Tombstone. Sorry Kevin Kostner, you're no Wyatt Earp.

About Olivia Martinez

Olivia Martinez is a veteran and a mother to a lovely nine year old named Grace. In her spare time she dreams of wintering over in warmer climates. When she's not writing, Olivia runs a blog where she interviews other authors.

Mags has lived in hiding all of her life. One of the last two jinn of her kind, she's being hunted by one of the Kings of Hades and the menacing Elf King for her power. When one disastrous date sends her on the run, she knows her life will never be the same. The only question is, will she survive it?


Hailz was an Ifrit, the lowest kind of jinn, though not one to be underestimated. Last time I saw her she was a mountain lion. She also happened to be Iblis’s messenger. We had an odd sort of relationship. Neither of us particularly cared for the other, but we weren’t necessarily enemies either.

“How on earth did you get the hamadryad to let you climb up her tree as big as you are?” I questioned.

“She didn’t, but I was getting hungry waiting on you to quit arguing with your boyfriend. My meal came with a seat that had a clear view of you,” Hailz stated without remorse.

Disgust was etched all over my face. “That’s horrible! Hamadryads are peaceful, hardly a challenge.”

She shrugged as best as a snake could. “Fast food.”


Find out more about MISTFALL at:

CreateSpace (paperback)