Tag: Katherine Dell.

Music that sings to me – How music inspired me to deepened the plot and characters in my stories

People ask me all the time what inspired me to write this book, Harmless. A million things did! But amongst all that a few songs really helped me figure out the characters, and come up with some pretty cool twists in the plot.

So, I’ll start from the top… I Won’t Give Up, by Jason Mraz. This-song-is-epic! If Nate (From Harmless) were to tell the story from his point of view, it might sound a little like this song. And I can say, it inspired one of the most anticipated scenes in the book; when Rachel dances with Nate at the community center dance. I wish I could have written the lyrics right into the pages of the book but, you know… due to copyright laws and all that I had to leave it out.

In this song, Jason Mraz asks, “how old is your soul?” Which is a total precursor to what happens later in the story. SPOILER ALERT! Souls are a major thread in the story. They are what makes the world, our world, what is it is. They connect us. They are powerful. And they are infinite. For Nate to ask Rachel, how old is your soul, would be like asking, do you know what’s inside you. DEEP… yes. That’s how I role sometimes.

Back to the song. The singer also says, “you’ve come so far, to be right where you are.” That is not so much a precursor as it is letting on that perhaps Nate knows more about Rachel’s brother’s death and whats going on with her, than he lets on. The character of Nate is this near perfect person with the capacity for so much love and patience. A person that ‘won’t give up’, which is, you guessed it, the name of the song.

I-PixTeller-123329“The skies get rough…” Again, with the foreshadowing to the epic tale that is the Harmless series. Which I wish I could tell you more about! BUT that would take a whole book or two to tell you! A whole book titled MAVENS, and a third book titled TEMPEST to be exact. I’m working on it! I promise! Back to the song, I loved the reference to the ‘skies’ in this song. My character, Rachel Barnes, often refers to her feelings as types of weather; something she picked up from her therapist, aptly named The Weather Lady for describing feeing as meteorological events. For example: My skies are cloudy, could mean that she is in a blah kind of mood.

“learn how to bend with the world caving in.” Another awesome line from this song. Rachel especially needs to learn to bend. Her world has been ‘caving in’ for years and through the pages in this story she learns when to bend and when to have the strength to withstand. Which isn’t always pretty. But life is like that sometimes.

So that’s that song. I’ve attached the YouTube link so you can have a listen.

I won’t give up – Jason Mraz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1-4u9W-bns

Now here is a song for Mason… Let Her Go – by Passenger

Mason; my tortured soul. My bad guy you can’t help but feel for. There are a few lines in this song that helped me shape his character. “Everything you touch surly dies”, if Mason were singing this song, he would be talking about himself here. Not just because that’s how his powers  work to take lives. SORRY… SPOILER. But because he knows what dark lurks inside him.

“You only need the light when its burning low.” This line from the song could be interpreted a few ways. One, Mason sees Rachel as a source of light and goodness. Or when the light burns low in him (his wendigo powers) he feels its depletion. He senses his need for both.

“Only know you love her when you let her go.” This line in the song is what inspired the very last scene in the book; if it had been through Masons eyes and not Rachel’s. For those of you that haven’t read it yet, I won’t totally wreck it for you. But think of this song when you read it.

For me this song was a depiction of Mason’s struggle; the demons within himself, the want to do good, but the justification to be who he is… a wendigo. Once again, a really deep interpretation. But I’m happy to enlighten. I would never get this much detail out in an author interview or podcast.

Here is a link to the song. Have a listen and relieve the story.

Let her go – Passenger
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBumgq5yVrA

There is one last song that made it into the pages of Harmless, Magic Carpet Ride, by Steppenwolf.Blog-PixTeller-123321

The lyrics in this song came into play when Rachel was waiting for the last few minutes of her English class to pass. Mason sneaks this song into her head.

What I like about this song was that it’s an invitation. “You don’t know what we could find. Why don’t you come with me little girl, on a magic carpet ride.” Maybe he wants Rachel to become what he is? Maybe he just sees the world a little bigger than the inside of a grade twelve English class.

Again, a link to the song. Have a listen.

Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4WiyxXpyZc

Well, thanks for reading everyone. I hope I’ve answered some questions and inspired others to take a deeper look at writing and music. If you absolutely must read the book now… you’re in luck! It’s available through the usual channels; Amazon, Barns and Noble, Chapters Indigo, and Kobo.

OR you can obtain a FREE SAMPLE of Harmless on InstaFreebie!Harmless Sample cover

Good read and good writing to you all.

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So I wrote this short story…

It’s a bit of silliness really. It all came about when my friend, Chris Rothe, and I decide to start a writing group. One of the goals of this group is to produce short bits fiction that could be submitted to contests or just shared among us. Yeah –– so this is what I wrote. The idea came from one of Chris’ ‘Story Appetizers’, as he calls them.

Appy #7: A man thinks he has become telepathically connected to his pet hamster. He believes the hamster to be giving him life advice, but when the man acts on that advice, things do not go as planned.

 

Here’s what came of it! I hope you enjoy!

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The Life Coach

By Katherine Dell

 

“I’m glad I’m here, Doc. The whole thing has just been eating me up. I mean –– Real life is so hard, unpredictable and generally a pain in my perfectly laid out plans. I certainly never meant to end up being counselled in a padded room, wearing a jacket made of to many belts. But what’s one to do about it? Despair not, or do? Either way, it seems that life’s little hamster wheel just keeps on turning.

 “So … It was several weeks ago, on a Tuesday night, when I first had the inkling that, Harold, was not the stubby-tailed burrowing rodent he was made out to be. I should have known better than to procure the fluffy fur ball from the strange man in the alley behind the pet shoppe. But who knew it could have such catastrophic consequences.”

 

 

 Cha-Ching-Ching.

The sound of the bell hanging above the entrance to the pet store, announced my arrival. Hello minimum wage staffers, it’s me, Devon Winston Abney! A most tragic soul destined to live alone, who cares about no one but myself. Well, according to Margie, my now most recent ex. But what does she know. I’ll show her I can care for things. I’ll get a pet and care the shit out of it.

Bird. Cat. Turtle. None of these pet choices seem right. For some reason I feel that feathers on captive animal doesn’t feel domesticated enough. Same thing for the cat, minus the feathers. Deep down, there probably still beats the heart of its wild cousin the tiger, just waiting to spaz and test what those snatching claws can do. Nope, cats can’t be trusted. And the turtle, to –– hard. I don’t think I could bond with something with such a hard outer coating. Perhaps Margie was right this isn’t going to work.

“Hello there, are you finding what you’re looking for?” The over exuberant, eau de shavings scented employee speaks at me.

There are so many comebacks to that proverbial question, but I answer with a short and simple, “No.”

“Well, I’d be happy to help. Are you looking at getting a pet for yourself or for someone else?”

“For myself I suppose, but mostly in spite of others.” The look on her face says I just tipped past her meagre pay grade.

“Um, okaaay. Is there any type of animal you had in mind?” I turn and glacé over the open-air tanks of gerbils and mice. I swear they all look up at me, thinking to themselves ‘for the love of Peter, please don’t don’t pick me.’

“Something small, low maintenance perhaps. Something I won’t much notice at all.” She doesn’t answer right away and I stop her before she does. “You know, I don’t think there’s anything here that fits the bill. I uh –– I think I’ll be going.”

I leave the store muttering to myself. I need to get a grip. I should just do what I always do when I’m feeling a fuss: have a bath, drink a cocoa, and watch an episode of Sherlock’s Manor. Just one though, won’t want to stay up too late and not feel well rested the next day. Rounding the corner out of the shoppe I decide to take a short cut to the tube through the alleyway. It’s daytime, and to my logic, the unsavoury characters don’t come out until the sun goes down. So it should be perfectly safe to tread there.

“Excuse me, sir?” A male voice I do not recognize calls after me down the alley. I stop and turn to him. Referencing again to my thinking: well-lit places are never nefarious. “Yes, hello.” He says. I notice he is dressed in what one would consider office attire, but looks rather bedraggled. “I um –– over heard you in the shoppe back there. That you’re looking for a special kind of pet.”

“Um … Yes, but …”

“Well a have just the thing for you.” The man has come within steps of me and I now notice the small wire cage he holds in his hands. “Here, take a look at him.”

Although it’s light out this scenario still raises suspicions. Why is this man tracking me down to offer me … “It’s a hamster.” I say.

“Yes, but Harold is special. That’s his name. He practically takes care of himself.”

 

 

“To my recollection this bizarre conversation went on for several minutes, to which the man finally convinced me that, Harold, was the solution to my relationship whoas. So, Harold, in his small cage, traveled back with me to my flat. I found him a comfortable spot next to my vintage records and my plastic ficus, right by the window, and pretty much forgot he was there for the next two days.

 “Until the inexplicable happened. Harold spoke!”

 

 

“Um –– Devon? That’s your name, is it not?” The high-pitched, yet distinctly male voice was coming for the barred enclosure adjacent my fictitious ficus. “I don’t mean to be a bother, but are you going to feed me? I’m about near chewing off my own leg here for sustenance.”

My ears hear the tiny voice, but my mind refuses to believe it. Did my hamster just speak?

“I know what you’re thinking. Yes! I speak. But perhaps not for long if you don’t feed me.”

Letting my episode of Sherlock’s Mansion play on, I creep over to Harold’s cage. I see him there looking up at me; his two black eyes like shinny be-be’s of wonder.

“I’m trying very hard, Devon, to believe you when you said you could care for things other than yourself, but my hunger pains beg to differ.” Harold’s little hamster lips move as he talks. I blink hard. This can’t be happening. Perhaps the trauma of breaking up with Margie has pushed my psyche to the brink. Although, the little bugger is right. I haven’t feed him much, or at all. So I accept the surreal and answer him. “What can I get you to eat?”

 

 

“A jaunty conversation regarding the diet of hamsters and the lack of contents in a bachelor’s ice box extended. I didn’t know a little critter could be so argumentative but eventually I found a few baby-cut carrots that Margie must had left behind.”

 

 

 “Well Harold, I really must be off to bed. My show is through on the tele and I need to make sure I get enough rest.”

“Rest for what?” Harold mumbles, his cheeks bulging out to the side with multiple pieces of carrot.

 “For my work at the factory. No one codes and sorts the widgets and mabobs like I do. It’s been said that I excel at it.”

“Widgets?”

“Yes.”

“And mabobs?”

“Yes.”

“That sounds just ––– terrible. Even me, who lives a rather incarcerated life in this casa de rodent, has a better job than you. I’m very sorry for you, Devon. Good Night then.”

“Wait, you have a job?” I can’t believe I just asked that.

“Yes I do. I’m a life coach.” Harold shoves another carrot bit in his bulging cheek but doesn’t eat it.

“You can’t be a life coach. You’re a hamster.”

“Wow, Devon. That was incredibly racist. Or maybe since we aren’t really the same race, but rather difference species it’s … Hmm there must be a word for that. Any who, it’s not a good thing, and horribly rude. Perhaps I shouldn’t help you out then.”

 

 

 “I could tell Harold was getting really pissed off. He kept shifting the pieces of un-eaten carrot from cheek to cheek. And when I asked him why he wasn’t actually eating any of it, he said he wasn’t particularly comfortable with me watching him eat.”

 “Yes. Sorry, Devon, I’m trying to keep up with my notes here, but you’re going a little to fast for me. Can you back up a sketch to the part where you’re hamster said he was a life coach. I’m just want to make sure I understand things.”

 “ I know right! I’ll tell you, I had to google terms to understand things better too, Doc, but I get it now. I now fully understand the difference between a psychiatrist; what you are, and what a life coach is. Ha! to very different things!”

 “Good, Devon. That’s good. And you understand to that hamster can’t be life coach?”

 “No, I believe that’s supremacist. I had to google that too.” dreamstime_m_20154117

 

 

So … being that my manuscript is finally finished (YEAH!), and is waiting to be discovered, I now have more time to do other stuff – like sit and stew. But really – I’m not moping around staring at my phone and email waiting for it to go off … waiting … waiting for the infamous call. Okay – I’m not good at waiting.

But I’m finding ways to keep busy – like writing this blog! I got the idea to write this after it was suggested to me that I help run a writers workshop for a local woman’s group. There was a workshop template I could use, or I could change it up as I saw fit. This got me thinking – How can I make this workshop unique? How can I make it my own?

The only way I know how! By sharing how I write a novel. Yes, yes – I know people have done this before. There are a million billion self-help writer books out there. But that’s not what I’m looking to do in this series of blogs. I’m not wanting to give you writing tips. I am wanting to let you into my inner madness. To show you how (specifically) my unique way of writing is achieved.

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If this blog were up to my editor, she might say that I have the ability to channel characters from a fictional dimension. #TheFictionalDemension (I’m going to make this hashtag trend one day!) But that’s not the case … entirely. :) Wouldn’t that be cool though!

Any who, moving along …

In this blog, I’m going to keep it pretty general, or at least try. And then in the ones to follow, I’ll start to really dissect my writer’s brain, showing you where the crazed little hamster runs on the wheel!http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-300685

So – back when I started writing I didn’t have a whole lot of rhyme or reason about why I wrote the way I did. But now that I’ve been at it for a while I’ve started to notice the patterns in the way I do things.

http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-300696Let’s start with how I would write the beginning of a scene. Yes, I called it a scene, not a chapter. That’s because when I read a book (if it’s a well written book), it plays like a movie in my head. I can mentally see the characters interacting in their little world.

Now – I’m a bit of a free writer, by that I mean I don’t make huge, intricate outlines. What I do is a little more organic. In my notebook (coil bond, paper … I’m old school like that), I write out a few key points. This page often turns in to a scribbly mess but as long as you can read it that’s all that’s important. I start with the most basic things – Who is in the scene? This part is usually easy. I know which characters need to be there, which ones haven’t been seen in a while, and which ones might have some unfinished business.

Then I write down, in point form, what I need to get across in this scene. For example, the main character is very secretive about her life before moving to this small town. She’s doesn’t express her feelings well, she’s awkward, and the only time she’s ever opened up about her painful past was to a therapist, whom she can’t see any more because of the move.

Point form:

  • She (main character) is awkward
  • She doesn’t express her feelings well
  • She has a secret past
  • She’s spent years with a therapist, that she is heart broken to leave.

(These particular examples pertain to writing the first chapter in my novel. Maybe you don’t care … but it keeps me focused telling you this as I write.)

When introducing this character, I need to get across all these things, BUT without actually telling the reader or dumping too much on them all at once. Not easy! But I’ve gotten better at it. It’s the whole – ‘show don’t tell’ thing. :)

To help ‘ show’, I’ve given my main character, Rachel, a few quirks and objects in her environment.

  1. Cardboard boxes: A simple and an effective way to hide things out in the open. Give a person a whole bedroom stacked with unopened boxes, that have been there for months – and you now have a proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. The cardboard boxes gave me a way to show the reader that Rachel was hiding something. It lets the reader in on a secret without sharing all the details with the other characters (her friends by association), while still making something seem ‘off’. She is reluctant to share what is inside the boxes with her friends. (Conveying her secretiveness about her past.)
  2. Expressing her emotions through weather analogies: I wanted to show the reader the relationship my main character had with her past therapist. So I gave the therapist a nickname, The Weather Lady. (In my world, you give people you love the most a nickname.) This ‘Weather Lady’ would analyze Rachel by using analogies about the weather. I think using this in my story adds depth, backstory, and invites the reader to use their imagination about what the main character is thinking. It also keeps these feeling to the reader and the main character, because she is shy, closed off, and all around messed up.
  3. An inner monologue, that occasionally comes out: Something the therapist tried to cure Rachel of, without success. I myself have a constantly running inner monologue. This quirk is a little bit of me seeping in to my character. I think it’s an awesome way to share with your reader, while keeping secrets from other characters.

Now that I have my list of characters in the scene, the points I need to get across, and a few things in the environment, I start to think about how I’m going to share this part of the story with the reader. A good way to figure out ‘how’ is to ask a few questions.

For example:

  • Are the characters in the scene hearing something? A radio, A TV?
  • Is someone talking in the background?
  • Is a character dreaming or thinking about it in their mind?
  • Would a flash back best tell this tale?
  • Are the characters in a conversation?
  • First, second, or third person?

After I’ve figured out where my scene stating point is, I let my characters take it from there. If you know your fictional characters well enough, they’ll know what to say and do. :) #TheFictionalDimension Make it trend people!

Okay! I hope that all made sense and you’re hungry for more. Next time, I think I’ll write on how I develop a fictional character.

Thanks for reading!

Good writing and good reading to you all.

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What's NextWhat’s Next: Part 3

It’s been a while since I’ve written a ‘What’s Next’ blog … so I’m about due to write one again!

Lets see …

First – I learned that you can have the best book ever, but if you can’t hook your reader in the first few pages, most people will never know it’s the best book ever. Thus – I spent a month editing chapter one into a lean mean … um … chapter. Those first pages can be tricky! You have to set the stage, so to speak. And my first chapter has five characters in it. It was quite the challenge, making sure each character had their own voice right from the start. Also, getting just the right amount of back-story without dumping everything out was a precarious balance to find. But I think I did it.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. I couldn’t have attempted another rewrite on my manuscript without my new editor! I was confident that my work was good, but I wanted it to be great! (I dream big!) I needed someone who was as big a fan of my characters as me, but possessed editing talents that I do not. She found me – or vice versa. It doesn’t matter … It was a fantastic experience, from which I learned a ton. For example – The subtle nuances between American, Canadian, and UK grammar and spelling. No matter how long I write, I think I’ll always need help this sort of thing.

So – after the editing, and the editor, I now have a solid handle on where I want my book to go. And I have a plan on how to get it there. As many authors know, publishing is a confusing, and can be, cruel world. It involves a lot of ‘hurry up’ and ‘wait’. But patience and perseverance will see you through a lot of that.

Another thing that got finished this month was my book trailer! It’s been a while in the making, but well worth the effort. I’d recommend my graphic artist to anyone. She’s a visual arts genius! I’ve learned so much about stock footage, voice overs, and music. And I’m so dying to show it to everyone! But alas … this gem isn’t going online until just before the book is released. Unfortunately, I don’t have a release date yet.

What else can I tell you about my woes to becoming a published author…

I’m back on the bandwagon, creating more high quality content like this for my website! I’m writing blogs, contacting authors for interviews, and sourcing out interesting guest bloggers! Keeping up my website is an important part of an authors platform. These days, an online presents is so crucial! Who knew there would be so much other stuff to writing a book … other than writing a book?

A new thing I’ve started doing in preparation to having published book, is getting more involved in my local writing community, as a presenter. I’m just working out details to lead a four-day writers course put on by a local woman’s foundation. And I’m looking into getting on a panel or two at the next When Words Collide in August.

Interesting fact: When I was a kid, I used to compete at public speaking. I made it up to provincial levels once! Public speaking isn’t always considered the ‘coolest’ of hobbies, but I’m sure glad I learned those skills early on.

Last but not least …

dreamstime_m_22497074The most awesome thing I’ve done, (in terms of my writing) in the past few weeks is – I submitted a query to the agent. For some that might not seem overly epic, but to me it is. After all the beta-readers, editors, failures and successes – I finally have a manuscript that I’m proud of.

It gives me terrible butterflies to finally be at this point, which is probably normal. Who wouldn’t be nervous, sharing with the world something that took years to create? But – my work is ready to get out there, on stage, and do it’s thing! I just hope, that with all my efforts that the critics will be kind and throw roses, not rotten vegetables.

To all the other writers out there that keep on pursuing their dreams … I hope you get roses too!

Good reading and good writing to you all!

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What's NextI’m beginning to think that blogging about ‘what’s next’ for me has become a form of therapy . An authors world can be a very solitary one. This way I get to tell the world what’s going on with my writing, without annoying my friends by talking about it too much. Wait… I talk about it too much with my friends anyway.

So here’s where I’m at…

I’ve written a great book – at least a few people think so. I’ve had beta readers pour over it, and an editor too. And I’m putting the final touches on my manuscript before I send it for another round of substantive edits and formatting. Which will probably end up taking another six months  to complete. After it goes in to editing again I can kick back and relax… OR NOT! Writing and publishing a book doesn’t actually stop at writing and publishing a book. At least not for me. My wheels are always turning. So, What’s Next?Harmless_JustFrontCover_Final

I’ve started working on a book trailer! Well, to be more specific, I’ve hired two exquisitely talented professionals to collaborate with on the making of a book trailer. So far, I’m blown away! It looks like it could be a movie trailer and we’re only doing rough cuts so far. Once again, I marvel at the talented friends that surround me.

Here are some great book trailers I found online of books I’ve read.

Paper towns Johns Green

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm6fB_nS_3k&index=15&list=PLF5316EC25DD56E15

The Red Queen By Victoria Aveyard

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UbsNfwkZwk&list=PLF5316EC25DD56E15&index=30

Mosquitoland By David Arnold

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s8CjoO-8pU&list=PLF5316EC25DD56E15&index=31

The Fifth Wave By Rick Yancey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpmIjDo3B1s&list=PLF5316EC25DD56E15&index=69

Eve By Anna Carey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hthpbmUcn7A&list=PLF5316EC25DD56E15&index=218

Audio books?

I haven’t started on any audio book version of my book yet but I’ve been pondering it. Would an audience that reads my book, buy audio books? My book is YA, perhaps leaning a little most towards the older people in that spectrum. Are those people audio book buyers? Lots to think about.

Another thing I need to wrap my head around is a concrete marketing strategy. I’m finding this hard, but not impossible. The most difficult part of this is committing to trade shows, signing, events, etc., without knowing the exact release date of my book. Patience Katherine…

logoMy website content and upkeep keeps me busy as well. I have three main categories I concentrate on; guest blogging, author interviews, and my blogs. Content is key for a good website. I like the guest blogging and author interviews the most. I get to meet writers like myself, promote them while getting great content, and build a network of like-minded people. I’m always looking for new bloggers and writers. Drop me a line if an interview or guest blogging interests you.

Good content on my site, leads to good content in my Twitter feed. There are a few other places like Goodreads and Facebook where I have profiles, but Twitter is my main social media. In an effort to increase my Twitter following read a ‘how to’ book the other day. It’s strategies on how to unravel the mysteries of Twitter are coming in handy with build my author platform.

Another project I’ve started, related to my novel Harmless is a graphic novel prequel. I write and my artist Bri draws. She is the same artist I use for all my promotional materials, book cover, and book trailer. I have high hopes to turn this prequel in to a series as well. Here are a few rough sketches Bri has come up with so far.

So yeah… That’s what’s next for me. I’ll keep you all updated on the progress!

Good reading and good writing to all of you!

Katherine (34)

Katherine