Most people are a combination of various cultures, though I think their ancestors tended to confine their marriages and unions to one continent. Mine didn’t. As a teenager, growing up in the 1960s, I was always asked, “What are you, black or white?” I’d usually answer, “Both,” or “Neither,” not because I was afraid or wanted to fit in, but because it was true: Nicaraguan and Dominican parents, Middle-Eastern and French grandparents, and Chinese and African great-grandparents. (Hope I didn’t miss anyone). And born in Brooklyn, New York. “How sweet it is!”
This ethnic mix probably explains my preferred genres; Kid-Lit, because I am always looking for someone like me in children’s books; and Historical Fiction, because like working on a jigsaw puzzle, I travel the globe, mostly through books, in search of all of the pieces of me that, once united, will make me whole.
This quest has made me an avid multicultural reader. In every reading exploration I discover something about myself. Everything I write contains a key to who I am that reveals an aspect of my essence. It’s an awesome journey.
And while I seem to connect with everyone, I don’t really fit in anywhere; yet I love the empathy toward others that these various cultures have generated in me because it leads to a deeper kind of listening and understanding, which in turn informs and directs my writing.
I’m always learning, and changing, and growing, and I often have so much to say that I don’t know where to begin, or how to put it all together…like now.
So, thank you ancestors, for being willing and unwilling globe – hoppers. I am wonderfully made and you have given me much to think of and write about.
See you next time, on June 22nd.
Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.
A good story is made up from a host of elements that when jumbled together and skillfully molded become a glorious whole – just like Dixie Jewett’s fabulous horse. Plot, setting, theme, writing style and characters all must blend to make the whole pleasing. Being an omnivorous reader (yes, even when I’m not editing) I am happy with a plot driven or an action driven story, but I am smitten by a character driven tale. Reading a character driven novel is like crashing a party and making the acquaintance of new and fascinating people.
The main characters always have some attraction otherwise they wouldn’t support the story and make the reader care. Who couldn’t be enthralled by bossy Elizabeth Bennet and the steely D’Arcy, or Scarlett and Rhett? And then there’s Hannibal Lector, the very pinnacle of evil yet more compelling than a ten-ton magnet. Depending on how the story is structured we can learn their history upfront, or it is revealed through out the narrative, but there is always enough time and story space to make that all-important emotional connection through, not just history, but mannerisms, speech patterns, and motivations.
It is the secondary characters – the extras, if you will – that are often the most colorful component of great novels. Dickens’ genteelly mad Miss Haversham, du Mauier’s chilling Mrs. Danvers. Creating a supporting cast that adds a glint of darkness, a spark of humor or a touch of humanity to a story. Beyond helping to create a personality in a novel, this supporting cast is also critical to fleshing out the setting – you know you’re in NYC when your hero is depressed and seeks the ever freely given advice of street smart Dominick De Luca at his World Famous Hotdog cart. You feel you’re in San Francisco when the hero hears the Powell Street cable car and hops on to her morning repartee with Phillip the droll veteran conductor.
Secondary characters can be tools to move the action forward. If your protagonist needs to be placed in a situation that is out of character for her, use a secondary character to get her there. For instance, the contrary but kind old Mr. Kronke is Mia’s downstairs neighbor to whom she can never say no. Too ill to act on his passion for the horses Mia agrees to deliver his bet to the shady off license where she stumbles into a handsome man and so meets the hero.
Finally, supporting characters make great sounding boards to help the main characters work out internal conflict. Think about the key role lively dialog with the saucy office receptionist might play, or a hip bartender. Dithering Aunt Renada, for instance, is far more compelling than your main character’s long internal dialogue.
Just remember that you, the author, are creating a whole world and you must populate it. Your cast of characters can be useful, colorful, thoughtful, wicked, wise or witty but they should never be boring. Look at the world around you, note all the people you come in contact with, and you will have all the inspiration you need to create fantastic and memorable characters.
With a BA in Anthropology and English I pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. It was a great choice for me. I love the process of creating and am privileged to be part of that process for so many great voices — voices both seasoned and new.
I’ve worked on nearly 400 books over 20 years, books by noted authors published by New York houses including Penguin, Kensington, Pentacle and Zebra as well as with Indie bestsellers and Amazon dynamos. From Air Force manuals and marketing materials to memoirs, thrillers, sci fi and romance, my services range from copyediting to developmental coaching.
Having worked in advertising and marketing, I am always cognizant of the marketplace in which the author’s work will be seen. I coach for content and style with that knowledge in mind in order to maximize sales and/or educational potential. My objective is to help the author’s material stand out from an ever more crowded and competitive field.
Years ago, I worked in corporate America and my client was married to Danielle Steel. When I found out who she was, I uttered seven ridiculous words: “I bet I could write a book.”
One of my colleagues called me on that boast and that’s how I became a writer – on a crazy dare. Having never written before, I tackled this challenge in the same way I tackled a marketing plan: by asking questions about how I would go about becoming a published author. In the old days, all I had to do was write a pitch and hope someone paid attention; these days all I have to know is how to upload to Amazon. But the business of publishing begged the question that was most important: how do I learn to actually write a book?
I decided I would learn the same way I learned to sew; I would follow a pattern.
With one of Danielle Steel’s books in hand, I spent three nights with that book, a glass of wine and a yellow marker. As I read, I highlighted the ‘seams’ of her work. My pattern consisted of noting:
I wrote for months and when I was done I had exactly the right number of pages, all the characters came in on cue, and the plot was revealed appropriately. What a yawn.
My book was the equivalent of making a shift dress out of burlap. It was technically correct but plain and unexciting. My book had nothing to make it memorable to a reader. I didn’t want to just go to the published-author party; I wanted readers’ heads to turn. I needed to learn what sets an artist apart from a painter, a fashion designer from a seamstress and a writer from an author. Bottom line: I needed some buttons and bows, some satin and lace. I needed some style.
I am writing my thirty-fifth book and I have learned a great deal, but I still follow the pattern I created years ago. I have grown as an author, found my voice, honed my observations and come to understand my personal style. I hope that someday a writer will take a yellow marker to one of my books and make a pattern of her own from my work. Then I hope she will be inspired to kick it all up a notch with her buttons and bows.
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After being sleepless in SoCal all weekend, I checked before I powered down tonight and there she is! Excited that I did it right and fulfilled all the requirements.
It wasn’t easy to enter – writing the book was only the beginning. Formatting it and also doing a print version, getting them linked, right keywords, did both covers myself. Crazy, but I’m just happy to have a chance.
****UPDATED**** Saturday May 20, 2017
That was the deadline looming for the Kindle Storyteller UK 2017 contest (see below for the scoop). I was almost finished with editing, formatting, etc. CRYSTAL GIRL, a prom queen wannabe sells her soul to the devil to get thin, watching the clock. You have to upload a print book as well as an e-book. Formatting an e-book I can do.
The print book.
Well, let’s say I used up a pot of coffee stressing on that one. However, I’m pleased to say that Amazon has made it exceptionally doable for authors to turn their e-books into print. Kudos to them. It takes some studying, a few trial runs, but I did it.
So . . . I uploaded everything before the deadline. I’m all set, right?
No. My entry isn’t there.
At least I can’t find it.
So I emailed Amazon support and they’re helping me figure out what’s happening. So, that’s my update. I did what I set out to do and that in itself is a win. But I’m hoping, really hoping, that my book will show up in the contest. It may take a few days to show up, but I know in my heart I’ve done everything I can.
I love to wish on the stars.
Big ones, little twinkling ones. I’ve always been the type to jump headfirst into a challenge and then wonder later how I’m going to do it. Like the time I was a freshman in high school and I was a newbie on the Speech and Debate Team. The team was entered in a big speech contest over the weekend where each contestant performed a piece in front of judges.
At the last minute, somebody dropped out. I raised my hand and said, “Yeah, I’ll go!” Eyebrows raised. Throats cleared. Obviously, I was not their first choice. Far from it. But I wanted it so bad, the teacher must have seen the stars in my eyes. I was so eager to get out into the world and try out my wings. They had no one else, so I went. This was a Thursday. I needed my speech ready by Saturday.
Too green to know everybody thought I’d freeze up.
Hey, I was fourteen.
By Saturday, I had the speech down. Kinda. Not perfect. But okay, I couldn’t back out now. I’ll never forget the snickers, the whispers when I got up in front of the judges and jumped into my speech. It was a speech about life and its many roads and the choices you make. A bit too mature for me, but what the heck, I forged ahead like I was on a mission to Mars.
Then reality set in. I forgot a line . . . then two. I stopped, grinned like a puppet with its strings cut. Now what?
Thank God I have a bit of blarney in me. I filled in with personal anecdotes about roads my family took. Literally. I talked about our wild adventures living in different places from coast to coast. No one breathed. Or made nasty comments. They just listened.
When I was done, I left the room as fast as my ballet flats could take me. Went to the girls’ restroom and cried.
I messed up.
Or did I?
I don’t believe I did. Even now as I write this, I never forgot the feeling of taking that risk and getting through it even if I wasn’t successful. Just putting myself out there made me grow up.
And in case you’re wondering, here’s how I scored: 4 judges = 2 third places; 1 honorable mention; and 1 second place.
Not bad for a kid at her first speech contest.
So, why am I telling you this?
Because I’m wishing on the stars again. This time it’s the Amazon Kindle Storyteller contest. (Get all the info HERE). A writing contest and the deadline is fast approaching. I have to wrap up my YA Novel entry asap.
God help me, I’ve seen the sun come up the past few days. Did you know the birds start chirping outside my window at 4:30 a.m.?
I’ll fill you in more later about my story with updates here. Post the cover, etc. It’s called CRYSTAL GIRL and it’s the story of a prom queen wannabe who sells her soul to the devil to get thin.
So that’s it for now.
But you know what’s funny to me? I don’t feel any different than I did at fourteen when I jumped into the speech contest and did the best I could. I love the challenge and I trust the storyteller in me to accomplish my goal.
I hope I never lose that feeling.
And I hope I never run out of stars . . .
High school can be such a pain, remember? I do.
Here’s a very short story I wrote about that first kiss.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001IU2P8G