Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Brave - an illustration of conflict

When I saw Disney's Brave, throughout the movie I marveled at the brilliant illustration of conflict. The rules of fiction writing were perfectly conveyed in the shape of a bear.

Merida's (the heroine) father has an aversion to bears after they threaten his family, and later in the movie, his wife becomes a bear when Merida has a moment of teenage angst. So how can Merida protect her mother, the bear, from her father, who seeks to protect his family from the bears?

As I write the third in the Kundigerin trilogy, stories that embody spirit beasts, I knew one of the conflicts in this story would be between the heroine and Max's spirit beast. As I delve further in, the characters are telling me secrets about themselves, some of which I knew going in, and more that I didn't see coming. Since my stories are mainly romance with added extras (mystery, paranormal influences), I already know that Max's family secret is going to be a source of conflict, although attraction is a heady thing, and it might be easy to pretend his secret doesn't exist until the heroine actually witnesses it. Add in the "Brave" factor - and I'm grateful for such an excellent example to draw from.

No, I don't want to give too much away, but if you've read Gathering Mist, you know there's more to Max than meets the eye. Making that "more" something that invokes fear into my heroine's soul on an elemental level is what makes writing this story exciting. How can she overcome her fear/repulsion in order to have her happily ever after? I've never had such a clear picture of the "black moment" in a story, and it has fueled my excitement to keep writing the final installment in this trilogy (a black moment is that point in a romance where you can't see how the hero and the heroine can overcome the obstacles to their happily ever after).

And so, I'm writing. The story is pouring out as I grab whatever free moments I have until I finish the last spring deadline at the day job, and after that the real work begins. Making everything I'm spewing out readable.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Plotting (vs. "Pantsing")

There are two camps of writers, plotters and pantsers (defined as people who write by the seat of their pants). I fall pretty regularly into the pantser category, and yet I know enough to pay attention when my story is getting away from me.

The rules of writing tell you that you should raise the stakes for your characters as you write. Keep them off-balance, and some authors will actually paint their characters into corners to keep the story moving. It's a good way to force us as authors to manufacture solutions to problems. For me, that process seems much easier as a pantser. As I'm writing, I think things like "what would make things more difficult for this person right here?" Usually at the end of a chapter in order to draw you forward, keep you reading.

I'm moving ahead with the final installment of my Kundigerin trilogy, and because these characters are familiar to me, I keep running into "but my readers don't know this if they haven't read the first book or two," which puts me into a situation where I have to pass along information. Without proper planning and setting, that could stop a new reader dead in their tracks. It's called info dumping. And I have to admit that the first couple of chapters of a new book are the discovery stage for me - I need to get to know the characters and their situations. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries before I know what's happening and where they're going, what their journey is. In this third installment, I know who is at the center of the story, I know what is at stake, I know basically how it's all going to play out, but I'm short on plot points. How do I get from point A to point B? What are the roadblocks?

An overall picture is generally enough for me to keep moving forward. As I write, the characters take over, tell me their story, and I (evil author that I might be) look for ways to get in their way. Thwart them, give them challenges to face. Conflicts, speed bumps, what-have-you. And this is where I'm struggling with Book 3. If I bring in the antagonist too quickly, the novel turns into a novella. If I write the main conflict in the first three chapters, the book is over.

It's time to plot.

Plotting usually comes naturally to me. When I was dating my husband, we were watching one of his favorite television shows, and one I hadn't seen often. As I was watching, I think I said something to the effect of "that guy's gonna die." And my husband was shocked. "He can't die. He's a major character in the show!" Guess what? He died. The script had been written well enough to foreshadow the event, and as a plotter myself, I could see it coming. When I'm off my game, when the plotting doesn't flow, there is a Plan B. Sit down and outline where you're going. One of my writing partners uses a story board (in fact many authors do). That way you aren't writing aimlessly, but you still have the freedom to "shake it up" in case your characters show up to point you in another direction. An outline is a road map, but that doesn't mean you only have to take the highway. You can still travel the backroads, or take a detour, as long as you're traveling in the right direction.

Book 3 is Max's story (for those of you who have read Mist on the Meadow and Gathering Mist).
He's met a talented young woman who is going to get into all kinds of difficulties and has an unreasonable fear of cats. So if you'll excuse me, I have to outline exactly what's going to happen with the two of them along their journey so they can do their part in defeating the evil demon intent on wreaking havoc with the world.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It's heeerrrre!

The new book has hit the stores! I hope you all went out and bought a copy, and if you didn't, you can enter for your chance to win one at So yes, today's blog is nothing but shameless promotion, but I'm so excited! Gathering Mist is the second in the Kundigerin series -- The tension mounts!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Gathering Mist by Karla Brandenburg

Gathering Mist

by Karla Brandenburg

Giveaway ends April 30, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Constructive Reviews

I'm maybe still a little wound up from deadline (bad one this year), but there's a topic I'd love to discuss with you. Can we talk?

As an author, I read my books approximately 10 times before they are published - and that's AFTER it's technically finished. With that being said, reading one's own work is tricky. We know what it's supposed to say, and often skim over mistakes. For that reason, I hire a professional editor, who not only looks over the work as a whole, but also points out those little "oopsies" that I might have overlooked.  (and then I read it again).

Nobody's perfect. Not my editor, not me, not the several beta readers who help me find all the hidden mistakes. I do copyediting on the day job, and there are mistakes that go through several sets of eyes. It happens. With that being said, if you read one of my books, and you find a goof, I will NOT be offended if you shoot me an email and say, "Hey, I happened to notice ..."  In fact, I would be greatly appreciative. I strive to make your reading experience the best it can be.

I'm reading a book now where the dialog is terrible, but the story is good. So I'm trying to decide. Do I point out the downside to the author? She's not going to rewrite this book, I'm certain, and my review will still be positive based on what I've read so far. She has over 300 reviews already. Do I add my two cents or just keep it to myself?  Well, as an author, I'd want that additional review, whatever it says. As a reader, I'd want to know what other people thought, ugly bumps and all.

How many of you base your book-buying decisions on reviews? I've seen several that disagree with my opinion of books I've read and I've gone to a policy of sticking with what I like and not reading reviews until after I've finished and left my own opinion. Then I can see what I might have missed or where other people might have disagreed with my thoughts. And that's the beauty of reading. It's so subjective! While I might love a book by Mary Balogh, another reader might absolutely hate it, and they hate it for the very reasons I love it!

Diversity - it's what makes life interesting!

So yes, I want to hear what you thought of my book, warts and all. And if there's something I've screwed up -- I can fix it! Please let me know.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When life gets busy - stress management

You've been listening to me complain about "too much on my plate" lately, with deadlines at work and trying to push the new book out. My brains are rattling inside my head and it seems like there is a hive of bees buzzing around in there (thank goodness they don't sting!). One of the things I like to do to counteract the buzzing is look for the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Consciously take myself out of the stress by looking forward to the "happy" things.

The weather in Illinois is turning. Spring is upon us and I am definitely a Spring person. I love the way the world comes back to life after a long winter. The return of color to the landscape, of wildlife running through the woods. These things make me smile, give me a warm, happy feeling. My Dear Husband and I can go walking, something we enjoy doing together. The young'uns came for a visit. That makes me smile, warms my heart. I bought another book. Books take me out of my head and into a world someone else has created. And then there's the change of venue approach. I have several trips scheduled this year that I can look forward to, both new and different places, and familiar places with people I enjoy spending time with.

What do you do in your down time? What gets you through the crunch times, when you have several "days in a row" of responsibilities and you need a break?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Deadlines, everywhere I look

The sun is shining. Spring is trying to push winter out of its way. The world is coming back to life.

Last night on the news they said we might be able to see the Aurora Borealis in Illinois, (This is high on my bucket list), but I couldn't see anything last night.

And I'm exhausted. Deadlines at the day job - March Madness, as previously referenced, and living up to the hype. Deadline with the new book.

All deadlines are on schedule! I may collapse in a big heap on April 1, but I'm feeling very accomplished at the moment. Waiting on one final piece of the puzzle to prepare the paperback copy, but Gathering Mist is available for pre-order as an e-book NOW. The official release date is on track for April 6.

And now I have to go punish myself with more work, because that's how my month of March plays out. Tell all your friends to buy the new book, and once I hit the best seller's list, I can give up the day-job deadlines in favor of writing more books. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Writer's Angst and "The Best Day of my Life"

I've been struggling with some of the edits to my upcoming release, more because of the other distractions in my life at the moment.

We are in the thick of "season" at the day job. March Madness (not related to basketball, but to volume of work).

Why did I think I could release a book this time of year? What made me think I could write a book, period? Who's going to want to read this drivel? This is known as writer's angst. It strikes at the most inopportune times, and I spent my weekend in the throes, mostly because my time is at a premium. So when my husband asked me if I was ready to go to the grocery store and I bit his head off with "Don't rush me! I have enough stress!" his eyes grew very wide and he stepped silently backward, away from the crazy lady.

On Monday morning, the day after the time change, mind you (and yes, I am a morning person), I woke up to American Authors singing "The Best Day of My Life." 5:20 a.m. I actually jumped out of bed and started singing (please don't call the men in the white coats yet). I had a fresh frame of mind, a new beginning to a new day. I'd been thinking through the edits I'd done the night before (which I was NOT happy with) and "saw the light." I knew what I wanted to do to make the story "right."

On my train ride into the Big City, I wrote notes to work with later on. And then I got into the office. Little by little, my enthusiasm started to wane with the heavy weight of work piling on once more, capped off by one of the people who work for me telling me they were taking a day off at the next deadline. Not asking, telling. At the deadline. Leaving us short-handed. At the deadline. These are the days where I hate my job. Fortunately, these types of days are limited, due to the highly seasonal nature of work that we do.

Tomorrow is another day. I'm on deadline at the day job, and I'm on deadline to get my book in the best shape it can be for release day. God willing, I will accomplish both deadlines without losing too much hair.