Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How to Ramp Up the Atmosphere In Your Spooky Story

One of the key parts of any book is atmosphere, but it’s especially important in horror and paranormal fiction. Think about this way: I’m sure you’ve all seen a TV show about ghost hunting (or, if you’re like me, four or five or ten). Perhaps you’ve even gone on a few paranormal investigations or ghost tours. How often have you heard the following scenario?

“Mrs. Smith claims that the building is haunted! She’s scared out of her wits!”

“Really? What’s happened? Has she ever seen anything?”

“Well, no… but she says there’s just a really weird feeling about the place. Creepy. Like she’s being watched.”

My guess is you’ve heard this exchange, or something similar, more than a few times. Now, Mrs. Smith may be full of it or maybe the building really is haunted, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the atmosphere that has caused her to believe the place is haunted; it’s gotten inside her head and made her feel uneasy.

This is something that all good horror and paranormal writing has to do, whether you’re writing a straight-up horror story or something fun or adventurous with paranormal elements. That atmosphere is what takes your reader from their world and drops them into yours.

So, how do we conjure the perfect atmosphere?



Naturally, the first thing to consider is your setting; a lot of your atmosphere comes from there. In The Lovelace & Wick Series, I made the macabre city of Marlowe, Massachusetts is its own character. This was a conscious decision I made from the start, studying cities such as Salem and Beverly. I wanted that city to have its own presence. And so, it’s described as a sort of monster, looming over its citizens. It's as though it’s a living thing. The citizens themselves are like a Greek chorus or disciples of the great monster that is Marlowe. In adding these details, I’ve automatically strengthened the sense of atmosphere; the whole setting comes alive. (And yes, there is definitely some Lovecraftian inspiration there!) Your setting should have some presence. A story that could take place anywhere might not make the same impression as one with its setting woven into the fibers of the narrative.

Next, I think it’s important to consider the intent of the scene or piece. Let’s say Author A is writing a slasher story. Mary Jane is running through the woods, but she’s totally lost and she’s running out of hope fast. The killer is out there somewhere. The whistle of the wind, to Mary Jane, is frightening, ominous, like the lonely moan of a forlorn spirit.

But Author B is writing a paranormal romance story. Lady Carmilla is awaiting her lover in the woods. The wind whistles, and its soothing to her. It sings a sweet, but melancholy song and reminds her of Count Vlad, her vampire lover who wants to make her a part of his kingdom of the undead.

The exact same detail in these two scenes adds to the atmosphere in very different ways (both in a rather hokey manner, but you get the picture). Think about what your scene is trying to achieve and how the setting can be interpreted in conjunction with that intent.

If you feel like you’re struggling with atmosphere, try this exercise. Go to a park, your bedroom, a cemetery, anywhere. Now, how does that place feel? Take a few minutes to write it all down. Is it relaxing? Lonely? Bustling? Now ask yourself why? What’s contributing to that atmosphere. Rely on those five senses. What details, if suddenly added, would change the atmosphere? What would make it suddenly eerie?  Are these changes subtle? Obvious? Meaningful?

The nice thing about being an author is you can add atmospheric details that have meaning. A butterfly sailing past might represent your protagonist’s deceased grandmother. The rainy weather might reflect her sour mood. Giving meaning to your atmosphere allows your reader to become more submerged in your story.

A scene is like a little symphony—every instrument works together. Think about all the tiny details that help create the perfect atmosphere. Then, think about how that atmosphere contributes to the overall meaning of the scene. Then, think about how that scene contributes to the book as a whole. It all works together, so it’s important to always consider how it works together, especially when you’re going for that spooky atmosphere that’s perfect for your story.

Readers and writers, what do you think makes a good, spooky atmosphere?

Cheers!
Jenny

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Anatomy of a Writing Space

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently moved into a new apartment. Now, this apartment is an astounding space with a great kitchen, hardwood floors, high ceilings and a ton of closet space...

...naturally, I was the most concerned with where my writing space would be.

(I mean, the kitchen is nice, too, BUT...)

The spaces in which we create are so important. Whether you're making jewelry at a work desk, acting on stage, playing at your piano or writing in your office, it is paramount that you feel comfortable in the space and inspired by the space. Once your brain begins to realize, "Ah! This is where we come to create!" then you're more likely to have a successful session.



Today, I wanted to share my writing space with you, not only so I can share a little bit about my process but that so perhaps I can inspire you in designing your own perfect space in which you can create.


Here is my desk. I like to surround myself with images and trinkets and doodads which put me in the mood to write or could serve as inspiration. I LOVE antiquing. What better way to inspire yourself to tell a story than to surround yourself with items that tell another's tales?

The lamp above is Mid-Century. It's a really amazing example of a late 1950s/early 1960s fiberglass drum shade that I was able to pick up (lamp, shade and all) for a whopping $15 at an antique store in Virginia!


These books are a collection of poems by Poe, Paradise Lost, and Green Mansions. My favorite item here, however, is the commemorative Telstar dish in the foreground!



The medical print in front is a gift from my sister--it's from the 1920s. I often find myself studying the diagram, so if I ever end up on Jeopardy, that may come in handy. The phone in the back was an old workshop/barn phone I bought in Lancaster, Ohio. It's got little spatters of paint all over, which I love.








And of course, it's just as important to have a good reading space. Right next to my desk, I have this comfy chair along with a lantern and an old stereoscope I picked up in downtown Circleville, Ohio. The pillow is from Waynesville, Ohio.

There you have it! I get up at 5:30 every morning, drag myself to this desk, and start writing!

So, where is your favorite place to create? Share some pictures of your inspiration space in the comments.

Until next time,
Jenny


Monday, July 17, 2017

What's In a Name?: How to Come Up with the Perfect Name for Your Character

Indiana Jones. Bilbo Baggins. Mary Poppins. Victor Frankenstein.

Now, do you think their stories would be quite as grand if their names were Robert Jones or Mary Smith? Maybe… but I bet you wouldn’t remember those characters quite as clearly.

Particularly when you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi, naming your character is paramount. This is something, I’ll admit, I harp upon when acting as a beta reader. So, I’d like to formally apologize for any vicious tirades on which I may have gone concerning poorly-chosen character names:




Right, now that that’s out of the way…

Your characters are your babies. People agonize over what they’re going to name their child. Such care should go into naming your characters, as well, and yes: I mean every character.

Someone asked me recently how I named my characters, and the question stuck with me so much, that I decided I needed to write a whole post on the topic. There are a few things I take into consideration.



1. The character’s personality. This one is obvious, but I think it’s one of those things that’s so obvious that people sometimes overlook it. A character’s name is an extension of their personality.  It helps cement the character in the reader’s mind. So, the first thing I do is look at the character’s personality. Let’s use Iago Wick as an example (because he so loves being the center of attention).

“Iago” comes from Shakespeare’s villain in Othello, of course. I found that appropriate since Iago spends his days tempting humans and manipulating them. His last name references a candle wick, in addition to the word “wicked” but it's also a very quick and biting word. The word "wick" is sharp with a percussive final consonant. That reflects Iago’s quick wit and rather sharp nature. His name conveys a lot about him through literary allusions and overall sound—almost like a little mini biography.

2. The tone of the story. If you’re Terry Pratchett and you’re writing a Discworld novel, then a clockmaker named Jeremy Clockson (a nod, of course, to British personality Jeremy Clarkson) is a great idea. If you’re writing a particularly humorous tale and you want to name your hunky love interest Matt Goodflesh, then, more power to you. However, punny names can hurt your character if you’re writing something a little more serious. I always take the tone of the piece into mind when naming characters.

3. Say it out loud—over and over again. When you’re writing, you may be months into a project before you ever actually say a word about it. Sure, you think and write and type every day, but your character’s name has to look good on paper AND sound good out loud. So, say it out loud. Some of my personal rules (feel free to break these for your own purpose—this is just me):

- Nothing that rhymes too much.

- Nothing that’s too close to another character’s name.

- Must have nice prosody—that is the rhythm and musicality of the name.

- If I mess up saying it more than three times, it’s out. If you can’t say your character’s name, how is your reader going to say it? Don’t get too complicated.

4. Part of your world. When you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, you may be writing about other worlds and perhaps those worlds have their own language or idea of aesthetic. Always take that into account. It’s going to stand out like a sore thumb if you’ve crafted this beautiful otherworldly language… and then your otherworldly main character is named Mike. Really put some thought into what certain words and syllables mean in your world. What makes a name beautiful? What makes a name suitable for a villain? I love getting into the linguistics, and it will give your readers a richer experience, too.

I often use old and underused names in The Lovelace & Wick Series. It adds flavor but also keeps us firmly rooted in the pseudo-steampunk 1890s world in which the stories take place.

5. Don’t rely too much on name meaning sites. I mean this. Seriously. I’ve seen people spend HOURS of precious writing time on name meaning sites and still come up with only an average name for their character. (If they come up with a name at all! Sometimes the name meaning site—bloated with questionable ads and pop-ups—swallows the poor author whole and we never see them again.)

Honestly, though, the meaning of the name can be flavor, but I wouldn’t go in too deep. This is mostly because the average reader doesn’t know the meaning of the name Kate or Allie or Jeffrey or Quentin. While it might mean something to you, that’s not being conveyed to the reader, and at the end of the day, the reader’s perception is paramount.

A character’s name is precious. It’s a key part of them, and you love your characters, right? Well, do them a favor and give them a name that will make them proud! Shout it from the rooftops! (Maybe not. Don’t want to alarm the public officials.)

What about you, writers? How do you name your characters? And readers: what makes a good character name in your eyes? What’s your favorite?

Cheers!
Jenny

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen comes out August 4th... but you can get it now for FREE

Greetings, everyone!

The last few weeks have truly taught me the meaning of the phrase "keep on truckin'."

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I found myself suddenly needing to move the second week of June. A move? I thought. Now? Fortunately (and thanks to the help of some great people), I found a beautiful apartment that was close to work. My boyfriend and I could not be happier with the place (oh, I cannot wait to share images of my new writing space), but it was still quite a haul to move one town over on such short notice!

The last few days, with a holiday on the horizon, have been dedicated to getting back into my writing rituals. I'm about 85% of the way through the first edit of Binding Dante Lovelace, the second book in The Lovelace & Wick series...

...but fortunately, dear readers, you don't have to wait for another adventure with Mr. Wick and Mr. Lovelace.

"Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen," a Lovelace & Wick Short Story, will be released officially on August 4th, but you can get it now for FREE here at Instafreebie.


As a demon, Iago Wick has made quite a career out of conjuring mischief and mayhem in the name of Hell, but this time, perhaps he’s gone a bit too far.

After deliberately foiling the plans of a spoiled vampire—all in the name of fun, really!—Iago discovers that the vampire in question is no ordinary bloodsucker. She’s the newly-appointed matriarch of one of the oldest vampire families in America, and she’s very angry.

Soon, Iago is caught in a war with the vampires and their cyborg servants. Will he settle his score with the clan of bloodsuckers or will Iago find himself at the mercy of the Vampire Queen? What precisely is the matter with those strange cybernetic servants, anyway? And most importantly, will Iago ever get the smell of garlic out of his clothes?

So, grab it while you can. It will be available until July 31st!

A very happy holiday to my American readers,
Jenny

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cover & Blurb Reveal: Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen



As a demon, Iago Wick has made quite a career out of conjuring mischief and mayhem in the name of Hell, but this time, perhaps he’s gone a bit too far.

After deliberately foiling the plans of a spoiled vampire—all in the name of fun, really!—Iago discovers that the vampire in question is no ordinary bloodsucker. She’s the newly-appointed matriarch of one of the oldest vampire families in America, and she’s very angry.

Soon, Iago is caught in a war with the vampires and their cyborg servants. Will he settle his score with the clan of bloodsuckers or will Iago find himself at the mercy of the Vampire Queen? What precisely is the matter with those strange cybernetic servants, anyway? And most importantly, will Iago ever get the smell of garlic out of his clothes?

Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen is a 17,500-word short story prequel to The Lovelace & Wick Series.

--

I'm positively delighted to present the cover and blurb for Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen! Those who follow my newsletter, Of Demons & Discourse, have already seen it, but this is its official reveal to the rest of the world.

Stay tuned for the official release date--those who follow Of Demons & Discourse will receive the short story for free.

Until next time!
Jenny


Friday, May 26, 2017

Of Demons and Discourse (and Bigfoot?)

Last weekend, I attended The Ohio Bigfoot Conference.

To answer the question that is, without a doubt, on your mind: no, I didn't see him.

I did, however, get to spend the night at the gorgeous Salt Fork Lodge. This was my view from the room's balcony:



See? Not a single sasquatch, bigfoot, grass man or skunk ape in sight! (I did see a drone spying on me, at one point, but no hairy ape men.) However, it did lend some fantastic scenery to Sunday's early morning writing session.

Besides sitting in on lectures about Bigfoot, I've been hard at work promoting The Last Temptations of Iago Wick, preparing a short story, Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen, for a summer release and writing the second draft of the next book in the series, Binding Dante Lovelace. (Occasionally, I find time to sleep.) I'm discovering that Mr. Wick and Mr. Lovelace still have quite a lot to say. Their adventures will soon take them beyond Marlowe, Massachusetts. Much to Mr. Wick's chagrin, there will be witches.

If you'd like to stay up to date on my writing, and receive exclusive info, book recommendations, freebies and other assorted bits and bobs, be sure to sign up for Of Demons & Discourse, my official newsletter. The first issue will be out in June.


Until next time!

Jenny




Thursday, April 13, 2017

Demons and vampires and cyborgs, oh my!

Oooh, look! A fancy title card.
The Last Temptations of Iago Wick has been released for a little over a month now. Thank you to everyone who has supported the book so far.

So, to answer question number one (because I've gotten this several times now!): YES, Iago Wick is the first book in a series. This series will not only include other books, but short stories. I've been calling it The Lovelace & Wick Series, since those gentleman demons will be the focus of each installment. These characters have really taken me by surprise. They have so much to say! (Iago, in particular, truly does not know when to shut up.)

I'm taking this opportunity to announce the next publication, a long-short story/short novella, titled Iago Wick and The Vampire Queen. Yes, we're pairing demons with vampires because that always ends spectacularly, right? This story has been an absolute blast to write. It takes place just months before The Last Temptations of Iago Wick, and it's been a joy to further explore Marlowe, Massachusetts. I won't say too much yet, but I will say this: there are cyborgs.

Also, I've completed a draft of the next novel in the series. This novel will focus more upon Iago's partner in crime, Dante Lovelace and sees Dante and Iago teaming up with a crafty witch named Beatrice (much to Mr. Wick's chagrin).

Keep an eye out for the cover reveal of Iago Wick and The Vampire Queen soon. In the meantime, if you haven't picked up The Last Temptations of Iago Wick yet, it's only 99 cents on Amazon.

Cheers!
Jenny