Big Ideas

Post by Mattias Bergman

Ideas. Are ideas what makes novels truly great? If so, then how? I’ve been increasingly pondering that question as I study some of the great classics of literature. We focus so much on POV, on characters’ “voice”, on scene-setting, on witty dialog. All of these are necessary, to be sure, but are they what make a novel stand apart?

Does anyone remember the vivid settings of the Grand Inquisitor, for example, or quote the snappy banter of Anna Karennina?

So let us postulate that we need an idea — the over-arching human question that we explore in our stories.

But, ah, this is February — the month of Valentine’s day, and by extension, the month of romance.

So, for the modern novel, do we need not only ideas — and of course POV, setting and dialog — but also romance? If there are male and female characters in our novel, do they have to fall in love? Or perhaps fall apart from one another?

The pressure is on, but there are exceptions. In the Da Vinci Code, for example, the author follows religiously (pardon the pun) the notion of a direct descendant of Christ, *without* the need to have her fall in love with her “rescuer”.

I hate to say it, but I deplore many of the so-called historical novels that take a fascinating period of human history and reduce it to a mere bodice-ripper. Yet they sell.

Take as an example a series of novels I am writing concerning ex-patriate Norse in the Byzantine empire in the late 10th century. It is a truly pivotal time and location, with the future of European and Greco-Roman civilization at stake. The novel explores questions of belief and destiny, and whether one should make personal choices that can have profound impacts on the lives of thousands of others.

Ideas. Big ideas.

But do I need a romance?

Continue reading “Big Ideas”

Spinning Threads I Might Not Finish

Four of our Stonehenge Circle Writers—Karen Blakely, R. A. Gates, Kelly Haworth and Cheryl Mahoney—are collaborating to write a new novel: Pesto, Pirouettes and Potions.  It’s unusual for this many authors to work together on one continuous story, so they’ve decided to blog throughout the drafting, to give you some glimpses into the process.

Blog post by Cheryl Mahoney

Last week R. A. Gates told you about writing Chapter One of the story, and introducing Lola.  I was slated to write second, so I dove into writing Chapter Two of the story.  My main task was introducing Charlie, our second lead character.  Charlie must have wanted to share her story, because the scenes flowed pretty well.  We also did more outlining for this story than I usually do for my own, so I was working with a paragraph of notes on what we decided to include for this chapter.  That may have made things easier, because the roadmap was very clearly laid out.

Since this was Charlie’s first chapter, it was mostly about setting up her character and her life.  I started with the bows at the end of a ballet performance—which sent me down a rabbit hole of research on modern ballet and the levels for dancers within a company!  I started inventing characters to form a community around Charlie, both in her dance company and in her neighborhood, which we had decided is very close-knit.  Even though I was creating characters for Charlie to know, I was also trying to hit the point that she’s lonely right now; her grandparents, who raised her, died a few months previously, and she’s also alone romantically.

The funny part about writing this as a collaboration at this point was realizing that I was setting up threads and ideas that I (or at least, I alone) wouldn’t be the one to write the results for.  For example, I wrote a bit where Charlie is hoping to get the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker this year, but someone else may be writing the scene that reveals whether she gets it or not.  With that in mind, I added more notes than usual, detailing what I was trying to set-up and how it might pay-off.  We may not follow all of those ideas, but at least that way it’s noted and can be considered by my fellow writers as they write forward.

It also was interesting to have more immediate feedback for my writing than usual, as I bounced ideas I was having off of my partner writers in almost-real time as I wrote.  I have people I talk to about my writing, but it’s usually not quite so in the moment.

I thought I’d share an excerpt from Chapter Two.  This is my favorite bit, as Charlie struggles to fall asleep and her dog Sammy comes to join her.

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After Charlie’s mind went around the same circles two or three times, and she tried every possible position at least once, she gave up and turned the light back on.  Some nights were just going to be restless and blue, and there was no use fighting it.

She reached down to the bottom shelf of her bedside table and came up with her worn old paperback of The Two Towers.  She opened at random, landing near the beginning of Chapter Four.  She knew the story backwards and forwards, so she started reading where she was.

Only a few pages in, she heard a thump as the mattress shifted, and then Sammy’s cold nose was pressing against her shoulder.

Charlie rolled over to rub Sammy’s favorite spot between his ears.  “At least I have you, right, Samwise?  That was enough for Frodo.”  He’d had an entire Fellowship, but Sam was really the only one he’d needed, to get all the way through Mordor.

Sammy snuffled, turned around twice, and curled up against her.  Charlie went back to her book, the little terrier a warm lump at the small of her back, and read about Merry, Pippin and Treebeard until she fell asleep.

Co-Writing Adventure

Blog post by R. A. Gates

Anyone who thinks that writing is a lonely pursuit has never been to a writer’s critique group. I’ve come to realize that it takes a village to write a book. At least a good one. And then there are the writing conventions and workshops writers attend to hone their craft. I’ve met some wonderful writers and friends through these avenues. And lucky writers like me get to co-write a book with some exceptional writers.

The first project I co-wrote with four other writers was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, The Servants and the Beast. In composing that novella, each writer had a section they were in charge of. We all read everything over, made suggestions and edit recommendations but the writer in charge of that section had the final say.

Currently, four of the five writers of that book are venturing on a new project. This time instead of each writer being in charge of certain sections, we are alternating chapters. I believe this project will be more challenging than the first because our writing styles need to mesh more than before. We all have to be more in synch with how the plot plays out and how each character develops.

We spent time last September creating the main character, Lola, in a writing exercise. Then we plotted out the story so we have a nice outline of what is supposed to happen in each chapter. I got the privilege of starting us off by writing chapter one. The chapter that is responsible for hooking the reader and getting the ball rolling. The chapter that introduces the reader to the main character and her situation.

No pressure.

I did my best to show who Lola was without being info-dumpy or having her look into a mirror and perfectly describe her appearance. It’s a lot harder than you think. Then when I had a decent beginning to our story, I sent of the file to the next writer to complete chapter two. It will be passed along round-robin style until the last few chapters which we will write together.

We’re aren’t sure how well this will work or if we will actually publish the story when it’s completed, but the experience so far is a lot of fun. Having four creative minds come together to plot out a story was amusing. Hopefully we can pull it off.

This is the first  in a new series of blog posts; each of the co-writers of this new novel will be sharing their experience as the drafting continues.

On Hobbies and Writing

Post by Kelly Haworth

Like most people, I’ve been drawing longer than I’ve been able to write. Every Christmas for years I would get an art kit from my grandfather, who had been a watercolor painter in his retirement. I still have the last kit he gave me before he passed away. The kit is mostly unused –  colored pencils, watercolors, and oil pastels in a brown wooden suitcase with a clasp. I don’t remember much of what I drew with those kits. What I do remember is girls in frilly dresses or jeans with cut outs – it was the 90’s after all, and I wanted to be a clothes designer when I grew up.

In my early teens I discovered another creative venture – writing. My first story was about a girl who jumped into the book she had been reading and travelled to the 1700’s (obviously because of the fashion) to be with a family that sailed to a tropical island complete with unicorns and magical birds.

For the next ten years, art and writing were delightful hobbies of mine, at which I didn’t think I’d ever be professional, but I still had fun nonetheless. I didn’t become a fashion designer, unfortunately. Instead I worked in a science lab, where I used delicate lab equipment eight hours a day – involving fine hand motions. Within a few months of this, my hands ached so much I stopped drawing. But I could still write. Even after I was promoted to a desk job, still, I just wrote. And even published some novels!

Fast forward to 2018, when my writing career shifted – I pulled my books from their original publisher, and partnered with two other publishers to get the ball rolling again.  Simultaneously, my job hit some setbacks which doubled my workload for nine months. The overtime meant my writing had to go on the back burner. By the time I could breathe at work again, I looked at what was left of my writing career – one republished novel, two novellas, and a handful of WIPs, and grimaced.

And the worst part was that I’d try to work on those WIPs and just stare at the blinking curser. Nothing was there. Which made me discouraged, which made it harder to write, etc etc etc.

Besides work on collaborative projects, I haven’t written in over a year.

But.

In October last year, I saw a number of artists participating in an event called inktober. Do one inked sketch per day throughout the month. If I couldn’t write, and if it had been six whole years since I had moved on from the repetitive hand-motion job, maybe I could draw again? So I picked up a sketchbook and an old kit of inking pens, and gave it a try.

Continue reading “On Hobbies and Writing”

Release Day: Audrey Murphy

We’re excited to announce that the newest Stonehenge Circle Writers release, Audrey Murphy by Karen Blakely, is now available!  A chiller involving a haunted house and a mystery in the past and the present, you won’t want to miss this one.

Purchase your copy

Here’s a little more about the story:

Newcomer Andie Murray enjoyed feeling nearly invisible until three of the most popular girls challenged her to spend an entire night in the town’s haunted house.

Andie doesn’t believe in haunted houses. Which is good, because she’ll be staying in the same place where the town’s vengeful ghost died, exactly one hundred years before. To the day.

People in town still argue whether Audrey’s death was an accident or suicide – or murder.

The house has been abandoned ever since. It crouches at the end of Pierce Road like something wounded. The porch sags to one side. The shutters hang askew. Only weeds and rot grow there now.

But something is brooding inside.

Andie is supposed to stay in the house until dawn. If she can. But will she be staying there alone? Will the ghost haunt her through the empty, decaying halls — like she’s haunted Andie’s dreams? Or could the house, or someone else, have different plans? Should Andie be afraid that ghosts are real, or is someone real what she should really fear? Could she end up dead, like

Audrey Murphy

Do You Prefer Yours With Blood and Gore, Or Unrelenting Creepiness?

Post by Karen Blakely

I like many types of fiction.  SciFi, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, even Horror.

A couple members of the Stonehenge Writer’s Group write some excellent horror. That’s a genre that is incredibly difficult to pull off without being cheesy or letting down your readers at the end of the story. Kudos to those who do it well!

I believe horror can be roughly divided into two main groups. The first: Grab the reader’s attention by drowning them in blood and gore. The second: Rub the reader’s nerves raw, slowly, agonizingly, with an ever-increasing application of tension — knowing something bad is about to happen, perhaps when you turn the very next page…

Okay, reading that back I guess it’s obvious which type of horror I prefer.  Not that I mind well done blood and gore. I just prefer to have it as a climax to a great story, not the main reason for the story. That’s just my preference. I know there are many who will vehemently disagree. So for this post, let’s agree to disagree. For me, the best is incredibly creepy OMG-is-it-going-to-get-me-NOW horror.

So, what do you find horrifyingly creepy? Something realistic? Ghostly? Monsterous? Something tangible, like a phone call with no one there? Or the intangible, like the glimpse of a shadow where it doesn’t belong?

Continue reading “Do You Prefer Yours With Blood and Gore, Or Unrelenting Creepiness?”

Pre-Orders Available for Audrey Murphy

The newest Stonehenge Circle Writers release, Audrey Murphy by Karen Blakely, will be out on January 15th.  You can pre-order the Kindle edition now!

Order your copy

Here’s a little more about the story:

Newcomer Andie Murray enjoyed feeling nearly invisible until three of the most popular girls challenged her to spend an entire night in the town’s haunted house.

Andie doesn’t believe in haunted houses. Which is good, because she’ll be staying in the same place where the town’s vengeful ghost died, exactly one hundred years before. To the day.

People in town still argue whether Audrey’s death was an accident or suicide – or murder.

The house has been abandoned ever since. It crouches at the end of Pierce Road like something wounded. The porch sags to one side. The shutters hang askew. Only weeds and rot grow there now.

But something is brooding inside.

Andie is supposed to stay in the house until dawn. If she can. But will she be staying there alone? Will the ghost haunt her through the empty, decaying halls — like she’s haunted Andie’s dreams? Or could the house, or someone else, have different plans? Should Andie be afraid that ghosts are real, or is someone real what she should really fear? Could she end up dead, like

Audrey Murphy

Cover Reveal: Audrey Murphy

We’re so pleased to share the cover from our next Stonehenge Circle Writers book release: Audrey Murphy by Karen Blakely will be out on January 15th, a date with special significance within the book.

First, a little about the story, with the back-of-the-book blurb:

Newcomer Andie Murray enjoyed feeling nearly invisible until three of the most popular girls challenged her to spend an entire night in the town’s haunted house.

Andie doesn’t believe in haunted houses. Which is good, because she’ll be staying in the same place where the town’s vengeful ghost died, exactly one hundred years before. To the day.

People in town still argue whether Audrey’s death was an accident or suicide – or murder.

The house has been abandoned ever since. It crouches at the end of Pierce Road like something wounded. The porch sags to one side. The shutters hang askew. Only weeds and rot grow there now.

But something is brooding inside.

Andie is supposed to stay in the house until dawn. If she can. But will she be staying there alone? Will the ghost haunt her through the empty, decaying halls — like she’s haunted Andie’s dreams? Or could the house, or someone else, have different plans? Should Andie be afraid that ghosts are real, or is someone real what she should really fear? Could she end up dead, like

Audrey Murphy

And now scroll down for a very special video cover reveal!

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Coming Soon: Audrey Murphy

We’re pleased to announce the next book release from one of our authors: Audrey Murphy by Karen Blakely will be out on January 15th, a date with special significance within the book.

A creeper involving a haunted house and a vengeful ghost, expect some chills from this one!  And come back Friday for the cover reveal and more details on the story.

Other places have their Bloody Mary.  We have Audrey Murphy…

Release Day: After the Sparkles Settled + Servants on Audio

We’re delighted to announce a double release day today!  The Servants and the Beast is now available as an audiobook, read for you by five Stonehenge Circle Writers.  Plus, get into the holiday spirit with a special Christmas epilogue, After the Sparkles Settled.

After the Sparkles Settled

Written by Karen Blakely, R.A. Gates, Kelly Haworth, Jenniffer Lee and Cheryl Mahoney

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

The five authors who collaborated for The Servants and the Beast have come together again to bring you this very special Christmas tale, looking in on the characters at the castle several months after the curse was lifted. As they celebrate the holidays, you can find out what’s happened to your favorite characters. Is Hugo finally courting Isadora? Has Quillsby learned to keep a secret? Will Robert propose to Lady Jayne–or Charles to Frostine? And how are Estienne and Beau doing, now that the Beast is a Prince again? Enjoy this Christmas epilogue to The Servants and the Beast.

 

The Servants and the Beast Audiobook

Written by Karen Blakely, R.A. Gates, Kelly Haworth, Jenniffer Lee and Cheryl Mahoney

Read by Karen Blakely, R.A. Gates, Kelly Haworth, Cheryl Mahoney and Jesse Bartels

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

You think you know the story – prince gets cursed, girl meets Beast, they fall in love and live happily ever after. If only it was that simple. But dating is tough even in the best of circumstances.

Ever since the fateful day when we let that horrible Good Fairy into the castle, our lives have been on hold. When she turned our bad-tempered prince into a Beast, she lumped us, his loyal servants, into the curse, too, just because she assumed his rude behavior was our fault. Theodore the butler should never have let her inside, and the rest of us should have helped bar the door.

Now, Theodore is an armchair, and we’re all trying to carry on our duties as a piano, a coat rack, a bookcase, and the like. At least we have Robert to clean up the pink sparkles piling in the corners from the Good Fairy’s curse, since he’s a mop now. We know we just need the Beast to fall in love to break the spell. We’re all doing whatever we can to help him find true love, one visitor at a time, hoping the right person finally comes along – but will the Beast ever learn to love?