Wednesday, April 29, 2020

New Authors: Theme It To Me, Baby

Themes within your book
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Themes are integral to writing a book. These are central topics that your characters have to overcome, work through, or work toward before the end of the book.

What is a theme?

Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster:
theme (noun) \ ˈthēm  \
1a: a subject or topic of discourse or of artistic representation 
b: a specific and distinctive quality, characteristic, or concern
Themes are what enrich your story. Your theme might be women overcoming adversity in their surroundings (courage and heroism), finding love (love, obviously), overcoming hardships in relation to sex, race, or creed (prejudice), being an outsider in the world you live in (individual vs society), and the list goes on and on ad infinitum. These help color your characters and move the plot forward. You might have only one theme, or you might have several. Though, likely, without realizing it, you’ll have a central theme and smaller ones that feed into that. 
The Difference Between Theme and Moral
A theme is the central idea on which the work is based, and a moral lesson is that message or the lesson that the author wants the reader to derive from their work. These two go hand and hand, and while you can have a theme without a moral, you can’t have a moral without a theme. And not every story is going to intentionally have a moral, but it’s in the nature of storytellers to subtly infuse morals into their words. 
Here are a couple of examples of morals:
  • Always tell the truth
  • Keep your promises
  • Don’t cheat
  • Treat others as you want to be treated
  • Be forgiving
  • Take responsibility for your actions
A similarity between themes and morals is that they can go without the author specifically saying them, which is a reason I say that authors don’t always know that they’ve also included a moral. And the reader can always derive a moral without the author specifically putting one in. 

Do I need a theme?

Short answer: yes, absolutely. 
Why do you need a theme? It’s integral to the development of your characters, how the world affects them, and how your plot moves forward. You might be thinking at this point that a theme sounds remarkably similar to a conflict, and that’s because they tie into each other. One of the conflicts in your book could be having an interracial couple and having the FMC (female main character) and MMC (male main character) stay together through the conflict arising from their socioeconomic backgrounds, and your theme would be love conquers all.
How themes change your characters
Let’s keep with the theme that love conquers all. How will this change your character, you might ask? In the situation laid out above, your characters will have to learn more about each other’s backgrounds and face backlash for their relationship. These struggles will make your characters more compassionate, especially the character who doesn’t have to face as many socioeconomic struggles. Throughout the book, you should easily be able to see where the characters grow more compassionate toward each other and have more of a passion for helping those around them who might be facing some of the struggles they are.
Clichéd themes
A cliché isn’t always a bad thing. A cliché becomes a cliché from becoming overused, but depending on how you do it, it could easily turn out boring and overdone. It might be a little harsh to say that, but saying it now will be less of a kick than your reviewers saying you’re unoriginal. 
There are a couple of themes that are very cliché but, depending on the way the story is told, can be just as exciting as the first time it was told. In my experience, these very familiar but still enjoyable themes are usually found in the romance and adventure/fantasy genres. 

Join us next week for the final installment of our new authors series, where we’ll talk about conflict.

Let's Keep in Touch!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on our books, authors, and more!
Can't wait? Check out our website for available books!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Misused Advice: Eliminate Adverbs

B. C. Marine, CAO Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Every piece of advice that we talk about in this series has good intentions at its origin but has evolved into something either misused or inviolable. Today’s advice to eliminate adverbs is no different. It’s probably the prime example of why it’s important to learn the reasons behind “The Rules” of writing before implementing them.

The Problems

Ironically, bending over backward to delete every adverb can sometimes create one of the exact problems it was meant to solve! How, you ask? Let’s start with the reason behind the advice. Adverbs are blamed for destroying two things: brevity and clarity.
Brevity
In today’s insta-everything world, brevity is more important than ever. Novels aren’t paid for by the word, and though short stories sometimes are, the storytelling space is so small that each word must hold its weight. In fact, extra words cost money, either in page counts for printing or in file delivery costs for ebook distribution. Even if you or your publisher don’t care about pricing, readers may put your story down if you take longer than needed to tell it.
Adverbs are an easy scapegoat for this since, by their nature, they tack onto verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Unlike subjects, objects, or verbs, adverbs aren’t essential sentence components, so when word counts need reduction, they’re the first in line for deletion.
Clarity
Even those not sold on the merits of brevity can appreciate the advantages of clarity. This is usually where you hear writers talk about using a strong verb instead of propping up a weak verb with an adverb. For example, if you’re describing an action scene, which of these is the most visceral?
  1. He fled.
  2. He fled quickly.
  3. He bolted.
Option three paints the clearest picture in your mind, doesn’t it? It gives us more than the weak verb, with or without the adverb to bolster it.

The Other Side

At this point, many sources will wipe their hands together and declare their advice on adverbs finished. Haven’t we proven that they’re useless at best?
Not at all!
If that were truly the case, why would adverbs exist? As a part of language, they must serve a purpose, as evidenced by how things can go wrong when authors try too hard to avoid them.
The Scenic Route
We’ve all done it. You’re heading somewhere and take what you think will be a great shortcut, only to discover that you’ve chosen the scenic route. Adverb avoidance can do the same thing. Let’s use another example:
  1. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” she whispered loudly.
  2. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” she said in a stage whisper.
  3. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” she said in a loud whisper.
  4. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” she whispered, knowing that everyone could hear her.
Examples two through three get rid of the adverb “loudly” but end up longer than the original. If brevity is the point, eliminating the adverb this way misses it completely. It trades the one offending word ending in “-ly” for a whole adverbial phrase. Unless you’re trying to satisfy an English teacher who has banned or limited your use of “-ly” adverbs, there’s no good reason to avoid example one.
Language Limitations
You might be thinking, Okay, smartypants, just take out the adverb entirely! That can be easier said than done. Let’s use the same example again:
  1. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” she whispered.
  2. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” she whispered loudly.
These two sentences do not mean the same thing. Example one is a normal whisper, likely meant only for the person she’s directly next to; if she’s overhead, it’s unintentionally so. Example two is a stage whisper, used for joking or sarcasm and meant to be heard by the person she’s talking about. That one little adverb conveys all that information.
I could try to use a stronger verb if it weren’t for one teeny tiny little problem… It doesn’t exist in English. Sure, we have the concept of “stage whisper,” but that’s a noun, not a verb, and if you recall, the term was used in scenic route example number two. There are only so many verbs in the English language, and the way to supplement what’s missing is through adverbs.

Are Adverbs Good or Bad?

Neither and both. The difference between a good adverb and a bad one is like the difference between a garden plant and a weed. In your lawn, buttercups are a weed, but in a dedicated patch, they’re a lovely flower. Treat your adverbs the same way; aim for brevity and clarity, and let that dictate their usage.

Have you ever heard writing advice that seemed odd? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook! Keep an eye out for next month’s Misused Writing Advice: Never Use a Prologue.

And join us next week for an interview with author Judy Lynn, to talk about her upcoming novel, Chieftess of Acora.

Let's Keep in Touch!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on our books, authors, and more!
Can't wait? Check out our website for available books!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

It's Our 100th Blog!

Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Have we really been blogging this long?
Wow—one hundred blog posts. Who knew we’ve been blogging with A4A this long? We certainly didn’t. This milestone came as a surprise while we were scheduling out other posts in Blogger, but we thought we’d take a look back at our blogging journey.

It’s harder than we thought!

Let me first start by saying, before we started this company, none of us had regularly blogged…or in my case, blogged at all. It’s certainly a lot harder to come up with at least forty-nine posts to go out on a weekly basis (thirty-nine if you take out our regularly scheduled author interviews for each book that goes out) that are interesting, informative and helpful, and most of all, engaging for both burgeoning authors and authors who have been in the game longer than we have. 
I can say the hardest things for me are making sure that I have a firm knowledge base for any post that we’re writing about before any of the posts get written and finding the time to make sure that I do.
But, to quote Moira Rose from one of my favorite shows, Schitt’s Creek, “One must champion oneself and say, ‘I am ready for this.’”
And we were ready to do it, and we are ready to continue on for years to come as Authors 4 Authors Publishing continues to flourish and grow.

So. Many. Series.

Over the two years that we’ve been blogging, we’ve covered so many topics, but the series tend to be our favorite because we can go further in depth than just a one-off post. Here are the series that we’ve covered over the years; you’ll notice that only some of them have links to them, and those are the ones with introduction posts that can easily link the rest of the series to them. 
By far our longest series was our worldbuilding one, coming in at a whopping eighteen posts. For those keeping track, that’s almost five months’ worth of blog posts. It was certainly the one that I learned the most from because I had to research every element mentioned within the posts to make sure I wasn’t leading any writers astray with thinking I knew everything. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. And I still don’t, because the moment you think you’ve stopped learning is the moment you need to learn the most. 

Do we have a favorite?

Well, Sweetheart, Mama never has favorites. Who am I kidding? Of course, we have favorites. I have a couple of favorites, actually. I can’t speak much for my delightful coworkers, but my personal favorites to write were:
  • Writing Stigmas– This post was very far outside of my comfort zone; I don’t really write about social trends, nor do I write much about the romance genres. It was certainly an interesting experience defending a genre I’m not a particular fan of myself (not because I think romance is a bad genre, but because I don’t really like reading about lovey feels).
  • You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?– This was one of the posts in our worldbuilding series. I think this one was the one that I learned the most while researching because I had never heard of a lot of the lifespan traditions that I covered before I started writing it. 
  • This Means War!– This was another one from our worldbuilding series, but I like it for reasons you might not realize: it allowed me to rely more on my own knowledge for this one. Before realizing the error of my ways, I was studying to be a history teacher in secondary education, so it was nice to stretch some of those history muscles again.
My absolute favorite to read is in our Misused advice series, where we dispel commonly used writing advice that has turned away from its original meaning and is being used incorrectly. This piece was written by our CAO and co-founder, B. C. Marine, on not having prologues. Unfortunately for you dear readers, it doesn’t come out for a few more weeks. I have never laughed so hard reading one of our posts, and I’ll be sure to link it here once the post has dropped. 

What we’re most excited about
The series that I’m personally most excited about is our misused advice series. In these, as mentioned above, we explore advice that has good intentions at its origin but has evolved into something either misused or something inviolable. We’re only doing one of these posts a month to break up our series—something we learned with our worldbuilding series, the longer the series, the harder it is to keep readers engaged—and give us time to research the origins of each piece of advice we cover. 
So far, we only have two posts out, but they’re whoppers and things that writers don’t really like to hear. First, we covered Kill Your Darlings, which talks about how it’s not about killing off your characters, but about getting rid of scenes that you absolutely fell in love with but do nothing to serve the story. Second, we covered Show, Don’t Tell, in which we dispel the idea that every single thing needs to be spelled out, which can really drag down the pacing of a story.

Join us next week for the next installment of our misused advice series, where guest poster and A4A author, Lisa Borne Graves, covers limiting your points of view, and in two weeks for the resumption of our new authors series, where we’ll talk about themes. 

Let's Keep in Touch!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on our books, authors, and more!
Can't wait? Check out our website for available books!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Author Interview: B. B. Morgan

Thanks for sitting down with us today, B. B.!

We’re now getting into book two, is there anything you’re particularly excited about for the readers going forward (without giving any spoilers, of course)?


Oh, oh! I am excited to get to the Undercity. We talk about it in book one, and now we get to see it and meet the people who live there. We get to meet the people who shaped Juniper’s life. We also get more magic! I confess—Ison’s arc is one of my favorite I’ve written. 
The Undercity is definitely very different from what we’ve seen before. Book one ended on a bit of a sour note for Juniper. Do you think that’s affected Juniper in any long-lasting way?


It has. Heartbreak hurts, and though the sharpness dulls over time, we remember the pain. Juniper will remember too. She has lived a life in which she’s kept herself reserved, even from those she considered friends. The first time she opened herself up, she got hurt. She’ll remember that. 
That will definitely make her very relatable. Now that we have a broader cast of characters, do you have a new favorite to write?


I still love Juniper, but each new character brings their own fun to the page. If I had to pick one, I’d go with Xavier. He’s a sassy, seemingly apathetic assassin who’s not had a reason to be happy in a long time. But as Juniper shakes up the Undercity, he finds several reasons. 
Xavier can certainly be fun, and he has a lot more depth than we saw in book one. Speaking of differences, tell us a little bit about how the world expands in book two.  


Beyond finally seeing the Undercity, we also get more of Rusdasin. Book one took place mostly within the walls of Bradburn Castle. There’s a whole city out there to explore! Not to mention the vast world beyond. 
Let’s change gears a little: you told us previously that the first draft of Thief in the Castle only took you a week to write—how long did it take you to write its sequel?


Longer than a week. I can’t say for sure how long Mage in the Undercity took, but it didn’t have the weird spellbinding effect that Thief in the Castle took. For book one, I was just writing away, adding in details and scenes and characters as I thought of it. While the first draft and final draft share similarities, they are different. Book two started a lot closer to the final draft. I had a clearer goal. 


Oddly enough, the first draft of book one contained about half of the plot of book two. Within the drafting stage, I realized the book would be ridiculously long (that draft was somewhere about 175k words long). So the last leg of book one became the first leg of book two. 


(That’s the same thing that happened to book four. The last leg became the first leg of book five.)
I can certainly relate—that’s how my three books turned into six books. In your novels, you like putting in themes of women going on adventures and moving out of their comfort zones. Is that something that translates into your own life? 


I wish it translated into my life more. I am a hermit. I’ve gotten better with little steps, like not swearing hailstorms at the strange who parks in my parking spot at work. (But seriously, I park halfway down the lot on purpose so people won’t park by me, and this guy picks the one spot I do?) I’ve started being more open to things that pull me out of that comfort zone, like going to new places and meeting new people. I want to take chances and opportunities that give me more perspective and experience, that allow me emotions or sensations that I haven’t had before. Even if it terrifies me at the time. 


Now, I’m not going to go skydiving or something crazy like that anytime soon. 
Maybe after you’ve finished the series, Juniper will have inspired you to do more than you think you can! Do you think any authors in particular have influenced the way you’ve written the Stars and Bones series? 

Every book I read adds something to my writing quiver. For Stars and Bones, the biggest influence has been Sarah J. Maas. Her Throne of Glass series blew my mind and reminded me just how much I love high fantasy. Also Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom; I love how the characters are all horrible people, yet we root for them. Currently, I’m ready House of Salt and Sorrow, and I love, love, love the murder mystery and haunted house vibes. This book will be a future influence. 


We have just one last question for you: what can we expect next from you?
The third book in the Stars and Bones series, Dreams in the Snow; the second book in my gaslight fantasy trilogy, Thick as Blood; and my recently signed fantasy of pirates, magic, and princes, The Reaper of Zeniba


I just had one of those moments of disbelief. Holy cow—I listed three books. Three books! All three of which are in the process of being published. I can vividly remember painting the world of Stars and Bones with wild abandon during the first draft. Since then, I’ve finished seven books. Seven 90k+ novels, in...three years. HOLY COW. (This is why I’m still single, isn’t it?) 


Holy cow, indeed! Readers, don’t forget to join us for Mage in the Undercity’s launch party on April 11th for your chance to win a copy of B. B. Morgan’s latest book!


Mage in the Undercity (Stars and Bones 2)
by B. B. Morgan

The unbeatable Juniper Thimble has been broken. Outed as a mage, she has lost the love of her squire and gained a king’s ransom on her head. Meanwhile, Ison is tormented by memories of what the demon-summoning apostate made him do. To stop such a powerful evil, they must survive suspicious knights, old masters, and an underground cult. But can the assassin embrace her magic or the mage overcome the blood on his hands?

Let's Keep in Touch!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on our books, authors, and more!
Can't wait? Check out our website for available books!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

New Authors: The World Revolves Around You

What makes your world your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Well, hello there. Welcome back to us talking about world building. If you missed it last year, you can find all of what we’re talking about in further detail here, but we’re just going to be hitting just the highlights in this post. For the sake of brevity, I want to cover what I think are the five most important things to think about when you start your world building. 

Your World

The first thing you need to do when starting your world building is in the name: the world. 


The top three things I always advise people to think about when creating just the basics of their world are what kind of people they’ll have, how time works, and what kind of land they’ll have. The latter is absolutely the most important. This is where you’ll decide if you’re going to have an earth-like environment or if you’re going to have something completely different than what we know. This could mean anything from odd plants and animals to literally living in space on a different planet, moon, or even in a different solar system. 


As for your people, that can vary as easily as your planet. You could have all animals as your cast, fantasy creatures such as elves and dwarves, or you could stick to plain ol’ humans. Or you could have a mix of all three and see who kills whom first see who becomes the dominant species see what happens.  


Lastly, because I apparently like to work in reverse order, how does time work in your world? This is important based on where you choose your location. Will your year be 365 days as it is on earth, or are you on another planet where one revolution around the sun is a single day and your people only live to be ninety days old? And how will time be marked? There are nearly as many calendars as there are countries in the world, so it’s truly a decision with no downside.
The land itself
Well...in some sections, you’re going to have extras snuck in that pertain to the main section, so you’re welcome for being indefatigable. This is how we ended up with our original eighteen-part series on world building in the first place. 
This decision is purely contingent on what type of world you choose (earth or not-earth). This is where you’re figuring out your geography, climate, and how they affect the local people, plants, and animals. If you’re living somewhere in the mountains, your resources and climate will not be the same as if you were living near an ocean or a desert. Knowing what your people will have to face will help you shape what your people will want, need, and thrive with.
Food
As mentioned above, where your people live is going to affect what kind of climate they have and what they eat. If you’ve got people living in very fertile land, they can become a very rich people in terms of resources and not have to worry about how to feed themselves in anything other than very severe drought or epic natural disasters. 


There are also several other things to think about with food: are there any sort of delicacies that only the nobility can afford to eat; are there any feasting days that are celebrated by all; and do the working class hunt for their own food so that they don’t have to pay as much out of their monthly wages—or even sell their game to make more money during the year?


This could easily get drawn into commerce and trade, but if you want to read about that, go ahead and follow the link at the top of the page because I promise if I go on too much longer, I’ll add every single subject I can in this blog post. 

Government

Governments, love them or hate them, are a necessary plot point. You might say, “But mine’s post-apocalyptic dystopian, there is no government!” Well, honey, that’s a plot point; why did your government fall? Was it an invasion or revolution ending with Madame Guillotine?


First things first, you want to figure out what kind of government you want to have. There are plenty of examples throughout history, and in the post where I’ve covered government before, you can learn about eight different types and find real-world and book examples of them. What’s also important to know is, what does your government actually do for your people? Do they keep the cities clean, or is that relegated to its inhabitants? Offer library services to aid in the education of its people? Lastly, you’ll want to think about what kind of legal systems are in place and how your governments make laws. 
Politics
Government and politics go hand in hand. Love it or hate it, politics makes the world go ’round. 


When it comes to your politicians, you’ll want to think of a couple of things: how long they stay in office, what kind of political parties that you have in your world, and what kind of foreign relations there are. Also, depending on the type of government you’ve chosen (read: monarchy), if you have any sort of political marriages that strengthen alliances. 


Defense
Also depending on what kind of government you choose, the defense of the county comes down to the government’s discretion. Here in the United States, one cannot enter a war without congressional approval. (Laugh all you want; thems the rules, even if we do habitually break them.) However, if you’ve chosen a monarchy, particularly one set in the past where the delegation of power to duchies, clans, or whatever you want to write about was prominent, you can easily have wars the head government is not a part of. 


Your time period will also dictate how wars are fought—guerilla warfare versus Napoleonic warfare versus chemical warfare versus siege warfare (there are a lot of types of warfare, okay? People be killin’ people since people existed), and on and on until everyone’s dead. You’ll also need to figure out what type of weapons will be used that are appropriate for the world that you built.


All of that is really to say: who decides who fights, who is in charge of it, and how do they fight? 

Religion

Religion is a complicated and diverse subject that can take years of discussion without getting all the fine points hammered out. 


What you’ll want to think about for your world is what kind of religion—if any—you want for your people. Will your world be dominated by a monotheistic god, or will you have polytheism present? Or both? You aren’t trapped in one religion, and it makes a story wonderfully rich and diverse if you don’t stick to just a single religion. 


You’ll also want to think about how religion influences the ethics and values of your world. Your hackles might be rising at the last, saying, “You don’t have to be religious to have ethics and values!” You’re right; you don’t. However, oftentimes, they go hand in hand and influence far more of your day-to-day life, even if you aren’t a follower of that faith, than you think it does. 

Customs

Our whole lives revolve around our cultures, whether we realize it or not. We have rituals for births and deaths and everything in between. We also have customs for how we generally treat people—everyone’s heard of Southern Hospitality—to how we greet them, and even how we visit with each other. For every decision you make when it comes to daily customs and rituals, make sure that it fits the narrative of the culture that you want. You would not have a particularly aggressive culture doing dainty little rituals and vice versa, more subdued cultures having particularly brutal rituals.

Magic

Having magic in your world is a lot more complicated than just saying, “Let there be magic!” and then resting on Sunday. 


There are several things that you’ll need to think about while creating your rules of magic. First, who can actually do magic? Is it just any old person, or are only certain people blessed with the ability? And, if only certain people can create magic, can a non-magical person use a magicked item, such as a curse or a magical gardening tool?


Next, you’ll want to think about the consequences of magic. Does the magic user have to draw the power from themselves—if they use too much, can they wind up dead? Do they have an opposing force against them while they cast so if they lift a bolder, will they end up sinking in the ground? 


Lastly, how will your baby magicians be taught? Will there be covens of witches that each have their own brand of magic? Will you have a wizarding school à la Harry Potter? Is skill taught from parent to child? There are so many options you can choose from, but whatever you pick, make sure it fits within the world that you’ve crafted. 
Education
Speaking of education…


Education is an important part of society as a whole—it’s how we make advancements, and the more people who have knowledge readily available, the quicker that happens. There are four things you’ll want to think about while you’re implementing the education of your world: who is educated, who does the education, where are the people educated, and what is taught?


Depending on the time period you’ve gone with, only the upper class are afforded the right to an education. Will it be like that in your world? Will education be free for all, up to and including college? The time period can also determine who will be teaching and where students will be taught: historically, governesses and tutors would teach the rich in their homes until they completed their education, but your world can easily have state-mandated schools with teachers from all backgrounds. 


All in all, for whatever world building you’re doing in your story, make sure that it serves the story that you want to tell. 

Thanks for reading more than you bargained for, and join us next week when I talk about themes.

Let's Keep in Touch!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on our books, authors, and more!
Can't wait? Check out our website for available books!