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The end of the Ellen Shreiber contest has come.  I was so shocked at the number of entires, 76!  Thank you all for entering!  And the winner is: Dawn Y, comment number 19, congratulations Dawn!  I have e-mailed the winner who will have until Tuesday to respond, if I do not receive a response by then I will pick another winner.  I used random.org to pick the winning number.  I have another contest that I will post very soon, so for those of you that didn’t win this time, you will have another chance!

I have a guest author on my blog, Efrem Sigel, author of The Disappearance!  I asked him to write about how to create realistic characters.  So read through, and hopefully you will learn something new!  I also have a request for you, my readers.  Which do you prefer, author interviews, or essay type posts such as this one?  Please leave your comment on this post!  Now, here is Efrem on creating realistic characters:

Creating realistic characters is challenge enough for any author.  Creating realistic characters for a mystery is a special challenge.

A mystery by its nature must be plot-driven: a who-dunit that impels the reader to turn the pages faster and faster to get to the end.  But real characters in literature need time to breathe.  That means detours: side plots, interior monologues, dreams and nightmares, conflicts of personality or motivation, all of which may slow down the action for the reader.

Nevertheless, I don’t think this is an irreconcilable contradiction.   It is possible to create realistic characters within a mystery or thriller, and writers like P.D. James and Scott Thurow and Martin Cruz Smith manage to do so in a way that enhances rather than detracts from the story.

Which brings us to the central point: what makes a realistic character?

The obvious way to distinguish one character from another is by physical attributes: one is short, another is tall; one is beautiful, the other plain as a sheet of paper; one chain smokes and finishes a bottle of wine with every meal while the other won’t even touch a drop of alcohol (not that such a teetotaler could ever be the protagonist of a mystery, could he?).

 

Certainly when I began writing stories I spent a lot of time trying to depict characters by how they looked and acted.  This may be necessary but it is not sufficient.  Because it’s not so much how characters look and act as how they feel.  How they feel translates into how they speak and act, how they relate to other characters, how they deal (or fail to deal) with their own shortcomings. If the reader believes that he or she is inside the head of a character, and that this inside view is markedly different from that of another character, then the author has drawn a distinction between those two people that goes far beyond short/tall, fat/slim, wine lover/mineral water aficionado.

 

My new book, The Disappearance, is a mystery, but along with the mystery of what has happened to this missing child is the drama of what will happen to his parents as they try to cope with this tragedy.  They are very different people because they feel and react to events in different ways: Joshua, the father, is impulsive, restless, driven, consumed by the need to find his son.   Nathalie, the mother, is reserved, cerebral, disciplined; rather than being propelled into action by her son’s absence she becomes immobilized as a result of it.  With a husband and wife pulled in such different directions by the same event, the drama of whether their marriage can survive becomes as important as the who-dunit of the plot.

 

And this, finally, is the true distinction between a mystery that is plot-driven and one that is character-driven.  The plot-driven mystery ends with the solving of the crime.  The character-driven mystery ends when the protagonist resolves—or definitively fails to resolve—the internal conflict within him or her.   If this is done well, the book is cathartic for the reader in quite a different way from finding out that it’s Colonel Mustard in the library with the revolver.

–Efrem Sigel, February 18, 2009  Information about Efrem Sigel and The Disappearance is available at: http://www.efremsigel.com

ellen1I recently interviewed Ellen Shreiber, author of the Vampire Kisses series amongst other books. Check out her website at http://www.ellenschreiber.com/! She has some exciting books news to share you all of you. Book 7 in the Vampire Kisses series, Royal Blood, will be out in June. Also, all of the Vampire Kisses book covers are getting a make-over! So here is my interview with her, enjoy!

How thrilling is it to walk into a bookstore and see your books on the shelves? It is amazing!!! Mostly a surreal, feeling. But I get excited every time I see them.

Was the publishing process hard? My brother was instrumental in the beginning. He showed my first book to his Dutch publisher and that publisher took my book. I was ecstatic! That publisher published the other books I wrote. However, it took a little longer to get it to US publishers, since I didn’t have an agent. I sent Teenage Mermaid to Katherine Tegen at HarperCollins when I read that she was taking unsolicited (not represented by an agent) manuscripts. I was amazed to hear back from her that she wanted to publish it–and two of my other novels. She’s also been instrumental in my career!

Do you need to have something or be somewhere specific when you write? No, I usually can write anywhere. I have an overactive imagination and it helps to write it down sometimes–even if I’m not at the computer. Otherwise, I just remember the scenes and write them down later. I usually switch the location that I write it–to keep things fresh.

From what or where do you get your inspiration? Everything–love, moods, a title that I come up with.

It must be hard to write a series. Do you ever get tired of the characters and wish you could start something new? I do love writing about Raven and Alexander. I don’t get tired, but rather inspired by continuing their story–but I do have some other novels I work on in between writing them.

Why do you think people today are so in love with vampires? I think it’s nice to escape and romance is always hot. Also, vampires are very sexy and alluring. I think they are popular all the time.

What is one thing readers might be interested to know about you? That when I’m not writing, I love to shopp on ebay.

Ms. Schreiber has also been kind enough to give away one of her books!  She is even autographing it!! One winner will have his/her choice of a paperback of Vampire Kisses or a hardback of the Coffin Club. This contest ends 11:59 p.m. Central on February 27, 2009. I will then pick a random winner using random.org and e-mail them, they will have 2 days to respond, otherwise I will pick another winner. To enter all you need to do is leave a comment saying that you would like to win. Please provide your first name and a valid e-mail address.

Want extra entries? Please post each extra entry earned in a separate post, otherwise they will not count! Here’s how:

Blog about this giveaway [provide link (+1 entry)]
Facebook about this giveaway (+1 entry)
Myspace about this giveaway (+1 entry)
E-mail 5 friends with the link to this post [include my e-mail, penguinqueen@hotmail.com (+1 entry)]
Subscribe to my blog (+2 entries)

Good luck everybody!!

I am now using Feedburner.  Down at the bottem click on the banner and you can subscribe to my blog!  Get updates whenever I make a post, or anything else.  It will also let me know how popular my blog is.  I will be able to see how many subscribers I have and other cool stuff.  So please subscribe!

Title: Savvy Girl
Author: Lynn Messina
Pages: 264 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-15-206161-6

  Savvy Girl by Lynn Messina tells the story of 17-year-old, Chrissy Gibbons.  Chrissy has obtained her dream job, an internship at the hottest magazine, Savvy.  On her first day, it is announced that Savvy will be adding a new column to their magazine, Savvy Girl.  One of the lucky 4 interns will be asked to write the column, all they have to do is write a sample article for the column.  When Chrissy is befriended by the fashion editor, Jessica, she is taken to all of the best parties, and gets to meet tons of famous people.  She soon gets wrapped up in the glamorous life, and procastinates about her Savvy Girl article.  Among all the parties (and even a couple of boys), she also starts to neglect her best friend, Lily, whose parents are getting a divorce.  This book is fast-paced, and filled with wonderful characters.

  This was a wonderful book, I really enjoyed it!  It was fun, and each character had a flaw, which made them more real.  You can easily relate to the characters, they don’t have superpowers or anything.  It teaches you the lesson of friendship, and how wonderful friends can be.

Another week has already gone by (can you believe it?!?), and with it came books, 6!  So without further ado, here are the 6 books I was lucky enough to receive.  Note: For some reason the pictures are not staying where I put them, so the post looks weird, I’m really sorry about that.

Baron Thinks Dogs are People Too! by Laurie Dean
Too Tall Alice by Barbara Worton

 

too-tall-alice

City Above the Sea: And Other Poems by Stephen Slan Saft
Secrets Unveiled by Sheshena Pledger

 

city

Zoe Lucky and the Green Gables’ Mystery by M. Carol Coffey
Mission Accomplished: Stop the Stop by Muriel P. Engelman

 

Zoe Lucky 

Title: Kisses and Lies
Author: Lauren Henderson
Pages: 320 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-385-73489-9

  Kisses and Lies by Lauren Henderson is the sequel to Kiss Me Kill Me.  In Kiss Me Kill Me, the talented gymnast and sleuth, Scarlett Wakefield, kissed Dan McAndrew at a party.  Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right?  Well think again.  Right after Scarlett kissed Dan he dropped dead in her arms.  Everybody thinks that Scarlett somehow killed him.  This is where Kisses and Lies picks up.  Scarlett is not convinced that she was the cause of Dan’s death.  She senses there was some foul play involved.  So together with her friend Taylor McGovern, she tries to figure out the puzzling enigma.  Scarlett goes to stay the weekend with Dan’s parents, hoping to find some clues.  There are many possible suspects, each with a different motive.  Scarlett endures many dangerous encounters with people, but will she solve the mystery?

  I really enjoyed this book.  It kept me guessing until the very end.  Though I had my suspicions about who the culprit could have been, it also could have been other people, so I had to keep second-guessing myself.  That is one of the points I look for in mystery books to determine whether or not I think it is good.  There was a lot of drama in this book, but the author didn’t over do it, which was good.  This book is set in England, so I also really enjoyed the English sayings that the characters would use.  I also fell in love with the cover the minute I saw it.  I don’t know what it is about the cover, but I think it’s amazing.  It depicts the story well too.  Overall, I found this to be a pretty good book that I would probably recommend to a friend.

Title: The Bomb that Followed me Home
Author: Cevin Soling
Pages: 37 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-9767771-2-0
Website: http://www. rumpleville.com

The Bomb that Followed me Home  The Bomb that Followed me Home by Cevin Soling is the story of a young boy who finds a bomb following him home.  He names the bomb Rusty and begs his mother to let him keep it.  Mother tells him about the responsabilites of keeping a bomb.  Rusty must be polished, be guarded over every night, and have its fuse changed every day.  The boy promises that he will take good care of it, but mother makes him wait until his father comes home.  It seems like an eternity before he finally comes home from work, but when he does, he sternly refuses the boy’s plea to keep the bomb.  The father calls everyone, the Department of Defense, the National Guard, and even the Weathermen, trying to find the owner of the lost bomb.  Without success, they give the bomb to their grouchy neighbors.  What will happen now that the neighbors own the bomb?

  I wasn’t too entirely impressed with this book.  I found it a little confusing.  It’s filled with big words that younger ones may not be able to understand.  Although I do like that the author is trying to put a different spin on the classic tale (of a dog following a boy home), I don’t think that it was done the best that it could have been.  Though if you are looking for a book with some humor in it, you may want to check this book out.

Title: Baron Thinks Dogs are People too!
Author: Laurie Dean
Pages: 24 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-60131-035-4
Website: www.baronthinks.com

  Baron Thinks Dogs are People tooby Laurie Dean is a children’s book about a lovable dog named Baron.  More than anything, Baron wants a best friend.  While he is trying to get the attention of his family, Baron misbehaves, causing his family to send him to obedience school.  “Doggie” school is hard for Baron.  They teach him to sit, heel, and stand.  When the father announces to his family that he must go away for awhile with the Air Force, Baron decides to put the good behavior he has learned into action.  While the father is gone, Baron sits quietly in the car, and heels next to mother on their walk.  A snow storm soon comes and lets the children out of school.  Billy pulls girls around on the sled, but they soon go inside and leave Billy out all alone.  Baron knows what he must do, he runs over to Billy and pulls him on the sled.  Baron has now found his best friend, Billy.

  I found this to be a great children’s book.  The pages are covered with bright illustrations.  It is very easy to understand, the little ones will be able to keep up.  This book can also teach them the power of friendship, and the importance of obedience.  Great for curling up on a rainy day with your special kiddo, or a bedtime read!

Title: Paper Hearts
Author: Debrah Williamson
Pages:333 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-451-22142-1

Paper Hearts  Paper Hearts by Deborah Williamson tells the story of a 15-year-old runaway.  Chancy Deel has had a rough life and wants things to get better.  Her mother never wanted her around, and there were always strange men hanging around.  Chancy never knew who her actual father was.  Chancy’s mother, B.J., has drug and alcohol problems.  B.J.’s mother sold her at a truck stop when she was young to get money for drugs.  B.J. now feels the need to take her abandonment issues out on Chancy.  She beats her, deprives her of needed things, and abuses her verbally and emotionally.  The men that B.J. brings around also abuse Chancy.  Social workers have taken Chancy away from her mother several times, but they always give her back.  This time though, while Chancy is staying in a group home, she decides to not take the chance of being given back to her mother.  She runs away and hitches rides with people, finally ending up in the tiny town of Wenonah, Oklahoma.  While in Wenonah she meets an elderly man who needs her as much as she needs him.  The two bond, and Chancy starts to learn that not everybody in the world bad.  With time, she learns trust, forgiveness, and the meaning of love.

  I fell in love with this book from the very beginning.  Deborah Williamson has created wonderful, flawed, real-life characters.  She takes you on a journey that will make you laugh and cry and wish that it didn’t have to end.  While I was reading this book I found myself not wanting to put it down, but at the same time I found myself reading it very slowly, because I did not want it to end.  Chancy is such a lovable character, you want to enter the story and help her.  I think that everybody should take the time to sit down and read this book.  It teaches you about the power of love and friendship.

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