Friday, January 27, 2017

For the uninitiated, a beta reader is to an author what a beta tester is to an inventor or a manufacturer's research and development division--someone who takes your product for a trial run, then reports about its strengths and weaknesses. It's a necessary step after you've completed a novel, and then fixed as much as you can; other eyes can pinpoint remaining weaknesses and shore up your sagging confidence about the manuscript's strengths.

The reason many authors end up disappointed, misled, or even crushed by critiques they receive is they fail to give beta readers clear instructions about what they actually need to know. And without a clear sense of what you need to know, readers will often go to one of two extremes: cheerleading or nitpicking, that is, giving only positive or only negative feedback.

Well, writer friends, the truth is you need BOTH. If others tell you everything is perfect, you'll stop listening to your own intuition and ignore niggling issues you haven't yet figured out how to fix. If others tell you they see problems, problems, problems, you'll end up in a slash and burn mentality when revising and destroy the best parts of your story.

The solution is actually quite simple: Always give your beta readers clear guidance about what kinds of feedback you want. And conversely, if someone asks you beta read, don't be shy about asking them to provide some guidelines.

Clearly, what constitutes "constructive criticism" can depend very much on individual temperament, past history, and self concept. You alone know what sorts of feedback will energize or crush you. For example, I appreciate readers who find my typos and missing words, while others will unnecessarily beat themselves up for very simple, easy to fix errors. (You spend years editing people with PhDs, and you realize even frighteningly smart people at the world's top universities have typos and dangling modifiers. Nothing to freak out about; fix it and move along.)

With that caveat, I share below some sample beta reader guidelines that you're welcome to use, or adapt to your own particular feedback needs.

Sample beta reader guideline letter


Thank you for your willingness to read and offer comments on my manuscript. As you read, please respond to the following questions and mark any areas you think I should give more attention. Feel free to e-mail comments as you go if that’s easier. I’d like to receive everyone’s comments by [deadline].

Overall impressions

What parts of the story did you enjoy most? Feel free to mark scenes that you feel are especially strong.

Does the story feel balanced--giving adequate time to the right things? Are there parts you feel need more or less emphasis?

Can you tell who the intended audience is? Why or why not?

Are there any elements that I've completely overlooked you think I need to consider or incorporate?

Character

Are the characters engaging and adequately complex? Do you care about them and enjoy getting to know them deeply, even the antagonists?

Which characters do you most connect with and why?

Are characters’ voices distinct in the dialogue? If not, note where you hear problems.

Do the peripheral characters work in supporting the main story without being overly distracting? Do any feel underdeveloped or overdeveloped relative to their importance to the story? Which ones do you feel need more or less emphasis?

Does the main character adequately change through conflict, climax and resolution?

Plot 

Does the story move forward and keep you reading more? Note where your interest is especially engaged and where it lags.

Does the plot hang together and make sense? Do you see any "plot holes"--illogical or impossible events, as well as statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline?

Do the plot twists and complications work, or do they seem contrived or hokey?

Do characters appear to have sufficient motivation for what they do? If not, note where you “just don’t buy it.”

Are scenes paced well in terms of building and releasing tension? If not, note places where the story drags or races.

Theme

Can you identify the theme?

Does it come across in a non-preachy way? Note anything that strikes you as heavy-handed.

Mechanics

Note word choices that don’t quite seem right in terms of tone within a scene, or because a particular character just wouldn’t use that word.

Please note any spelling errors, homophone errors (using the wrong sound-alike word), grammar gaffes, punctuation funkiness, and missing words.

Note any continuity errors you see (e.g. wearing a coat in part of the scene and not having it later in the same scene).

----

If there are particular parts of your story that you feel less confident about-- perhaps that bend genre or are a bit experimental for you--make sure you ask specifically for feedback on those elements.

What questions would you add to your own list?
Friday, January 27, 2017 Laurel Garver
For the uninitiated, a beta reader is to an author what a beta tester is to an inventor or a manufacturer's research and development division--someone who takes your product for a trial run, then reports about its strengths and weaknesses. It's a necessary step after you've completed a novel, and then fixed as much as you can; other eyes can pinpoint remaining weaknesses and shore up your sagging confidence about the manuscript's strengths.

The reason many authors end up disappointed, misled, or even crushed by critiques they receive is they fail to give beta readers clear instructions about what they actually need to know. And without a clear sense of what you need to know, readers will often go to one of two extremes: cheerleading or nitpicking, that is, giving only positive or only negative feedback.

Well, writer friends, the truth is you need BOTH. If others tell you everything is perfect, you'll stop listening to your own intuition and ignore niggling issues you haven't yet figured out how to fix. If others tell you they see problems, problems, problems, you'll end up in a slash and burn mentality when revising and destroy the best parts of your story.

The solution is actually quite simple: Always give your beta readers clear guidance about what kinds of feedback you want. And conversely, if someone asks you beta read, don't be shy about asking them to provide some guidelines.

Clearly, what constitutes "constructive criticism" can depend very much on individual temperament, past history, and self concept. You alone know what sorts of feedback will energize or crush you. For example, I appreciate readers who find my typos and missing words, while others will unnecessarily beat themselves up for very simple, easy to fix errors. (You spend years editing people with PhDs, and you realize even frighteningly smart people at the world's top universities have typos and dangling modifiers. Nothing to freak out about; fix it and move along.)

With that caveat, I share below some sample beta reader guidelines that you're welcome to use, or adapt to your own particular feedback needs.

Sample beta reader guideline letter


Thank you for your willingness to read and offer comments on my manuscript. As you read, please respond to the following questions and mark any areas you think I should give more attention. Feel free to e-mail comments as you go if that’s easier. I’d like to receive everyone’s comments by [deadline].

Overall impressions

What parts of the story did you enjoy most? Feel free to mark scenes that you feel are especially strong.

Does the story feel balanced--giving adequate time to the right things? Are there parts you feel need more or less emphasis?

Can you tell who the intended audience is? Why or why not?

Are there any elements that I've completely overlooked you think I need to consider or incorporate?

Character

Are the characters engaging and adequately complex? Do you care about them and enjoy getting to know them deeply, even the antagonists?

Which characters do you most connect with and why?

Are characters’ voices distinct in the dialogue? If not, note where you hear problems.

Do the peripheral characters work in supporting the main story without being overly distracting? Do any feel underdeveloped or overdeveloped relative to their importance to the story? Which ones do you feel need more or less emphasis?

Does the main character adequately change through conflict, climax and resolution?

Plot 

Does the story move forward and keep you reading more? Note where your interest is especially engaged and where it lags.

Does the plot hang together and make sense? Do you see any "plot holes"--illogical or impossible events, as well as statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline?

Do the plot twists and complications work, or do they seem contrived or hokey?

Do characters appear to have sufficient motivation for what they do? If not, note where you “just don’t buy it.”

Are scenes paced well in terms of building and releasing tension? If not, note places where the story drags or races.

Theme

Can you identify the theme?

Does it come across in a non-preachy way? Note anything that strikes you as heavy-handed.

Mechanics

Note word choices that don’t quite seem right in terms of tone within a scene, or because a particular character just wouldn’t use that word.

Please note any spelling errors, homophone errors (using the wrong sound-alike word), grammar gaffes, punctuation funkiness, and missing words.

Note any continuity errors you see (e.g. wearing a coat in part of the scene and not having it later in the same scene).

----

If there are particular parts of your story that you feel less confident about-- perhaps that bend genre or are a bit experimental for you--make sure you ask specifically for feedback on those elements.

What questions would you add to your own list?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Image: https://morguefile.com/creative/EsquadrilhadaFumaa
I've enjoyed Sarah Dessen's YA contemporary novels for many years now, and her most recent, Saint Anything, did not disappoint.

Dessen carved out a niche for herself when YA was still a fairly new genre, prior to the early 2000s, when the Twilight phenomenon took the publishing world by storm. Despite the proliferation of paranormal romances that followed--and a number of other trends that have come along, from boarding school stories to dystopian--Dessen has stayed the course. Realistic fiction all the way.

Her books remain top sellers, and some have garnered awards from the ALA and the School Library Journal. There are a number of things Dessen does well--and frankly quite differently from many others in the genre--that are worth studying and perhaps even emulating.

Good kids have stories worth telling


Some critics consistently ding Dessen's books for focusing on a "passive" protagonist. Indeed, her heroines are not the kind to deliberately seek out trouble. They'd knock politely, not kick open your door with their biker boots and attack you with nunchuks. They resemble kids you're likely to actually meet in real life, rather than a comic book.

What makes her good-kid stories worth reading are the very real dilemmas they face because they're good kids--striving to succeed academically, navigate friendships and dating, be a good daughter and sister, hold a part time job, and somehow figure out where they're going in life. You know, the kinds of problems most every teen has, not just the ones who own nunchucks and biker boots.

I don't know that I'd go so far as to call her heroines role models--each has flaws, especially a tendency to be less than truthful with adults in their lives. But these girls have strong consciences--they strive to do the right thing, even when it hurts. How they navigate the good girl way when life keeps throwing them curveballs is where the drama happens, which brings me to point 2.

Inner arcs are where it's at


Dessen's books tend to be lighter on plot, or what you might call surface problems. In Saint Anything, the biggest problem occurred in the narrative past. Sydney's older brother morphed into party-boy in recent years, went on to drive drunk, and permanently disabled another kid. The story begins at his sentencing hearing. It explores the aftermath, especially how his sin affects the family dynamic. Their varied responses to the crisis put them at cross purposes, and also expose deep problems with how each character copes.

What Dessen especially does well is showing how strengths and weaknesses can often be two sides of the same coin. The always-agreeable character can be cowardly in the face of conflict; the super-organized person can become frenetically controlling when hardship hits.


Let the judgement commence


Developmental psychologists say that a key task of the teen years is "individuation"--that is, building a unique identity. Part of this process involves evaluating everything and determining whether it's something to embrace or reject.

In Dessen's books nearly everything is fodder for evaluation, including one's socioeconomic status. Most kids become aware of income disparity in their community if they have occasion to leave the bubble of their comfort zone. Dessen's heroines always rub up against this reality, whether going from rags to riches, as in Lock and Key, or being rejected by the "haves" and choosing to align themselves with the "have-nots," like in Just Listen.  Contact with other classes opens critical evaluation of everything the heroines have considered normal, and they each begin to consider which pieces of life as they knew it they want to hang onto or jettison.

Family matters


While most adventure stories for younger readers have the heroes striking out on their own and leaving family, Dessen's stories always involve family conflicts in the main plotline or as a subplot. Because the reality is, most people under 18 can't --and won't-- simply take off on their own.

Rather than chafe against reality or create nothing but dead or absentee parents, Dessen sees dramatic potential. Because a big piece of the individuation process I mentioned above involves beginning to see parents as people instead of functional roles. People with flaws, yes, but also people with histories and hurts and loves and aspirations and even wisdom. Peer relationships can certainly push teens away from family, but family continues to have a strong pull on their self-concept. That tug-of-war plays out differently for each teen, and it's a rather gripping process to watch.


The importance of extracurricular world


Teens spend most of their day in school--it's equivalent to a full-time job. So the last thing they want in pleasure reading is for it to feel like they're having to sit through classes all over again with a fictional person. And yet, kids also gravitate toward spaces where they can have quality time with peers. In Dessen's books, there are always non-school spaces where much of the story action takes place. In What Happened to Goodbye and Keeping the Moon, it's a restaurant where the heroine works part time; in Saint Anything and Just Listen, a lunchtime hangout spot. In The Truth About Forever, it's the local library.

Quirks make the character


Dessen especially makes her secondary characters memorable by giving them particular quirks--often funny likes or dislikes--that appear again and again, like a running gag in a comedy film. In Saint Anything, the heroine's BFF Layla is obsessed with finding the perfect French fry and has some peculiar rituals around eating them. The quirk becomes a way for others to connect with her, and even rebuild the friendship after a falling out.

In Along for the Ride, the heroine's father named her Auden, after the poet, and his new baby Thisbe, after a minor Shakespeare character. That he is often absorbed in his own fiction writing isn't surprising, considering this quirky penchant for obscure literary references.

Forsake not the symbol(ism)


Dessen doesn't shy away from the occasional literary fiction technique, like using symbolism to undergird her themes, often using everyday objects to carry an important meaning for the heroine. In Along for the Ride, Auden's desire to master riding a bike symbolizes not only a sense of rebuilding a stunted childhood, but also learning to balance herself and become self-propelling. In Lock and Key, the recurring motif of doors, keys, fences, houses are used to examine what makes a place home, and people around us family.

Bibliography


Here's a list of Dessen's titles to date, for further reading.

1996 – That Summer
1998 – Someone Like You
1999 – Keeping the Moon
1999 - Last Chance
2000 – Dreamland
2002 – This Lullaby
2004 – The Truth About Forever
2006 – Just Listen
2008 – Lock and Key
2009 – Along for the Ride
2010 - Infinity (novella)
2011 – What Happened to Goodbye
2013 – The Moon and More
2015 – Saint Anything

Have you read any of Dessen's books? Have a favorite? 
What author's works have been influential for you and how?
Thursday, January 12, 2017 Laurel Garver
Image: https://morguefile.com/creative/EsquadrilhadaFumaa
I've enjoyed Sarah Dessen's YA contemporary novels for many years now, and her most recent, Saint Anything, did not disappoint.

Dessen carved out a niche for herself when YA was still a fairly new genre, prior to the early 2000s, when the Twilight phenomenon took the publishing world by storm. Despite the proliferation of paranormal romances that followed--and a number of other trends that have come along, from boarding school stories to dystopian--Dessen has stayed the course. Realistic fiction all the way.

Her books remain top sellers, and some have garnered awards from the ALA and the School Library Journal. There are a number of things Dessen does well--and frankly quite differently from many others in the genre--that are worth studying and perhaps even emulating.

Good kids have stories worth telling


Some critics consistently ding Dessen's books for focusing on a "passive" protagonist. Indeed, her heroines are not the kind to deliberately seek out trouble. They'd knock politely, not kick open your door with their biker boots and attack you with nunchuks. They resemble kids you're likely to actually meet in real life, rather than a comic book.

What makes her good-kid stories worth reading are the very real dilemmas they face because they're good kids--striving to succeed academically, navigate friendships and dating, be a good daughter and sister, hold a part time job, and somehow figure out where they're going in life. You know, the kinds of problems most every teen has, not just the ones who own nunchucks and biker boots.

I don't know that I'd go so far as to call her heroines role models--each has flaws, especially a tendency to be less than truthful with adults in their lives. But these girls have strong consciences--they strive to do the right thing, even when it hurts. How they navigate the good girl way when life keeps throwing them curveballs is where the drama happens, which brings me to point 2.

Inner arcs are where it's at


Dessen's books tend to be lighter on plot, or what you might call surface problems. In Saint Anything, the biggest problem occurred in the narrative past. Sydney's older brother morphed into party-boy in recent years, went on to drive drunk, and permanently disabled another kid. The story begins at his sentencing hearing. It explores the aftermath, especially how his sin affects the family dynamic. Their varied responses to the crisis put them at cross purposes, and also expose deep problems with how each character copes.

What Dessen especially does well is showing how strengths and weaknesses can often be two sides of the same coin. The always-agreeable character can be cowardly in the face of conflict; the super-organized person can become frenetically controlling when hardship hits.


Let the judgement commence


Developmental psychologists say that a key task of the teen years is "individuation"--that is, building a unique identity. Part of this process involves evaluating everything and determining whether it's something to embrace or reject.

In Dessen's books nearly everything is fodder for evaluation, including one's socioeconomic status. Most kids become aware of income disparity in their community if they have occasion to leave the bubble of their comfort zone. Dessen's heroines always rub up against this reality, whether going from rags to riches, as in Lock and Key, or being rejected by the "haves" and choosing to align themselves with the "have-nots," like in Just Listen.  Contact with other classes opens critical evaluation of everything the heroines have considered normal, and they each begin to consider which pieces of life as they knew it they want to hang onto or jettison.

Family matters


While most adventure stories for younger readers have the heroes striking out on their own and leaving family, Dessen's stories always involve family conflicts in the main plotline or as a subplot. Because the reality is, most people under 18 can't --and won't-- simply take off on their own.

Rather than chafe against reality or create nothing but dead or absentee parents, Dessen sees dramatic potential. Because a big piece of the individuation process I mentioned above involves beginning to see parents as people instead of functional roles. People with flaws, yes, but also people with histories and hurts and loves and aspirations and even wisdom. Peer relationships can certainly push teens away from family, but family continues to have a strong pull on their self-concept. That tug-of-war plays out differently for each teen, and it's a rather gripping process to watch.


The importance of extracurricular world


Teens spend most of their day in school--it's equivalent to a full-time job. So the last thing they want in pleasure reading is for it to feel like they're having to sit through classes all over again with a fictional person. And yet, kids also gravitate toward spaces where they can have quality time with peers. In Dessen's books, there are always non-school spaces where much of the story action takes place. In What Happened to Goodbye and Keeping the Moon, it's a restaurant where the heroine works part time; in Saint Anything and Just Listen, a lunchtime hangout spot. In The Truth About Forever, it's the local library.

Quirks make the character


Dessen especially makes her secondary characters memorable by giving them particular quirks--often funny likes or dislikes--that appear again and again, like a running gag in a comedy film. In Saint Anything, the heroine's BFF Layla is obsessed with finding the perfect French fry and has some peculiar rituals around eating them. The quirk becomes a way for others to connect with her, and even rebuild the friendship after a falling out.

In Along for the Ride, the heroine's father named her Auden, after the poet, and his new baby Thisbe, after a minor Shakespeare character. That he is often absorbed in his own fiction writing isn't surprising, considering this quirky penchant for obscure literary references.

Forsake not the symbol(ism)


Dessen doesn't shy away from the occasional literary fiction technique, like using symbolism to undergird her themes, often using everyday objects to carry an important meaning for the heroine. In Along for the Ride, Auden's desire to master riding a bike symbolizes not only a sense of rebuilding a stunted childhood, but also learning to balance herself and become self-propelling. In Lock and Key, the recurring motif of doors, keys, fences, houses are used to examine what makes a place home, and people around us family.

Bibliography


Here's a list of Dessen's titles to date, for further reading.

1996 – That Summer
1998 – Someone Like You
1999 – Keeping the Moon
1999 - Last Chance
2000 – Dreamland
2002 – This Lullaby
2004 – The Truth About Forever
2006 – Just Listen
2008 – Lock and Key
2009 – Along for the Ride
2010 - Infinity (novella)
2011 – What Happened to Goodbye
2013 – The Moon and More
2015 – Saint Anything

Have you read any of Dessen's books? Have a favorite? 
What author's works have been influential for you and how?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Today's guest Rachel Rossano has taken her love of history to a whole new level--creating an alt-history world that resembles Renaissance Europe, with some unique twists in how she brings faith elements to bear. She especially has wonderful tips on world building and peopling a fantasy world.

Let's give her a hearty Laurel's Leaves welcome!

Tell us a little about the culture/world in which your story is set. What sort of research was required to create it?

Image credit: https://morguefile.com/creative/Shenzi
The world of the Theodoric Saga is very loosely based on 1400s to 1500s Europe. Most of the nations are ruled by monarchs and ordered on various renditions of feudal societies. There are clear differences between the nations, as you can experience by reading some of my other books based in the same world, but they all are historically inspired.

The nation of Anavrea is mostly inspired by early-to-mid-1500s England. The rough edges of the upper crust of the court have been smoothed a bit. Knowledge and learning are beginning to be appreciated, but there are still those nobles far from court who are barbaric in their behavior and sensibilities.

I did little research specifically for this book. Only a few forays into exploring general midwifery practices of the period were necessary. My heroine takes a very practical, unsuperstitious approach, which was not common but is very in keeping with her personality and background. For the rest, I drew on my life-long research of history and the people who came before us.

How do you approach faith-oriented content in your work? 

The world of the series is very similar to ours. They have a Bible, though they don’t call it that. They believe in God and His Son, Jesus, but they refer to them by different names. Salvation comes by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The most common word used to refer to Jesus is Kurios, which is a transliteration of the Greek word for Lord. I think of it as somewhere between the writing of the Bible and the founding of the church something changed the course of history enough to take this pretend part of the world on a very different path.

What special challenges did you face writing this book? What surprised you as you wrote?

I have a confession to make. I wrote the first draft of this novel a very long time ago, perhaps twelve years or so ago. My memories of my challenges are a bit faded with time, but I do recall being very frustrated with Jayne for most of the writing of the rough draft. She is a stubborn character which made convincing her to trust Liam so much harder.

What advice would you give other writers interested in creating a historical/fantasy setting for their stories?

Draw on history. Read history, research history, and delve into the mundane and profound of past events and people. Focus on the people, why they did what they did and how they interacted with each other and how they reacted to outside forces. Ask yourself questions. Even when creating a sci-fi setting, history gives us insight into how societies of people react and interact.

Although little of it might reach the actual pages of the novel or short story, make sure you, the author, know the governments involved, the economics, the weather, the seasons, the climate, the kind of food they eat, the monetary system, and the country’s history. Make sure they all make sense together.  They will come into play in subtle ways and it is better to have thought it all through before beginning than to accidentally make a bad choice that will come back to bite you later.

Put yourself in the world and consider how you would function in everyday life there. How would your character find food? How would they earn money? The more realistic the setting is to you, the more realistic it will be for your character and your reader.

In general, everyone has friends, acquaintances, and people they meet only to forget. Your character doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Part of establishing a setting is populating it with secondary, tertiary, and throw away characters.  Each of these characters have lives, motivations, and a story of their own. That doesn’t mean you need to tell them in the current book, but you need to give the reader the impression that they are glimpsing into other people’s lives beyond the main character.

About the Author

Rachel Rossano is a happily married mother of three children. She spends her days teaching, mothering, and keeping the chaos at bay. After the little ones are in bed, she immerses herself in the fantasy worlds of her books. Tales of romance, adventure, and virtue set in a medieval fantasy world are her preference, but she also writes speculative fantasy and a
bit of science fiction.


About the Book


She couldn’t hide forever.

A hard life taught Jayne to avoid men, powerful men most of
all. When a new nobleman arrives to take over the vargar, she takes her family and hides. But the new baron seeks her out and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: protection. However, once they were sheltered behind the dark stone walls of the vargar, who would protect her from the new master?

His reward isn’t what it seems.

King Ireic of Anavrea charges Liam, a former bodyguard, with the task of retaking and taming a corner of the northern wilds. Upon arrival at Ashwyn Vargar, Liam finds challenges beyond his military experience. The keys to the vargar are missing and so are the field hands who should be harvesting the fields. Once he finds the keeper of the keys, she raises more questions than answers.

Available from Amazon


Giveaway



Rachel is giving away one of her favorite CDs to listen to while she writes. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of music she likes to listen to, you can check out the CD on Amazon and then come back here and enter the giveaway. https://www.amazon.com/Piano-Guys/dp/B009EAO38C/
 


a Rafflecopter giveaway





Tour Schedule


January 2
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Intro and Book Review
Bokerah-Guest Post

January 3
Queen of Random-Book Spotlight
Rachel Rossano's Words-Book Spotlight

January 4
Stephany Tullis-Book Spotlight
Ember's Reviews-Author Interview and Review

January 5
Frances Hoelsema-Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves-Author Interview

January 6
Shout outs-Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Book-Character Spotlight

January 7
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

 If you were to write about a historic era and tweak it a bit, which would you choose? Any questions for Rachel?
Thursday, January 05, 2017 Laurel Garver
Today's guest Rachel Rossano has taken her love of history to a whole new level--creating an alt-history world that resembles Renaissance Europe, with some unique twists in how she brings faith elements to bear. She especially has wonderful tips on world building and peopling a fantasy world.

Let's give her a hearty Laurel's Leaves welcome!

Tell us a little about the culture/world in which your story is set. What sort of research was required to create it?

Image credit: https://morguefile.com/creative/Shenzi
The world of the Theodoric Saga is very loosely based on 1400s to 1500s Europe. Most of the nations are ruled by monarchs and ordered on various renditions of feudal societies. There are clear differences between the nations, as you can experience by reading some of my other books based in the same world, but they all are historically inspired.

The nation of Anavrea is mostly inspired by early-to-mid-1500s England. The rough edges of the upper crust of the court have been smoothed a bit. Knowledge and learning are beginning to be appreciated, but there are still those nobles far from court who are barbaric in their behavior and sensibilities.

I did little research specifically for this book. Only a few forays into exploring general midwifery practices of the period were necessary. My heroine takes a very practical, unsuperstitious approach, which was not common but is very in keeping with her personality and background. For the rest, I drew on my life-long research of history and the people who came before us.

How do you approach faith-oriented content in your work? 

The world of the series is very similar to ours. They have a Bible, though they don’t call it that. They believe in God and His Son, Jesus, but they refer to them by different names. Salvation comes by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The most common word used to refer to Jesus is Kurios, which is a transliteration of the Greek word for Lord. I think of it as somewhere between the writing of the Bible and the founding of the church something changed the course of history enough to take this pretend part of the world on a very different path.

What special challenges did you face writing this book? What surprised you as you wrote?

I have a confession to make. I wrote the first draft of this novel a very long time ago, perhaps twelve years or so ago. My memories of my challenges are a bit faded with time, but I do recall being very frustrated with Jayne for most of the writing of the rough draft. She is a stubborn character which made convincing her to trust Liam so much harder.

What advice would you give other writers interested in creating a historical/fantasy setting for their stories?

Draw on history. Read history, research history, and delve into the mundane and profound of past events and people. Focus on the people, why they did what they did and how they interacted with each other and how they reacted to outside forces. Ask yourself questions. Even when creating a sci-fi setting, history gives us insight into how societies of people react and interact.

Although little of it might reach the actual pages of the novel or short story, make sure you, the author, know the governments involved, the economics, the weather, the seasons, the climate, the kind of food they eat, the monetary system, and the country’s history. Make sure they all make sense together.  They will come into play in subtle ways and it is better to have thought it all through before beginning than to accidentally make a bad choice that will come back to bite you later.

Put yourself in the world and consider how you would function in everyday life there. How would your character find food? How would they earn money? The more realistic the setting is to you, the more realistic it will be for your character and your reader.

In general, everyone has friends, acquaintances, and people they meet only to forget. Your character doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Part of establishing a setting is populating it with secondary, tertiary, and throw away characters.  Each of these characters have lives, motivations, and a story of their own. That doesn’t mean you need to tell them in the current book, but you need to give the reader the impression that they are glimpsing into other people’s lives beyond the main character.

About the Author

Rachel Rossano is a happily married mother of three children. She spends her days teaching, mothering, and keeping the chaos at bay. After the little ones are in bed, she immerses herself in the fantasy worlds of her books. Tales of romance, adventure, and virtue set in a medieval fantasy world are her preference, but she also writes speculative fantasy and a
bit of science fiction.


About the Book


She couldn’t hide forever.

A hard life taught Jayne to avoid men, powerful men most of
all. When a new nobleman arrives to take over the vargar, she takes her family and hides. But the new baron seeks her out and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: protection. However, once they were sheltered behind the dark stone walls of the vargar, who would protect her from the new master?

His reward isn’t what it seems.

King Ireic of Anavrea charges Liam, a former bodyguard, with the task of retaking and taming a corner of the northern wilds. Upon arrival at Ashwyn Vargar, Liam finds challenges beyond his military experience. The keys to the vargar are missing and so are the field hands who should be harvesting the fields. Once he finds the keeper of the keys, she raises more questions than answers.

Available from Amazon


Giveaway



Rachel is giving away one of her favorite CDs to listen to while she writes. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of music she likes to listen to, you can check out the CD on Amazon and then come back here and enter the giveaway. https://www.amazon.com/Piano-Guys/dp/B009EAO38C/
 


a Rafflecopter giveaway





Tour Schedule


January 2
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Intro and Book Review
Bokerah-Guest Post

January 3
Queen of Random-Book Spotlight
Rachel Rossano's Words-Book Spotlight

January 4
Stephany Tullis-Book Spotlight
Ember's Reviews-Author Interview and Review

January 5
Frances Hoelsema-Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves-Author Interview

January 6
Shout outs-Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Book-Character Spotlight

January 7
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

 If you were to write about a historic era and tweak it a bit, which would you choose? Any questions for Rachel?