Love Thrillers? Day Of The Vikings Out Now!

I loved writing this book!

Day of the VikingsIt’s a fast-paced, action packed thrill of a ride, and just as fun to write as I hope you will find it to read. After my deep immersion into darker realms for Desecration and Delirium (in editing), it was great to just let loose!

A ritual murder on a remote island under the shifting skies of the aurora borealis.

A staff of power that can summon Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse.

When Neo-Viking terrorists invade the British Museum in London to reclaim the staff of Skara Brae, ARKANE agent Dr. Morgan Sierra is trapped in the building along with hostages under mortal threat.

As the slaughter begins, Morgan works alongside psychic Blake Daniel to discern the past of the staff, dating back to islands invaded by the Vikings generations ago.

Can Morgan and Blake uncover the truth before Ragnarok is unleashed, consuming all in its wake?

Day of the Vikings is a fast-paced, action adventure thriller set in the British Museum, the British Library and the islands of Orkney, Lindisfarne and Iona. Set in the present day, it resonates with the history and myth of the Vikings.

Day of the Vikings features Dr. Morgan Sierra from the ARKANE thrillers, and Blake Daniel from the London Mysteries, but it is also a stand-alone novella that can be read and enjoyed separately.

Sample or buy now in ebook formats

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iBooks format, print and audio coming soon …

Writing Fiction: Creating Friction With Clashing Personalities

Creating interesting characters is one critical aspect of fiction, but adding conflict is often one of the most common tools in the making sparks flywriter’s box. Making sparks fly can transform your work.

In this article, Angela Ackerman discusses personality traits that will help make your story richer.

One debate that swings back and forth is whether or not opposites attract.

Do unsuited people find themselves drawn together in a way that defies logic? Do they make the best love matches? Opinions abound, but no one knows for sure. However if there is one certainty as far as fiction goes, it is that opposites can create explosive conflict!

As writers, we thrive on friction, infusing it into every word we can. Friction powers up a scene, and the resulting tension that builds between characters is a delicious pull that keeps readers focused on the page. Like so many aspects of life-to-fiction, relationships are important in the real world, and so must  have equal weight within a story. Even a loner hero type who thinks he doesn’t need anyone must rely on others to help further the plot. These relationships, whether rooted in helping or harming, supply fertile ground for friction.

Conflicting personalities rub against one another, allowing writers to maximize moments when characters come together. After all, if everyone in the scene “plays nice,” the story gets boring quickly.  With a bit of character planning, matching up clashing personality traits offers a quick road to friction.

The Character Foil

One way to use the power of opposites is through a foil: a character who acts as the opposite of the hero on many levels or in one defining way. If the protagonist is focused, organized and humble, the foil might be a scatterbrained, disorganized loudmouth. The hero may be decisive while the foil is  contemplative, or when the hero demands action, the foil advocates caution and so forth. Using opposites like this supplies tension to scenes where the two are present, and a foil’s negative traits can do a good job of highlighting the hero’s strong qualities through contrast.

Foils can be great for friction, but sometimes the author needs to be a bit more subtle. Maybe the goal isn’t to have someone clash frequently with the protagonist or play his exact opposite, but more to create a very specific tug-of-war.

Choosing Specific Traits to Play Off One Another

Digging into each character’s personality might unearth some great areas for clashes. The obvious choice is to pit one character’s attribute against another’s flaw (responsible vs. irresponsible, or easygoing vs. controlling, etc.) but readers might expect this. Why not try something more unique? After all, not all positive attributes get along, and neither do flaws.

Take Alan, a hard working auto technician who just became the co-owner of a small detailing shop. He’s a friendly, intelligent guy, but can be quick to anger because of a rocky relationship with a disapproving father-in-law, who isn’t shy about letting Alan know he thinks his daughter could have done better.

Now imagine a client who pulls his Mercedes into the shop after hours, demanding to have his minor paint scuff taken care of RIGHT NOW. Alan explains the shop is closed and his staff has gone home for the night, but the customer starts throwing his importance around, hinting that Alan and his tin can shop should be grateful for the business. Alan snaps, and begins swearing and insulting the man until he leaves…with a heated promise to destroy the shop’s reputation.

Here, we have self-centered and pompousness facing off against defensiveness and reactive hostility. The two slam together with a bang, and create conflict: flaw vs. flaw.

Attributes can work exactly the same way. A proper individual is going to clash with an uninhibited one. Extroverts can be at odds with Introverts. Generous characters may not see eye to eye with frugal ones.

Friction Isn’t All Bad

Friction between two people can also be a good thing. Attraction, desire, love and lust supply the heartbeat to many a novel. Anticipation can be nerve wracking in a good way, and competition can spur characters on to do their very best. So whether friction is a healthy manifestation of desire and need or filled with unhealthy disagreements, power struggles, and the quest to dominate, readers are pulled in.

Take some extra time when it comes to character creation, and really think carefully about ways you can utilize incompatible or competitive personality traits. The resulting friction quickens the pulse of your story, allowing you to build tension until those traits finally clash, in good ways and bad.

Do you have any comments or suggestions about using friction in your story? Please do leave them below.

Angela AckermanANGELA Thesaurus PairACKERMAN is the author of the bestselling writing guide, The Emotion Thesaurus, and most recently, The Positive Trait and Negative Trait Thesaurus books.

Centering on the light and dark side of a character’s personality, these new resource books help writers create layered, compelling characters that readers relate to and care for.

Visit Angela’s website, Writers Helping Writers for friendly support, description help, free writing tools and more!

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Airman Magazine

Desecration. My New Mystery-Crime-Thriller Out Now.

I’m excited to announce that Desecration is now available as an ebook, with print coming in the next few weeks!

desecrationDeath isn’t always the end.

LONDON. When the body of a young heiress is found within the Royal College of Surgeons, Detective Sergeant Jamie Brooke is assigned to the case. An antique ivory figurine found beside the body is the only lead and she enlists Blake Daniel, a reluctant clairvoyant, to help her discover the message it holds.

When personal tragedy strikes, Jamie finds her own life entwining with the morbid fascinations of the anatomists, and she must race against time to stop them claiming another victim.

As Jamie and Blake delve into a macabre world of grave robbery, body modification, and the genetic engineering of monsters, they must fight to keep their sanity, and their lives.

***

“One of the most original mystery/thrillers that I’ve read in a long while. Its topic of life and death, soul and body is harrowing and poignant, shocking and profound.” David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of Murder as a Fine Art and author of over 40 novels

“A riveting exploration of the dark side of the human heart” 
New York Times Bestselling Author CJ Lyons

“In a book which takes the reader on a journey to hell and back, J.F. Penn demonstrates her huge talent for conveying the depths of human depravity.” 
Amazon UK #1 Bestseller, Rachel Abbott

You can buy Desecration now for launch pricing

Only 2.99 until 16 November, 2013.

Desecration on Amazon.com

Desecration on Amazon.co.uk

Desecration on Kobo

Coming soon in print

Making the Switch from Nonfiction to Fiction Writing

I started out writing non-fiction with no thought of even trying fiction, mainly because I thought I had to write like Umberto Eco in order to be considered a literary success.

penBut, I decided to give it a try for NaNoWriMo 2009, and I haven’t looked back! In this article Jodie Renner, editor, author, & speaker, talks about how to make the switch.

You’re already confident with writing nonfiction, so making the transition to fiction should be no big deal, right? Not. There’s actually a significant learning curve to recognizing and mastering the essential elements of writing fiction that captivates readers, sells well, and garners glowing reviews.

As an independent editor specializing in popular, fast-paced fiction, I often receive manuscripts from professionals and others who write a lot of nonfiction and are attaching a draft of a novel or short story. They often assume that since they’re used to writing, the transition to fiction will be easy.

Not so.

Nonfiction writers and first-time novelists often don’t realize the importance of issues they’re simply not aware of, so they ask me for “just a light copyedit.” When I start reading their manuscript, I often notice right away the story seems to lack sparkle. It doesn’t engage me and make me want to keep reading.

The writers, although accomplished in their field, have little or no concept of the critical aspects of point of view and showing instead of telling.

Other issues I see are writing that is just too “correct” and distant for storytelling, with stilted dialogue, too-frequent author intrusions, and bland, neutral narration. Finally, the writing often meanders along at too leisurely a pace, lacking sufficient conflict, tension, intrigue, and general zing.

The following tips, for anyone wanting to master the art of storytelling, will help you bring your characters and story world to life by loosening up your language, getting up close and personal with your characters, letting them tell the story, and showing their emotions and reactions. Of course, you’ll need to start with a charismatic protagonist, a critical problem, plenty of conflict, and an intriguing plot.

1. Get into your character’s head – and stay there.

Start right out in the point of view of your protagonist and show the events through his eyes, with his internal reactions. Forget omniscient point of view – it’s no longer in favor, and for very good reason. Readers want to get “up close and personal” with the main character, so they can become emotionally engaged and sucked into the story.

Show your character’s thoughts, perceptions, and inner reactions to what’s going on right away, so readers can identify with her and bond with her. Don’t head-hop to other characters’ thoughts within a scene. To get into the head of others, like the antagonist or love interest, give them their own viewpoint scenes.

2. Stay out of the story as the author.

Let the characters tell the story, in a natural way that is authentic to the story world you’re creating. This will keep the readers immersed in the fictive dream. Don’t interrupt the story by stepping in as the author to explain things to the readers. In other words, avoid info dumps and other author intrusions.

3. Make sure your story has plenty of conflict and tension.

Conflict is what drives fiction. No conflict = no story. Not enough conflict and tension = boring. Every scene should have some conflict and a change. Every page should have some tension, even if it’s just an undercurrent of unease, disagreement, or resentment.

4. Loosen up your language.

Again, “let the characters tell the story.” Forget perfect English, complete sentences, convoluted phrasing, or fancy-schmancy vocabulary. Use direct language and strong imagery, in the character’s thoughts, colored by their personality, education, background and attitudes. In other words, stay in your character’s mood and voice, using words and phrasing they would use, which also fit the overall tone of the story, rather than a more correct, neutral language.

5. Show, Don’t Tell

Don’t step in as the author to tell your readers about your characters or their background or to relate something that happened. And don’t have one character tell another about a critical event that occurred offstage. Show important scenes in real time, with action and dialogue.

Also, to bring your characters alive, be sure to show their emotions, internal and external reactions, and physical sensations.

Evoke all or most of the senses. Don’t just show what the character is seeing. What is she hearing, smelling, feeling? Even tasting?

6. Use snappy dialogue.

Dialogue needs lots of tension and attitude. Be sure your dialogue doesn’t all sound the same – like it’s the author speaking. Each character’s words and speech patterns need to match their personality and background.

Avoid complete sentences and perfect English in dialogue. Use frequent partial sentences, one- or two-word questions and answers, evasive replies, abrupt changes of topic, and silences. Read your dialogue out loud, perhaps role-playing with someone else, to make sure it sounds natural and authentic.

Also, skip the “Hi, how are you?” and other blah-blah lead-up and filler. Cut to the chase in your dialogue.

7. Even your narration should not be neutral.

Avoid bland, authorial narration.

Any backstory should be the character’s thoughts, colored by their feelings about it, and keep it to a minimum, preferably with flashbacks in real time. Even your description, exposition, and narration should not be neutral – these are really the POV character’s observations, and should reveal their personality, goals, attitude and mood.

Do you have any more tips to share for nonfiction writers or anyone else just getting into writing fiction? Please do leave a comment below.

Jodie RennerJodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER, both available in e-book and trade paperback.

For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons pen by Gregory Wake

One Day In Budapest. A Thriller. Available Now.

My latest book is available now! ‘One Day In Budapest’ is a political/conspiracy thriller novella, so the perfect opportunity to try out my fiction if you fancy giving it a go. I really appreciate your support. At the bottom of the post, I have also included a video about my research trip in case you’d like to see some pictures.

one day in budapestOne Day In Budapest – by J.F.Penn

A relic, stolen from the heart of an ancient city.
An echo of nationalist violence not seen since the dark days of the Second World War.

Budapest, Hungary. When a priest is murdered at the Basilica of St Stephen and the Holy Right relic is stolen, the ultra-nationalist Eröszak party calls for retribution and anti-Semitic violence erupts in the city.

Dr Morgan Sierra, psychologist and ARKANE agent, finds herself trapped inside the synagogue with Zoltan Fischer, a Hungarian Jewish security advisor. As the terrorism escalates, Morgan and Zoltan must race against time to find the Holy Right and expose the conspiracy, before blood is spilled again on the streets of Budapest.

One Day In Budapest is a chilling view of a possible future as Eastern Europe embraces right-wing nationalism. A conspiracy thriller for fans of Daniel Silva, where religion and politics intersect.

One Day In Budapest is an ebook original novella available at these online stores for $2.99

Amazon.com and all other Amazon stores

Amazon.co.uk

Kobo

Barnes & Noble Nook

Apple iBookstore (coming soon)

The novella features Dr Morgan Sierra from the ARKANE thrillers, but is stand-alone and can be read separately from the ARKANE series.

The research behind the book

In the video below, I explain the inspiration for the story – both from the political angle as well as the historical. You can also view the video here on YouTube.

Please do let me know your thoughts and comments below. Do you like the cover? The back blurb? Any feedback is very welcome.