Blog Tour: The Dark Divide by D.K Stone – Author Post

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The Tools of Writing Suspense

There are many ways to plot a book. For some authors, the process is like gardening: Plant the seeds of an idea, tend them, and see what grows. For others, it’s architecture: Create a structure and assemble the plot by following that plan. I’m probably a little of both, but when it came to writing my mystery / thriller The Dark Divide (Stonehouse, 2018), I found I needed far more of a plan than I’d expected.

Looking back, these are some key elements which kept my plot rolling.

  1. Start with the End in Mind: The Dark Divide is a small town mystery about an outsider, Rich Evans, who finds himself trapped there by circumstances. Accused of burning down the hotel he once managed, Rich’s very freedom is at stake. Add to that a deranged character who seems bent on destroying my main character, Louise, throw in a mystery that goes back three decades, and you have the plot of a whodunit! I knew where I wanted to end, so at the beginning of the writing process, I let my inner ‘gardener’ write what she wanted while I kept the ending in mind. That final scene of The Dark Divide, in fact, was one of the first scenes I wrote! A few unexpected events appeared as I wrote, but having this general idea kept them on topic.
  2. Lay Out a Plot Plan: In my den, I have a wall dedicated to whatever novel I’m currently working on. I write a one-sentence summary of each scene on a sticky note, color-coding by which character it focuses on. I then lay these scenes out in columns by chapter. These scenes can (and do!) move around while I’m writing, but being able to see them in motion – color by color – lets me get the bigger picture of whose story is being told.

With mysteries, it’s important to keep your readers guessing. Moving character-scenes lets you do that.

  1. Get an Outside Point-Of-View (or MANY): When the first draft of The Dark Divide was finished, I sent it off to beta-readers. Their insights allowed me to do my first round of edits (and they were massive!) With this done, my agent took a look, offering his ideas for polishing. (Round 2 was slightly easier.) Then the book headed off to a professional editor.

In my case, this was Dinah Forbes, one-time executive editor from McClelland & Stewart, who I had worked with on book 1: Edge of Wild. She took The Dark Divide plot to the next level. Her complex, scene-by-scene analysis broke the manuscript down like a mathematical formula, pointing out issues with pace and plotting, and suggesting ways of tightening the mystery. Her notes were both terrifying and satisfying to read. If someone with a background as strong as Ms. Forbes says your book is ready to sell, it is!

  1. Rewrite, Rewrite, and Rewrite Again: Every book benefits from revisions, but if you’re writing a mystery / thriller, edits are the difference between success and failure. (ie: See everything I said in the last paragraph.)
  2. Let Your Characters Have One Out-Of-Character Moment: The last hint came to me as I was deep in the throes of revisions, and that is the question of how you throw enough shade on everyone in your story to leave them open to being the potential villain. It’s incredibly easy, and works beautifully in the realm of building believable, flawed personas for all the characters in your book.

You let them have flaws.

And every once in a while, you (sparingly) allow them to do something ever-so-slightly ‘off’. Why? Because your readers are smart, and they’ll be watching for it. You want them to wonder, and there’s no better way to do that then leave everyone as a possible suspect.

In the end, the only way to know if your mystery actually worked is to let your readers have a go at it. When I sent it off to Dinah, my editor, for the last time, I wondered if she’d ‘catch’ the ending. She didn’t! And that, more than anything else, told me it really was done.

Written by D.K. Stone


WatertonPic-DanikaStoneDanika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both teens (All the Feels and Internet Famous) adults (Edge of Wild and The Dark Divide).

When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online.

She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.

Blog Tour: Prosecco and Promises by A.L.Michael

Prosecco and Promises Cover

Today I bring you a lovely Guest Post! Hurray!

This is part of the Blog Tour for Prosecco and Promises, a lovely Romance book by A. L. Michael. She was very kind to write a lovely post about inspiration, and how to acknowledge when inspiration finds you.

Hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour for this brilliant book.

Now I’m going to go enjoy my Prosecco, and I leave you with A.L. Michael to entertain you.

Ciao,

*FangirlSince1988 xxx


When inspiration finds you

You know that famous saying about buses? It’s pretty similar with ideas, at least with me. I can go for months with perhaps a rough idea in the back of my mind that I know I’ll get to eventually, and the minute I start working seriously on a book, another idea pops up, not quite fully formed, and demands attention.

The fear is, at times like this, that if you don’t turn your head and look at this idea head on, you don’t acknowledge it and give it some time in the spotlight, it’ll fade away. It’ll be one of those whispers when you wake up, so sure you could never forget that dream. So I am tempted by these fickle ideas when they flaunt their wares and strut their stuff. I sit them down with a nice cup of tea and ask them to tell me their life story. The new idea thrives, so pleased to be the centre of attention. My old faithful, my midway manuscript sits there, wondering what the hell is going on, because hello, we were just getting to the good bit, but usually they’re patient. A little grumpy, perhaps, when I return to work and need to rev the engine on the book again, but they seem to understand. After all, they were once the tempting idea too.

The tempting new idea needs that love and attention straight away, in order to grow into something just tangible enough to survive in a couple of notebooks, the back of a scribbled notebook and the back of my mind. It’s like a delicate seed. We know seeds grow into flowers, that’s what they do. But an idea is a seed that’s started sprouting, and if you leave it without attention, without light or water, it’ll fade away and wither. Right at the beginning, the start of that idea, you need to listen.

This has happened a few times in the last few months. I worked hell for leather on a domestic noir that had been sitting in the back of my mind as an epic love story four years ago. When I was working on that, a magical realism story shook her hips and long hair and called me over. When I had finished that, another had appeared, desperate and panting like it had run a long way to find me. The final one popped up, sat beside me on my train journey every morning for a week, explored the different versions of itself, and told me I wasn’t ready yet, but that it would be back when I was. The root would survive, nestled warm in my head.

Ideas have never been my problem, and last summer, on my research trip to Ischia for Prosecco and Promises, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, where she says Ideas are like sentient beings, nudging at you for attention. When you don’t work with them, when you break the contract between you to bring them to life, they move on to someone else. Which is why when you see another book and think ‘wait, I had that idea!’ you were probably right. But that idea got tired of waiting around for you. It had to go get made. We don’t own ideas, they borrow us.

It’s a strange concept, but I quite like it. Because lots of ideas are the same, it’s often the voice that’s the difference. So many stories are similar, and writers get put off bothering, but they shouldn’t because only they can tell their story their way. The author becomes a translator from the ideas realm to the real world.

I think these ideas appear when I’m writing because I’m in a different state of mind. Writing is dreaming on paper. Or, on screen. Our brains are looking for the right phrase, imagining movements, visualising the colour of the sky or the feel of someone’s jumper. We’re in something, an almost sacred space where ideas can cross over, because we’re ready to accept them.

But when we’re not in that space, there are things we can do to encourage ideas and inspiration. I find being unendingly curious really helps. Well, curious is the kind word for it – nosey. I’m nosey. I listen to people talking on the bus, and I read non-stop articles and I ask myself questions, and whenever I find something interesting I ask ‘What if?’ and take it to it’s furthest logical extreme. I watch and read and listen to as much as I can, consuming it all to see what strikes up a spark. I assess why my favourite things are my favourite things – why did that make me laugh, why is that beautiful? What type of person would find this ugly? What would they say?

When I started my creative writing class at university, we were sent out with a notebook to find inspiration. Anywhere. Find things and write about them. Inspiration detectives. A lot of the time, the things I wrote were rubbish. But learning to look at the blades of grass and how they moved, or listening to the girl crying to her best friend in the coffee shop, or watching the movement of a teacher as he stopped to shake hands with a senior professor – being aware and open and nosey – this is where inspiration lurks.

It’s waiting for you – all you have to do is listen.


About the book

IMG_9452Title: Prosecco and Promises

Author: A. L. Michael

Previous Books: Cocktails and Dreams

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Release Date: 12th February 2018

Publisher: Canelo

Synopsis: Meet Mia: an unforgettable heroine learning the meaning of life and love on a beautiful Italian island. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Lindsey Kelk and Lucy Vine.
Mia’s dad has always been her idol. Now, she faces losing him and he is insisting that she leave England to visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia.
Arriving on the island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy relatives she hardly knows. Despite her doubts about the trip, it is in Italy that Mia discovers connections to a part of her life that’s been missing, and during the sun-soaked days and steamy nights Mia falls for handsome local Salvatore. But as the day of her departure draws nearer can she risk having her heart broken twice in one summer?
If you love Prosecco and Promises, why not read more about Mia’s best friend Savvy in Cocktails and Dreams? Out now!

Get the Prosecco and Promises e-book here:
Amazon (UK)*(affiliated link)
Kobo (UK)
Google Books (UK)
Apple Books (UK)

About The Author

IMG_9451A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of 10 novels. Her most recent collection of books, The Martini Club Series, started with Cocktails and Dreams, to be followed by Prosecco and Promises, and Martinis and Memories. She likes to write about difficult women. Well, they say to write what you know. Andi works as a Content Writer, as well as a therapeutic facilitator. She has a bunch of degrees in stuff to do with writing, and wrote her MSc dissertation on the power of creative writing in eating disorder recovery. She truly believes stories can change your life.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @AlMichael_
Facebook: A.L. Michael
Website: www.almichael.com

Prosecco and Promises Blog Tour Week 2 (3)