Category Archives: My Blog

Where the rubber meets the road. How real life experiences and knowledge are woven into my writing.

Author At Work – Update

road-sign-1280257_960_720Listening to Tangerine Dream’s Lily on the Beach and working on the [hopefully] final edit of Positional Play, Metatron’s Army Book 4, due for release in December 2017.

I just posted a video in which I discuss the community of Port Gallatan, the setting for Port In a Storm.  I will be releasing more videos, covering various aspects of my projects, in the future.

Coming Soon!  I am going to add a Sneak Peaks section to elizabethmaxim.com where I’ll be posting excerpts from and information about projects, past, present, and future.

Stay Tuned!

 

 

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Bringing a Story to Life – The Haunted

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“You mean it’s not the house that’s haunted, but you?”

  • –   Clint Malek to Shellia Hamilton in Port in a Storm

Merriam-Webster defines paranormal as strange events, abilities, etc that cannot be explained by what is known about nature and the world.

When it comes to writing, that’s a pretty broad definition to work with and one that authors use to their advantage.  In recent years, the paranormal has broken away from its typical home in the horror genre and found its way into mainstream fiction and romance.  From monsters to ghosts to astronomical phenomenon and time travel, paranormal has a lot to offer writers and readers alike.

For Port in a Storm I chose a heroine with the ability to communicate with ghosts.  When her sexy neighbor finds out she talks to spirits, he assumes she moved into a haunted house.

Makes sense given her house is over a hundred years old.

When he learns the truth, he has to decide whether he can live with that; live with someone who talks to people he can’t see or hear himself.

I had a total blast with the scene with Clint, Andrew, and Shellia in his hallway.

I really tried for a lighter tone in this novel because while mainstream media tends to paint haunted houses and hauntings as scary or creepy, they can also be fun, if not funny.

Ghosts play practical jokes and express their “feelings” in a variety of ways.  Just ask anyone who’s ever lived in a haunted house.

Moving and hiding objects is perhaps the most common phenomenon.

I worked for a New England company.  Several employees lived in houses over a hundred years old, many of them haunted.  Their biggest complaint was the hiding of objects they needed to get ready for work (i.e. combs, shavers, keys, etc).

 Employees regularly shared advice on how to deal with these mischievous yet harmless spirits.

 I’ve had my share of experiences.

Doors that closed by themselves, IPod pushed off the sofa, clock radio smashed to the floor, songs being added to my iTunes library.

 My immediate reaction to these events was a wide-eyed “Holy Cow!”  The secondary was delight.

Experiencing the paranormal is a wonderful adventure.

When I write paranormal, I blend experience, knowledge, and imagination to create stories that reflect the fascinating nature of the unknown.

The Real.  Realtor.com recently conducted a survey of whether people would be willing to buy a haunted house, and under what circumstances.

The answers were consistent with the feedback from my New England colleagues.

 What’s it like to live in a haunted house?  Should you tell company that your house is haunted?  How do you know if it’s the house that’s haunted and not you?

I explore these and other aspects of the paranormal in my work.

Port In a Storm is now available.

Show your spirit, get the shirt.

Help a spirit

Bringing a Story To Life – Frame by Frame

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Some authors find the first fifty pages of a novel the easiest.

Some veteran writers suggest if you have trouble getting past the first fifty, you need to go back to the drawing board because your plot needs work.

For me, the first fifty pages can be the most challenging.  This is especially true when I’m starting a new series or a single title.

Though somewhat challenging in each Metatron’s Army book, the continuity of the storyline – knowing where it needs to go in any particular book – helps me set up the opening chapters.

When?  Pacing is the most difficult aspect of a new story.  I have a solid idea of what I want to have happen and my mind is tripping over itself in an effort to get it all down.

It isn’t so much being in a hurry as wanting to get introductions out of the way so I can get to the meat of the story.  I’m eager to get things rolling along.

 To help myself slow down I take a frame by frame approach.  This involves stepping back and seeing the character or characters in a single moment, as if capturing them in a photo frame.  It allows me to consider important details such as:

Where?  Not just where are they in the scene but where is my story taking place?  What cultural influences may be present that affect the characters or the props in the scene.

 Props such as food, décor, house/hospital/motel/etc age or style.

Who?  Not just who is in the scene but who may be present – not physically – but in the mind or spirit or heart of the character(s)?  Who might be about to interrupt the scene and how will that change it and/or the characters in it?

What?  Not just what is going on but what is the key mechanism at play in the scene?

  Is it dialogue?  Physical appearance of one or both characters? 

What is supposed to happen?

Is there an action that needs to happen?  If so, what is the best way to achieve it? 

What is the objective of the scene?

To move it along to the next scene or is there a specific achievement that needs to happen, such as having a character transform in thought or feeling or philosophy?

Why?  This isn’t generally a question I need to focus on because for me, the answer is ever present.  Why is fundamental to the plot so if this is a question that needs exploring, it may be time to step back further and consider the overall plot rather than the scene.

I don’t do this with every scene.

The story would never get written if I did.

What is special about this scene that I needed to?

Is it the where, who, when, or what?

In answering these questions, I am able to settle into the pacing of a brand new story. more easily than if I avoided the exercise.

The fifty pages and those that come after proceed normally.

 Further along.  I can use this technique at any point in a story.  Answering any of the above questions provides insight, reminds me where I’m at and where I’m going.  It pulls me out of the story and into the role of observer which is necessary at times in order to effectively write it.

My New Project.  Port in a Storm will be available Fall 2017.

Additional books in the Metatron’s Army series will be forthcoming.

Zwischenzug: Book Three in Metatron’s Army will be available  Sept 15, 2017.

 

 

Bringing a Story to Life – Being One With Your Character

MindMeld1“I think singing and acting go hand in hand.  Take an R & B singer; one song says, ‘I love you,’ the next is, ‘Baby, don’t leave me,’ the next is, ‘If you leave me then I don’t care.’  You have to drop in and out of different perspectives.”    – Ice T

As the release date for Bishop Pair, Metatron’s Army Book Two drew closer, I halted the book I was working on to do a final edit.

It’s a good idea to set a manuscript aside for several days to several weeks.  When you pick it up again, rereading with fresh eyes, you find mistakes or see where subtle tweaks can strengthen the story.

I remember you when.  Going back to Book Two meant having to go back in time.  My mind was in Book Five – Pawn Storm.  My character had gone through numerous life-changing experiences since Bishop Pair.

A lot happens in Book Three – Zwischenzug, and Book Four – Positional Play.

She was no longer the young woman returning to her home system to start a new life, and yet that is who she has to be in Bishop Pair, which meant that is where my perspective had to be.

Remember me?  Fortunately, putting myself back in the mindset of the “innocent” she was at this point wasn’t as difficult as I initially feared it would be.  Simply reading the story drew me into her world, enabling me to see it through her eyes.

And her heart.

 Going forward was another story.

What happened to you?  Have you ever run into someone you haven’t seen for years and find yourself astonished by the changes?

Going back to pick up the threads of Pawn Storm was like running into someone I hadn’t seen in years.  I had to take time to study the changes, understand who she’d become.  This was no easy feat.

Because Pawn Storm is a work in progress, there isn’t yet enough story for me to get drawn in.

 Even more challenging, with a release date days away, Bishop Pair is still fresh in my mind.

Christine is newly arrived at Dynamic.

To go forward, I had to become one with the character.

Getting into character.  Writing through the eyes of the character requires a bit of acting skill.  You have to put yourself in their shoes.

Switching between characters within a story isn’t difficult since, as the author, you have a bird’s eye view of everyone on stage, but going between set changes can present a challenge.

Especially if the character goes through a life-altering experience.

Who are you again?  Editing isn’t the only reason a writer might go back to a previous scene.  Going back in time can help the author reconnect with the character because the personality difference acts as a contrast, sharpening focus.

Though character evolution happens in every story, it’s tougher to manage with a saga.

Metatron’s Army is unique in that the story takes place over several books.  This was the best format to do justice to the story and  for me to illustrate character evolution that spans years.

This story telling format introduced unique challenges for managing character growth.

Staying true to the character as new characters are brought in, older characters are phased out, and secondary characters go through their own evolution is a full-time job.

Fortunately, in the seed of the challenge is an advantage.  I’ve been living with Metaron’s Army for the past thirty-five years.

Each book is more like a chapter for me

I know the characters well.

I already know who they will be at the end of the series.

The tough part is, as Ice T says, dropping in and out of different perspectives.

It can be mentally exhausting.

Bishop Pair, Metatron’s Army Book Two is now available for pre-order.

Bringing a Story to Life – The Life of a Character

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My books usually end where they began. I try to bring characters back to a point that is familiar but different because of the growth that they have gone through. – Sara Zarr

Foreground.  As a writer and a reader, I prefer strong characters to strong scenery.

I can picture a forest easily enough.

 

Show don’t tell.

 A spy is a different story.

Male or female? Russian or British?  German or American?  Cold war spy or current day hacker? 

 As a writer, I have to remind myself not to lead the reader, to let them fill in the details.

 This is a balance in paranormal fiction where readers often have pre-conceived ideas, though little personal experience. 

 With Metatron’s Army, the characters drive the story.

It’s been this way since its inception 35 years ago.

That they found themselves in a science fiction novel was simply the “clothing they wore.”

Though some of the paranormal elements are tied to real life experience; the NDE.

The characters were born before the plot.

Though not by much.

Background.  Character motivation is important to me.  Why is a character the way they are?  What shaped them?  What continues to shape them?  What is driving them to do what they do?

As a reader, I hate it when I find myself thinking a guy/woman/child/etc wouldn’t act like that, wouldn’t do that.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time “getting to know” my characters, getting comfortable with them before putting them in their places (i.e. antagonist, hero, strong secondary character).  This process isn’t the same from series to series.

In Silicon Valley Hangover, the characters just appeared one day.  I had to spend time observing them, reading their body language, trying to understand why they were feeling awkward with each other.

The plot grew out of the answers to the “why’s?”

I try to learn as much about my characters’ motivation as possible so that writing them is seamless.

I spend time interviewing men or people of other cultures and/or religions to gain insight that helps strengthen the characters.  I talk with professionals, such as pilots, or those in the military, if I need their perspective. 

As a reader, I love it when I find a writer who either has experience or has done some great research.

Victoria Laurie comes to mind.

With Metatron’s Army, I had lived with some of the characters since the story began to take shape but it wasn’t until I started to write that I really got to know them.

 In fact, I’m still learning them as I go along.

Sometimes character roles flip.

In Metatron’s Army, I ended up liking one of the antagonists so much, I turned him into a hero.  A character who had been somewhat of a benevolent despot became a vindictive antagonist.

In the Middle.  To be vibrant and interesting, characters need to grow throughout/as a result of the story.

This is particularly important in a series.

Life experiences change people.  The same should be true of characters.

Remember your English tests?  How did the character change as a result of [the plot]?

In a single title, a writer can start at any point in a character’s life.

They are a child who grows, a teen who is on a journey of self-discovery, an adult who already  has the skills to take on the adversity presented by the plot.

With a series, it can be a bit more difficult.

You can start anywhere but you need to pay attention to character development.  If you drag it out the character stagnates.  If you go too quickly, you run out of options for character growth and the plot goes stale.

Metatron’s Army takes place over decades.

Some of them passed before the reader joins the story.

To deal with the complexity of the characters, the fact they have separate yet parallel goals in some cases, I have worked to keep each book self-contained, even as it is key to the overall series.

A good idea in a series, anyway, I think.

Pacing the writing.  A multi-tasker, I typically think ahead, even as I’m working on a project.

Sometimes, it’s the next book, sometimes, the next project.

Given the complexity of plot and character evolution in Metatron’s Army, to stay organized I have approached my writing differently.

I have several of the books written already, though most are in draft form.  This allows me to go back to an earlier book and adjust if I need to.

If, for instance, I decide to take a character in a different direction down the line – did I set it up to be a believable development/change/evolution?

I also go back and read previous drafts to ensure there is continuity in the series.

And, more importantly, in the characters.

Characters as writers.  This project is unlike any other I’ve done.

Thirty-five years in the making, it evolved through a series of visual shorts, in dreams and daydreams.

After decades of living with this story, I tend to slip into autopilot when writing.

That doesn’t mean the story has become” familiarity breeds contempt.”

My unconscious has introduced some surprises for me.

At the end of Positional Play, Book Four in Metatron’s Army, I found myself led to an unplanned, yet completely logical plot twist.

Through Metatron’s Army, I’ve learned that sometimes, characters know best.

Bringing a Story to Life – Chasing the Mood


4751420-mood-pictures“I’m in the mood for a melody ”       – Robert Planet, I’m in the Mood

There are some days I just don’t want to write.

Maybe it’s having written over 200,000 words in a little over five months.

Which doesn’t include emails or the articles I’ve written for elizabethmaxim.com and emfconductor.com, or the words that never made it into the final drafts.

Maybe I’m just not in the mood, which may be a more valid excuse for a writer than one might think.  However, valid or not, it’s an excuse that can’t stand.  Writers need to write, even when they don’t feel like it.

Perhaps especially then since inertia is a tough thing to overcome.

Yet forcing yourself to write can have negative consequences.  I recently had to trash 8,000 words because they didn’t work.  The action and dialogue steered my characters out of character.

They would never have acted that way or said the words I’d written.

It wasn’t wasted work.  In writing, I felt productive.  I felt like I was doing something.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right thing.

Time to take stock.

No Mood.  Not feeling in the mood to write is not the same as writer’s block.

I define writer’s block as feeling overwhelmingly lost.  You have no idea where to start. 

Not being in the mood is probably closer to inertia.  You know what you want to do.  You know what you need to do.  You just don’t feel like doing it.

Like cleaning out that closet/kitchen drawer/storeroom.

How to get past it?  Find the mood.

Mood = Emotion.  To find the mood, evoke the emotion.

Who.  Are you trying to make your character feel the emotion or the reader?

There are times  where the reader has information the character doesn’t.

Character.  I’ve had good luck getting in the mood to write by putting myself in my character’s shoes.

Picture yourself as an actor on stage.  The director is discussing what your character is going through, which inevitably leads to a discussion of how they are probably feeling because of it.

Imagining what the character is feeling at any moment, given what they are going through, enables me to connect to the mood of that character.  This translates to words.

What.  This is the mood of a scene.  What is going on?  What is the objective?

There is the objective of the character in the scene but there is also the objective of the writer.  What is the writer trying to accomplish by having the scene in the story? 

Purpose as Mood.  Is the scene moving the story forward or making the reader stop and take note?  Is something good or bad happening in the scene?

There are degrees of bad.  Has there been a tragedy that causes heartbreak or it is simply an irritation, like a run in a stocking on the way to a job interview?

Where.  Sometimes, getting out is the best way to move forward.

Setting the Scene.  There are times when I need to be in a location that mimics the atmosphere my character is in.

You’d be surprised how many locations can have a sci-fi and/or futuristic feel.  Think museums or the contemporary design of modern office complexes.

If you can’t go to such a place, surround yourself with images that accomplish the same idea.

Movie posters, or images you print yourself can work beautifully.

Location Location Location.  I have gone to coffee shops, pubs, libraries, and numerous outdoor locations to find inspiration, and while I’ve generally had good luck, I have also had it blow up in my face.

I was recently working at a coffee shop.  Everything was going well when all hell broke loose.  The local Middle School had let out and dozens of kids, along with their very talkative parents, descended on the tiny space.  The noise level was unbearably loud.  Not even listening to music could drown out the cacophony of thirty boisterous people crammed into a space the size of a large bathroom.

If you are going to go somewhere to write, make note of closing times and shifts in atmosphere that occur naturally, as in a pub at happy hour, or a coffee shop when school lets out.

If I ever need to write an irritated character, I know where to go to work.

On the Move.  I have had great luck grabbing my iPhone, earbuds, and tennis shoes, and going for a walk.  Listening to music often starts the flow of ideas and within ten to fifteen minutes, I’m writing scenes and dialogue in my head.

Speaking of music and earbuds…

While researching a solution to my frustration with the poor quality of digital music, I came across a site that enabled me to test the quality of my ear buds.

Excellent, and inexpensive.

The Sound of…Pain?  The process of listening to the various tones validated my long-held conclusion that EMF Sensitivity happens because the individual suffering symptoms hears ultra-low and very low frequencies.

I figured this out just prior to publishing Riding the Waves: Diagnosing, Treating, and Living With EMF Sensitivity.  The details of my discovery are in the book.

These sound frequenciess are translated into signals that, in EMF Sensitive individuals, tell the brain there is a threat.  Histamines are released as the Fight or Flee response is activated, resulting in a variety of physical symptoms that range from irritating to debilitating.  Though I no longer suffer from EMF Sensitivity, I do hear the ultra-low and very low frequencies.

Emitted by geologic fault lines prior to an earthquake, these sound frequencies can be heard by certain individuals.  They have been described by some as a clicking sound, and while I have heard this clicking, more often I hear a ringing tone.  The length of time and strength of pitch matches the magnitude and duration of the quake.

Though everyone in my family was able to detect this tone, I was the only one who had a physical response to it.

I am also the only one who can hear earthquakes before they happen.

The 30Hz Tone sent a painful electrical shock down my spine, with a particular zap on my lower right side, before going down my right arm and right leg. simultaneously.  This is the same sensation I describe in Riding the Waves – when I was in a New Age shop doing research with magnetic stones purported to be healing.

If people want to know whether or not they are susceptible to ultra-low and very low electromagnetic frequencies, listen to the 30Hz Tone.

Fiction on Facebook.  I will no longer be posting holistic health articles to Facebook.  I will continue to update emfconductor.com so if you follow my blog you will receive email updates when new information has been posted.

And speaking of fiction…

Bishop Pair, the second book in the Metatron’s Army series, will be available Summer 2017. 

Bringing a Story to Life – Music to My Ears

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Where words fail, music speaks.   – Hans Christian Andersen

 

Even as a writer I find it difficult to adequately describe the impact music has had on my life.

 

 

 

Listening.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t listening to music.  From 8-track tapes to mp3s, listening to music has been a significant part of my life.

My first concert was Rod Steward at Pine Knob Amphitheatre.

Watching.  I loved watching Name That Tune.

I was always impressed by contestants who could name a song in three notes or less.

I loved the MTV shorts in which viewers were to guess the year, of three choices, based on musical trivia.

I rarely answered got it wrong.

Playing.  I played b-flat clarinet in a band and an orchestra.

I played clarinet for 13 years.  I also learned snare drum, took piano lessons, and fiddled with tenor sax for awhile. 

I love music, and playing an instrument can be relaxing, but it’s not my gift.

Living.  Some people recall where they were when a certain event happened.  I can recall where I was and what was going on in the world based on what songs were on the radio.

Alas, I don’t spend much time listening to radio anymore but that doesn’t mean music is any less of a gift for me.

Entertaining.  A number of movies have used music as a way to move the story forward.

High Fidelity is a fun, tongue-in-cheek example of the role music can play in someone’s life.  Electric Dreams shows how music can bring people together.

Throughout Metatron’s Army: Advantage, I use music to ground the character, and the reader, by providing perspective.

The Metatron’s Army series deals with multiple universes and multiple timelines, making perspective important.

Writing.  Shortly after I began working on Metatron’s Army: Advantage, certain songs popped into my head.  When they continued to mentally repeat, over and over, I compiled a play list.  Within a short time, I had my own soundtrack.

It was uncanny how the songs matched the scenes, the characters, the plot elements.

This has continued right up until the current work, Metatron’s Army: Positional Play.

Fourth in the Metatron’s Army epic.

Interestingly, the songs pop into my head before I even start writing.

Yet they perfectly match the mood and action of what I’m working on.

I’m not consciously creating the soundtrack.

There is no forethought that goes into choosing a song.  

Sometimes, I haven’t heard a song for decades.

Recently, a song popped into my head in the middle of the night.  It was from the 70s and at first I only heard the melody.  It took me until the morning before I remembered some of the lyrics.  Fortunately, I caught some shut eye in between.  I did a lyrics search on Google to get the name of the song then went to YouTube to watch/listen to it.

Not every song makes it into the playlist.

I read the lyrics of the 70s song while listening ,to determine if there was a relevance.  This time, nothing stood out and the tune didn’t end up in the playlist.

Instrumental.  Although the tunes in the playlist I made all have lyrics, the music that best defines the series, to me, is instrumental.

Coincidence or not, Nigel Stanford’s Solar Echoes, perfectly defines key scenes, including the opening of the book which matches nicely to Entropy, to me.

The music in the book trailers is also instrumental.

I have just released a new trailer for Metatron’s Army: Advantage.

The other trailer applies to the overall series.

Though I’m working on the fourth book, the second, Metatron’s Army: Bishop Pair, will arrive Spring 2017.

**  This is The Moody Blues is one of my all-time favorite albums, along with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Works, The Beatles Rubber Soul, and Fleetwood Mac Rumors.