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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Time Maps - Coordinating character movements

I had an interesting and challenging piece of feedback from my editor during the week. She is currently doing the final edit of Mine to Avenge and we are down to the final few chapters where a lot of things are happening with different characters at the same time in the move towards the story’s climax. In Mine to Avenge, all of this particular action takes place in a large house and the surrounding gardens, over the course of a single day, involving the movements of and 4 key characters and 3 minor characters. 
My editor told me that she thought that two of the major events of that final day, were placed too close together for them to be able to realistically occur within the written time frame. I had allowed 45 minutes between both events, and on closer examination, I agreed with the editor and thought that the timeframe might be a bit ‘tight’.
However, as all more experienced writers out there will know, such a problem can’t be fixed by simply allocating a longer timeframe, because other events with other characters have been written already, and changing this one thing can have a roll-on effect with other events, making it necessary to adjust their timeframes as well.
In my case, I had to closely assess 4 chapters concerned with the chain of events on the day of concern. Fortunately, I found it not too complicated to sort out. The two events of concern happened around midday, so all I had to do was to start the events of the day about an hour earlier than they originally had done. This meant that I only had to adjust the times for the events that took place prior to midday.
I don’t know how other writers keep tabs on these things but in my case, I worked through this issue by designing what I called a Time Map - see below (I have removed potential plot spoilers from the Time Map and it won’t make much sense anyway without the story). I then went through the four chapters of concern, writing down the movements of the characters concerned at the time they happened, adjusting the times and movements prior to the midday events. The completed map enabled me to see at a glance where all the characters were at any given time for consistency. I found this a very useful exercise and will use it again for future work involving complicated character movement. I’m keen to know how other writers manage this sort of thing.


Wakes, showers, dresses



Goes to courtyard to smoke


(8.50) Phones Linus

Talking to Alethea on phone (in foyer)
Goes outside when Spyridon comes upon him

(c. 8.52) Comes in from courtyard
Sees Linus in foyer (on phone to Alethea)
Goes to library



Decides it’s time to act


Passes kitchen - housekeeper and manservant inside talking
To library looking for Spyridon
Checks on gardener
In library


Sees housekeeper taking food to Spyridon in library
Enters kitchen for snack & to switch monitor off
In library


Enters Spyridon’s suite
In library with housekeeper


Leaves Spyridon’s room, returns plate to kitchen
(Housekeeper there)
Switches monitor back on.
Back to own room


In his room



Contacted by Parker on intercom (still in library)
Goes to gatehouse
Asks Spyridon to join him at gatehouse

Garage scene - Calls employees - tells them to leave immediately
Goes to ask gardener to leave
In garage with Spyridon

In garden - Talks to gardener
Hiding in bushes

Waiting in gatehouse with Parker for employees to leave
Waiting in gatehouse with Spyridon

Goes to window - sees employees leaving
Changes clothes
Spyridon calls on intercom - asks him to courtyard
Calls Linus on intercom


Meets Spyridon in courtyard
Meets Linus in courtyard
In lean-to

Back into house and to his room
Looks out of window to courtyard
Listens outside suite from top of stairs (hears voices)

Enters house with Parker - near kitchen
To library to wait for Linus to appear

Enters house with Spyridon - near kitchen
Goes to library

Waiting in library - bound to chair
Waiting in library

Leaves his room


Arrives at library

Hiding behind library door

Reveals the truth to Linus

Alethea arrives at Spyridon’s house

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Extract from Chapter 23 of Mine to Avenge

Linus turned his coat collar up around his neck and lowered his eyes to keep out the biting sea breeze. He should have been at work, but he had called in sick. He didn’t feel he could possibly go to work at all for the rest of the week—maybe ever again. He needed some time ... time to weigh things up ... time to work things out ... time to think.
He looked up and, squinting into the teeth of the salty gale, saw a park bench set back to where the foreshore rose up to meet the road. It was partially sheltered behind low-growing saltbush. He leaned into the wind and made his way towards it. Sinking wearily onto the bench he sighed, hunched forward and twisted his hands together in a gesture of desperation. He looked quickly to the right and to the left, and when he was sure that no one was in sight, gave vent to a flood of tears that warmed his chilled and pale cheeks.
As he sat there on the bench by the sea, his chaotic thoughts raced in several directions at once. First, he thought of the weekend just gone—the circumstances of which had led him to where he was right now, missing work and doubting his ability to return. Then his mind roamed back a few months, then years, then forward again. He tried to slow the frenetic pace of his thoughts and memories by taking several deep breaths, and found that this helped for a while.
He was almost twenty-two years old, but was at a place one usually arrives at much later in life. He was at that place where you sit to take stock of your life, wondering where it began to go wrong and looking for the things that could have been done, or choices that could have been made, to steer life in a different direction.
As he mulled things over, he realised there was nothing he could have done to escape any of it. He hadn’t chosen the family he was born into. He hadn’t been the one in control. Others had mapped out his life and destiny. He’d had no say in the matter. Maybe things couldn’t be undone, but perhaps if he put his mind to it, he could find a way out … a way of escape … a way of setting things right.
His memories settled upon his childhood, and he began to painfully relive it. It was a childhood that he swore his own children would never have to live. He was going to be a different kind of man from his father, and a different kind of man from what his grandfather had shown himself to be this weekend. As he sat there in the biting cold wind, he swore that the bitterness that had gripped them in its fatal clutches wasn’t going to have its way with him. The vicious circle stops with me, he thought.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Which cover would YOU buy?

I have been having a lot of difficulty making up my mind about the cover design for Mine to Avenge. Originally I thought I had made up my mind, but after a few weeks I began to think of a few changes and asked the publishers if they could accommodate the changes for me, so that I would have two to choose from. It took a few weeks to get the changes right. It is very difficult to get ideas out of your head and into the creative mind of another person, but it was finally done. The only thing is, I can’t make up my mind at all as I quite like both versions. So I thought I would post them both and invite people to comment on which you prefer. Please leave a comment either here on the blog or feed back to me at Twitter @kletheby


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Extract from Chapter 22 of Mine to Avenge:

Alethea remembered Theo’s story, and thought about Dymas, the grandfather she had never known, and wondered what was going on in his life all those years ago to make him leave a lovely wife and two young sons he obviously adored.
Finally, she recalled her conversation with Casta. As foretold, Casta began the conversation easily enough, but it quickly became difficult for her, and she allowed herself to become distracted by attending to one of her grandchildren. Casta’s youngest daughter, Eleanor, had finished her mother’s story.
Of all the Galanos women, Casta was the one who hadn’t fully come to terms with her loss. Eleanor told Alethea that she had never known her father, as he disappeared just a week after she was born. She explained that Casta still believed that Stepan would come home one day. When Eleanor was born, Casta was on the threshold of postnatal depression, possibly triggered by Stepan’s irrational behaviour of the previous months, but the loss of her husband made the depression so much worse. Sitting waiting at the front of the hospital that fateful afternoon, left her with deep feelings of abandonment, rejection and betrayal.
Deep down Casta believed that Stepan had left her because she was a bad wife, and that she must have done something to make him leave. Thinking this meant she could allow herself to believe that he was still alive. She didn’t want to accept anything else. It would mean admitting that he was dead, and this she wouldn’t do. It was better to suppose that it was her fault, because that way he might come home one day when he could find it in his heart to forgive her. Eleanor said that it was also more understandable that Casta should reason this way than subscribe to the idea that Stepan was mentally unwell, since she had always rejected any suggestion of mental illness.
Alethea thought again of her conversation with Caterina. There was no way that any of these women believed this about their men, though it frequently nagged them all in the dark hours of the night, or so Eleanor told her.
Now that Alethea knew Casta’s story, she thought that she understood her better. Like Casta, she, too, had been holding on to her pain and keeping it close. But Alethea knew that she was further along the road to recovery than Casta.
She didn’t know why it was becoming easier. Maybe it was just the passage of time. She knew her mother and Mila were also finding things easier this year, but they had been sharing their pain and hurt with others for some time while she had closed herself away. She had been mourning her father for nine years. It was a long time to cherish grief, she thought, but Casta had been doing it since 1967—for forty-three years.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Questions about author pages

The first round of editing of Mine to Avenge is finally complete - all fifty chapters. I didn’t initially realize that there would be more than one, but my editor is very thorough. She wants to read it all through again to make sure nothing has slipped through or been overlooked.
I am also not sure now about my original decision for the cover. The publishers have made a darker toned version of the first cover at my request to choose between the two but it is very difficult to decide. I have shown it to some colleagues who have been evenly divided over which one they prefer.
I have also begun looking at on going marketing and promotional tools and the one at the top of my list at the moment that has been recommended is the Facebook author page (or book page). I am very appreciative of the many helpful articles I have been reading about these pages from more experienced and seasoned writers, but am still a little confused about the best time to set up such a page. Should I be doing it now and charting the journey to the novel on the time line, much as I have been doing with this blog? Should I wait until I have a cover design? Or should I wait until the book is actually out? And which is best - the author page or the book page - and why?
I think maybe the best way to find the answers to these questions is to explore some author pages and see how different authors have approached it. Please let me know of any well done author pages you know of - or even your own. I would love to learn first hand what works and what doesn’t.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Extract from Chapter 18 of Mine to Avenge

“The family business continued to flourish and all was well until late 1976, when Nicholas was nine years old and Theo was six. As youngsters, they were finely attuned, as children are, to the relationship between their parents. They could recognise tension, even though they didn’t know the cause, and they knew that tension meant things were not well, but that it didn’t usually last very long.
One day, the boys knew a tension that didn’t lift or go away. Their father suddenly became moody and withdrawn. He was over-anxious about Charis and the children, wanting to know where they were at all times, and panicking if they were out of his sight. At other times he was angry, easily losing his temper. He no longer took the boys to visit Spyridon at the travel agency, and the few times he needed to go away for a weekend on business the whole family went with him, or they were left in the care of other family members.
Theo remembered staying with Caterina once when Dymas was away during this time. He eavesdropped on his mother talking to Caterina, to try to make sense of what was happening. He heard them discussing Uncle Stepan. Nicholas and Theo never knew Uncle Stepan, as he had mysteriously disappeared before they were born.
In these conversations, Theo heard words like ‘sane’ and ‘insane’, and phrases such as ‘losing his mind like Stepan’. These words and phrases meant nothing to him as a six-year-old boy. He told Nicholas the things he overheard, and Nicholas tried to reassure his younger brother that all was well.
Later, when they were older, Nicholas told Theo that he had also overheard such conversations. Being older than Theo, he understood more of what was said, but wanted to spare his younger brother the worry.
Both of them, however, understood simple phrases such as, ‘When Stepan disappeared’, and questions like, ‘Have you thought about getting him to see the doctor?’
This gave them enough understanding to think that maybe their father was sick. They also concluded that whatever was wrong with him was the same thing that had been wrong with Uncle Stepan. They also heard Yia-Yia Caterina say that Papou Alcandor ‘went through the same thing’. This scared them, because they knew that Uncle Stepan was gone, and that Papou Alcandor eventually died.
This was a dreadful time for Nicholas and Theo. Charis did her best to reassure them that all was well, but it was difficult because she didn't believe it herself.”

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Making fictional characters real

Creating characters for a novel can be a challenge when it comes to maintaining consistency. For example, it is very easy to write a character with blue eyes in one chapter and in a later chapter describe the character as having brown eyes. I managed to get through writing Mine To Avenge with my editor finding only one minor character inconsistency which has since been corrected.
I have been making plans to prevent this altogether when writing the sequel and have really appreciated the wealth of information and help available on line from more experienced writers. I plan to keep character worksheets for each character in the new story, incorporating not only their physical traits but also such things as family background and how that impacts upon their character and personality, what their interests are, what they like and dislike, what their dreams are, strengths, flaws and so on.
Why is it easy for character inconsistencies to creep into a story? It’s because you are inventing your characters. You are making them up out of your head. It’s a well-known saying that you have to have a good memory if you tell a lot of lies, and it is similar for created characters and stories, because it is all make believe.
The way around this is to make your characters so real so that you can identify inconsistencies yourself when you see them. Visualise your characters' physical characteristics and sketch them if you can. Study features of people you know and add them into your characters, but mix them up to make interesting composites and do the same with character traits. Imagine your characters in events and circumstances beyond the story line and work out how they would behave in those situations. Do as much of this development as you can before you start writing, but leave room for surprises and changes as the story progresses. After all, people grow and change in real life too, and it is these character changes in a story that make the fictional character real and interesting.
There is one scene in Mine To Avenge that convinces me that the central character in that particular scene has become real to me, because it evokes a particularly emotional response in me each time I read it, as I weep for the character and his family and the circumstances that led him to that point in the story, but I will have to wait until the book is out to find out what other readers think. That will be the biggest test. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Extract from Chapter 13 of Mine to Avenge

Landor was still sober when Nicholas entered the hotel. He had only arrived moments before and was buying his first drink for the night. Nicholas saw the man redden as he approached and realised that he had embarrassed him by unexpectedly coming into his personal haven. Nicholas knew he would need to handle this tactfully.
‘Hello, Landor, I need to talk to you for a moment if I may—about Linus. Can you spare the time?’
‘Of course, sir … Mr Galanos, sir … sit down.’
Nicholas sat down alongside Landor, trying to choose his words, but Landor spoke first.
‘What about Linus? He’s not in trouble is he? Has he been behaving himself at your place?’
‘Certainly. He’s a pleasure to have around, Landor. It’s just that he’s visiting a lot lately—since his mother died.’
Landor fidgeted nervously and Nicholas wondered whether this had been such a good idea.
‘If you don’t want him coming over, you just need to say so, and I’ll stop him,’ Landor said huffily.
‘No, Landor, please don’t think that. We love having him. We’re just thinking of your feelings. How do you feel about him spending so much time with us?’
Landor picked up his full glass and took his first sips. Nicholas knew now why Linus liked coming to tea with them on Friday nights, and guessed that Landor would be very drunk before finishing the evening.
‘Please, sir… no … honestly … I don’t mind. He misses his Mum, and … I’m not great company for him…’
Landor’s voice trailed away, and Nicholas knew that he was longing for the next mouthful. He decided to take a risk and be bold. He didn’t want to go to the authorities and accuse Landor of beating his son. Linus might be taken from his father, and Nicholas didn’t want to be responsible for that so soon after the loss of his mother. But he thought it might do the man some good to know that someone knew what was going on, and it might protect Linus from more beatings.
‘Landor—I need to say this. I’m concerned for you and your son. I … I’ve reason to believe you’ve been beating the boy.’
Landor’s knuckles whitened, and he picked up his glass, pretending not to hear Nicholas.
‘I’m happy for your son to spend as much time at my home as he likes, but if I have reason to believe you’re beating him, I’ll dismiss you from my employ and report you to the authorities. Do you understand? You need a job to support him, so think about it.’
Nicholas didn’t wait for a reply. He stood up, turned his back on Landor and left the bar.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Finding the title

Finding the title for Mine to Avenge wasn’t easy. It took me a long time to settle on a title, not finding one I was happy with until the novel was almost complete. The search began by exploring many different quotes about vengeance, being one of the central themes of the novel. I quickly found the following quote from Winston Churchill and settled on it for the first page of the novel:
 ‘Nothing is more costly, nothing is more sterile, than vengeance.’
The sentiment expressed in this quote encapsulates the thoughts of one of my central characters when he makes some personal discoveries as to the nature of vengeance and how it is perpetuated. I was writing from that particular character’s point of view at the time and the quote served as a springboard for some imagery I used to flesh out the thought a bit more.
However, I then spent many months playing with the quote - deconstructing it and trying to piece it together in different ways - trying to come up with a catchy title, but to no avail. I went back again to the quotes I had collected but had no success.
It was only when I was writing a scene towards the end of the story that the title finally came to me. I was writing of a showdown between two major characters when I suddenly remembered one of the most famous quotes of all to do with vengeance - “ ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Taking care not to give away any plot spoilers, this quote described the essence of the showdown between the two characters, and the title was suddenly very clear to me - Mine to Avenge.