Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Guest Post: Lori MacLaughlin on Creating Unforgettable Characters

Hey everyone! Today we have a guest post--Lori MacLaughlin, who is here to tell us about her book, Trouble By Any Other Name!

Creating Unforgettable Characters

Thanks so much, Michelle, for hosting me!!

Fantasy is my favorite genre. I love to get lost in imaginary worlds of sword and sorcery or in familiar worlds with supernatural twists. No matter how great the action is, though, or how amazing the world-building, the story won't hold my interest if the characters are flat and uninspiring.

I need to care about them. I want them to be quirky and flawed and relatable — in other words: human. Life is messy and so are relationships. No one is perfect, and no character should be either.

How do writers create an unforgettable character? How do they find that magical combination of qualities that resonates with so many?

I've read a lot of articles on the craft of creating characters. They all talk about inventing backstories and finding the characters' motivations, going deeper than surface impressions, building realism and believability into the characters' story arcs. All of this is good and necessary to enable readers to connect with the characters.

But what is it that makes one character rise above another in readers' memories?

For me, it's a character with secrets, with inner conflicts that drive him to act as he does. He's a mystery, and the reader never knows until the final pages whether he's good or bad or somewhere in between. His story, when we discover it, wrenches our hearts. The character who makes me feel the most is the hardest to forget.

My favorite example? Severus Snape. A man of mystery, seemingly hateful and evil, yet in truth, courageous and good, his actions driven by his undying love for Lily Potter. He is a tortured soul who deserved better than his fate. Whenever anyone mentions the Harry Potter series, he is the character I think about — the one I will never forget.

What characters can you never forget?

Links to articles on creating characters:

TITLE: Trouble By Any Other Name

Sequel to Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble

AUTHOR: Lori L. MacLaughlin

RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2016

GENRE: Fantasy


About the Book:

Tara Triannon is no stranger to trouble. She's yet to find an enemy her skill with a sword couldn't dispatch. But how can she fight one that attacks through her dreams?

With her nightmares worsening, Tara seeks answers but finds only more questions. Then her sister, Laraina, reveals a stunning secret that forces Tara to go to the one place Tara's sworn never to return to. Her troubles multiply when Jovan Trevillion, the secretive soldier of fortune who stole her heart, is mentally tortured by an ancient Being intent on bending him to its will. And worst of all, the Butcher — the terrifying wolf-like assassin she thought she'd killed — survived their duel and is hunting her again.

Hounded by enemies, Tara sets out on a harrowing quest to discover the true nature of who she is, to come to grips with the new volatility of her magic, and to defeat the evil locked in a centuries-old trap that will stop at nothing to control her magic and escape through her nightmares.

Buy Links:

Amazon            Barnes & Noble            Kobo                        iBooks

Author Bio:

Lori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She's been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids' shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she's not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

You can find her here:

Website/Blog                        Goodreads            Facebook            Google+            Pinterest

Saturday, June 11, 2016

How Death Records Can Help Your Family tree

I appointed myself the family historian a few years ago and I've been searching records online in hopes of building a decent family shrub, at least, if not a tree.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how actual historical records could potentially inspire a historical fiction. In that same post, I talked a little about my Talbot ancestors. 

They are my paternal grandmother's mother's family and they've always interested me because they're my first ancestors on American soil. My great-grandmother, Annie, was born in New Jersey in 1894--my first American-born ancestor--while my other three great-grandparents on the Irish side of my family were all born, raised, and immigrated from Ireland. 

I knew Annie Talbot had a rough childhood. Her parents both died when she was very young and she'd been sent back to Ireland to be raised by her grandmother, then she came back to the United States in 1912; this is stuff I've heard through family stories that I was able to find through paper trail records. 

But this left me with questions: when did Annie's parents die? And how? Well, I found out the dates when I looked through Ancestry.com's indexes of New Jersey death records. Edward Talbot died in 1901 and Annie Cassidy Talbot, his wife, died in 1899. 

I ordered Edward and Annie Talbot's New Jersey death records in hopes to find out more about them. I don't know when they married, I don't even know when they immigrated from Ireland, so looking at the death records was going to be my best chance at maybe figuring out when those events may have occurred. 

And I was right. Annie Cassidy was 33 when she died in 1899 of pneumonia. She'd had a lot of babies who seemed to not thrive, so I wondered if she'd died of something childbirth-related, but it seems not so. 

Also, while the certificate only listed her birthplace as "Ireland," it had her parents' names on it! Michael and Bridget Cassidy, my great-great-grandparents. Also, bonus, the record said that Annie had been living in New Jersey for 19 years, so approximately since 1880. Also, she was older than Edward by about four or five years. 

Edward also died of pneumonia at the beginning of January 1901 and while his parents aren't listed on his death record (I already know who they are anyway), it says that he lived in New Jersey for about 15 years. So...Annie was here first. 

But now that I know how long they were here and when approximately they arrived, I can maybe better pinpoint an immigration date. Sadly, it's before Ellis Island, so I think maybe the records are a little sloppier. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

22 Books Read

I am now halfway through my reading challenge goal for the year--just in time for the halfway point of the year :-)

Here's what I've read since March, when I finished book 11:

12. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Non-fiction/Inspirational/Art/Writing. 4 stars.

13. Never Let Me Go by Kazoo Ishiguro. Fiction/Science Fiction/Dystopian/Literary. 3 stars.

14. The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris. Fiction/Historical Fiction/Mystery/Twentieth Century/Ireland/New York/Alcatraz. 4 stars.

15. Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. Fiction/Historical Romance/Georgian/England. 2 stars.

16. Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Brockmole, Kate Kerrigan, Evangeline Holland, Lauren Willig, Marci Jefferson. Fiction/Historical Fiction/Anthology/Short Stories/Romance/World War I. 4 stars.

17. The Duchess War by Courtney Milan. Fiction/Historical Romance/Victorian/ England. 4 stars.

18. Dracula by Bram Stoker. Fiction/Classics/Fantasy/Horror/Supernatural/19th century. 2 stars.

19. The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan. Fiction/Historical Romance/Victorian/England. 3 stars.

20. Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura. Non-fiction/History/Women's History/Japan/United States/19th Century. 5 stars.

21. The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan. Fiction/Historical Romance/Victorian/ England. 4 stars.

22. Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders and Jill Enders. Non-fiction/Science/Biology/Human Body/Medicine/Health. 3 stars.

So, what are you all reading? What's on your to-be-read list?

Friday, June 3, 2016

When Research Actually Matters

So...some of you may know that the project I'm working on right now, which I'm sorry to say I've been slightly cryptic about, takes place in the 1890s in England (so far) and partially involves one of my main characters getting herself into the London theater scene.

She finds work at The Gaiety Theatre. So I'm finally writing a scene where Victoria and her friend go see a show at The Gaiety. It's January 1894, so A Gaiety Girl is the show that was running at the time.

So I start describing this building:


that building is the New Gaiety Theatre--it was built in 1910, years after when my story takes place.


So then I was searching around (God bless Google) for descriptions of the interior of the theatre and came across a few pages and articles that mentioned the old Gaiety Theatre--the one Victoria would have seen in 1894--was kind of down the block and across from that newer Gaiety. Also, this page had a floor plan, newspaper article links, photos, and a full-on description of the interiors!!!!

The old Gaiety was demolished in 1903.

No, it was not as pretty-looking as the new one in the picture.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

IWSG: More Writing, Less Internet

This is my IWSG post for June. The Insecure Writer's Support Group posts every first Wednesday of the month, airing our writing insecurities to the world. Founded by Alex J. Cavanagh, our co-hosts for June are: Murees Dupe, Alexia Chamberlynn, Chemist Ken, and Heather Gardner! 

I have been unusually balanced with the writing of the current project draft I'm working on. I don't know if it's the project itself or a new maturation on the writing scale, but I'm not gnashing my teeth over the actual writing.

I am writing, deciding I like or hate something, then deleting it if I don't like it and writing something else in its place. I've had only one minor qualm about a transition and in general, feel much less inclined to complain or share a ton about the writing process this time around.

...Which might be why a writing buddy was like, "I have no idea what you're doing exactly."


But this relatively peaceful writing time has also left me not wanting to look at social media or read very many articles or other writing-related blogs on the Interwebs as much. I'm of the Social Media generation--I was 18 when Facebook started and joined it that first year--but good lord, there's so much Stuff on the Internet these days that I'm easily distracted and overstimulated...and frankly, a bit irritated from time to time because doesn't click-bait just have a way of getting under your skin from time to time?

I think, for several years now, I've spent a lot of time reading random things on writing, reading linked articles on Twitter, and learning about writing. Which is fantastic. Which is what every aspiring author should do to educate themselves. But at some point, you have to synthesize all that with your own beat with your own drummer and write.

And that is what I'm doing. With a minimum of fuss this time around...but an abundance of allergies.

Achoo! Snort. Snuffle. Cough.



And this is where I should mention that Pearl is on a Kindle Countdown Deal for a few days. I think it's still 99 cents, so do check it out if novella-length, late eighteenth century historical fiction might be your thing!