Welcome 2016

We just crossed into a new year…are you excited? If you said, “YES!” then I’m with you. I am really looking forward to this year and what secrets it holds.The future is never certain, but I will make the best of it. My plan for 2016 is pretty simple; publish my debut novel The Manx. This book has been in the works for a few years and kept on the back burner while I dug down into the craft of writing. Developing character and story arcs, along with structure and plot are all necessary for developing a good book, but when I started The Manx I knew nothing about writing a book and soon discovered that it needed a little work.

Since its inception (around 2013), I have kept it safely on the shelf just waiting for the day I had enough confidence (and know-how) to pull it back out and dive in. The Manx is coming out to play and its going to be awesome! If you like fairy tales this will be your kind of read. I won’t reveal any more right now, but look to future posts as I introduce you to the Isle of Man and its people, the Manx.

Until then, enjoy the beginnings of this new year. Make your resolutions. Keep them or not. No matter what, make the best of everything that happens this year. It will be the one, and only, time you get to live 2016.

Fourth Son

Fourth SonFourth Son by Monica Poole
★★★★☆

Fourth Son is a bitter tale of a young man, Jahnes Tehrel, who faces saving his family from slavery after his father dies in a mining accident. His decision changes his life and those he loves the most. This book is an excellent examination of a society built on a brutal caste system of order that strictly enforces the hierarchy.

This is the second time I have read Monica Poole’s tale and will admit the second round was much better than the first (Note: never read this type of story when sick). There are many subtleties threaded through this story that could be missed if the reader isn’t paying attention. I want to give this book a five star rating but it falls slightly short. The beginning of the story builds very slowly using an overabundance of reflections. The sense of who the characters are, especially Jahnes, is masterfully developed yet I didn’t fall into the story through development of place.

I highly recommend this book with a note to the reader to push through the earlier chapters. You won’t be disappointed with the final ones.

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The Hundred-Year House

The Hundred-Year HouseThe Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
★★★★☆

The Hundred-Year House takes a look at a family’s estate from the recent past (Y2K era) back to the 1900’s through the quirky characters that occupy it. This is a treasure hunt disguised as a book. Rebecca Makkai pulls the reader back through a century of people who lived, and some died, at the Devohr estate, and slowly unravels mysteries that have been secreted away for a century. The narrative is cleverly written. Don’t look for a “happily ever after” in this tale, but it does satisfy.

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The Magicians

The Magicians by, Lev Grossman
★★★★☆
The Magicians is a book not for everyone. Quentin, our main character, is magical, and missing something in his life. If he could only get to Fillory (a magical place found in his favorite books, and a very grown up version of Narnia) then everything will be OK. He first finds himself at Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic (think Harry Potter in a partying frat). After 4 years, he finally gets to Fillory. Throughout the story Quentin is forever longing for something that is just out of his reach that he never can grasp.

Lev Grossman is a master at opening Quentin’s mind and diving in to reveal those dark places that everyone lives in at some point or another. Grossman does such a wonderful job of writing that I couldn’t put the book down. He drew me in and I left only because I turned the last page. What is missed in the “feel-good department” it is made up through great writing.

Thea’s Tale

Thea's Tale (Sisters Of The Curse Book 1)
Thea’s Tale by Lisa Manifold
★★★★☆
This is a story of love, curses, and royalty. A fairy tale for everyone! Ms. Manifold weaves a new twist into the old German tale of twelve sisters who are cursed to dance every night until their shoes are torn and tattered. The original story is short(about 5 pages)whereas Lisa Manifold expands the tale to a full novel taking the reader into the sister’s castle to learn who these women are and what trials they must face as sisters and royalty who under a curse they cannot speak of.

The story was well weaved and presented. It took me the first chapter to get a feel for the rhythm of the writing and the formality of the dialog, making the earliest parts a bit bumpy to read. Once I got past this, the rest was a breeze and very enjoyable to read. Manifold creates tension and passion that seem to tumble together so well, and now I am looking forward to the next installment, Casimir’s Journey due out August 15, 2015.

The Yampa

The wagon train had left her station hours ago. She had worked through the rest of the day cleaning the horse dung and the human stench from the walls. Once a month they came through, sometimes twice in a month, and Margo never got used to it. The humans had a smell about them that reminded her of the dead rats she found in the barn sometimes.

Satisfied, she went back upstairs then out the window to sit on the roof. This is where she spent most of her time staring into the sky wishing for home. In the years spent in the southern hemisphere she could see her home cluster in the night sky, but here in the north she could only see the local sun. Only ten more years and she could go back south. Ten more years of being in this dust bowl serving the wagon trains that kept pushing to the west carrying those petty humans into the frontier.

Stirring out of her own mind she turned to go back inside. Mid-stride Margo met the blunt end of a shotgun in the gut. “Hello Margo. Been a long time wouldn’t you say?”

“Kate. What in tarnation are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“You are a slippery one Margo. I’ve been hunting you for the past couple of centuries. I have to admit you found yourself one hell of a place to hide. How did you find this dump anyway?”

Pushing past her, Margo went back through the window. “Believe it or not, I crashed here. Been stranded for way too long.”

“Come on Margo. You can’t expect me to believe that you, our top pilot, crashed on this rock. You’ll need a better excuse than that.”

“You know me Kate. Weird shit happens.”

“Weird shit my ass. Is that your excuse for the string of dead bodies you left all over the home cluster? Is that your excuse for decimating Corkerelle? Give me a break.”

Margo couldn’t help but laugh a little bit.

“You have no idea do you Kate? You have spent all this time looking for me and never stopped to wonder if it was really me? Wake up Kate. Look around you. What do you see?”

“What are you talking about Margo?”

“I’ve been here for eons watching these humans scrape across their globe. They drag their sorry souls over the land and darken every corner of it. Right now, they drive their wagon trains out west in a thirst for riches and in their wake; they leave only a stench and rot. Did you smell the trash heap on your way in? Did you see what they do? Doesn’t it look even a little familiar? How long ago did Corkerelle happen? Think about it Kate, could I, one solitary being really destroy an entire planet? Think back, Kate. Remember what it smelled like?”

The shotgun began to weigh more than Kate remembered when she first pointed it at Margo. “They came here, didn’t they? They came here to do it all over again didn’t they?”

“Oh, they’ll try alright, but there will be bloody hell to pay before they can cross the Yampa.”

*****

They had celebrated that night once they arrived at the edge of the Yampa. It had been a long trek across the eastern plains and everyone was ready for fresh water and time to dance. They had made it. Living to see the Yampa River was all they had prayed for and here they were. Smiles were served all around and the music played late into the night.

The warmth of the rising sun pushed the gentle breeze through the camp. The air licked at the canvas capes that draped each wagon ruffling the bare threads. The horses had long left the area along with the cattle. A few stray dogs were all that remained behind. Silence filled the morning breeze. The celebrations from the night before were just echoes fading into the distance. Crawling out of the red masses, the tiny machines had done their job and marched back toward the water. The next wagon train was due in just a month. The machines needed time to recharge.

© KJ Scrim 2015 – All rights reserved – No part of this story may be used or reproduced, graphic, electronic,or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or my any information storage retrieval system without written permission from the Author.

99 Questions to Ask Your Character

Characters need to live and breathe through your story which, in turn, brings your story to life. If they don’t have odd quirks, a childhood, a family, nor any fears, hopes and dreams, then they are just letters on a page. Even with a well-developed protagonist your words will fall flat if your supporting cast is weak.

Recently I ran into a rough patch that I had struggled to get past. In my mind’s eye I had all my characters figured out. I could picture them in my head, yet when they landed on the page their form lost color and dimension. A fellow author suggested I sit and do a full character study of the four largest characters in the story.

As soon as I sat down to do this I was at a loss for the questions that needed to be answered. Thank goodness for the internet. I did several searches under “character traits” to see what came up. I found quite a few sites that listed many questions I could ask my character, and each site had some main themes as well. As I dug deeper I found that there was also great social media questionnaires that took my questioning to interesting places.

After a while it became quite overwhelming and I ended up with well over 200 questions that could be asked of my book characters. Some questions were the same, just phrased differently, and some were edging on TMI so I edited the list down to 99 of my favorites.

How does this work? Just put yourself in the mind, and body of your character then answer them as your character would. The questions are not in any particular order. I found that this randomness helps to generate new ideas and new ways to look at a character. Of course, not all characters need such in-depth exploration, but as a writer, you get to choose which questions need to be answered to bring each of your characters to life. Have fun!!

1. Describe yourself. Hair color, height, weight, eye color, scars, marks, figure, etc.
2. Where were you born and raised? Where did you go to school?
3. Who are the members of your family?
4. If you could meet anyone on this earth, who would it be?
5. What are you obsessed with?
6. What do you think about most?
7. What does your latest text message from someone else say?
8. Do you sleep with or without clothes on?
9. What’s your strangest talent?
10. Girls______________. (finish the sentence); Boys____________. (finish the sentence)
11. Ever had a poem or song written about you?
12. Do you have any strange phobias?
13. Ever stuck a foreign object up your nose?
14. What’s your religion?
15. If you are outside, what are you most likely doing?
16. What was the last lie you told?
17. Do you believe in karma?
18. What is your biggest fear?
19. What is your greatest weakness; your greatest strength?
20. Who is your celebrity crush?
21. Have you ever gone skinny dipping?
22. How do you vent your anger?
23. Do you have a collection of anything?
24. Do you have a secret? What is it?
25. What was your childhood like?
26. Do you prefer talking on the phone or video chatting online?
27. Are you happy with the person you’ve become?
28. What’s a sound you hate; sound you love?
29. What’s your biggest “what if”?
30. Do you believe in ghosts? How about aliens?
31. Do you have a phobia/fear? What is it? Where did it come from?
32. Stick your right arm out; what do you touch first? Do the same with your left arm.
33. Smell the air. What do you smell?
34. What’s the worst place you have ever been to?
35. Choose East Coast or West Coast?
36. Most attractive singer of your opposite gender?
37. To you, what is the meaning of life?
38. Define Art.
39. Do you believe in luck?
40. Do you drive? If so, have you ever crashed?
41. What is your happiest memory? Saddest?
42. What does your house look like?
43. What was the last book you read?
44. What is your favorite scent/smell?
45. Do you have any nicknames?
46. What was the last movie you saw?
47. What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?
48. Have you ever caught a butterfly?
49. What does your bedroom look like?
50. Do you have any obsessions right now?
51. What’s your sexual orientation?
52. Ever had a rumor spread about you?
53. Do you believe in magic?
54. Do you tend to hold grudges against people who have done you wrong?
55. Do you save money or spend it?
56. What’s the last thing you purchased?
57. Love or lust?
58. Greatest regret?
59. What is your most treasured thing?
60. In a relationship?
61. How many relationships have you had?
62. Does anyone hate you? Why?
63. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
64. Where were you yesterday?
65. Is there anything pink within 10 feet of you?
66. Favorites: places, meals, things to do, outfits, animal?
67. What is your secret weapon to get someone to like you?
68. Who is your best friend?
69. What did you do last week?
70. What are your friends like? What are their best qualities?
71. What is your heritage?
72. If you could change yourself in any way, what would you change?
73. What were you doing last night at 12 AM?
74. What are you most passionate about?
75. Are you the kind of friend you would want to have as a friend?
76. You can only have one of these things; trust or love.
77. What’s a song that always makes you happy when you hear it?
78. In your opinion, what makes a great relationship?
79. How can I win your heart?
80. What are you most afraid of?
81. What is the single best decision you have made in your life so far?
82. What size shoes do you wear?
83. What would you want written on your tombstone?
84. What is your favorite word?
85. Give me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word; heart.
86. What is a saying you say a lot?
87. What’s the last song you listened to?
88. Basic question; what’s your favorite color/colors?
89. What is your current desktop picture?
90. If you could press a button and make anyone in the world instantaneously explode, who would it be?
91. What would be a question you’d be afraid to tell the truth on?
92. You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what’s even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What is that power?
93. You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?
94. You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?
95. You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. Who would it be?
96. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?
97. Do you have any relatives in jail?
98. Have you ever thrown up in the car?
99. If the whole world were listening to you right now, what would you say?