A quick housekeeping note…pleases take a few minutes when you finish here today to pop over to my author website, where I several tour stops today. For each stop comment, you’ll be in the running for a $10 gift card or equivalent book from your choice of etailer!
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Laura Bickle to Preternatura. Laura is here to talk about “Beginnings”. For any of you aspiring writers, whether you are thinking about writing a short story or a novel, Laura provides valuable insight into how to get started and the things that are important to include in the beginning. And as always, read on for your chance to win books from my always growing TBR pile.
Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science. When she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library, she can be found reaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs. She has written several contemporary fantasy novels for adults, including EMBERS and SPARKS, and THE HALLOWED ONES is her first young adult novel. Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and five mostly-reformed feral cats. You can learn more about Laura at her website or on facebook.
ABOUT EMBERS: Unemployment, despair, anger–visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit’s unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city. Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya–who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern–suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil’s Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya–with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team –can stop it. Anya’s accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she’s risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she’s ever faced.
ABOUT SPARKS: Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion. After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.
ABOUT THE HALLOWED ONES: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.
And now, let’s hear from Laura:
By Laura Bickle
“As in the beginning, so in the middle, so in the end.”
Beginnings are scary. The vast expanse of an empty page can intimidate just about anyone. They are my least favorite parts of a novel to write, primarily due to all that white silence that’s staring back at me.
But they’re important, really the most critically important part of the work. Beginnings are the first (and often only part) that a prospective reader, editor, or agent will read. The beginning is the make-or-break moment of the book, upon which its future in the slush pile hinges.
No stress, huh?
I try to focus on the beginning as the place where all the shiny things go for their first appearance. Beginnings are important because:
–They introduce the reader to my protagonist.It may not be in the first line or the first scene, but the reader will have her first encounter with my heroine in the opening pages. I want this to be a meeting that will intrigue the reader, show a bit of my heroine’s motivation and a bit of what scares her.
–The beginning shows my voice. The intro should show what’s in store throughout. This feeds into the mood of the piece. A reader should be able to tell in the first few pages whether the story’s going to be lighthearted, serious, sexy, action-oriented, scary, introspective…or any combination.
–The reader gets dropped into the world I’ve created in the first chapter. This world may be similar to our everyday world, but it is different in some ways. And I’ve got to leave clues about where these worlds diverge. Are there ghosts or other supernatural creatures wandering about? Is there magic? Are we even still on Earth? Setting is exposed at the beginning, and I want to make it count.
–The start of the story sets up conflict. I have to tell the reader that all isn’t right in my newly-hatched world, and here’s why. A body turned up. A house burned down. A helicopter fell out of the sky. Something happened that changed the heroine’s world, something that she’s going to have to deal with.
–This is my chance to startle, intrigue, or challenge the reader. This is where I leave a hook or a breadcrumb, some mystery that’s opening up, some unfinished thought that I hope resonates with the reader. I want to pull her in, make her wonder what happens next and keep flipping those pages. What can I show her that she hasn’t seen before?
The thing that I always have to remind myself is not to save ALL the good stuff for page 250 or the ending. Sometimes, the beginning is all I have, and I’ve got to make the most of it. And I find that if I really hit a beginning hard, it creates a framework that helps carry me through the middle and the end.
Thanks, Laura! That is some very useful and helpful information for anyone thinking about putting pen to paper.