Monday, February 12, 2018

Elements of a Mystery & Amber Hart's WICKED CHARM

Hi Everyone!

How many of you enjoy reading mysteries?

*raises of hands*
Shouts of "Ooh, me!"

Perfect! Because today I have a special guest who's, not only celebrating the release of her brand new book WICKED CHARM, but she's here to explore what makes up a good mystery. Read on as young adult author Amber Hart shares her thoughts on writing a mystery. Take it away Amber...
Mysteries are meant to invoke that what’s-going-to-happen-next, feeling. The most important elements of a mystery novel, for me, are that they’re unpredictable, exciting, and razor sharp. They keep you guessing. What difficulty will arise? Who is responsible? And setting is a big factor for me. The settings are usually eerie. Deserted roads. Sleepy islands. A sprawling, empty house. The setting itself becomes a living thing, with a heartbeat of its own. For Wicked Charm, it was a spooky swamp in the deep, dense woods. 

Let’s not forget that the characters are sly. A mystery never fails to give you a mischievous character. You can’t figure out what they’re really up to, and that’s a good thing. Parts of them are hidden and secrets are everywhere, little breadcrumbs to keep you going—the story unfolding at a slow but entrancing pace. Which makes everyone is a suspect. You can’t help wondering if each character has an ulterior motive. They probably do. Most do. The main characters in Wicked Charm, Willow and Beau, both live where all of the murders are happening, and especially for Beau, this is problematic since he’s connected to the victims. The characters often get inside your head. They cut straight through and make you think. I wanted the reader to question everything they thought they knew about Willow and Beau, and the other characters as well. There are often surprise twists. It was important to me to keep the budding friendships, romance, family ties, and eerie setting, while still making the reader look over their shoulder, wondering what’s coming next. The killer could be anyone. Even Willow or Beau. You’ll have to read Wicked Charm to find out. 

Thanks for having me and allowing me tell you a little about Wicked Charm! I hope you love it as much as I do.

You're welcome, Amber! Such an intriguing view into writing mysteries and how those elements draw readers in. Thank you for sharing.

Now, let's take a peek at her beautiful book baby. From the moment I saw this cover (& read the blurb) I knew it had to appear on Writer's Alley. 


Wicked Charm 
by Amber Hart
Publication Date: January 30, 2018 
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Nothing good comes from living in the Devil's swamp.

Willow Bell thinks moving to the Okefenokee area isn't half bad, but nothing prepares her for what awaits in the shadows of the bog.

Girls are showing up dead in the swamp. And she could be next.

Everyone warns Willow to stay away from Beau Cadwell—the bad boy at the top of their suspect list as the serial killer tormenting the small town.

But beneath his wicked, depthless eyes, there's something else that draws Willow to him.

When yet another girl he knew dies, though, Willow questions whether she can trust her instincts…or if they're leading to her own death.

Amber Hart resides on the Florida coastline with family and a plethora of animals she affectionately refers to as her urban farm. When unable to find a book, she can be found
writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She's the author of several novels for teens and adults, including Wicked Charm, the Before & After series, and the Untamed series. Rep'd by Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group.

For more on Amber and her fabulous new book baby, check out her other tour stops or visit her on social media.

So readers, what's your favorite mystery novel?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

IWSG & Brenda Drake, Author of Assassin of Truths, on Character Growth

Once again, we arrive at the first Wednesday of the month, where the Insecure Writer Support Group poses a question for us to ponder. Thank you to this month's co-hosts - Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte! This month's questions is: 

What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

I write in a few genres, but I'll go with writing fantasy-adventure for middle grade. Writing adventure into a story, especially for this age group, gives me a sense that even the unthinkable is possible. I love discovering what new twist my subconscious stirs into an old conflict or life-challenging theme. Add fantasy into that mix, and I find explosions of possible ideas. So much so that often I can't make up my mind which idea to choose. *This may or may not be the reason I haven't finishing The Shifting Hollow - book II in the Motley Education series.*

So writers tell me: Have you ever found yourself with too many ideas for a novel? How did you sift through them and choose? Did you map out more than one tale using these ideas?


Assassin of Truths (Library Jumpers #3)
By Brenda Drake 

Publication Date:  February 6, 2018
Publisher:  Entangled Teen

The gateways linking the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor incredible dangers.

And it’s not your normal bump-in-the- night kind. The threats Gia Kearns faces are the kind with sharp teeth and knifelike claws. The kind that include an evil wizard hell-bent on taking her down.

Gia can end his devious plan, but only if she recovers seven keys hidden throughout the world’s most beautiful libraries. And then figures out exactly what to do with them.

The last thing she needs is a distraction in the form of falling in love. But when an impossible evil is unleashed, love might be the only thing left to help Gia save the world.

Let's give Brenda and her brand new book baby a warm Alleyway hello!

Brenda has been gracious enough to share a bit of her writerly wisdom with us. I posed this question to her: 

What was your method for 'growing' Gia throughout her search and what are some ways young writers can use to emotionally grow and mature their characters from the beginning of a story to the end?

Gia’s growth in the Library Jumpers series starts with Thief of Lies, continues during Guardian of Secrets, and then finishes with Assassin of Truths. In the first book, Gia, though athletic, feels unstable after being pulled into the Mystik world. By the end of the book, she’s gain some strength. 

The opening of the second book has Gia trying to fit into her new role as a Sentinel (magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books) and searching for the Chiavi (seven keys). She’s dealing with new relationships, a deteriorating relationship, and trying to get herself out of some sticky situations. When we reach the end of the book, she’s ready to take charge and do what she has to save both worlds.

In the third and final book, Gia almost has all the Chiavi and is ready to fight for what’s right. She takes charge and is on more steady ground. She gets beaten down several times but she keeps getting up. She’s a warrior and is ready for the final battle even though she has little chance of winning the fight.

Interesting, the book covers for the series shows Gia’s growth. The first book has Gia’s back to us as if she’s uncertain about things. The cover for the second book has both her and a guy on it. She’s a little more confident, but she needs help still. The guy represents support. With the third book, we find Gia alone on the cover again. She’s facing us and is ready for the battle.

When writing a series, you have to start out with your protagonist facing a problem and uncertain how to solve it. In book two, your protagonist must learn something from book one and grow more confident or stronger, but not steady in her new role yet. Book three should show your protagonist taking control and ready for the change/battle/romance/whatever the problem was in book one. Show your reader the character’s mindset in the beginning, middle, and end. At each point, there should be some growth and the series should end with the character changed for the better. Don’t make your character’s growth too fast. She should change gradually over the entire series. 

Is there a character in a book or series you’ve recently read that you feel had a great character growth? 

Great question & fabulous advice! Readers - any answer for Brenda?

Other Books In The Series


Brenda Drake grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother's animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. With kids of all ages populating Brenda's world, it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical for both younger readers and the young at heart. And because she married her prince charming, there's always a romance warming the pages. Her favorite books are The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Kings Row by Henry Bellamann, and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. When she's not writing, she hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. In her free time, Brenda enjoys hanging out with her family, haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or just reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

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