Prime Writing — Elle E. Ire

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Vicious CircleToday in Prime Writing, Elle E. Ire is here to tell us about one of the more difficult tasks an author faces—making unlikeable characters likeable—and how she brought the lessons learned from past experience to bear in her debut novel, VICIOUS CIRCLE.


When I sat down to write Vicious Circle‘s main character, Cor Sandros, I already knew I had my work cut out for me. I’d written an earlier novel with an assassin female lead, and while it earned me agent representation, it never sold. The feedback I received made it clear that readers “couldn’t connect with the protagonist.” The protagonist was “too cold, too unfeeling” to be likeable. I needed to do something different with Cor.

My first step was making her a hero, at least in some people’s eyes. Yes, she’s an assassin for hire. Yes, she kills people for a living. But Cor only kills those who severely harm and kill others—the child murderers, the genocidal maniacs, the serial rapists. She’s known as the “Core of Sardonen” because she has a reputation for taking only the “right” jobs, the heart-tuggers, the helpless cases.

Next, I made Cor fallible. She makes mistakes, gets herself into trouble, and after suffering some serious injuries defending herself for a righteous cause, she becomes addicted to a pain-killing narcotic called Palotrin. Readers watch her struggle with this addiction, fight to overcome it, and sometimes fail. She’s human, and she’s not perfect.

Last, I gave her heart. When the novel opens, Cor has known desire. She’s known sexual attraction. But she’s never known love. And though she doesn’t realize it at first, the primary piece missing from her life isn’t being a member of the Assassins Guild where she grew up. It is a desire to love and be loved—no matter the cost to her health or her heart. I won’t tell you whether or not she succeeds in fitting that missing piece into place. That would be giving away too much. But the struggle to do so makes her human, relatable, and, I hope, likeable.

All in all, Cor is a character who tries to do the right thing, agonizes over her mistakes, wonders if she’s made the right choices in her life, and cries when those she cares for betray her—things we all do and can understand.

Even after all this, I knew I wouldn’t get everyone on Cor’s side. Killing is bad. Killing is wrong. And some readers won’t get past that. But as writers, we can’t please everyone. The brutal universe Cor lives in sometimes requires brutal measures for the good and law-abiding citizens to go on about their lives. With someone like Cor on the job, the universe can sleep at night—unless you’re the bad guy.


Elle E. Ire resides in the Disney-created town of Celebration, Florida, with her spouse, twin daughters, and two dogs. A graduate of the University of Miami, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing, but left the MFA program when they refused to allow her to write genre fiction. Currently, she teaches writing courses to seventh graders. VICIOUS CIRCLE is her first published novel.

Buy VICIOUS CIRCLE at Amazon

The Cover Has Landed

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What better way to kick off this year’s blogging (Hey! It’s still January) than with a cover reveal for my next book, The Tree of Souls?

Without further ado:

The Tree of Souls - Cover

The fabulous Heather McDougal put this together for me, and as always was a pleasure to work with. I couldn’t be happier. It’s purple, people! PURPLE!

*ahem*

*puts silly grin away*

All squeeing aside, I love this cover because it does a lot to set the mood and tone for the story using subtle touches and some beautiful imagery.

I’ll have pre-order information and full details on the book out soon, but in the meantime, I’ll just say that The Tree of Souls weaves an intimate tale of dark sorcery, doomed love, and implacable revenge, amid an age-old clash of nations, with all the souls of the living hanging in the balance.

Coming to a bookstore near you later this year.

 

 

Season’s Giving

KatrinaRandom ThoughtsLeave a Comment

Since it’s the season of giving, just in case you are looking for somewhere to park your charity dollars, I have a couple of suggestions.

The UNHCR is doing critical work with refugees around the world, but especially in Syria. It seems appropriate to ease the suffering of so many people in the region from which this week’s holiday stems.

For Vancouver friends looking for something closer to home, there’s the Jessie and Bandit Animal Care Fund, at Canada West Vets. We were able to afford Diesel’s recent brain surgery (for values of “afford” that still managed to give my wallet palpitations), but many people would have an even harder decision on their hands. The fine staff at Canada West gave us one of the best Christmas presents ever. Help them give someone else the same gift.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Mission Remission

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(yes, this is a cat update)

Diesel had his 4-week post-operative checkup yesterday, and so far the doctor is very impressed.

One of the more serious complications Diesel suffered was the return of his diabetes, probably due to the stress of the operation and the steroids they had to give him to keep brain and tumour swelling down. He’d become a diabetic in 2009 because we didn’t know that dry food is to cats what a pure sugar diet would be to a person. Prompt discovery, treatment and a full diet change to low-carb high-protein wet food got him into remission in under three months, at the time.

But this time, Diesel was older, so while we were hopeful, I wasn’t sure how many times a cat’s pancreas are actually rebootable (a nice feature which I’m sure plenty of human diabetics would love). Especially given that one of the tools available to us at the time (diet change) was already deployed. All signs over the last few weeks were pretty positive, but you never know.

Well, apparently my cat has highly rebootable pancreas, because he’s once again in full diabetic remission and no longer insulin dependent.

This means that aside from his antiseizure meds, which he needs to be on until he’s six months seizure free, Diesel is completely off medication.

He gave me his first “crazy kitty wants to play tag” look yesterday. He’s still not allowed to exert himself too strenuously, so I didn’t bite, but it’s encouraging to know that he’s raring to go once he gets out of supervised kitty recuperation.

Poster Kitty For Modern Veterinary Medicine

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THIS is a feline brain surgery survivor, who is now tumour free.

When we got Diesel’s diagnosis, we thought “That’s it. We only have a few more weeks left with our furry friend.”

But it turns out, Diesel’s meningioma was in an accessible location, and that many cats do well after this type of surgery. Given Diesel’s age, though, and prior health conditions, he only had a 50-60% chance of surviving the operation, and given the expense, this was by no means an easy decision for us.

But we watched him carefully for a while, and even though it was obvious he was very ill, it was also obvious that Diesel wasn’t quite ready to quit this mortal coil. He was initiating play. He was interested in us and the world around him. We couldn’t ask him if he wanted to stay, and he couldn’t tell us in words, but he told us in other ways.

And as my vet said: it all comes down to what you will regret the least.

So on Tuesday, Diesel went in for surgery, and I spent that whole day looking at my phone as if it was a snake ready to strike.

So far, Diesel has been living up to our instincts about him: he was eating solid food the morning after the surgery. He’s up and about and when I picked him up at the hospital today, he managed to scamper onto a chair before the nurse and I could think to prevent him from hurting himself. He hasn’t been complication free, but so far, everything’s manageable. The tumour was benign, so there’s no metastasis to worry about. He’s not out of the woods yet, and has a long period of rest and recuperation ahead of him.

But Diesel is home now. And I am his very happy (and broke) person.

A great big thank you goes out to Dr. Mike Higgins and all the nurses at Canada West Veterinary. They are awesome.

Knowing

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Diesel

You say you want to know.

You think knowing will ease things somehow. Help prepare you.

You believe knowing will somehow insulate you. Provide a buffer between you and the bitter calculus of grief.

You use clinical phrases with the doctor like “manage a chronic condition vs. make quality and end of life decisions”.

So you spend the money, understanding full well that it will likely make no difference. Money can’t stave off death. But you spend it anyway. You don’t regret spending it. Because you want to know.

And now you do know. Soon there will be a hole in your life. One that use to be filled with soft paws, fuzzy hugs, a huge feather boa of a tail, warmth, companionship, and unconditional love.

Deep down, you knew already.

You know you will never be ready.

You said you wanted to know.

Diesel has a brain tumour.

 

My heart is broken.

SIWC Author Signing

KatrinaEvents, Workshops, Festivals & ConferencesLeave a Comment

Isolte and Saroya

Hey! So this week is Surrey International Writers’ Conference, one of the best writers’ conferences in North America. I’ll be there on Saturday evening signing books, along with author friends Shari Green (who’s got a great new adult colouring book out, Take Me To The Sea), Ironic Mom Leanne Shirtliffe, Denise Jaden, and kc dyer of Finding Fraser fame. Other names you might recognize who are signing are Jack Whyte, Mary Robinette Kowal, Danika Dinsmore, Anne Perry, Vicki Pettersson, Michael Slade, Stephen Galloway, Sam Sykes, and Robert Dugoni. See the SIWC website for the full list of authors, because there really are too many for me to list here.

This event is FREE and open to the public, so bring your books and come meet your favourite authors. I’ll have copies of Untalented for sale, as well as a few book plates.

5:30 – 7:00 PM, Saturday, Oct 24, Sheraton Guildford Hotel, Fraser Room

Prime Writing — Bliss Bennet

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Rebel Without a Rogue

One of the most often-asked questions of a writer is “where do you get your ideas?” Sometimes, it’s from a life experience. Sometimes, something as simple as an image can set off the whole spark for a novel. Bliss Bennet is here to tell us how a minor historical footnote inspired her debut novel, A REBEL WITHOUT A ROGUE.


We have got an addition to the family since you were last here, it is a little Girl said to be a daughter of poor Harry’s, it was bro’ very much against my inclinations.John McCracken to his brother Frank, September 1798

It’s amazing how a few short sentences from a primary or secondary research source can prove to be the catalyst for an entire novel. I first came across the lines reprinted above while reading a biography of Irish social reformer and abolitionist Mary Ann McCracken. Though well-known in late 18th and early 19th century Belfast for her progressive social beliefs and her activism on behalf of the indigent and the enslaved, today Mary Ann McCracken is primarily remembered as the younger sister of Henry Joy McCracken, one of the leaders of the northern rebels during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Arrested by the British after the rebels’ failed attempt to seize Antrim in June, “poor Harry” was offered clemency if he testified against other United Irishmen leaders. He refused, and was tried and executed in Belfast on July 17, 1798.

Shortly after her brother’s execution, Mary Ann McCracken was informed that the impetuous Harry had left behind an illegitimate child, and that “his inability to make provision for her had been his only sorrow in his last moments.” Taking the burden of the four-year-old child’s provision into her own hands, the unmarried Mary Ann helped the girl’s Irish mother and family to emigrate to America, then moved the child, whom she called Maria, into her father’s house in Belfast.

What would it have been like, I began to wonder, to have been that child? To have been born the bastard daughter of an Irish peasant, to have lived with a rural Irish Catholic family for the first years of one’s life, and then suddenly to find oneself uprooted and thrust into a genteel city family, one with Scottish roots and Presbyterian beliefs? And, on top of it all, to know that one’s father had been executed as a traitor? As I thought about this “what-if,” the main character of my first historical romance, A Rebel without a Rogue, and her quest to redeem her father’s reputation and win a secure place in her father’s family, was born.

By all accounts, the actual Maria McCracken grew up beloved by her aunt Mary Ann, with whom she lived in Belfast (except for time at a boarding school in Ballycraigy) until her aunt’s death. Even Maria’s own marriage did not separate them; “it was a foregone conclusion that Maria would bring her aunt to the new home,” her biographer writes.

A happy child and adult, though, does not a romantic heroine make. I hope Maria’s descendants will excuse the major liberties I’ve taken in imagining a far different course for the fictionalized characters I’ve loosely based on her life.

Historically-minded readers can find out more about the real Mary Ann McCracken (a far more fascinating woman than I’ve depicted in my novel) in Mary McNeill’s The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken: A Belfast Panorama. Dublin: Allen Figgis, 1960.


Bliss BennetBliss Bennet writes smart, edgy novels for readers who love history as much as they love romance. Despite being born and bred in New England, Bliss finds herself fascinated by the history of that country across the pond, particularly the politically volatile period known as the English Regency. Though she’s visited Britain several times, Bliss continues to make her home in New England, along with her husband, daughter, and two monstrously fluffy black cats. Her mild-mannered alter ego, Jackie Horne, blogs at Romance Novels for Feminists (www.romancenovelsforfeminists.blogspot.com).

 

Kind Words: A UNHCR Fundraiser

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There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.Kurt Vonnegut

The world has become distinctly unkind for a large number of people lately. Neil Gaiman writes about their experience more eloquently than I can. After looking into what it would take to sponsor a refugee here in Canada, and discovering it might be a bit beyond my capabilities right now, I decided to donate directly to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Yet I was still left feeling a little helpless, as though I should be doing more. Then I noticed Kevin Hearne running a fundraiser for UNHCR, and that inspired me to do the same thing. And maybe it’s still not enough, but it’s something, however small. The fabulously generous Camille Griep, Linda Tiernan Kepner, and the Martha’s Vineyard Science Fiction Association, which runs the Viable Paradise writing workshop, have all rallied to the call.

$150 raised so far
So without further ado, here’s the Kind Words UNHCR fundraiser. Please help us help someone who could really use a hand.

With your support, UNHCR will provide assistance such as:

  • Deliver rescue kits containing a thermal blanket, towel, water, high nutrient energy bar, dry clothes and shoes, to every survivor;
  • Set up reception centres where refugees can be registered and receive vital medical care;
  • Provide temporary emergency shelter to especially vulnerable refugees;
  • Help children travelling alone by providing specialist support and care.

How Kind Words works:

  • You make a donation to the UNHCR, in whatever amount you like. The link provided is international, but if you scroll down you’ll find a “Give Through Your National Office” button, which will get you proper tax receipts.
  • You send me a screen cap of the UNHCR acknowledgement e-mail (which looks like the featured image on this post) to kindwords [at] katrinaarcher [dot] com as proof of donation. Please don’t send me your PDF tax receipt, as it will contain personal details. If you also tell me how much you donated, I’ll try to keep a running tally of how the fundraiser’s doing.
  • I enter your name into a draw for one of the prizes below. If you win, I will contact you for shipping details.
  • You do a happy dance when you receive your prize in the mail. A refugee gets a start at a new life outside a war zone.
  • The fundraiser will run until September 26th.

And what, you may ask, are the prizes?

Letter to Zell - Camille GriepOne of two signed copies of Letters to Zell, by Camille Griep.

Everything is going according to story for CeCi (Cinderella), Bianca (Snow White), and Rory (Sleeping Beauty)—until the day that Zell (Rapunzel) decides to leave Grimmland and pursue her life. Now, Zell’s best friends are left to wonder whether their own passions are worth risking their predetermined “happily ever afters,” regardless of the consequences. CeCi wonders whether she should become a professional chef, sharp-tongued and quick-witted Bianca wants to escape an engagement to her platonic friend, and Rory will do anything to make her boorish husband love her. But as Bianca’s wedding approaches, can they escape their fates—and is there enough wine in all of the Realm to help them? In this hilarious modern interpretation of the fairy-tale stories we all know and love, Letters to Zell explores what happens when women abandon the stories they didn’t write for themselves and go completely off script to follow their dreams.

Griep-wsbCoverMED-509x763One of two copies of the anthology Witches, Stitches & Bitches, signed by Camille Griep

A STITCH IN TIME… IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY. Exquisite revenge and knitted doppelgängers; heartbreak and happy endings; unicorns, doomed dogs, and penitent frogs; steampunk fairies, conflicted stepmothers, and baseball—you’ll find it all here. Our literary alchemists weave a spell of fascination, drawing you deeper and deeper, tale by tale, until escape is impossible. But you’ll enjoy every minute of the plunge.  These sixteen deft and delightful stories involving witches, stitches, and bitches run the gamut from darkly disturbing to just plain fun. They will each take you out of the ordinary and into the world of magic, where older, weirder, or merely other rules apply. And just when you think things are all sewn up… some bitch may have a surprise for you.

LindaTiernanKepner-PlantingWalnutsCoverA copy of Planting Walnuts, by Linda Tiernan Kepner

Brannon, ex-Confederation Space Fleet Marine, blacklisted and broke, dodges an arrest warrant by joining an operation that needs money desperately enough to take the worst surveying jobs on the books. The team of Gonderjhee and Company, Surveyors, includes a cheated and bankrupt owner, an elderly office manager, an over-excitable intern, a clinically-depressed alien Fleet Captain, and a staff with a host of formidable handicaps, weaknesses – and strengths. Brannon’s goal is to keep them all alive long enough to pick up his share of the profits. But they aren’t the only ones getting an education out of this adventure.

 

Untalented-Web-MediumOne of two signed copies of Untalented, by yours truly

Saroya: Untalented, a stain on her family’s honor. Orphaned and barred from the Guilds, she has nowhere to go when her Talent fails to emerge. Loric: Brother-in-law to the king. Thwarted in his ambitions, he’d do anything to usurp the throne. And he finds just the scandal he needs when he unearths Saroya’s hidden pedigree. The Kingdom of Veyle: Where all power flows to the Talented, and where the Guilds and the Order of Adepts control the destinies of Talented and Untalented alike. When calamity strikes the capital city, with Untalents blamed and on trial, Saroya knows that proving her Talent and parentage means saving more than just her own life. A tangle of lies hides secrets that force Saroya to choose between her future and Veyle’s.

VPSwagOne of three writer care packs from the MVSFA, which consist of a Viable Paradise water bottle + pen & pencils, a Viable Paradise messenger bag + pen & pencils, or a Get Writing pack of pen & pencils

If you are a writer or other creative who would like to contribute an item to the prizes, please contact me prior to Sept. 26.

Please repost freely.