Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Happily Ever After – Or Not, A Satisfying Ending: a guest post by JC Nelson

Note From Liana: Huge round of applause for my friend and crit partner J.C. Nelson whose debut novel FREE AGENT comes out today! 

I admit to being a sucker for happily ever after endings. Or at least endings which leave me believing that these characters I’ve spent hours of my life with are going to be ok, even if I don’t get to see it. Today, I’m going to talk a bit about what it is that makes a satisfying ending – the ending I was waiting for, even if I didn’t know it.

My writer friends have come to fear when I read their climactic chapters, not because I’m some guru or expert about how everything should be done. But because for endings, I have high expectations.  So here are the components, for me, of an ending that will leave me feeling like my journey with the characters wasn’t wasted:

1.       I need stakes. The ending has to have something critical at stake. It may not be the end of the world, but it has to be important to the character. If a book’s final confrontation is about whether or not a fast food order is made right…the stakes need to be higher.

2.       I need key moments.  The ending has to make me feel like we followed the right set of characters to reach this ending, this resolution. If I can swap the characters in a story out for a set of boy scouts, and they weren’t already boy scouts, and the novel still ends the same way…not good. Why? Because the ending has to match the characters.

3.       I need the ending to be a product of the character’s journey in the novel.  If the character’s arc is to hold fast against everything, then I need to see that affirmed.  If the character is on an arc of change, I want to see that change be the key to the resolution.

So you can summarize this simply: Happily ever after or not, the best endings are the ones where I know that the resolution is simply the only one that could possibly have happened. That given these characters, their journey, and the situation, there couldn’t have been another outcome, because it was who they were.

I remain a sucker for happy endings. I see enough ugly in real life, every day. In my books I want the promise of something better. But happy or not, I need the ending to match the characters and their situation.

For me, that’s the key to a satisfying ending.  What do you like to see in an ending? Kissing? Death? (Death and Kissing?)  Noble sacrifices, or epic battles?

1 Signed Print copy of Free Agent, 4 electronic copies of Free Agent:
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

When it comes to crafting happily-ever-afters, the Agency is the best in the land of Kingdom. The Fairy Godfather Grimm can solve any problem—from eliminating imps to finding prince charming—as long as you can pay the price…

Working for Grimm isn’t Marissa Locks’s dream job. But when your parents trade you to a Fairy Godfather for a miracle, you don’t have many career options. To pay off her parents’ debt and earn her freedom, Marissa must do whatever Grimm asks, no matter what fairy-tale fiasco she’s called on to deal with.

Setting up a second-rate princess with a first-class prince is just another day at the office. But when the matchmaking goes wrong, Marissa and Grimm find themselves in a bigger magical muddle than ever before. Not only has the prince gone missing, but the Fae are gearing up to attack Kingdom, and a new Fairy Godmother is sniffing around Grimm’s turf, threatening Marissa with the one thing she can’t resist: her heart’s wishes.

Now Marissa will have to take on Fairies, Fae, dragons, and princesses to save the realm—or give up any hope of ever getting her happy ending…


A Texas transplant to the Pacific Northwest, JC Nelson lives with a family and a flock of chickens near rainy Seattle.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Birthday Presents and Toast

Ready to hear a story about my childhood? Okay. Here we go...

Once upon a time, back before Amazon wishlists and the internet were a thing, birthday presents were a very dangerous thing. Sometimes you got the really cool toy everyone knew about. Sometimes you got the toy everyone knew about but that you secretly hated. And sometimes, if you were very, very lucky, you got the cool thing no one knew about and that you'd never heard of, but it changed your life forever and it was amazing.

Now a days? Not so much.

My personal theory is that guessing what a person wanted was actually better for gift giving and relationships. It's sounds crazy, I know. Especially coming from someone who has an entire list of Very Awkward Birthday Presents in her past. But hear me out.

A wishlist is, in essence, a suggested shopping list and most people won't deviate from the list for fear of not getting the right thing. This isn't a bad idea for weddings and baby showers where the recipient may already own certain things you'd be inclined to buy. My problem with the wish list, and even the question, "What does your kid like?" is that it cuts off the creative process of present shopping.

Worse, if you buy someone something they already know they like, you are denying them the opportunity to discover something new. It means you'll never get the flawless, perfect present that you never knew you needed because you never knew it existed.

When I was a kid my presents from friends were always things my friends were interested in. This is how I was introduced to My Little Ponies, She-Ra, and Cabbage Patch dolls. It was also why I received a toaster for my fifth birthday from my neighbor, and I still think she is the most wonderful person in the world for giving me that toaster.

See, when I was five, we had no toaster. Toast was a special treat I only ate when we went out for breakfast or when I went to my neighbor's house (hi, Wayne!). Wayne's mom had a toaster. Wayne's mom would make me toast for snack after school. With butter on it, and jam. I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world.

And she gave me a toaster for my birthday!!!

That toaster was still in my mom's house when I left for college. But, you know what? No one today would give a toaster because they loved toast. It wouldn't be on a wishlist.

When I was in high school my friend asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said a book (obviously!), but I didn't have a wishlist and this was a school-only friend who never once saw my house. How was he to know what book to get me? He guessed. I remember him being terribly nervous when I unwrapped my book.

"Do you have that one yet?"

"No, but it looks cool." It was THE MIDSHIPMAN'S HOPE, a military sci-fi book with strong naval elements, faster-than-light travel, and shop gobbling aliens. I loved it! I'd never heard of the series and I never would have if a friend who knew I liked sci-fi hadn't given it to me.

So now it's July. Two of my children have birthdays this week. All I've heard for the past month is, "Do you have a wishlist? What do they want? What should I buy?"

For the most part I've said, "Let your kid pick something out." Because that's what I really want.

Bug doesn't need another LEGO set. Eldest doesn't need another glossary of Egyptian terms. They both need to have their horizons expanded a little. They need to find new things to love. New books to read. New toys to fire their imagination.

So, little informal poll in the comments section today: Are you pro wishlist or do you want people to surprise you with their gifts? 
State your reason if you have time to do so (I know it's Monday and you're busy). 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chapter 3 Is Cursed

I don't know what it is about chapter three, but it always makes me run in fear.

Maybe it's a commitment issue. If you write chapter three you are going to write the book. You have to. Three chapters worth of writing deserves some focus.

Or maybe it's that by chapter three my brain runs out of new creative ideas and demands some form of logic so I have to go write out a rough outline. I have to figure out the timeline, and how things work, and all those random details that I would otherwise avoid like the plague. But you need them after chapter three or the editing will be worthy of Dante's wrath.

Honestly, it could be that I have the attention span of a gnat on crack and that unless the story is really spellbinding I want to chase after other shiny ideas, not do the outlines and plotting I need for chapter three.

Whatever the case is... I made past chapter three on Book 4. I was very proud of myself. Then I hit chapter seven and started to (metaphorically) cry. Mostly because I think that several scenes I wrote, while being very good, are utterly useless and will have to get chopped. That's a depressing realization. But there it is.

Rough drafts suck. There's no way around it.

*opens document and sighs heavily*

This means chapter seven is really Chapter 3. I'm going to have to cut stuff. And Chapter 3 is still cursed.