Saturday, June 30, 2012

Winner of Ballad of the Highwayman Giveaway!

The giveaway for "Ballad of the Highwayman" is up and the winner is Maddy Wilson! Congratulations! =D

Thanks to everyone who participated and showed interest in my novel; I hope those of you who didn't win might consider buying a copy anyway =)

Keep checking back for more giveaways this summer and also the release date of my upcoming novel "On a Foreign Field".

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Romance Vs. Bromance: How to avoid Awkward Moments between the Boys by choosing the Right Words

Yes, everyone, I did just use the modern vernacular "Bromance" (it's as close a word as people get to brotherly love anymore) this is a humor blog, and though I told myself I wouldn't use it, I found I couldn't help myself. (Sometimes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.)

So anyway, this post is about something I have been thinking of in the latest book I'm writing, "On a Foreign Field", because it has a strong sense of platonic brotherly love. More and more I see these themes getting axed, and I think it's because authors are afraid to add stuff like their guy characters hugging each other or whatever without having them being thought unmanly. This is bloody wrong, and here's why: When writing themes such as warfare and hard times, men form bonds that women just can't understand. Trail dust in thicker than blood, as Louis L'Amour would write, and trial by fire breeds a connection between comrades that only comes from sharing the same horrors they must face on the field. That's why I totally support physical brotherly love, and I have some tips here today that I hope will help people who feel the same as me! By all means, let your guys hug it out, let them comfort each other when their lasses aren't around to do that, or they just don't understand what's wrong with their lad. Here's how you can do it while avoiding awkward situations:

It really all comes down to how you word things. For one, guys do NOT "stroke" each other. Never EVER use this word when speaking of two guys. They slap each other or give each other a small affectionate punch. This is the equivalent between guys as a sister giving her brother a little kiss on the cheek. Guys don't punch each other to hurt each other: ladies, if you have brothers, you probably know this. A guy's form of affection is hitting his friend in the ribs instead of the face so he won't ruin his date with his girlfriend ;-). When guys really want to hurt each other, then they kick their opponent in the crotch.

Now, when hugging, guys "clasp" each other in a "rough/strong embrace". (Add some backslapping too when they're doing it happily). When they're doing it for comfort same words apply, but you can make it as gentle as you wish. In contrast, men "draw their women closer to them". See the difference?

Now, you can take a few more liberties when speaking of father-son relationships, even if your characters aren't actually father and son. Typically, no one is going to slander you or your characters when they know it's a father-son or big brother-little brother relationship.

And yes, your guys CAN kiss each other--on the forehead. I would just reserve it for when someone is dying ;)

If you want some great examples of authors who write good brotherly scenes you can read...My stories! Or you should read Rosemary Sutcliff. Her style of writing is something beautiful and you just can't find anything like it any more.

So I hope these tips will help you people like me who support brotherly love. My best advice is write what you want and don't worry about what people will think and if they call you on it, just get the pitch forks. And if you feel awkward about scenes you might have written like this, than just look over the wording in them as opposed to any romance scenes you might have written and fix any similarities. Your lads will thank you for it in the end, trust me!

Slainte, Hazel
Kilroy and Roster enjoying a comradely cup of ale at the Fiddler's Rant

Also, go and read my interview with Daniel Ottalini on his blog here!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Liebster Blog Award Nomination

I'm excited to announce that Character Purgatory has just been nominated for its first blog award, Thanks to Mara A. over at 667B Baker Street Thanks so much, Mara! Here are the rules for the Liebster Blog award:

1. Each person must post 11 facts about themselves.

2. Answer 11 questions the tagger has given you and give 11 questions for the person you tag.

3. Choose 11 people and link them to your post.

4. Tell them you've tagged them.

5. No tag backs.

11 Facts about Hazel West

1. I've been a history buff since third grade
2. My dream is to run a writer's retreat in the mountains of North Carolina.
3. I LOVE coffee.
4. I prefer reading and writing stories about platonic brotherly love above romance
5. I've watched the Horatio Hornblower series more times than any other movies I own.
6. My first finished novel was an alternate version of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 where all the characters were animals.
7. I own a broadsword.
8. I own a large array of historical clothing. That I wear on a normal basis.
9. I love Irish and Scottish folk music.
10. I'm currently trying to perfect my own fighting style that involves two short sticks.
11. My absolute favorite color is green.

Questions asked by

  1. If you could eat only one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    Peach Pie.
  2. What time period would you like to live in?
    Victorian England or the Old West. I would like to visit other time periods, but not live in them :)
  3. What's your favorite genre to read?
    Historical Fiction. Preferably adventure or war novels.
  4. What is the worst book you've read this year?
    I haven't really read anything bad this year, but I started a couple I didn't really enjoy, one being "A Long Long Way" by Sebastian Berry. Nothing to rant about though.
  5. Which do you prefer: cats or dogs? Why?
    Dogs. Dogs are loyal and great friends.
  6. Could you live without chocolate if it were banned tomorrow?
    No, absolutely not.
  7. Who is your favorite YA author?
    I'd say Rosemary Sutcliff but I see her in a different calibre than simply YA, so I'll say it's between John Flanagan and Kenneth Oppel.
  8. Have you seen any good movies in theaters lately? What was it?
    The best movie I saw this year in theaters I think was "The Avengers" but "Brave" was pretty good too.
  9. What's your preferred writing tool?
    My laptop usually, when I write on paper, I love smooth, colored pens :)
  10. What's the biggest number of drafts you've had to write for one story?
    Maybe two. I usually edit as I go, so I rarely have to start from scratch with anything, though the sequel to Ballad of the Highwayman is getting a huge makeover.
  11. Your favorite flower?
    Scottish thistle.

    My Nominations for the Liebster Blog Award

    (I don't have 11, hope that's okay)

    My 11 Questions

    1. Coffee or tea?
    2. What's the best book you read this year and what's the worst?
    3. What's your favorite genre to read?
    4. What's your favorite snack food?
    5. Your favorite movie?
    6. What's your favorite candle scent, or what would you love to have a candle scent of?
    7. Your favorite vacation spot?
    8. Your favorite article of clothing?
    9. What's something you have always wanted to do?
    10. Your favorite band?
    11. What's a book you would recommend to anyone?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Treat for a Victory! Another excerpt of "On a Foreign Field"

It's June 24th, the anniversary of the famous Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, won against Edward II's army. You can read about the battle on my other blog if you click on the link above.

In honor of the day, I am putting another excerpt of my newest book On a Foreign Field up for you to read. This is where I introduce Robert the Bruce for the first time at Wallace's knighting and inauguration to Guardian of Scotland after the Battle of Stirling. For this novel, I went with Nigel Tranter's idea and had Bruce be the one to knight Wallace. Enjoy!

“Scotland needs an unbiased party as her Guardian," Bruce said. "Not someone who will be accused of wanting only the power that will lead to the throne. It would only breed contention if I or my rival, John Comyn, were to take the position. Nor have we distinguished ourselves in battle as Wallace has when he defeated the English at Stirling Bridge. I know not what lies ahead for any of us, but if Wallace defeated the English once, then he shall certainly do it again. And the men will fight all the more gladly for their commander if he be proclaimed Guardian of Scotland, than just the knight’s son from Elderslie.”

There were equal cheers and cries of protestation when he was done but Bruce turned back to Wallace. “And if it be a problem he is not a knight, than we shall remedy that as well. Kneel, Wallace.”

The Scotsman stared judgingly at Bruce, then did as he said, kneeling on the floor as Bruce drew his sword and touched it to Wallace’s shoulder.

“William Wallace, it is by my right as an earl of the realm that I dub you, Sir William Wallace of Elderslie in the name of God, and create you Guardian of the people of Scotland. Rise, Sir William.”

There were again mixed exclamations in the hall as Wallace rose, a look of slight suspicion still on his face as Lennox and Steward came forward to congratulate him and Graham slapped his back heartily, though he too, looked a little surprised by the proceedings. Reeve moved through the crowd as everyone started to disperse or talked amongst each other about the choice, some for it, and some against, and others still not sure what to think. The room was an uproar of argument and the Englishman would not have been surprised if the nobles started fighting amongst themselves despite the fact that they were in a kirk.

Reeve saw Wallace pull Bruce to one side of the room to stand in a corner and the Englishman, though he didn’t want to eavesdrop, could not bring himself to move away, wishing to see the confrontation between these two young men who seemed so different and yet so much alike.

“What game do you play, Bruce?” Wallace asked him in a low voice.

“Need it be a game?” the blond nobleman asked. “Did I not make the right choice? You were already the inevitable decision, the spark in the air; I just fed the flames.”

“But why?” Wallace demanded. “You have shown little enough interest in me in the past, why now? Why now when you have so recently come back from England?”

“If you are calling me a quisling, I will say nothing on the matter. I will not deny that I have spent time in King Edward’s court, but it was more under the will of my father than my own free. You must not judge without knowing a man properly, Wallace.”

“I know your type well enough,” Wallace told him coldly. “If you really wanted to fight for Scotland, then you could lead the army yourself, and you know it, Robert. Tell me when a lord, even a son, of Annandale could not raise a thousand spears in a night to his name? The men would follow you and so would I. If you showed yourself to be a worthy leader of the Scots, than not a man who loved his country would deny you his service. Instead you choose to fraternize with the bloody English and Longshanks himself, and thus lose all trust of your own people.”

“And you see why I did not vie for the position of Guardian,” Bruce said, a bitter note in his voice. 

“One day, Robert, you will realize that you need not do what others wish of you. You can be your own man, and still achieve what you wish, whatever that may be. Don’t let people put ideas into your head. I know you have a lot to live up to with your family name, but we are fighting a war for freedom, and if our own people are not free from themselves and the cages they lock themselves in, than who will have the courage to win this war in the end?”

“And the people chose you because you are free,” Bruce told him with a harsh bark of laughter. “Not all of us have that luxury.” And he turned on his heel and soon disappeared into the crowd. Wallace turned away as well with a sigh and saw Reeve standing next to a pillar in the kirk. The Englishman looked away with a slight blush creeping over his face, embarrassed at being caught listening in on the conversation, but Wallace smiled and clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“I bloody hate politics,” he said. “Let’s go back to camp and have a fine supper and maybe a dance to celebrate? It has been too long since the men have had reason to laugh so we shall make the best of my fine ceremony.” 

Slainte, Hazel

(And don't forget, everyone, this is the last week to enter the Giveaway for "Ballad of the Highwayman" so if you have not entered yet, do it now! I'll be announcing the winner here this Saturday the 30th!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interview with Author Daniel Ottalini

Hello readers! I'm very excited to tell you that newly published author Daniel Ottalini has agreed to do an interview for my blog. His book, "Brass Legionnaire", is an exciting alternate history/steampunk novel combing awesome steampunk gadgets with the Roman Empire. Today he'll be talking about his book and writing in general.

First of all, when did you realize you were a writer? 

I've always enjoyed editing, but I had never really thought of myself as a writer until Brass Legionnaire. It was sort of funny, because I've started stories and even books before, but never finished them. In my opinion, writers are people who finish stories, not just start them. Once you finish one, then you are a writer. 
How did you come up with the idea for “Brass Legionnaire”?

Brass Legionnaire is an offshoot of an inside joke between my girlfriend and myself. It stuck in my head all night long and refused to let me sleep until I had written it down. After that, it sort of took a life of its own and grew rapidly. I had the entire novel with parts of other books in the series written down inside of a week.
What made you choose to combine steampunk with the Romans, and how did you come up with all the awesome steampunk machines in the book?

My three favorite types of novels are alternate history, historical fiction, and steampunk novels. Elizabethan England is the most prominently featured steampunk era, and I know that few authors have split from this mainstream era. The fashion and weapons and technology are easier to imagine because you already have a lot of fantastic machines to reference. For Brass Legionnaire, I had to think at a completely different angle. I've always loved Roman history, and this is just a logical progression to me of 'what if Rome had survived?'

The machines in the novel - most particularly the  
mechaniphant - are adaptations of animals that they Romans feared and respected. One of the most terrifying weapons of war the Romans faced were the elephants of Carthage - because it took them a while to figure out how to defeat them. It makes sense that the Romans would seek to emulate it and design a 'better' elephant that could be used in war - one that wouldn't be stopped by normal means. The other designs haven't been fully fleshed out yet. But there will be more in Copper Centurion, I promise!
Do you have a set writing schedule, or do you just do it whenever you get the time?

As a full-time teacher, its really hard for me to write during the school year. I aim for about 1000 words on the weekend, but that's rare for me. During the summer, I write at least 1-2k words a day, with more on the weekends. I finished Brass Legionnaire in one summer.
Who’s your favorite character in your book and why?

Hmm, that's tough. I'd say Constantine, although all the characters are like my children and I 'love them equally.' Constantine starts as a jerk, but he grows up somewhat. He might regress next book a tad - not facing life or death situations tends to let him slip up.

What are some of your favorite books and authors? Who inspires you?

I love books by S.M. Stirling, Harry Turtledove, and Rick Riordan. I can't ever narrow down a specific book that is my favorite because it changes all the time! Those same authors also inspire me and help me think about things that I would not normally consider.
Do you have any hobbies besides writing?

Haha, I teach, there is no time period. Although I do enjoying video games and soccer outside of my day-job.
Do you have any strange quirks or habits when you write like muses, favorite music or snacks?

If I'm writing a battle scene, I'll listen to music from Lord of the Rings or Snow White and the Huntsman (that's new) - Any classical music that is really dramatic works well for battle scenes. When I write, its in fits and bursts - I am very distractable and probably have four or five internet windows open while I write. 
I know are working on a sequel to “Brass Legionnaire” but besides that do you have any plans for further books, or even a different series?

Well I've planned the series out to five books. I also have some ideas floating around for a series that takes place at the same time, but on a different part of the globe. I really like the idea of mixing steampunk with cultures that aren't the standard Elizabethan fare, and needless to say, I've got the possibility of one, maybe even two more series lined up in my head.
And lastly, what is the best advice from your own experiences that you would share with any aspiring writers or newly self-published authors?

Finish your writing and find a really good editor and cover artist. They make the difference. Oh, and get people to read it before you send it to the editor. If you're self-publishing, you're responsible for everything. Your book should look good from the outside and read well on the inside. It's all about image. The cover art and blurb grab the reader, while the writing keeps them. If you have both, you can't fail.

Thanks so much, Daniel, it was a pleasure to have you! If you're interested in Daniel's book you can find it on Amazon from the link below:

And also visit his blog "Modern Papyrus" for updates on his books and tips for other writers.

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cover Preliminary Picture for "On a Foreign Field" (Kind of)

So yes, I said I would post a preliminary picture of what my cover will look like for my up-coming novel On a Foreign Field and this is it. Kind of anyway. This is actually just one step up from the sketches I've played around with. I like to try things out with the paints before I actually get to the final cover art because I want to make sure the colors and the situation works. Doing this, I realized I'm going to need a lot more practice but this is the first draft, and likely all you will see before the final! :P Yes, I know I'm being sneaky again, but I hold the power here and I don't like showing too much of my art until I'm done. Soon, I hope to get some pictures of my characters up and another little preview excerpt. Thanks to those who read my preview already and left feedback. It means a lot! If you haven't, please do.

For now, here's a little bit of what the cover *might* look like when it's done!!

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, June 11, 2012

The secret's out! Sneak Preview of my new Book!

So, yes, I have been cryptic a bit lately with what I am working on, but I decided I just couldn't wait any longer to share something with you all so I have put up a preview on Createspace that you can view here:

So, in general, this is another book about William Wallace, but this one is from the perspective of a young man names Reeve who is an English knight. The story opens on the eve of the Battle of Stirling Bridge and during the battle, Reeve is wounded and deserted by his comrades on the field to be taken captive by the Scots! Farther than that, you're not getting any more out of me, but that's what you'll get to read in the preview.

Please do read it and when you're done, don't forget to answer the questions at the bottom, it would mean a lot to me if you gave me your honest opinion, and no, you don't need a Createspace account to answer the questions, so don't use that as an excuse ;) Just let me know what you think, and soon enough, I'll be posting more fun sneaky things for this book On a Forign Field like preliminary cover art and I'll also start introducing the characters to you.

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What's in a Name?--Choosing the right names for your Characters

Probably the most important thing about creating characters for your novel is choosing a name that fits their personality. This can sometimes be stupidly easy, or blasted hard, depending on how stubborn the character is. I choose my names differently for every character. Sometimes I start out with a name I really like and I mould a character to fit the name. This is the easy way to do it, if this doesn't happen (and it rarely does) then here are some other tips that might help you.

I find names from all different sources; sometimes I even like to look through the character list in the back of my Complete Shakespeare where you can always find some very unique names. Another great source is 2,000 This is by far the best name site I have found (and you don't have to endure the pregnant woman adds or the pink and blue of baby name websites!) The best way I have found to find a character name for those stubborn people who seem like no name will ever fit them, is go to this site, find the country or the time period I am working with, and go through the list of names alphabetically, writing a list of all those that catch my fancy. Once I do that, I go over the list again and narrow it down. A lot of times, certain letters or sounds just will not work for a character. Your hero might not be an "A" person, he might be an "H" person or a "J" person. I don't really know how to explain this, but I have somewhat of a sixth sense when it comes to finding names. I say them out loud to myself and watch as my character shakes their head. When they finally seem to like one, you'll know, because it will click. I find that if the name sticks in your head and you start thinking of your character with that name on his little "Hello, my name is___" tag then this is probably the best bet for you. Another great way to find names is road names. I have named so many characters just by names I see for roads and town when traveling.

Sometimes you might have a name you love and really want to use it so you slap in onto a character in hopes that it will work out. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't, and when it doesn't, and your character is acting up and going out of character, then you might need to change the name. Another thing I like to do is play around with spelling. I get bored of normal names like John and Henry but if you like these names, you might like to consider spelling them differently. I like Jon myself, and one of my characters in my upcoming novel is named "Henridh" which is just a Gaelic spelling of "Henry". You might be having trouble with your "Kate", but if you change her name to "Cait" she might work out a lot better!

The best overall advice I can give on this is find names you like, something different and unique and things the reader will remember. Now the only problem is if you write historical fiction as I do, and you end up with three Johns and Williams. (Sigh) What is a writer to do?

Slainte, Hazel

Also, here's the results of the poll "Do you think eyepatches are dashing?" before I change it and put up another one:

4 said Yes
2 said NO
and 0 were undecided. Roster will be happy to know that more people think that they are dashing. ;)

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Perils of Shakespeare to Historical Fiction Writers--And a Rant

This is a little bit of a problem I have come across that maybe no one else has thought about, but something that I have been finding is increasingly hard to avoid. The general populous probably doesn't know that quite a few of the little sayings and words we say every day are things that were made up by the very famous and extremely talented William Shakespeare. It's truly amazing how many things he really "copyrighted" in his plays, and I doubt any one of us can go a day without quoting him, even if we don't know it, or are completely Shakespeare illiterate! This is where the problem starts. It is sometimes hard to define what he actually made up and what was around before hand. This is perfectly fine when writing anything during or after Shakespearian England, but before might prove a little more problematic. Obviously, you can't have your medieval characters quoting Hamlet, even if you didn't mean for them to quote him in the first place. It takes quite the Shakespeare expert to be able to discern what he made up and what he didn't, and I love people quoting Shakespeare. He never goes out of style--just make sure he was actually in style during the time you quote him!

And here's the rant...

Also on the topic of Shakespeare, I want to address something that is definitely one of my top pet peeves. And that is those whacked conspiracy theorists say that Shakespeare didn't write his own plays. Hello! it's obvious the same person wrote all of them, the humor and the plot lines and the writing are all too consistent (pure genius, in other words) to have been written by more than one person. Is it perhaps because Shakespeare is known to have spelt his name several different ways? Well, in Tudor times, there was no rules when it came to spelling, people spelled everything haphazardly, even their own names. It was not unlikely at all for anyone to misspell their name or a word or anything (perhaps a reason Shakespeare came up with so many words. He didn't care and neither did anyone else!) So I think people just need to let this one go. The only reason they try to convict him of being a fraud is because they know they could never write as well as Shakespeare, and who can? We writer's just aren't made like that anymore, so stop whining about it and just enjoy the plays for what they are!

I have decided I might have to make fridays official rant days ;)

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for "Ballad of the Highwayman" if you have not already! I'll be back soon with more posts.

Slainte, Hazel