Wednesday, May 03, 2017

IWSG: Researching Can Be Fun

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecurities. If you haven't yet, join in. You'll be glad you did!

Each month we have a question. This month's question is:

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

This is an easy one for me. I landed my agent with a series about tweens who ghost hunt for fun. It came close to being bought, spending eight months with one big publisher who finally passed because by then the ghost hunting craze was dead...but a movie with the same title as my series came out in 2016:

I've never done more "research" than I did while I was writing my Ghost Patrol books. We took a day trip to see this haunted place in Kentucky:

We stayed in this haunted hotel and even did a little amateur ghost hunting. But the only thing going on there was a cross-dressing beauty pageant.

Taking it a step farther, I actually took a ghost-hunting class at a local community college. I learned that I'm probably never going to see a ghost...not sure why. But that doesn't stop me from being fascinated by them.

Video clip credit: Ghost Hunters
Have you ever done something fun in the name of "research?"

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Open-Ended Stories: Guest Post by Olga Godim

Today is a very special day. Half the blogosphere has a new book out. To celebrate, the very talented Olga Godim is stopping by to discuss the challenges of writing a series. After reading his post, be sure to scroll down to read all about Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life.

Open-Ended Stories
By Olda Godim

If you want to write a series of stories or make the world you created for one story fit for many others, you need to make that world open-ended. I don’t mean a cliff-hanger at the end of the current plot. No, I mean a potential for future conflict, consciously introduced by the writer. There are several ways to achieve such a goal. I’ll touch on the three that are used consistently in genre fiction.

1. A story set in a small business or a shop, with the proprietor as the protagonist. It could be a PI office, but it also could be a bakery or a book store or even a school. Every customer who comes through the door is a potential catalyst of a new story. Sometimes, the protagonist knows her visitors: neighbors, schoolmates, or friends. They have common interests and frequently swap gossips, and those gossip exchanges often set up story after story. Many mystery series follow this approach, while hardly any is set in Walmart or another retail or industrial giant. The corporate business model perceives all their employees and customers as faceless, uniform, and thus diminishes the open-ended potential of a small business. 

2. Protagonists with large families. Historical romance writers often adhere to this route. They concoct families with a plethora of brothers, sisters, and cousins and then proceed to write a separate novel for each sibling. A variation of this method is a group of buddies instead of a family: officers from the same unit or members of the some ladies’ club. In this case, each member carries his own story.     

3. Political instability. This is the domain of speculative fiction writers. They make up their own worlds and often draw maps of such worlds. Different countries on such maps have different rules and rulers, and the potential for conflict is bottomless. Racial discrimination – yes. Territorial aggression – yes. Treachery – yes. Religious persecution – yes. Succession squabbles – yes. Dragons vs. humans – sure. Magically animated cucumbers vs. kangaroos – why not. Inexperienced writers might want to cram all of the above into one story, but the more savvy wordsmiths reserve one conflict per one story and stretch a series into years and decades of writerly bliss. Going back in history in each of their imaginary countries on their imaginary maps provides them with even more material for new stories.

My short fantasy story Captain Bulat in the anthology Hero Lost combines a couple of the techniques mentioned above. My protagonist Altenay is a Finder. She uses her magic to find lost things and people. Small business approach qualifies, and every new client of hers might turn into a new story, if I wish it. 
The second potential for conflict is Altenay’s ethnicity. She is a Bessar, an ethnical minority in the kingdom where she lives. She is not worried. Young and optimistic, she thinks that every neighbor is a nice guy, and nobody would stir trouble over her hair color or her choice of headwear. She might be wrong. I, her writer, am much more attuned to the people’s moods. I’m sure some of Altenay’s neighbors dislike Bessars in general and resent Altenay’s success in her business in particular. There might be ugly tribulations ahead of my heroine. I don’t know if I ever write another story about her, but if I do, I have already created the framework for new stories and new conflicts. Just in case.


Olga is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Both her children, a son and a daughter, have already flown the nest. To sustain her nurturing instincts, she now collects toy monkeys. She has over 300 monkey figurines in her collection. As a journalist, Olga writes personal profiles of the local artists, actors, and musicians. As a fiction writer, she prefers fantasy. In the past few years, her fantasy and magic realism short stories have been published in multiple internet and print magazines. Her book SQUIRREL OF MAGIC is a collection of urban fantasy short stories. Her novels EAGLE EN GARDE and ALMOST ADEPT are parts of her ongoing sword-and-sorcery fantasy series.  In 2015, EAGLE EN GARDE won EPIC eBook Award in the Fantasy category.

Author Links:


Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Buy Links:

Amazon | B&N

Monday, May 01, 2017

Mystery Monday: The Missing Sodder Children

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

***Warning: Today's mystery involves children.***

The date was December 24th, 1945. Like many families, the Sodder family opened their gifts on Christmas Eve. The three youngest children--Martha (12), Jennie (8), and Betty (5)--were so excited about their gifts, they asked to stay up late to play with them. They were told they could stay awake until the two oldest children--Maurice (14) and Louis (9)--went to bed. There were four other children, but one was staying with a friend that night.

Parents George and Jennie went to bed. At 12:30 a.m., Jennie was awoken by a ringing phone. She went downstairs to answer it. On the other end of the line was a woman, asking for the name of someone she didn't recognize. Jennie could hear clinking glasses in the background. She noticed the curtains had not been drawn and the lights were still on--two chores the children would normally have taken care of before retiring to the attic where they slept.

Jennie with her son John

Around 1 a.m., Jennie woke once again after hearing the sound of something hitting the roof. It was followed by a rolling sound. Approximately 30 minutes later, she smelled smoke. When she investigated and found one of the empty rooms was on fire, she woke her husband and they evacuated with three of the children. However, five of the children were still upstairs and they couldn’t get to them because the stairway was on fire.

George and Jennie Sodder did everything they could to get to the children. They tried to get help by phone. George tried to smash a window, managing to cut himself in the process. All efforts to save them failed.

The home burned for more than six hours before the fire department finally arrived. In the rubble that remained, no sign of the missing five children were found. While many people think of cremation, a house fire doesn’t burn hot enough to completely cremate a body — bones and skeletons should have remained. They were simply missing.

The site was investigated and examined many times over the years, with no sign of the children. The parents are convinced they were kidnapped that night, with the fire set to disguise the crime. Up until their deaths in 1969 and 1989, George and Jennie believed their children were still alive. They maintained this billboard in the hopes it would lead to answers:

What do you think happened to the Sodder children?