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What Determines the Course of Characters’ Relationships?

A question put to authors on Alignable asked what determines the course of their characters’ relationships. I responded there but thought the topic made an excellent blog post.

A lot of what determines the course of a character’s relationships has to do with the character’s psyche at the beginning and how they must develop by the end. When I studied psychology, the person-situation debate always fascinated me, so when I write, I consider who the character is and how they’d react in the situation.

art fingers foggy hand

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

The show Supernatural does this very well. Sam and Dean often react differently in the same situation because they’re different people. They evolve through the course of the fourteen seasons I’ve watched so far, but they remain true to their characters. Even Sam without a soul retains characteristics that make him Sam, and he behaves differently than Dean would in the same situation.

This topic came up as well when another author consulted me about two characters he had in one of his stories. They were both so similar they’d behave exactly the same way if placed in the same situation. This meant they were interchangeable, which, in storyland, makes one of them extraneous.

When I plan out my stories, often, the characters come first. This was the case in my novel Injury, which focused on an actress at the height of her career. The idea for it grew from an assignment my daughter did back in grade eight. She had to write a biography of a famous person, and part of the assignment required her to create a list of questions for that celebrity. One of the questions she listed was “If you could ask your father anything right now, what would it be?”

That question fascinated me, and I considered what it would be like to be a famous actress whose father had abandoned her. Then I thought about what it would be like if the abandonment story were a lie. Her whole self-esteem would’ve formed around the lie she believed, and now she’d have to change her self-talk to reflect the truth.

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the novel, actress Daniella Grayson has always kept herself in the limelight, trying to get the attention of the father she believed abandoned her when she was five. Her past relationships were an unconscious search for a father figure. At the beginning of the story, Dani learns that her father’s remains have been found and her mother was arrested for the murder. Now she must reframe everything she believed about herself, her father, and her mother.

All my stories contain characters whose childhoods affected them and whose relationships molded them.

A prime example is The Hunted, which picks up the story begun in Storm Lake twelve years after Rachel and her brother encountered the monsters there. How Rachel has dealt with the trauma differs radically from how Jeff deals with it.

In Poison Pen, I have three main female characters, all authors, who must reframe their beliefs about themselves and their relationships after one of their colleagues (who is also the brother of one of the three) is murdered in the home he shares with his sister. Each main character had a relationship with the victim, and now he’s not only gone but his killer is still out there. This is a howcatchem rather than a whodunit, so the reader knows who the killer is, but the characters don’t realize he’s a member of their writing group. They all have a relationship with the killer, and the story explores how this murder influences all their interactions.

Poison Pen image courtesy of Patti Roberts of Paradox Book Covers

Poison Pen image courtesy of Patti Roberts of Paradox Book Covers

​In Gillian’s Island, an Ontario woman going through a messy divorce is forced to sell her island resort. She’s an introvert and must teach a developer from New York how to run the place when he buys it. There’s an instant attraction between them, but she labels him a playboy based on what she’s seen about him on the internet. She makes a lot of assumptions that affect her attitude and behaviour. At the same time, someone is sabotaging the resort, which complicates everything but also pushes them together.

purple crocus in bloom during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the Valiant Chronicles books The Experiencers and A Ring of Truth, the two main characters have been together in previous lifetimes but don’t realize it. I wanted to explore the idea that reincarnation exists, and its purpose is to fulfill destinies. The premise is that people keep coming back until they learn what they are supposed to learn to move to the “next level” or they complete some task they were supposed to complete.

To sum up: it’s all about the characters, who they are, who they will become, and what motivates them to behave the way they do and form the relationships they do. All of my stories explore relationships between characters because interactions with others are critical to character development.

Say My (Pen) Name

Readers, are you a fan of genres or a fan of authors?

It’s an important distinction and one that I contemplate more often since I published my books. What is my brand? Is it the genre in which I write or is it my writing style? What if I write in multiple genres? Can I keep my identity?

This morning I read the following in an article called “Marketing: Your Author Central Page” by Randy Ingermanson in his newsletter, The Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine:

Many authors write all their books under a single name. That makes a lot of sense if all your books are related to each other in some way.

But if you write very different types of books, it might be better to write each type under a different name (or a different variation of your name). The reason is to avoid “brand confusion” in your marketing. When you have widely different target audiences, you don’t want to market all your books to all your target audiences. You want to market each book only to its particular target audience.

I’m sure that makes all kinds of business sense, but as a reader, I’ve always wondered why authors feel the need to go undercover like that. Eventually, they’re discovered and then their loyal fans flock to the newly discovered books. Why not skip the cloak-and-dagger stuff and admit you wrote the books?

Now I know it’s usually at the behest of the publisher, so I won’t blame the authors for this, but if, as Ingermanson says, you should market the book to the particular target audience, can’t you do that even if you keep your name?

Stephen King wrote novels under the name Richard Bachman. As soon as he was outed, the Bachman books sported the line “Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman.” His fans then bought the Bachman books in droves. Same deal with Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb. As soon as her fans discovered she authored the “In Death” books, they flocked to read them and now all the In Death books sport the line “Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb.” Ditto Anne Rice/A. N. Roquelaure.

As a reader, I find that annoying. If I love reading an author, I don’t give a rat’s ass what they write. If Nora Roberts wants to explore futuristic murder mysteries, as she did with the In Death books, I’ll read them. For God’s sake, I’ve read her Silhouette Romance books because she wrote them, and I don’t typically read Silhouette romances.

In my own experience with selling my novels, I’ve found there are two types of readers. One type will read anything I write, and they’re readers just like me. They follow the author, not the genre. The other type of reader will stick to the genre they prefer. They’ll read every single one of my romantic suspense novels, but they won’t read the SF thrillers or the urban fantasy (even if they have romance in them). The other readers in this category will read all my SF thrillers and horror stories but stay the hell away from the romantic suspense.

When I talk to potential readers at book signings and events, I’ll ask them what genre they enjoy reading. This helps me determine which of my books to introduce them to. All my books are under my name. I am my brand, and yes, I understand what Ingermanson says about brand confusion, but I trust my readers to eyeball my books and decide if the one they’re looking at is for them.

What I don’t want is to hide books from readers who will read a wide variety of genres and follow me, the author.

I recall thinking once that Stephen King could write about anything, even someone taking a shit (and he has), and make it interesting. I’ve since revised that opinion–Lisey’s Story and some of his later books had parts I considered boring–but the point is that I want to explore everything he writes regardless of genre. I’d prefer it if I didn’t have to wait for someone to out his pen name to learn he wrote another book. As a reader, this type of subterfuge annoys me.

Fellow scribes, how do you feel about this? Is it an issue for you? Readers, do you prefer authors who use multiple pen names for books they write in different genres?

Mom’s Favorite Reads UK Store

Mom's UK Store

Mom’s UK Store

Great News!

Mom’s Favorite Reads now has an Amazon UK store.

My Valiant Chronicles books are included in the “Mystery Suspense Thriller” section (click on the “Show More” button a couple of times to uncover them.)

If you’re in the UK, you’ll be able to purchase any of the books offered in the store. If you’re not in the UK and one of the books sparks your interest, you can search for it in the Amazon store for your country.

Browse through the variety of books on offer and download your next favourite read today.

Happy reading!


Mom’s Favorite Reads 2019 Spring Catalogue

Spring2019CatalogueMom’s Favorite Reads has released the spring catalogue for 2019 and I’m honoured to report that my books are included.  Download and browse the catalogue to find your next favourite author. Explore a new or beloved genre.

Grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine and curl up with the catalogue now. It features 105 pages, 30 categories, and 637 books, plus big-name authors and #1 bestsellers. Truly, there is something in Mom’s catalog for everyone.

Read #FREE and discover a new favourite author today.

50 Best Indie Books of 2018 on ReadFreely

About Three Authors: Poison Pen

About Three Authors: Poison Pen

Voting is almost done for this year’s ReadFreely’s 50 Best Indie Books of 2018.

Poison Pen made the shortlist, and I’d love for you to help me out and vote for it. You can vote twice for each email address.
Here is a direct link to the form for voting for it (they seem to have a bug that redirects links to their home page, but clicking on it a second time usually does the trick):
Thanks for your help, and thanks to the readers who nominated it.
If you’d like to check it out, you can find it at various retailers using this link.
Also, anyone in the Newmarket area can check it out of the Newmarket Public Library (just got the cheque in the mail for that one–woohoo) and read it for free.

The Amazon Game: Are Books Disappearing from Amazon’s US Site?

Lately, indie authors have noticed something hinky with Amazon’s e-books. They seem to be disappearing from the Amazon US site.

When my novels fell victim to this crime, I tried to find them via my Bookshelf in KDP. Here’s what I found, using my novel Poison Pen as an example:

I’d never seen this “feature” before, but today I noticed that when you hover over “Live” on your KDP book, you get this:


When you click on “See title availability details” you get this:


When you drill down into “View details” in the row pertaining to Amzon.com (notice the Status for it says “Limited availability”), you get this:


Notice how in Canada it says “Unavailable”?

Scroll back up to the image with the Availability Report for Poison Pen. Notice how the row for Amazon.ca says “Live”? When I view the details on that, I see this:


It seems Amazon isn’t removing e-books and making them unavailable for purchase. They are mucking around with visibility depending on the country you’re in. This is causing frustration amongst authors who want to check their pages on countries they don’t reside in.

What’s scary for us non-US residents is the fear that users searching for books to read will no longer find these books in the search results. I’ve often searched in Amazon US for something and then clicked on the CA link to view it on the Canada site. Now that I understand (I think) what’s happening, I’ll do those searches on the Canadian site.

I’ve also noticed that direct links will get you the book’s page in the US even if it’s unavailable for you to purchase there.

While this new feature *cough* bug *cough* will take some getting used to, we’ll have to see how it shakes out and affects sales.

Amazon: unilaterally moving the goal posts for authors once again.

Injury Shortlisted for Best Book Award

InjurySo excited. I received this notice from ReadFreely and would like to politely beg, I mean, request you to please vote for Injury:
Hi Val,
At ReadFree.ly we’ve started an exciting new competition to crown the Best Book We’ve Read All Year. And Injury has made the shortlist….
…So what do you need to do? Nothing really; you’ve already done the hard part, you’ve written the book. However, you may wish to encourage your fans to visit our site and vote for Injury: there’s a link on our homepage, or they can go here – http://www.readfree.ly/bbwray2018/ ….
If you’d like to read Injury, you can download it here for #FREE: https://www.books2read.com/injury
Thank you for your help and support!

Ian and Daphne’s First Kiss

poison pen ebook cover 30june2017I’m thrilled to be featured as a guest blogger on Bonnie Phelps, Author blog. I’m sharing the first kiss between Daphne and Ian from my Romantic Suspense, Poison Pen, which is part of the About Three Authors series.
 “Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Val Tobin, and an excerpt from her Romantic Suspense, Poison Pen…”
Visit Bonnie’s blog to experience the kiss.