Author Heather SunseriNews and Other Random Thoughts
It’s Friday morning, and I’m sitting here having my morning coffee reflecting on what I need to accomplish today. I thought I would take moment to check in with you guys and tell you a few of my favorite things this week. Why not, right?
It’s been a few weeks since I announced that I would start sending out more blog posts and random thoughts, and I’ve been very inconsistent so far. This is why it’s better if you sign up to receive the posts in your email (see below this post). That way it will be like a nice little surprise when I send out thoughts.
So, let’s get to it…
Any Barbara Freethy Fans? I Loved Perilous Trust (Off the Grid, FBI Series Book 1)
Unfortunately, I found myself stuck at the doctor’s office earlier this week at an appointment that took more than three times what it should have taken. While sitting there, I received Author Barbara Freethy’s newsletter, reminding readers that Reckless Whisper (Off the Grid, FBI Series Book 2) (AMAZON, iBOOKS) was releasing on March 21. Perilous Trust (Off the Grid, FBI Series Book 1) (AMAZON, iBOOKS) has been on my TBR (to be read) pile for a while, and so I thought, since my day was potentially gong to be ruined by a ridiculously long doctor visit, I pulled Book 1 up on my eReader and started reading.
I finished it in the middle of the night last night, and I loved it! The suspense was AMAZING! And you guys already know that I’m a sucker for a good FBI series. I’ve already preordered my copy of Reckless Whisper.
Have you read Perilous Trust? Are you a Barbara Freethy fan? Leave a comment below if you want to talk books!
My Bullet Journal Has Become One of My Favorite Things
I started bullet journaling last July, and now, I’m not sure how I survived before I discovered bullet journaling. The Bullet Journal was created by a man named Ryder Carroll. He initially developed the bullet journaling system as a way to manage his childhood attention deficit disorder, and now this system “helps people worldwide achieve their goals with greater efficiency and satisfaction.” See his TEDx talk on the the subject there.
From the Bullet Journal website:
The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.
I use bullet journaling to keep a detailed to-do list, keep track of my publishing schedule, which requires me to look ahead at what I need to be doing as book releases near. A bullet journal also helps me keep track of the marketing tools I’ve used that have worked (or not) with each book. It allows me to make notes and reminders. It’s both a journal and a calendar, and while it doesn’t replace my Google calendar, it does keep me organized.
Below is a picture of my current bullet journal plus a look inside my 6-month future log from 2017. You can purchase the exact bullet journal I use HERE.
Have you ever tried bullet journaling? Would love to know your favorite resources.
The last item on today’s list of favorite things: amazing childhood memories. I had a wonderful childhood. I grew up on a small farm in a small, central Kentucky town. I have tons of amazing memories. My father is selling my childhood home this month, and I’ve been tasked with going through a lot of my childhood and young adulthood memories, as well as a lot of my children’s memories of visiting their grandparents, as we clean out and pack up a house he (and my mom while she was alive) has lived in for the past forty years.
While I can definitely get emotional (and a little bit sad) if I think about the selling of this home too hard, I’m filled with joy as I revisit so many happy memories my family shared in our family home.
To cheer me up about this change in my life, I want to hear about one of your happiest childhood memories in the comments.
Hope you have a lovely Friday and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let me know if you’re excited about any of my favorite things for this week in the comments.
I’ve been researching the setting for a new book/series I’m working on, and I thought I would share a few insights into “some” of the ways I get a handle on a setting.
You see, it is very important to me that I make the reader feel like they’re actually living the book they’re reading. Or, at a minimum, I hope they can clearly picture the surroundings of a scene as if they’re visiting the place themselves. Here are a few ways that I do this.
Live Where the Book Is Set
Many of my books are set in Central Kentucky, where I have lived for most of my life. Midland, KY—where portions of the Mindspeak series and the In Darkness series are set—is a fictional town modeled after two Kentucky towns I know and love located midway between Lexington and the state’s capital of Frankfort.
Now, Mindspeak is actually centered around the setting of a boarding school, though the characters do venture out to other places. But that boarding school is very loosely based on a small university in one of the towns I modeled Midland after.
The In Darkness series is mostly set in Midland, though there are some excursions to Washington D.C., Chicago, and other Kentucky locations. For those areas, I’ve either traveled there, or I’ve done extensive research (read below).
Though I don’t subscribe to the “write what you know” mantra very often, that is exactly what comes into play with respect to setting novels in places you know well.
Travel to the Places You Wish to Set a Story
Tracked, book five of the Mindspeak series, was actually set in Costa Rica at a camp for humanitarians. I actually traveled to the town and stayed in the camp that this book centers around. I had first-hand experience into the setting, and I’ve received some beautiful emails telling me that I “nailed the setting” of that book. Hopefully, when you read Tracked, you feel the same way.
I’ve explored the Asheville, North Carolina area in the past. I was already familiar with that area when I decided to set the Emerge series near the Biltmore House. Of course, I used Pinterest and my imagination to come up with how much the Biltmore and surrounding areas had deteriorated after a virus killed off most of the population of the United States. You can check out photos I used for inspiration on the Emerge, Uprising, and Renaissance Pinterest boards.
This past summer, I visited Paris, France and London, England plus a few other cities and areas in those countries. A new series I’m working on will be set all over Europe, so visiting these places helped me to know the sounds and smells, as well as be able to picture some of the smaller details I need to make a reader feel like they’re actually inside the story they’re reading.
Google Maps and Other Internet Searches
Sometimes, you just can’t visit a place you’d like to set a book or particular scenes within a book.
I have never been on an atoll in the middle of the Pacific, however Mindsurge took us to such a place. Palmyra Atoll is an actual place with a very rich history that inspired the fiction I created for such a place. Yet, some of the details I used weren’t completely fiction. If you want to be fascinated by a place not many will ever visit, visit Palmyra Atoll’s Wikipedia page. While you’re there, you can learn about an actual murder mystery that was written about in a true crime novel, And the Sea Will Tell.
As I’ve been writing a novel that is coming later in 2018, I’ve been using Google Maps to zoom in on bars and houses in Paris, France and London, England. It’s amazing how many actual details and the feelings you can get just by using this feature of Google Maps.
Airbnb, Zillow, and other Homes for Rent or Sale Searches
My absolute favorite way to get a feel for homes my characters might live in or visit is to do searches on Airbnb. You can visit castles in Europe, horse farms in Kentucky, honeymoon destinations I might never afford, etc. just by doing such searches. This is exactly how I found the house in London, England that Dimitri lives in when he’s in London. (Dimitri, from the In Darkness series, is the co-star of a new series coming later in 2018. If you want to make sure you’re receiving all the news about this series, make sure you’re signed up to receive my monthly newsletter.)
Friends Who Live in Places You Wish to Write About
Over the weekend, I was having a problem with something in my plot. I wanted to write a scene where my main character would break into a home in London, England by entering through the back courtyard, but it dawned on me: I wasn’t sure you can actually enter a home in London from the back. I was imagining an alleyway behind the row houses. Well, thanks to an email to a friend who lives in London, I was set straight. The only way to get to the courtyard or garden behind one of these row houses is through the house. She even told me a story of a friend who had a tree removed from his garden. They had to cut it down in pieces and carry the pieces through the house to dispose of it.
So, yeah, when you’re not sure, email a friend.
Setting Truly Comes to Life in the Small Details
So all of the methods above are ways for me to learn about the settings I wish to write about, but the true way to bring a setting to life is to use clear and specific descriptions. How does a place look (of course), but also what does a character hear and smell while in a setting? How does the setting make them feel? Do you get the feeling of small town charm? Or fast-paced, big city life? Does it rain a lot? Is it cold or warm?
I’ve actually spoken to authors who never write specific details of seasons so that a book can’t be placed in a certain time of year. This isn’t right or wrong, but I’ve typically done the opposite in my most recent books. I like to place the reader directly into a setting by describing if the leaves on the tree are changing colors, non-existent, or just starting to bud. A rainstorm or snowstorm can be used to completely change the mood of a scene. Does a warm fire come in handy when a couple is having a serious conversation that might change their future?
I have only skimmed the surface in this post the many ways a writer brings a setting to life. But I treat a setting as important as the developing of a character. Sometimes, the setting is a character.
So, tell me, how important do you find the setting of a book? Do you have a favorite type of book that is centered around setting? (For example, many people enjoy books set in southern U.S. towns. I like books set in Pacific Northwest towns and Alaska, though I’ve only written one book set in Portland, OR — Deceived.)
- Write first. Save everything else for after.
- Schedule your writing time like you do your most important appointments. Short of unfortunate emergencies, don’t allow anyone to interrupt that scheduled time.
- Don’t wait for inspiration to hit. If you’re not feeling the story, write anyway. You might have to throw some words out, but more often than not, you’ll write yourself into being inspired.
Do you work at home? Or are you a writer or creative? What advice can you add to this?
So… my reader group, Sunserious Readers, has been on Facebook for years. It is an intimate group of readers. People are invited to join after they sign up for the reader newsletter. The only question readers are asked when joining is: “What’s your favorite Heather Sunseri book?”
Inside Sunserious Readers, we discuss the books we’re reading, the highlights of our day, emotional support peacocks, and other things like ‘Lady Doritos’. Also, I keep Sunserious Readers updated on what’s going on in my writing world, sometimes giving this intimate group of readers an early peek inside the latest book I’m writing or an early look at the newest book cover.
Lately, I’ve been seeing so many posts on Facebook from authors and others moaning about the latest changes in Facebook. This is not the first time this has happened, either. Authors and owners of other business pages on Facebook have known for years that they can’t truly reach the people who have “liked” their page. They know that in order to reach those “like” people, they have to boost the posts or take out Facebook ads. In other words, authors are having to pay to reach people who want to hear from them.
I realize that Facebook just wants to make money like other businesses. And I’m fine with paying for advertising to reach new readers, or to let everyone know I have a new book out. But do I really have to pay to reach the people who have liked my page or signed up to be a part of my reader group, just to say: “Good morning. How’s everyone’s day going?” Or: “Did you see all the commotion about ‘Lady Doritos’ on Twitter yesterday?”
For now, Sunserious Readers is still on Facebook, and we’ll continue that way, but I’m running a business here. And like all of you, I’m busy trying to work and get things done during the day. Facebook is an outlet where many of us take a water cooler break. If Facebook is going to continue to make those breaks unpleasant, costly, and too difficult, I’m a fan of moving the water cooler.
Oh, and look! I have a lovely water cooler right here. I can even email people when something new is happening at the water cooler. And I promise, promise, PROMISE that there will never be advertisements in the middle of my posts drawing you away from what you actually came to the water cooler for.
If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on what’s happing at the water cooler, sign up below to hear all of my “Random Thoughts” (like The Day I Told My Mother’s Church Friend I Wanted to Become a Bartender) in your inbox. Or click here.
Tell me: What are your thoughts about Facebook these days? Do you think the platform is changing? Or maybe you don’t think you want the hassle of clicking off of Facebook to read and discuss on someone’s website? I would really love to hear thoughts on this matter.