Doing Parties Right

In October, Joshua Blackwell and Zoe Bentley participated in the First Annual Doing Life Right Teleconference. Participants talk on video about something they do right in life, so other people can, too.

In “Doing Parties Right,” Zoe describes the six elements of a great party so that your parties will be out of this world and certain to never disappoint.

Doing Hard Decisions Right

In October, Joshua Blackwell and Zoe Bentley participated in the First Annual Doing Life Right Teleconference. Participants talk on video about something they do right in life, so other people can, too.

In “Doing Hard Decisions Right,” Joshua tells us about how he deals with making difficult decisions in his life–giving us advice for our own lives along the way.

Breaking News!

If you’ve read Fractured Fate, you’ll have noticed that before each chapter begins, there is a fictional news report. Sometimes this is a quote from a television news show, sometimes it is a section of a newspaper, and sometimes it is even an excerpt from social media, or something else entirely.

News reports? Really? Why would we put those in?

We decided to include news reports in order to show what was going on in the world which our characters might have been able to tell us. These news reports had to have a few things in common. They should to give a sense of the broader world the characters live in. They had to be fairly short, so they didn’t detract from the main storyline. They preferably would include something related to mythology. Following these guidelines, our news reports would help connect the readers, you, to the goings-on outside of our characters’ viewpoints.

Each of the five of us was assigned to write a few news reports. We split the task fairly equally. Each of us agreed to write about half a dozen reports, which would be shuffled around and placed in the book, with one for each chapter including the epilogue.

Writing these news reports, I couldn’t help but giggle every once in a while. While there were a few requirements for news reports, they didn’t have to connect directly to the chapters directly before and after them, contain specific information, or even be a certain style. They just had to give a sense of what the world was like. Because I was free of these restrictions, I got an excellent chance to play around with different styles, tones, and material.

What I ended up with was an assortment of short paragraphs ranging from marooned poodles to the very real-life dangers of flash floods. One of mine I find a little bit scary, since it sort-of predicted a real event.

My favorite? That would have to be…too hard to choose. Here’s one I liked making:

“In other news, the—”
“A basketball? Nope. The sun? Nuh-uh. How about a pancake?”
“Hey-ey, hey-ey-ey…”
“—concern about the recent”
“There’s nothing good on the radio anymore, is there?”

Later on, I happened to get the job of arranging the news reports. Their tones ranged from somber to silly, and the events described went from casual to cataclysmic. Many of them referenced mythological creatures, some of which I had only heard of in researching material for the book.

I quite liked organizing the news reports so they added more to the book by being in that order. Which news report is your favorite?

Characterization 101—How I Invented the Character of Natalie Rhodes, and Tips for Characterization for Any Writer:

Characterization 101—How I Invented the Character of Natalie Rhodes, and Tips for Characterization for Any Writer:

A year ago today, Fractured Fate was released, and one of my favorite things about the book we wrote is that it is very character driven. Each of us wrote from the perspective of a different character, which made it easier to integrate all our different voices and writing styles, but was also a big responsibility on each of us to create a full and developed character with their own style and voice—as well as a character that we would enjoy writing for a long period of time.

Without a doubt, writing the character of Natalie Rhodes was my favorite part of the process of creating Fractured Fate, and so I wanted to write an article to explain how I made and wrote her. More specifically, I want to relate it to the art of characterization as a whole, and something that is very important to that process: balance. So without further ado, here are some questions you have to answer when you’re working on characterization, and how I handled them with Natalie.

1. Balancing Strengths vs. Flaws

The Problem: With any major character, it’s important to balance their weaknesses and their strengths. You want a character to be likeable and relatable so that the readers sympathize with them, and are invested in the outcome of the story because they’re invested in the happiness of your character. But if you make a character too perfect, they become what many call a “Mary Sue.” A character who is flawless to the point where they aren’t realistic or relatable—basically, a character that makes you want to gag every time the author forces you to read about their perfect perfectness.

How I Handled This with Natalie: Natalie had a lot of strengths. For one thing, she was very smart. She also was a tech wiz with a pretty cool super power to boot, and above all, she was a pretty good person. But those strengths also led to some big weaknesses—for example, she often let that big brain go to her head and could be very controlling at some points. And like many big brains in stories, she wasn’t exactly big on physical fighting. In this way, I tried to use her strengths to make her likeable and someone to root for, and her weaknesses to make her more human. I also tried to make her weaknesses complementary to her strengths, sometimes even accentuating them.  For example, the stuck-up weakness was a result of some of her strengths, and the physical weakness forced her to show off her mental strength in the story.

2. Balancing With Other Characters:

The Problem: Like in real life, characters have all kinds of relationships with other characters in the story. Be it friendship, romance, or hatred, your character will probably have to interact with several other characters in some way. Depending on the relationship and the course of the story, you may want characters who are remarkably different or ones who have similar interests. But no matter what, they should at least be complementary to each other in some way, and should have a variety of relationships with different characters that grow and change as the story develops.

How I Handled This with Natalie: I made sure that Natalie had strengths and weaknesses and goals very different from the other main characters, and she contributed something new and different to the team. I also worked with the other writers to help create different relationships between her and the other characters. She always was good friends with Val, while Grace often served as her foil (a character who complements another character by being different from them and highlighting that difference). She also had a kind of rivalry going on with Joe, although Joe looked to her more as a little sister type.

3. Balancing Write What You Know vs. Making Your Character You:

The Problem: Most writers have heard the saying “write what you know,” and there’s a lot of truth to that. It can be very difficult to write something completely out of your realm of experience well. But at the same time, you don’t want your character to be a carbon copy of yourself. For one thing, it can be hard personally to have people you know think that your character is you, or that situations in the story are related to real life. For another, it can make the character boring to read and write. Make sure there is a clear line drawn between real life and fiction by balancing the similarities and differences between you and your character. (NOTE: In some or even a lot of cases, it can be perfectly fine to have a main character completely different from you or very similar, but for beginning writers, balance is probably a good suggestion).

How I Handled This with Natalie:  I started with the grain of experience I already have: and that is being a nerd (well, obviously. I took a creative writing class, didn’t I?). From there I built on details that were mostly uniquely Natalie’s. For example, Natalie is a huge tech geek, where as I am not very into STEM fields and more prefer to read and write things Natalie hates.

But above all, remember that in writing rules are broken all the time, and the number one thing should be to do just do what a good story calls for! So go forth and write!

Chronicles of Joe: The Unknown Sides of Me

Co-author Joshua Blackwell wrote as the character Joe Kolbe. Joshua has written a new scene which takes place after Fractured Fate.

Chronicles of Joe: The Unknown Sides of Me

I walk down the sidewalk towards my sister’s home. Even though I had tried feverously to get her back at first, I realized that she was happy with this family. So instead of trying to keep her I fought for partial say in some things and visitation rights. I won those.

So now I’m walking over to the McGees’ house to pick her up for a day in town. This will be our first get-together since the courts. Needless to say, I’m excited.

I step up to the door and knock. The door flew open and Sahara launches herself at me. I catch her and feel her momentum shove me down on the concrete. There is pain, but after all I have been through, hugging my sister again made it easy to ignore.

“Joe! I missed you so much! You have got to see my room! I drew a picture of us all together! Mom and Dad say that Ester will be going with us! I can’t wait! What movie are we going to go see?”Sahara was fast with the questions and her vocabulary was perfect. This almost made me cry. What else had I missed?

“The movie’s a surprise, and who is Ester?” I ask, curious.

I hear more foot steps and look up to see Mr. and Mrs. McGee. They didn’t look to happy to see me. When we first met at the courts they accused me of abandoning my sister. When they tried using that against me, the judge just said that I had “requested” by the military to assist in some environmental study. I don’t think anyone believed it and that was fine with me. After I had saved the world I had visited the President and told him how it was going to be or there would be a problem with earth’s core.

“We want them back by eight o’clock. Don’t be late,” said Mr. McGee in a hard voice. Fine. They don’t have to like me.

I see movement behind them and I look up from my sister and freeze. If this is what Ester looked like in the Bible then it was no wonder why she was chosen for queen. She looks warily at me and walks down the steps. But odds are she would disapprove of everything I wanted to do with my sister. This won’t be fun.

“My name is Ester,” she says, looking at the ground.

I smile. Her voice is a perfect match to her looks. But what’s her since of humor like?

“Name’s Joe. Pleasure to meet you. You like cheap popcorn and Disney movies?” I ask in a light tone.

She looks up and smiles back. “Only with lots of butter, and who doesn’t like Finding Nemo?”

I hold my smile and grab my sister and flip her upside-down. She laughs and grabs my leg. I shake it quickly and I hear her voice shake as she laughs. I put her down and grab her hand. “Ready?”

She smiles up at me. “Yup!”

I look at Ester with a quizzical look and a lopsided grin. She chuckles and grabs Sahara’s other hand. Maybe having Ester around won’t be a bad thing after all. Who doesn’t want to hang out with a beautiful young woman?

One Year Published!

Woo-hoo!  Today marks the one year anniversary of Fractured Fate getting published by Do Life Right, Inc. We, Caja Coyote, are very happy to have had our work in print for a year. It’s available as a Kindle e-book now, too!

To celebrate one year published, some of us have written up special posts which will be released over the next few days. Also, be sure to check out our Facebook page, where we’ll post links to some highlights of the Fractured Fate website.

Thanks for reading!

Interview with Zoe Bentley

Fractured Fate co-author Zoe Bentley was just interviewed for author Jo Ramsey’s blog. Thanks, Jo, for hosting this!

Why did Zoe start writing? How does she get inspiration? Which planet would she like to be from? Read Zoe’s interview here to find out the answers to these and many more questions. Her interview also features an excerpt from Fractured Fate.

This is the first time a member of Caja Coyote has been interviewed solo about writing. Want to hear more Caja Coyote Q & A? Watch their video interview here and read an interview with the entire group here.

The Tunnel

How much do you know about the characters and locations of Fractured Fate? See if you can guess the correct response to this Fractured Fate trivia clue:

This trivia clue is part of a series by Zoe Bentley, one of the co-authors of Fractured Fate. Watch the other clues here.

Correct response: Who are The Pops?

The Pops, the group of five teenage superheroes in Sahuarita, Arizona, often meet in this tunnel.

The tunnel echoes a lot. It’s really fun to play with the acoustics, or to just yell inside the tunnel. It’s really long and has a skylight in the middle to let in light. In my opinion, it’s a great place to hang out.

It’s also very distinctive, since there are no other tunnels like this in the whole town. If you had to tell someone quickly to meet up somewhere, it helps if there’s only one place you could possibly mean. You wouldn’t want everyone to show up at two different tunnels!

One entrance to the tunnel.

There are several desert-themed standing tile mosaics just outside either tunnel entrance. No, I don’t think these have a purpose besides looking pretty, which they do.

A hummingbird and a prickly pear cactus decorate one of the taller-than-I-am mosaics. The one in the background has a saguaro.

Where you would you have a secret superhero meeting?

Is Fractured Fate a True Story?

Yes, it is. Frankly, I’m surprised more people haven’t asked this question. After all, do parrot-griffins and inexplicable global catastrophe sound fake? Of course not.

All events in Fractured Fate really did happen. You might remember at least hearing about the evacuation of Tucson, Arizona after a flood and the subsequent mass goblin bank robbery. If not, I’m sure you can recall the miscellaneous dragons and the like.

I really can control the weather. My teammates do have similarly unusual abilities. When the cataclysms hit, we were brought together and led by a boy whose power is controlling the Earth with his mind. Then we named our group after consumables. Later on, we found a glassy, rune-covered black box which turned out to be about as ominous as it sounds. Yes, this is all entirely real. Why wouldn’t it be?

While all of this was going on, much of Sahuarita was being rebuilt and the rest of the planet was worse off. I’d tell you exactly what happened next, but that would take a few hundred pages to tell properly.

Yes, Fractured Fate is a true story. If you’re wondering right now about how true this blog post is, check the date it was posted. That should clear up any doubt in your mind.

Note: Fractured Fate is set in a real town, and some of the more minor events in the story really are true.

The Bronze Zoo

The Bronze Zoo, actually called the Safari Trail, is a path lined with animal statues located in Rancho Sahuarita, a planned community within Sahuarita. It was nicknamed the Bronze Zoo by Valencia Grant.

The trail entrance is guarded by two fierce frozen lions and a couple of monkeys.

The Safari Trail is a sidewalk lined with statues of elephants, monkeys, lizards, deer, pigs, an owl, and many more creatures of all sorts. There’s a road nearby across a strip of grass, and a playground at one end of the path.

Bronze Zoo monkeys hanging out in a tree.

Some of the animals might actually be found on a safari.

Uh, sure, I won't. What do statues eat, anyway?