Teagan Kearney/G.N. Kearney: Writer: February 2020

The Serendipity Game: A Sneak Peek

After a lot of dithering and, as this is my first romcom, there has been a lot to dither about, I realized Valentine's Day—the perfect opportunity to release my book—was fast approaching.  From vague, ah, um, what do I want to do next out-of-focus thinking, everything clicked into place and I had my deadline. My editor, the proficient and extremely supportive, Lois Dacus, had already sent the final edits, all that remained was formatting, the cover and a final title (this blog is not called 'writing my novel - no working title' for nothing) to be decided.

That was two weeks ago, and I'm thrilled to let you know The Serendipity Game, an entertaining, drama-packed love story will be released on the 14th February - Valentine's Day!

   When hard-working office temp and part-time barmaid Casey Jonson attends a party hosted by billionaire Jake Leinster, little does she realize the irresistibly attractive stranger she hooks up with is the man himself.
     But Casey has no idea that Jake’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, Hollywood actress Elena Elska, is using her as an unwitting pawn in a scheme to extract more than the pre-nuptial agreement from her billionaire husband and, unforeseen by Elena, Jake and Casey fall for each other.
     Elena uses the paparazzi to further her agenda, and Casey and Jake’s all-too-brief moment of wild abandon lights up social media. Over the following days, hounded by journalists, Casey becomes increasingly desperate as she loses her job and is forced to go on the run.
     After Jake locates Casey, they spend time together, discovering if their attraction for each other is more than a moment of passion. Meanwhile, Elena changes her mind about the divorce and puts into play a plan to permanently eliminate her competition.

And here's a peek at the first chapter:

The Serendipity Game ©
Teagan Kearney

Chapter 1: A Traffic Stopper

The clamor of central London’s traffic receded as Casey followed Ian into the cobbled mews off Bond Street; even the stifling midday heat seemed less oppressive. Terraced houses with pots of colorful blooms outside painted doors on one side faced the exclusive boutiques lining the other.
Casey lifted the damp hair off her neck. Two hours ago, Ian had called and asked if she would like to accompany him to an annual party hosted by his billionaire boss, Jake Leinster. Apologizing for the last-minute invitation—the party was that evening—he insisted on buying her a designer dress of her choice to make up for the short notice—or in case she didn’t have an outfit to wear. The blatant bribe worked. Galvanized in pretty much the same manner as if she’d stuck her finger in an electric socket, she zipped in and out of the shower, ran a brush through her tangled knots and grabbed a hairband that snapped as she sat in Ian’s car, finger-combing the heavy mass into its usual high ponytail. Now her neck and back were clammy and limp strands clung to her flushed face.
“Ah, there it is.” Ian pointed to a shop where the letters I-ME, written in gold on a gray background, glittered in the sunshine. The window display featured one item; an almost transparent maxi dress over a nude-colored skimpy bra and thong worn by a headless model in front of a black backdrop.
There’ll be sparks if he thinks I’m wearing that, Casey thought in amusement as Ian opened the door, gesturing for her to enter. She sighed with relief as the air-conditioning raised goosebumps on her arms and she breathed in the soothing sandalwood incense.
The shop had white-painted hardwood floors and walls featuring blown-up black and white photos of models in dramatic poses on the edges of cliffs and in front of icebergs. Three chrome plinths displayed items—a single shoe, a handbag, a jewel-encrusted bracelet—and a few rails, each with three or four outfits, stood against the walls.
A little different from Primark and no price tags. She knew what that meant and wondered how much Ian was willing to shell out to impress his boss.
A rake-thin shop assistant, ironed hair, heavy kohl and mascara, purple lipstick, yellow python-print leggings and a black bandeau, sauntered toward them. “Mr. Westley?” She addressed Ian, her vowels plum, and ignored Casey.
“Yes, and this is the young lady who needs a special outfit.” Ian smiled the charming practiced smile, Casey was learning, he used when he wanted something.
“I’m Carlotta. Call me Lottie.” The young woman responded to Ian’s charisma by batting her eyelids, her eyes flicking from Ian’s navy striped blazer to Casey’s tatty jeans and well-worn trainers. With a twitch of an eyebrow, she implied that, whereas Ian was a ten, Casey was a four at best, and her lips twisted in a sneer as she took in the words I’m not yo’ mama emblazoned across the faded red T-shirt.
Casey clamped her lips together and thought of walking out, but the opportunity to see how the one percent lived didn’t often arise—in fact, had never materialized and probably never would again, so she stayed.
Two weeks ago, Ian had walked into The Drunken Bull, where she worked weekends as a barmaid because her day job, receptionist temping for an office-staffing agency, scarcely paid the bills. At six foot one, with dark blond hair, an Alex Pettyfer lookalike, he was hard to ignore. His gaze skimmed the clientele before spotting Casey and promptly heading for the bar. By closing time, she’d agreed to let him take a selfie and go out on a date with him.
As Ian left, Greg, her boss, warned, “I’d watch that one if I was you,” but she’d shrugged off his advice and gone out with him anyway. They saw a foreign film with subtitles, not her usual scene but she enjoyed it, and they dined at an upmarket restaurant well beyond her financially challenged budget. Unlike every other date she’d had, Ian was a perfect gentleman, kissing her on the cheek when he dropped her home, assuring her he’d call.
Yet despite his display of self-discipline, Ian’s glib patter sparked an alert; he was a player, the kind Casey would normally take a detour around the block to avoid, but her social life had gone AWOL, and she succumbed to his charm. The month before, she’d ended her previous relationship—a record at eight months—because, as she revealed to Marnie, her best friend and the mother of her three godchildren, Billy was getting clingy.
“More like he wants you to commit,” Marnie retorted.
Billy made her laugh; and when he’d taken her to the rock-climbing wall in the local leisure center as his guest, she relished the challenge. Missing out on the rock wall was a major regret, but she wasn’t searching for a life partner. Left on the steps of the local church as a newborn and growing up in the state care system, Casey didn’t believe in happy ever after.
“This way,” Ms. Skinny and Smug ordered, leading them into a private room with a three-way mirror, two rails packed with designer clothes, a changing cubicle, a table and a couple of chairs with enough space to walk up and down. “Melanie, your fitter, will be with you shortly.” Carlotta-call-me-Lottie turned to Ian. “Coffee, tea, champagne?”
Champagne? And end up agreeing to wear the outfit on display in the window? “Coffee. Large soy
 latte, extra shot, thanks.”
“Make that two,” Ian added.
“Why don’t you look through the selection we’ve put out and see if there’s anything you want her to try on?” Carlotta gushed.
Casey glared at the python-clad buttocks twitching from side to side as she sashayed out. Regretfully, her killer laser-eyed superpower remained inactive.
Ian rifled through the rack and held up a black version of the dress on display in the window. “What about this one? With your strawberry blonde hair and those baby blues, you’d look stunning in this.”
Baby blues? Did he think he was in an American gangster movie? Casey raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t this a respectable party? No, thanks.” That dress would invite a walk of shame if ever a dress did. She pulled out a pink chiffon number that caught her eye.
Ian’s lips thinned. “You’re not in a pageant competition, either.”
Melanie, older and with an air of competence, arrived with their coffees. Her experienced eye studied Casey’s figure, and without hesitation she pulled out half a dozen dresses for her to try.
An hour later, frazzled by Ian’s dismissal of her preferences and her rejection of his, Casey wobbled out of the cubicle in a pair of chili-red Jimmy Choo strappy sandals with six-inch heels, wearing an off-one-shoulder, chili-red silk dress that Melanie described as bandage-style because of the figure-hugging, wraparound layers of satiny material.
Ian’s gaze raked Casey from head to toe, lingering on her curves as he said, “That’s the one. You’ll knock ‘em dead in that, baby, and win me a few kudos with my boss.” He came and stood behind her, “Here.” He lifted her hair into a loose bun on top of her head. “A traffic stopper is what you are.”
Melanie chimed in, adding her approval. “Few women can carry off that particular style,” she enthused, “but you have the perfect figure.”
At five foot six, slender with long dancer’s legs, slim waist and a generously perky bosom, the dress made her figure look fabulous and the color suited her perfectly. She turned this way and that, examining the view from the front, side and rear. She would have to practice taking tiny steps; otherwise, she’d topple and faceplant. Not the kind of impression she wanted to make. Without Ian and Melanie’s input, she would never have picked a dress that exposed her figure so much, but she would only wear it the once, so why not? Besides, tomorrow or the day after, she’d sell it on eBay and pay for the basic management skills course she had her eye on and, if there was enough left, for a rock-climbing course. She wanted more out of life than answering phones and was willing to work hard to achieve her goals. She regarded Ian. “Let’s go with this one.”
“Lucy will be at yours at six to do your hair and makeup, and I’ll pick you up at seven-fifteen,” Ian reminded her as they left the shop, bags in hand, and headed into the sweltering London streets.
“How much did this lot cost you?” Casey asked. She’d tried to see the amount on the cash register when Ian gave Lottie his credit card, but he moved, blocking her view.
“Don’t you worry that pretty head of yours about that,” Ian replied with a wink. “What do you imagine expense accounts are for?”
The tiniest nitpicking doubt waved a hand. She ignored it. Putting her trust and commitment issues with men aside, she had agreed to go and she would keep her word.

The book is currently available at the following digital retailers: 
Amazon:              Kobo:  
Apple ibooks: 
Barnes & Noble:

Have a great week, be kind to others and to yourself and keep reading.

Best wishes,

If You Think It, You Can Write It: Character

      PART ONE: Character    

I have divided the book into parts to make it easier to reference. Each part has several chapters covering different aspects of the craft of writing in that particular area. As the main character must carry a heavy load in any tale, I'm going to start with this VIP.

Chapter 1: The Protagonist 

There is plenty of information about constructing and developing fictional characters and I’m not going to attempt to condense all that information into a single chapter. What I will be doing though is asking questions that will get you thinking about your protagonist, aka the main character.
As writers we are advised to find the truth of our fictitious creations, but they come in every shape and size from anthropomorphized creatures as in Wind in the Willows to the brooding Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights. Among a host of other factors, we have to decide if we want them to be strong and punch through every obstacle despite their internal angst like Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or do we prefer them to start in a vulnerable position and discover their inner strength during their journey, as with Hester Prynne in The Scarlet LetterOne of my personal favorites (among too many to list) is Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind because, despite her defects, she’s a survivor fighting against the odds. 
The reality is, it doesn’t matter. What is important is for readers to identify with the struggle the hero/heroine is undergoing, irrespective of whether they’re combating many-limbed aliens in another galaxy or dealing with heatstroke while holidaying on a Greek island. 
Is there a distinctive trait or one vital ingredient that that makes a character stand out, draws us to that person and leaves them living in our imagination long after we’ve closed the book? I don’t think there is. We’re attracted by a combination of factors, and these include the situation they’re in, the conflict they face, their flaws, vulnerabilities and strengths. Something in that mix resonates with us, eliciting a response. Even if the protagonist hasn’t reached adulthood, such as Ralph in Lord of the Flies, we recognize and understand these personalities are fully developed for the purpose of the story.
Do these characters spring fully formed into their creator’s minds, or do they reveal themselves bit by bit as the story unfolds? Again, it will be different from writer to writer. One thing is sure—knowing them inside and out brings them alive for you, and that becomes part of conveying their authenticity because she/he is the one person readers must engage with. They are who we identify with and in whose success we are invested.
To make an impression, characters have to be believable, i.e. complicated. In our daily lives we often present different facets of ourselves to others depending on whether our status is greater or less than theirs. A man may be subservient to his boss, dominating with his family and a Jack-the-lad when with his buddies.
If you give them what Aristotle called ‘consistent inconsistencies’, you add depth: an ambitious politician who can’t say no to anything his wife and children demand; a gregarious extrovert who hides a fear of new places; a ruthless spy who teaches his parrot to repeat a joke. When these contradictions are hidden from other characters but unveiled to readers, it produces more drama when the extent the politician will go to protect his family from threats is revealed; we see the extrovert’s fears as, wanting to impress his girlfriend, they go on vacation to an exotic, unfamiliar destination, and how distraught the spy becomes when his bird catches a virus and dies. People with layers of complexity are more credible.

When we make new friends we learn about their history, temperament and behavior over time. In the same way, writers introduce someone’s foibles, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. When I start a story, I have some ideas about the main character, the setting and plot, but the protagonist’s hidden struggles emerge as I write. For me, it takes time to discover the individuals I’m creating. I once read a  book on character development that stated, don’t produce a wimpy protagonist. Immediately I realized that’s exactly who I had, so I turned my wimp into a neurotic woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Well, at least she was less boring!

One standard technique for giving depth and helping to visualize your character is to construct a biography. Depending on how much time you want to spend on this, you can include events that affect their psychological and emotional development. Determining their appearance is a start but don’t stop at age, physique and gender, include how they feel about themselves. Are they comfortable in their skin? Do they carry any physical scars—if so what is the story behind them? Do they have health problems such as asthma or allergies or mental problems? How does this impact their behavior? Do they overcompensate, if so how? Or do they pretend everything is normal? What is the effect on those around them?
Other choices to make are intellectual ability, disposition (where on the spectrum of extrovert or introvert do they lie), and their goals and ambitions—do they have any, and how successful are they in achieving them? How do they cope with the indignities life thrusts upon them? Do they pretend everything is a joke or do they bury their fears? Their circle of friends, family, education, job, hobbies and lifestyle are all areas for consideration and add depth and color to your character.
Most of your protagonist’s backstory won’t make it on to the page, but it works towards forming a plausible individual and, while we may not all create that outstanding character, we should do our utmost to achieve a believable one.
Aspects of a personality can be used to show tensions they don't reveal to others. For example, a man becomes an accountant because he is excellent at math, yet he’s frustrated because he wanted to be an artist. This creates a pressure-cooker situation as he puts up with his circumstances till the day comes when he decides he’s had enough and walks out on his life. What happens to him and to those he left? Giving your protagonist an internal and an external conflict is crucial. You want your readers to become emotionally involved, and how your character perceives the dangers he/she faces draws people in and keeps them captivated. Be bold and let your imagination run free. You can always adapt, exaggerate or reduce, aspects later if you need to, but now is the time to have some fun and color in any blank areas in your most important character. 
Never underestimate the influence of a protagonist. Not only do great fictional personalities enter our individual imagination, but they find their way into our cultural lives. Due the pictorial nature of stories and the emotional attachment we develop as we follow the heroine/ hero’s struggles, they enter our subconscious and have the ability to inspire us. This is no small achievement.

The best way to internalize new information is to use it, and the following exercises will assist you in analyzing your protagonist with the goal of deepening your understanding of the character you’re developing.

Exercise 1
A Take a book you’re reading or just finished and make a list of the protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses. Do the same for their internal and external conflicts and how they cope with and resolve their dilemmas.
B Take a character from your own WIP (work-in-progress) or one you are thinking of developing and do the same. List their strengths and weaknesses, their internal and external challenges and how you plan to solve them.

Exercise 2:
The second part of this exercise is where I recommend you put the most effort.
and study the guidelines and suggestions with your own character in mind.
B Take your character from Exercise 1B and use the information from the article to expand your fictional character. 

Further Reading
If you google ‘creating fictional characters’ a large number of articles on the subject comes up, any one of which will teach you something relevant. Have at it!

There’s a Chinese proverb that states 'perseverance furthers,' so if you keep chugging along, you will get to your destination.

Work hard, play hard, have a great month and see you all on the 1st March.

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