Friday, September 30, 2011

Welcome Ann Tracy Marr!

My guest author today is Ann Tracy Marr. Ann writes award-winning paranormal Regency romances. To His Mistress, the third book in her Banshee Brigade series, debuts in paperback October 25. Keeper of the Grail is in the works. A computer consultant in the Midwest, Marr lives with her husband, two cats, and plots that bounce off the wall. I asked her to share some details about herself and her writing with all of you. Here are her thoughts.

From Ann Tracy Marr:

As I write this, it is past midnight and the cat won’t come in. I hate cats that stay out all night; they yowl at other cats and disturb the peace. So I have to stay up and try to get the cat in. Humph.

BTW—that humph is the way I sound. Not a literary device, but literally the noise I make when I am disgusted. That is how I do dialogue. I stick my head in the clouds and imagine I am this character I am smearing all over the fake Microsoft Word page, and try to figure out what that character would say and how she would say it. What inflection would she put on the words? Would she say, “I hate cats that stay out all night,” or would she say, “I hate cats that stay out all night.”

If the character puts the emphasis on the first part of the sentence once in a while, it doesn’t matter. But if she emphasizes the beginning of her sentences over and over again, it’s a character trait. Convey that trait on the page and you have the start of a person who comes alive for the reader.

When you, the reader, catch the cadence in sentences, you start to imagine a real person. If she stresses the first words, you guess she’s the type who blurts things out. She becomes a forceful (dare I say it?) bitch who dominates the conversation. She is impulsive, opinionated, pushy. Take your pick. Any or all of the above can fit; it all depends on how the writer wants that character to come across.

Here is an example from my latest book, Keeper of the Grail. It starts as a conversation between Lord Brinston and Sir Sloane Johnstone and adds Mrs. Maud Silvester. Look at the dialogue and tell me what these people are like.

Ah, there she is,” Sloane gloated.

“Your Frampton? Which?” [Brinston said.]

“In the back of the group.”


“The one with her back to the wall, talking to the potted palm.” A crash resounded through the ballroom. "The slain potted palm.”

Brinston winced. “For Merlin’s sake, Sloane, stay away from her. Only part you got right was her description and her antecedents. Not only is she a Frampton, which is bad enough, she is barmy, talking to plants like the Green Man. Unless the palm talks back, she’s going to acquire a reputation that will see her exiled to Skye.” He tipped his head. “I don’t know her. Never seen her before. Egads, she is shaking her finger. Scolding a plant? Sloane, it’s really too much. Her Fra Angelico must be imaginary.”

“No.” Sloane slapped his gloves against his hand. “This one is special, Brin. Different.”

“On that, I have to agree. She is certainly different. But different doesn’t do justice to a woman who talks to palms.”

“Will you forget the palm; doesn’t mean a thing. It won’t survive being knocked over anyway. I need her name. By Merlin, if you cannot provide it, how am I to learn her name? Can’t ask my mother; she’ll have banns posted.”

“Maybe my sister knows.”

“I have to find out somehow; I contracted to take the lady driving tomorrow. Deuced awkward knocking on the door not knowing her name.”

“I’d like to see you do that.”

Ostrich feathers whipped across Sloane’s face as Maud Silvester spun on her heel. “Will you two hooligans keep your voices down,” she demanded. “You are giving me a bilious fever.”

Sloane summoned up every bit of the charm he was born with, which was not a large amount. His talents tended more to the prosaic. “Sorry, Mrs. S.”

“Wipe that nauseating grin off your face, Sloane Johnstone. It does not impress me. Brinston, don’t say it. You look like a fool,” Mrs. Silvester snapped. The sharp angles of her face, bisected by wrinkles and spleen, caught the candlelight and lent a devilish air to her words. “Her name is Sarah. Miss Sarah Irene Frampton. And I suggest you treat her with a degree of respect. As you said, she is special. Her surname may be Frampton, but she takes after the Hempstead’s, her mother’s family. And you,” her nose pointed like a dagger, “are so muddleheaded you will never learn her address. The Frampton’s are at No. 5 Hay Street, by Audley Square. If you are to take her driving, mind you are on time for once. Her aunt is hopeless, but she is a stickler for the proprieties. Wear a better jacket. Now, begone.”

The men slunk away. A pencil in hand, Sloane scribbled in a small notebook. “S-a-r-a-h Frampton, No. Five Hay Street.” His head rose. “What's wrong with my jacket?”

Brinston grinned. “It is old, outmoded, and ill-fitting, but that is what I like about you, Sloane. You’re no slave to fashion. Gads, Mrs. S makes me feel like a snotty nose brat snitching tarts off the tea tray.” He veered toward the hall. “By the way, you had better watch yourself, asking this Miss Sarah Frampton for a drive without knowing her a’tall. She might be as mean as Mrs. S as well as being barmy. Never ever put yourself on the block.”

“It’s only a drive.”

“And it’s only the little season, but that don’t stop husband hunting. She’s a miss -- means she’s not married. Looks close to being an ape leader. She’ll shackle your ankle and drag you around Hyde Park, just to escape the shelf. If you ask my opinion--”

“Which I did not.”

“--You need to learn how to say no.”

Sloane shook his head. “She needs help; I can’t just turn my back.”

“Never could.”

“And you have this one pegged wrong. She didn’t approach me; I offered. All she wants is to be rid of me so she can find her art.”

“And I’m the Sultan of Arabia.”

“Well, Sultan, I’m hungry. Let’s find food.”

Brinston eyed his friend’s waistcoat. “You are always hungry. Eat more than any other man alive.”

Copyright Ann Tracy Marr

Lord Brinston and Sir Sloane Johnstone are old friends; their banter shows how relaxed they are with each other. You also might notice that Brin is more light hearted – Sloane is the serious one, although he is not a prig.

Can you tell that Maud Silvester speaks in capital letters? That every word is gospel? Maud is one of the grand ladies of the ton. A dragon who eats timid people for breakfast. It is the cadence of her sentences – abrupt, not always complete, like newspaper headlines – that conveys her character. The two men also use incomplete sentences, but they are not abrupt – not demanding.

I came up with the dialogue by putting myself in their heads -- imagining how each character would react in the situation. Brinston and Maud Silvester were easy because I know them better – they have appeared in other books. Sloane is a new acquaintance, but I did know that he had dug a bit of a hole for himself, and that he is not one to panic.

Would you believe it? 20 minutes after I give up and start writing, the cat shows up. He hissed at me, the little brat, when I picked him up to bring him in. In case you are wondering, emphasizing hissed indicates irritation.

Ah, peace and quiet for one night.

Thank you to Sharon Poppen for allowing me to take over her space this week. She is at meeting new friends.

Visit Tracy at
Buy her books at

Round Table Magician Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587496066
Thwarting Magic Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587496479
To His Mistress Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587497209
Keeper of the Grail Awaiting release


Christine London said...

Cadence IS so important in defining a character. I find this imperative in my British-American interactions on the page, but it makes a whole lot of sense for any character.

Thanks for the interesting post!
Christine London

Sharon Poppen said...

Tracy, We just had this discussion in my local writer's group. One of our writer's is an English teacher and we talked about how punctution goes right along with cadence. Thanks for the fcus on this topic.

Jana Richards said...

Very interesting discussion on cadence, Ann. And I really enjoyed the snippet from your new book.