Adding Suspense — Features from Atonement, TN

It’s Moving Too Slow — What Shall I Do?

Hamster head xray

As I grow my characters, and layer the elements of a new story, I’m always afraid that it is moving to slowly — because I’m doing precisely those things rather than something more exciting.  How do I cultivate both characters and suspense, and work on more than one level at a time, and still make the pages turn quickly? Well, here are some things I try to do.  (And hopefully it works!)

My Writing ProcessRed Dragon Eye

One way I try to create suspense from the outset of my novels is by always beginning with a prologue that is either magical (particularly if I’m writing urban fantasy) or is told from the point of view of an arch villain (for “high” fantasy).

The “Atonement” books begin with Lilith the calico witnessing something supernatural.

(Fairy EyeLest anyone think the novels are about a cat, I’ll explain that the Lilith character came to me as a device. I apologize to those of you who have already heard me say this.

Because it is told by my heroine, Ralda Lawton, from time to time I needed to use a character who could go about unnoticed, and witness things that Ralda wouldn’t be able to know.  That led me to the cat.  I was concerned that Lilith wouldn’t be well received. As it turned out, she was rather popular. )

So Lilith bears witness to the magical prologues that begin each of the Atonement books.  But how else to build suspense as I go?

Cat Eyes Watching

That is part of what I’ve been working on this week.  After I’ve written a good bit, I go back to the start and consider where else I might add something, some little detail that makes the reader at least a bit uneasy.

Artist, Cheryl Rose Hall
Beira; Artist: Cheryl Rose Hall

A positive side-effect came from that process this week — it better developed a minor character — one of the new supernatural beings that show up in Atonement in Bloom.  I think it also helped define part of the story.

In case you’d like to see something from my novel in progress, here’s a tidbit from the prologue.  Lilith gets an eye-full.


Snippet from the prologue of “Atonement in Bloom” 

Lilith in snow

The growl of a great beast sent Lilith jumping down from the rock wall and into the concealment of juniper bushes that were long ago left to run wild.  She trembled as the rumbling growl drew closer.  

“It must be gigantic,” Lilith thought.  

Lilith scented the air, feeling a bit confused.  She was unable to precisely define the scent.  Yet she had not mistaken the sound; some strange beast was out there. Black-GOLD_dragon-cat Eye

Magic, the thought sprang to her mind.  She laid back her ears, suddenly that idea made her more irritated than afraid.

The rumbling continued and its eyes rapidly came into view.  It had to be huge based on the size of the eyes and how far apart they were set.  Four eyes, she realized in astonishment.  It had two big wide-set eyes that glowed like white fire in the night.  Just below those were two more eyes, smaller and closer together, which gave off an ill-boding yellowish glow.


If you haven’t yet started to feel like someone might be watching you… Here’s a recipe for some cupcakes that might make you ask “Who’s there?” 

From “Like Mother Like Daughter

Owl Cupcakes…

Owl Cupcakes


Thanks for visiting Atonement, TN.  Don’t be shy — leave a comment to say hello.  See you next time.  

Mega hugs!

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.



73 thoughts on “Adding Suspense — Features from Atonement, TN

    1. Hi there Hugh — I’m so pleased to see you! Alas, no more one eyed one horned flying purple people eaters… they were left behind in the “universe” of “Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.” (And I do miss those characters and the settings. But I also miss the 1920s universe of Pip and her friends [before you came here]… So many characters in my head… 😀 )
      Many thanks for taking a moment to read and comment. Mega hugs to you and yours. And Lilith sends a kitty hug to the corgi. 🙂


    1. Oh thank you so much for the encouragement! I’ve been terrible about writing all week… However, I’ve gotten most of the next blog post done, and I did my mini-blog for LinkedIn — I call it Thriving Thursday. But I need to be working on a novel! Akkk!
      I love your science posts — keep up the fantastic work. Mega hugs. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy to have roused your curiosity! The supernatural elements in the Atonement books are “loosely inspired” by Celtic/Welsh mythology. You might investigate the ancient Welsh myths to guess at which one may have inspired the creature — though I admit I’ve started the creature’s role with a twist. When are such things ever as they first appear to be? 😀 Mega hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know Celtic mythology is something we should look into! Thank you. We have concentrated on Greek, Roman and now Norse Mythology with Loki as a center piece.
        Enjoy your writing & reading drizzle with blogging!!


        1. Norse myths are fascinating too. Fred Saberhagen wrote a series (Book of Swords) that is interwoven with it. There are so many different types of fantasy… I certainly haven’t read them all — but I didn’t recall much that touched on Welsh myth. I read a lot of it when researching for “The Dead of Winter” (not released yet), although I didn’t use much of it for DoW. However, it called me back when I wrote Atonement, Tennessee. Mugs!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Christoph. It’s lovely to see you. I’m so happy you enjoyed your visit here.
      LOL… Monday. It had reached monumental-Monday proportions before 6AM.
      Thanks very much for taking a moment to read and comment. Mega hugs! ❤ ⭐


  1. Love this, Teagan! Lilith, a perfect character to speak the Prologue! I like the way you move forward in your writing. Going back to add a little details, etc. I use the same strategy, and end up deleting sentences that take away from the flow. Working on the Prologue for Sunset Inn, I’ve moved slowly along and deleted sections not relevant to the story. Writing this way works best for me. Happy Sunday! Have a good week! 💖 Chryssa


  2. You are so clever….I am actually quite amazed at the way your mind works. How you are able to keep all the characters in your mind’s eye as you develop your writing, particularly as there is so much magic involved. So glad you have brought Lilith into play and of course love the idea of owl cupcakes…..I often wonder about you as you go about your ‘other work’ – how you manage to stay focused – when at times your mind must dwell on all things, ‘Atonement…………’ When the day comes when you can apply all your time to writing, and i do believe it will….I can only imagine what a well of creativity will be revealed… The hummingbirds continue to circle….Janet. xxx


    1. Dear Janet — thank you for giving me that image of myself earning a living writing my stories full time — and of course for the hummingbirds! 😀 ❤
      Actually it's the reverse about work. That place and the interactions crowd out my stories, and it's usually impossible for me to disengage enough to write when I get home, and horribly hard even on weekends.
      LOL as for how my mind works, I've often said that I'm just now wired the same way as other people. I didn't realize it for most of my life, but in sharing things with other people of many professions, I realize that is the case. But it is my wiring, and I'm happy with it. 😀
      But I can imagine myself as taking things (writing elements) off various shelves, sometimes with both hands reaching for different things and stuffing them into what I'm writing…
      Looking forward to your next lovely post. Mega hummingbird hugs!


        1. 🙂 ❤ Thank you for the encouragement Janet. I'm having the mother of all Mondays (since 2AM and now the workday) so I needed it. 😀 I see you have a new post — can't wait to visit your place. Hugs


    1. Tee-hee! I think my mouse on the mental wheel is actually frozen in motion — so that she only appears to be moving. It’s grand to see you David. I enjoyed your diary post. Watch out for your feathered room mate — Joey might try to take over your blog. 😀 Mega hugs! ❤


  3. I was loving Lilith’s otherworldly adventure and then it ended, I really wanted more just a few more lines or paragraphs or pages LOL. I do love getting a peak into the process Teagan I am fascinated and I love that you include us all in how you work. Love the cupcakes. So cute!!!


    1. Hi Suzanne. I’m delighted that you wanted to read more. That bit was only the middle of the prologue — there’s a little more before and after.
      I know i’m repeating myself, but I was pleasantly surprised that the Lilith character was generally well received in book-1. While I didn’t do it intentionally, in book-2 she gets a longer prologue and most of another chapter for a real adventure. 🐱
      I know you have a lot going on, with work, your gorgeous blog, and hosting guests from Airnb. So I really appreciate you dropping by, reading, commenting, and especially encouraging.
      Time for me to make myself do some “real life” things, and hopefully get back “in Bloom” later today. Mega hugs my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooooo, leave us wanting more…cats and cupcakes…and magic. Well-played Teagan, I was actually looking to the left, right, below, rereading looking for more. 😉
    I know exactly what you mean about things going, well, not fast enough, but you’re excellent at pacing so I’m sure you’re doing way better than you think you are…I’m in the slow lane, writing-wise, but hey, sometimes slow is the way to go. 🙂
    Those are some wise-looking cupcakes and the post was a hoot…ok, I’ll stop now. 😉
    Thanks for the treat and hope everything stays on the right track.
    Hope this weekend is treating you well. Megahugs my wise friend. 🙂


    1. Who-who-who’s there? Oh, good — it’s you Donna. LOL, I love a good play oh words and yours was a hoot. As always you’ve encouraged me — and I thank you so very much for that. I’ve been ‘down on myself’ for not accomplishing much this past week and weekend. It’s the trap I always fall into with novel writing. The challenges of real life discourage me and then I can’t write.
      I’m relieved for you to say I’m “excellent at pacing” because that is one of a few things that I find it a challenge to judge about my own writing.

      If you’re in the writing slow lane, then I’m in good company. 😀 I’ve been a technical editor for a long time. So I console myself with the knowledge that I’m working from an editing perspective before my fingers touch the keyboard. I expect that’s what you are doing too. Your blog is marvelous and I hope one day you’ll share a teaser of your other writing with us.
      Thank you so very much for this lovely visit. Mega hugs! 🙂


      1. Well, I’m no Hoo-dini at pacing myself, but yours is magical, Teagan. 😉
        I’m sure I’m not owl by myself in this feeling of now knowing what to write, it’s a tad discouraging, but I’ll get over it, I’ve already ‘spotted’ a new idea. 😉
        Anyway, owl we need is love…ok, I’m officially done with the owl jokes.
        All the best in the coming week, Teagan and megahugs!!! 🙂


  5. Nothing creates suspense like an extra pair of eyes. I am very intrigued.
    I think it was a brilliant idea to use a cat. As a reader, I believe straight away that cats are sensitive to supernatural and clever enough to put two things together.
    You are so good with all these recipes and everything about cooking. May be you can use some specific smell ( like cinnamon or bay leaves), or sound ( like teapot whistle) or taste ( persimmon) that would indicate close presence of supernatural.
    Hugs, friend!!!


    1. Inese that is a brilliant idea — I love it! Ghostly apparitions are often associated with such things. In reviewing what I’ve written I see that I’ve been doing that for “Beira.” But I think you’ve just made the role of the “Beira the Crone” character a little larger. That is the one i meant when i said a minor character’s role grew a bit with me trying to add tidbits that create suspense. Beira’s part is crucial to the story, yet very small. Something like a sound, taste, or smell could add suitable depth to her little part. Thank you!
      Considering the wave length you are on, I think (hope) you would like my The Dead of Winter… if I’m ever ready to publish it. (It’s also the one with a few “Nordic-like” characters. Here’s a post about it
      Uber-mega hugs! ❤ ⭐ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How did I miss it? The idea sounds fantastic. So, after the Atonement in Bloom you will work on the Dead of Winter? How wonderful! I can make a set of promotional pictures for you :). I have a guy who is creating weapons and all historical stuff for reenactments, and I have enough suitable models. If you add a fox as a character, you know I have three 😉


        1. Inese that is a very tempting idea. (By the way, that’s a very old post, before our paths crossed.) The Dead of Winter has gotten pushed way back on my to do list. Maybe that’s because I worked on it for 2+ years… It is finished, but I need to edit and maybe figure out how to divide it into volumes (it’s about 700 pages). I dream of this one becoming an *anime* series. Maybe that’s part of why I put off the final touches… But you certainly have me thinking about it. In your photos, if the little girl with the white haired man had been a few years older, and he more rugged… they reminded me of two of the characters.

          It has a lot of different types of characters, but no foxes. 🙂 I definitely should write a fox character some time!
          Thank you so much for this lovely discussion, Inese. Huge hugs.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Teagan. I loved the way you had we readers focus on Lilith in the prolog of Atonement Tennessee. I had not thought about it before this post but thinking back it was a very clever device to get me totally involved in the story. Well done. -)


    1. Why thank you John. If I managed to sneak something in, I consider it a great compliment.
      I didn’t want to go third person for things the heroine/narrator couldn’t see. I considered a spying nosy neighbor character, but it seemed too unlikely for any person to be able to witness everything without being caught. I finally settled on the idea of the quiet cat. As Sandburg said, “The fog comes on little cat feet.” The silent cat might get away with much more than a person. Wishing you continued success with the launch of your new book, His Revenge! Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kathryn. I am so glad you enjoyed it. The prologue sets the stage and leads-in to the overall story (at least I mean it to). This snippet is from the middle of the prologue. I remember now that you love owls. Well, I promise that “Atonement in Bloom” does not have any misguided owls @v@. I won’t call Arianrhod’s giant owl from book-1 bad, since it’s under her influence. 😀 You have a lovely weekend too. Mega hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sally. Thank you very much for reblogging this little ditty. I struggled a bit with the topic for today, so I’m happy that it seems to be well received. I hope you are having a beautiful weekend. Mega hugs.


  7. Now I’m very intrigued about the creature. And Lilith is very brave. I don’t need to tell you how much I love the cupcakes, do I? Cupcakes and owls…:)


    1. Tee-hee! Olga, I thought of you the minute I realized they were owls. 😀
      Yay! I hope to keep readers intrigued by the creature and gradually let them figure out what it is. I give hints, which also escalate. But if I want it to be a mystery in the book, then I guess I should hold back on it here. (Thinking out loud… Yes, that’s probably a good idea.)
      Lilith channels her annoyance into something akin to bravery (or is it just stubborn cat-itude?) But she’s a clever kitty, so she’s smart enough to have a reasonable amount of fear as this thread of the story grows.
      Many thanks for taking a moment to read and comment. Mega hugs!


    1. Thank you so much, Mary! Some writers are so skilled they can stick to one character’s first person view throughout a story — even a mystery. Maybe that will be an “exercise” for me someday. But for this series, the cat has become part of it (the brand if you will) so she will keep a point of view. Your feedback was valuable and encouraging, Mary. Thank you again. Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lilith facing the multi-eyed monster conjures up images of the bad lady of Genesis facing the Beast in Revelations. The Alpa cat and the Omega beast. It seems a bit ironic, don’t you think? Yes! Yes! I am well aware that the mouse stumbles quite often on it’s wheel in my brian, twisting the turning in my thoughts, and I do believe it makes me a bit weird.


    1. LOL… I think it’s cool when a reader makes connections that I don’t expect, Tim. But rest assured that Lilith is one of the good guys! 🐱
      And my own clumsy mouse on a wheel likes your stumbling mouse just fine. 😀
      Many thanks for taking a moment to read and comment. Mega hugs!

      (I know Tim already knows this but…) For anyone not familiar with them, despite the name, the “Atonement” books have nothing to do with any religion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lilith is a wonderful kitty, and I can assure everyone that the first book of “Atonement” had nothing to with modern religion or what is considered religion to most people. But you really can’t say “Atonement” has nothing to with religion because it’s all about mythology.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.