Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blog Tour: Guest Blogging About Aleron by Kane

Today, I’m again turning over Riftwatcher for a guest blog by Kane, author of the vampire novel Aleron:


About me:

            I am 36 years old and from my childhood, fantastical creatures have always been a part of my life. Whether it was super heroes or Greek mythology, supernatural beings captured my imagination on a daily basis. My fascination with suspense grew from my affinity for horror and thriller films, which I have watched from a very young age. I remember when I was in Jr. High I was writing a short story based on a common fear that everyone shares, being alone in complete darkness in an unfamiliar place. I paid some classmates to spend ten minutes in an old abandoned building with no light and equipped only with a voice recorder. I got a lot of information for my story. I realized writing involved more than just words. It involves all of the senses. And that is when I began detailed descriptive writing.

            I began doing research about the world of the undead including werewolves, warlocks, strigoi, and eventually I sank my teeth into the vampire. From my research, ‘Aleron’ was born.
            The inspiration for writing ‘Aleron’ was a combination of many factors, including my love for vampires in general, and my respect for the genre as a whole, in addition to recognizing a need to cater to ALL vampire fans instead of a select few. I feel that many fans are being overlooked as they are bombarded with modernized pale imitations of who and what vampires really are. In short, I wanted to tell a story rich with love, betrayal and action that would bring all fantasy fiction lovers back to the written word.

            I was influenced by the original writings and notes of Bram Stoker, along with the vampire characterization of Anne Rice, as well as the style of Stephen King and story telling detail of Thomas Harris and J.R.R. Tolkien. Historical writing filled with fact and folklore of Romanian historians have also influenced my writing. Fear of the undead remains prevalent in some towns surrounding Brasov, Transylvania, Snagov, and SIGHISOARA.

            My writing process begins with a topic of interest followed by extensive research in an effort to tickle all five senses. For instance, in order for me to bring the setting of ‘Aleron’ to life, I visited the very places that are described in the book. This allowed me to convey the actual smell, look, feel, and taste of the environment, as well as the many distinct sounds prevalent in that land and during that era. From there I put together a living outline that guides me from start to finish, in addition to having the flexibility for my characters to take whatever route they wish to accomplish set goals. I then spend many months getting to know my characters beginning with an extensive character bio. Sometimes I pretend to be a character for an extended period of time; even interacting with others as the character. This helps me learn what my character would and wouldn’t do in certain situations. Finally, I began to write, and once I began, the characters take over and finish it.
            What makes ‘Aleron’ different? The same difference between Mercedes and Lexus, Research and Development: I infused realism with my imagination to give birth to a fantastical story that is rooted in legend and seasoned with fact. My studies and travels of and to Eastern European allowed me to give my characters depth inside of a realistic environment. My vampires are not of our day, they are from days of old, which brings historical richness in storytelling. There was a time when vampires were feared, even though they were beautiful, elegant, and immortal, people were still afraid of them. I have brought that back with a humanistic twist. ‘Aleron’ is sure to entertain vampire lovers, and general fantasy fiction readers alike. Whether young or old, male or female, this book has something that will keep you turning the page.

            My advice for new and upcoming writers is to never stop writing. Don’t let anyone discourage you and write for the love of the genre and not for the money. If your writing is good, the money will follow. Continue reading works from many authors. This will improve your general writing skills as well as grow your understanding of what people are reading.

            I just returned from Romania and pictures and video will be posted soon at www.aleron.co, Facebook (Aleron fan page). Aleron’s reviews are at www.amazon.com, www.aleron.co, www.barnesandnoble.com, goldenpen, and readers favorite. Aleron can be purchased online from all online book sellers and will be in stores mid-summer! 


Thank you, Kane, for sharing with us.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #8: We Bring Good Words To Life

This week I return to my Regency paranormal romance WIP, A Woman of Proper Accomplishments. This takes place far earlier than my previous sixes. In this scene, Mr. Morgan, a visiting gentleman from London, demonstrates for Helena and her sister spiritus, a rare talent that allows someone to literally breathe life into inanimate objects and command them. He's chosen a book for his demonstration:

Helena had just opened her mouth to comment on how amusing she found the whole affair when the novel  rolled onto its side. With a snapping of covers and a fluttering of pages, the book scuttled along the floor in a hurried manner like some frightened paper creature. As it opened and closed, it pulled itself toward the wall with a surprising swiftness given it lacked legs, wings, or anything resembling an efficient means of propelling itself. In a matter of moments, the book had scampered to the wall. After a final spurt of its self-turning pages, it fell forward and produced a quiet thud.

Helena blinked several times, her heart pounding. 

For other snippets from a variety of wonderful authors writing in many genres or if you want to get involved yourself, please visit sixsunday.blogspot.com.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Author Interview: Cyrus Keith

My last few interviews have been with self-published authors at various stages of their self-controlled careers. Today, I’m posting an interview with author Cyrus Keith, who has walked the more traditional path of seeking out a publisher. His debut sci-fi thriller, Becoming NADIA, was released this April by MuseItUp Publishing. In August, the sequel, Unalive will be released, and a third book, Critical Mass is in the works.

1)  Please tell us about Becoming NADIA.
“What’s one more little white lie?”
There's only one thing that pretty, popular TV reporter Nadia Velasquez is missing: her memory from before the explosion that killed everyone else in the room, including the President of Nigeria. But from the moment she meets FBI agent Jon Daniels, all hell breaks loose. Friends turn into deadly enemies overnight, and no one can be truly trusted.
When Jon and Nadia investigate further, they discover the living terror that is the truth behind Nadia's existence, a truth that could mean the death of millions.
2) What inspired Unalive? Did you have a sequel in mind when you wrote Becoming NADIA?

Actually, I did not envision a sequel. But there was one huge, nagging loose end at the conclusion of Becoming NADIA that had to be addressed. So the rest of the story had to be told. Once I decided that, it was just a matter of outlining the major points and deciding how many parts to make it. Three just seemed to be the right total number of installments. However, there will be enough characters left alive at the end that there should be room for a continuing franchise if there is enough popular demand. Otherwise, I'm calling the series complete as of the conclusion of Critical Mass.

3) As a sequel, you already had a firm setting to play around in. Did you find it easier to write Unalive for that reason? Were there any challenges that you found writing the book that you didn't find with Becoming NADIA?

Unalive took longer, because I had a set of rules in which I had to work. Everything had to work within the framework I'd already laid out, and that included new characters and new aspects of existing characters.

4) Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

I try to start with a rough outline. By "rough," I mean five or six major points. That's my route from "Point A" to "Point B". I have to define the conflict along the way, and then I jot down whatever comes to me as tension-builders and as many twists as wander through my mind. This may take a couple of weeks.

Then I just start in on Page One with a hook, and plow through from there. As I complete a chapter, I post it for critique. I don't do any edits until after I complete the rough, and then I go back and incorporate suggestions from my critters as they advance my story.
After that, the work goes through about three rounds of edits to flesh it out and preen it before I submit the final product to my publisher.

If the MS gets accepted, I sign the contract, approve the cover, and then the work starts. My content editor, Fiona Young-Brown, runs through it at least twice, and sees that the story is integrated and whole. She helps me plug my plot holes, checks for consistency, and gives it one final critique. I polish it with here, go through it once or twice more myself, and then it goes to the line editor, Greta Gunselman, who chews the living dog snot out of it. She helps me weed out needless adverbs, grammatical errors, and corrects punctuation. This might take three or four rounds to get right.

Then the product goes to the Chief Editor, none other than Lea Schizas, who formats it into a galley proof. This is like a practice final version, in pdf format. She'll send it back to me, and I go through it one more time, word by word by punctuation mark, and make sure it's what I want. Then it goes back to Lea, who formats it and posts it on the vendors' websites and puts it into the queue for going to the printer.

Then it starts all over again. Notice that for every manuscript, no matter how many times I've been accepted in the past, there is no guarantee that my current work will be up to standard. I could still get rejected.

5) What sort of advantages has your publisher provided you?

The first advantage I reap is professional cover art at the publisher's expense. Then I get professional editing services, once again at the expense of the publisher. So far I've saved between two and three thousand dollars on those services alone. Then my publisher is the one who formats and uploads my work. That means I have more time to write, not spend that time on logistics. In addition, I have a ready pool of contacts for interviews, reviews, guest blog appearances, and the support of a hundred other writers who are all members of the publishing house. So we can touch thousands of people all over the world in a matter of weeks for promotions. Our marketing director also puts her two cents in, finding new places to place my work, and get my name out there.
In exchange for all this support, I do have to price my work higher than a self-publisher. I share net profit with everyone at the house who has input: cover artist, editors, chief editor and marketing director. But under my contract, I get a generous portion of that net.

6) If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring author, what would it be?

Don't expect things to get easier once you land that first contract. If you think you can ease back and let the cash roll in, read through my process again. You have to do that for every book you write. The only thing that gets easier is acceptance, once you develop a history and sales. And watch for scam artists who give easy acceptances, and then ask you to pay for editing or cover art. If they ask for money, run away. Period. Unless, of course, you are deliberately self-publishing.

I want to thank Cyrus for taking the time to share his experience with us. Please check out Becoming NADIA and Unalive when it’s released in August.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #7: Redefining "Closed Campus"

This week, I return to my Young Adult Urban Fantasy WIP, Osland. After a series of strange events, the protagonist, Gail Dorjee, is convinced that her boarding school, Osland Academy, is a about a lot more than preparing kids for college. When she asks to leave the school grounds to go sight-seeing in Seattle, her dorm manager forbids it, but she decides to sneak out anyway.

The moment of truth comes as she works her way through some trees toward a wall at the edge of the school grounds:

I reached out and pressed my palm against the brick. A fog clouded my mind. After I stepped back, I shook my head in a feeble attempt to clear it, but I couldn’t even remember why I’d even wanted to touch the wall. A little bit of concentration cleared out the mental mist, and my purpose resurfaced. I eyed the wall.

“Now, that is just not right,” I murmured.

For more snippets from many authors far more fascinating than me, please visit http://www.sixsunday.blogspot.com

Good Book Alert Review: The War God's Men

Over at Good Book Alert, I review David Ross Erickson's The War God's Men.

Author Interview: Shawn Maravel

Today, I'm talking with Shawn Maravel, who has recently released Severance, a sequel to her young adult paranormal romance, Volition.

1) Tell us a little bit about your latest novel.

I don't want to give too much away for Volition by telling you about Severance so here's a look at Volition:

Charlotte Rush would be the first to admit that her life is no rollercoaster ride. Her days are laced with ordinary and at times boring monotony. But with a heart that finds itself frequently broken she's happy to say that she's content.

When her friends convince her to spend the night out at a club to let loose and maybe even find a guy, she finally admits that her life might be missing something.

No sooner does she let go of her inhibitions does she find herself waking up in a dark hotel room in the presence of Joel, a man who carries mystery in his eyes and familiarity in his smile. Against reason Charlotte decides to trust him based solely on one thing. Somehow, she is sure that she knows him.

In a race against time to find answers and to solve the crime committed against her Charlotte finds herself falling for him. However, with nothing but mystery surrounding him she can't even be sure that he's the hero at all. While knowing all of the right things to say he still manages to tell her nothing. As a battle is waged over the innocence of her cryptic stranger, Charlotte discovers that much greater danger awaits her. And the mysteries behind who and what Joel is will lead Charlotte to discover that heaven and earth are not so far apart.

2) What inspired your novels?

Volition started off as a question that I posed to myself, "Who knows you inside and out, has seen you in your darkest hour, and loves you anyway?" On top of that I thought to myself...wouldn't it be interesting if it was someone you didn't even know? That you couldn't possibly grasp the concept of your love, but somehow...when you met them, something inside of you just knew that you loved them too? From there I decided on the answers to the questions of who exactly was he (Joel), what was he, how they will they meet, and what obstacles come with that type of relationship?

For Severance, it was very similar. At first, there was just going to be one book, but then I saw a movie called "Elsewhere" and the ending really freaked me out. It was kind of a physiological thriller, going to bed that night I though to myself, what if Volition took a turn like that? The stories are totally different from each other of course, but the idea that Volition could go somewhere I hadn't planned excited me. I had a rough idea about where it would go, but I wasn't positive until a friend that had read Volition and loved it posed another question. It made me realize that even bigger possibilities awaited this two book series. And without my friend's question it wouldn't be the same series by a long shot.

3) Did you find it easier to write the sequel or were their challenges you did not encounter when you wrote your first book?

It took less time for me to write Severance, the sequel to Volition, I started writing it as I was editing Volition, and I was really excited about it because Volition is the build up, and Severance really takes the reader into this crazy awesome adventure of love and how powerful it can really be. In that sense, Severance was actually easier. At the same time, I hit a lull while writing around the same spot in both books. Around page one hundred. From there it's like pulling teeth to finish. All in all though, I think it happened less with Severance because I had a lot more figured out. I took a lot less out then I ended up taking out of Volition, and I knew exactly how it would end. 

I had also been going to school online full-time when I started Volition,and by the time I'd moved onto Severance I'd stopped going to school to focus on writing. It provided me with a lot more time to writing. 

4) Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

My writing process is kind of strange, for the most part, after getting a main idea, theme, and character names down, I just start writing. I pick a spot that I think will be a good lead into the story, and I just start writing. The characters kind of take it from there, as strange as it sounds. I build up these characters, and through writing I kind of determine their personalities. As I throw them into situations, I can picture how they would react to them. As far as when I write and for how long, it all depends. Usually I'd write during the day between taking care of the house and pets. It's like having a job with a flexible schedule. I make sure that I write every day, or at least most days. But sometimes I get writer's block, though I wouldn't exactly call it that. I just need to step away from the story for a bit. Even when editing I need to take breaks, otherwise I'm not actually paying attention when I sit down to work. Sometimes ideas will come at strange times though and I'll be up at three in the morning huddled in the bathroom or at the kitchen table trying to let my husband sleep while I get down whatever ideas that I can onto paper. I know that once I fall asleep the flow will be gone when I wake up the next morning. 

5) Your work is self-published, but in stark contrast to the current crop of self-publishing authors, you haven't e-published. Given the current furor over e-publishing, why did you choose to go this route?

The site I went through, Createspace.com, does paper back books mainly, though I do think that they have the option to do e-books as well. I do intend to publish e-books at some point also, with my husband's technical help, but publishing my books for me was all about being able to hold my book in my hands. I think that e-books are a great tool, and I look forward to expanding in that direction, but I don't have an e-book reading device so the main goal was for me to be able to have access to my own work without having to buy something in order to read it first. I also happen to be a personal fan of hard copies as apposed to digital when it comes to books. I like keeping a physical library, to see my books lined up on a shelf, those I've read and those I've written. 

6) If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring author, what would it be?

The writing world is a competitive one with a lot of great story ideas to compete with, so keep your head up and stay positive. It's the people who truly believe in their work that will become successful. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Author Interview: Victorine Lieske

Today, as part of my semi-regular series of author interviews, I have an interview with author Victorine Lieske.

Ms. Lieske has sold a staggering 100,000 copies of her self-published debut novel, Not What She Seems. She's just published her second book, a science fiction young adult romance, The Overtaking.

I'm glad to have this chance to interview Victorine, who not only has been quite successful but also is one of the nicest people I've met out there in cyber-space.

1) Tell us a little bit about your recently released novel.

It is a young adult romance with a science fiction backdrop. The sci-fi is soft, most of the story is about the people instead of the science. Here's the blurb: Shayne Bartlet has been kidnapped, his powers disabled and his memory altered. He’s not having a good day. And he doesn’t even know it.

When Shayne’s telepathic abilities surface, he finds out Danielle isn’t the normal teenager she appears to be. In fact, she’s not even from his world. And when he finds out her race is responsible for the overtaking of his entire planet, he sets out to uncover the truth about her.

Danielle didn’t mean to fall in love with a Maslonian boy. Her job was to observe and report. But when Shayne’s well being is at stake she goes against orders to help him, putting her own self in danger.

Together, Danielle and Shayne discover that things are not as they seem. They must stop Danielle’s race from destroying the Maslonian planet, and free Shayne’s people.

2) What inspired your current novel? Why did you decide to go with a sci-fi twist this time around?

The inspiration came from an idea that I had, which was sort of a what-if question. What if we discovered we were not who we thought we were? What if we discovered our memories were altered, and we had powers that we didn't know about? Those are the thoughts that inspired the novel. And it's funny because I started this novel back when I was first married, so the idea for this book came well before Not What She Seems.

3) You're self-published debut novel, Not What She Seems, was a huge success with over 100,000 copies sold. Do you feel any added pressure now with the release of The Overtaking?

Yes, I do feel some pressure to get the word out about this one so it does as well as my first book. It's hard not to compare the sales of each. But they're different books, so I don't want to put them into the same box.

4) You spent over four years writing Not What She Seems. You've written The Overtaking in a much shorter period of time. Did your experiences with your debut novel make it easier for you to write the

Definitely. And even though the idea for The Overtaking came to me years ago, I only started writing it in earnest in the fall of 2010. I pretty much had to throw out what I had written years ago. In writing and rewriting Not What She Seems, I learned a lot about storytelling, and I feel like my skills have improved with the second book as well.

5) Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

I try to set word count goals. It's a lot easier for me to write in little pieces rather than looking at the whole goal and getting lost in it. I usually start with a 500 word count goal, and when I've reached that I'll try to see if I can make it to 1,000. I also try to stop in the middle of a scene so I can jump back into it fairly easily. I also read and reread as I go, rewriting as necessary. I know some people tell you not to edit as you write, but I can't work that way. I like to get things to read smoothly before going on.

6)  Romance, as a genre, has become steadily steamier with the passing decades. You are well-known for writing sweet romance. Have you felt any pressure to add a bit more steam into your work?

No. I have gotten a couple of bad reviews because of the laid back romance, but I just took that as the book wasn't for them. I get many more reviews and emails from people who appreciated the clean aspect of the romance. I try to let people know that the romance doesn't go into the bedroom by my description, so I figure if people are looking for a clean read they won't be disappointed.

7) The Overtaking lends itself to a sequel. Are you planning a sequel or are you going planning to shift sub-genres again?

I have started writing the sequel to The Overtaking. I do have two more books in the series in my head, but I'm not sure if there will be more than that. I'm kind of a seat-of-my-pants writer, so we'll see how the story develops.

8) If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring author, what would it be?

The best advice I can give is to join a critique group. I joined critiquecircle.com and ran Not What She Seems through there twice. I firmly believe that much of the success of the book came because of what I learned in my critique group, not only from getting critiques but from giving them as well. This is very important and I would highly suggest every aspiring author find a critique group to join.

Guest Post: Kevin Villegas, author of Sunwright Chronicles: Empire at War

In today's post, for the first time at Riftwatcher, I turn the reins over to someone else.

Please welcome author Kevin Villegas, who is currently on a blog tour to promote his fantasy novel, The Sunwright Chronicles: Empire at War. Today, he'll be discussing the character development process he used during the creation of his novel.

The Characters of Empire at War

In my novel, I decided to focus on creating deep, realistic characters. One of the ways I set about accomplishing this was to not have the story center around one character. There is no single hero in the book, as there is no single enemy. I don't like to work in the world of black and white. I like shades of grey. The characters undergo transformations through the book, and I think this is most evident in Claudius. When I write a character, I take a lot of things into consideration. 

Let's use Claudius for an example. First of all, there is the base personality to work out. Claudius is very well- educated. He has been raised amongst the Elves of Garion. His mother was full elf and his father human. He is calm and serene, but at the same time, he is strong a natural leader. He's naive when it comes to the certain things, such as temptation and the true meaning of warfare. So right there, you have a base personality: Claudius is a naturally calm person, he has a strong personality and is a leader not a follower. At the same time, he tends to be naive about certain things. 

The next thing I take into consideration is the culture of the character. Claudius was raised and lived among the Elves of Garion. This means is he is well-educated and versed in combat. He has also learned the importance of the individual amongst society. The most important lesson drilled into him was that kings are meant to lead not by divine right but by the blessing of their people. 

Now we have the base personality and the cultural influence on the character. Next starts the really fun part of writing a character, the actual creation process! When I'm writing, I become the character. Knowing their personality, I will move forward and as the story develops, so too will the character. I try not to think ahead regarding a character's decision or reaction to a certain event, I let my imagination flow. When writing I try not to second guess myself, and I don't like to change the decisions of my characters for fear of what may happen to the storyline. If the storyline is carried in a direction I didn't expect, I think that's great. That's the creative process at wok. Surprising things can happen when you don't map out ever aspect of a character. It is especially fun to have two characters interacting with one another who would not talk to each other in a normal situation. In my case, I have Calia and Liz. I don't want to give away too much, so suffice it to say these two strong independent women have conflicting personalities that lead to some interesting interactions. 

If you enjoy strong, well-developed characters, you will enjoy "The Sunwright Chronicles: Empire at War." I hope you have enjoyed this guest blog post. 


Thanks for sharing with us, Kevin.

Kevin maintains a website dedicated his series at http://thesunwrightchronicles.wordpress.com/.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When that brilliant idea doesn't seem so brilliant half-way through the writing process

Although it is only recently that I’ve managed to produce something readable for the general public, I’ve written many stories over the years. Today, though, I was reflecting on the novels that I’ve written and then abandoned. In general, once I’ve generated an idea and actually start writing on it, I finish. I don’t think this is the result of dogged determination or discipline as much as a reflection of the fact that I try to only write the kind of thing I want to read. It makes the actual writing process very fun for me. Editing . . . not so much fun. That's perhaps why I've only managed to produce two decent works and only rather recently. I've slowly (with the aid of critique partners and beta readers) acquired the necessary editing discipline. 

In considering the two major projects I abandoned, they were both helped me realize a lot about the kind of things I enjoy in books and, consequently, the kind of things I enjoy writing.

The first abandoned project was a somewhat dark YA paranormal. The story concerned a college freshman that learns she is a faerie. Unfortunately, she learns this because a group of faerie-hunting humans called the Iron Sword attempt to capture and kill her. She only manages to escape with the aid the human agent (who was posing as her roommate) of a faerie-affiliated group. After she thinks her roommate is killed, she ends up being saved by another faerie who also, conveniently enough, is also a hot guy. The twist is that he’s actually the bad guy. He’s been seducing her as part of an attempt to resurrect the spirit of Baba Yaga (who in this book was going to be depicted as a sort of dark faerie-witch hybrid). It had lots of angst, magic, ruthless guys with iron swords, random references to Wisconsin and Illinois (I live in Madison, WI) and what not. I wrote a good 2/3rds of the novel before abandoning it. After all that planning, developing, and work, why did I abandon it? One simple reason: protagonist agency.

One day, after I spent a good hour editing, I realized the protagonist basically had no agency. She spent the entire book being pushed from one person to another person. Everything happens to her, but she initiates nothing. Now, I don’t think that all protagonists have to be action heroes or whatever, but something really bugged me about a protagonist who is nothing more than a leaf on the plot wind and spends the entire book being just timid, sad,scared, and manipulated, even it was a totally realistic reaction to the situation she was in. Part of the problem with this was that it made everyone around her seem more interesting. Her roommate/guardian, her boyfriend/evil dude, et cetera. I toyed around with some rewrites and realized I was so dissatisfied with the result that I abandoned it.   It did, however, rise again in a sense. I took many of the elements of the plot with some slight tweaks and incorporated them in as the plot of an adult urban fantasy novel I wrote that focused on a different protagonist who was involved in the search for a faerie girl who had gone missing.

The second novel I abandoned for a totally different reason. I had started working on a YA paranormal about a girl who can see ghosts but since no one else can, she’s been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. The book concerned her meeting up with a ghost hunting other, far more evil ghosts, but the main idea was to make it ambiguous (i.e., as no one else can see the ghosts, maybe it really was all in her head). When I got about half-way through this, I felt  uncomfortable. On a certain level, I wondered if what I was writing was somehow insulting to schizophrenics. Now, who is to say? One thing that strikes me about people raising sensitivity complaints is that horrifically serious things like murder are treated very casually in certain genres that are often considered light, fun escapist reads (e.g., cozy mystery). I've seen no one make the argument, for example, that cozy mysteries shouldn't be around because there are a lot of suffering people who've left friends and family to murder. Anyway, despite my intellectual defense of the idea, I found I still felt very uncomfortable with the project. My spouse told me I was thinking it through too hard, but, ultimately, I abandoned the project.

I was inspired to write this post today, though, because when I was flipping through my blogs, I saw a new YA book coming out with a very similar premise (unfortunately, I can’t remember the title or the blog I saw it on). Basically, a girl gets committed because she can see ghosts no one else can. Now, reading through the blurb and what not, it didn’t really strike me as exploitive or outrageous, yet in my own case overthought my way to abandoning the project. If I can find the blog (or the book) again, I’ll probably buy it. My reader interface with the idea was quite different than my writer interface.

I’m curious. If you’re a writer, why have you abandoned projects in the past? If you’re a reader, what sort of things make you want to abandon a book or make you uncomfortable?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Six Sunday #6: With Friends Like These

I'm jumping back to my Regency paranormal romance WIP, A Woman of Proper Accomplishments.

In an earlier Six Sentence Sunday, Helena was caught by her friend Cassie kissing a visiting gentleman, Mr. Morgan.

This six is sometimes later when Cassie makes it clear how she views the situation:


“Perhaps he imbibed too much and then laid down a wager with other gentlemen about being able to seduce you.” The glee in Cassandra's eyes suggested she found the possibility more exciting than disturbing. “Oh, I do hope it was a large wager. You are worth it, Helena.”

After taking a deep breath, Helena said, “Cassie, one might claim you my foe to say such things.”

“I did specify a large wager.”


For six sentence excerpts from other authors, please visit http://www.sixsunday.blogspot.com/.

Good Book Alert Review: She Smells The Dead

Over at Good Book Alert, I review E.J. Steven's She Smells The Dead.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Idle Musings about Music in Writing

So, I'm sitting here watching Top Chef: Masters. I'm not much for most reality shows, but I adore cooking and fashion-related reality shows (so obviously they need to make a combined fashion/cooking show for me--Project Top Fashion Chef Show).

A fashion-based reality show is a pretty simple affair for television. Fashion is primarily a visual artistic medium. It translates easily and well to television.

Cooking is, in some ways, a bit of an odd choice for your typical reality show. Sure, we've had cooking shows for decades, but watching something like Top Chef: Masters (or any of its other iterations) is a different thing, entirely. They aren't explicitly didactic in nature.

Food, unlike, is primarily a multi-sensory experience. Taste and smell are arguably the most important elements, but visuals play a key role. Depending on the type of cuisine, feel, via texture may be a very important component as well. When you're watching food on television, though, all you really get is the visual. 

A cooking show relies partially on familiarity with the flavors on the part of the viewer and also on explanation to communicate the experience. While a viewer will never truly taste the food, an evocative description can do a lot of making the viewer's mouth water.

A novel (well, a non-graphic novel, at least), must rely purely on words to engage the senses. Unfortunately,  there are certain sensory experiences that can be harder to communicate. Music plays a major role in several key scenes in my YA urban fantasy WIP, Osland. While I feel I decent job of using evocative language to at least communicate the feeling of the music in question, I still find myself dissatisfied. Readers will never really hear a lot of the music (with the exception of a couple of classical pieces I reference).

Despite my limited talent in the area, I love music so much that I often find it sneaking into my writing. It plays a key role even in my inspiration process. I spend a lot of time listening to music that fits in thematically with my WIPs. When I'm writing certain scenes, I can hear the music, whether it is or not it is diegetic. 

In the end, music is such a different experience than the written word that it can never truly be translated from the one medium to another. The closest thing we have (other than the music itself) to directly communicating what music sounds like is musical notation. I doubt the average reader (or even the average musician) wants a bunch of sheet music in the middle of their novel.  One strategy sometimes employed is to use music that people are likely familiar with. All of these challenges, don't mean that one shouldn't try to include musical elements, but just that they present a particular challenge. 

Is the lack of specificity even that important? Is it just the feeling of music that is important? If a writer is describing the appearance of something or the taste of something, although they may use metaphor and what not to enhance it, often there is a tendency to specificity (albeit evocative specificity).

Any of my readers out there have any thoughts on this issue? Just idle musings after watching some reality TV. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Six Sunday #5: There's mean girls and then there's strange girls

For this week's Six Sentence Sunday, I return to my YA urban fantasy WIP, Osland.

After ducking out of a school dance with her date, protagonist Gail Dorjee stumbles upon some bullies from the school's main clique roughing up her friend, Leandra. She decides enough is enough and steps in to deal with them with a little threat, but realizes something a lot more than a little bullying is going on:

“You’re going to leave her alone right now, or I swear I’ll knock you around so hard that by the time you wake up disco will be back in style.”

The two girls looked at each other and grinned. They turned and took several steps toward me. In unison, with a monotone voice, they said, “You don’t belong here, Miss Dorjee.” They pointed to Leandra. “She doesn’t either, but I need one of you."

For more Six Sentence Sunday tidbits from other authors please visit http://www.sixsunday.blogspot.com/.

Good Book Alert Review: Cartier's Ring

Over at Good Book Alert, I review Pearson Moore's historical fiction story, Cartier's Ring.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Author Interview: Cindy Borgne

For my second interview, I talked with Cindy Borgne, author of the science fiction YA tale, Vallar.

1) Tell us a little bit about your novel.

Sixteen-year-old Ian Connors works for Marscorp, using his psychic ability to give the organization an advantage over other groups angling for control of the embattled planet. The people of Earth have abandoned the colonies of Mars due to a dwindling of their own resources. The leaders of Marscorp believe that by pooling the planets assets, they will be able to gain enough power to force their way back to Earth.

Ian's job is to use his visions to locate smaller organizations in order to plunder their valuables and incorporate their masses. But a disturbing vision and a horrible loss cause Ian to doubt his loyalties to a corrupt, dictatorial admiral.

Unwilling to be a pawn in the Admiral's dangerous game, Ian must find a way to escape and protect a girl he sees himself with in the future. His only hope may lie with a new organization known as Vallar - an alliance of rebel organizations willing to fight for their survival.

2) What inspired your current novel?

It was a combination of two things. In the story, the main character Ian has the ability to foresee the future. So I put him in him a situation where he uses his ability for the wrong reasons, but he doesn’t realize it at first because he’s being manipulated. When he doesn’t realize it, he has to get away from the people using him for their own greed. The second reason is in the beginning of the story Ian sees himself with a girl he’s never met. I enjoyed experimenting with his desire to be with her based on a vision. It’s also is a forbidden type of love, and I had fun writing it.

3) Though your story is ultimately focused on an individual, you have a very intricate setting with a lot of implied history. Is the setting something you carefully considered before starting to write the book or was it something that you developed as your story unfolded?

This story has been with me so long it’s evolved a lot. Originally the setting was a future Earth that was overcrowded with both people and factories. Then I began experimenting with the idea of it being on Mars and things grew from there. I wrote some of the scenes on Mars and I enjoyed the challenge of it. As the story progressed, it became tied to the setting. Now there are scenes that won’t work anywhere else. So yes, you could say I carefully considered the setting.  

4) Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

I always flesh out the plot and characterization first, so my first drafts are light on description. Once I know the plot is solid, I go back in and add all the details. Then I edit it several times. I put it up for critique, and I continue to edit it. I even listen to it on my Kindle to catch errors. I pretty much pound the thing before I publish it.

5) What made you decide to self-publish?

Mainly I liked the idea of price control. I see so many traditional publishers pricing their e-books way too high. I’m still not certain if I went the right route, and I will know more eventually because I do have one novelette out from a small publisher. I wish there was a different way to submit to agents and traditional publishers where you don’t have to write a whole book before finding out none of them want it.

6) If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring author, what would it be?

Waiting for inspiration doesn’t always work. You have to keep working until you find it.

Cindy's novel, Vallar, is available at Amazon.

Query Goblin: For when you need some feedback on your query

Looking for some more feedback on your query? If so, you might want to visit The Query Goblin. While the Goblin isn't an agent, she (along with blog followers) provides nice third-party feedback on your potential query.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Author Interview: Katherine Hanna

Every author brings their own style to the act of creation. In an effort to explore those differences, I intend to interview different willing authors, both traditional and self-published.

I'm starting the series off with an interview with a friend, Katherine Hanna, author of the self-published post-apocalyptic drama, Breakdown. 

Me: Tell us a little bit about your novel.

KH: Six years after a pandemic devastates the human population and unstoppable computer viruses have destroyed much of the world's technology, Chris Price finally makes it from New York to Britain to reunite with his brother. But the horrors he's witnessed and unresolved grief over his dead wife and baby have changed him. Can he let go of his past, unlock his heart, and learn to find love again?

Me: What inspired your current novel?

KH: Many years ago I had a vivid dream. A man and his son were walking through Bath, England (I recognized it, having visited four times). I could tell that the world had changed: many buildings were boarded up, and cars sat rusting in the streets. The people were ragged, and trading in an open marketplace. The dream stuck with me, and I elaborated from that, and it eventually turned into the opening of Breakdown.

Me:  Love and a post-apocalyptic world aren't things that immediately go together in many people's minds. What made you set this kind of story in such a setting?

KH: Good question. The story didn't actually start out as a love story. It started out as Chris's quest to mend a broken friendship. Too easy in a modern world, so I eliminated conveniences like telephones and email. And to get rid of those I had to drastically change the world. The plot kept evolving. I realized that Chris had to have experiences before he gets home to Bath, and these would shape him. Experiences involve new characters. And when characters interact for awhile, things change again. Characters fall in love. What can you do?

Me: Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

KH: I write in fits and starts. I'll have a few weeks of fabulous productivity. Then I hit the doldrums, and produce nothing. I turn to sewing, and try to percolate ideas and plot lines while I sew. Sometimes I'll have a dream that will kick me in the butt and I'll write for a few weeks again. But I'm really bad at keeping a regular writing schedule. Just too much going on in my life. But I'd like to try to do that now, so I can get the next book ready.

Me: What made you decide to self-publish?

KH: I'd actually stopped writing in despair because I knew the process of getting an agent or publisher would take months to years with little chance of success. And if I got lucky and got the manuscript accepted somewhere, it could still be years before the book came out. I'm not a gal with a lot of patience. When I saw what people were doing on Kindle, I made my New Year's resolution to finish the book and have it out by my birthday of April 30. (I actually beat that by a couple of weeks.) So far, I'm pleased with how it's going.

Me: If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring author, what would it be?

KH: Don't try to find the magic formula, because it doesn't exist, and ignore any advice that includes the word "never." 

Breakdown is available for purchase at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let's Link To The Interesting Eight

I read and follow a lot of blogs relating to publishing. Today, I decided I would pass along a small number  of the ones I've found particularly interesting and/or useful. Now this isn't to say I don't follow other blogs that aren't interesting or useful (I follow several hundred), but just that these really stick out in my mind.

For those seeking traditional publishing:

This is the blog of literary agent Jessica Faust. Even if you aren't interested in her representing your work, she provides a lot of useful information about the process of getting published and general insight into the agent side of things. Read through her archives.

This is the blog of literary agent Kristen Nelson. Pretty much everything I said above about Ms. Faust is true for Ms. Nelson.

This is the blog of author and freelance editor Anne Mini. For those totally and completely new to the process of trying to get their work published, her website is invaluable. She provides lengthy, detailed explanations of things like manuscript preparation, query letters, synopses, et cetera.

At this site, literary agent Janet Reid provides detailed feedback on if a query works or not. While she will not give feedback on every query sent to her, a careful review of her archives (over 200 dissected queries) should help an aspiring author learn everything to do and not to do in a query.

For those planning to self-publish:

This is the blog of author J.A. Konrath. He is a traditionally published author who has since become an e-self-publishing evangelist. Although I find his tone a bit combative at times, he provides a lot of useful information about the realities of self-publishing and is very open about things details like his sales.

Mr. Smith is another traditionally published author and former small press publisher who is now rather vocal in his support of self-pubbing. Although, unlike Mr. Konrath, he is making more an effort to keep a presence via traditional publishing. He provides a number of interesting insights into many aspects of both traditional and self-publishing that any author considering self-publishing needs to consider.

This is the blog of Robin Sullivan. It is very focused on the 'business' aspect of publishing. She is involved with self-publishing, small press publishing, and "Big 6" publishing, so she can present a nuanced analysis of the advantages of each. 

Like Amazon or hate them, the Kindle is still the King of E-readers. Though not an official site of Amazon, Kindle Boards is still the major site for self-pubbed authors to network an learn about the difficulties associated with self-publishing. Author Victorine Lieske, whose self-published debut novel sold over 90,000 copies and lead to agents seeking her out, has noted that her participation at the Kindle Boards played a key role in her success.