author C.C.Cole's blog

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Cole Cut XII: The Conquest of George R. R. Martin

In my final installment of “The Cole Cut” for 2011, I saved my largest project for last.  It was not the writing of my second novella “Children of Discord,” because it was in the editing stage by the time 2011 came around.  Not to kick down my own work, one of my many happy moments of 2011 is winning a book award with a sequel novella.

The largest project, no doubt, was the reading of all five of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books by George R. R. Martin, or “Game of Thrones,” as in the cable series.  I started them sometime during the summer and finished in the fall.  Counting the amount of time and the number of pages I think I’ll leave out for fear of triggering a migraine.  Let’s just say, I didn’t take a big bite.  I ate the whole cake in five huge pieces.

This epic is a masterpiece on many levels.  If you like dark fantasy, this series should be either on your nightstand or in your e-reader, keeping in mind, these books are very R-rated and not for kids.  The first three books are outstanding.  I scaled down my ratings on the last two, but they’re still good and as part of the story, still a must-read, like them or not.

With every review, I mentioned my favorite character, “The Imp,” or “Tyrion Lannister” shown above.  (I’ve heard this guy’s up for an Emmy, I hope that’s true and he deserves it for the cable series).  He’s not the only character I like, but for a small guy, he stands taller in characterization than the others by wit, cleverness, and generally better intentioned than his dysfunctional family.  In the books, he shows great courage in spite of his physical dwarf size. 

Readers, for those interested, charge into “A Song of Ice and Fire” using your brain as a lance, because you’ll need it.  The series is intriguing, brutal, and brilliant.  As I’ve previously written, it’s over-extended and it’s time for Mr. Martin to reel the story in.  Even Frodo and Sam got as far as Mount Doom, and re-united with the original “Fellowship of the Ring.”  But that’s OK, Mr. Martin still has a lot to teach new authors with this massive epic, so check it out.  Again, the readers decide.

Monday, December 26, 2011

On The Diary of a New Author 2011

While realizing this may not be the most original idea for an end-of-year reflection, I still like to look back at last year and appreciate what I’ve learned.  The world of the new author brings another level to the human experience:

Jo March in "Little Women"
--I published my second book of the Gastar series, “Children of Discord” in 2011.  As in my article “On Sequel Sympathy,” I realized a follow up is every bit as difficult as the first novel in a series.  The writer must give the audience enough of the first, but enough newness to keep the story fresh.  Not easy.

--When we new authors enter the writers’ cyber-space, we all look like cans of Spam.  With no followers, no friends on social sites, I see myself with similar skepticism that others gave me.  However, I followed the example of several great authors that gave me a chance.  I believe in giving other new authors a chance.

--I learned it’s important to realize not to expect much in the way of sales.  Face reality and work with it.  Working without expectation has a freedom all its own, and I still wonder how I would feel about writing if I “wrote on-demand.”

--While being careful not to spam, don’t give up on your work.  Keep it out there, some readers will be interested and some will not.  That’s OK, you’ll be known as a writer, not a spammer.  I wrote a lot about the spam-accusations hurled at me early on, and now I see the spammers aren’t always new to the industry; some of them self-promote exclusively.  That’s OK, every author has his/her own style of promotion, as well as writing.

--Have fun with your new work.  I like to pretend I’m a Tribble on Twitter, do some silly tweets, and tweet something that most of us can relate to; like Happy Holidays and food comas.  It slowly becomes a double-life, and I love an alternate reality of my everyday experiences.

--Write all the time; every day, if your hand can stand it.  Articles, short stories, chapters of your next book, whatever it is, writing is like eating:  The more you eat, the more you eat; the more you write, the more you write.

--When not writing, I’ve learned to read.  I keep one of my many e-readers handy, and read new author colleagues as well as classics, most genres, all the time.  Life is not boring when one reads great work, and it not need be the mainstream bestsellers.

--Value other writers, the classics and the other new authors you meet in cyber-space.  Offer something to do for another; you’ll be surprised what you get in return.  I find giving to be encouraging, gratifying, and educational.  Expectations can yield disappointment, but pleasant surprises can yield happiness. 

--Learn to be realistic in what you can participate in.  I flunked out of my first blog tour attempt.  Furious at myself for letting others down, I went the extra mile for my first successful blog tour.  While I loved it, I now know it takes focus and time.  Nowadays I purchase and review books of other authors, the better fit for me.  It’s less mass exposure, but gives quality exposure.  Now with blog tours/other group activities I plan carefully.  It’s better to do a few things well than many things badly.

--Social media can take over your life, especially if you’re working full time, and/or caring for a family.  I’ve learned to select a few sites to work with regularly, and I’ve dropped out of several sites.

--I still offer to give my books to reviewers.  Though I’ve written that can be taken wrong, I find it more awkward to ask them to purchase. 

--After eliminating my first website www.gastarseries.com, I re-launched my blog www.shevata-cccole.blogspot.com.  Blogging is not easy, but it’s a good place for the new author to write and feature your work regularly.  As my blog has increased in viewers, my on-line presence, though small, has come light years from day one. 

--I’ve never obsessed about the money to be made as a new author.  It’s not worth the effort; some books sell more than others.  As I’ve tweeted many times, if you’re looking to get rich writing, get a plan B.

--Most of all, I find my new author status as a special, particular corner of my life I claim to be my own.  When I talk about my writing world with friends/family they usually say, “You’re having a ball with this, aren’t you?”

Yes, I’m having a ball because I love it, more every day.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Cole Cut XI: Best Iguana

I couldn't resist re-posting Stella Deluze's excellent essay from the standpoint of her unusual roomate, Zorro. 

A lazy animal's life

What the heck? Still sleepy, I open my eyes. Why does the sun always rise that quickly? The same as it sets. One second I dream of the high trees, next I'm thrown into reality. Brutal, I must say. And it means, that I have to leave this corner I slept in.
Not that someone forces me, but this ugly creature that provides me with some delicious tasting stuff will put it on my lower lazy hangout. I spend most of my day there, because I can overlook my territory, you see?
She doesn't know it yet, but I'm her master. Proof is that she always backs off when I head-bob at her, or leaves, just to come back with more delicious things to eat and boy, she knows what I like. A lot of crunchy greens and those little round things that pop in my mouth.
How I know it's a female? Hell, don't you understand? I'm an alpha male and if I don't take up the scent of a fine lady, who else would, eh? And there are many opportunities for she comes to see me a lot. Even when I really don't want to be disturbed.
Oh, there she is and I see green stuff. Good job, I could eat at least two bowls of this. She makes funny noises I don't understand. What do you want? I wonder. Something's different. Typical. A cold draft pushes past me. No time to blink, I'm in anticipation of the food.
Gosh, this is good! I don't spare her one look. Then...Hey! No! I want to shout. Why can't she let me eat in peace? I don't like being touched, I'm ticklish. Leave me alone, I signal by shaking my head. Not that I have high hopes. Years of experience made showed that's not going to happen. I sigh, throw a brief look towards her flesh and contemplate.
Lucky for her, I enjoy my breakfast far too much. Again, this annoying sound. Sometimes, I feel she speaks my language, but I have trouble to understand, must be a weird dialect. I would answer, then she would answer, too, but still no real conversation.
Now, she dashes out of my sight. Do I care? No, she left enough so I continue to tuck in. Could've closed the gap where this cold draft floats in. Might mean she'll be back. Yes, here she comes, holding some orange watery treats, then puts it in front of me.
And there are some attached to her flesh. Great! She'll just take the mick again, every time I have almost one in my mouth, she'll pull away, making weird noises again, just a tad louder. Put the damn sweet things down and let me get them my own, I want to scream at her.
Imagine someone holds your favourite treat in front of you and then pulls it away, every bloody time. How would you feel? To do a little bit of justice, I've a trick, darting forwards, mouth as wide open as possible and try to bite into her flesh, she then drops the orange thingies.
From experience I know that will piss her off, teach her a lesson, you know? On the other hand, I won't get supplement and when I like something very much, then it's supplement. And variety. Must say, she does this well.
But this constant staring. Why on earth would she stare at me for ages? I need to digest, warm up, spread my arm and legs, rest my head and doze. Something I do for most of the day. I can afford it, can't I? Having my personal slave.
There I lie, relaxed, dreaming of a fine woman for me, when the drafts is back. I lift my head to see what the reason for the disturbance is. Oh dear. This giant spitting thing. That comes unexpected! There I was, sun-bathing and now it rains heavily. I squint.
Good I don't soak, it's rather nice when it's a warm shower. I wonder if I will ever have a quiet moment, day even. But that's something else I can dream of, tomorrow, maybe the day after that. The rain stops, the sun shines down on me and I'm able to have a nap. Life is hard for an iguana.

Bio: Stella is a versatile writer. Having spent almost all her life in Germany, she now lives in beautiful London with her pet iguana Zorro. When she's not busily typing away on her laptop, she edits other people's work.

The Cole Cut X: A Montage of Books

In this installment of "The Cole Cut," a summation of my experiences in 2011, here's another set of notable books, notable by creativity, writing skills, and controversy:

 "The Unwanted" by Daniel Carter and "First Chosen" by M. Todd Gallowglas are excellent dark fantasy stories, that I was happy to read and review.  Good work, fellas!

 The above books are by the authors of "The Collaborates" a group of ace writers with don't-want-to-miss books about international crime, co-dependence, and paranormal romance, respectively.

"A Majority of One" by Robert Lamb is the most controversial book I read in 2011.  A teacher chooses a book to be read by her students and her decision is not supported by the small town deep south community, leading to tragic results.  I understood his point, but disagreed with the example he used.  However, readers should decide.  Some books are written to address difficult questions in society, and this is one of them.

 The "Underwear Dare" by the Nardini Sisters is the funniest book I read in 2011.  Highly recommended!

 "Reunion" by Jeff Bennington, understandably popular on amazon, it an interesting story about a tragic school shooting and a paranormal aftermath; very intriguing!

Great work, authors!!

On Four and Five Star Reviews

One of the many dreams of all new authors is for our books to get great reviews.  They help our confidence, encourage us to keep going, and regarding sales, they do help; or the other way around is, without favorable reviews our books are truly a hard sell. 

When I review book from the many talented new authors, I’m happy to give four and five star reviews.  But I think why do I give one story four stars and another five?  If I think it’s good enough for four, why not five? 

As I ponder this question, I don’t have simple answer.  To me, the fifth star is more subjective.  Meaning, the story goes from “very good” to “great.”  I still recommend four-star reviews to readers, and sometimes pick up a book to re-read I have four stars.  

An example of the subjectivity is the book I reviewed “Orange Petals in a Storm” by Niamh Clune.  When I gave it four stars and saw almost every other reviewer gave it five, I thought, “What did I miss?  Did I read too fast?  Am I dense?” (probably) After thinking about it for a while, I realized it’s the way the story is carried in this beautiful novel: I’m a dialogue reader and writer.  Niamh writes incredible prose.  I loved it, but my taste is a more dialogue-driven story.  Nothing makes me right and the other reviewers wrong, or vice-versa.

Not every four-star review I’ve given is prose-over-dialogue, and I can’t explain the difference.  Usually there’s “something” that the story leaves me with makes me raise the fifth star.  But it’s hardly a negative to the four-stars; instead it’s a positive to the five stars. 

New authors, when you get four-star reviews, it’s still a great review.   I know I appreciate the ones I get.  And if your book gets four stars from one reviewer, it will probably get five from others, three from others, and there’s probably a “non-audience” reviewer to throw in a one-or-two star rating (non-audience readers’ being a common reason for low critiques).  Every writer that writes about reviews says they’re subjective, and I agree.  So write great work, find your audience, and the four and five stars will follow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On Shevata’s Continuing Journey

As I’m putting together the third novella of the Gastar Series, I noted on some of the reviews of “Children of Discord” about how the city and people of Gastar change with each novella.  As I’ve written before, the Gastar Series is not an epic, not a mainstream/paranormal romance, and not lengthy books. The lead character makes a journey from killing and war to love and family.  For the readers that have met Shevata, it’s clearly a challenging effort.

In “Act of Redemption” the story began two hundred years following her actions that resulted in the fall of Gastar.  In the second novella, “Children of Discord,” Shevata returns to her home city, again after two centuries, so it’s understandably changed by growth and development.  In the third and fourth (four in all) novellas, she returns to Gastar under very different circumstances and following the passage of a shorter time period.

Note:  The city of Gastar changes through the years.  The people change; therefore, the human characters change.  But what doesn’t change?  Shevata.  Her problem isn’t with an inability to destroy her enemies (most of the time); instead she’s unable to blend into the civilized world she fights for.  After spending so much time as a wartime assassin and various journeys into the underworld, the irony is that she cannot adapt to her own world. 

Shevata hasn’t given up on the idea of putting away her weapons for a normal life.  But it isn’t easy for her as she is headstrong and set in her ways.  Like anyone who’s been to war, she cannot forget the past.  But she continues to reach for her future.  Above all, she values the safety of her home city even if she’s not a part of it.  The challenges she’s yet to face will be what she’s willing to sacrifice to protect the people of Gastar.  The closer she gets to reaching her goal, the more she finds herself at risk of losing her opportunity for the greater good.  If you can imagine what it would be like to put behind everything you’ve ever known and experienced in order to begin your life completely over, that is Shevata’s journey.  In light of the numerous non-human characters in the series, the underlying message is all about humanity.

The Cole Cut IX: More Great Books

In this installment of “The Cole Cut” I’d like to point out a few books/authors that created stories that I’ve enjoyed in the year 2011.  The ones below are some I reviewed earlier in the year, but I do recommend checking out some of my more recent reviews, including “The Underwear Dare” and “Caring for Eleanor.”

 Niamh Clune's "Orange Petals in a Storm" is a beautifully written paranormal novel about a girl finding her way from despair.  At four stars by me, I highly recommend it.

I enjoyed "Hazardous Choices" by Joseph Rinaldo.  This is a captivating read about a young man transcending his double life of gangland crime and a college athlete.

"Learning to Fly" by Gina Penn is a moving series of short stories that are as fascinating as they are darkly disturbing.  At five stars by me, I thought it was brilliant.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On The Holiday Season

"It's a Wonderful Life"

During what many call “The Holiday Season” it’s usually the time around Christmas, before Thanksgiving for retailers, extending to after the New Year.  As this season of happiness approaches for me as a new author, I’ve been thinking about its positive meaning.

I’ll give a disclaimer that I’m a lifetime Christian, so Christmas means the same to me as any others in the same faith.  But, what does the Holiday Season mean in more general terms?  Let’s be more specific:  What does the Holiday Season mean for the new author, excluding religious meaning?

At least once in our lives, we have had experiences similar, though not exact, to the famous character George Bailey in the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Maybe it wasn’t the honest loss of thousands of dollars owed, as in George’s case.  Desperation carries many messages, sometimes financial, sometimes relationships, and sometimes with loss (my sister’s death was December 22nd, and she was buried on Christmas Eve). 

As difficult as it is to feel optimism during such times, help is there when people ask for it.  Some gain strength through faith, and/or loved ones, but overall, it must channel through ourselves to appreciate what good we have in our lives. 

As I reflect back on this past year, what remains with me as a new author are the numerous new virtual relationships I’ve gained with other writers, readers, and other great people.  One needs not to look far in cyber-space to see negatives, but look what technology has given us:  A virtual universe to meet people we wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. 

Are “virtual friends” like the friends of George Bailey that came to his aid in his time of need?  Generally, friendship is not that simplistic, and virtual friendship is not on the same level.  But we are out there for each other, for whatever side the virtual friends presents to us.

May this Holiday Season reach out to all friends made in cyber-space.  In one-way or another, we protect the backs of our friends.  Sometimes a re-tweet or a “like” on a social site will pull us out of dark places we experience.  Never forget, new authors, nobody is really alone.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Cole Cut VIII: It Began with a “Bang”

Author William Butler

In my very early author/blogger days, I got discouraged from seeking out potential reviewers, and getting some rejections.  One reviewer seemed interested, but didn’t post a review on the free book I sent because Edward Cullen wasn’t Shevata’s love interest.  While I do appreciate the honesty of reviewers being up front with me about their book preferences, I had one of many low days.

Since I already had a kindle (got before they got cheap, as I’ve written before), I did a quick scan on Twitter.  I decided to become a book reviewer.  What does it mean to be a reviewer?  Well, to state the obvious, one reads books.  As a non-editor, I go for content.  So there I was, tweeting away about my book, and never offered to read anyone else’s?  Not one of my better moments. 

A title caught my attention on Twitter by a guy wearing sunglasses reminding me of Joe Cool (that’s a compliment).  The title was “Bang.”  I saw the synopsis, and decided to give the book a try. 

For those who haven’t read it, “Bang” it’s a well-written Noir fiction novel.  For those offended by this “very R-rated” story, I suspect they have had the fortune to have never known people like that.  But for me, yes, I’ve known people that abuse alcohol, drugs, commit adultery and come home after a hard days’ work for a hard night of inter-martial fighting.  (Adulthood is under-rated; I can avoid such these days).  So to me, it was brilliant at five stars.

The author William Butler saw my five star review and found me on Twitter, graciously thanking me, and asking, “who are you?”  I love pleasant surprises. 

Since then, William and I support each other’s work.  Are we “faking” our reviews?  Nope.  We’re two struggling writers.  As I mature on my writers’ journey, I’ll remember where it began:  Not necessarily with my own first book, but appreciation of others’ books as well. Any author I’ve reviewed since has William to thank.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Cole Cut VII: Generosity and Visionaries

In this section of the “Cole Cut” I’d like to feature some talented, fascinating people that through their work, they reach out to help not only new authors, but also many people in need.  Their unwavering efforts will continue to reach out to those not as fortunate as us blogging away at our computers.

Kimberley Johnson
Author Kimberley Johnson, her mother Ann Werner, and Ralph Faust:  Their creation of “The Virgin Diaries” a sensible, tell-all book from confidential interviews about first-time sexual encounters is to reach out and help people deal with sensitive topics.  The follow up, “There Ain’t No Sunshine” reveals the under-appreciate heartbreak felt by men.  I’ve given them both five stars, and their upcoming book on body image I’m sure will not disappoint us.  Besides their work, I applaud their courage to make a stand for Indie writers.

Bernard Schaffer
Bernard Schaffer, author of “Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes” got five stars by me and is a must-read for fans-and non-fans of one of the greatest detectives in literary history.  He formed the “Kindle All Stars” whose proceeds go to missing and exploited children.  He also looks like a younger David Boreanz, but don’t tell him I said that.

Pandor Poikilos
Pandora Poikilos:  Accomplished writer who spends time in the blogosphere helping other authors get noticed in the vast cyber-space.  She’s brilliant, kind, and offers to help everyone.  She’s a forerunner for Orangeberry Books (amongst others), and sets us straight when it comes to blog touring.  For flunkies like me, I admire her straightforwardness and dedication. I’ve got two of her books and looking forward to reading them.

Paul Anthony
Paul Anthony:  The ace author of “Bushfire” given five stars by me reaches out to the Dyslexia Foundation.  He’s brilliant, generous, and I’ve got him working on a Mississippi accent.  It could be worse:  I could be working on a British accent.

Blog Tour de Troops:  As my first successful blog tour, I loved it and hope to participate again.  So what I gave away books?  Look what our Troops give for us.  No comparison. 

More to follow!  I’ve got a bunch because I’m blessed to virtually meet so many awesome people!

Notice Me!

As new authors, while we’re out promoting, interviewing tweeting, FB’ing, networking, we all have the same in common:  The desire to be noticed.

Publicity is an interesting concept; what seems simple is far from the truth.  Even “publicists” sometimes can’t get the publicity many authors are seeking (I write by my own experience).  Reviews are a good start, features and interviews also help, but what brings us out of the shadows of amazon and smashwords to be “known?”

Complex questions rarely lead to simple answers.  As a fan of “Occam’s Razor,” I’ve found it doesn’t apply to the publicity of new authors.  What are we to do?

I’ve found the least-expensive method is to follow the advice of our social networking experts and fellow authors.  Most of us know the importance of social networking as well as “promote your work, not just your work.”  As new authors, especially Indies, what we have to remember is that our books are purchased via the Internet (with some exceptions, depending on local bookstores).  We need to develop an internet presence.

An article recently about authors constantly networking with other authors made a valid point:  Authors are not always readers, and it’s readers that an author wants.  I still like to network with authors because I learn so much from them and I like reviewing their work.  But for new authors, we need readers.

For-money services are out there to attract readers, such as “Tweet-Adder.”  This strategy is to tap into the readership of other authors in your genre.  As a non-expert, I suggest checking this out and see if it’s a good fit for you.

Last, but not least, we have to write all the time.  One book every ten years may work for Jonathan Franzen, but not for us new Indies.  Readers have to see your work, and even for the “big shots” it takes more than one book often to get noticed. 

The experts don’t ever say that getting noticed is easy.  But persistence does pay off to some level.   As long as we new authors understand that, we can find our own way to get noticed without getting arrested in the process.

The Cole Cut VI: Great People for New Authors

I wanted to look back and thank some great promotional experts that helped me take my now-defunct site www.gastarseries.com, basically the plains of Pluto to the new www.shevata-cccole.blogspot.com into a blog reaching over 13K hits today.  I couldn’t have done it without these inspiring, amazing people.  Though they don’t work for free, they do offer inexpensive ways to get your work noticed and improving your blog.

Shelley Hitz
Shelley Hitz:  The pretty and smart self-publishing coach is every bit as nice over the telephone as she seems in her posts and emails.  She helped me improve the left side of my blog while at the same time doing what I wanted:  Featuring my work, using easy-to-use links without ads, and made a great effort at helping me organize, which is challenging at best.

The Blog Farm:  When I first joined this to have my blog syndicated, he emailed me offering to return my money because links and occasional videos do not make a blog.  Through his guidance, he helped with my graphics as well as advice.  

Aggie Villaneuva
Aggie Villaneuva:  I still can’t pronounce her last name.  She features “Promotion a la Carte,” an inexpensive alternative to more costly and less effective ads and marketing campaigns.  New authors, check this out to find out that promotion need not break your bank account and still be effective.  Also, Aggie’s great in every way; she’s pointed me in the direction of great blogs with entertainment and education.

The Cole Cut V: Who Freaked Me Out

As I continue to reflect back on 2011, I’d like to name some creative authors whose books I’ve reviewed that took me down the scary journey into the world of darkness and horror.  

Ania Ahlborn’s “Seed,” reviewed by me at five stars, made me jump out of my chair.  When I read part of it aloud to my husband he said, “If you keep reading that you won’t be able to sleep for a week.”  At five stars, Ania’s book threw me for a loop, and her book did understandably well regarding sales.  

Erik Gustafon’s “Fall Leaves and the Black Dragon” is a fascinating debut novel as the layers are pulled back to reveal to a young man the explanation of horrific events he experienced as a boy.  Reviewed by me at four stars, and Erik was nice enough to be my first interview on my blog.  

S.L. Pierce’s “The Hate,” layers “Evil upon Evil” that made me squirm, but brilliant at four stars by me.  Let’s just say, don’t tick off her heroines. They play for keeps.

Last, but not least, Diana Trees’ “Divine Wine” which I’ve mentioned in a previous article, is a “wickedly funny” version of a vampire story.  Like I stated before, it’s nothing like any vampire story I ever read.  At four stars by me, horror fans, check out how bad vampires can really be.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Cole Cut IV: Great Books for Kids

During my writing/reviewing/blogging journey, I came across some writers that amazed me not only with skilled writing, but fantastic imagination as well.  In this list are books that are to me great books for kids.  Disclaimer:  When I say “kids’ books,” that always translates into “Parents check these books out for your kids.”

“Neiko’s Five Land Adventure,” by A.K. Taylor which I reviewed at four stars, to me is incredibly imaginative.  The fun adventure story is to me a fun book for any age, including adults still kids mentally.

“Toonopolis” by Jeremy Rodden , also reviewed by me at four stars, is over-the-top imagination at its best.  To be dropped into a world of bizarre, fun characters with a touch of danger make for a fun read.

More to follow as 2011 winds down!

On Wordsmiths and Entertainment

We new authors have in common with other creative people learning difficult industries to break in to and get noticed through our work. As difficult as it is, sometimes I feel blessed not to be in the music industry.
Kurt Cobain
I find the life of Kurt Cobain tragic, as I do the loss of anyone so young and troubled, need not be the life of a famous person.  As a life long head-banger (less so with the migraines these days), I admit I enjoyed his music also.  Like I stated before in my article “On the Lives of Writers” there are the author’s life and his/her work.  I’d prefer to remember Kurt for where he placed his passion:  His work.  Below, from his landmark song and video “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

With the lights out it's less dangerous
Here we are now
Entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now
Entertain us
A mulatto
An albino
A mosquito
My Libido

Elton John
Now let’s change to Elton John, another artist, still living, whose lyrics by his collaborator Bernie Taupin created a timeless classic with “Your Song:”

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world

As it appears that I’m moving back to the music industry to compare the writing industry, hear (read) me out.  Remember John Locke’s mega-seller about the importance of entertaining books?   He made a profound point.  As new authors, stringing together our words into mesmerizing elegance is  at risk of losing what we have to offer:  Entertainment.   While both of the above work is considered entertaining, the styles couldn’t have been more different.  Kurt’s song brought out the rebellious part of us with unconventional, but fun lyrics, while Elton John (not forgetting Taupin) gave us a moving, beautiful song to remember always.

As I read the old classics (currently on the original “Frankenstein” and “Dracula”), what I see is eloquent, but laborious writing.  Some of it is a sign of the times and the changing writing industry.  While I marvel at these old foundations for dark fantasy, what I also see it that entertainment is making or breaks for the new author in fiction.  Yes, some of us are “junior writers” but even the most sophisticated authors need to entertain the reader.  And when a writer can go both, that's by far the goal of all authors of fiction.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Cole Cut III: Best Blogs

                                  How To Write Badly Well

Joel Stickley
Funny guy Joel Stickley writes his versions of “bad writing” with a stroke of genius.  Bad writing is easy, but only the most talented can Write Badly Well.   From his most recent posts it looks like he’s taking some time away from the blogosphere.  When I’m in need of a laugh, I’ve yet to be disappointed.I highly recommend reading at least the first link posted here:

                                Derek Haines: The Vandal

Derek Haines

Derek is a Tweep that shares his own take of his life, writing, and the world.   I reviewed his book “Vandalism of Words,” which is quite cool at four stars and have his book “Dead Men.”  He’s insightful, funny, and don’t tell him I said so.  It may go to his head. 

More to follow as 2011 winds down....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On The Fate of Dragons


I’ve written several times in past articles about dragons being my favorite monster.  And I’m picky about my dragons.  They need lizard like anatomy, no potbellies and no bat wings (exception being the one in “Dragonslayer.”)  My dragons speak the human language and have an alternative humanoid form. 

I try to remember when I first heard about dragons; it was probably one of several paintings of “St. George and the Dragon” in one of my mom’s art books as a kid.   I do remember the song “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and in the ‘80’s read “The Hobbit” and watched the film “Dragonslayer.”  Back then a funny parody of “St. George and the Dragon” was the book “The Dragon and the George.”  I found it on amazon recently.  I also remember the film “Dragonheart” with Sean Connery voice-overing the dragon. 

For us “dragon writers” what is it about dragons that fascinate us?  What keeps us re-inventing them for our own stories?  Why can’t we all us unicorns, an equally mythical creature? 

Generally, dragons are dangerous.  Some are just non-intelligent carnivorous, winged monsters, spouting fire.  Others are more intelligent, well above genius by human standards.  They can read minds, use a number of horrific breath weapons, become invisible, and cause fear by the sight of them.  Other generalizations about dragons are that they live in caves, and lay upon a hoard of treasure.  Some are evil, some are good, and none are very friendly.

What I find interesting in stories about dragons is their fate, which is usually death.  A brave aging wizard gives his life to kill a dragon.  A gallant knight slays the dragon with his lance.  One lucky arrow brings down the dragon Smaug, and learns that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  A benevolent dragon removes a portion of his heart to save the life of a boy who betrays him later.

Must dragons always have to die in stories?  No.  Does the death of a dragon impact a story?  Answer:  Definitely, as would any powerful character.  That’s part of what makes dragons key characters in dark fantasy stories, their fate, by living or dying either makes for a dramatic scene or ending. 

In memory of author Anne McCaffery, dragons remain strong in our minds.  As dark fantasy authors, we’ve seen these intriguing, dangerous mythical creatures in many books and films.  No matter how you use them for your work, like any major character, the question of their fate will always be asked by the reader.  It’s up to the writer to make it happen in the worlds they create.

The Cole Cut II: Good Fellas

As I’m backtracking over 2011 acknowledging great people who’ve helped me find my way down the cyber-road, for this part of “The Cole Cut” I’d like to point out some great guys.

Paul Dorset
Paul Dorset:  Author of YA fantasy, his excellent book “Xannu” given 4 stars by me.  He uses my articles for his on-line news-for-writers service, “John’s elite” which I highly recommend for the excellent writing/editing tips he posts. (Well, along with my finite wisdom).  He has a new paranormal thriller “New Blood” just out, I highly recommend checking out his work.

Nik Beat

Nik Beat:  Radio personality of the totally cool CIUT out of Toronto, Canada, was nice enough to accept and read my first book, and invite me to his radio show through a publicist contact.  He repeated the favor with my second book.  He features a wide variety of music, along with humor, and is an activist for education.  

M.R. Mathias:  The big dude is a widely accomplished, award-winning medieval dark fantasy writer.  Interviews with him show that when life goes wrong, you can still pick up and make it better; I applaud him for that.  During my Twitter infancy, he helped me get followers (I’d be surprised if he recalls doing this).  His book, “The First Ten Steps” a how-to guide for self-published authors, to me is simpler and less “showcased” than the super-seller by John Locke (though I liked both).  I have at least four of his books, and hope to someday do a post on all of them at once. 

More to follow!

On The Leading Issue of the Lead Character

As I read the books of my Indie colleagues, classics, and bestsellers, the reader is left with one thing:  The lead character.

In most fiction, a lead character is a must-have.  Why?  Most of the time (except with some really clever writing) the story needs a point in which the reader can focus and extrapolate beyond to take in the rest.  If the lead character cannot be identified early in the story, then many books dissipate into confusion.

Should the lead character be a protagonist?  They are in most books and films.  Usually, in medieval dark fantasy, (that I write) someone takes a stand for good, has weaknesses and flaws, emotion, and often experience great loss that motivates his/her actions.  Bravery, self-sacrifice, and determination help define most lead characters.

But does the lead character always have to be a protagonist?  No, and some writers can pull it off.  I haven’t read many books with evil main characters, but a film example is “There Will Be Blood.”  For those that say the title should have been “There Will Be Boredom,” I won’t argue.  I believe that it won such acclaim because it followed the life of a non-nice guy, spiraling into loneliness and insanity.  (As a film nut, I have a list of “favorite boring movies,” with “Reds” on the short list). 

What does the lead character mean to the new author?  Everything.  Another example would be the early success of “The Sopranos” before I was too grossed out to watch it.  If the audience didn’t “lock in” with the lead character Tony Soprano, then they wouldn’t tune in.  I liked his visits to a psychiatrist for depression because so many people really wanted to kill him.  To me, it was a different way to bring a gangster to the front stage; a man with all the problems of a modern family while living the life of organized crime. 

My early editors of “Act of Redemption” emphasized that I must make Shevata a “lighter” character.  (You’re kidding, right?)  In the early drafts, she was a much darker character than she is now.  (My goodness, all I can do is claim New Author status and “plead the 5th!”)  They guided me in the right direction.  As much as I wanted a strong female lead, there’s a difference between strength and darkness.  It really doesn’t require a kick-butt for an effective lead character; a classic example would be the little Hobbit Frodo in LOTR. 

New authors go forth and write something awesome and tell us about it.  For fiction, your lead character doesn’t have to mow down the bad guys with a medieval lawn mower like Shevata does.  In some way, your readers must connect with the lead character in order to carry the story. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Cole Cut I: Thanks to Some Amazing Ladies

When I first entered cyberspace to promote my first novella, “Act of Redemption” it didn’t take me long to figure out I had no clue what I was doing.  I didn’t know where to begin, so I had my publisher do a money-pump that turned out to be well spent:  Introduction into the sphere of readers and writers.  Amongst the sites they signed me up for were Goodreads, Facebook author page, and Twitter. 

Entering this new world of social networking and book promotion made me feel like a ghost, seeing the world move and unable to be a part of it.  Facebook for a new author was not easy, and still isn’t.  My Goodreads experience was different.  But for both sites, some great, accomplished, and brilliant authors were kind enough to welcome me into their world. 

Shawn Lamb
Shawn Lamb, author of the Beautiful “Allon” series, and her newest book “The Hugenot Sword,” is an award-winning author, a voice for books suited for kids, and the only virtual friend I’ve met in person.  She’s every bit as great for real as in cyberspace.  I’ve featured her work and interviewed her earlier this year.

Maureen Miller
Maureen Miller, accomplished romance author, also welcomed me into the writers’ world.  She has published many romance books, with beautiful female characters that I wished I looked like.  She’s a lot of fun with social networking, and is great on Twitter.  

Jennifer Chase
Jennifer Chase, a brilliant criminologist and accomplished author of crime books.  One day I’d love to see her on TV documentaries.  I admire her courage and intelligence in the horrific world of crime. 

The “Cole Cut” will be a series of people and books I’ve encountered on my writing journey, to make a place to look back and thank talented people that made a big difference to me as a new author.  I will always remember the generosity of these great ladies.  More upcoming!!

Review of “The Unwanted” by Daniel Carter

“The Unwanted” by Daniel Carter is about a group of infants rescued by a couple of nurses caring for them.  They are taken into hiding in America’s rural heartland, with agents on the hunt for the children.  As they grow up, the kids become more unusual with rapid aging, each with powerful unique abilities.  As more is uncovered, the plot moves quickly to create a fun but intense read that encourages the reader to turn the pages.  Excellent work, four stars!