author C.C.Cole's blog

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On The Passion of Writing

As I read the work of other new authors, bestsellers, and classics, it’s not difficult to see that all writers pour a part of themselves into their work.  This could be stated about doing almost anything, especially with creativity.  To me, writing, be it genre fiction, confessional poetry, inspirational novels, horror, or suspense thrillers, every author reveals something from inside not only from his/her head, but the soul as well.

I’ve written before about how writing helped me find closure following the death of my sister due to a domestic violence incident.  Time, faith, and loved ones get us through traumatic life events, and creative outlets channel our emotions into something that can be shared with others. 

Interviewers asked me in the beginning if any characters were represented based on the death of my sister.  Answer:  No.  I’m not ready to write about what happened; I can only say it happened.  Instead, as a long time fan of dark fantasy, I created a story with elements of dark fantasy that I like:  A dark, strong female lead character (Shevata), a horrific but humorous antagonist (Zermon), and a fallen city (Gastar) that re-grows as the people find their direction following a prolonged war.  I always state for my readers that Zermon’s personality is based on my older brother, now a family joke.  I like mythical creatures, and dragons are my favorite, so they’re part of the story (Harathgus).  All of my books are dedicated to my sister, not just as a remembrance, but also as an acknowledgement of where my passion for writing originates.

I appreciate how authors are so variable in the way they channel their passion through their work.  For example, some write moving prose, bringing the reader inside the emotions of the characters.  Others set up brilliant character-to-character relationships that we can relate to in our own lives.  Dark fantasy is often inspired by the work of Tolkien, so the world is created with visuals of detailed maps, and many follow a geographical journey (this is also in George R. R. Martin’s work as well…”Game of Thrones”).  My own non-epic dark fantasy work is focused more on what I call “character dynamics” meaning instead of detailing a new world, the plot is carried by the characters interacting together, to make a fast paced, dialogue-driven action story.

To me, what’s great about writing is what’s great about reading.  We see what other authors teach us through their work and create our own based on our life experiences.  It doesn’t take a biography/autobiography to tell your story.  By gathering the courage to expose your inside passion, all writers have something to contribute.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On Breast Cancer Awareness

So many have their stories about the hideous disease of Breast Cancer.  I applaud the survivors, and with their strength, courage, and promotion of awareness, many get proper screening these days.

In my small world, a couple of years ago, I left work on a Friday.  I drove home through the cold and rain, hoping to get horizontal as soon as possible from a severe cold with body aches, with a bottle of Nyquil at my bedside.  I lay in bed for the next two days, drenched in sweat and feeling like I was going to die.

On Sunday at noon, I sat up, taking a deep breath, realizing my fever finally broke, and I wasn’t dying.  As I sat up on my bed, turned on the TV to Lifetime, and relaxed, my telephone rang.

It was my best friend, who lives out of state from me, weeping over the telephone.  We’ve known each other long enough when something was wrong when we spoke, and she’s almost never one to cry.  She told me the words: “I have breast cancer.”  My fever sweat dried, and my cough stopped, and my runny nose became a non-issue.

She needed to find a doctor to help her.  Being in a large city full of top hospitals, when one is left to her/his own devices, it’s like being on the South Pole.  I have a lot of medical contacts, and after some searching, I found a Breast Cancer Specialist within a few minutes.  Before two hours passed, my friend was on the telephone with someone who could help her….on a Sunday afternoon.

The year was hard, but she never complained.  I accompanied her for the initial testing and consultation of results.  It was hard for me, so describing the difficulty she faced is beyond imagination.  But she charged forward, was given sound options, and with the help of her family, made well thought out decisions, leading to an excellent outcome.  She didn’t even take off much time from her job.  Her courage amazed me, as I’m not sure if I could have kept going the way she did.

But that’s what brings us back to the point; none of us know what we can do until we’re pushed against the wall.  Breast cancer, like other illnesses, is serious business, and the efforts to keep women (and men, in rarer cases) informed of the updated recommendations for screening and treatment.

In one hour, my life changed lanes from my cold to her cancer. It’s amazing how quickly little things get thrown aside when a real problem arises.   She is thankfully doing well today.

On Author Laurie Bellsheim

It is my pleasure and privilege to present Laurie Bellsheim, author of "Surviving Emily."  This moving story is based on her personal experience with sudden death due to epilepsy, and the healing of tragic events through love.  I can relate to this as well, as my late sister was stricken with this disease in the prime of her youth, indirectly leading to her death.  For those looking for an inspiring read, and those with loved ones with epilepsy, I recommend checking out Laurie's book.  In the complex world some events cannot be explained and writing brings closure to many of us.

 2011  New Fiction Release

Surviving Emily 

For further information contact: Ray Robinson at 317-228-3656, via email at RayR@DogEarPublishing.net,
or through the website at: www.dogearpublishing.net
Surviving Emily
Laurie Bellesheim Dog Ear Publishing ISBN: 978-145750-562-1    312 pages    US
Available at Ingram, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and fine bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Resolution and the New Author

Thank goodness I’ve stopped whining about my earlier events of the week.  I thank my family, friends, and virtual friends that support me, listen (read) my rants, and help me remember that the long term is what’s the most important.  My Tweeps were great to me, reminding me that the writing industry is tough for us all, and to get over myself and move on.

I hate it when I feel hurt.  But when it improves, it’s like a flower opening to the sun, throwing off those bad feelings and looking up at the sky to feel the magnificence of the world we live in. 

Being told ‘no’ as I’ve written before, is unpleasant as best.  But that’s the better route than ‘yes’ and not meaning it.  In the field I work in, many people have to do what I tell them.  Part of that is if he/she cannot do as I request, please say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ So far, the workplace moves much more smoothly as long as the message is clear, there’s no argument.

New authors, when you feel hurt by the many avenues of this industry, it will get better.  Why?  Like before, it is not personal.  Sleep on it.  Go out and get a margarita.  Or, if you’re like me, get a migraine and forget what you were hurt about (that’s a joke, I’ve never wished migraines on anyone in the writing industry, not editors, agents, publishers, no one). 

I admit to my own flaws.  While coming home from an outing one night, I knew I was being a jerk.  A friend called me an “A-hole.” (But spelled out).  I burst out laughing for the next half hour.  He couldn’t believe I thought it was funny.  But he was right, and pointed out my ill behavior.  I make fun of myself, and all too often, I end up with egg on my face.  It happens.  Just admit it and move on.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Pain and the Writing Industry

The biggest non-secret in the writing industry, be it traditional or self-publishing, is that it’s a tough business.  I’ve always known this.  I’ve had a few bad reviews.  Earlier in my writing journey, agents all living “The Villiages” rejected me as I’ve written before.  I’ve been repeatedly reassured that Every Agent and Editor are the busiest on the planet; you’d think they could pay the US debt.  (That’s an exaggeration, and I understand that editing is tedious work.) I don’t understand agents.  That explains why I don’t use agents.

Nobody likes rejection; it hurts.  I’ve experienced it many times, and I don’t get used to it, and if other authors say otherwise, I’d say either “congratulations” or “be honest with yourself.”  Examples:  The Agent:  No, thanks for submitting.  The Editor:  No, you suck.  Reviewers/other outlets:  We don’t take self-published books.

But there’s another rejection out there…the rejection of omission.  This is when someone you think you have a virtual friendship with, financially and support his/her books, get an offer to have your work featured, then you hear you didn’t make the cut on Twitter!  Hey, nice timing!  To be fair, there’s an effort to right the wrongs, but I’m going to be careful this time and not hold my breath. 

Why does everything go wrong on the same day?  A blog syndicator I support with articles and donations left me out of a list of examples of articles.  Where was mine?  Especially, where was the one I wrote in support of the site?

I couldn’t even get a much-needed cup of coffee today.  So today has been rotten.  We all have these.  With big things I usually pull myself together.  Little things make me upset.  Yes, it’s stupid, can’t be helped.

But the real pain arises not from any of the above, including agents and editors.  Instead, it comes from a “no problem” reply, then as I think about it, get more hurt as the day devolves into time where nothing seems to be going right.

OK, enough whining.  People have a lot of bigger problems than the above.  I realize that.  Things are going to happen, and most of the time it isn’t personal.  I believe this brings home that when we feel hurt or angry, many times we can track our feelings back to ourselves.  We play a part (or at least, I admit to it).  Nobody’s perfect, these things happen, and as writers, we must deal with it.

I believe in looking at the bright side of things.  I’m coming with great inspiration for Shevata to clean up the bad guys!  Will I work with the people above mentioned again?  Probably.  But my memory is long.  That can’t be helped either.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review of "Children Of Discord" by Wiliam Butler


I want to thank William for featuring me on his blog.  He and I met seemingly ages ago when I picked up his debut novel "Bang" at random from Twitter. Since then, my cyber-universe continues to expand, and while William and I support each other's books, we support other authors as well.  Like the groups below, it's about writers helping writers find readers.  

Many thanks to William, and do go to amazon, and pull up William Butler.  He's got a great collection of short stories and his books "Bang" (for grown-ups, excellent Noir) and his recent "House of Balestrom."

On Orangeberry Books


On Facebook, I met another group of ace authors who’ve also created a new site, Orangeberry Books.  Over the past few weeks I’ve witnessed the very hard work put in by writers Brian Bianco and Niamh Clune, Pandora Poikilos, amongst others and have created a very beautiful site, blog, and access for a virtual book tour.

Like “The Collaborates” it’s about authors helping authors.  In a relatively short period of time, “Orangeberry” developed from a idea on Facebook to a sophisticated organization.  I’m a new member, but have been following its growth; I applaud the efforts of these talented people coming together.

Is there a difference between “The Collaborates” and “Orangeberry Books?”  I don’t see the need of a comparison.  At least two of us belong to both groups; and the big picture is, authors giving and receiving, though done in different ways. 

In the future, I’ll be featuring at least five of the talented authors from Orangeberry Books.  I highly recommend readers/writers to look at the sites.  A lot of ongoing hard work is being put behind both groups, and it’s great to network with them. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On Learning From a Master

As a life-long fan of Michael Crichton since “The Andromeda Strain,” I took inspiration from his writing.  He was one of those authors that I don’t have a favorite book.  Some of his work stood stronger than others, and for those that relied on “Jurassic Park” the film, believe me, you’re missing out on the real action in the book.  In comparison, to me, the film makes the dinosaurs more like Flipper, and that’s a statement indeed.  I don’t think I slept well for a week after reading it. 

One of my favorite of his books was “Timeline,” a story about a group traveling back into the medieval history using technological machinery, and in Crichton’s style, everything goes wrong in the first five minutes.  Though it made a weak film, the book is full of action and cliffhangers; almost as horrifying as “Jurassic Park,” but not quite, fortunately. 

When I think of the Gastar novellas, especially the first “Act of Redemption,” a lot of inspiration for the writing style came from “Timeline.”  The chapters frequently ended in cliffhangers, and the character groups make change in the following chapter, and may not.  Also, some of the chapters changed scenes before they ended.  To me, this made for a great format for an action story; to send the reader on a ride with a page-turner, leaving the reader curious for more. 

Like so many, I was saddened by the news of this legendary author’s death.  A great talent left us, but his work stays forever, hopefully to continue to be appreciated through the generations.  Thank you for what you’ve given all of us readers and writers, Mr. Crichton.  You are missed.

Meet The Collaborates!!


In my past several months of networking, reading, and reviewing books, it’s my privilege to be a part of a group of very special people with a common interest…in giving as much as we get.  The Collaborates share a genuine interest in each other and support not only with features and reviews, but also as people.  We share joy, pain, fun, stress and the overall human experience with a central topic in common:  The love of reading and writing.

What’s the best aspect of The Collaborates?  The overall appreciation of the work itself, not just our own, but the great works of new writers of today and classics of the past.  It’s often said there are too many writers and published books.  But think of the other side of the coin:  What would life be like if we didn’t have books? 

I encourage readers/writers to check out our new site and follow along as we grow. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Do We Have More Writers Than Readers?

As I awakened in pain during the night due to some self-inflicted carpal tunnel syndrome from excessive typing, it occurred to me for the ten millionth time how difficult book promotion is.  Amongst the masses of writers, is everyone writing?  Who’s still reading?

Answer:  To suggest that everyone writes and no one reads is an over-simplified generalization.  Of course people still read.  But in the world of genre fiction writing, there’s some competition amongst new authors, but what else do we compete with?  Answer:  Everything else, meaning video games, television, movies, sports, magazines, partying and skydiving…whatever anyone does for fun.  I’ve run across many dark fantasy fans that spend their time playing WarCraft instead of reading novels (wonder if they get carpal tunnel syndrome too?).

I’m a reformed workaholic, so when it comes to free time, I understand how important and short those moments can be, so entertainment is a luxury we all can relate to.   Books still have their place in entertainment, and given the ebook industry escalation, in many ways new authors have an advantage authors of the past did not have:  Inexpensive publishing on line.   Can you imagine how many plays Shakespeare could have written if he had a computer?  Also, come new writers, with easy access to publication, follow the readers with easy, inexpensive access to reading. 

Don’t get discouraged, new authors.  Even when only the agent-blessed got published via traditional routes, there wasn’t a guarantee of blowout sales.  Also, authors often need time to get known, and rarely make it big with the first one or two books.  Yes, sometimes the world of writing feels like a world of writers without readers.  Though skydiving is not for everyone, people still enjoy good books.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Toxic Woman!" Shevata and Zermon


Zermon, resembling "Darkness" in (Legend)

--A paraphrased excerpt from “Act of Redemption” 

Zermon stared at Shevata, saying nothing.  She stared back, silent.  Jonathan, panicked, looked around anxiously.  Eloan’s odd, faceless demonic shape still held him tight.  Shevata grew impatient.  “So, what?” She asked Zermon.

“Well, she can still talk.”  Said Zermon.  “You haven’t changed much.”

“Neither have you.”

“Tell me, Shevata, what are you, some kind of plague?  You disappear into hellfire, you return.  I take you directly to the god of death, and you return.  So I will ask, why are you standing before me again?”

“I was brought here.”  She said, motioning to Eloan.  She noticed Jonathan’s fear but did not change expression.

Zermon’s eyes narrowed.  “Listen, you little bitch, you know exactly what I mean.  If you hesitate to answer my questions, your little human pet will be taken apart, piece by piece.”

Shevata stepped closer to Zermon’s huge form.  “If you or your cretins try it, I’ll kill him myself, leaving you nothing to bargain with!”

“Don’t push me!” Shouted Zermon, his voice echoing through the underground ampitheatre.

“Don’t push me!”  Shouted Shevata in return.  Then she glanced at Eloan.  She grabbed Jonathan away from him by the sleeve, pulled him closer to her, then pointed toward Eloan.  “I will tear the head off that worm if he touches this man again.”  Jonathan stayed silent, bewildered and terrified.

Zermon relaxed back in his throne, smiling.  “You some heroine, old girl.  I think the human is more afraid of you than me.”

“Stop being ridiculous.” 

“He should be.”

“Don’t you dare start.”

“What does she look like to you?”  Asked Zermon, looking a Jonathan. 

Jonathan looked at Shevata, who avoided his glance.  “Uh, she just looks like a girl.  Look, I don’t know her,” he stammered.

Zermon nodded to Jonathan.  “Watch.”  With his massive right hand, he struck Shevata across the face so hard she hurled through the air, crashing against the wall before sliding to the floor.  She leaped up immediately in a rage and then calmed herself as she walked back in place beside Jonathan with no signs of injury. 

“Bastard.”  She said.

“Now watch this,” said Zermon.  He stood and with both hands grabbed Shevata and raised her up by her waist, as she screamed, kicking her feet and punching him with rage.  “Stop it!” He shouted.

Shevata then relaxed, allowing her cursed body to drain some of his life force.  He threw her down, staggering back into the chair.  “Toxic woman!  You are pestilence!  It’s pain to even touch you now.”  He relaxed.  “I think that was a nice demonstration, don’t you agree Dear?  This human man sees us, demons of various types, and a strange young girl obviously difficult to harm by traditional methods.  She’s feared by all.  Well, except me, of course.”  Shevata rolled her eyes.  Zermon looked directly at Jonathan.  “But I can’t help wondering, from the eyes of a human man, who is the bigger monster?”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On Revenge and the New Author

In many action stories, the motivator of the hero/heroine is revenge for wrongs made to him/her or loved ones.  One of my favorite quotes is the one borrowed by Tarantino for “Kill Bill:”  “Revenge is a dish better served cold…ancient Klingon Proverb.”

Revenge is easy for most of us to understand.  When people tick us off, it’s natural to want to “get even.”  Anybody ever cut you off from a lane on the interstate?  Ever had rude service at a bank or restaurant?  Worse yet, ever been bullied?  Ever had a “friendly” acquaintance suddenly walk off in mid-conversation at a party when he/she sees someone more wealthy or politically important? 

Fantasy gives us a great place to play out the revenge that is legal only in our dreams.  Our extreme-mean villains fall to our characters’ unique abilities.  Most of the time, stories show that revenge doesn’t heal the wounds made by the enemy, but gives some vindication for the hero/heroine.  I’m currently reading “The Count of Monte Cristo,” a classic story about revenge.

When “Act of Redemption” came out, many thought Shevata’s motivation was revenge for what was done to her.  That’s not entirely true.  She fought in a war, and never lost sight of the enemy who had killed so many children sent to fight a war at the front, while she remained inside the city of Gastar to be an assassin, carrying out death orders by command.  With the Abbian priests, she killed them as an act of war.  The second novella, “Children of Discord,” the treacherous boy Goldeon motivated Shevata by raw revenge in the purest sense of the word.  They have no dialogue together; she didn’t find him to talk.

I think revenge is used so often in stories is that it brings good characters down to the level of the antagonist; it’s a realization for both the character and the reader of what one is capable of when pushed to their physical/intellectual limits.  While it brings closure, vengeance rarely brings joy, and when used well adds depth to the story. 

I’m not saying every action/adventure story requires revenge against the antagonist.  Along with love, hate, admiration, and jealousy, whatever feelings we have in reality can be applied and amplified in fantasy, thus giving the reader a truly breakaway-from-reality story. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review of “A Black Girl’s Poetry for the World” by Kimberly LaRocca

“A Black Girl’s Poetry for the World” by Kimberly LaRocca is a collection of insightful poems addressing many levels of the human existence, from pain, to love, and to everyday living.  What I really enjoyed are the large messages delivered by so few, easy to read lines, and minimizing of clichés.  I recommend this to anyone that either reads poetry often, or to novel-readers looking for a romp into creativity that’s refreshing and inspirational.  Five Stars!

On Addressing Sensitive Issues for Adults

Review of “Orange Petals in a Storm” by Niamh Clune

“Orange Petals in a Storm” by Niamh Clune is a beautifully-written story about a young girl who’s life is turned upside down by a terrible loss, then finds her way enduring hardship, and eventually finding potential happiness.  The paranormal events are illustrated in the imagination by use of well-descriptive prose and less use of dialogue, but in this setting it strengthens the story.  This is a beautiful novel, well-written,  and suitable for most audiences looking for inspiration with a tasteful twist of the paranormal.  Four Stars!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On the Image of Authors

Brooke Shields

George R. R. Martin

Laura Hillenbrand

Ernest Hemingway       

These days, with our escalating Internet visual informative masses, it’s no secret that we see what people look like more often than in the past.  I recall reading paperbacks as a kid, and seeing a picture of the author in the back, with a brief bio.  Usually it was a small black-and-white, with a pose on a fence or leaning on an elbow, suggesting intelligence and relaxation.

Now we see physical images of just about everybody that’s not a hermit.  Music videos, I recall in the ‘80’s, evolved from fashion to not just fashion, but drop dead gorgeous or handsome.  With a little Photoshop, dental bleach, a surgical procedure here and there, a person can transform their appearance into what some call “movie star” style.

I’m indifferent regarding how people manage their own appearance; to do otherwise to me seems an invasion into personal matters.  People with mirrors see what they look like, and beyond that it’s up to them. 

As I wrote recently in my article about “Beauty and Fantasy” people expect good-looking people and/or worlds at one time or another in almost any fantasy story.  But what about the author, the “real world” image of the hard work and imagination to create such beauty?  Does that count?

The simple, obvious answer is no.  A bestselling author can do what he/she likes, and can decide how they look on their own terms.  They’ve hit the top based on their work, so if they look good, cool, if they’re not comely, who cares?  We read what they write, and leave appearance up to Hollywood. 

But what about us new authors?  Can we be so bold as to provide a photo of when we first wake up in the morning?  Or should we invest in a pricey or talented wiz with Photoshop, and give our readers that movie-star look?  Bigger question:  Will an unknown author’s appearance make any difference with sales? 

I don’t buy in regarding an author’s appearance.  If a book interests me, I usually concentrate on the synopsis and readers’ reviews.  If the author looks like an angel or a werewolf, that’s not what I’m looking for.  With my own book, I omitted a photo for “Act of Redemption” and only agreed for a photo for “Children of Discord” after some arm-twisting by the publisher.

To an extent, physical appearance has its place.  Writers have to connect with people, and in these days of instant visualization, you’re first buying/selling point is not just the book’s cover, it’ also the image of the author.  I admit, if I were shopping for a guide to fashion, I’d prefer the author not resemble a gargoyle. 

New authors, publishers (traditional or self) will give you some guidance regarding the photos for your books.  I like to see a natural look, giving more attention to what’s between the pages than the appearance of the author.   Go forth a write, new authors.  If you’re a hottie, good for you, it will look good on your back cover.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No Country for “Non-Giving” New Authors

I’ve recently re-started a run of reads/reviews for more new authors, giving my George R.R. Martin series “A Song of Ice and Fire” a much-needed rest for a while.  Yes, it’s a great epic, but sometimes it’s time to exhale and get some variety in my brain.

As I’ve written before, I belong to a number (I don’t know how many, can’t keep up) of author’s groups.  I haven’t come across a new author that I’ve found offensive; usually it’s the opposite:  Pleasant, encouraging, and generally fun.  We exchange ideas on how to get our work promoted, and some are generous enough to feature others on their blogs. 

Don’t get me wrong these people are great.  But there are a couple of elements usually omitted from the masses of virtual hand shaking.  Are new authors reading the books by their comrades?  If that’s not bad enough, I’ll throw in another abominable question:  Are the new authors purchasing the books by their comrades?

OK, OK, somebody had to ask.  No, everyone’s not a billionaire.  Not everyone has time or money to read everyone’s books.   Also, to be fair, many of these bright authors would love to have the time and money to do just that.  And so would I. 

Reality is that none of us have the capability.  So what do we do?  Feature each other?  Cool.  Blog interviews?  Cool.  Tweet each other?  Cool.  As new Indies or new writers from small presses, that’s all we’ve got in the beginning.  John Locke and I, amongst many others know the “price” of hired marketing with dismal results. 

New authors need each other, but not just for promotion (and it helps), but we need readers.   Concerned about competition?  Here’s a non-secret:  Most readers read more than one book!  Unlike many industries, new authors don’t compete one-to-one in the same way like PC or Mac.  (What’s a PC?...moving on..Miss you Steve!!)

To go full circle, to me, supporting a fellow author’s work by purchase is fine, but why buy something you don’t want to read?  That doesn’t make sense.  But, what if the new author writes in your genre? Why not take a minute and request a copy from a known colleague-author or download one and knock it out in a day or two?  I’m not suggesting hundreds, or dozens.  Why not two?  Or one? 

It’s no secret on this blog that I support new authors with reviews of products I purchase.  Reason:  When I purchase, I’m a member of the audience.  Also, if I don’t want to post a review for whatever reason, at least the author got a sale.  I don’t purchase books and let them marinate in my e-readers.  (OK, 50% of each book I don’t complete marinates.  The current count is two.)

New authors, if you need promotion, I’m happy to pitch in.  I won’t unfollow you if you don’t buy/read my books.  But for new authors, free promotion from their colleagues, to purchase, read, and review a book of theirs is not only good will, it makes for a more solid virtual friendship.  I agree money is scarce.  What else could be done?  I’ve got an author colleague whom I’ve reviewed a couple of his books is putting together a group of short stories by his supporters for publication as a free or low-cost ebook.  So, it’s not just buying and reviewing, other methods can be used to help other new authors.  Hence, the title above:  When you give, you receive.

Review of “The Wrath” by Amber Evans

“The Wrath” by Amber Evans is about teenager Stephenie, who after the tragic loss of her family finds that the “afterlife” is not always as we’re led to believe.  She meets her new family and discovers another world of people in the same dead-but-not-dead situation.  Along with the complicated relationships of teen romance, a dark danger element lurks into the background, moving further forward as the story progresses.  This is a fun, not-boring, interested read, ideal for teens and fans of YA fiction.  Four stars

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Failure and the New Author

For all of us, come one time or another, it’s impossible to float through life with only experiences resulting from the best decision.  If one says privately or publicly he/she never screwed up on anything, that’s either a joke or a serious misapprehension.  Anyone is fully capable of doing stupid things knowingly and in hindsight, and laying blame on another usually magnifies the situation.  Sometimes it is our fault. 

I find myself working hard at a job I enjoy, but still want to devote time to my reading/writing.  I want to review more books.  I want to read more classics.  I want to get my first draft of my third book done.  I want to interact with cool people on social websites.  As you read this, you’ll see what happens to me at a sushi bar:  My eyes are bigger than my stomach. 

But that’s getting started for the new author.  Once the work is done, the new author realizes the work has only begun.  The more blogs we join, the more interaction is expected, and as John Locke (and others) point out, if you’re out of the game too long, people forget you were ever there to start with.

On my writing journey, I try to learn from my screw-ups.  I need to open my spam folder to make sure a blogger isn’t trying to contact me about featuring my books (“doh!”).  I need to read and act on correspondence when people send messages to do so, or get organized, as Shelley Hitz is trying to teach me.  An hour becomes a day, then a week, then a month, then a lifetime in cyberspace.  While struggling, I do try to fractionate what I’m realistically able to do.  Most wise people would say to do a few things well instead of many things poorly.  What makes sense is use your strengths to your advantage.  Generally, most people like doing what they do well, and are less likely to fail at it.  To clarify, new authors without dozens of glowing amazon reviews or thousands of sales, I don’t call that failure.  I call it beginning.

An article I read long ago said, “It’s at least as important in life in how you deal with failure as success.”  As one admitting to not having the Midas touch for all decisions, I still enjoy the journey.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On Shelley Hitz, the Self-Publishing Coach

I met Shelley virtually on Facebook several months ago.  She usually posts either links or simple tips to help the new author get exposure to the masses of readers.   As new authors, we all know that writing is the difficult; exposure is more difficult.

Next I joined her newsletter on email.  About every week, she’d list a line of helpful tips and webinars to keep us newbies educated about the use of amazon, and social networking to promote our work.  For those using Promotion ala Carte, she recommends checking it out, as well as BookBuzzr.

With short on time and long on the love of reading/writing, I couldn’t do all the great recommendations Shelley was trying to teach me.  As I’ve said about copy-editing, they’ll always have at least one job from me.  So after emailing back and forth over the months, she offered a “promotion package.”

Now “promotion package” in the past made me want to scream, run, throw my laptop in the pool, all sorts of bad things because of my experiences similar to what John Locke describes in his book about sales.  Some people will take you to the cleaners, and don’t bat an eye to ask, “Why not spend on $10K more?”  Grr!! 

With Shelley, high-dollar packages were not a worry; as she’s been sending me advice for free.  The problem was that I didn’t have the time it takes to really dig into the low cost or free outlets out there.  So she set up a package, I chose one (like before, a Diet Coke compared to the promotion of “Act of Redemption”) and we spoke over the telephone a while.  She’s very nice, and very thorough, making sure she addresses the points she planned to make, instead of filling up my/her time with small talk (which I’m prone to do). 

I’m not suggesting that all new authors spend money on Shelley Hitz.  Actually, the better advice is to check her out, get her free newsletter, and see if she offers something you’re not already doing.  And as I’ve said about finances, look at your responsibilities, and think carefully before you spend on book promotion.  I found a few ways she’s helped me already, and I’m continuing to learn.  Between Shelley and “The Blog Farm,” I’ve come a long way from my lizard-warrior video (but I still love it!). 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The “Twilight” Moment: An Excerpt from “Children of Discord”

I paraphrased this excerpt as well.

The following morning in the Kyrie forest, Simon stood roped to a tree.  The girl tied him up while humming a song.  “Having fun, Shevata?”  He asked as she pulled the rope taught. 

“I see introductions aren’t required.”

“You haven’t asked my name.”

“Your name doesn’t interest me, blood-drinker.  Now,” said Shevata as she pulled down a branch to cover Simon.  “You will answer my questions.  When you don’t I release the branch.”  She let the branch spring upward as Simon gasped with horror at the approaching sunlight.  She smiled as she pulled it down again. 

“Better?”  She asked.  He nodded.  “Why was I forced into your presence?”

Simon said, “If you’re tracking Goldeon, not only are you off trail, you’re off worlds.  The boy’s trouble here in Gastar.”

“That’s not an answer.  My business is not your concern.” She released the branch again.  Simon winced in pain, then the pulled it down again.

“You killed who had the information with that barbaric weapon of yours.”

She shrugged.  “So I killed a blood-drinker.  What did you expect?”

“My name is Simon.  What would you have me call you, ‘life-drainer?’”

Shevata’s eyes narrowed.  “Life-drainer?  That’s stupid.”  She shrugged again.  I supposed nobody’s perfect.

“Then consider untying me.  I doubt you can best me in battle.”

“And I suspect you’ll alert Goldeon of my presence the first chance you get.”

“Absolutely, if I find him.”

“I’ll be counting on it.  Now that we understand each other, we begin our search tonight.”  She pulled the branch further down, releasing it and repeating the maneuver as Simon shrieked at the sunlight.

The lion did not fall in love with the lamb.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Death by Cookware: An Excerpt from “Act of Redemption”

I paraphrased this a bit to keep the word count of the blog post more user-friendly.  Meet my anti-heroine Shevata, in one of her “normal” moments:

The demon Nautificus made a deep purring noise as he examined the young girl, appearing to be sleeping across the large obsidian chair.  He flicked her hair with a long fingernail.  Could this really be Shevata?  With expertise, he removed an object sparkling in her ragged clothing.  He realized he was holding a holy relic. 

Dropping it, he stepped back in horror.  A sharp blow to the side of his head sent him reeling across the room.  He faced the girl holding a large iron skillet.  “Nautifiticus, you’re caught in my domain to feel the demonic pain of cold iron.  What brings you here?”  Said Shevata.

“Your head, Shevata.  What else?”  He wiped blood from his nose with thorny fingers. 

“Zermon suspects that I damaged his demonic son’s pretty skin, and sends an incompetent associate.”  She snatched a small bag from his waist, removing a large blue gem the size of her palm. 

“Thief.”  Said Nautificus.

“Yes.”  Said Shevata.  “This gem harbors souls.”  She kneeled in front of him so they were face-to-face.  “So, old adversary, who is in here?”  She waved it before him. 

He dove at her; she dodged him, but fell on her back when he grabbed her ankle.  As he raised the black sword to run her through, the iron skillet flew into her hand.  She struck his shoulder, moving him sideways.  When he turned to attempt another strike, she smashed the gem with the flat of the skillet.  A bright light flashed and a distant scream was heard when Nautificus vanished.  Shevata placed the skillet on the arm of the chair.  She summoned the sword into her hand, smiling as she twirled it.

Compassion for the bad guys isn’t one of Shevata’s traits.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On Dealing With My Prose Envy

As I’m moving another bundle of Indies to review, I find myself realizing how great so many new authors write.  To me, several of the Indie books I’ve read/reviewed stand well with Bestsellers when it comes to creating a smooth, almost effortless read, and bring in the cliffhangers at just the right times to prevent boredom.

Editors usually say different writers have different strengths and weaknesses, so it makes sense to the new author to write more of what you’re better at.  Some writers, like myself, move the plot with dialogue, while others use prose for most of the storytelling. 

Besides learning the obvious that writing is much harder than it looks, I realized early as a new author that good prose is difficult.  Keep it smooth.  No adverbs.  Not too many run-on sentences.  No ellipses (my favorite editor’s ire…I love them!).  Use active voice.  Use thorough descriptions of the person, place, and time.  What do they smell?  What do they eat?  Are they shaking in fear, silent in shock, or leaping with excitement?  Do others notice them?  What are they wearing? (Another favorite of mine, hey, as a woman, fashion counts, even in medieval dark fantasy!). 

When I run across great prose I notice it by not noticing it.  Before you write me off as stupid by saying (writing) this, think about your favorite fiction books.  The reader absorbs the backdrop, without lumbering over words and re-reading to understand the story.  Once the book is closed, you feel like you’ve been to that faraway place, returning to the routine of reality.

I’m a dialogue person. Some things can’t be helped.  I love to read dialogue, so I like to write it.  Whether it’s the constant bickering between Shevata and Zermon, or the exposure of Shevata’s brutal side to her enemies, the story is told by the characters’ speech and immediate actions.  Well, they are action stories so to an extent it makes sense.  When I finish reading a book, the prose I remember generally, but it’s the dialogue quotes that I recall verbatim.

I hope to develop more prose in my future books.  Editors recommend a good dialogue/prose balance, which I think is good advice.  But, as writers, we invent ourselves and part of the creativity is inventing our own style of storytelling.  So I’m dialogue heavy, and others are prose heavy.  That’s OK.  If all authors wrote in the same style, what a boring world we would have! 

New authors, go forth, and continue to teach me about good prose.  I appreciate their talent, while I continue my dialogue as my favorite creative method.  “Different strokes for different folks,” and my hat’s off to those who excel in prose, and have my friendly prose envy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Powerful Fantasy Mothers

While I sometimes criticize fantasy classics for their lack of strong female characters, several use women as the strength behind their children, (sons usually) pushing them up the power ladder.  Often these characters cannot achieve full power because gender, thereby manipulating events for the next best thing:  their sons at the top.

My overall favorite power-mother was the character Livia in “I, Claudius.”  For those interested, I highly recommend watching this old mini-series masterpiece starring Sir Derek Jacobi as the lead character.  Early in the story, Livia, mother of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, stops at nothing to ensure that her son reach the top of the Roman leadership.  Many in line fall to her “poisonous” techniques; leaving her a very memorable character.

In the oldie but goodie story of Beowulf, Grendel’s mother wanted revenge over the death of her monster son.  As a kid, Rikki Tikki Tavi was a favorite story of mine, with Nag’s mother Nagina standing as another dangerous challenge to the feisty mongoose.  Though the examples are numerous, one thing in common usually is the mother is protective of her child (or offspring), and is often willing to manipulate or kill to advance their children out of desire for power, wealth, or vengeance.  A more recent example is Cersei in “A Song of Ice and Fire” which I’m still reading, and hope to finish someday. 

Why do mothers make such powerful characters in fantasy/fictionalized stories?  Answer:  One of the most important relationships in our lives is the one we have with our mothers.  Therefore to use mothers in stories, either human, cobra, or monster, relates to us on some level, as generally they are protective and want the best for their children. 

Can the use of mothers add to character development in fiction?  Of course!  It would hardly apply to all characters, but as in my article about fantasy families, sometimes the mother takes the foreground instead of the father.  Female characters can be every bit as horrific, intriguing and vengeful as their male counterparts, and though I prefer my benevolent, supportive mother I have in reality, they need not be that way in the stories we create in fantasy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

On The Antagonist and the New Author

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” quoting Sir Issac Newton.  In fiction, the laws of physics need not apply; authors have the freedom to meld the story to bring the reader beyond the real world and experience the “un-experienceable.”  (Not a word, but it’s fiction, right?).

I’ve heard for a long time actors like to play the bad guys.  While the LOTR films were in daily conversation, someone asked me whom I’d like to play.  I thought being an orc would be cool, so I could walk up and growl into the camera.  Also my acting abilities doubtfully would qualify for much else. 

What’s so great about the good guys in stories?  Answer:  Protagonists usually look good; they help people, sometimes show emotion, self-sacrifice, and not make demands.   The super-righteous good guys do not kill the bad guys on purpose; instead they want to “bring them to justice.”  (Zzz…)  Heroes bring us back to stories so we can see how they extinguish the next evil challenge. 

Note, the “evil challenge,” meaning, the antagonist is as important a character(s) as the protagonist.  You can’t have a memorable good guy without a memorable bad guy.  (Or girls)  Often the antagonist is the more complex, less explained, and the more intriguing.  Unlike the protagonist contemporaries, antagonists stand on different levels.  Some are previous good guys but for reasons became evil by sometimes-tragic events.  Other antagonists are traitors, pretend-to-be good guys, revealing their true bad intentions given the right opportunity. The completely evil, amoral antagonist sees a quick death as mercy, a slow death as justice, and senseless deaths (as in serial killers) as the means to justify their existence. 

Editors remind me to develop antagonists enough to explain their behavior to enrich the story.  This brings me back to the LOTR:  What was Sauron’s goal? Answer: Kill and enslave to take over the world.  While I cherish Tolkien’s masterpiece as much as any fan, that’s not much of a definition though it stands in the epic.  (I admit to not reading the Simarillion, so unlike my husband, I don’t have a Ph.D in Tolkien.)   My own preference is to reveal the evil goals and the reasoning behind them.  But not all evil is created equal, so some stories need evil to represent only what it is; ruthless, brutal and uncaring for the suffering of others.

In the dark fantasy world of my creation, I prefer a dark protagonist (anti-heroine Shevata) and a lighter antagonist (the empty-headed Zermon).  My Indie colleagues do an outstanding job of creating interesting protagonists and antagonists.  Though the good guy stands in the center, the bad guy is at least as important standing strong in the background.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Non-Spoiler III: “A Storm of Swords” by George R. R. Martin

Just when you think it’s safe to go play in the snow, this giant epic slings the reader upon another roller coaster, where a bit of intrigue and boredom takes a corner, leaving the reader (me, anyway) saying a four-letter word aloud while reading.

In dark fantasy language, it’s winter for the generally honest, good-people Starks and summer for the scheming, powerful Lannisters.  Martin’s storytelling reveals the harder times that follow war; the countryside filled with outlaws and brigands creating more dead bodies as they find their way to survive by whatever means they can. 

While the lowlifes struggle, the highborn seek peace through alliances and marriages.  Three weddings (that I can recall from this tome) take place, and only one is not jaw dropping when all is said and done.  I’ll quote the ruthless Tywin Lannister, speaking to his son, Tyrion (‘The Imp”):  “Which do you think is worse, killing ten thousand on the battlefield, or a dozen people at dinner?”

The character development evolves for the “Kingslayer” hottie Jaime Lannister, as he gets his comeuppance, which seemed to be impossible to do.  He finds out the hard way that when you’re rich, good-looking, and merciless that he may actually face others with worse intentions.  As a man once proud to have no honor learns when all else is stripped away, there’s nothing left.  But no worries, Jaime fans, he’s still cute and has great dialogue.

The other character that moves to the forefront is Tywin Lannister, the father and driver of the rich, powerful, and self-indulged family.  His finger is in almost every pie that goes bad, is clever enough to keep his name out of ill deeds which he was a part, but learns more about his own progeny, who have plans of their own. 

Meanwhile, the beautiful, dragon-blooded Dany travels in another part of the world, gathering followers as her dragons grow up.  She grows as well when trusted followers are unmasked to reveal the traitors that they are.  She’s still naïve, but potential is there for her hopefully not follow the poor example her Targaryen relatives made that led to their downfall. 

My favorite character, “The Imp” remains in center stage as he takes a wife, endures humiliation, and finds much-needed aid by one he never thought of:  A member of his own dysfunctional Lannister family.

But let’s not forget where the action is.  The Lannisters carry the plot for the reader like they think they carry the world.  Not so fast.  Beyond the Ice Wall is something brewing that soon becomes “the elephant in the room” not figuratively speaking.  The Stark bastard Jon Snow is on the front lines, and like Tyrion, finds help from who he expected it the least.  (Is it a family member?  Who knows, I can’t keep all these people straight). 

Again, “A Song of Ice and Fire” is not for kids, not leisure reading, but is a masterful epic in gigantic proportions.  So far, the books stand and the story is not stale.  Five stars!