telling tales of doing the impossible

Posts tagged ‘writing’

When do you get to call yourself a BESTSELLER?

I review and feature a lot of books on my blogs, and it astounds me how many of these books are written by “bestselling authors” I’ve never heard of. I suspect there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to that title, particularly when you bestow it upon yourself.

So what’s fair and what isn’t?

I’m finishing one of my most successful Kindle Select giveaways ever. (You know, the ones Amazon will only let you do if you don’t let anyone else sell your eBook.) I’ve given away about 2000 books and guess what?

Yup. That is me sitting there at number 1. Now — this just for historical thrillers, and it only lasted for a day, and I was giving them away, not selling them. However, I was number one in a spot on big old Amazon! Does being there make me a bestselling author? (You could say I was selling them for $0.00 …)

What do you think?

Should I join the ranks of those making this claim? Then maybe I’d sell more books and then I’d have more evidence to shore up my boast. We all know people tend to buy books they think other people like … so a little success breeds more success.

Yeah. I’m thinking about it …

… and they’d be pissed.

I can’t believe my latest book comes out in TWO DAYS! Here’s another of my favorite quotes from She’s the One Who Gets in Fights.

Pre-order it now on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08TQKGCP4 or on Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1068509.

I promise it’s a fun read!

More Rebellion by Minor Characters

In my books I’ve always had at least one minor character who insists on playing a larger role than I intended. My most recent series is no exception. In She’s the One Who Thinks Too Much, Ryalgar’s grandmother Aliz was slated for nothing more than an introductory scene, but she not only insisted on sticking around, she quietly took over the entire Velka organization. That is one canny old woman for you…

I’m always curious if other writers experience this and recently I got to ask two very different authors what they thought..

Author Geoffrey Saign has a degree in biology, lives in Minnesota, and has written a YA fantasy series called Magical Beasts. His response to my question was emphatic.

Yes!!! Vampire bat Queen Valera in Book 4, Guardian The Stand, the only book she’s in, is in 5 short scenes. Yet she is so fundamentally important to the story, to the main character, and to the fate of an entire world, that it cannot be overestimated. Plus she is super powerful, mysterious, and interesting! An immortal, she can kick butt, and has no patience for stupidity. But she empathizes with the hero of the series, Samantha (Sam) Green and doesn’t want her to die. When this character first appeared, I had a vague idea about her. Then I loved her immediately and needed to put her into three more scenes. I was so enthralled with her, she came into the climactic ending too.

The same thing occurred in the other books in the series, where a character began as rather mild and ended up as wildly important. In Book 3, Guardian The Sacrifice, the same thing occurred with the Beister, a maniacal killer with huge secrets in his past that directly affected the main character in a shocking way. In Book 2, Guardian The Quest, Drasine, the golden dragon had a significant role, was mysterious, and very powerful. And in Book 1, Guardian The Choice, Heshia, a minor character at first, again became wildly important for the main character, even though she was only in 4 scenes.

Heshia, Drasine, the Beister, and Queen Valera all had a major impact on the main character, the plot, and the ending. They all made my writing more exciting and fun to complete, and the stories richer.

Author M. C. Bunn is a songwriter with a master’s in English who creates Victorian romance novels, including her most recent one, Where Your Treasure Is. She declared that her misbehaved minor characters made her stories better.

If our characters behaved, we wouldn’t have any stories!

Actually, during the first draft of Where Your Treasure Is, a host of characters completely blind-sided me. Though I never planned per se to write a romance that only focused on the lovers, I was unprepared for the world that opened up around them while I wrote their story. There are Winifred’s cousins, young and old, her Uncle Percival and his manservant Morrant, her staff in the town and country—and George Broughton-Caruthers, her handsome, devilish neighbor. Court is a gang member and horse racing enthusiast. His cronies are other prizefighters, cardsharps, gamblers, prostitutes, and circus folk.

The beginning of Winifred and Court’s story came to me in a flash, as did its end. What I had to find out was what happened in the middle. Every time I sat down to write, thinking that I was about to get back to my lovers, all these characters popped out, and the plot, with all its twists, followed them. What was really strange was how familiar they all were. Dorothy felt like that the entire time she was in Oz. Mentally chasing after these characters through London’s streets and around the Norfolk countryside, so did I.

Yet it was Beryl Stuart, Court’s half-sister, who added a richer, darker layer of complications to a plot that could otherwise have easily been summed up as “lonely rich girl meets poor bad boy” and “the course of true love never runs smoothly.” Because of their differences in social class, Winifred and Court were going to have a rough time of it, no matter what. There’s a dark current that flows out of Court’s world into Winifred’s long before their love story begins, though neither one of them is aware of it. Beryl and her friends bring a second love triangle into the plot, which leads to the next book in the series, Time’s Promise.

I’m also deeply fond of Court’s friend Sam Merton, a boy with a love of firecrackers, rip-roaring yarns, and penny dreadfuls, and Winifred’s memoir-writing uncle, the old adventurer Sir Percival and his manservant Morrant.

I appreciate hearing this from both authors. Frankly they made me feel a little more sane!

For the full posts about both books, each of which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Magical Beasts Series and Where Your Treasure Is.

When a sidekick’s sidekick takes on a major role

In my books I usually have one minor character who insists on playing a larger role in the story. I’m always curious as to whether other authors experience this, so I asked author Bill Zarchy if he had such a character in his novel, Finding George Washington. I was quite impressed with the insight in his response!

A Foil for My Foil

Early in the development of my debut novel, Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale, I knew that I wanted to tell the story in the first person, from Tim’s point of view. I wanted to bring General Washington to the present, and I figured that I could show George’s personality and response to the 21st Century through his interactions with Tim.

Tim was George’s foil, a character whose purpose is to contrast with another character, often the protagonist, to bring out their differences. Think Sancho Panza in Don Quixote, Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, or Bud Abbott playing straight man to Lou Costello.

Having Tim as the foil certainly worked out in many ways, but pretty soon, I began to think that I needed to provide him with a sidekick. As I wrote the early parts of the story, it became apparent that the very fact of George suddenly appearing in Tim’s life was astounding, to say the least, and Tim needed his own foil to reflect his astonishment. That’s how the character LaMatthew Johnson came to be. Tim and Matt could have their own private conversations about George, particularly in the early stages of the narrative, where they weren’t sure if they believed his story.

That wasn’t all. As I deepened my research into Washington as a slave owner, I realized that I needed people of color in my story. So Matt is mixed race, descended on his father’s side from enslaved people in the South (the Johnsons), and on his mother’s side from Jews fleeing the Nazis (the Lefkowitches).

From their first meeting, Matt confronts George about his role as owner of many enslaved people, forcing him to acknowledge that slavery is cruel, evil, and immoral. These dialogues elevate Matt’s role in the story from mere sidekick duty. He never gives George a break about slavery, even rejecting the notion Washington was just “a product of his time.”

As I write this, it’s Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, the liberation of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt, and I wonder, “was Pharaoh just a product of his time?”

Despite their differences, George and LaMatthew do learn to trust and admire each other.  Matt, whose role at first was to help Tim understand and explain George’s momentous presence among them, later takes decisive and risky action to defend George during a surprise ambush. Originally intended as a mere sidekick, Matt thus forces his way into becoming a principal character.

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Finding George Washington.

Well-Behaved Minor Characters

In my books I usually have one minor character who insists on playing a larger role in the story.

It started with my first novel, One of One, when I introduced Maurice, an eighty-something telepath from west Texas meant to play the minor role of contacting my main character Lola about an organization of telepaths. However, Maurice refused to exit the book after his one scene. He kept showing up, helping Lola and offering her interesting advice, and by the climax of book he’d grabbed himself a major part of the action.

It only got worse. Maurine went on to reappear in book three and four of the series and by the sixth and last book, Maurice was part of the family. Seriously. Lola’s kids all called him Uncle Maurice.

I’ve had other minor characters do similar, though not as drastic, things and I always wonder how unique this problem is to me. So when I get the chance to ask another fiction author if this happens to them, I jump at the chance.

Recently I asked Author Ellie Beals if she had such a character in her novel, Emergence (and if she didn’t, I wanted to know how she got the characters in her head to behave so well!)

Here is her fascinating answer.

I have been a chronic over-planner and over-preparer all my life.  I waited an obscenely long time to start work on a novel, because I so dreaded what I anticipated to be the long and grueling planning process required before I could actually WRITE.  And then one day, I said:  What if?  What if I don’t do that?  What if I just sit down and start writing?
And that’s what I did.  My plan at the outset was this simple:  I knew that:
  • the centre-piece of the book would be Xavier, one of my two protagonists. He is the adolescent “wildchild” who first surveils and eventually befriends my other protagonist, Cass Harwood – a middle-aged dog trainer and wilderness recreationist
  • dogs would be legitimate characters, helping to move the plot forward – but once again, they like Cass should never blur the focus on Xavier
  • there would be three dramatic and traumatic events and two Bad Guys associated with them, catalyzing the danger that eventually ensnares both of my protagonists.
Beyond that –  everything was open to that strange magic that occurs during the act of writing.  Knowing that it was really all about Xavier was my key to all of the other characters – I wanted to give them only enough oxygen to be realistic and believable, and to properly showcase the wildchild of Lac Rouge.  It was this minimalist drive that resulted in the characters in my head “behaving so well”.  I am a very disciplined human.  I simply refused to listen when one of the other characters clamored for more attention.
And one of them most certainly did.  Stefan is Xavier’s father.  I needed to create context that would realistically explain how Xavier grew up in such profound isolation at Lac Rouge.  So I made his father a declared anarchist with both intellectual and survivalist leanings.  When I first conceived of him, I thought I would shape him to be at least mildly abusive.  As the book took its own path, I abandoned that.  There were already two bona-fide bad guys, and given that I wanted a realistic plot, I figured that was plenty.  I also wanted there to be a reasonable explanation of Xavier’s many fine qualities.  So Stefan became a more complex and nuanced character than I had originally envisaged.  I endowed him with this background:  a Franco-Ontarian distanced from his rural family by his love of learning, who moved to Quebec to work in the lumber camps.  In Quebec he met Xavier’s french-speaking mother,  who left him when Xavier was eight.  Stefan also became partially disabled through a work accident.  He home-schools Xavier, and does a remarkably good job of it, except when his recurrent backpain intrudes.   That is the public face of Stefan.
But his presence injected a host of questions I had to decide whether or not to answer.  For example:  what really happened to Xavier’s mother?  Why did she leave?  Xavier mentions Stefan getting “mean” when he’s in pain, but he never describes that.  How does this “meaness” manifest?  And towards the end of Emergence, after Stefan tells Xavier that Cass has been questioned by the police, Xavier becomes quite concerned about an almost predatory alertness he sees in Stefan, that reminds him of the way Stefan is when they hunt.  Xavvy is not sure about this —  but there is a concern he expresses, without telling us why he is so concerned.  What actions does he fear Stefan might take?
I wanted the reader to be subtly or even subliminally aware of these questions I planted about Stefan.  One part of me played with expanding the book considerably, in order to explore them more fully.  However, given my commitment to render Emergence primarily a story about Xavier – I resisted the temptation.  But Stefan keeps nagging  me.  I have been urged to write a sequel, which I doubt that I’ll do.  But again –  one part of me plays with the idea of a parallel project that focuses on Stefan.  I don’t think I will – life is short and I’d like to try other things.  But Stefan does keep gnawing away at me.  He is only superficially “well-behaved”.    We shall see.

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Emergence.

We need eerie music for this!

I host other authors on a different blog, and when I get the chance to ask them a question, I go for information on the things that fascinate me about writing. Recently I asked one such question, and to my surprise, the author (Susan Merson of Oh Good Now This) answered two of my favorite questions. Weird, huh? Both answers were interesting so I am reposing them here.

I said …

I am fascinated by characters that undergo a major transformation in a story, so I often ask an author if there is such a metamorphosis in the novel I’m featuring. I asked Susan Merson this, and you’ll see her interesting response below. But here’s the thing.

Sometimes, instead, I ask a different questions and it usually goes like this. “In my books I’ve always had one minor character who insisted on playing a larger role in the story. I’m curious: was there such a character in your novel?”

Guess what? Author Merson answered that question also, and I didn’t even ask it. Cool, huh? Read on …

She said …

Susan Merson

I like to think of my new book OH GOOD NOW THIS  as a second time around, coming of age story. I am fascinated by how people survive and live their lives fully, especially after loss and the plain old battles of living day to day.

Amanda is a woman in her 60’s who ends up living near Vivi, my protagonist, on a country road, hidden behind tall pine trees. She craves light and strips the house of all its possessions, heaves her clothes into the dumpster, white washes the walls, and scrapes the floors til they shine. Through the large window in her living room she can see the moon and puts her white mattress and white duvet directly in the path of its glow. She can not bear the weight of any memory, any lover, any remnant of what was and lives a reclusive, solo life until she welcomes a young man into her home. He is visiting the local college for a seminar and she needs the money from his room rental.

And she falls in love with him. His easy loping style, his curiosity, his tease of pleasure at her company. Just his presence in the house inspires her to return to the root of who she was as a young woman and she spends her days painting pine cones and making soup, pretending she does not care when or if he returns.

Of course, he leaves, returning to his own life, but freezing Amanda in this new beginning as a person who sees the world deeply, through an artist’s eye once again. And the love she bears for this man-boy, releases the hold her body had on its poisons. Renewed, refreshed, no blockages to hold them back, the old poisons find their way into her body, creating illness when she was just reclaiming life.

Amanda’s death informs the lives of my other characters in this world. The journey she makes from cynical, rejected trophy wife, to full and faulty artist—this unfolding—surprises everyone. And inspires them, as well.

Amanda was a surprise to me when I was writing the book. She showed up when Vivi needed to see how the choices we make in our own lives can affect us, can make our choice for life or death very real. Vivi insists that life is worth the struggle even though she has seen how giving in to poison can loosen our grips and let hope recede. Amanda shoves Vivi toward choosing life at an important juncture in the story and I am grateful she showed up to let me introduce her.

Isn’t she beautiful?

I understand cover reveals can be a big deal, but it’s just not my style. I’m happy to get an attractive cover I like and one that represents my books well. When I do, well, I want to share it. Like right away.

So …. here is the gorgeous cover for book 5 in the Seven Troublesome Sister Series.

It really is beautiful, isn’t it?

What is she holding? It’s called a psaltery, and it’s a stringed instrument that was quite popular in the 1200’s.  This 5th sister is a musician. (It’s one of the reasons she can’t keep quiet.)

Like it’s predecessor (cover 4) this was done by the fine folks at Deranged Doctor Design and arrived almost perfect. The way it showed up is on the left. I had a few minor concerns. A psaltery is too heavy to be held the way she holds it. The lighting effects made her hair look like she was going gray. She seemed rather too tall and thin to be a real woman and her arms, in particular, looked off.

Most if not all of these, of course, were artifacts of the sort of photo manipulation DDD does to make their stunning but still affordable covers.

Back came this version, which corrected most of my concerns, except for the oddly long and skinny arms. We had one more round to improve the arms, and then I decided I wanted the castle on her other side. I was all excited about how our brains are accustomed to going from left to right and felt that the castle on the left would better convey that she was leaving to go somewhere else. (See my post Better Covers: Does Your Brain Prefer Left to Right?) Flipping the castle didn’t make as much difference as I’d hoped, but I liked it okay and was happy to call it good with only these three minor revisions.

I’d love to know if other authors are more, or less, picky than I am about their covers. If any of you reading this self-publish, please speak up and let me know!

This was originally posted on my blog Seven Troublesome Sisters which talks all about that series. Check it out for more info on these books.

Better Covers: Does Your Brain Prefer Left to Right?

I love book covers! After ten years in the self-publishing industry, I realize I spend a lot of time thinking about my covers, analyzing them, and just plain staring at them.

I designed my own first one (and had so much fun doing it), but since then I have relied on professionals who can produce a better product. I was lucky to find Deranged Doctor Design a few years ago and they’re now working on their eleventh cover for me!

But it was cover number ten (shown here) that brought out something I was unaware of.  The final product, or at least what I thought was the final product, shows Olivine, a shy, artistic woman who takes up archery because of her unusually gifted eyesight.

I loved the olive color, and the sense of capturing her in motion, so I happily gave DDD the okay to call this one done with only a minor revision to her hair. (Don’t think that has ever happened before. I always see something I want to change.)

I second-guessed my decision, however, when I studied this cover next to the first three books in this series. The other women all look so strong, so sure of themselves, while my fourth sister — she hesitates. To me, she’s looking back over her shoulder like she’s not entirely sure if she should go on.

Well, she is shy, I thought. Maybe this captures that part of her and I should be glad. But honestly, I wasn’t. I know Olivine is strong inside, like her other sisters, and I wanted my readers (and my potential readers) to know that too.

Then a weird thing happened. I was trying to crop the cover image in PowerPoint to just get her face, to put it into a promotional idea I had. You know how if you grab the side of a small image in PowerPoint to move it, sometimes instead you end up pulling one edge all the way over the other and reversing the image? It’s annoying. Well, I did that, and the reversed image surprised me. Here was Olivine, reversed and looking more sure of herself!

Yet, it was the same picture. How could that be?

I puzzled over this for a while before it occurred to me that I’ve spent a lot of my life reading (and writing) and my words always go left to right. In our alphabet, left is backward. Right is forward. So looking left is looking over my shoulder, gazing at the past. Looking right is boldly looking ahead.

Flip the image of a woman looking to her left and suddenly she appears more ready to face the future. It’s amazing.

Yes, the nice folks at DDD were happy to flip the cover image for me, and today I got a draft of the result.

Look at her. Now she’s perfect.

And, I’ve learned something that should help me evaluate cover designs going forward.  For just as our bodies respond differently to chemical compounds that are mirror images of each other, I believe our brains respond differently to mirror images as well.

This means I can ascribe attributes to a character on a cover by paying attention to which way her gaze is directed.

Cool, huh?

(Note: this was reposted from my blog for the ‘Seven Troublesome Sisters” series. Check out Seven Troublesome Sisters to learn more about these books.)

Books Written with Stardust and Magic

I host book tours on my other blogs and sometimes I get a guest post that impresses me. When I do, I like to repost it here.

A while back I learned I’d be featuring The Calling, a book by YA science fiction author Branwen OShea. I looked up her biography on Amazon and discovered she is also a licensed counselor, a yoga teacher, and a sound healer, among other things. What intrigued me most, though, was when she said she writes books with “stardust and magic.” I loved the phrase.

So, I asked her which of the many traditions she has studied contributed the most to the “stardust and magic” she put into The Calling.

Here is her intriguing answer.

I’ve always been fascinated with different belief systems and have read and studied various religious and spiritual traditions since I was about ten years old. For me, every tradition holds great truths, but no tradition by itself fully meshes with my values of compassion, nonviolence, love, truth, and valuing nature. Each of my books explores slightly different beliefs.
The Calling kicks off a series that encompasses three different species, each with their own cultures and beliefs. The humans in my series are mostly scientific thinkers and driven by a sense that the Earth betrayed them by plummeting into an ice age. Most of the humans only trust science. However, Bleu and his family are secretively highly intuitive. I based their experiences on intuitive experiences that I’ve had since childhood. I didn’t give them a specific philosophy, because they had nowhere to research one other than their own shared experiences.
The star being culture and spirituality is possibly a combination of Indian and Yogic philosophy merged with indigenous beliefs and Christian mysticism. I say “probably” because much in this book was told to me in a series of meditations/dreams from the character Rana, a star being. So, you could either assume that my subconscious combined the above, or that it’s a psychic experience and Rana is something else other than a creation of my subconsciousness. The story works either way.
The third species doesn’t appear until the end of the second book, The Chasm, which is coming out in January 2022. Their culture and beliefs could be seen as a combination of shamanism, Islamic beliefs about jinn, and myths of the Fae. That said, their culture, beliefs, and story also came to me in meditations. Like myself, my books contain influences from many cultures and times. The overarching theme of the series challenges humans to reconsider their perceived limitations and separation from other species.

I thank author OShea for such an interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out The Calling.

Wow. Eight books.

I spent over twenty years trying to finish my first novel. Now, as of yesterday, I’ve published eight books. Sometimes it doesn’t seem real to me.

I’ve learned so much. The most important lesson of all, of course, has been to trust that I can do this. That when the ideas come, some will be worth pursuing. That when the page is blank, words will fill it. That when the rewrites start, much will be worth saving and those parts can be fit into a coherent plot. Finally, when I put that final product out there in front of the world, many people will enjoy it.

(Some won’t of course, and a few will take their pleasure saying so in unnecessarily snotty ways, but I’ve also learned that intentional hurtfulness is their problem, not mine. That’s a different sort of lesson.)

Besides all that, there is my killer knowledge of formatting text, my growing abilities to manipulate graphics, and my always increasing presence on social media. If you are looking for a hobby that will force you to stay technologically savvy, I highly recommend self-publishing.

And guess what? I now know what fruits and vegetables were native to Eurasia, when tea and coffee became popular in Europe, what a crossbow is and how to feint in fencing. Seriously, if you are looking for a hobby that will leave you more knowledgeable, may I suggest writing historical novels?

The truth is, I love what I do. I love writing books and I can’t imagine my life without it.

Which novel is my favorite? It’s always the one I’m working on. I spent the last month and a half putting the final polish on Coral’s book, so of course I’m in love with her and her story.

Tomorrow I will turn to the sketchy notes and two chapters that constitute the beginning of Celestine’s book. By Tuesday, I’m sure Celestine will have become the best main character I’ve ever created. It seems to be how I function.

Today, I’m just talking a breath, looking back at the road I’ve traveled and being glad that I function at all.

So, which child do you like best?

In my own experience, my favorite of my own books is always the one I’m writing now. Having read and enjoyed Olga Werby’s book Harvest (see my review) I was curious how she felt about it in comparison to her latest book Twin Time.  So, I asked her which of these two books of hers was more fun to write.

Yes, I know this is a little bit like asking someone which of their children they like best. “Both” is a good answer. But to author Werby’s credit, she had an interesting and well-thought-out response.

“Harvest” and “Twin Time” couldn’t be more different! One is a sci-fi thriller; the other is a fantastical, historical romance. I’ve spent years researching the science for “Harvest”—the scientific details in that story are all true. But the same is true for “Twin Time”. “Twin Time” is partly based on my grandmother’s childhood. She grew up in post-revolutionary Russia, in a rural village where the political change was slow to arrive. When it finally did, her family had to run in the middle of the night to stay alive. They lived through unspeakable horrors and didn’t survive unscathed. Most died. When and where we are born shapes our lives. When you read “Twin Time”, you will get to experience what it was like to live in another time and place with a different value system and different culture.

I came to America as a refugee; I grew up in Russia and those experiences shaped my life. To write about what it feels like to be there, even if at a different time and place than what I knew, was transformative. I loved doing the research, looking at illustrations and old photographs. It made me remember the fairytales of my youth.

Emotionally, “Twin Time” was more powerful for me, while “Harvest” was more intellectually stimulating. Writing these two books was a very different experience. But I wouldn’t swap my life for the life of my heroines in either of these novels—they had it rough. Spending a few years dreaming the lives of these women is very different from living those lives. I have to say, I’m a girl who likes first-class bathroom accommodations!

About Olga Werby:

Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning experiences. She has a Master’s degree from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley, and the Princeton Review. Olga has a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from Columbia University. She became an accidental science fiction indie writer about a decade ago, with her first book, “Suddenly Paris,” which was based on then fairly novel idea of virtual universes. Her next story, “The FATOFF Conspiracy,” was a horror story about fat, government bureaucracy, and body image. She writes about characters that rarely get represented in science fiction stories — homeless kids, refugees, handicapped, autistic individuals — the social underdogs of our world.

Her stories are based in real science, which is admittedly stretched to the very limit of possible. She has published almost a dozen fiction books to date and has won many awards for her writings. Her short fiction has been featured in several issues of “Alien Dimensions Magazine,” “600 second saga,” “Graveyard Girls,” “Kyanite Press’ Fables and Fairy Tales,” “The Carmen Online Theater Group’s Chronicles of Terror,” with many more stories freely available on her blog, Interfaces.com.

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Twin Time.

Review: The Murderous Macaron

The Murderous Macaron is a fun read, sure to please fans of cozy mysteries and lovers of well-meaning and sometimes bumbling amateur sleuths. (I do happen to be one such fan.) Julie’s bakery is the focal point of this gentle who-done-it, and there is just enough of France woven into the story to appeal to lovers of travel as well.

What I liked best: Simply put, this is an enjoyable book. I appreciate that it was an easy read, well-paced and well written. The somewhat complex solutions to the case were believable yet not obvious, providing a satisfying ending.

My favorite thing was Drew’s stellar cast of secondary characters. Grandma is great. I do love feisty old women and she delivers. Sister Flo, the artist, is equally fun, and I could have done with more of the geeky sous chef as well. I’m not a huge dog fan, but I even enjoyed Lady, the sleuth dog who joins the team.

What I liked least: There is a fascinating backstory here, dribbled out in small pieces and never fully dealt with. It is difficult to reconcile the light tone of the novel with an unexplained traumatic family death, an estranged twin with unusual powers, and Julie’s issues with both of the above. Yet, it all comes up often enough to make it hard to ignore.

The reader wants answers. I suppose the author intends to weave more explanations into future novels, but as regarded these issues, I felt cheated at the end. Plus, the only part receiving a real explanation (why Julie doesn’t like her twin) is just odd.

However, Drew’s story was charming enough for me to put that frustration aside, along with my current irritation with the gluten-free world, brought on by a husband who’s decided to go gluten-free for no real reason, forcing me to abandon half of my favorite recipes.  That’s hardly Ana T. Drew’ fault, and I resolved early on not to hold Julie’s gluten-free bakery against her.

So, I’d be happy to read more books in this series and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery novel.

About the Author: Ana T. Drew is the evil mastermind behind the recent series of murders in the fictional French town of Beldoc. When she is not writing cozy mysteries or doing mom-and-wife things, she can be found watching “The Rookie” to help her get over “Castle”. She lives in Paris but her heart is in Provence.

For more about this book, and the Goddess Fish review tour this review was part of, see The Murderous Macaron.

 

How Happy is Happy Enough?

So, I’m personally struggling with the question of how happy a happily-ever-after ending has to be to satisfy readers. I suppose my even asking the question makes it clear I think there is some wiggle room, or there ought to be.

I recently featured Doorway to Scorn, a fantasy novel by Dimitrius Jones, on one of my other blogs. I was delighted to get the chance to ask this author what he thought about the infamous HEA ending. I really liked his response.

As someone who’s read his fair share of romance novels, I get it. We love to ship people and see those ships weather a storyline’s challenges and persevere. We want to be rewarded for instilling hope into our favorite pairing with an ending that is adorably predictable.

We escape into these stories because we’re not sure if true love actually exists sometimes. It’s hard to reconcile a belief in soulmates when we can log onto social media and watch a divorce happen in real time at almost any moment. That’s why it’s so tantalizing to find a romance novel that will soothe our concerns with the promise of a happy ending for the featured couple, even if there’s much ground to cover beforehand.

I’m just not here for it, personally. I feel like it’s overdone.

I won’t go so far as to say I prefer depressing, tragic endings and think they should completely replace happy endings. However, I can appreciate a bittersweet ending where not every character gets the exact resolution we think they should. Real life doesn’t work either way. You don’t always get the ending to a relationship that you deserve, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a beautiful story out of it. It doesn’t mean there isn’t art to be found in a non-happy ending.

I think we could benefit from reading about relationship stories that we can better relate to versus stories where we idealize the couple. Some may say it’s boring, but I think it’s a challenge. As a writer, I’m always seeking new ways to express real life in a fictitious setting. What better way to expand my creative bandwidth than challenging myself to craft a great story without relying on tropes?

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any more happy endings. I just believe we shouldn’t fear realistic ones that don’t always make us feel fuzzy inside. It’s okay. There’s still a story there.

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Doorway to Scorn.

Do you wonder what a memoir writer doesn’t tell you?

I’ve often wondered about what gets cut from a memoir. I recently got the chance to ask actor and activist Leon Acord this question about his new book Sub-lebrity* (*the queer life of a show-biz footnote) … and here is his response.

I’m a believer of the “vomit draft.” Meaning, when writing a first draft, you write down everything that comes to mind. Future drafts are about cutting, condensing and deciding on and strengthening your “thesis.”

So, after the first draft of SUB-LEBRITY, I realized my book was the mostly comic tale of an out-and-loud gay actor from Indiana now living and working in Los Angeles. If a story wasn’t about being gay, being an actor, or being a gay actor, out it came. There was no room for family dramas or medical traumas.

But as requested, here’s a chapter which I cut from my book, all about my scariest “medical emergency.”

A Twisted Vein

I somehow arrived at middle-age without ever breaking a bone, having surgery, or even spending a night as a patient in a hospital.

Pretty good, huh?  Especially considering my childhood was filled with jumping off barns, riding horses and mini-motorbikes, and farm work!

But that’s not to say my life has been free of scary medical-show drama.

Around 2003, I began to notice, while reading, that text was becoming a little blurry.  I attributed it to my age (40 at the time), and mentally made a note to buy some reading glasses.

I also noticed colors on TV became muted when I closed my left eye.  Again, I assumed it was just a case of aging eyes.

Then one day, as I was walking to work in San Francisco’s Financial District, I looked up at a high-rise building.

Is that building bulging? I wondered.

I closed my left eye. The building did, indeed, appear to have a small bulge — one or two floors warping outwards.

How is that possible?

I quickly made an appointment with my regular eye doctor, a wonderful woman named Dr. Christine Brischer.

As we sat down, I explained to her what I was experiencing.  She looked into my left eye, then my right, with her lighted pen.  Then, without a word to me, she spun around in her chair, picked up the phone, and called a leading ophthalmologist.

“Hi, its Christine.  I have a patient who needs to see you immediately.  Can he come this afternoon?  Good!”

She hung up, and spun around to face me.

“I hope you have good insurance,” she said cryptically.  “This is going to be expensive.”

I left her office in a daze, and immediately called Laurence.  He left work early and joined me at the ophthalmologist’s office.

After a thorough and grueling examination, the specialist explained to use what was going on.

A small artery behind the center of my right retina had sprung a leak.  The blood that was spilling out was pushing the retina forward, thus causing vision in that eye to appear warped.

The ophthalmologist conferred with his team.  They suggested urgency.  Considering the leak was located directly in the center of my eye, they recommended the “big guns” — a “hot” laser eye surgery.  It would leave me with a permanent blind spot in the middle of my right eye, but the heat from the laser might — just might — seal up the leaky vein.  We agreed.

My head was strapped into a chair.  I was warned against moving in the slightest for the 60 seconds the laser was shooting into my eye, as the laser would burn (and blind) anything it touched.

The terrifying procedure began, and the entire time, I wondered What if I have to sneeze? What if there’s an earthquake?  What if I fart?

I didn’t, there wasn’t, and I didn’t.

I was appearing in the play Worse Than Chocolate at the time, and assured director Jeffrey I’d recover sufficiently in time to return to the show following the mid-week break in performances.  And I did, despite incredibly distracting “halos” that stage lighting caused in my recovering eye. (I should’ve worn the eye patch I’d been sporting after the surgery on stage, but critics already felt my villain was a little too over-the-top!)

That weekend, during a performance, as I’m “firing” Jaeson Post and demanding the office key from him, he dropped it as he handed it to me.  I looked down.  With my impaired vision, the brass-colored metal key vanished against the similarly colored wooded floor.

I looked at Jaeson.  Rightfully remaining in character, he refused to pick it up.

I got on my hands and knees and felt for the keys with my hands, like a young, manic Patty Duke-as-Helen Keller.  The audience actually loved it, loved seeing the heavy of the show (me) reduced to crawling on his hands and knees after being such a prick, but it was a very scary moment which I think I played off.

We returned to the doctor for a follow-up a week later.  We were both disappointed when told the vein was still leaking.   So now, I had warped vision plus the blind spot right in the center of my eye.  I began to question the wisdom of using the “big guns” right away.

The doctor suggested we try the hot laser again.  But one blind spot is enough, thank you very much.  So, we opted for the less-powerful option:  inject me full of photo-topical chemicals, and shoot a “cold” laser into my eye, through the retina, at the leak.  Then hide from direct sunlight for the next three days (not so easy to do in Los Angeles), as the chemicals would leave me susceptible to serious sunburn within minutes.

That didn’t stop the leak either. So, we tried it again. Then again.

After seven more expensive cold laser surgeries over 18 months, the leak was finally catheterized.

What caused the vein to pop a leak in the first place?

That question left the various eye professionals stymied.  Until over a year later, when we consulted with a vision specialist on the campus of UCSF.

“Did you grow up on a farm?” he asked within moments.

“Why, yes, I did, why?”

“Histoplasmosis,” he answered, explaining the infection – caused by inhaling dried bird droppings – is common in people who live(d) on midwestern farms.  Most people carry it without ever developing symptoms.  Yes, as a matter of fact, I did spend a few months as a kid raising chickens and selling the eggs to neighbors and family members.  And I remembered, Mom had battled the same thing when I was a young kid — in her case, it attacked the veins in her legs, putting her in a wheelchair for a week or two.

Then again, it may be the kicked-up piles of dried pigeon shit I inhaled while shooting OUT’s climatic mugging scene in that disgusting San Francisco Tenderloin back alley.

Over the years, my blind spot from that hot laser has continued to expand, basically leaving me effectively blind in the center of my right eye.  If I live long enough, the slowly expanding blind spot will eventually leave me legally blind in that eye.

I’ve gotten used to it.  The human eye is an amazing thing, and fills in blind spots with the colors surrounding it.  I only really feel impaired when taking a conventional vision test, while watching a 3D movie, or if I’m driving in an unfamiliar part of town after dark.

The plus side?  I have to subject myself to rigorous eye tests every six months to ensure the leak doesn’t reopen.  Since most of the patients of my ophthalmologist are elderly men and women battling macular degeneration, every time I show up for an appointment, I enjoy the very rare sensation of being the young person in the room — a feat I rarely accomplish in LA!

Or anywhere else these days, now that I think about it…

I thank the author for an honest and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Sub-lebrity*.

Predicting Pandemics

It’s hard for a science fiction writer not to be taken aback by the unexpected events of 2020. Given that, I asked author Melissa Riddell to share her thoughts on the difficulties of writing science fiction that occurs in the near future.

Here is what she had to say:

When I wrote The Descendant last year, I had no idea we were going to have our own viral outbreak in the real world. Even though my book’s apocalypse starts with an electromagnetic pulse wiping out all electronics and electricity, it also throws in a deadly virus killing most of humanity. With The Descendant, though, Tilly and Jareth’s romance and character development is at the heart of the story, so the virus takes a backseat to the true narrative.

There have been many apocalyptic books written where a virus is the driver to end times, such as Stephen King’s The Stand, and most readers (me included) gobble them up because we feel safe. We enjoy imagining what it would be like to survive the chaos—from the comfort of our favorite reading chair with our favorite beverage at our side.

The only true danger after reading these apocalyptic novels was developing a sniffle during the reading. We might’ve rushed to the clinic and explained what Mr. King called this type of sickness. “Oh, sweet Jesus, I think I’ve got Captain Trips.”

Calmly, the doctor informed me—uh, I mean those readers—they were suffering from allergic rhinitis, nothing more. He might’ve shaken his head and walked away, probably adding the patient to his psychosomatic list. And he was right—a little loratadine or cetirizine cleared Captain Trips right up. I digress, though.

Enter 2020 and COVID-19. Now that the world has had a tiny taste of living through a real pandemic, some readers want no reminders of what’s going on. Their whole purpose of reading a book is to escape reality. This poses problems for this type of near-future sci-fi and kills the “joy” factor.

On the flip side of that coin, the other crowd loves it, because they can relate to the book’s characters in a much more intimate way. Heck, they might even read it again to ensure they didn’t miss any tips on how to survive the virus.

Any writer trying to “cash in” on the current pandemic is probably going to find their book in one of these two crowds—those who love it because of what we’re living through, and those who detest it due to the current situation. My advice? Write your story. Even if it’s not popular right now, every genre experiences fluctuations in popularity, so who knows? Maybe a few years down the road, when we hopefully have COVID-19 under control in our past, those who passed over the book might be willing to give it a try.

In general, without the viral threat we’re facing, I think the difficulty in writing near-future sci-fi technology is in the technicality of the world or gadgets. If the story’s setting or tech is based on proposed developments, say in 10-30 years, then it’s imperative the writer does his or her research. Why? Because the technology isn’t that far away, and the author must prove to the reader they know what they’re writing about. Imagine getting it all wrong, and in a few years, the book is outdated and unbelievable. That’s not a good thing for the writer—or the reader.

In my opinion, it’s much easier to write science fiction for the far-off future or an advanced race, because I can make up stuff that can’t be disproven so easily. As long as I stick to fundamental laws of physics and biology (as we know it), then I can create the “fiction” part of science fiction and hopefully, the reader will happily come along for the ride.

About Melissa Riddell

Melissa Riddell is from a small, West Texas town in which she still lives with her husband. Her writing career started as a hobby when she was a teenager, writing poems and short stories. Eventually, she branched out and began constructing novels. When not contemplating new story ideas, she can be found traipsing around Texas State Parks, herding her cats, or reading a book.

Visit her website.

I thank the author for such a well-thought-out and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out The Descendant.

Name your target audience

I’ve always struggled with others’ needs for me to define my target audience.

“Uh, people who like to think? Maybe people who are curious?” I told the woman in charge of placing my paperbacks in the local bookstore.

She gave me an eye roll. “I’m going put them in young adult,” she said.

Arrgghhh. So, when Merinda Johns described her book as “more than a romance novel” I was curious. Who did she see as her intended audience? I asked her and I love her response!

Writing for People Who Relish a Compelling Story

Yes,  Blackhorse Road is more than a romance, and there’s an unusual backstory about what propelled me to take an offramp from writing nonfiction, mostly textbooks, to authoring fiction.

After I retired from academia, I started my practice as a leadership coach and focused on helping women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential. During the past ten years, I transitioned from writing textbooks to motivational books on creating environments where people flourish through better leadership.

About three years ago, I was on a conference call with fellow life coaches, and we were discussing concepts of what makes a fulfilling life.  Bang! Like a thunderclap, I had an insight. What would it be like to help people understand the concepts of a flourishing life in a story instead of through a motivational book or text? After all, storytelling has been the most compelling form of communication for thousands of years. As far as I could recall, none of the great Profits fed up learning objectives and multiple-choice questions to their followers.  No!  They got their message across through stories.

Since I was ten-years-old, I had wanted to write fiction, but my professional career steered me in another direction.   Now, I saw an opportunity to follow the dream I had had as a child and write books that immersed readers in the human experience rather than writing about frameworks and theories.

Blackhorse Road is best characterized as women’s fiction—a story of a woman’s journey toward a fulfilled life. It is a story about how an ordinary woman tackles challenges, lives through sorrow and betrayal, struggles with self-doubt, and acts on her aspirations to achieve flourishing life.

Blackhorse Road blossoms from my imagination that is influenced by my experience, perspectives, and observations that give the story authenticity and sensitivity, helping readers connect with the characters and feel their joy, disappointment, sorrow, and happiness.

But Blackhorse Road has more—it is enriched by the backstories that set the context for the characters and events in the story—historical incidents, politics, economics, philosophy, religion, and psychology that influence the values of the characters and ultimately the consequences of their actions.  As Connor, one of the characters in Blackhorse Road says, “Time and place shape a person.” It’s the intermingling of these forces that creates a complicated explosion and tension within and among the characters.

Even though Blackhorse Road fits squarely into women’s fiction, it is a story that can appeal to everyone.  This realization came from two “ah-ha” moments that I had.

The first came during a virtual launch party for Blackhorse Road when an audience member asked the beta readers if the book would be appropriate for younger readers.  What prompted that question was the beta readers’ observation about how the lines of communication between Luci (the protagonist) and her father play a critical role in the formation of Luci’s values and belief system, and her grit to achieve autonomy.

In response to the question, one of the beta readers said that she had given the book to her seventeen-year-old granddaughter so that the two of them could read it together, and another beta reader shared that she was reading the book with her fourteen-year-old daughter.  The consensus among the beta readers was that the book was appropriate for teens fifteen and older—an insight we had not discussed at the original meeting of the beta readers seven months earlier!

Okay, I said to myself.  Blackhorse Road is for women readers fifteen years and older.

But then a  second ah-ha moment came roaring through like a tornado when I received a text from a fifties-something man.  “Just finished Blackhorse Road.  WOW!  Very powerful.  Made me cry!  Great job.  Let me know when you have a book signing event in my area.”

So, in the end, while Blackhorse Road has a lot of romance in it, it is more than a romance novel. Blackhorse Road is for anyone who relishes a compelling story about how ordinary people tackle challenges, live through love gained and loss and sorrow and betrayal, and who struggle with self-doubt, and act on their aspirations to achieve flourishing lives.

About Merinda Johns

Merida Johns takes her experience as an educator, consultant, and businesswoman and writes about the human experience. In 2018 Merida took an unlikely off-ramp from writing textbooks and motivational books to authoring women’s fiction. Her stories are learning lessons where awareness and curiosity transport readers to the most unexpected places within themselves.  Merida hails from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, grew up in Southern California and has lived from coast-to-coast in the United States.  Besides writing, she enjoys fabric arts, including weaving and knitting. She makes her home in the serene Midwest countryside that gives her the inspiration and space for storytelling.

Find her at:
Her website:  www.MeridaJohnsAuthor.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MeridaJohnsAuthor/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/meridajohns
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Merida-L.-Johns/e/B001IU2KBS
Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/shop/MeridaJohns
Buy Blackhorse Road on Amazon.

I thank Merinda Johns for such a well-thought-out and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Blackhorse Road.

Characters, Characters, Characters

Characters, Characters, Characters

In The Secret Spice Cafe Trilogy, Patricia Davis has woven a complex tale, spanning generations. I asked her what techniques she used to make sure her readers didn’t get lost in her large cast of characters. Here’s what she said.

To keep a reader turning pages in novels such as these, they have to be invested in the characters as much as they are in the story. With a large cast of characters, it’s always a challenge to make their voices distinguishable from one another.  In the case of Angela, Cynthia, Jane, Rohini, Sarita, and Cristiano, who are the main players in an even larger cast of characters, I had to consider the region of the world from which they each came, their ages, their sex, and even their life experiences.

How does that translate to the page? It’s simple enough to give a character description, a synopsis of all of the above for each. Simple, but boring.  I could have written, “Angela was a forty-five-year-old Italian-American from the east coast of the USA,” or I could show that by her actions, her thoughts and perceptions, her manner of speaking.  Each character was given “tells”—phrases they use routinely, motions they make, habits they have.

A reader could go through each novel with a highlighter if they wished, and find these things. Sharp eyes would notice that Rohini rarely, if ever, uses contractions when she speaks, for the reason that her English is careful and precise, as it’s her second language, and she learned how to speak it in her native India.  Cristiano, from Spain, will often sound more like he comes from Mexico. He explains that in the storyline. Sarita nibbles on her thumbnail when she gets nervous, Cynthia moves her hands way more than most, Jane sometimes uses expressions from her native northern England, such as “you lot” to mean, “you people,”  that a number of American readers unfamiliar with the lingo might think is a typo.

I got lucky—so lucky—on the audiobook narrator, Ann Marie Gideon. She loved the idea of all the accents, regions and ages so much, that she spent a lot of time with me, asking questions about each character. And she really nailed them. Her audiobook narration is the best I’ve heard.

Bottom line, writers worth their title research meticulously each character’s background, socio-economic level, life experiences, and take all of that into consideration when writing dialogue, and action.  I’m lucky to have met many people from many different parts of the world. That made it easier for me. I enjoyed writing them, as much as I enjoy hearing a reader say how ‘real’ the characters seemed to them.

They are real, as real as my imagination and pen could make them.

I thank Patricia Davis for such a well-thought-out and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out The Secret Spice Cafe Trilogy.

A Hundred Lies

My Review

In A Hundred Lies, Jean M. Grant has created a likable hero in Rosalie, the fake fortune teller. She has placed her in a fascinating time and place, and done the research to make the setting come alive. Finally, she’s given her a thorny dilemma to vex her, and a threatening nemesis to chase her, so we all can hold our breath, hoping the best for her as we turn the pages. I enjoyed reading Rosalie’s adventures.

I wish I’d found the tortured nobleman who loves her to be as compelling, but I never quite did. He is an honorable man with a real talent for seeing the future, and I’m all for having feisty female leads attracted to someone interesting who isn’t a jerk. But he does spend a lot of time brooding about past mishaps and his relentless remorse gets a bit tiresome. Luckily, most of the rest of the cast, including his own mother and sister, and Rosalie’s aunt and uncle, keep things moving.

I appreciated the author’s ability to articulate this distant world, but she sometimes rambled through it a bit too slowly for my tastes. Some scenes cut in and out of past memories and included local facts in ways that reduced the punch of her narrative. That minor complaint aside, I enjoyed how well everything from knowledge of herbs to catty servant girls gave me the feel of being there.

I recommend this book to those who like their romance novels to have more to them than just a couple getting together, and I also recommend it to those who enjoy historical fantasy and wouldn’t mind a romance story as part of the package. Either way, I think readers will find a lot to like about this tale.

For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see A Hundred Lies.

It’s Really Happening

Writing a book is a really long process.

Even for self-published authors like me, the path from best-idea-I-ever-had (they all are) through getting-the-first-draft-finally-done (they all suck) is no small thing. Then come the rewrites, then the critiques from whatever support system you pay for or coerce, then the next set of rewrites, and the cover design, and the final edit and proofread, and the formatting, and there is nothing quick or easy about getting a novel out there.

I continue to be amazed by how many people do it. I continue to be amazed that I somehow manage it. And yet, I’m about to do it again.

The great idea struck in May 2019. I was at a local spa, enjoying a mother’s day present called “the works” or something like that. I was bored while people massaged things into me.

Now, my seventh novel, and the first in my new series, will be out on kindle November 13, and in paperback and through other retailers shortly after.

I’m excited. I’ve moved on from writing about superpowers in my own world to creating an alternate history. For a year and a half, I’ve been living and breathing the 1200’s on another timeline, one in which seven young women work together to save their homeland. My days have been filled with magic and bravery, and with treachery and a little romance. It has definitely helped get me through Covid-19.

To celebrate having got this far (and to maybe sell a few pre-orders), twenty-four different excerpts from the first book will be featured on twenty-four different blogs over the next four weeks. So, from August 31 through September 25, you’ll find parts of my new novel on a variety of blogs.

I’d love to have you check it out. You can enter to win a $25 gift card while you’re at it, and also take a look at other people’s interesting novels. Despite how long it takes to make a book happen, there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

TourBanner_She's the One Who Thinks Too Much

Those excerpts can be found at:

August 31: Rogue’s Angels
August 31: Welcome to My World of Dreams
September 1: All the Ups and Downs
September 2: Fabulous and Brunette
September 3: The Avid Reader
September 4: Kit ‘N Kabookle
September 4: Author Deborah A Bailey
September 7: Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
September 8: Andi’s Book Reviews
September 9: Two Ends of the Pen
September 10: Our Town Book Reviews
September 11: Joanne Guidoccio
September 14: Danita Minnis
September 14: Readeropolis
September 15: Iron Canuck Reviews & More
September 16: Novels Alive
September 17: T’s stuff
September 18: Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’
September 18: Dawn’s Reading Nook
September 21: It’s Raining Books
September 22: Locks, Hooks and Books
September 23: Sybrina’s Book Blog
September 24: Gimme The Scoop Reviews
September 25: Viviana MacKade

Thanks for looking into it.

 

How much backstory should one provide?

Everyone loves a series, right? And … everyone wants to be able to read each book as if it were a stand-alone novel. True?

I struggled (a lot!) with this quandary in my 46. Ascending series, so when I got the chance to ask author R.W Buxton (who writes an urban fantasy/paranormal romance series) any question, I went right for his solution to this dilemma.

Here is his fascinating answer.

I read a lot of series. It seems that it’s the most popular format for authors to write these days. Honestly, when I started writing Capital Thirst, the first book, it wasn’t my intention of writing a series myself. But there was more story than I wanted to stuff into a single book so I did it, I started a series.

Backstory is always an issue, whether it’s the second or third book of a series or the first book. The trick is to get it in so the reader knows what’s going on, without boring them to death. I hope I could achieve that. I am reading the second book in a series by another author. I loved the first one, but in the second book the author will take paragraphs in the middle of action to cover the backstory from the first book. I tried not to do this. As a reader of the first book, I find I just skip this stuff and even if I hadn’t read the first book, I don’t need to know the details of what happened just that something did and it has an impact now.

When I wrote Beverly Hills Torture, I knew new readers wouldn’t know what happened in Capital Thirst but there are just key parts they needed to know. So if you read Beverly Hills Torture without reading Capital Thirst I tried to only include the key points that you need to know without retelling what happened in the first book.  This also means a lot of what was in Capital Thirst isn’t revealed. But I hope just enough for the reader to know why things are happening in Beverly Hills Torture.

Most of the backstory I tried to include in dialog or quick thoughts that Erin or Gerry have. There is a bit of explanation in the first chapter, but when you jump in right in the middle there has to be a brief explanation because the new reader knows nothing about the characters.

Writing a series is a progressive thing to undertake. In the first book, all you need to worry about is the backstory of the characters. In the second book, you have to worry about the character backstory and reintroducing it for new readers as well as including key elements of what happened in the first book. The third and fourth books are even more difficult to pick the details because there are a lot more of them and keeping them straight becomes more and more complicated. Not to mention deciding which ones are important and which aren’t.

It’s a balancing act, I hope I have enough, but if I erred, I would prefer to err on the side of not enough. If it’s not there, readers can make their own decisions or assumptions. If they’re curious, they can go back and read the first book. But I would rather do that than spend paragraphs writing about what happened that will bore readers that have read it and may or may not add something for the readers that have.

The facts about how Gerry became a “day walker,” and his relationship with Erin are all there. The rest, if I really felt it was important, is there.

I thank R.W Buxton for such a well-thought-out and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Beverly Hills Torture.

 

 

 

Review: The Duplex

In The Duplex, Lucky Stevens has written a story that both packs a punch and needs to be told.

I liked so many things about this book, including the way Stevens captures the fifties along with all its many ingrained biases. I enjoyed watching the tale evolve through the eyes of four protagonists, often seeing the same incident through different points of view. I appreciated how Stevens demonstrated the way prejudices against any group seep into the beliefs and self-images of those most adversely affected until they begin to doubt themselves. Sometimes it was painful to read, but, as I said, it’s a story worth telling.

In fact, I liked almost everything about this compelling tale. It moved quickly, and the voices rang true. I suppose one could complain that certain aspects of the two gay men, and two lesbian women, were too stereotypical, and they would have a point. I suppose others might struggle with four alternating first-person points of view, although I liked it.

Some might prefer a neater, more happily-ever-after ending for all, but I thought the ending worked fine. Without giving anything away I’ll just say things get messy but happiness is found, much like in real life.

I recommend this book to anyone, but especially those who like historical novels, are fascinated by the 1950s, or are fans of reading about Los Angeles. The novel may appeal to those in the LGBTQ+ community, but I have a special recommendation and this one comes from the heart.

I HIGHLY (caps intended) recommend this novel to those with close friends or family members who are LGBTQ. It’s an eye-opening look at the world they could be living in. I know it made me aware of the need for us all to be vigilant about preserving the basic human rights this group has had to fight so hard for. This novel is important food for thought for a caring community.

For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see The Duplex.

When was the first blender created? It could matter.

I’ve been spending a lot of time learning about 1200’s as I craft my new historical fantasy series, The Seven Troublesome Sisters. I wonder if I’m overdoing the research.

So, when I got a chance to ask author A. Gavazzoni anything at all about her WWII action-mystery novel, Sketches of Life, I asked her how much of her time was spent on being historically accurate. Here is her fascinating answer.

The novel is set in an historical era, but it’s not really an historical novel. Still, I wanted to show my readers only the real facts, places, and events, so I had to spend a long time researching various facts, from simple things such as when the first blender was created, to more complicated topics such as the presence and actions of the Mob in New York City.

I hate when I read a book and the facts are completely phony. I feel betrayed by the author, so I wanted to write fiction but in a way that a person could read my novel and know for certain the events and settings were accurately described. Every scene is calculated to have a true-to-life background; I did extensive research on each place and the people who inhabited those areas during those times. I try to make certain every character acts, dresses, and thinks in accordance with the novel’s timeframe and setting.

It takes a long time to conduct research like that. I write at least one hour per day, and usually, the research consumes at least a third of that time, but in the end, I’m usually very happy with the results.

I thank the author for such a well-thought-out and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Sketches of Life.

Review: Hard Luck Girl

My Review:

In Hard Luck Girl, Topshee Johnston tells the story of a young prostitute who finds her drug-dealing pimp dead on page one. More importantly, he manages to keep the reader (or at least this reader) cheering for this unlikely hero as she deals with the body, the customers, the other girls, the rival dealers, the cops, the slimy hotel manager, the nosy cleaning lady and the real money behind the entire sordid mess. No small feat, Mr. Johnston. Well done.

I appreciated how this book contained enough description to make it seem as if I was there, riding on the ferry, or there, in the run-down lobby of the hotel, and yet it never bogged down. The initial characters were all believable and their actions made sense, giving the plot an urgency that felt like real life. Honestly, I had trouble putting it down.

The book stumbles when it nears the end, however. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll only say the major villains didn’t ring as true as the other characters, and their motivations remained murky to me even after the last page. Parts of the ending were confusing, and threads that mattered (to me at least) were left hanging.

Yet, it was a heck of ride up to that point.

Should You Buy Hard Luck Girl?

I recommend Hard Luck Girl to anyone who enjoys hard-boiled crime novels and to other mystery fans willing to be a bit morally flexible with their story’s hero. This book will also appeal to those who like novels about women finding inner strength they didn’t know they had, and to people who enjoy tales of the downtrodden triumphing over those with more advantages. That’s a pretty good market share, I think.

Check out the book on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and Indigo/Chapters!

For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see Hard Luck Girl.

 

Storytelling by blog

As I feature more books by other authors, I tend to pay less attention to each one. That’s a shame, because I sometimes miss an important detail.

It happened recently when a ran a feature on Diary of a Lost Witch as part of a blog tour for Goddess Fish.

I began my post as I always do, with:

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Reut Barak and her novel Diary of a Lost Witch.

But, in fact, Diary of a Lost Witch is not a novel, at least not in the strictest sense of the word. Reut Barak is in the process of doing something far more interesting, in my opinion.

She is telling a story via blog posts that pose as the real-time diary entries of a runaway young witch, and now that I’ve had a good look at it, it’s fascinating.

If you’re curious, check out the beginning at http://reutbarak.com/diary-of-a-lost-witch-april-10/ and if you’re having fun you can go on from there.

You can read my full post, and learn a lot more background, at Diary of a Lost Witch.

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