Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bayou Myth is a Free Read today!

Today I'm taking advantage of the KDP Select program's freebie days!

Head on over to Amazon and get a copy of Bayou Myth free for your Kindle. This deal comes just in time for Halloween!


As a sixteen year old voodoo queen in the making, Joan Renault just wants to be like all the other girls in the small town of Monte Parish, Louisiana—obsessed with boys and swamped with social lives. If the other kids would quit calling her “hoodoo hag,” she might have a small shot at normality. It would also help if Joan’s weekend outings with her secret crush, Dave, weren’t always being interrupted by her dead Grandmere, the legendary Marie Laveau. After all, it’s hard to make out with your best friend when your grandmother is watching! But when you come from a long line of voodoo priestesses with dried gator heads decorating the wall of their huts, normal doesn’t come easily. 

When Joan witnesses the brutal sacrifice of a child to a tree Druid, she learns her Grandmere’s scandalous past has come back to haunt those living in the present. Hera, a vengeful voodoo priestess is determined to use the residual energy of Pandora’s Box to revive a sleeping voodoo god and declare war on the descendants of Marie Laveau, especially Joan. Suddenly, Greek myths are being re-enacted all over town, and Joan has her hands full trying to sort it all out. With the approach of Samedi’s Day—the voodoo day of resurrection—Joan must learn to accept her destiny in order to stop the approaching threat to her family and friends.





AMAZON LINK FOR BAYOU MYTH

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Get the bad guy right

Have I missed a comma out in my title? I think not.

Ask yourself what the following have in common:
  • A fairy tale
  • A romance
  • A horror story
  • A police procedural
  • A Victorian melodrama
  • A children's play
  • A spaghetti western
... and so on.

The answer is that such stories, disparate as they may be in content, style and demographics, will almost certainly possess a truly despicable villain. The only question is whether that villain lives in a house in the forest and gobbles up lost children or whether they've seduced our beautiful and headstrong heroine at the time of her greatest vulnerability.

But what really makes a good villain?

Naturally the specifics relate to the book itself but there are many lessons to be learned from popular culture - not just of our generation but also of our recent ancestors. Look at the logic behind what was possible not so many years ago because, as a species, we haven't significantly changed in the meantime. In bygone days, theatre audiences weren’t able to see much of the stage, by-and-large wouldn't be particularly well educated, and would universally want something that they could let off steam over. To coin a phrase, they wanted someone to boo and the louder the better.

From a modern writer’s perspective, the first decision to be taken is whether to have multiple villains or a single one. If the answer's 'a number' then the next question is from the book's perspective - are you going to see things from the point-of-view of the heroes or the villains? If it's the former then the villains should possess minimal individual characteristics as giving them too much personality will reduce their effectiveness; the reader will begin to identify with them.

If you’re going to write from the point of view of the bad guys then, yes, you do need to develop their characters and this is where you can have some fun. As with the principle of theatre, it's perfectly permissible to go a little bit over the top. The reader isn't likely to want someone who's a 'bit on the bad side' doing things which 'aren't very nice'. They want someone really evil doing mind-bogglingly horrible stuff. NB this doesn't mean a splatter-fest - there needn't be an ounce of gore in the storyline for this criterion to be fully satisfied. Your truly bad guy can be the evil seducer or the wicked witch just as easily as they can be the mad psychopath or the bandito with the bad teeth and an even worse attitude.

With a group of bad guys try hard to think of something which links them. Don't forget that altruism won't figure highly on their agenda so come up with a good reason why they stick together - e.g. through fear, greed, power etc. The higher the level of 'bad-ness', the stronger the glue you're going to need to hold them together so work on this before you start putting 'pen to paper'.

A book without a solitary bad guy is likely to be insipid yet a book without a good guy isn’t of necessity a bad read. This is because we still like to be able to boo our villains – good and loud.
Now, there's a message there somewhere.

Clive West is the author of a collection of short stories featuring a selection of rogues, as well as a full-length novel called 'The Road' in which the bad guys are just ordinary folks who use their position of power for self-gain and who justify their actions through selectively ignoring the consequences of their action or inaction.

Clive is also co-owner of Any Subject Books and you can see more about them on their website or on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Business of Writing: Some Thoughts on KDP Select




I've been chatting with several Indie writers lately who are curious about how I'm faring with the KDP Select program. I've actually only been apart of it since Oct. 1, so I still have roughly sixty more days to go before I can make a fair determination.

So far, so good....

Obviously, I'm not a millionaire yet.

But then again, I've never expected to be. I will say that my sales are decent, but I can't help but think that may be due to some good word of mouth. My book, Bayou Myth, was free on Amazon for over two months prior to me joining the Select program. This was because of marketing strategies I employed that had nothing to do with making money, but were about getting the book out there. Because of this, I've gotten a lot of great reviews which I think help with sales. I can honestly say that I've made more money on Bayou Myth than I have through my publisher, Lyrical Press, for my first novel, Nephilim. Of course, part of that is that I have a little more leeway with marketing and the ability to raise and lower the price as I see fit.

So will KDP Select help me in the long run?

Hmm...right now I'm going with maybe. Like I said, I'll know better in sixty days whether or not it was worth it. Remember, with KDP Select you can only sell your book digitally through Amazon. That means no Barnes and Noble and no Smashwords with all of their outlets.

Anyway, I am going to take advantage of KDP Select's freebie days. With Halloween being just next week, I will offer my little tale of voodoo and horror, Bayou Myth, for free Oct. 30-31. Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Plotting Process


I'll continue this week with processes that a writer uses. 

First, a few words on actual structure. I'm coming at this from a mystery writer's perspective, so my notes and sources are generally skewed in that direction.

For physical structure, I like to use the W plot. Kris Neri first introduced this to me, but many writers use it. It's very hard to find a good picture of it, but this site includes a simple diagram a little over halfway down the page. For mystery fiction, it's useful to put one more hump in it. Point A starts at the top left, B is the bottom of the first downstroke, then C is up, D is down (but not as far down as C), E is up (but not as far up as D), F is way down, and G finishes with a big upstroke.

A: Begin and immediately start a struggle for your protagonist
B: Pull the rug out from under her
C: Allow her some progress toward her goal
D: Give her a hurdle and make her think that her goal will be in sight once she leaps it
E: Move her close, but then make things worse
F: This is the low point of her struggle, she despairs that she will ever reach her goal
G: She finds a way to prevail

This works for a broad overview of the plot. You can also use one for each subplot and plan where they'll overlap and/or intersect.

I like to brainstorm with myself a bit and set up plot points. If I can end up with at least 12, I distribute them into Act I, Act IIA, Act IIB, and Act III. If I can work from point to point, putting at least 5400 words between points, I know I'll end up with a 65,000 word novel on first draft. From there, I usually layer in some texture. I revisit dialog and description, and try to put as many of the 5 senses into each scene as I can. I make sure each scene has a goal, conflict, and resolution. That last should lead to another goal set up to keep the story going.

Sounds simple, but the plot points tend to morph during writing. Some don't work out, others have to be added, always paying attention to the ebb and flow of action that some call scene and sequel. Character refuse to play the role you've assigned to them, and other characters pop up unbidden and interrupt things. Yikes! How did I ever write a novel?

So, I guess, it's complicated. I'm open to suggestions on how to plot here! It's good to see how others do it.

To prepare this blog, I googled around and found some sources new to me. These folks have some good thoughts on plotting for fiction:

Here's a fun one:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting the joke - long-running gags

I'm going to pick up where last week's post left off by looking at how you can use humor for the serious matter of boosting your readership through the best forms of promotion – free advertising and personal recommendation.

Note that to reiterate a point, this is not about writing jokey, slapstick comedy; this is about the insertion of a moment of levity (in one form or another) into otherwise serious prose in order to create drama and effect. One thing that is essential to remember - if you're not to alienate the readers, you mustn't laugh at a real group of people. That would take your humor into the realm of bad taste and offensiveness.

So what can you do?

So that I can illustrate my meaning, I’m going to use popular films as examples. The advantage of doing so (over literature) is that I know the humor is contemporary and it also leaves me free to concentrate on the content rather more than having to wade through a sea of adverbs about how something is being said.

What are the sorts of humor that you can use?

The flirty aside

This can be very effective although, in an era of political correctness, the flirting shouldn’t be seen to be threatening or presumptive (and probably other things, too). An example of how effective and memorable this can be is illustrated by the numerous Miss Moneypenny & James Bond interchanges which spanned 21 years from Dr No to A View To A Kill in 1985 when it was deemed that Lois Maxwell's obvious age difference with Timothy Dalton (who took over from Roger Moore at this point) was too implausible.

The whole thing worked well because it was a 'maybe next time we can hook up' type joke. This allowed it to be effectively replayed many times and, to give rise to Moneypenny’s famous retort (but not Lois’ as she’d been retired by then), “Someday, you'll have to make good on your innuendos.” Bond never does, of course. That’s the point.

The gadget joke

Everyone gets flustered with gadgetry at some point and we all have our nemesis lying out there in the technical world. The machinery doesn't even need to be anything particularly complicated - look at Indiana Jones and the love-hate relationship with his trusty revolver that always gets him out of trouble - well, not always. It might also be worth noting that the snake gag (Jones’ ophiophobia) was not anything like as popular.

The plus side of using gadgets as the butt of your jokes is that they’re by definition inanimate therefore can’t be offended. The downside is that, with some exceptions, they date your books. Accordingly, falling out with a specific model of car or computer is quickly going to put a shelf-life on your stories and may make sequels seem strained.

The memorable phrase

If you can create a popular catchphrase for your lead character, you really are well on the way to setting up a sequel. Deliberately ambiguous comments like "Make him an offer he can't refuse" (The Godfather), "Do you feel lucky? Well, do you?" (Dirty Harry) and "I'll be back" (Terminator) have now gone into the English language and what better form of promotion is there? Can you come up with something of that ilk?

This type of humor lends itself better to action stories where a moment’s levity accentuates the seriousness of the rest of the story (as I discussed in last week’s blog).

Ongoing wise-cracking

Probably nobody did this better than Raymond Chandler’s world-weary private eye, Phillip Marlowe, who gets his suspects to talk to him through sheer exasperation with his wise-cracking. Although this device might be a bit ‘wearing’ nowadays, I've seen the same approach used successfully in poker games where one of the players irritates one or more of the others to the point of their making mistakes through loss of concentration.

“She tried to sit on my lap while I was standing up” is a good double-entendre one-liner. When Marlowe is asked by a sniffy butler if he was trying to tell him his duties, Marlowe responds, “No, just having fun trying to guess what they are.” Both of these quotes are from ‘The Big Sleep’.

Shared joke

Another way of 'branding' your story and setting it apart from the work of other writers is to dress your lead character in an unusual or otherwise idiosyncratic manner. Probably one of the greatest examples of this was William Link's disheveled detective, Columbo, who used his tramp-like appearance to put the 'bad guy' at much ease. He was so 'obviously' incompetent as an investigator, that villains always ended up incriminating themselves. The audience, of course, know it's just a convenient act and, even if they are struggling a bit with the complexities of the plot, can still laugh along with the seemingly aimless (but really very deliberate) bumblings of Peter Falk.

These are just a few uses of an ongoing gag. There are plenty more but they all serve the same purpose in that they:
  • Introduce a light moment just before you hit home with the real tension
  • Brand your books so that they are uniquely yours
  • Encourage demand for a sequel - we've identified with the character, we love the joke and now we want more
  • Allow the readers to share in a secret joke which helps facilitate their suspension of belief
No matter how serious your novel (or even piece of non-fiction), there is almost always scope for the use of humor.

I'll be back!

Author Profile: Clive West

Clive West was born in the West Country of England in the early 60's. He was educated at a traditional English public school before going on to university to study civil engineering. Over the years, he has worked as a civil engineer, tutor of maths and science, schools quiz-master, employment agency boss, and writer.

His work includes a collection of short stories with twists called Hobson's Choice (also available in print), a full-length novel called 'The Road about the consequences of corruption on ordinary people and an accessible job hunting interview guide (based on his years of experience as the boss of an employment agency.

He has also written a book about lymphedema. This is a disfiguring, life-threatening and incurable disease he now suffers from and which his experience shows that most fellow patients have (like him) been abandoned by their respective health services.

Clive now lives in a rebuilt farmhouse in the Umbrian region of Italy along with Damaris, his writer wife of 22 years and their three rescue dogs. Apart from his fictional work, Clive also writes commercial non-fiction on a variety of topics but especially relating to business and employment. He and Damaris run an indie publishers called Any Subject Books Ltd – www.anysubject.com

You can also follow Any Subject Books on Facebook – www.facebook.com/anysubject

Clive is now disabled but, aside from his writing, he also enjoys playing the keyboard, listening to music and reading.

Clive's contact details: books@anysubject.com

Personal Facebook site: www.facebook.com/anysubjectbooks

Monday, October 15, 2012

BOO! Halloween is Coming!


And with it, Halloween themed books! Amazon has a lists of them for children and for adults. They suggest these: found at (http://www.amazon.com/Best-books-for-Halloween/lm/R3IHU0R0JHK3XW)

 The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
 Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
In Silent Graves by Gary A. Braunbeck
The Monstrumologist by Richard Yancey
A Halloween Happening by Adrienne Adams
 Speaks the Nightbird by Robert R. McCammon
Threshold by Caitlin R. Kiernan

plus a few others.

I, however, will recommend a brand new one for you: BROKE, An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery, the third in the series. It's just out this month and involves a haunted house, a ghost, a mystery or two, and a potbelly pig. What could be better?

Imogene Duckworthy is twenty-two and has a job (PI assistant) and a new car (used).  She loves her mother, but it's time she was on her own.  The problem is her daughter Nancy Drew Duckworthy’s pet potbelly. Not a lot of rentals in Wymee Falls will permit a pig, even one as cute and charming as Marshmallow. Jersey Shorr of Shorr Realty manages to find something but there are rumors that the house is haunted.  Immy tells herself she doesn’t believe in ghosts. She signs the contract and plans to move in before Halloween.  What she doesn’t plan on is the very real, very dead body in the bathtub.  And the fact that the most logical murder suspect is her Uncle Dewey, fresh out of prison.  Immy can’t allow her long-lost relative to be railroaded for a crime he (possibly) didn’t commit, can she?

If you haven't read any Duckworthy mysteries yet, give this one a try! It's available in all formats, e-book and paperback. Kindle is here, http://www.amazon.com/Broke-Imogene-Duckworthy-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B009K99WQK/ and the rest of the links are on my Novel Page. http://kayegeorge.com/novels.html

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Terror in Tower Grove by Samantha Johns--Review

I've been saving this review until October since it's all about demon possession and exorcisms. With Halloween only a few weeks away,  this is definitely the time to curl up with a good scary book! Read on to learn my thoughts on the paranormal thriller, Terror in Tower Grove by Samantha Johns.



Here is the publisher's blurb:

Terror at the hands of her vengeful ex-boyfriend was nothing compared to that of the uninvited supernatural visitor who menaces the lives of single mom Tricia Kelly and her young daughter Andrea. Looking forward to their new life in a large old house they just bought in a historic neighborhood, they find more lurking within those walls than they had bargained for.

At first Tricia is sexually drawn to the mysterious entity, as she tries to satisfy her own latent desires. Only later does she realize how dangerous giving in to these urges truly is.

Embroiled in the mystery of what it is that haunts them, they are even more horrified when young Andrea becomes possessed. Not until they discover exactly what it is that hates them all so much and seeks to destroy them do they have any chance at surviving.

Dangers, creatures and an unknown entity converge in this tale of a woman, her musically talented twelve-year-old daughter, her unsuspecting and handsome new lover, a quiet neighborhood boy who is drawn to young Andrea, and a friendly Catholic priest, as the four of them are thrust into a life-threatening ordeal that will bond them together forever.
 
 
This book is intended to be a sort of Exorcist, Amityville Horror, and American Horror Story mash up. It doesn't have the gore factor that the above tales do, but it still packs a strong punch. The story is fast paced, easy to follow, and provides some fun characters. I particularly enjoyed the tenacity and intellect of Andrea, the young daughter. She's a well written character going through lots of transition and wise beyond her years. Tricia has her hands full balancing her social and personal life while trying to deal with invisible sex from a ghost lover. This lover may turn out to be the bad guy, but apparently, he's been around the block a time or two when it comes to seducing the ladies who live in his house.
 
I think the book does a good job of taking some tried and true ideas about demon possession and giving them a fresh new twist. There is a lot of talk about religion in the book, particularly Catholicism, but I didn't feel that this book was really about that. It was more about the importance of sticking together in order to overcome all odds.
 
Yes, there were a few style things that bugged me. I don't enjoy "head hopping" in scenes. It's a common practice to shift the POV within a scene and lots of writers do it. For me, it's one of my pet peeves and I don't care for it. I also feel like a little more time could have been taken with the development of some of the character relationships.
 
Overall, Terror in Tower Grove is a fun read!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The use of humor in dramatic writing

Putting humor into a serious story - you've got to be joking!

I couldn't resist that awful pun and I move a little way towards apologizing for it however be warned, I'm not going to budge far because I believe humor is an essential part of just about any story. The knack is how and where it's handled and I'd just like to explain why it's essential. By the way, I'm not talking about a humorous book – this advice is aimed at a standard novel in just about any genre.

Let's take a typical tense situation. Your principal character is facing desperate choices which could cause them to bring down certain disaster on their head: to lose the one they love, to get caught by the 'bad guy' and so on. You've carefully built up the suspense and ... bang ... it (whatever 'it' is), happens. It's dramatic and exciting but it could have been more dramatic and more exciting.

Looking at it from a more physical perspective, you’ve taken your reader from zero to the base of a huge trough or to the summit of a large crest, depending upon what’s happened in your story. From there, you’ve carefully brought them back down (or up) to roughly the level that they started at.
Now, and looking at your physical representation, think of the expression 'rollercoaster ride' which is used liberally (and often erroneously) to describe action movies and books. A rollercoaster operates by converting the gravitational potential energy an object possesses at its peak to kinetic energy as it descends.

A simple fact of life is that the rollercoaster can't keep on going down and, if it wants to repeat the kinetic energy trip, it has to climb back up again. In other words, in order for it to realize its kinetic energy, it has to regain some potential by climbing out of a trough to a new crest.

You can create a peak or a trough (depending upon the subject matter and thrust of your book) by judiciously inserting a bit of humor at the right moment. For example, in a typical ghost story, you might have one of the disposable characters joking (the crest) about something just before he's snatched by the poltergeist (the trough) – maximizing the overall descent from one scene to the next. The lightening of the situation takes the audience's mind off the eerie nature of the story so that, when the poltergeist does make its appearance, it's a dramatic jolt.

What you have your character say at this juncture is going to be key to how effective the humorous asides are as a device. One has only to look back at some of the delightfully awful B-Movies of the 50's and 60's (and even some later A-Movies) to come across cringeworthy actions and lines such as (for our particular spectral example) the character denying ghosts exist, pretending to be one, making the other disposable characters jump etc. It may have been amusing at the time but it's not worthy of your efforts.

Please don't anyone say that humor isn't relevant. I've used it in top-level management meetings, high level negotiations and as part of lectures and speeches. Its presence not only conveys humanity to the audience, it also 'wakes them up'. We all like humor and we'll tune in to listen to it which is exactly when you hit the reader with your dramatic action. Have I made my point?

Like all humor, though, timing and subject matter is everything and I'm proposing to look at the good, bad and downright ugly side of it in forthcoming blogs.

Author Profile: Clive West

Clive West was born in the West Country of England in the early 60's. He was educated at a traditional English public school before going on to university to study civil engineering. Over the years, he has worked as a civil engineer, tutor of maths and science, schools quiz-master, employment agency boss, and writer.

His work includes a collection of short stories with twists called Hobson's Choice (also available in print), a full-length novel called 'The Road about the consequences of corruption on ordinary people and an accessible job hunting interview guide (based on his years of experience as the boss of an employment agency.

He has also written a book about lymphedema. This is a disfiguring, life-threatening and incurable disease he now suffers from and which his experience shows that most fellow patients have (like him) been abandoned by their respective health services.

Clive now lives in a rebuilt farmhouse in the Umbrian region of Italy along with Damaris, his writer wife of 22 years and their three rescue dogs. Apart from his fictional work, Clive also writes commercial non-fiction on a variety of topics but especially relating to business and employment. He and Damaris run an indie publishers called Any Subject Books Ltd – www.anysubject.com

You can also follow Any Subject Books on Facebook – www.facebook.com/anysubject

Clive is now disabled but, aside from his writing, he also enjoys playing the keyboard, listening to music and reading.

Clive's contact details: books@anysubject.com

Personal Facebook site: www.facebook.com/anysubjectbooks

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The (anti) Fairytale by Renita Pizzitola

I am thrilled to have today's guest blogger at All Things Writing! Renita Pizzitola has a fabulous new book, Gossamer, out this week and she'd dropped to chat about it, as well as, fairy tales. I had the pleasure of reviewing the book this past Monday and the links to get your own copy are below.
 
 
The (anti)Fairytale

 

It seems apparent fairy tales have made their reemergence. I’ve seen everything from the classic retelling with a twist to modern, futuristic, dark, even horror...pretty much every genre has their spin on it. I’m actually enjoying this trend because I like classic fairy tales. Granted, a classic fairytale isn’t what most people envision. I’m thinking Grimm’s; most people think Disney. But, no matter which version you’re familiar with they still follow a similar formula. One that most know and love.

 

And what’s not to adore about an enchanted kingdom, a beautiful girl meeting a handsome prince and, of course, the ever important happily-ever-after. Sounds perfect...sort of. I think the same fairy tale could also be interpreted as a beguiling kingdom entraps ordinary girl who meets complete stranger and is expected to instantly fall in love and/or marry. Hmm, that actually sounds frightening, especially if you’re the ‘ordinary girl’ with other plans in life.

 

Happily-ever-after is different for everyone, which means sometimes it goes against everything we learned as a child. This is what I like to call the anti-fairytale. It doesn’t mean the story won’t end happily. It simply means in order to get there we may have to go against the standard formula. Often we find ourselves presented with two different paths, each with its own pros and cons. One looks shiny and bright, but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s perfect. The other route may be a real challenge to venture down—you know the one...dimly lit, filled with bumps, uphill both ways, crappy phone reception, no place to stop to use a bathroom, incessant muttering of ‘are we there yet?’ (wait, that might just be a trip with my children...a very hard road to travel). Either way, the path is scary, the outcome is unknown and it’s definitely not the easy choice. But, when the time comes to make a decision, ultimately, only one question must be answered: Which of these paths leads to my happily-ever-after?

 

I like to think Gossamer is two-parts faery and one-part fairytale. (Which is why I spell faerytale with an ‘e’. The emphasis is on faery.) While the story focuses on Irish Legends involving Fae, it has a sprinkling of what should create the standard fairytale formula ending with a classic fairytale twist. So, can it still be considered a fairytale? Well, when your main character is a faery searching for her happily-ever-after, then it seems the only thing you could call it is a faerytale, right? So, yes. Kylie’s story is a faerytale. It may be flawed, but in the end, she will decide which path leads her to where she ultimately wants to be.

 

So which path would you choose—the fairytale or the anti-fairytale?



 
 
 
Author Bio:
 
Renita Pizzitola writes Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. An avid reader herself, she has always enjoyed stories with witty humor, romance, and fascinating characters. Renita lives in Texas with her husband and two children. When not writing, she enjoys reading everything she can get her hands on, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and playing referee to her two typically adorable children.
 
Visit www.renitapizzitola.com for more information
 
 
 
Gossamer Blurb:
 
Shouldn't all faerytales end with happily-ever-after?
 
Kyla Ashbury is nearing her eighteenth birthday when a mysterious boy appears at school. Her instant attraction to him inexplicably awakens something inside her and she discovers her true identity.
 
Now, armed with the knowledge of her past, she is forced to leave behind the life she has always known for a new one filled with temptation, faery charm and magic, and a future she wasn't prepared for.
 
Kyla is left with a difficult decision…but no matter which path she chooses, someone will get hurt.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review---Gossamer by Renita Pizzitola

I'm not a fairy lover. Tales of the Fae don't exactly float my boat.

I mean, c'mon. They're fairies. It makes me think about Tinker Bell and wings and magic dust--your basic cliche!

However, Gossamer by Renita Pizzitola was a nice surprise. The fairies in it are not exactly created in the Disney image (thank goodness) and manage to have well rounded back stories that hook the reader and want to keep you knowing more. This was a fast paced, fun read that I not only enjoyed, but would recommend to YA fans looking for a different spin in this genre.



Here is the publisher's blurb for Gossamer:


Shouldn't all faerytales end with happily-ever-after?

 

Kyla Ashbury is nearing her eighteenth birthday when a mysterious boy appears at school. Her instant attraction to him inexplicably awakens something inside her and she discovers her true identity.

 

Now, armed with the knowledge of her past, she is forced to leave behind the life she has always known for a new one filled with temptation, faery charm and magic, and a future she wasn't prepared for.

 

Kyla is left with a difficult decision…but no matter which path she chooses, someone will get hurt.
 
 
Kyla is definitely the type of teenage girl that many of us identify with. She's a bit shy, has an awesome best friend who pulls her into new situations, and she feels like  a lot of teenage girls--awkward! When she meets the new boy, Grant, she experiences that surge of hormonal attraction guaranteed to lead her on the path of self discovery and romantic fantasies. However, for Kyla, self discovery turns out to be more than just the thrill of falling in love. Kyla learns that she is part Fae and due to her eighteenth birthday, her whole world is turned upside down. It seems that deals were made, lies were told, and babies exchanged eighteen years ago and now the time has come to for Kyla to join a new family and let destiny take her in a direction she'd never known about it.
 
It's enough to make any teenage girl's head spin.
 
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the boy she's been crushing on is a Fae himself and that he's been assigned to take her back to their world.
 
But any good romance has conflict and Gossamer is no exception...I wouldn't say that this story leaves every character with a happy ending, and I'll be curious to know how some story lines get resolved in the next book.
 
Renita Pizzitola has done an excellent job of weaving a tale that is captivating and filled with romance and adventure. While there are no R rated scenes in this book, there is one sexual scene that I thought was very age appropriate and well written. Pizzitola's novel captures the reality of teenage nerves when it comes to sex without going too far.
 
I liked that Kyla is a strong character with good values. Her family unit is a strong one and I love seeing that in YA since the trend is to kill off Mom and Dad as soon as you can in most books. My favorite character is Lexie, the best friend. Fun and flirty, she comes off as the "go to" girl who will always help out her best friend and maybe find a boyfriend or two a long the way.
 
 
 
Overall, I loved the book! Check it out by following the links below.
 
 

Title: Gossamer

Author: Renita Pizzitola

Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal/Romance

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Release Date: October 8, 2012

 

Author Bio:

 

Renita Pizzitola writes Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. An avid reader herself, she has always enjoyed stories with witty humor, romance, and fascinating characters. Renita lives in Texas with her husband and two children. When not writing, she enjoys reading everything she can get her hands on, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and playing referee to her two typically adorable children.

 

Visit www.renitapizzitola.com for more information.
 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Less Is More by Clive West



It's an old adage, isn't it? It actually comes from Robert Browning's poem, Andrea del Sarto which was written in 1855.

Who strive - you don't know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) - so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

But this is poetry – how does it apply to prose writing?

Less is more, in the context to which I refer, describes the decision of what to leave in or leave out in the written depiction of an action, item or thought process.

You see, in the passion of the moment, it's easy for an author to get carried away with detail and I well recall reading a certain bestseller (which can remain nameless) that spent 3 pages describing a carving. Of course, if this was a book about carvings or if this were some mysterious artifact in a Dan Brown book then fair enough, give us all the details. As part of a crime story (which is what it was), it would have been more than sufficient to just to comment on the skill of the carver, the color of the wood and the shapes that had been depicted.

When you edit your work, ask yourself if you are guilty of being too self-indulgent. Have you allowed yourself to get involved in lengthy (and probably deadly boring) descriptions of things, conversations, etc which add nothing to the plot.

For example, let's say your story takes the main characters into a restaurant:

·         Do you really need a running commentary on every dish?

·         Do you need any of the dialogue at all?

·         Do the meal's details add to the story?

·         When it comes to the synopsis of your story that you upload to Amazon, Smashwords, your friendly publisher/agent, will you be including it?

If not, then you probably don't need it and it sounds like a candidate for dropping.

There's a fine line to be trod between making the story too bare and causing it to become bogged down with irrelevancies. Think again of the adage, "less is more". What does a watercolor painter do? Do they attempt to depict every detail in the same way as your 12 Megapixel digital camera might? No, they concentrate on getting the general hues and shapes correct and let your eyes deceive your brain into believing that there is much more detail in the painting than there actually is.

The net result is that a good watercolor will tell you all that you need for your brain to recreate a full picture - the mood, the shapes, the colors, what is going on etc.

On that same subject, it's also fair to say that most photographs benefit from cropping otherwise the picture's focal point can be easily lost amid extraneous and confusing background detail.

Your writing must strive to provide the imagery needed to allow the reader's brain to turn your story into an audio-visual experience. Save where you deliberately intend to confound the reader, that imagery must be clear and assimilable. As an author, it must be your primary objective.

However it's also possible to go to the other extreme and leave out key details. How often have you read a book which in almost 'deus ex machina' fashion skips from A to D without any mention of B and C? In honor of my commercial background, I call them the 'we got the contract' devices. I'd spend weeks or even months trying to negotiate a contract while 'our hero' simply just announces, "Hey, we got the ...". It doesn't have to be a contract, any situation where it's not a foregone conclusion that 'success is on the cards' is valid.

Of course, if it's merely an ancillary thing then let it be, but if it's an intrinsic part of the story then it should be covered. If you skip over this nicety, your writing will come across as trite and implausible.

Yes, less is more but notice that 'less' does not mean insufficient. Striking this balance separates a competent author from a great one.


Author Profile: Clive West

 
Clive West was born in the West Country of England in the early 60's. He was educated at a traditional English public school before going on to university to study civil engineering. Over the years, he has worked as a civil engineer, tutor of maths and science, schools quiz-master, employment agency boss, and writer.
His work includes a collection of short stories with twists called Hobson's Choice, a full-length novel called 'The Road' about the consequences of corruption on ordinary people and an accessible job hunting interview guide (based on his years of experience as the boss of an employment agency).
He has also written a book about lymphedema. This is a disfiguring, life-threatening and incurable disease he now suffers from and which his experience shows that most fellow patients have (like him) been abandoned by their respective health services.
Clive now lives in a rebuilt farmhouse in the Umbrian region of Italy along with Damaris, his writer wife of 22 years and their three rescue dogs. Apart from his fictional work, Clive also writes commercial non-fiction on a variety of topics but especially relating to business and employment. He and Damaris run an indie publishers called Any Subject Books Ltd – www.anysubject.com
You can also follow Any Subject Books on Facebook – www.facebook.com/anysubject
Clive is now disabled but, aside from his writing, he also enjoys playing the keyboard, listening to music and reading.
Contact details: books@anysubject.com



 
 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Short Story Process by Jack Mauro

The second I saw Jack Mauro's book, Beautiful Man, listed with IO Book Tours, I knew we had to have him do a guest post at All Things Writing. I was intrigued by the synopsis of his book which is a collection of short stories. Short stories are often a thorn in my side, something I continually labor over and totally suck at creating! Putting together stories last year for our anthology, All Things Dark and Dastardly, was a major chore for me--though I loved the end result. In today's post, Mr. Mauro is going to talk about the process he used to create  Beautiful Man.---Mary Ann


The Short Story Process by Jack Mauro



I am lately inclined to think that short story writers are either very clever or really, really fortunate.  Because, if the stories in any way translate human experience, the collection creates itself.  It's wonderfully pragmatic. You know you have one, not when a theme or motif is nicely traced and explored through ten or twelve stories, but when the tenth or twelfth story is done.  The novelist can't enjoy this luxury because the novel, complex or basic in structure, pretty much has a core to maintain and a single reality to present.  We writers all walk just a little behind the process, and beg the creative impulses to slow down and let us catch up.  The writer of the novel, then, runs a long and exhausting race indeed.  There is always the Big Picture to consider, as each chapter and character must in some way serve it.  The story collection, on the other hand, gets to exploit an excellent thing about life, in that truths resonate with one another and offer their own connections.  With stories – God bless them – the writer is allowed to only peer through a window blind, rather than throw the whole thing open.  Metaphorically speaking.


The downside, of course, is that each story is utterly unconcerned with the rest of the collection, and good had better be good, no matter the form.  If the writing exists, again, to explore human experience – and all good writing must – economy is as essential as soul to the short story.  Given the messiness of human existence, and the immense importance to it of seemingly random occurrences, the short story writer is then no one to envy.  The perhaps extraneous scene in the novel is all right; in the story, it can be fatal.  Or the extraneous scene alone is, to the story writer, a universe in itself to be mined for riches.  Oh, no, nothing is easy in this odd sphere, for anyone.  And I would like to briefly splash around in this process, based on my own, new collection.


Did I intent to write a collection at all? Oh, yes.  Why?  Because there is so, so much to write about. There was no plan, except a foundation of setting of my beloved Knoxville, Tennessee.  Then there came the sort of thrilling awareness of possibilities, or rather the urge to open my eyes wider and recognize the stories around me, or known from my past.  Then there came Caroline, who would become the central figure in “Beautiful Man.”  I saw her, a little lost, standing in Market Square, and I knew something was about to occur to her.  She was stubborn, Caroline. Her course was not revealed to me, in fact, until long after most of the other stories were motoring along.  But I have written long enough to know that failing to attend to a persistent character is dangerous, and the story is maybe my personal favorite.


I try to remember who or what followed, and things gets hazy. “Emilia” came out of the blue and in the middle of the night, only as an image I try to recreate in the story's closing paragraph.  “Christmas for Mo” was also an early effort in the collection, and fueled by my absolute faith that, once I threw this family into the back of a horse-drawn carriage, they would each almost violently assert themselves (in lighthearted ways).  So, too, with “Kerry Barry.”  Here, I saw the boy and knew nothing about him.  Until – and drawing on a less than admirable personal experience – I threw him into jail for a night.  Here also was I compelled to challenge story structure.  It seemed to me that confinement needed to define the story and his experience, yet people and a scenario outside of the jail became urgent, and had their way.  Economy.  It's not easy, my friends.


I can imagine that other story writers work on several at the same time.  I cannot.  More exactly, I dare not, because writing is as much a matter of taking in information as it is of translating it, and I shudder to think of what I will miss if I weaken my attention on anyone moving through my pages.  I am occasionally lucky in that, as with “Emilia,” visual prompts stirred up in my brain help.  Occasionally.  The occurrence is not mystical, nor does it equate to a great story, by any means.  But I trust it when it happens, as little as it gives me.  As when, long ago, I was walking down Knoxville's Gay Street and saw in my mind a woman and a little girl on a corner.  The woman – the mother? - was pointing at a building, and I knew she was lying to the child.  That was all I knew or felt.  It led me to “Faith,” my best story in Gay Street, my first collection. 


Beyond anything else, however, it is character that must justify the work for me.  More to the point, I can go nowhere if Caroline or Andy or Kerry is not breathing.  In creating a story collection, this is the true criterion, simply because no story I write can have quality if this is not the case.  I have in my time dreamed up exciting and interesting characters.  When they fail to gain dimension in my eyes – and they often do – they lie flat on some shelf in the closet.  This is why, in Beautiful Man, I chose to rewrite and add two stories that were actually chapters from an aborted novel.  “Jack” would not go away because of Ruby, not Jack, and the odious Colin of “Cousin Mary,”, meant to be a bit player in the novel, was too vivid for me to discard.  We wander in the dark a great deal, as writers; all the more then, I rely on those faces and voices in the shadows.  They are not real, of course.  But they represent human reality in a way I can hold in my hands, question, poke, and record. 


Almost done.  I want to dive a little deeper into that character aspect, though.  A friend said that, in all my stories, it seems that the characters are not what they appear to be.  This gave me pause, and made me feel a bit devious, somehow.  Is it true? Well, maybe.  Kerry certainly is not quite the charming, roguish boy people take him to be.  Mo Lackland is by no means entirely the unyielding family matriarch even her family thinks her, and Ashley Willis, we discover, has more than a layer or two to her being. Stephen Kingsolver, my “beautiful man,” may be the most striking evidence of this claim.  But I honestly now do not see a writer's agenda here, as it were, but a focus, and one I rather like.  More to the point: in my life, I have seen that the true natures of people often go unseen, or are revealed only when circumstances allow.  They do not change; they are simply exposed in another light.  This is what stories permit, in their glorious limitations of space.  This is what I urges me on, all the time, to capture as best as I can. 



Book Blurb for Beautiful Man

Twelve short stories, all set in modern-day Knoxville, Tennessee, and each exploring the rhythms and currents of relationships, encounters, and the conflicts within characters themselves.  From the reality beneath the surface of a hotel manager's charm, to the sadly funny and complex clashes between a family on a holiday carriage ride, Beautiful Man and Other Stories probes the fascination of lives as shaped by Southern, and all too human, forces.

BIO:

Jack has been writing professionally for fifteen years, with work ranging from a guide to Internet dating (from Simon & Schuster) to liner notes for Oscar and Grammy winner Carly Simon.  His first love, however, remains fiction, and of a very Southern kind.  Beautiful Man and Other Stories marks Jack's return to the form after ten years.






Monday, October 1, 2012

The Writer’s Process


Since this is one of those questions writers get asked a lot (e.g. What is your writing process?), I suppose I should punctuate it thusly: The Writers’ Process.

Aside: I guest blogged on another one of those questions last week at http://cindysamplebooks.com/2012/09/where-do-ideas-come-from/ and found out that writers DO like to answer that particular question. End of Aside.

Maybe some like to answer this one, too, but not me! I don’t even know what it means. To me, processes apply to things like fees (processing fees) and film development. When I saw this definition at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/process, my confusion lifted a bit.

1. a systematic series of actions directed to some end: todevise a process for homogenizing milk.
2. a continuous action, operation, or series of changes takingplace in a definite manner: the process of decay.
3. Law .
a. the summons, mandate, or writ by which a defendant orthing is brought before court for litigation.
b. the whole course of the proceedings  in an action atlaw.
4. Photography . photomechanical or photoengraving methodscollectively.
5. Biology, Anatomy . a natural outgrowth, projection, orappendage: a process of a bone.

Process diagram, public domain from Wikicomons
See, these things are systematic and orderly. One is even continuous. For me, writing is not like that. Not a bit like that.

If I’m going to write a flash piece, I can sit down and write it. Then I can leave it until I remember about it again, then rework it. Repeat a few times and submit it somewhere. I’m not sure that could be considered a process.

For a longer length short story, I can think up an idea and start to go with it until I hit a snag. Then I either go off and do research that I may or may not need or use. Some time later I come back to it, if I still think it might work, and wrassle with it some more. When it seems done, I have to step away for a day or more. At least one more rewrite, maybe lots of rewrites, then if it still looks decent, I’ll submit it somewhere. This is too messy to be called a process.

Novels? Process? I do a first draft. During that time, which may be several months to a year, I quit a lot. I vow to write on it every day. I break that vow within a week. I make a vow to work on it 5 days a week. I break that vow the next week. I decide when I want to be finished and figure out how many words a day I need to write. That sometimes works.

This is all after or amongst the plotting “process”. I have actually evolved one of those after attempting to write 8 novels. It’s pretty involved and may be the subject of another blog post.

After the first draft, I begin edits. I have a loose procedure for this, too, and, again, a time deadline works well to keep me on track. That, too, may be a blog post. (Hey, I’m developing a process for generating blog post topics, at least.)

Stay tuned for the next developments in processes. Meanwhile, do YOU have process? Do you know what a writing process is?