Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Special Guest Spotlight: Dishing with Marc Hamlet

Today I have the pleasure of talking with Marc Hamlet. Marc spent his formative years reading Robert Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, Larry Niven and Samuel R. Delaney. He also misspent his youth playing bass and guitar in forgettable punk rock bands in the San Francisco Bay Area. For some unfathomable reason, he joined the Air Force Reserve where he served as both crew chief and flight engineer on the C-141B Starlifter. About twenty-one years ago, he forced his way into the Information Technology field and currently works for the UC Davis Health System designing financial and administrative applications.

Marc continues to play electric guitar for whomever will stop to listen, but—after rediscovering Charles Dickens—finds himself drawn into writing more than ever before. He lives in the Sacramento area with his wife of eighteen years and their two very clever sons. After a diagnosis of Stage Four colorectal cancer, Marc decided to sit his lazy ass down at the computer and write one of his story ideas. The Capable Man is the result.

JET: Can you tell us about your most recent book –The Capable Man?

Marc: Conceptually, the story is a moral mirror-image of Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel. A young man, left to his own devices, must make choices counter to his moral upbringing. Physical courage comes easily to him, but moral courage is a different matter. Yet every time he chooses the immoral path, someone is there to reward him for doing it.

JET: What drew you to science fiction?

Marc: As a small boy, I was a fan of both “Star Trek” and “Lost In Space”. I fell into the literature because there was nothing on tv. The possibilities and dangers that lie in the future have always fascinated me.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Marc: Getting all my ducks in a row. I’m a terrible synopsis writer.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Marc: Well, there was the outlining phase when I saw that I had an entire story mapped out. And then, of course, when I finished the final chapter and typed THE END.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Marc: I’ve always been amazed by the army of odd characters Dickens produced. I liked the no-nonsense style of Hemmingway and Heinlein because they knew how to move the action along. I’ve always felt like I lost my innocence with Delaney’s Dahlgren (even though I was already sexually active at the time). And the hard-core hard science that Arthur Clarke put into his work always gripped me.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Marc: I’ve been a dilettante my entire adult life. The Capable Man wasn’t my first attempt, but I decided to see it through no matter what.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Marc: The craziest thing I’ve done aside from trusting Wikipedia? There was the time I held my breath until my lungs burned and my vision went wonky. Then after three breaths, I tried it again… and again. There was an action sequence I was working on.

JET: Any advice for the novices out there?

Marc: Write the story you really want to write, and just keep at it.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten...starting with: Paper or Plastic?

Marc: Paper, but—you know—sometimes you’re left with nothing but plastic.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Marc: Steak with dry-rub seasoning.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Marc: Mountains. Who needs all that sand?

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Marc: Rock, mostly, but these days the lines are getting blurry.

JET: Angels or Demons?

Marc: That’s beyond my comprehension.

JET: Paper or Digital?

Marc: My family is transitioning to digital. As are most people I know.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Marc: Cheesy B-Rated Horror because they make me laugh.

JET: Salty or Sweet?

Marc: I swing both ways.

JET: Top 10 best seller or Unknown Back Shelf Find?

Marc: Back shelf. That’s how I discovered Philip K. Dick in ‘79.

JET: Star Trek or Star Wars?

Marc: Star Trek, I guess. It’s about looking forward.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Marc: I’ve been splitting my time between a Fantasy piece involving a teenage girl with a six-shooter and the sequel to The Capable Man (working title, A Tolerance For Pain).

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Marc Hamlet and his work at the following places: (send over any other links you want highlighted in the interview)

Twitter: @MarcHamlet

Until next time,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcome to another Manic Monday!

Today, Michelle Scott is dishing about the things she’s thankful for. Michelle’s stories have appeared in such places as Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, All Possible Worlds and Realms. Her fantasy novel, The Dragons of Hazlett was nominated for a 2009 EPPIE Award. Her YA novels include the vampire romance, Blood Sisters, and the fantasy Uncommon Magic and An Anthem for the Battle Lands. Michelle’s latest release, Straight to Hell, is now available on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. Michelle lives in southeast Michigan with her husband and three children.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For as an Indie Author

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It has delectable food, a sense of family and tradition, and plenty of festivity, yet I don’t associate it with the frenzy of Christmas (or any other over-commercialized holiday.) It might also have something to do with the fact that it is the one holiday I’m never obligated to host!

In any event, I’d like to honor the spirit of Thanksgiving by listing a few things that I, as an indie author, am grateful for.

• My family – every writer needs a support system, and I’m lucky to have a husband and children who not only encourage me to write, but who proudly tell people they know that I’m a writer.

• My readers –I’m so thankful to those who not read my book, but who also took the time to write a nice review or send me an encouraging e-mail.

• The community of indie authors – Connecting with other indie authors is so important! I appreciate the advice and support that other independent authors have provided me. And I love doing the same for them.

• Stories – And I mean all stories, not just mine. I’ve been reading books for over forty years, and I still marvel at how many amazing plots and characters I keep discovering. (Thanks to you, too, authors for your wonderfully imaginative minds!)

• Coffee, dark chocolate, wine, and biscotti – These are my writing comfort foods.

• An office of my own – Every writer needs a place where she can go and create her stories, and I’m blessed to have my own little garret above the garage. It may not look like much, but it’s quiet and comfortable.

• Music – I like to write with a soundtrack in mind. So I’m glad to have an iPod, iTunes, and three kids who keep introducing me to new music.

• Stephen King – I tell people that Stephen King taught me how to write. Not literally, of course, but I spent my teenage years reading and re-reading his books and through all of that, I learned a little bit about how to put words on the page.

• Distractions – Yes, I’m glad for distractions because I need them to remind me that there is more to life than writing.

• Successes and failures – I’m convinced that both of these things are necessary to a writer’s life. Failures make us stronger and give us the strength to push ourselves. Successes remind us that what we do is important and that, if we work hard, we can succeed.

Don't forget to swing in on Friday to hear about some fabulous December releases. 

Until Then,

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dishing it up with Martin Lake...

Today I have the pleasure of dishing it up with Martin Lake. Martin lives in the West Country of England with his wife, although he's moving to the south of France on at the beginning of December. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director.

A strangely serious accident - he claims it was caused by cage-fighting but he actually slipped and fell - shattered his arm which meant he had to rein back his work. He decided to concentrate on writing and is now writing full-time. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and fiction for young adults.

He has a series of novels set in the years following the Norman Invasion of England. The first two novels: 'The Lost King: Resistance' and 'Wasteland' are available on Kindle and other readers through Smashwords.

JET: Can you tell us about The Lost King: Resistance and Wasteland.

Martin: These are the first two novels of a planned series of four. They tell the long-suppressed story of the last native English King of England, Edgar Atheling. Although heir to the throne he is only 13 years old in 1066 so the experienced Harold Godwinson is given the crown. When Harold is killed at the Battle of Hastings, the Witan, the great council of England, proclaim Edgar King. He leads an army against William the Conqueror but is forced to submit. After a few years as William's captive Edgar flees to Scotland, agrees to his sister marrying Malcolm King of the Scots and joins an alliance with the Danes, the ancestral enemies of the English. The allied armies inflict the worst defeats the Normans suffer in the conquest but because of betrayal from the leader of the Danes, Edgar is forced to flee into the wilderness. Edgar suffers greatly but he remains defiant, determined to win back his kingdom. I am fascinated by the fact that Edgar spent much of his life fighting against William but was always forgiven. The relationship between them is intriguing.

JET: What drew you to historical fiction?

Martin: I woke up one Sunday and thought, 'I love writing, I love history. Why not combine the two and write historical fiction? At about this time I also discovered George Fraser MacDonald's 'Flashman' novels and was captivated by the opportunities that historical fiction gives to entertain readers while informing them about the past. I guess that my earlier reading also had an unconscious influence.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Martin: All of the countless submissions to publishers and agents. Rejections I could handle, especially when they gave constructive advice. It was the non-replies which were galling, even though I appreciate that people are too busy to answer.

Then, I discovered e-publishing and the hurdles became transformed to steps on the journey.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Martin: The elation of seeing my books in print. Actually, before that I won first prize in an international competition to write a sequel to The Wind in the Willows. My wife and I had been up all night (in England) watching the results of the 2008 presidential election. Just before we went to bed at 6.00 am I checked my email and saw that not only was I one of the winners of the competition but had come first. My wife's cry of excitement must have woken the neighbours. I was too stunned to speak.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Martin: When I was young most of the books could be loosely described as historical as our school could not afford many modern books. As well as this I was an early fan of historical writing, especially Henry Treece's Viking saga, Rosemary Sutcliff, the old warhorse G.A. Henty, Arthur Conan Doyle, Kenneth Grahame, Rider Haggard, Isaac Asimov and Tolkien.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Martin: When I was 12 or 13. I loved writing more than anything else.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Martin: I've walked along Hadrian's Wall to try to see a good place for Edgar to lead his army over. The most interesting fact I've found is that one of the villains of my books, Prince Olaf was given the name of Olaf Hunger when he became King of Denmark and may well have been sacrificed to placate the gods; even though Denmark was nominally Christian.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Martin: I love The Lost King because I feel that I have sufficient information about Edgar's life to keep a tight grip on events. However, because so much of his story was suppressed by the Normans, I have ample opportunity to fill out the tale with incidents of my own creation. Having said this, I'm loving writing my current novel.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

Martin: Keep writing. Read lots. Don't let people put you off your dreams. If you want to be read then self-publish your work as an e-book. And keep a log of how many words you write each day; it's a wonderful motivator.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with…Paper or Plastic?

Martin: Paper.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Martin: Steak if in a pie.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Martin: Beach.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Martin: Rock-n-Roll.

JET: Classics or Modern?

Martin: In music, classics. In fiction, I just like good books whenever they were written.

JET: Top 10 best seller or Unknown Back Shelf Find?

Martin: The Long-Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson.

JET: Paper or Digital?

Martin: Digital. Especially as we're moving to a small apartment on the French Riviera.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Martin: Silent Film classics.

JET: 2012 Mayan Prophecy Believer or Ain’t Gonna Happen?

Martin: Ask me again in 2013. I expect to be here to answer.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Martin: Tea.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Martin: I'm writing a novel called 'Artful'. It concerns the adventures of Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, after he was sentenced to transportation. He's had a life of hard knocks but hasn't let himself be defeated or downhearted by this. In the course of his life he's developed a dubious moral code but he has a gift for friendship. Above all he is a great survivor. The novel is set in England and Australia. In it I explore how gifts can be used for good or evil and how the prevailing code can condemn the same talents when used in different circumstances. I guess it can be described as a black comedy.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Martin Lake and his work at the following places:

Join me next week when I’ve got Michelle Scott here for the Manic Monday series and a special guest, Marc Hamlet dishing it up on Wednesday and then I’ve got the first Friday of December blog. Yes, December. Can you believe it?

Swing in and say hi!

Until then,



Monday, November 21, 2011

Manic Monday with J.S. Dunn

Welcome to another Manic Monday. Today I have J.S. Dunn in the house.

J. S. Dunn lived in Ireland during the past decade and from there pursued the early Bronze Age in travel and research along the north Atlantic. Dunn is at work on a second novel set in the Bronze Age, primarily in ancient Eire.

The author’s website,, contains web links to find photos and interesting information about the objects and places depicted in Bending The Boyne. More on the new concepts about “Celts” and the early origin of the Gaelic language can be found in Celtic From The West (Cunliffe and Koch, editors, 2010, Oxford Press). See also

Embrace Winter Solstice And The Reborn Sun by J.S. Dunn

Find your inner astronomer at Europe’s largest passage mounds. The Boyne mounds in Ireland are older than the Pyramids, and Stonehenge. In our era almost five thousand years later, winter solstice sunrise still penetrates into the central mound of Newgrange and lights the inner chamber. Thank you J.E. Taylor, for inviting a blog post on the astronomy behind Bending The Boyne.

For around ten sunrises in December, sunlight penetrates 60-plus feet into the central chamber, washing the carved stones in golden light. If you visit the Boyne, with the over 200,000 annual visitors, you can view the solstice event enacted. It’s an incredible sensation to stand inside the great mound in utter dark while light creeps the long passage then bursts dazzling and filling the inner chamber. (To experience the actual solstice sunrise one must enter a lottery, booked several years ahead.)

Solstice occurs when the earth tilts at a maximum away from the sun, for those in the northern hemisphere. There is little reason to depict the ancients viewing this with fear; in fact, over the millennia many cultures carefully charted solstice. At the Boyne then and now, the people watch with awe when the great mound functions as it should, showing the reborn sun that would bring spring’s bounty.

The Boyne astronomy culture had the action, it was the power center for the north Atlantic. Each mound had specific duties in the solar calendar. How did these great mounds fall into disuse? No doubt the solstice light show led to the myth that these mounds contained hidden gold. Bending The Boyne uses the latest concepts about the ancient Gaels (later called Celts by Greeks and Romans) in a tale of greed and gold when marauders arrive at the Boyne around 2200 BC.

Boann, the female protagonist, comes from the earliest Irish myths where she appears briefly in a tangled story that mentions the birth of her son Aengus. “...they made the sun stand still to the end of nine months / strange the tale...” Her son Aengus, born at winter solstice, symbolizes the astronomy practiced at the mounds.

Though modern “druids” gather here and at Stonehenge for the solstice, these sites were built thousands of years earlier and belong to a time before any mumbling druids or Iron Age beliefs and rituals...

Thanks for swinging in! Don’t forget, I’ve got Martin Lake on Friday. In the meantime – Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dishing It Up with N.R. Wick

Today I have the pleasure of dishing it up with N.R. Wick. N.R. Wick writes horror and dark fantasy for young adults. She loves all things horrifying, magical, and supernatural. N.R. Wick currently lives in Southern California with her husband where she completed her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

JET: Can you tell us about Land of No Angels?

NRW: Of course! When you get down to it, Land of No Angels (LoNA) is really about family, trust, and love. I know, how odd for a supposed horror/post apocalyptic novel. But, LoNA is about an older sister who's alone in a scary, dangerous world with her younger sister and the things she will do to fight to protect her. It's set in the very near future (as in, a year or two from now) after a demon apocalypse wiped out most of humanity. LoNA answers questions like what it means to be human and to be a good person in a world of bad. Here's the blurb:

Ever since the fall of mankind and the rise of demons, Rebecca Ashford and her younger sister, Errol, have remained hidden in their tornado bunker. When Errol is poisoned by demon, Rebecca must work with a mysterious survivor named Fox to find a cure. Together, they confront demons and other monsters while Rebecca struggles to learn magic that will help her find the ingredients needed to save her sister.

JET: What drew you to YA Horror?

NRW: Oooh, I've loved the horror genre my entire life. Not even kidding. My dad and I used to watch Nightmare on Elm Street when I was really little, and now I love to write it. As for YA, I've always been a fan of children's and teen's books. There's just a whimsy about them that I adore.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

NRW: Finishing the book. It sounds strange, but that was the biggest challenge. I have a hard time finishing things sometimes and was fortunate enough to earn my MFA in Creative Writing, which LoNA was my thesis project. Having to do it for school helped tremendously.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

NRW: My first non-family/friend sale. That was pretty awesome. Second to that, or maybe tied, would be how excited my sister was when I showed her that I dedicated the book to her. She squealed and jumped at me with a hug.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

NRW: Stephen King and R.L. Stine. I read them both as a child and still do as an adult. In later years, though, it became authors like J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Cornelia Funke.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

NRW: Well, I've written stories my entire life, but I didn't really decide to take it seriously as a career path or as something I find myself unable to live without until about two years ago.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

NRW: Craziest thing I've done... ooh, not anything too crazy, but a woman LOOKED at me crazy when I asked about it. LOL I was working in the Labor and Delivery area of a hospital and was asking the head nurse a bunch of things about problematic labours, and where women are taken for C-sections, and things of that nature.

The most interesting thing I've researched, seen, and learned was when I had to research how someone stitched a wound. It was awesome! It was also gross, but watching videos of basic wound stitching was pretty cool.

Oh! And second most interesting bit of information I found: A lot of old Leprechaun lore talks about Leprechauns wearing red rather than the green we are so used to seeing.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

NRW: Oooh, that's really tough. I don't think I have a favourite one yet.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

NRW: I'm hardly one to be giving advice, but I have two pieces: Just keep writing, and listen andlearn from other's feedback.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with Paper or Plastic?

NRW: Paper, so I can doodle on it after.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

NRW: Steak! Mmmmm, so yummy.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

NRW: Ooh, tough. Can't I have mountains right on the shore of a beach? Hehe.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

NRW: Rock-n-Roll of course.

JET: Leather or Lace?

NRW: Lace, much more comfortable.

JET: Angels or Demons?

NRW: Angels?

JET: Paper or Digital?

NRW: Paper

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

NRW: B Horror all the way! I have amazing life memories with B horror movies (and C and F... I'm talking to YOU Scarecrow Gone Wild.)

JET: Twilight or True Blood?

NRW: *gags* Neither. I'm NOT a vampire lover.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

NRW: Tea! English Breakfast tea for me, please.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

NRW: Well, I have quite a few projects in the works, but right now I'm actively working on a Middle Grade book called Cora's Enchanted Pastries. It's been a blast researching, outlining, and writing it thus far, and I can't wait to show it to the world. Also, for those who liked LoNA, I've started working on the sequel, which is called Land of No Salvation.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about N.R. Wick and her work at the following places:

Next week, I’ve got J.S. Dunn and Martin Lake on tap.

Until then,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Spotlight with John Blackport

Welcome to a special Wednesday Guest Blog. I’ve got John Blackport on tap today. John has been writing the Raingun stories for many years and is the ultimate non-pantser. He lives in New England with his family and several imaginary cats. He owns a tricorner hat --- he doesn't wear it very often, but by all accounts it looks great on him!

The Amazon sample can be read without a download here on Kindleboards:


Since men read as much as women do, but read a lot less fiction, some writers worry about whether they can entice male readers. From there, the question becomes: how can it be done?

Surprisingly, the answer isn’t directly related to sex. . . at least not in the way many people expect. In my experience, male readers like explicit sex in novels far LESS than theire female counterparts. I’ve heard a few theories about this from women, mostly not very flattering to men: something about us being so obsessed with visual stimulation, particularly porn, that we’re uncomfortable with anything sexual that requires imagination, or is less than 100% visual.

Some of the most vocal male supporters of "fade to black" pointed out examples where it was "done right". They showed me excerpts from some "boy books" where the hero bangs lots of women, who are rarely seen naked and never seen having sex --- they mostly lounge around in bathrobes and towels with their hair messed up. They hang all over the hero’s shoulders and compliment his technique.

This leads to another theory about why women seem to enjoy explicit sex scenes more: men don’t want to have sex vicariously through a hero. The vicarious experience they do want is the experience of being sexually irresistible. They want to read about the heroine internally drooling when she steals a glance at the hero’s physique.

Of course, you could say that the terms of “male reader” and “female reader” are also oversimplifications --- a person’s reading preferences probably has more to do with their sexual attitudes than their sexual equipment --- but we all have to start somewhere, so here is my own theory:

Men prefer external obstacles to internal ones.

The male perception of why “women’s entertainment is so dull” --- admittedly, not always a fair one --- springs from the worry that the struggle will always come down to a heroine trying to come to a decision, or work up the courage to do something. Men don’t mind this stuff merely existing in a novel, but they tire of it easily, and if they don’t see something more tangible going on, they’ll roll their eyes and dismiss the story’s conflict as endless dithering.

The most obvious way around this is a hostile enemy (or rival) who must be defeated or thwarted, whose moves must be met with countermoves. Taken to extremes, this results in stereotypical “men’s entertainment”, full of explosions, car chases, and women who are passive and clueless.

What intrigues me most about this prospect is that it explains why I know so many men who are closet fans of paranormal romance. There are more of them than you’d think, and I think they’re drawn to the ass-kicking heroines. They’re pickier than the female fans of the genre seem to be --- but the strongest common thread between their preferences seem to be a heroine who is active, not passive. Men have a lot more tolerance for passive heroines in a story where the hero is the main character, but it’s still not their “top pick”. And in the case of a female main character, their preference for active heroines is overwhelming. In my experience, the men who won’t read stories with a female protagonist largely do so from a preconceived notion that she will be too passive to be interesting.

In the absence of an enemy, men still want the protagonist to face obstacles with physical, objective manifestations. In the case of a man who wants a woman, this could take many forms: “I can’t have her until I mend the rift between our families,” “I have to smuggle her out of this war zone,” or “I have to find the cure to this disease before it kills her.”

If a conflict is internal --- existing entirely in characters’ minds and hearts --- men still want to see it as the accomplishment of a goal. So when the hero disappoints the heroine, most male readers don’t want to see the heroine agonize about whether or not to forgive him. They’ll dismiss such a heroine as an airhead. In such a case, they want to see the heroine be mad, so that all is lost unless the hero actively changes it. They want to see the hero struggle to earn her forgiveness by making it up to her --- and not with sweet talk and empty promises, either! With deeds. Even if the roles are reversed, and the heroine is the one who has disappointed the hero, they want to see the road to reconciliation to be an active attempt at redemption, not passive waiting.

Men don’t respect a hero who waits to see how things shake out --- and heroines who do so don’t fare much better. If the hero is forced into passivity, he should show he’s forced into it: ideally, by trying an active plan which fails, and he must be visibly enraged at its failure.

Of course, the best novels contain conflicts that have both internal and external components. How these perceptions are best acted upon is a question of narrative manner --- how you emphasize what’s going on. Some authors like to have the hero and the heroine sharing the spotlight --- this used to mean mixing internal and external conflicts throughout the book. Now, it means mixing internal and external conflicts through both the hero and the heroine, as individuals. It’s tricky but it’s worth it.

Thanks for swinging in!
Until next time,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Manic Monday with Danielle Kazemi

Welcome to Manic Monday! Today, my guest blogger Danielle Kazemi is chatting it up about balance – healthy balance of action and non-action sequences in a novel. Danielle is the author of the Soldiers of Legend series (scifi adventure) and Dragon's Fire (urban fantasy). She spends what free time she has playing role playing games with her husband and wondering how she can convert it into her next book.

Her e-book can be found here on Amazon:

Healthy Balance of Action and Non-Action by Danielle Kazemi:

When writing fiction involving fighting such as an adventure book, try to keep a healthy balance between the action and the non-action. It is a very hard thing for people to understand when writing. Too little action and your book is a dull read. Too much and your audience becomes bored with the overkill of it. This is also seen in a lot of movies where the director adds in body upon body and the audience zones out after a while.

One thing I found that helps is to look at the different acts in your book. Most books have at least two, usually three acts. They are broken down into very simplistic terms so the audience can follow along. These usually happen without forcing it such as a solution found, change in plans, or even something as simple as moving to a new locale. Not all situations have to be solved in any of these acts. A few authors get away with leaving the readers on a cliffhanger at the end of the novel as a whole.

For those who are wondering what a basic breakdown would be of an act, it is basically non-action then action. The non-action area is filled with background, character development, and anything else an author can think of. The action section is of course filled with the gun fights, explosions, and all out brawls. This is where creativity really shines.

That is what you need to do when you are writing action. There must be a down period to learn more about the characters, if any changes have happened, even describe the scenery if they changed locales. You have to build something first for people to become attached to. Once the audience is comfortable with where things are then you can start destroying it.

Mix up the action as well. I write superhero fiction and it is so easy to have my characters blast each other with electricity and fireballs all day. Yet it would be an incredibly boring read. My readers would get annoyed that every situation calls for the superpowers to be used. Instead, I have them brawling with one another, using weapons, anything else the scene calls for. That way I don't get bored writing it and my readers stay entertained.

Another note is not to plow through nameless extras in your book. There is no body count award in books. It adds to the desensitization of your audience. I read one book lately, name I will not mention, which the main character plows through characters as though he didn't have a care in the world. That makes him unrealistic. I felt disconnected from him and in the end, I didn't care what happened. Too much violence for there to be an actual story hidden in there.

Keep your action reserved for scenes which need it. There is no reason walking down the street every time results in a brawl. Have your characters use their brains as well and see if they can get out of situations that way. It will add more depth to them. Pacing makes perfect.

Thanks for swinging in today! Join me later this week when I dish it up with N.R. Wick!

Until Then

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Georgia Reign Blog Blitz

Hi folks! Welcome to another fabulous Friday.  We've got power and heat and internet - so I'm a happy camper. 

I'm also very pleased to introduce my main character from Georgia Reign.  Special Agent Steve Williams is here today to talk about his latest case and the challenges he now faces. 

JET: Thank you for talking with us today Agent Williams...

SW: -Please call me Steve.

JET:  Thank you for joining us today Steve.  Can you tell us a little about your current case?

SW: Yes and perhaps someone in the listening audience will have some information that will help us track down this unsub.  He's a tricky bastard, luring kids away from their parents with a dog of all things.  I can't imagine anything more heinous than what he is doing to those children.   The more I dwell on it the angrier I get and whether I like to admit it or not, that sometimes clouds my perception - and in the past it's driven me to do things I'm not particularly proud of to solve a case.

JET:  I gather you're talking about the Kyle Winslow case.

SW:  Yes.

JET:  Can you elaborate a little on some of those situations?

SW: Early on in my career, I was an undercover operative in several key cases.  The most notable was a joint FBI/DEA case to bring down New York's most prominent cocaine lord. There were several situations where I had to compromise my integrity in order to keep the undercover ruse from unraveling and in the end, that case blew my undercover career. 

I also made some questionable decisions in the aftermath of the attack on my family but I was hell bent on catching Kyle Winslow.  

JET:  Have you had any close calls?

SW:  *laughs* You could say that. 

JET:  Can you expand a bit?

SW:  Let's just say I've seen the light a time or two, but never crossed over. 

JET:  I understand you're a pretty good shot.  What's your favorite firearm?

SW: Well, I'm pretty versed with the Glock 22 - which is standard issue in the Bureau but I have to say, the slickest gun, besides the Tommy-gun Charlie Wisnowski owned, was the one he gave me for Christmas.  It's now locked up with state's evidence and I'm not that high on getting it back considering Charlie killed a fellow officer with it.  But I have to admit it was sweet.  A Smith & Wesson 45 with a gold eagle inlay.  Very slick. *sigh*

JET:  So how do you see this latest case playing out?

SW:  I catch the bastard before he kills another kid. 

JET:  And after that?

SW:  Who knows.  Maybe I'll retire but more likely I'll just keep trying to stop the monsters.

JET:  Thanks for joining us today!  Folks you can find out more about Special Agent Steve Williams at the following places:

Dark ReckoningVengeance ,  Hunting Season , Georgia Reign 
Thanks for swinging in and if you have any questions for Agent Williams, he'll be on tap all day.

Sale Special - for Dark Reckoning is free HERE until the end of the year!

Next week, I've got Danielle Kazemi, John Blackmore and N.R. Wick on tap.

Until then,

Monday, November 7, 2011

Manic Monday guest: Darik Brooks...

Welcome to another Manic Monday…

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Darik Brooks, author of Trinity of the Sun

Present Tense Fiction Writing, a Question of Timing
By Darik Brooks

We have seen it many times before, “Once upon a time in a dark and dreary forest, lived an old cobbler and his wife,” or, “As they fled, their sinister pursuer panted heavily in the early morning fog. That raspy wheeze reassured them the bloodied, vengeful menace was still behind them.” Yes, it is that age-old, past tense writing perspective: the point of view of the proverbial storyteller. Throughout history, myths, folktales, legends, and countless other stories have been told in the past tense. Storytelling was primarily an oral tradition and that habit of telling tales in the past tense continued into the first manuscripts. Certainly, there may be exceptions to this generalization, but it seems that from the first historical accounts to biographies of pharaohs to often-repeated myths, many stories written for the present maintain that characteristic, past tense perspective. Now, you are probably asking yourself, what is wrong with using past tense to tell a story? My answer to that – nothing at all is wrong with it. It works in most cases. Bedtime stories emphatically need that past tense cushion so those who hear them can still sleep. It is the perfect tense for your cozy crime thriller, a documentary journey to Tibet, or in relating how you kicked the smoking habit, but is it the best word tense for everything?

Lately, fiction writers have been experimenting with writing novels in the present tense. Yes, you are reading that correctly. The present tense is coming to a bookstore near you! Okay, historically speaking, a handful of writers have experimented with present tense writing, and it is gaining a mild resurgence in modern times. Admittedly, there are many readers and authors who utterly deplore using present tense in novels, dispelling such approaches as trendy and limited. Their perspective is understandable and I certainly do not want to see every book written in the present tense. However, horror, suspense, and fantasy novelists can extend that sought-after dramatic edge by shedding that mantle of past tense storytelling and being a few more seconds closer to now. Any reader can see how bringing action and suspense into the present tense can create an engaging story with an edge. Traditional applications of word tense just cannot give fiction the same sharpened edge as present tense writing can. Moreover, present tense writers can use characters’ own past tense narrations in contrast to present tense storylines, giving their novels added dimensions.

I like to call present tense writing the movie effect. I think we would all agree that it would be absurd to make movies in the past tense like the stories they are based on. That is not the nature of acting and stage or film production, unless used for the effect, like in documentaries or in narrated fictional tales. Authors have been narrating plots, scenes, and characters for centuries in the past tense, whereas movie crews recreate stories, more or less, in the present tense with a company of actors portraying the characters. Thus, reading a present tense novel is oddly similar to how a movie keeps the viewer in the center of the action, intimate with the characters, instead of moments or centuries removed. Writing this way is no easy task. Learning to tell stories in the present is a challenge because we authors have been programmed, as readers, to see and relate events in the past tense. Authors, after habituating themselves to converting all verbs to the present tense, eventually learn to see the story in the present, with the movie effect. Telling a story in present tense requires subtle shifts in the way an author thinks and sees his/her characters, scenes, and events.

I like to think of writing as an evolving experiment in prose. If we do not experiment with how we write stories, the very art of storytelling may cease to evolve. As with many experiments, the test of time is the grand arbiter of any composition’s merit. I have written my first two novels in the present tense and it will be some time before I really know if it works for me, as an author and reader. Until then, I guess it is just a question of timing – past, present, or future?

Darik Brooks is the author of the suspenseful, present tense eBook, Trinity of the Sun: Book I, available at Amazon, B&N, and iBookstore as well as at many retailers worldwide. Darik enjoys beekeeping, homesteading, and writing at his mountain hideaway.

Thank you for joining us today.  Swing in on Friday to find out more about my FBI agent Steve Williams and my latest novel in the Steve Williams series - Georgia Reign.

Until then,

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rant and Release...The First Friday of November Blog

Well, normally I dish about the upcoming releases in my first Friday blog, however, due to the storm in the Northeast, I think I’ll go on a side track rant and then I’ll highlight some new releases and upcoming novels coming from Novel Concept Publishing. It’s a little different, but truth be told, I’ve got limited resources this week.

Well, in case you weren’t aware – Southern New England was pummeled by a rare and record breaking nor’easter this past weekend. The beautiful New England fall foliage was slaughtered by heavy wet snow that in some areas hit two feet.

Trees are not made to withstand that kind of snow when they’re sporting a full head of leaves. What resulted was a disaster. Tree limbs snapped taking down countless power lines with them. Almost any residential street you frequent looks like a war zone with branches, trees and wires scattered everywhere. Driving is a white-knuckle event – especially in the dark – because you have to pay strict attention to where the debris is, dodging downed trees and power lines EVERYWHERE.

Power restoration efforts are underway – but in places like the area that I live (not just my town but a multitude of surrounding towns) don’t have estimates of when power will be back. Some are lucky enough to have generators; however, most generators need gas. Gas is an issue. My short story Armageddon hits on the point we are all experiencing. Without power, the gas pumps don’t work. Catch 22. Lovely.

Now that I’ve explained mine and several hundred thousand other folks circumstances – now comes the rant. People – IF THE TRAFFIC LIGHT HAS NO POWER – IT BECOMES A STOP SIGN. Simple concept – but damned if those on the roads understand this. Stop at a dead light. Don’t assume YOU have the right of way.

I know I’m saying this to the masses that aren’t impacted by the storm, but damn people, it is just common sense and common courtesy. We’re all crabby from the no heat and no power and no connectivity to the outside world, but do you have to drive like a fricken maniac or more aptly – a stupid fool?

Deep breath. Rant is over. Thanks for listening all.

Unfortunately I don’t have connectivity to go searching for November releases for my Backspace Brethren, but I do have access to the new and upcoming releases from Novel Concept Publishing. So, without further rambling, here are our recent releases and some new books on the horizon:

Current Novel Concept Publishing Releases:

THE CAPABLE MAN by Marc Hamlet – science fiction

Far from his homeworld, Justin Maisling was desperate for a fresh start, and Aki Spaceworks knew that a desperate man will do just about anything.

HIDDEN EVIL by Bob Stewart – thriller

After a drug-addled teenager turns the annual Battle of Flowers Parade into a bloodbath, Majorette Cindi Neff - photographed blood covered and screaming beside the body of a dead classmate - becomes the media symbol of the tragedy, and the object of cultleader Juan Otero’s obsession.

Soon after his burial, the gravesite of Cindi’s dead classmate is violated and Deputy Sheriff Nancy Neff, an expert in Afro-Caribbean religions, is called to the scene. Minister Luke Oeding, a representative for the bereaved family, joins Nancy in the investigation into this unimaginable crime.

In a deadly chess match of good versus evil, they plunge into the world of the South Texas drug cult and come face to face with Palo Mayombe, the darkest of the hidden religions. When Cindi Neff is kidnapped, Nancy and Luke race to save her from the clutches of the malevolent cult before she is sacrificed in an Easter Sunday Palo Mayombe ritual.

THE LOST GIRLS by Jason Halstead – sci-fi thriller

The only thing hotter than the summers in Phoenix is the temper of a police detective who can't figure out why young girls keep disappearing. Katalina Wimple is that detective. Her obsession with the missing girls makes her the best person for the job, but it also serves as a refuge from the problems in her own life.

GEORGIA REIGN by J.E. Taylor – thriller

Special Agent Steve Williams, still reeling from the death of Chris Ryan and his unexpected inheritance, isn’t ready to step back into the line of fire. Relations with his wife are strained at best, and now he’s saddled with a new partner and a not so silent guardian angel.

When his boss calls with news of another case, a serial killer in Atlanta targeting children, it strikes a nerve in Steve. Caught between responsibility and instinct, he makes a choice – a choice he’ll regret forever.

GLIMPSES by J.E. Taylor – short story anthology
STEAM by J.E. Taylor – erotic short story anthology

Novel Concept Publishing Upcoming Releases:

SINS OF THE MOTHER (December 2011) – thriller

Deputy Maryanne Levine thought little Lourie County would be the place to hone her skills and get a fresh start. But the backwater berg is holding onto secrets that could cost her as much as she’s willing to give. Maybe more.

Lourie County isn’t the only one with secrets. Maryanne has one of her own, buried deep until her past follows her to the quaint county - just about the time all hell breaks loose.

With all of its tabletop gossip and close-knit ties, this little community is harboring evil.

Someone is taking young girls. And, in the aftermath of these unforgivable crimes, someone is taking the mothers.

THE PROGENY (February 2012) - paranormal romance

“No fate other than the one I choose.” The timeless creed, and tattoo, bore by the Rousseau’s— a vampire clan with the purest bloodline of any vampire family. Out of this clandestine group came one who was different, yet the same: Ascher - a half-bloodling— half- human, half vampire.

Ascher questions the purpose for his existence and which world he truly belongs to: the human world or the vampire world. Two months from sealing to Ursula— a prearranged union to a woman he abhors — he’s at his wit’s end. He knows if he calls off the sealing, the Romanian clan will strike with deadly force, but he cannot see eternity with a cold empty shell of a woman like Ursula.

Just when he thought life was complicated enough, he meets Shauna— a beautiful, bi-racial human wiccan — and immediately develops an unshakable attraction to her. She makes him feel alive and vital despite his origins and Ascher makes a decision that turns his immortal world upside down.

THE BOY IN THE BACK ROW (March 2012) - paranormal thriller

The prophetic clock begins countdown when a young child awakens from a near-death experience with the power to raise the dead. When Danny Christopher unknowingly resurrects one of Hell's prized souls-a notorious contract killer-Hell unleashes the Dark Ones to reclaim its property and deal with the boy.

Six thousand miles away, an ancient ruin suddenly awakens with activity when a cryptic seal is uncovered and a meek businessman is branded with its mark-powerful enough to threaten the foundations of Hell but useless unless he overcomes his own demons.

When Danny resurrects a politically connected attorney, he becomes the next target of the powerful drug cartel that ordered her assassination. Threatened by the boy's power, they slay the First Lady in order to draw him out from hiding, but three unlikely heroes- a repentant hit man, a guilt-ridden schoolteacher and a lone businessman-join forces, risking their lives to protect the boy.

With brutal killers on their heels and Hell's Dark Ones closing in, a deadly showdown climaxes where Good stands against the powers of Hell, but not without its sacrifices.

Thanks for swinging in and listening to me rant!  Hope you enjoyed a look at the releases from Novel Concept Publishing!  Stay warm!