Thursday, March 19, 2015

So Very Inspiring

Some of you may know of my involvement with my local PFLAG, and my wish to make a safe world for all our youth and every person.

This is so inspiring that I cried... and then I watched again... and cried again. I'd love to hugs all these brave souls.

It does get better....

Friday, March 13, 2015

Early Literary Influences, Books That Shaped My Life -Terry Pratchett

It's been a while since I've posted an installment of Early Literary Influences, and it's with a sad heart that I do so now, to pay tribute to a writer who caught my imagination at a young age, held it, and then allowed me to share my love of his writing with a new generation in my son.

I remember the first Discworld book I ever read: The Color of Magic, Discworld Volume I, referred to me by a friend. While at the time I devoured every fantasy book I could get my hands on, it's the humor the author infused in his work that kept me coming back for more. Zingy one-liners, connections I'd never made before that were so obvious after he pointed them out, and unfunny things (like Death playing grandpa) becoming side-splittingly hilarious.

I'd given up my dreams of writing before I came to know his work, and enmeshed myself in the world he created, a mysterious place where goats classified all things into four categories: something to eat, something to run from, something to mate with, and rocks. Heh. I know people like that, but I digress.

Twoflower and Rincewind, Death, Susan Death and her friends, and the Death of Rats, all entertained me. Nothing could have delighted me more than when my son found the books and loved them as much as I do. Even today, years after reading, we can share a line from one of the books and still get a giggle.

Although now it's time to say goodbye to author Terry Pratchett, he lives on in his words, in this readers, and in the aspiring authors he influenced. Maybe someday my grandkids will quote lines of his works to me.

At one time sixty-six seemed ancient, now I find it quite young. Too young for a man with so many story left to tell to leave us.

Rest in Peace, oh creator of worlds. Many thanks for the laughs, the insights, and the things that made me go "Hmmm..."

I'll never view rats the same way again. Or turtles.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Make Me Feel It!

My crit partners tremble when they see those words in a comment, and I leave them often. But what do they mean?

In any situation of strong emotion, as a reader, I want to be so closely bonded with a character that, in moments of peril, I find myself scrunched up in a ball, laboring for breath and gripping my Kindle so tight I fear it'll break. During a love scene I want to feel the "awww".

But it's not just the emotional climax that earns the MMFI seal of approval. It doesn't matter how well you write the heart-wrenching moment of poor Jenny losing Grandma on page eighty, if the reader didn't bond with Jenny and gave up reading on page thirty.

How do you create such a bond, you ask? By making the character human, and putting us so closely in their world that we ARE them. They can be a total jackass, and unlovable on the surface, but with the gentle caress of the right words, you'll pull readers in.

Part of "make me feel it" starts with the environment. Where are they? Does the story take place in winter, summer, spring or fall? While I don't like twenty pages of exposition about the ornate scrollwork on the staircase, you can work details in that help me to identify with the character and his/her surroundings.

One of my biggest disappointments as a reader was a book I picked up a few years back, in which the characters made a trip to France. France? Woot! I've never been to France, and couldn't wait to visit through this book. But...

The characters got off a plane, stayed at a hotel, and visited a few buildings. Then they got back on the plane and went home. Do what? They could have been in my own home town for all the description I was given. And I have no idea why they even went to Paris except for it looking good on the blurb, and the brief trip enabled additonal search tags.

Where was the historic architecture? The cute cafes? No one even spoke French or had an accent that I could see. They all spoke English like most Americans of my acquaintance. Why did they even go to Paris at all? And while the Eiffel tower is a bit overdone in fiction, even that cultural icon was missing. And I have no idea as to the climate, what they ate, etcetera. Don't take me to Paris and then not let me see!

Another way to let me feel it is to give adequate descriptions. "He had a large apartment." Now, in my neck of the woods, a "large apartment" could be about 1700 square feet. Are apartments in NY city that large, typically? So "large apartment" is up to the reader's experience, as is "small".

Someone wrote about a wide bridge. The story had four characters crossing the bridge. "They crossed the wide bridge". Are you picturing something like Golden Gate? Turns out this was a footbridge. "The bridge's width allowed them to walk four abreast" provides a better, and more accurate, visual that I can put into context as I follow the characters across the river.

Another way to help a reader to fully experience a story is to reduce the use of lazy words. You know about lazy words, I've griped about them before.

Jeff walked into the room. Ho-hum. This tells me Jeff physically moved from one place to another.


Jeff sauntered into the room gives me a full visual of a guy that is confident, or maybe over-confident, or even putting on a show for his ex that he isn't hurting.

How about:

Jeff swaggered into the room. What does that show you? Or: Jeff slipped into the room, hiding behind Bill. Oh ho! Is Jeff shy perhaps, or hiding from a cheating ex who broke his heart?

Jeff slipped into the room, heart pounding in his chest. Oh shit. There the man was, big as life. With... with... him. Mr. Perfect. Everything Jeff would never be. The big house, all the memories he'd planned to make, the children he'd hope they would raise together. His dreams belonged to someone else now.

Uncertainty twisted through Jeff's insides. Was it too late to turn around and go home?

In a "make me feel it scene", unlike the Paris encounter, you want to limit details. In times of great stress or "fight or flight", tunnel vision is common. Jeff sees no one else but his ex lover and the new love interest. His heart is pounding, he may get light-headed, but his entire focus is on what he's seeing and how he feels.

When a good guy is running from the drug dealers, the blood will pound in his ears. Sentences are short and choppy, and thoughts may be incomplete.

Oh fuck! Run! But where? A light! There! Down the alley. Blood roared like thunder in his ears. Jeff ran.

Avoid -ing words. Keep to -ed words to keep the action tight.

I work with a lot of authors on techniques to pull readers into the action, and do a lot of studying on the subject. While I am by no means an expert, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

And above all...make me feel it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Captain Ian Lewis Once More Terrorizes the Seas!

Some of you may remember the first short story of mine ever published: The Pirate's Gamble. My, how's it grown. At nearly double the original size, the third edition has been released by Rocky Ridge Books. Cover art and editing by the talented P.D. Singer.

Archaeologist Ian Lewis turns up the most remarkable antiquities, thanks to moonlighting as a buccaneer. Flitting in time between modern day and the eighteenth century, he rescues soon-to-be-lost artifacts from watery graves.

Just as he must keep his sideline career as a pirate captain under wraps, so too must he hide his relationship with his closeted lover, fellow archaeologist David Kane. With David’s help, his rescued treasures surface again after hundreds of years, and Ian would like nothing more than to display his love and his pride as publicly as his museum finds. Now they are on a quest for a legendary golden statue—a statue with hidden meaning for them both.

For a prize more valuable than gold, Ian must win The Pirate's Gamble.

Available from All Romance Ebooks. As other vendors come online, I'll share those links too.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

Amazon AU