Friday, April 29, 2016

But What Are They Eating?

Today, I'm at the blog But What Are They Eating?, discussing the role food plays in the Screwing Up Time novels. Click here to check it out!

And be sure to read some of the other great posts and follow the blog to learn more about food and how authors use it in their novels.

And a big thanks to Shelley for hosting me!! Check out her novels here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Great Book for a Cold, Dark Winter Night

N.B. I received this novel from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander is a fascinating novel which juxtaposes modernity with sixteenth century Transylvania—who wouldn’t be intrigued?

Through Edward Kelley’s point of view, we experience not only the exotic customs, foods, and dress of the late Middle Ages, but we also meet the Countess Elisabeth Bathory—likely the world’s premier female serial killer—whose evil exploits the author imbues with occult purposes.

These occult practices carry into the future and affect the lives of the other two point-of-view characters Jackdaw and Felix, who use Kelley’s diary to understand and vanquish the evil that’s survived into the present day.

Despite the many point-of-view shifts, the pacing of the novel was quite good. And the characters, especially Jackdaw, were very engaging. Though like most novels with multiple viewpoints, it takes several chapters to be fully vested in each of the main characters.

One disappointment I had with the book was that in the climax I felt a little distanced from the characters. Another issue was that the author included a passage where Felix explained why he believed in the magic/occult happenings and how the supernatural realm came to be. Obviously, novels are fictional worlds, which the reader has accepted for the sake of the story. So to include a passage trying to make it all seem real drew me out of the story and felt a bit disingenuous.

Aside from those minor objections, this novel was a fun romp through a paranormal view of the past and present. It is the perfect read for an adult curled up in front of the fireplace on a dark night, craving a scary story.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Finding Zombies!

Today, I'm happy to be part of Loni Townsend's blog tour for her new novel, This World Bites.

 Thank you for having me on your blog, Connie!

A while back, you shared a post about finding passive voice by adding "by zombies" after the verb. If it makes sense, then it is passive voice. I love that tip, especially when it came to This World Bites.

 I started creating passive sentences, just to see zombies interacting with my characters.

  Cera and her gang were zombies.

I giggled because that actually happened in my book, but not in a passive fashion. The zombies attacked Cera and her gang. I played with sentences and traded extreme cases with my friends. And then one Sunday morning, I was sitting in church, singing along with the worship songs when my writer's brain kicked into high.

  The stone was rolled zombies. His perfect love could not be zombies.

 The zombie apocalypse was happening right there in church! I really should've been focused on praise, but instead I was analyzing lyrics, wondering how they could make the writing stronger, and after doing so, would it make praise more effective? Effective, maybe, as in I wouldn't have been distracted by the writing. That happens with all writing. I'm still working on finding all the unintentional zombies in my stories.

 For those of you who want a quick tip on finding passive voice, check out Connie's post. If you want a story with intentional zombies, try out This World Bites and it might make you laugh. Do you have any other tips for finding passive voice? Have you come across any unintentional humorous lines that work well with zombies?

Thanks, Loni!! And be sure to check out the links to Loni's website and the link to her novel on Amazon.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Blogging for Books, J

J by Howard Jacobsen

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this book, ruminating on this literary take on dystopia.

First, I must say that Mr. Jacobsen’s use of language is deft. There is a gentleness and lyricism to his use of words that is almost tender, father-like. It makes a lovely counterpoint to seriousness and violence of story, underscoring its importance.

Both main characters, Ailinn and Kevern, were delights. Their love story was beautiful, even though it is clear early in the novel that both characters are destined for unhappiness because of their own personalities and the government’s interference.

Despite the many wonderful aspects of the novel, there were times when the pacing lapsed, particularly during the trip to Necropolis, and I had to force myself to continue reading the story. Thankfully, the pace did pick up again.

In the end, the story is a philosophical exploration of identity, hate, and history. In considering how these issues affect Kevern’s and Ailinn’s final decisions, it is difficult to come away with concrete answers. But I suspect that the most any author can hope for is that his or her readers ask the right questions.

N.B. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Free Book!

To celebrate Thanksgiving, Screwing Up Babylon is FREE on Amazon through Saturday, November 29! Click here.

Babylon, one of the most powerful and notorious empires ever, is the last place Mark wants to go. But when he discovers his girlfriend Miranda has been kidnapped and given to the king as a concubine, he travels through the colors of time to rescue her. It won’t be easy, not when the Hanging Gardens are a trap, his life is the prize in a game, and time is a prison. It will take all Mark’s cunning, the help of his friends, and a crazed chimp to free Miranda. When he does, time itself begins to unravel, and a life must be sacrificed or no one will survive.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writing A Sad Book

Photo by Evan-Amos. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
About 18 months ago, I started writing a new novel. No big deal. Writers do it all the time. I’ve done it nine times before. But this would be different. Though in my hubris, I didn’t realize it at the time.

The difference is that this novel would have a sad ending. I’d never written that type of book before. There’s a good reason that the vast majority of books end happily. One of them is that sad books are HARD to write.

Imagine with me. First of all, you have to get the reader to desire something very, very badly. Then, you have to take it away. And make them like it. It’s like holding out a Tootsie pop to a two year old and saying, “These are some yummy. There’s chocolate inside the candy. You’d really love it.” The two-year-old reaches for the Tootsie pop and you pull it away. And here’s the trick. The kid can’t scream and cry. He must say, “I really wanted it, but I know this is best.” Yeah, highly unlikely.

That’s pretty much what a sad book is like. And it all comes down to the ending. And I blew it.

The first ending I wrote, I refer to as the T.S. Elliot ending, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” In other words, I dragged my reader through 80,000+ words and then the main character lost everything and slunk off into the sunset. My beta reader was incensed.

I rewrote the ending so that it would be stronger. I now refer to this as the King Lear ending because after reading it, the reader’s heart lies panting on the floor. The second beta reader said, “This a great ending, but wow, there’s no hope. Don’t you want some hope?” (Clearly, she did.)

At this point, I did what I should have done at the very beginning. I talked to a friend who’s made her living writing sad books. (Why didn’t I do this first thing? But “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”—Alexander Pope) She told me that it’s important to make the ending strong, but there must be hope at the end. So I checked the endings of some of my favorite sad novels (anything written by Khalid Hosseini). Strong endings with hope.

I did another revision and with great trepidation sent it to beta reader number three. After she finished, she emailed and said, “I love the ending.”

Score. Now it’s time to eat that Tootsie pop.

N.B. For those of you who read the Screwing Up Time series, this book is not part of that series. So don't worry.