The Monday Buzz from Story Empire

Happy Monday, gang! Eh, I realize that’s kind of an oxymoron, but it is what it is.

One good thing about Mondays? You can always count on an informative blog post over on the Story Empire site.

old world type map with script writing laid over top and words Story Empire set off as a bold header

Today’s post by Craig Boyack is of special interest to me. You’ve got to hop over and check out his take on Flipboard. I’ve used Flipboard for a while but I had no clue you could create your own magazine or that it’s a unique way to drive traffic to your blog. Who doesn’t like more blog traffic? And hey, the idea of my own magazine (created very simply) is highly appealing to me. I’ve been after him for a while to share the deets on how this is done, and it looks sooo easy!

Check it out yourself with Craig’s post, By Popular Demand, Flipboard. Hope to see you there!

Welcome Teri Polen with Sarah and #WritingTechinques

I’m so happy to introduce new friend, Teri Polen, who writes YA fiction and has recently released her debut novel Sarah. Teri and I met when she hosted an October/Halloweenish promotion for multiple authors on her blog and was kind enough to include me.

Since then, I’ve come to realize we have many common friends in the blogosphere. In addition to that, she held me glued to the pages through Sarah, a spooky YA novel centered around a vengeful ghost. You can find my five star review for Sarah on Amazon, but before you go gallivanting off, check out Teri’s post on writing techniques. The character quirks section really made me stop and think!

~ooOOoo~

Epiphanies (for me) in Writing Techniques

I’ve never had any ‘formal’ training in writing – both of my degrees are in business, and learning how to interpret balance sheets was worthless when it came to crafting a story.  Over the years, I’ve taken advantage of the free writing workshops at the annual book festival where I live (and discovered how horribly wrong I’d been doing things), attended numerous webinars, and read Stephen King’s On Writing so many times I could probably recite some passages from memory.  Once my brain had been rewired with the basics, I had to sift through various techniques to discover what worked for me.

One of my online classes required me to complete an extensive questionnaire about my characters – things I’d never thought about, like boxers or briefs, nervous habits, did they like long walks on the beach, and fav flavor of pop-tarts.  Okay, maybe not exactly those questions, but they seemed just as obscure at the time.  All I saw were pages and pages of homework – but once I started interviewing my characters, everything changed.  The deeper your understanding of your characters, the easier it is to breathe life into them and make them come alive for your readers.

Outlining – your either love it or hate it, but it seemed like a waste of time when I already had the general plot direction in my head.  Then I’d wind up in places I’d never planned, wrote myself into corners, found minor characters leading the story, and had no idea how I’d gotten there – raise your hand if those surroundings look familiar.  But I wasn’t a complete pantser either, so when I came across the Basic Beat Sheet at http://jamigold.com/, I knew I’d struck gold (pun totally intended).  A beat sheet is the road map of a story broken down into three acts that include the inciting incident, pinch points, midpoint, crisis, climax and resolution.  After typing in the projected total word count for your book, it calculates the page count and word count where these plot points should occur – which also helps with pacing.  You can print it out and fill in the blanks from there.  Every writer has their own process, but this one helped me focus and stay on track.

It all comes down to personal preferences and motivations and can be trial and error, but researching, talking to other authors, and reading about the craft of writing will help you find your path – there’s no magic formula to writing a novel.  And keep in mind, the learning never stops – there’s always room for improvement.  Now head to your writing caves!

Author, Teri Polen, outdoors and smiling for cameraAuthor Bio:
Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.  The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium.  She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat.  Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, is her first novel.  Visit her online at www.teripolen.com

Connect with Teri at the following haunts:
Website

Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads 

~ooOOoo~

Book cover for the novel SARAH shows girl with long black hair hiding her face crawling down steps from attic doorBook Blurb for SARAH:
Seventeen-year-old horror fan Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost find her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime. Now, he just hopes to survive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.

A bet between friends goes horribly wrong, resulting in Sarah’s death. When she returns to seek justice against those responsible, Cain agrees to help her. But when he discovers Sarah has been hijacking his body, he realizes she wants retribution instead of justice.

Terrified of what could have happened when he wasn’t in control, Cain commands Sarah to leave his house – but exorcising her isn’t that easy. She retaliates against her murderers in bloody, horrific ways, each death making her stronger, then sets her sights on Cain. With the help of friends, Cain fights to save himself and his loved ones and searches for a way to stop Sarah before she kills again.

Purchase SARAH from:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

 

Creative Fun on a Monday

Happy Monday! There was a time when I reserved this day for blogging about mythical creatures, urban legends, and folklore. At some point in the future, I hope to play around with Mythical Mondays again.

Brightly colored carousel horse on a lighted carouselIn the meantime, you can find me every fifth Monday at the Story Empire website. Today is one of my days, and I’ve got a really simple writing exercise for you to try. I was supposed to write a post on craft, but my mind is still fried from deadlines and edits. Since I’m not the best blog writer on craft to begin with, I thought I’d go the creative route instead. Curious?

I invite you to hop over and let your muse have some fun. The topic is What does childhood taste like?”  I look forward to your answers! 🙂

 

Announcing the Rave Reviews Writers’ Conference and Book Expo #RRBC

Hey, gang! If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you know I’m a member of the Rave Reviews Book Club, RRBC for short. I’ve written several posts in the past about this great community of indie and small press authors that have banned together to support each other through social media, networking and reviews. I’m coming up on a year membership renewal and I’m looking to another great year with RRBC. If you’re not familiar with how the book club works, please see my post Let’s Talk Book Clubs which is RRBC wrapped up in a nutshell.

What I really want to share with you today is something that RRBC founder, Nonnie Jules, and many dedicated members have been hard at work organizing—The Rave Reviews Writers’ Conference and Book Expo, taking place December 1-3, 2016.

Banner logo for the Rave Reviews Book Club Conference and Book Expo

Now before you start saying “Oh, I’d love to attend, but I’m not a member,” or “I’d love to attend but I’m sure it will be too far for me to travel,” you need to know two important facts:

  1. The RRBC Writer’s Conference and Book Expo IS OPEN TO EVERYONE! That’s right, you don’t have to be a member to attend, and,
  1. RRBC is hosting a virtual conference, so there’s no need to worry about expensive plane tickets, putting miles on your car, or dumpy hotel rooms.

What goodies can you expect? Check out this fabulous list:
Visit author booths
Attend conference sessions and workshops
Browse books for sale
Mingle and network with other writers and readers
Visit vendor booths
Have fun, enjoy yourself and learn at the same time

Some of the sessions being offered include:
Blogging for Success
Building your Author Platform
Formatting Made Easy
Book Blurbs Do’s and Don’ts
Marketing 101

There’s even a free bonus session on cover design! So grab your laptop, tablet, computer or smart phone and join in. 

closeup of laptop with RRBC conference logo displayed on screenTo see all of the workshops and sessions that are being offered, as well as to obtain pricing and register for the event, visit the official Rave Reviews Book Club Writers’ Conference and Book Expo website through the links above.

The registration deadline is November 23rd, so if you hadn’t gotten wind of this exciting event before, you’ve still got time to act.

And should you decide to join this uber-supportive group of authors (heck, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t), please tell them Mae Clair sent you. You can find the membership link here

Guest Blogger Carmen Stefanescu: The Qualities of a Good Book

Today, I’m delighted to welcome my good friend, Carmen Stefanescu back to my blog with a post about the qualities that go into a good book. I’d love to get your opinion in the comments, and I know Carmen would too. So….

To be or not to be a good book?
By Carmen Stefanescu

The question What makes a good book? has been popping up in my head quite a bit lately while reading, and especially, writing my own books.

I stop writing only to reread what I’ve written and wonder, “Is this good?”

Now, what is a good book? I think it’s a legitimate question to ask ourselves. What defines good? Should it be my own definition, someone else’s, or based on popular opinion? The opinion of what makes a good book is almost entirely subjective.
Think of an old favorite book you’ve read again and again. Can you picture it in your head, almost as if you had a copy in your hands, ready to open and start reading right now?

A woman sitting on the beach reading a book. Her back is to the camera, with ocean in front. Done in a wash of faded colors

Think about it for a while. Pick the story apart and mull it over a bit. What makes  you love the story? What makes you keep coming back to it time and again? What makes your mind wander back to the story and muse about it? What qualities of that book do you love and cherish?

What are the elements of a good book for me? Well, here’s what I have in mind, speaking from a reader’s POV:

PLOT
The best kind of plot is one that keeps people reading because they are so engrossed and intrigued that they just can’t put the book down. Personally, I like when I don’t know what’s going to happen in a plot. Predictability is something I tend to dislike because, in my eyes, nothing kills a story faster than too much predictability. Predictability in small doses is fine – but readers don’t want to be right all the time. Unnecessary scenes that don’t add to the plot or character growth in any way, shape, or form should be edited – or cut out completely.

ELEMENTS YOU RELATE TO
It doesn’t matter whether I’m reading  mystery, paranormal or fantasy as long as there are realistic and relatable elements to the plot and characters. Realism may not apply to realms of fiction, but elements of realism always should. Nothing is perfect, not even in a utopian setting, because people are not perfect. The imperfections add a relatable element whatever story is being told.

Emotion is probably the highest relatable factor for me when I’m reading. I may never have met a vampire or kissed a shapeshifter, but I know the tugs of love and the irrational thoughts and passions that come with it. The circumstances don’t matter as long as readers feel along with the characters. It’s a challenge for writers, yes, but it leads to more of a deep and meaningful story.

CONSISTENCY
Storytelling needs to have a flow to the writing – and there’s nothing that breaks a flow in storytelling like inconsistencies in characters, backstories, or the writing style itself.

Don’t you hate it when you’re reading a book that’s keeping you guessing – only to hit a snag and get thrown out of the story completely because you read something that just didn’t make sense?  Writers need to know their worlds, the worlds’ rules, and the characters inhabiting said worlds. Readers will settle for the  easy resolution but they don’t like them because they don’t reflect real life, which almost always bears struggle and conflict. Happily ever afters are preferred by readers, but they’re much more meaningful if the characters have ‘paid their dues’ to earn the HEA.

conceptual idea with an open book standing on a hillside, with clouds above and 3D images of a chair and trees within the bookWRITING
I often know a book will be good if I am envious of the writing. While that sounds a weird thing to say, keep in mind that I am a writer myself. If I can read a first passage in a book and think, “Wow, I wish I could write like this,” then that’s saying something, isn’t it?

Though tastes vary, descriptions aren’t a bad thing since a writing style can help give a book its own specific kind of atmosphere. The point, is less is more. Not many readers like to barrel through paragraphs of description, no matter how beautifully written, because it slogs down the story.

CHARACTERS
I may be a bit critical, but I always fall hard for characters. I look at it this way: why read about characters I don’t like? I want to root for that character no matter what. I want to stand behind him/her and his/her decisions. I want to follow him/her on whatever journey is unfolding in his/her life.

Flaws  and ambiguity. They’re necessary. Why did so many of us Pride and Prejudice fans come out loving  Darcy, arrogant man that he could be? Because he was flawed and ambiguous only to show greater depth and emotion than any reader had likely imagined.

To conclude – I leave the question to all your followers: what makes a good book for you? Make it a big question of the day, because, honestly, isn’t a good book what anyone is hoping for any time they sit down and open a book to read?

Keep your reader reading.

Author, Carmen Stefanescu smiling for cameraAUTHOR BIO
Carmen Stefanescu resides in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble – the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.

High school teacher of English and German in her native country, and mother of two daughters, Carmen Stefanescu survived the grim years of oppression, by escaping in a parallel world that of the books.

Several of her poems were successfully published in a collection of Contemporary English Poems, Muse Whispers vol.1 and Muse Whispers vol.2 by Midnight Edition Publication, in 2001 and 2002.

Her first novel, Shadows of the Past, was released in 2012 by Wild Child Publishing, USA.

Carmen joined the volunteer staff at Marketing For Romance Writers Author blog and is the coordinator of #Thursday13 posts.

Books by Carmen Stefanescu

shadowsofthepastbkBook cover for Till Life Do Us Part by Carmen Stefanescu shows a trees at night framing a full moonShadows of the Past
Paranormal/light romance/light historical/light mystery

Till Life Do Us Part
Paranormal/light romance/light historical/light mystery


You can stalk the author at the following haunts:
Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Goodreads | Google+ | Amazon

BONUS THOUGHT:
I don’t know about where you live, but here, in Romania we experienced a heat wave this past summer with temperature over 45 Celsius degrees. Hot! The weather brought thunderstorms and lightening strikes. Did I say I was happy for summer to end, even though I don’t really like autumn? Here are my feelings about autumn:

AUTUMN AGAIN 

Autumn has turned up

on my doorstep.

Again !

country lane on a wet rainy autumn day,Drenched, tempestuous, frowned.

Rusted leaves are coiled

in her dripping hair,

a gray, foggy cape

wrapping her to the ground.

She pierces my soul with

cold, distant eyes.

Her breath smells of

rottenness and rain.

Dejected I bend my head,

and I sigh.

My hopes she forgot

where I lived were in vain.

Once upon a time…

There were five authors with a passion for writing and story-telling who decided to band together and create a blog where they could share their love of the written word with the world. They didn’t set out to create an empire, just a small pocket of the blogosphere where others with similar interests might gather.

But then they realized how powerful writing could be, and that there were SO MANY writers, authors, and readers who might enjoy coming together and visiting their humble abode that they envisioned an empire. A place where writers could go to talk craft. Where readers could discover books—not only from the five authors—but from works that had impacted the lives of those authors.

Thus Story Empire was born

old world type map with script writing laid over top and words Story Empire set off as a bold header

I invite you to join me, Craig Boyack, Staci Troilo, Harmony Kent and Sandra Cox as we explore realms of fiction and more. We’ve got some fun stuff planned, including a few giveaways that will be coming up next month. For starters, you can find a post from me on the pros and cons about writing a series. Weigh in with your comments. We’d love to hear from you.

And don’t forget to click the “Follow” button while you’re there. You’ll get viewpoints from five different authors over time, view great content, discuss books, and network with many other wonderful writers.

Once upon a time…is now!

Summer Productivity by Mae Clair

I just came off a long weekend (happy belated Fourth of July to my U.S. readers) that wasn’t extremely productive. I spent a good portion of it goofing off, swimming, hanging with family and doing things around the house. Summer in general tends to be less productive for me when it comes to writing, though I do a lot spend a good portion of it reading, plotting and writing notes for my WIPS.

Case in point: I have notebooks I devote to each of my WIPS. They’ve been through the “war zone” of exposure to the sun and pool, constant handling and travel. The notebooks below are for A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS (pink, black and gold notebook) and A COLD TOMORROW (dark blue).

Two closed spiral notebooks, covers a bit battered

I have a weird system when I make notes that involves alternating pages of research (mostly right hand pages) and plot (left hand pages). I use different color ink and highlights to draw attention to various points I want to remember.

Two spiral notebooks open on spine with pages filled with writing and some passages highlighted

I started this system with the blue notebook and plan on maintaining it with the last book in my series, A DESOLATE HOUR. I’ve started making research notes while dreaming up plot points as I float around with foam noodles in the pool.

Open spiral notebook with blank left page and pen on top of page, right page filled with writing

As you can see, the left handed page for plot points is still blank. I know where I want to start but I’m still fleshing out the characters who will factor into the prologue which is set in 1777. Book three ties the curse of Shawnee Indian Chief Cornstalk to the legend of the Mothman and Point Pleasant.

In addition to plotting, I spend a good deal of my summer reading. As a habit, I read every night for an hour or two before I go to bed, but during the summer, I also like to read on my deck in between dips in the pool.

One of my favorite summer reads is THE TERROR by Dan Simmons.

Book cover for THE TERROR by Dan Simmons which shows an old clipper ship without sails surrounded by ice and glaciers

Although a massive book (my paperback copy is 955 pages) this is a story I want to read again, and I can’t imagine reading it during any season other than summer. The book is set in the artic, and fictionalizes the tale of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to discover the Northwest Passage in the mid-1800s. Although I originally read it two years ago, it remains one of the best books I’ve ever read, a bizarre and spectacular combination of history, horror, lyrical writing and myth. I’ve never encountered anything to equal it, and each time summer rolls around I think of reading it again.

My current read, however, is a bit different. I’m presently immersed in the WITCH OF LIME STREET, a nonfiction account of Harry Houdini’s battle to unmask medium Margarey Crandon as a fraud. Here’s the cover:Book cover for the Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher is black with lime green border and cameo photos of Harry Houdini and Margery Crandon

Imagine my surprise, when the first night after reading, I switched off the light and realized the cover was glowing. All that lime green you see to the right lights up as neon-glow-in-the-dark with the lights off. I tried to capture a photo of it with my cell phone, but unfortunately it didn’t take.

That aside, I’ve always loved things that glow in the dark—as far back as to when I was a kid and played with a “Dark Shadows” game that had glowing skeletons—so I’m thoroughly besotted with this clever cover. And, in case you doubted, the book is darn good too, especially if you’re a Houdini or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan, or are interested in the spiritualist movement of the 1920s.

Next up?

downloadKevin O’Brien has a new release, YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE that releases on July 26th. I’ve already pre-ordered  my copy. Kevin is an am amazing author and on my automatic read list. If you like mystery, crime and suspense, you’re going to love Kevin.

In the meantime, I’ll content myself with this:

Book cover for DEVOUR by Kurt Anderson shows a cruise ship at night with lights and a huge monstrous mouth with teeth looming above it

 

 

 

 

I have a horrible weakness for creature/monster books (and movies) and have been saving this one for a while. DEVOUR is definitely a summer/beach read IMHO. Isn’t the cover grand? I can’t wait to discover what lurks within the pages.

So tell me…how productive are you during the summer? Do you plot, do you read? What’s on your TBR?