Monthly Archives: September 2010

Sep 29

“Taking Liberties” by Mary Deal

Taking Liberties

Encouragement for novella writers.

Take liberties with your writing process. I did. You can too. No matter what people said I couldn’t do, I knew what I wanted to accomplish and did it.
The seed for the novella, Caught in a Rip, which is the second story in my novel The Tropics, germinated ages ago when I first read Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. At that time, I asked myself why I couldn’t write a story like that. Yeah, sure, I wasn’t seriously writing then. Yeah, sure, I finally said. Me, write like Ernest Hemingway?
My flaw was in thinking that I had to emulate Hemingway’s style. That concept didn’t come to me till after I had written my first novel and found my own style.
All those years, I toyed with the idea of writing a sea story, one where the protagonist faces her devils alone. Yes, a female protagonist, after all. I knew it would have to be a serious story, because I didn’t excel at humor. I wasn’t sure what kind of story to write about a woman in a dire situation, but in the interim, I read Hemingway’s book again because that’s from where my first inspiration came.
After finishing my first novel manuscript, I decided to take some time off to better learn the art of manuscript submission. I could take a sabbatical from writing, study the “how to” submission manuals I’d accumulated and do my conjuring on the beaches of Kauai. Why live here if you never get into the ocean, right? I really had been immersed in my writing instead.
During one of my all-day outings to Ke`e Beach on the North Shore, I discovered those huge docile green sea turtles. I just happened to have my camera along. I spent more than two hours bobbing and diving around the deep side of the reef photographing when I realized I was exhausted. When I tried to haul myself back to the reef, I could barely fight the outbound tide. I nearly panicked.
Yet, at that very moment, the story of a woman in danger jelled in my mind. I would write about a woman photographing turtles and who gets caught in a rip current and swept out to sea.
At that very moment nothing could keep me from getting back to the beach and to my pen and notepad.
I thought I had a short story. I wrote for days. By the time I had polished the manuscript (or so I thought) I had a novella. At that time, I had no idea what to do with stories this length. Never mind that books like Hemingway’s and John Steinbeck’s The Pearl are only a couple hundred pages as completed publications. People said, “No one takes novellas anymore.” I just didn’t know what to do with a novella. So I posted it in an online workshop hoping to get a clue.
In the meantime, I was so jazzed at having written Caught in a Rip that I decided to lengthen another of my short stories languishing with no direction. At best, I might be able to publish a book of three to four novellas.
Then reviews began coming in from other novella writers in the workshop. So if the novella was a dying writing form, why were all these people writing them? I received reviews from mild comments to graciously picking my story apart. But everyone’s final comment was that Caught in a Rip was a great story, full of emotion, pain and epiphany and worthy of the 10-star ratings. Then I knew I needed to see it published. Why, it even had humor—in the last paragraph!
I formulated a plan. If incidences in both novellas written so far were similar, why not make my separate protagonists know one another? All that was left would be to decide which story came first. That led me to the fact that the two stories still did not make a “good” length for a whole book. I decided to rewrite both stories, leaving some clues dangling in each. Both my protagonists would then be brought together and all foreshadowing wrapped up in a third story—an ongoing time line with characters progressing through each story. A trilogy of sorts. That sounded right even though further comments told me no one publishes trilogies anymore.
By the time I finished the third story, I had a solid body of work with positive comments from everyone who read the manuscript.
In the end, I had taken liberties with progressive protagonists and time line. One of the most difficult aspects was wrapping up each story so that each could stand on its own and still leave some mystery to wrap up in the third and final story. Each of the three stories, if published separately, would be the size of Hemingway’s or Steinbeck’s books mentioned above. And so, three novellas comprise my novel entitled, The Tropics: Child of a Storm – Caught in a Rip – Hurricane Secret.
Liberties. Take them. Your Muse will respond and you will free your writing. Read More

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Sep 24

Dual Pen Named Author Alice Griffiths AKA P.A. Wilson Swings by to Guest with Mike Angley

MA: I’m joined today by an author with two pen names, Alice Griffiths and P.A. Wilson (I think for interview purposes I’ll use Alice’s initials to mark your responses). Please tell us about you and what brought you to the writing world.

AG: I’ve been writing for decades but I have been seriously interested in publishing for the last few years. I think the catalyst for the change was National Novel Writing Month. In 2008 I happened upon the site and impulsively decided I could write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It didn’t matter that I’d taken years to write previous manuscripts. I could do this.

When I typed ‘the end’, I had completed 82,500 words and my first full manuscript. I put it away for a month and then started the process of revision and polish. By April, I’d entered it into a contest and by June, I had created an indie e-publishing company with a partner. Off Track was published December 23, 2009 and I had graduated from writer to author.

I write in two genres with a pen name for each. I write romances under the name Alice Griffiths, and gritty mystery thrillers under the name P.A. Wilson. At first, I thought the lines would be clear between the two genres, but that’s not what happened. My romances have elements of violence and my mysteries have elements of romance.

Now, I work as a project consultant and managing editor, and author, my days are full but never boring.

MA: Tell us more about your background before becoming a writer.

AG: In the professional world I am a project management consultant. I worked in the corporate world for more than thirty years before I decided to go it on my own. I have to say that I have less time to write now than I did before, but more energy when I do write.

I’ve been working on projects for more than ten years and I have to say it’s taught me more about writing than anything else in my past. I get to meet so many different people that I can use to fill out my characters. I use project management methodology to get started on writing a book. I figure out what I’m going to write, investigate what I’ll need to learn to write the first draft, and then I plan out the different scenes. Writing for me is building the story up in layers.

MA: I’ve met many authors who use a methodical approach such as this. One thriller writer I met is an engineer by degree, and takes a disciplined design approach to crafting his stories. Why fiction?

AG: I have tried to write short stories and poetry but I don’t seem to have the talent for that. I guess I’d say novels chose me, rather than the other way around. I like having some room to build in secondary plots and more detailed richness. In shorts you have to keep it clean and precise and I don’t have that skill. I admire people who do, because when I’m in the middle of the third revision pass and wondering if I’m contradicting something that happened 60 pages ago, it would be nice to have a short story to handle.

MA: Tell us about what you write…I’m struck by the fact you write in what would seem like two very different genres.

AG: I haven’t yet found a genre I can stick with. I guess my constant is that there’s a romance somewhere in the story and that lots of people die.

I’ve written a fantasy romance, Off Track by Alice Griffiths, and that was my first National Novel Writing Month book. It’s the story of a lawyer on the track to partnership who finds herself pulled into a magical world as the result of a prophecy. Along with her easy going assistant, Madeline has to accept that she needs to fulfill the prophecy and figure out what it is exactly she’s supposed to do. While that’s happening, she meets and falls in love with a knight who really wants to be something other than a knight.

My serial killer novel, Closing the Circle by P.A. Wilson, is currently under review with my business partner in PaperBoxBooks.com. In this story Felicity Armstrong is the focus of a brutal serial killer who has taken her religion, Wicca, and twisted it in to something evil. The killer stalks and kills her friends, leaving their bodies in prominent sites around San Francisco as Felicity works with FBI special agent Sam Barton to identify and stop the murders.

I’m working on two other books, and planning out my NaNoWriMo book for this November. One book is a thriller set in Vancouver BC with gangs, human trafficking and teen hookers. The other a YA science fiction story with three heroes who raise a rebellion to save the humans.

Then my NaNo book will be an Urban Fantasy with a wizard, Sidhe, and Raven. That’s about as far as I am in planning.

MA: Well, sounds like you are keeping very busy with all those projects! I’m almost afraid to ask how you approach character development since you have such a varied writing style.

AG: I develop characters though a process of discovery. For Madeline, I sketched her out physically and gave her a flaw – she finds it difficult to trust people – and then I started to write some back story for her. I wasn’t happy with the lack of depth when I was done and I turned to something that romance writers use all the time. I read her Tarot. It sounds flakey (or at least it did to me at first) but by doing the Tarot reading I was able to push aside my own personal preferences and dig into Madeline’s psyche. I had to interpret the cards based on what I knew about her.

It turns out that Madeline doesn’t trust easily because when she gives her word it’s for life. She has difficulty making commitments as well because she wants to know she’ll stick with any commitment. Interestingly, this brought forth a habit that I could use. Madeline is a dabbler in learning; she takes courses, does well but gets bored and leaves. This means when she’s in the magical world, she has a bit of grounding in a lot of skills she’ll need. She learned how to ride horses, but still needs the knight to help her get better, and she has taken some martial arts, etc.

Madeline is highly competent and learns quickly; this allows her to integrate quickly – and saves me and the reader from having to wade through her learning curve. She’s also accepting of differences so she doesn’t judge people on first glance.

Unfortunately, despite her external image, she’s not confident in her own skills and talents. She focuses on the fact that she is a lawyer and doesn’t have any understanding that the prophecy brought her to the magical land for something else.

MA: Who did you throw into the story to stand in Madeline’s way? Who’s the antagonist?

AG: Madeline faces two antagonists. Throughout the story she is facing her own demons and is convinced she won’t be able to fulfill the task she was brought there to complete. She is used to being in control and finds it almost impossible to go with the flow and trust that it will all work out – as everyone keeps telling her.

The final antagonist she faces at the end is the enemy who must be killed. He is a marauding creature who is going to destroy the people Madeline is aligned with in fulfillment of an ancient feud. Madeline hopes her task isn’t killing the villain, but worries that it is.

MA: Considering how prolific – and disciplined – you seem to be with your writing, what are your future plans? Any sequels?

AG: I would like to be able to produce two books a year – I am certain I can do a first draft in a month other then November but I haven’t yet been able to prove it.

I also want to write a series, or a trilogy. I am fascinated by the idea of such a sweeping story and I want to explore the process.

The book set in Vancouver BC has always been a series concept. I need to finish this first story and then I already have a germ of an idea for the next one. I think the trick is going to be planting the seeds of the second book into the first, a great new challenge.

MA: Is there any particular challenge for you in writing?

AG: I find writing the romance difficult. The saving grace for me up to now is that the romance has been the secondary plot – important but can be dealt with in revision. I tend to write the story and clumsily insert the romance in the first draft and then thread it back into the story during the first revision pass.

And, my writing group will tell you I am not good with description. I have settings all worked out but I have difficulty putting it on the page. I have learned to insert some setting in as I go along and then each revision pass has a note – add description.

MA: Thanks, Alice, er, P.A.  Folks, please visit Alice Griffiths at: http://www.alicegriffiths.ca/, and visit P.A. Wilson at: http://www.pawilson.ca/

Read More

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Sep 22

“Reader Empathy” An Article by Mary Deal

Reader Empathy

A rejection that I received for a short story caused me to take a look at the beginnings of all my stories, short or book length.

Your reader needs to make a connection with your main character. Your heroine or hero needs to have at least one strong quality with which a reader can empathize. When your readers make such a connection, they experience the story through that character’s senses.

Reader empathy must happen at the top of the story. When your reader cannot find anything about your story or characters to like, interest quickly wanes. Then they may not read deep into the story; if they get so far as to finish, the lack of connection will leave them asking “So what?”

I received a rejection from a magazine editor for my fantasy story about a woman’s experience with a UFO and aliens. While I thought it was one of my best fantasy stories, he said,

“I don’t know what to make of the protagonist’s experience. On one level, I don’t need to know whether they’re real or imaginary, but I didn’t learn enough about her to feel much empathy. Although I can’t use this story, please feel free to submit another.”

This editor didn’t say that I should tell more about my protagonist at the top of the story. Placing additional information at the top is my idea for the re-write. After all, how far into the story will a person read when they cannot find rapport with the main character? This editor, most likely, read or scanned the story all the way through because that’s an editor’s job. A reader is not obligated to do the same.

Another possibility of building rapport exists with the reader learning about the main character as the story unfolds. But again, how far into the story will the reader pay attention in order to build empathy? In the case of my story, I see that I can add two sentences at the very beginning of the story that should solve the problem.

Building reader empathy can happen by revealing anything about the main character that will draw the reader to them. The characteristic may be something that elicits any type of emotion, be it love, pity, admiration, or anything else that helps the reader feel connected to that character.

When your main character is the villain, you must still build a trait into her or his makeup to keep the reader’s eyes glued to the page. In a case like this, it might be someone we love to hate and will keep reading just to see that the villain gets a comeuppance. Yet, how many people write stories from the villain’s point of view?

Usually, stories are written from other than the villain’s POV. Not too many readers want to identify with a villain.

Test this advice next time you read a story or, specifically, when you are looking for a new novel to read. Usually readers test the story by reading the beginning paragraphs or pages. How soon do you make a connection to the main character, or even a secondary character? What was the connection made? Was it strong enough to keep you reading, even purchasing the book?

Clues, such as I received in the rejection, help so very much. If I must receive one, it’s the type of rejection I welcome. I’ve already fixed my story and sent it elsewhere. You can bet I will be sending other stories to this very generous editor. And I’ve already rewritten the beginnings of two of my future novels. Read More

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Sep 17

Women’s Fiction Writer Audrey RL Wyatt Stops by to Visit with Mike Angley

MA: Audrey RL Wyatt is right brained to a fault, so she tells me! Before attacking prose, she exhibited photography in juried shows and worked in theatre; acting, teaching and creating children’s theater curricula. So it was surprising that her writing career began in the non-fiction realms of politics, environment and law.

Finally succumbing to her creative nature, Audrey now writes fiction. Her debut novel, Poles Apart, is a story of family inspired by Audrey’s childhood among Holocaust survivors in Cleveland. Whether it was their silence or the horrific stories they told, their presence left an indelible mark. It has been honored with five awards. Her essays and short fiction, often featuring strong-willed, quirky women, have been published in various forums, both print and online.

Always one to foster aspiring artists, Audrey founded Southeast Valley Fiction Writers near Phoenix, Arizona, and Bay State Writers in Southeast Massachusetts. She gives a good deal of time to area schools and also teaches Memoir Writing to seniors. She is a partner in LitSisters Publishing, a boutique house publishing women writers, as well as a founding member of LitSisters, a networking and support community for writers.

Audrey loves to travel and has enjoyed living all over the country, from the Rockies to Boston Harbor. She currently makes her home in the Valley of the Sun with her incredible husband, their two terrific teenage daughters, and their beagle-basset mix, the Artful Dodger.

(Smiling) So, tell me more about this right brain and how you ended up in the fiction realm.

AW: I’m as right brained as they come. I started in the theatre at the advanced age of six and by the time I finished high school I’d tried every art that didn’t require fine motor dexterity. I wrote a lot, mostly nauseatingly syrupy poetry, and I acted. My mother called me “Audrey Heartburn.” I spent a lot of time on photography after that, having my work exhibited in juried shows. I worked my way through college teaching children’s theatre and creating children’s theatre curricula.

I got my education – college and grad school – and after some time spent at Legal Aid and County Children’s and Family Services I decided to stay home with my kids and write.

MA: You’ve mentioned poetry, and of course I know you’ve written a novel, but is there anything else?

AW: I also write short stories and essays. I think the story finds the writer and dictates what form it will take. But I love the novel form most of all. You have the time to stretch out and relax, letting the story unfold like a beautiful flower.

For me, writing is an exercise of will. On one hand, I will the story to come. On the other, the story will haunt me until I give it voice.

MA: Well said! Tell us about your first novel.

AW: I am a women’s fiction writer. I feel passionately about the stories that resonate with women. Women wear so many hats that nothing is ever simple. I find that intriguing. Poles Apart, my debut novel, is a story of family, of secrets, and of the damage that secrets can do, even over generations. Here’s the book blurb:

CHAIM SCHLESSEL lost his family to the Holocaust more than sixty years ago. He vowed to embrace life and protect his own wife and children from his painful memories and harrowing experiences. Finding solace in his family, his painting and the healing effects of his wife’s cooking, he has kept his nightmares at bay. But when a new neighbor unwittingly triggers the terrors of his past, Chaim is faced with the horrors that increasingly haunt his soul and threaten his sanity.

DAVID SCHLESSEL, grown, married and successful, is plagued by the always taboo subject of his father’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis. As a second generation survivor, he struggles with his father’s unwillingness to discuss the past and his own inability to communicate with those he loves. With his marriage falling apart and his relationship with his own children deteriorating, David, after numerous false starts, ultimately vows to conquer his inner turmoil.

UNITED BY A HISTORY they cannot discuss, yet starkly alone in their private struggles, father and son confront their demons as well as one another in a stand-off that will change them both forever.

All my short stories and essays can be found on my website: www.audreyrlwyatt.com.

MA: The storyline sounds complex. I take it there is more than one hero?

AW: Mine is a parallel plot novel, so the father and son protagonists – Chaim and David – are based on an amalgam of people I knew growing up in Cleveland in the 1960s and 1970s. This is also true of the supporting characters in the novel. I find that once a character is created (and I do a very detailed character chart on each of my characters) they develop a mind of their own and take their story where they see it going.

MA: How about an antagonist?

AW: There is a nemesis in the story. But the bigger nemeses are in the character’s minds and hearts. Their struggles are both internal and external. This is an area where art imitates life. I think people struggle more with internal demons than the external forces that set upon them.

MA: You came to know Holocaust survivors early in your life, and their stories and experiences inspired Poles Apart. Please elaborate.

AW: Well, Chaim is a Holocaust survivor and I grew up around a lot of Holocaust survivors. I heard horrific stories when I was far too young to understand them/put them into context. In fact, it’s interesting how differently we interpret information at different times in our lives. I found the holocaust stories more horrific as an adult than when I initially heard them as a child. As a child it was information without context. But as an adult I had so much more experience and understanding to apply to the information.

MA: Are you working on any new projects?

AW: I’ve just started a new novel called Women’s Work. It’s about four women, life-long friends, who recreate their graduation road trip on its twentieth anniversary. Their lives are now complicated, their baggage much heavier. They have secrets – demons they need to exorcise.

I also have another project in the works called Happy Trails. I originally wrote it as a sitcom treatment and have plans to novelize it.

MA: It sounds like you write standalone novels, and nothing that necessarily lends itself to a sequel. Am I right?

AW: I tell a story until I’m done with it. It all happens in one novel. I don’t really envision any of my books garnering a sequel. As for migrating characters, I won’t completely discount it. But, having lived in a number of places, I set my stories all over the country so the characters are unlikely to meet.

MA: I don’t always ask this question, but why do you write?

AW: I was listening to NPR the other day and they were talking about why writers write. Talk about the coolest topic ever. Though I didn’t listen to the entire show (my work is a demanding taskmaster) I didn’t hear anyone talk about how social media effects the answer to that question. I think everyone wants to be heard above the din. That’s one reason why twitter and facebook are so popular. It’s a way for people to make a mark on the world. For me, writing is how I make my mark. It’s how I am heard above the din.

Along time ago I said, probably flippantly, that if I could affect another person – if my writing could speak to them in some way that benefited them – then I would consider myself a success. Well, like most writers I scan the reviews from time to time. On the Barnes & Noble site there is one lone review. In it, the reader said that he read the book and liked it but that he’d recently had a personal problem that caused him to return to the book. He read it a second time and found help for himself from the characters and story. In other words, something that I wrote helped him. It took my breath away. I spoke to someone through my story, through the characters I created. And that person benefitted. All I could think was that this is what success feels like. It still brings tears to my eyes. The point is that what we as writers do matters and success doesn’t have to be about the NYT best sellers list. Though that wouldn’t hurt.

MA: I second those sentiments. Thanks, Audrey. My readers can learn more about Audrey RL Wyatt and her stories at: http://audreyrlwyatt.com/
Read More

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Sep 15

Mary Deal Outlines “Outlining a Story”

Outlining a Story

Writing a novel, even a short story, and keeping details and action in some semblance of order can be a daunting task. A loose outline, even a simple list of occurrences, can be the best aid to keep you writing on track.

I began using a structured outline but have since been able to keep facts in order by making a running list of plot points and anything else I need to remember.

We all remember learning about outlines in school. To me, they were rigid with a lot of requirements and I spent more time trying to remember how to title the information than getting the data on paper.

As a writer, you will have had more experience with keeping an accumulation of facts in your mind as you pound the keys. Or maybe you’ve gotten lost in all the twists and turns of your story. Here’s some easy help. For example, let’s say your story is about a woman searching for her abducted daughter.

Keep in mind that all stories need the following:

Setup (want)
Rising Action
Reversals
Recognition
Climax
Denouement

Here’s a simple outline to keep the plot on track. My notes in parenthesis are for your understanding and need not appear in your outline unless they further help you.

Title at the Top

1-Abi’s daughter was abducted (told in present time, with some back story (SETUP)

2-Abi learns of a young woman her daughter’s age on Death Row (Rising Action)

a-The inmate faces lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit

3-Twenty-three years have passed but similarities exist between the inmate and Abi’s daughter

a-Abi begins an intense investigation, including DNA, to learn if the inmate is her daughter
b-Abi pays to restore the sight of the only eye witness.

4-While Abi investigates; her home is torched, as is the sole witness’s home (Reversals)

a-With restored sight, the sole witness skips town.
b-Abi discovers an undercurrent, one to get the inmate to pay for crimes of others

5-DNA proves the inmate is Abi’s daughter (Recognition)

a-Abi fights to prove the innocence of the inmate

6-The case goes all the way down to the needle (Climax)

a-The lethal injection chamber

7-How the story ends after all the action plays out; how the characters’ lives are affected by the climax. (Denouement)

For the sake of this newspaper column, everything begins on the left margin. When you make your list, you can indent the a and b lines to set them off to detect them easily.

It’s as simple as that. The Setup should be brief, intense so the reader is drawn into the plot and can’t leave. The bulk of your story will be contained in Rising Action, Reversals and Recognition. The Climax should be unexpected, brief and stunning, or stinging. The Denouement is a wrap up and should never be more than one or two very short chapters. It can also be handled with anything from a few lines to a paragraph or two.

As you work with your outline, you can lengthen any area. I make more notes for the middle portions because that comprises the bulk of the story.

Another form of outlining: Many people prefer to put each new scene on a 3×5 card and write each scene before going on to the next. I prefer to have a running outline which I sometimes print out so I can see the whole story at a glance.

By the way, the story I’ve just outlined is from my latest thriller, “Down to the Needle.” If you read it, you will see most of the book is NOT included in the outline. Outlines are merely the main plot points but can be as detailed or as simple as you can work with. My outline here is simple. The story itself has so many twists and turns that could only happen by not tightly structuring the creativity of my muse. Read More

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Sep 10

Scary Storyteller Julie Achterhoff Returns to Visit with Mike Angley

I’m delighted to welcome back a veteran guest-blogger, Julie Achterhoff. Julie first appeared on my website back on New Year’s Day. If anyone would like to go back and see what Julie and I talked about back then, please visit her original post: Paranormal Suspense Writer Julie Achterhoff Joins Mike Angley Today.

Julie has enjoyed writing since early childhood. She impressed her teachers with her stories written in many genres. One teacher in the eighth grade told her that after reading one of her scary stories she couldn’t sleep all night! Julie didn’t start writing seriously until after raising her five children on her own. During this time she worked as a homebirth midwife. Her first published work was a novella titled Native Vengeance. This was followed by her fictional thriller, Quantum Earth. Deadly Lucidity is her most recent thriller.

Welcome back, Julie! Please remind my readers what brought you to writing fiction, especially scary stuff.

JA: I have always loved reading, especially horror and thriller type books. They scared me to death as a kid, but I read whatever my mother handed down to me, so I was kind of forced into it! I read a lot of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and I’ll never forget Tales of the Cthulu Mythos. I guess I figured that it was fun to scare people with your writing. My first major writing, though, was a play I wrote for a women’s lit class I took a few years ago, which wasn’t horrific in the least. It was about three women in three different centuries, and the struggles each of them had being women writers. It’s called Angel In The House. Before my writing career began I delivered babies at home, something completely different from writing!

I think I chose novels because I feel like writers can have such a huge impact on people if they write well enough. I started writing a few novels over the years, but never had the extra time until recently to actually finish one. Whenever I was writing, I just got the greatest feeling! It made me feel excited and important. I could just imagine other people reading my words and maybe really liking what they read. It was a thrill just thinking about it.

MA: I’m excited to hear about your latest release, Deadly Lucidity, since it came out after our first interview. Tell us about it.

JA: Marie is kind of an eccentric woman who has learned to stay lucid during her dreams. That means she is totally conscious when in the dream state. She can go where she wants to and do anything. But she suddenly starts dreaming about a crazed psychopath who is trying to kill her. Then, her dreams become so real that she becomes trapped in them. They are becoming more and more bizarre, too. She meets a man named Murphy, who ends up helping her try to escape this nightmare. They journey together towards a place they’ve been told is a way out, while trying to stay one step ahead of the psychopath, among other strange beings and situations. Marie’s growing passion for Murphy causes her to have to make some tough choices, though. How can she leave her “dream man” behind?

MA: I use the lucid dream device in my own writing, as well. I think it’s an interesting literary device. Tell us more about Marie.

JA: Marie starts off being in therapy, relying on medication to prevent recurring panic attacks and general anxiety. She is basically alone in the world. Her only “real” friends are in her dreams. She is also a writer. I kind of modeled her after myself, only more of a caricature of me. Through her dream experiences she is pretty much forced to come into her own power. She doesn’t have much choice but to become stronger and grow. There are some weak moments for her, of course, but she overcomes the obstacles that come her way to save her own life.

MA: What are her strengths and weaknesses?

JA: Marie is very fearful. She doesn’t want to go on. She hides in her own little world, writing day after day. She doesn’t realize her true strengths until she is faced with people and situations that will make or break her. Her whole world is turned upside down, which presents challenges she has never even considered before this. All she can do is pull herself out of the way she was, and on the way changes from a caterpillar into a butterfly.

MA: Nice. You mentioned the psycho in her dreams. I take it he’s the main antagonist?

JA: Oh, yes. This crazy lunatic that is chasing her down is a real weirdo! He has somehow fixated on her, and his only goal is to torture and kill Marie. He also has some really interesting idiosyncrasies. All I’ll say is that she gets into some very tight spots with this guy!

MA: Not many people have experienced lucid dreams in reality (I have, and find them wonderful). Have you had the experience?

JA: Yes. I’ve had some very lucid dreams myself. Some of them have been nightmares that I’ve had a tough time getting out of. This book was actually inspired by one of them. I thought I woke up from a perfectly nice dream, when in reality I went straight into the realest nightmare I’ve ever had! I actually thought it was really happening. Luckily, I was finally able to really wake myself up, but I was practically hysterical. It took quite a while to calm myself down.

MA: So, now that Deadly Lucidity is out of the chute, so to speak, what’s next?

JA: I’m almost finished with my third book titled Earthwalker. It takes a completely fresh approach to the world of vampires. In it, vampires originated from another planet, and have a common ancestry with humans. It’s only when they live on Earth for too long that they get a taste for human blood. On their own planet they only drink animal blood, and are even more civilized and advanced technologically than humans. One of them crashes his spaceship in the wilderness near where a young woman named Willa is camping. He is severely burned, and she nurses him back to health. His English name is Paul, and the two fall in love. But that’s just the beginning. They must go through many terrible situations together before their story is told. Both of them are stretched to their very limits.

MA: Well, the vampire storyline is certainly popular these days. Maybe you can become the next Stephenie Meyer . I know you have a blog called Julie Achterhoff’s Blog, but what else would you like my readers to know?
JA: I had a video trailer made for Deadly Lucidity, which can be found at: http://www.associatedcontent.com/video/687534/book_video_trailer_deadly_lucidity.html?cat=38

Readers can also read part of the book at: http://www.freado.com/book/6046/Deadly-Lucidity

It can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984421904?ie=UTF8&force-full-site=1

It’s now on sale on Kindle for $3.19

Here is a review by Apex Reviews:

4.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging Suspense Thriller, June 16, 2010

Caught in a dream world from which she can’t escape, Marie finds herself hunted by a dangerous psychopath. Her situation is far from hopeless, though, as a handsome Ranger named Murphy vows both to protect her and help her find a way back to the real world. Over the course of their shared adventures, Marie looks very much forward to getting her life back to normal – but her growing passion for Murphy makes the prospect of leaving him behind an increasingly difficult choice to make…

Skillfully crafted by author Julie Achterhoff, Deadly Lucidity is an engaging suspense thriller. In it, Achterhoff has crafted a compelling alternate nether world straight out of the darkest regions of any imagination. In addition, as Marie wends her way through a series of increasingly perilous events, you find yourself rooting not-so-silently on her behalf, turning each fresh page in rapt anticipation of precisely what fate awaits her as the story progresses. Furthermore, the genuine affection that she and Murphy feel for one another adds a layer of palpable tension to the overall tale, drawing the reader in even more as this modern twist on the age-old tale of good vs. evil plays itself out in fantastical fashion.

A dynamic, riveting thriller with a host of intriguing twists, Deadly Lucidity is a recommended read for lovers of well crafted fantasy suspense tales.

Chelsea Perry
Apex Reviews
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Sep 08

Mary Deal Tells Us to “Get Away from that Story”

Get Away From That Story

What writers visualize for a plot, and what they actually write into a story, may be two different versions.

Most writers know their stories by heart, including every single bit of researched information they learn before they write the first draft. With a lengthy manuscript, writers cannot and should not include all of the facts they hold in memory. When the writer re-reads the manuscript some time later, it is normal to wonder if readers will perceive what they, the writer, intended to say, according to the scant details they selectively included in order to write lean.
When writers write as fresh creativity flows, they visualize much more of the story in their minds than makes it to paper or monitor screen. Details crowd their thinking, yet, they actually write only carefully selected scenes and dialog that move the story along.
Writers like to think they have included all of what they have learned about their subject. They hope they are presenting the material in such a way that the reader will understand. To be the best judge of that, time away from the story allows a writer to determine if they got their point across. This is something very difficult to determine after having just completed a first draft. Reading at a later time allows a fresh view of the overall composition. The writer becomes a reader instead of the author, and determines whether the story was told as originally intended. Only then can the areas that need fleshing out, cut or re-written be seen.
Many writers may find that what was in their minds and what they actually wrote are two separate versions of the same story. Remembering all the information gained through research before the writing, and later seeing what’s been included in the story, tighter editing can begin anew. Read More

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Sep 03

All the Way from Australia Comes Romantic Comedy Author, Sylvia Massara to Guest with Mike Angley

MA: Today’s guest flew in all the way from Australia…seriously, just to be on my blog . Sylvia Massara has been writing since her early teens. She has written in a variety of genres, from stage plays to screenplays to novels. Since she can remember, she’s loved immersing herself in a world filled with characters of her own creation—so it only seemed natural that she would become a writer. But before she became a writer, Sylvia had a career in Human Resources and she also ‘tinkered’ in her other love – acting. For a full bio on Sylvia, please visit her website: www.sylviamassara.com
Tell us more about what you did before becoming a writer.
SM: Prior to embarking on my writing career, I spent many years in the corporate world being a HR Manager, a Trainer/Lecturer, and most recently a Business Consultant. Having said this, my true love has always been acting. I can remember wanting to be an actress since the age of 5. I was in lots of school productions, and later in amateur theatre. I also did a stint (when I was in between jobs) as an extra in some Aussie soapies, where I rubbed shoulders with actresses such as Melissa George and Isla Fisher, whom I believe made a bit of a name for themselves in the US. I was also in TV commercials and a couple of documentaries.
MA: I can see how your acting and creative beginnings brought you to writing fiction.
SM: Well, I always lived my life in what you might call a ‘world of make believe’. Even now I do this. Ever since I can remember I always caught myself day dreaming; and I usually run several plots through my head at any given time. So I guess it was natural for me to progress to a career as a writer. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and I always loved it.
MA: Tell us how this daydreaming resulted in your new novel.
SM: ‘The Other Boyfriend’, which I have just released in ebook format, is a quirky romantic comedy in the style of ‘Bridget Jones’. My heroine is a little bit scheming, trying to get her man by any means possible, but she’s also naïve and rather impulsive in her approach – and this is what gets her into trouble. The whole premise of the story is that she’s in love with a guy who is already in a relationship (albeit a relationship that has been platonic for many years), and Sarah, the heroine, comes up with the idea to find a ‘boyfriend’ for her man’s partner. All Sarah wants is to get this woman out of her life and she’ll pretty much stop at nothing in order to do it. Sarah’s best friend comes to the rescue by suggesting a male friend of hers – a so-called ‘lady killer’ – to romance the other woman away from Sarah’s man, and Sarah goes along with it. What she doesn’t expect is that she finds herself inexplicably attracted to her ‘partner in crime’ or ‘the other boyfriend’ as he’s dubbed in the story, and suddenly her world is turned upside down.
I’d say this book is ‘chick lit’ or ‘romance’, if you’d like to call it that. But I’ve had feedback from several male readers, and they loved it. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill love story. It’s more a story filled with a bit of scheming, plenty of humor, witty dialogue, some wacky characters and a few very unexpected turn of events.
MA: I must confess I don’t know the chick lit or romance sub-genres well. How did you go about crafting Sarah’s character?
SM: I have to say that I was inspired to write this story because Sarah is based on a life experience of mine. Of course, the whole story is highly fictionalized. But the love triangle, betrayal and the lessons Sarah learns along the way are similar to what I (and probably millions of other women out there) went through. And, I have to add, that Sarah has just turned 40 in the story, so she’s not your typical ‘perfect female’ romance character. She’s a mature woman full of flaws, trying to capture as much time as possible before it’s all too late. She wants to have it all: everlasting love, a family and a business before the big M catches up with her (the big M being menopause).
MA: (Smiling, wiping brow). I got that. What are Sarah’s strengths and weaknesses?
SM: Sarah is determined, if anything, to go after her dream, but she’s also vulnerable and rather naïve. The positive thing about her is that she is able to face harsh reality when things don’t turn out as she’d planned, and she is able to acknowledge that she didn’t act in the most honorable way in relation to her man’s partner. Ultimately, however, Sarah learns a few good lessons, and she comes out of her situation a stronger and more mature woman who is ready for a serious kind of love and commitment.
MA: Who’s the bad guy – there has to be one!
SM: There is. Jeffrey is the guy Sarah is trying to land. He is the one who leads her to believe that he’s no longer interested in his partner, Moira. He’s the one who keeps Sarah trying to do a balancing act. Half the time she doesn’t know whether he’s serious or not; whether he loves her or not. And there are other things Sarah doesn’t know about Jeffrey … until it’s too late. But I won’t say anymore or I’ll give the story away. Let’s just say that Jeffrey is the ‘super rat’ or ‘the charming bastard’ of the story
MA: I know you mentioned there are some elements of your own personal life in the story, if not every woman’s story. Did I get that right?
SM: The answer is YES. I already said that Sarah’s situation reflects something of what happened to me (and to many other women out there). Of course, all the characters are fictional, as is the storyline, but I guess you could say that there are little things in this story that were inspired by real life events.
MA: So what’s next?
SM: Towards the end of August, 2010, I will be releasing a totally different novel to this one, entitled ‘The Soul Bearers’. This one a life drama, inspired by true life events. It’s a story about courage, friendship and unconditional love. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, really. So I advise having a box of tissues on hand.
I’m also in the process of planning my third book. This one will once again be a quirky romantic comedy, only this time the main character will feature in future stories.
MA: You have been an entertaining guest, and it’s not often that I blush during an interview. Is there anything you’d like my readers to know as we close?
SM: Both ‘The Other Boyfriend’ and ‘The Soul Bearers’ are available from Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu. In the next two months or so the books will also be available on paperback. I’ll be keeping readers up to date through my blog: www.sylviamassara.com.
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Sep 01

“Drop the Words” (Put Your Hands Up! Back Away from the Keyboard!) by Mary Deal

Drop the Words

Colloquialism and slang have their place in diction. That applies to both fiction and nonfiction. However, it doesn’t fit in proper grammar usage when attempting to make your story or book, fiction or nonfiction, the best that it can be.

Consider these:

Eat it up
Where are you at?

Read these sentences again, only this time, substitute the word “down” in place of “up.”

In the first example, how can you “eat it up” if you can’t “eat it down?” Simply put, you “eat it.”

In the second sentence the words “where” and “at” are synonymous as to location. You may as well ask, “Where are you where?” Properly asked, it’s “Where are you?”

When writing, in proper grammar usage, some words need to be dropped from sentences all together. However, if you develop a story character who speaks using these colloquialisms, then his or her diction must be established the first time that character speaks. And further, the character’s language must follow through with similar jargon anytime his or her dialogue is included.

Written dialogue allows for misusages of grammar. It enhances drawls, brogues, and general linguistics found in varying regions and among groups of people. However, in writing narrative, drop the words that make your writing look amateurish and you, the author, unprofessional. Dropping the poor grammar in the narrative portions of stories sets the dialogue apart, which is a must. and draws attention to the uniqueness of each character.

An exception is when the narrator intends to make the narration sounds like the storyteller speaks that way. An example would be when a person from the deep south is telling his life story. We know it’s about him in his own words. We allow for his dialect in both the narration and dialogue. Or a person with a foreign accent tells his or her story; then the narration and dialogue will have great similarities.

With the exception of the above example, and particularly in the editing stage, drop the words that do nothing but distract from the value of the sentence.
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