Mar 19

‘No Remorse’ Thriller Author, Ian Wakley, Visits with Mike Angley

MA: I’m pleased to introduce my guest author today, Ian Wakley. Ian is a social and market researcher by profession, investigating the motivations behind human behavior and product purchases. He has pursued his personal passion and written a thriller novel called No Remorse.

Ian, welcome to my blog. How did you decide to become a professional writer?

IW: I used to travel a great deal, and would often buy a novel in the airport bookstore. I thought how great it would be to be able to write a Ludlum, or a Clancy or a Wilbur Smith. Three years ago I was running a research agency and my kids had almost finished school, so I decided to give it a shot. Sold my share of the business and became a writer. Just like that.

MA: Why novels and now a book about the marketing profession?

IW: Since I was young I’ve tended to read novels rather than non-fiction. Probably an escapist mentality. To me, writing non-fiction is the province of journalists. Writing fiction is something anyone can have a crack at. Of course, being good at it is another thing altogether. It took me three years to figure out the basics of creative writing. It’s not as simple actually writing a novel as it is saying “I’d love to write a novel.” I enjoy learning about the techniques of writing, and I expect that I’ll still be learning at the end.

MA: That’s very true! So tell us about your thriller.

IW: No Remorse is an action thriller. I’ve written it as a page-turner. It’s plot driven, with short chapters, action in every chapter. Not so much of a suspense thriller, although there is mystery and conspiracy in there. Lee McCloud is a special operations guy whose best friend’s daughter and another girl are kidnapped in Mexico. He and three other Delta operators try to rescue them, but the attempt fails. McCloud is forced to leave the army and work for a CIA front stealing money from terrorist backers. Meantime, he’s still searching for the two girls, and the trail leads to a Saudi exiled billionaire, Sheik Khalid, who has big plans for one of the girls. I won’t spoil it by elaborating. Suffice to say there are numerous subplots and you won’t know what’s going to happen next.

MA: How did you develop McCloud’s character?

IW: I’ve always had an interest in all things military, so I guess maybe it’s a way of linking this interest with my writing. The skills needed by the protagonist McCloud had to be appropriate to the plot, in this case he needed physical strength, surveillance and shooting skills, and extreme determination. I could have chosen a cop or a fireman or maybe someone who was ex-Army, but when I started writing the book Iraq was still happening and there was a great deal of interest in military heroes. Still is, I think.

MA: I don’t think military characters are ever out of vogue. Tell us more about your hero.

IW: McCloud is a special ops guy, trained for the toughest missions, deniable, highly intelligent, used to making quick decisions under extreme pressure. But his bosses worry about whether someone like that can be controlled. And indeed, McCloud is something of a loose cannon. He has also had some failed relationships with women, including a fiancée who dumped him for his brother four weeks before their wedding day. So McCloud has some trust issues, particularly with women.

MA: And your antagonist, Sheik Khalid?

IW: A few readers have said that I have given more depth to the antagonist – Sheik Khalid – than to McCloud himself. I have to confess I enjoyed writing the bad guy. Many fiction writers do. Khalid is incredibly wealthy, but he doesn’t really have any close relationships. He expects obedience, and the one person who is beyond his control is his personal trainer, Sheriti, who teaches him about tantric sex. He wants her as his fourth wife. Meanwhile, Khalid has big, bad plans…

MA: It doesn’t sound like you have any personal experiences in the military or black ops, or do you?

IW: Not in an autobiographical sense. But I enjoy the research side of writing, including traveling to places featured in the book, except for the fictional island of Andaran. I’ve shot sniper rifles, and been on board luxury yachts. And I’ve met lots of eccentric characters.

MA: Now that you have No Remorse out the chute, are you working on something  new?

IW: I’m currently writing my second novel, Bait, which is more of a suspense mystery, but still with plenty of action. The protagonist is a tough female cop in Australia, who is posted to a country town to investigate some backpacker disappearances. There she finds an American she had resettled some years earlier under the witness protection program, and with whom she had a brief relationship. After I’ve finished Bait, I’ll be starting on the sequel to No Remorse. Lots of readers are on my back about that.

MA: I take it some of your main characters from No Remorse will reappear in this sequel story?

IW: Yes, McCloud and Tally will be in the sequel, and I have some other characters in No Remorse that could feature in sequels, or maybe their own series. An assassin named Anastia, and a Mossad agent are two of these.

MA: Give us some websites and information about where my readers can find your stories.

IW: No Remorse is available in good bookstores and online stores. Bait will be available in late 2012.

No Remorse Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Remorse/311150275607839

www.ianwalkley.com

www.facebook.com/ianjwalkley

www.twitter.com/ianjwalkley

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Mar 14

Mary Deal Talks about How to Doom a Writing Career!

How to Doom A Writing Career

by

Mary Deal

Quite often, I read a writer’s first book and feel sad for that author. But let me digress.

My first published novel, The Tropics (with 3 subtitles on the cover) was a mess. I was in such a hurry to have a book of my own and start a lucrative career. I accepted my publisher’s editor’s critiques as to mean my book was perfect. What I didn’t realize is that the editor would offer a vague critique of the story overall. He or she did not critique on grammar and composition.

Once The Tropics was published and local friends began reading it, I found it difficult to understand why they didn’t give me glowing comments. They even looked at me in a strange sort of way.

I then read the published book myself and saw the error of my ways. Unfortunately, errors and discrepancies show up better in a published book. Grammar, punctuation, composition, sentence structure, typos and just about everything lacked true polish. A dear friend offered to do a rush edit when I said that I knew I had get help and republish. Her edit totally surprised me in how I could have made my first book so much better from the beginning, without allowing such a flawed book to hit the market. I republished The Tropics within two months. Then I began to resume intensely studying writing like I had never done before.

Knowing what I had to do to make my book acceptable, today when I read a writer’s first effort, and especially when I hear they plan to do nothing to improve it, I feel their writing career may be doomed from the beginning.

Many writers are so in a hurry to have their first book published, they are blind to the errors they’ve made, or thinking their subsequent books will be better. That’s just not the case. Without acknowledging errors in the first book, and perhaps republishing, they will continue to make the same errors in each new book. One person told me, “I’ll get better as I write more books.” This is a poor premise to allow. The first book is a major factor in determining if a reader will follow a new author into reading their next book.

Getting better as a writer progresses is a horrible misconception. Getting better does happen as a writer hones their craft, but that will not be done without acknowledging errors already made. A writer cannot allow the belief that a reader will read their subsequent books. Most writers feel they are telling a new story that readers will love. The plot and unique setting may be great, but if all the elements of good writing are far from perfect, readers will not even pick up the next book by that author off the shelf – or download it, even though eBooks are less expensive.

If your first book isn’t selling the way you thought it would –

If you haven’t had a thorough edit from a trusted, knowledgeable stranger or a professional editor –

If you’ve spent a lot of time and promotional funding and it still doesn’t sell –

If the sales of your second book are much fewer than your first –

All these are reasons for the author to re-examine exactly what it is they have put out for public consumption.

At the point where writers feel they must hurry and get their book published is the point when they need to cease and desist and literally assume something will go wrong because they work in haste.

It is better to have a book take an extra few months to receive an edit and be made as perfect as possible – than to rush and produce something flawed.

Once having been a new writer, I felt my book would set flame to the writing industry. All writers feel their books are unique. Simply put, that is ego speaking from lack of experience. It could doom a career.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

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Mar 12

Lotus Landry Returns to Talk About Her New Cozy Mystery, ‘DOA in the HOA’

MA: I’m pleased to welcome back to my blog Lotus Landry, author of Skookum Man, who first guested with me back in October 2010. You can go back and read about her debut appearance with me here: Western Romance, Chick Lit, Feminist…all Descriptions of Mike Angley’s Guest Author, Lotus Landry and her Novel, ‘Skookum Man.’

Welcome back, Lotus! I know you are anxious to talk about your second novel, but remind us again why you chose novel writing in the first place when you penned Skookum Man.

LL: I had a strong romance plot in mind for my first novel, Skookum Man, set in the Pacific Northwest.  The plot plays off the dynamics of how a fur trapper’s original native family is confronted by a second refined imported wife from abroad. I especially wanted to portray a feminist spirit in the wilderness of the 1800s. I grew up in the Northwest and was aware of the stories about the fur trapping economy and the schooners.

But the second book, DOA in the HOA, is set in modern Southern California where I have lived for some time. The economic and social focus has undergone such a complete transition that I wanted to reflect this newer  lifestyle—to even exaggerate it—in the novel. Most of the community residents have occupations that were not typical fifteen years ago.   For instance, there is a housing stager, a uniformed dog employee at LAX, a document shredder, and some career criminals. There is also a rise in the importance of the pet culture and the pet economy. (As for the human economy in the story? Airline flight cabins become dysfunctional. Government finance becomes dysfunctional. Exploding hedge funds become dysfunctional. Socially networked coworkers become dysfunctional.)

MA: That’s quite a different setting from the Pacific Northwest. What does DOA in the HOA mean? What’s it about?

LL: This translates as ‘Dead on Arrival in the Homeowners Association’. Roommates, Christine Amador and Pistachio, team up to solve a mystery that starts in their Southern California neighborhood. The neighborhood, filled with quirky pets and people, is managed by a Homeowners Association.

The police tell them there is no credible evidence a crime was committed. Will Christine’s computer acumen and Pistachio’s skills as an exhibition cage fighter help them solve this Cozy Mystery?  The book contains iconic features of Orange County and its history (including fruit fly emergencies, bears, red tides and such).

MA: Are you a martial arts expert or did you do some research to help you develop Pistachio?

LL: I did research on exercises of mixed martial arts for the character of ‘Pistachio’. I also visited a facility and watched videos and followed female fighter web pages.

MA: And Christine?

LL: Christine is worried throughout the story, but she admits that she gets too distracted sometimes by everyday business (as an Online Social Reputation Manager) to resolve problems.   For instance, she can’t explain the absence of someone she depends upon and wonders if her ex-husband is connected to her problems.

MA: Did any of your real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?

LL: Excellent Question!  Two factors helped to germinate the book.

1)  I couldn’t understand why some of my close relatives attend cage-fights. In fact, one of my relatives has two personal trainers. He does workouts to avert weight and cardiac problems. It works for him. I wanted to understand their hobby better and that is one reason I undertook this book. I made one of the female characters a cage-fighter.

2)  My hairdresser was witness to a murder where the discovery of the victim hinged on the finding of a breast implant (with serial number) inside of a body floating in the Newport Harbor. A similar object confounds Christine in my fictional novel, but I won’t give it away here.

MA: Will there be any spin-off stories from either the DOA in the HOA or Skookum Man?

LL: My subtitle, “A Christine Amador Mystery” does open the door to having a sequel, especially if a plot about online sleuthing comes onto my radar.

MA: Do you write anything other than novels?

LL: I have enjoyed writing socially networked blogs (27 of these) about various topics, including travel ones about places I have visited on the West Coast.

The travel ones have titles such as:

Oregon Nostalgia

Houseguests in the OC

Palm Springs Follies

Other current blogs I write try to involve people in using their hands in doing crafts. It turns out that the craft articles about ‘making things’ are the most popular. (I have a hunch that it is part of human nature to want to make things.)

MA: Lotus – thanks for stopping by and telling us all about DOA in the HOA.  If my readers want to learn more, please visit: www.matooskie.com.

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Mar 07

‘From Audacity to Self-Confidence’ by Mary Deal

From Audacity to Self-Confidence

by

Mary Deal

When writing, you should be emotionally pumped up to meet any challenges of your plot. Instead of wondering if you should write this or that, stop censuring yourself. Write it. Through the audacity of daring yourself, you turn your creativity loose.

Yes, there are barriers in how you write, but not what you write. Those barriers keep you writing sensibly and for the reading market. If your genre is a romance, sex or bedroom scenes may be obligatory. In fact, sex is obligatory in just about anything these days. But the type of sex scene will vary from one genre to another. I use the obligatory scene only as an example to show that styles of writing differ with each genre; also, to show that you need to have the audacity to write what your genre demands. Audacity lets you test the boundaries of the genre to make your story as exciting and true as possible. Without audacity, your story may end up being a flat read.

However, when it comes to having a finished product and touting your book to the public, audacity must be tempered. It is done through attitude. You cannot come across as a know-it-all to those who would learn from you and buy your book. In fact, you should be seeing yourself as helping others write their stories. You don’t have to offer classes and teach, just be there for people when you speak with them and they ask questions. It’s a subtle change of attitude from audacity to self-confidence.

Too, misused audacity can kill an author’s chances of gaining a wide reading audience. Nothing hurts more than to tout your book as something it hasn’t yet proven to be.

How many times have you read someone saying their book is destined to become a classic, or destined to become a blockbuster. Authors cannot make any such claims of their own books. These types of claims or reviews need to be made by people whose word carries weight, like book reviewers and other important people who didn’t have a hand in the writing of it. How can an author know if their book will become a blockbuster, and so on. The proof is in the reading and reviewing by significant others, and that doesn’t include family.

Something else authors mistakenly do when promoting their book is to compare it to another popular book:

Jane Eyre meets Gone with the Wind.

Spider Woman meets Wonder Woman.

Any such comparisons are foolish and career breaking. Your book is not about anything but what you’ve written until it’s tested in the reading market.

In touting your book, certain protocols need be followed. You cannot…

…say your book is the greatest

…say your characters are like this one or that one in any other story

…compare yourself to any other writer

Audacity has two faces and they need to be practiced. First, as a writer to release total creativity into the process of writing; second, to learn how to present yourself as a self-confident author who’s finished a book and doesn’t allow an over-inflated ego to get in the way of further success.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

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Dec 28

Mary Deal Writes About “Scene Changes” On The Child Finder Trilogy

Scene Changes

by

Mary Deal

A scene ends when the action ends or the conversation can add no more to that part of the story. Maybe one scene is in the grocery store; the next scene is outside on the docks. Usually when a huge shift in location happens, you begin a new chapter.

(Don’t try to write a sequel to “My Dinner with Andre” which happened totally in one scene at the dinner table. It’s been done and was successful because the actors were good.)

When you end a scene, leave the reader wondering what could happen next and wanting to read further. It’s called a cliff hanger. Leave something unfinished, like a threat of action yet to happen and we can see one character gearing up to do some dirty work. The reader wonders what could possible happen next? And so they keep turning pages.

Or maybe it’s a romance and you end the scene with two people simply staring into each others’ eyes wondering if they could work as a couple.

When you move to the next scene, jump into the middle of it. Use very little narration to set the scene. Best is to knit the action, narration and dialogue together.

Depending on how you present your story, you do not need to have each new scene be a result of another. In other words, that cute couple I just mentioned are staring into each other’s eyes. You wouldn’t and shouldn’t start you next chapter with them in a new location, still cuddling up to get to know each other. Once you introduce that they are mutually attracted, the next scene (the whole story middle) should have action that pulls them apart. Every couple has baggage to air before they become a couple. Regardless what background or location you place them in, the action must be lively.

Keep the idea of a cliff hanger in mind when you finish your chapters.

Cliff hanger = An exciting hint of things to come; something to make the reader want to know more.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

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Dec 21

“Sleep & Creativity” By Mary Deal…Another Great Article On The Child Finder Trilogy

Sleep and Creativity

by

Mary Deal

Want to wake in the morning with more creativity? Then pay attention to what’s on your mind when you fall asleep.

Research has proven that the mind uses its most recent daytime images and thoughts to create dreams. So, too, the mind produces the mood with which you wake after sleeping.

No matter what story you work on, do not think about it as you fall asleep. Instead, before going to bed, do something to put you in a relaxed state. Play some soothing music, preferably without vocals, which can plant new thoughts. Yoga, maybe? Or walking? If you’re one of those people who fall into bed exhausted, then concentrate only on your breathing. Then trust your mind to work on what’s necessary since you’ve put it at ease.

The state you wish to create for your mind is one that you have not directed. The mind knows what’s necessary, better than you know what’s important. Get into the habit of allowing your mind to work for you.

You’ve heard the saying, “I’ll sleep on it.” Then the person goes about doing something else. In the morning, the answer comes. It’s the same principle. Trust your mind. Your writing and creativity will be better for it.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

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Dec 16

Nancy Ellen Dodd Visits Mike Angley and Discusses Her Advice for Writers

MA: My special guest today is Nancy Ellen Dodd. She is a writer with many voices, a university instructor, and an editor. She received her master’s in Professional Writing (MPW, which is a multi-discipline approach to writing) from the University of Southern California with a concentration in dramatic writing/screenwriting and her MFA in playwriting at USC’s School of Theatre. Having studied writing for more than 25 years, Dodd currently teaches screenwriting at Pepperdine University to undergraduate and graduate students.

Her book, The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages, covers the full creative writing process from which she draws lessons for her classes. The Writer’s Compass teaches the writer how to develop and focus their ideas, the use of a story map, and building the story through 7 productive development stages. Published by Writer’s Digest Books, the book was released in June 2011.

Dodd has received numerous awards for her writing, which includes screenplays, plays, short stories, short films, and novel-length works, as well as inspirational writing. Some of her short stories have been read on public radio. She also studied writing with several successful, award-winning writers: Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Paul Zindel; playwrights Velina Hasu-Houston, Oliver Mayer, David Milton, and Lee Wochner; screen and television writer Sy Gomberg; and international poet James Ragan.

Currently on faculty at the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University, Dodd serves as academic editor of the Graziadio Business Review, an online peer-reviewed business practitioner’s journal with over 500,000 page visits per year, 35% of those international. She also produces and edits video and audio interviews for the journal. Dodd’s journalistic career includes publishing more than 130 articles in local and national publications including interviews with celebrities and business leaders.

Well, that’s a pretty impressive background! It’s obvious that writing has been a major part of your life.

NED: For more than 25 years I’ve studied writing in all forms. This led me to having several articles and some short stories published, then to two master’s degrees in writing. From there I’ve had some of my work produced and received several awards and acknowledgements for my writing. It also led me to two stints as editor of two magazines and now academic editor of a peer-reviewed journal as a faculty member at Pepperdine University. Plus I teach screenwriting to undergraduates and graduate students there. I write in all forms: fiction and nonfiction; novels, screenplays, plays, short stories, and some inspirational prose. Most recently I’ve written The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages, about the creative writing process for developing stories based on what I’ve learned from thousands of hours of lectures, books, seminars, and two graduate degrees. The book teaches how to use a story map as a tool for developing your story and how to write your story more efficiently in seven stages.

MA: You have such a variety of writing experiences. Tell us, from your perspective,  what is the difference between writing a novel and other forms of writing?

NED: People often ask me what my favorite form of writing is. I think it is always whatever form I’m writing in. That being said, there is something special about the novel. You can really evolve and develop the characters and the setting and the emotions in a novel. You can write it however you want. It can be formulaic or completely different from anything else out there. You can write sequels to infinity, or confine the story to a couple hundred pages. A novel gives you an intimate look at the story and characters in a way no other form can quite match. Other forms of writing have more rigid requirements for how the story is written on the page and different challenges and are much more restricted.

MA: How do you see character development, and do you address it in your books about writing?

NED: I’ve heard it said that most of our writing is a reflection of the people we know, of our selves, and also from our own experiences. Characters are often compilations of characteristics that we find interesting from what we’ve seen in others, or read, or watched on television. Unfortunately, if you draw your characters too much from fictional sources, as opposed to real people, your characters are flatter and more two-dimensional. In The Writer’s Compass there is a large section on characterization to help you draw out a fully rounded character that feels real—like someone your readers could know.

MA: What is your advice to writers about how to approach developing their protagonists?

NED: The development of the protagonist is something that takes time. We start with a glimmer of who the character is, but to write the truth about how he or she would behave takes knowing your character better than you know anyone else, perhaps even yourself. To write a gripping character you have to know what motivates her or him, what would destroy the character, what would force the character to take action, and what the character would do when their back is to the wall. When you know your character that well, and you have developed that character in your writing, you can take the story to the next level and surprise your reader with what your character does next, instead of the expected, and make it believable.

MA: How important is it t have strengths and weaknesses when developing characters for a novel?

NED: The strengths and weaknesses you give your character are critical to making your story believable. I recently read a book, published by a major publishing house, in which the author kept telling me that the protagonist was this disciplined martial arts expert and showed me the character spending time every day practicing with a sword in the back yard and freaking out the neighbors. However, the character did not act or react with the discipline that someone this focused on martial arts would have. His daily routine was to get drunk and eat poorly. He couldn’t stay focused on the task of finding his kidnapped girlfriend and his decision-making process was very faulty. The character and the book were totally unbelievable because the author told me who this character was supposed to be, but the entire novel showed me that the character’s behavior did not match who the author wanted me to believe the character was.

A hero should have weaknesses or a vulnerability, even Superman was allergic to kryptonite, but those weaknesses should be organic and make sense in the context of who the character is supposed to be. And the hero’s strength or weakness can be the opposite to what the reader anticipates or even the unexpected, as long as the writer gives the character a strong reason for having that flaw or that strength. If the reader doesn’t buy what you are saying, then neither your hero nor your story will have credibility. Which, of course, takes us back to knowing your character well.

MA: Great insight! You must have something to say about developing an antagonist.

NED: Creating an antagonist or a nemesis for a story is an interesting process. Often my students will say they don’t have one, and it’s true, some stories don’t need a particular “bad guy.” However, having a specific nemesis usually brings more tension to the story and creates obstacles for the hero to overcome or fight against, creating the action in the story. It may not be a person. It could be natural forces such as a hurricane or being lost in the heat of a desert. It could be an animal like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park or a bear in the Alaskan wilderness. It could be the protagonist is her or his own enemy, fighting addictions or emotions or a change in their life. It can be an organization that is trying to destroy the protagonist or that the hero is trying to stop from doing something bad. The antagonist could also be a good person trying to keep the protagonist from making a “mistake” or wrong decision in their life, even if it turns out not to be one. When you turn a vague problem into an actual thinking (or appears to have the power to think) enemy, you will find more ideas for building your story.

MA: What about using real-life experiences in the plot?

NED: Writers often have interesting stories to tell or to interpret through fiction, but it can be very difficult to have the perspective needed to tell the story, without the passage of time and the benefit of knowing the outcome down the road. I think it is very difficult not to incorporate some facet of our real lives and experiences into everything we write, even if we fictionalize them. Which can be a way of working through the incident or changing the outcome.

My students sometimes want to write about real events that happened to them or their family. I try to discourage them from doing so. The problem is that in one semester they only have time to scratch the surface of what can be a very traumatic experience for them. I don’t want my class to end and one of my students to be in the middle of an emotional crisis. In some cases I tell them that I will only allow them to write that story if they agree to get some counseling while they are doing so.

MA: What are you planning for your next writing project?

NED: Currently, we are in pre-production for one of my screenplays. I’m also working on a final rewrite of one of my plays and of a novel I’ve been working on for some time. I’m also putting together a collection of short stories. There is no shortage of projects, it is time I find difficult to come by.

MA: Any final thoughts or advice for my readers?

NED: This is an amazing time for writers. There are so many ways to get your stories out there. Cut yourself some slack. If you read successful authors’ work consecutively from their first published piece to their most recent, you will see development and growth in their writing. Unless you are a genius at writing, you will have to go through that same process of development—writing, learning, writing, learning. Don’t be like I’ve been in the past and always have one more draft that keeps you from putting your work out for public consumption. On the other hand, don’t put your work out before it is the best you can make it; and had a good edit.

You can find more writing tips at http://thewriterscompass.com and visit my website: http://nancyellendodd.com

MA: Thanks, Nancy! I appreciate the time you took to be my guest today, and I know my readers will enjoy reading your advice and insights.

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Dec 14

“Talk Uppity” An Article Contributed To The Child Finder Trilogy By Mary Deal

This is a fun article!  Mary Deal outlines one of the secrets to her success as an author…her ability to compose prose using proper grammar and the right amount of eloquence.  When writing, it’s important to sound credible.  It’s one thing to use poor grammar when you are inside a character’s head or quoting her speech.  After all, a poor, uneducated, person isn’t going to talk uppity.  But the words you use as an author to cement your story together had better follow proper rules of grammar.  Read Mary’s article for her take…and remember, talk uppity, then visit Mary’s website:  Write Any Genre.

Talk Uppity

by Mary Deal

5-12-09-9c-iUSomeone once asked, “I was told to write how I speak in order to make my stories conversational. So why can’t I get them published?”

I took a look at that woman’s writing style and it instantly triggered a memory of my own experience.

The language with which we’re most comfortable doesn’t always produce the best writing style.

I grew up among middle-class everyday folk. Language was one thing that separated groups of people as I had come to know them. When I was young, every once in a while I’d hear someone say, “Oh my! She talks so uppity!”

Hearing such remarks from people that I liked made me wonder what uppity might mean. What I heard when those others spoke was language that seemed too proper, maybe too perfect.

As children, my siblings and I used to imitate at play. We’d throw our hands on our hips and accuse one another, saying, “Oh my! You talk uppity!”

I decided that I didn’t want someone saying anything like that about me. I didn’t want my friends and family to think I put on airs. I continued using the language I grew up with, until I began to write.

Then, every time I looked, my thesaurus kicked out words and phrases that, when spoken, sounded like speech I had heard long ago. Uppity speech. Yet, it all sounded so good when I used those terms and phrases in my stories. I started getting published more. I graduated to using a Chicago Manual of Style. My former language nuances enhance my writing style, but now what I say is more grammatically correct.

What I realized was that the language errors in the ways of my common-folk upbringing kept me using simple language and colloquialisms in my writing. The proper language I had heard from others and shied away from was just that: Proper.

So in order for me to write stories to the best of my ability, I had to learn to write and speak uppity. And guess what. Doing so improved my stories beyond anything that I could beforehand have imagined. And all it really was, and had been all along, was correct grammar usage. So go ahead. Talk uppity.

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Dec 09

Thriller Writer George Mavro Guests with Mike Angley

MA: Today’s guest is George Mavro, author of the thrillers Operation Medina: Jihad and Operation Medina: Crusade. George and I are kindred Air Force veterans, both of us having worked in the security field within the USAF. Welcome, George. Please tell us about your background.

GM: I served in the Air Force for 24 years, 22 of those in various Security Force assignments in Europe and the Balkans, which gave me a great background for writing my first novels.  I also hold advance degrees in History and International Relations specializing in the Balkans where my novels take place. Knowing the history of a region is a plus when trying to write a war and political thriller. I have also held teaching positions at the university level.  I currently teach part time for a junior college. I also work as an Information Security Officer for a major financial institution. I presently reside in Florida with my wife and two sons.

MA: With that background, I can understand why you would want to write political/military thrillers. I imagine you must also enjoy reading that genre.

GM: I always enjoyed reading historical and action adventure war novels so I finally decided to try my hand at it.

MA: Excellent. So tell us about your novels.

GM: My debut novel is a military action adventure war thriller called Operation Medina: Jihad. My second novel is Operation Medina: Crusade which is the grand finale to the Jihad. Both go hand in hand. Both are about an attack against a US ally and terrorist attacks against US forces.

MA: How did you develop your main characters, your protagonist?

GM: I had a basic idea of what I wanted the protagonist to be when I started the story. As the story developed he developed and matured around it. Because my book encompasses a war on several fronts involving several nations there are a couple of characters that could be called heroes. But my main hero, Colonel Jack Logan, is a professional and combat skilled pilot. His strengths are that he is very sure of himself and good at what he does. His weakness would be under estimating the enemy, which causes him to get shot down, and falling in love with one of his pilots/subordinates which will play a major part at the end of the story.

MA: Terrorists, huh? So is there one main bad guy?

GM: Yes there is. General Muhammid Kemal, the dictator of Turkey, who wants to replicate the old Ottoman empire at his neighbor’s expense.

MA: With your background in the USAF, and your education in International Relations, did your real-life career or experiences influence your fiction writing?

GM: Yes my military career did and through my experience I am trying to convey military life and operations as accurately as possible. The characters in my novels are original, but I have pulled from my life experiences with the many people I encountered and some characters may be a slight medley from the people I shared experiences and worked with.

My career as a Law Enforcement and Force protection professional did play a role as it provided me with the knowledge and insight to write my story and accurately portray the role that a security Force Shift Commander and an airbase ground defense team could take in time of war.

MA: Will there be a follow-on story to the Medina series, or will you write something new, different?

GM: I am presently working on an adventure novel that takes place during WW II starting with the Nazi invasion of the island of Crete in 1941. I am developing a whole new set of characters. It is possible that a couple of my current day character’s grand dads may be in it since they did fight and meet in Greece during WW II as allied agents.

MA: Thanks, George. My very best to you for a successful writing career. My readers can learn more about George Mavro by visiting: https://sites.google.com/site/operationmedina/home

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Dec 07

“Repetition Offends Your Reader” Let Me Repeat, Okay, You Get the Point! Another Writing Advice Article By Mary Deal

Author Mary Deal weighs in on an important topic…repetition in writing and how it can turn off readers.  In her article, she uses an example where description can be repetitive and potentially offensive to a reader.  I would like to add the same holds true for dialogue.  I’m sure everyone reading this post has had the experience of being in a group setting and participating in a conversation.  Fine so far, right?  But then a new person walks in the room and asks, “What’s up guys?”  Isn’t it frustrating and boring when people feel compelled to rehash the entire conversation?  The same thing holds true in writing.  Sometimes in my stories I have scenes where a character joins a conversation late, but I always find a way to “brief him up” without having to bore the reader with the same dialogue.  I may have my protagonist excuse himself to take a phone call, leaving the room after saying, “Why don’t you guys bring Woody up to speed on the operation while I take this call.”  Done!  Read Mary’s article for her insights, and be sure to visit her website for even more writing tips: Write Any Genre.

Repetition Offends Your Reader

by Mary Deal

5-12-09-9c-iUWhen descriptive words are used repetitively in writing, it makes the reader wonder why they have to be told something they’ve already learned earlier in the story. Repetition can kill your reader’s interest.

River BonesOn Page 2 of my new novel, River Bones, the reader learns that Sara, the protagonist, is blonde when the real estate salesman describes her to someone else:

Some middle-aged blonde woman—a real looker out of Puerto Rico—just bought that damnable eyesore down along the river.”

On Page 9 I say,

“The breeze whipped her hair across her face and wrapped it around her neck.”

I had originally written that sentence like this:

The breeze whipped her long blonde hair across her face and wrapped it around her neck.”

Because I mentioned Sara’s hair color on Page 2, no need exists to mention the color again anywhere else in the book, with rare exceptions, of course.

Notice, too, her hair length was not mentioned on Page 2, but on Page 9 if her hair is long enough to whip across her face and around her neck, no need exists for the word “long” to describe it. Surely from reading that one corrected sentence, a reader knows Sara’s hair is not cropped off at the nape of her neck.

The word “long” was not needed due to the description of how the hair reacted in the wind.

To further prove the point, read the sentence from Page 2 with the correct sentence from Page 9. Then go back and read the sentence from Page 2 with the incorrect sentence from Page 9.

Analyze your sentences for superfluous words. Cut ruthlessly, or improve the action in your sentence to show what you mean. Your readers will love you for it.

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