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!” Read More
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Sex…with Finesse by Mary Deal (Contains Adult Content: That Ought to Bring in a Few Extra Visitors!)
One way to ruin a good story is with a lackluster sex scene or bedroom scene.
As I edit writers, one of the most important problems I find is that fledgling writers have great difficulty writing the obligatory sex scenes, love scenes, bedroom scenes, whatever. Men and women have different types of difficulty. Some women seem afraid to put their feelings and emotions on paper for the entire world to see. Men write withholding or censuring words, or they express the idea of sex without emotion.
What I tell both men and woman is to secretly write down – commit to paper in longhand – everything they know about sex – everything beautiful or every lewd act they know of. Writing with pen and paper keeps a person connected to their concentration. These can be quick notes or the whole scene in paragraphs. Write every dirty word that comes to mind. (Are there really any dirty words anymore?) In committing to paper, something they must do is to additionally write from the POV of the opposite gender. Too, the writer should describe the sex act from the first gleam in the eye all the way to orgasm. Since no one will ever see what is being written, they are to use any words or any language to describe the scene they wish to express.
Another exercise is to write a column of one-word descriptions. When finished, begin again at the top. Only this time, write a complimentary word from the POV of the opposite sex. This provides not only an idea of how well you understand the opposite gender’s POV but also provides a measure of how well you’ll be able to write a response from the opposite sex into the story.
Write everything you know about sex. Take the time to do the exercise just once. When I once ask a guy how much he knew of his real life partner’s ability to respond to him, his response was, “I just keep trying to —- her. She’ll come around.” Needless to say, he wrote some of the most worthless and incomplete sex scenes I have ever read.
One writer reached a point of having finally written a sex scene so well that she went on to write more. I know what her motivation was, considering when you write thorough love scenes, it has the potential to keep you rocking on the edge of your seat!
The simple rule is just once; write everything you personally know about sex. Every bad word and every phrase. When it’s all written down, for sure, you won’t want anyone seeing it or pre-reading some juicy love scene you’ve decided to include in your next story. Heaven forbid they might get to know you better!
This is only an exercise. To keep your thoughts private till you’re ready to do some serious writing, destroy your notes when the exercise is completed. But don’t just simply tear them up and flush them. Celebrate. Burn ’em! Tear them up into fine little pieces and burn them in a bowl much like a funeral pyre. Celebrate the end of frustration and inability to write about sex.
What one gains from the exercise is this: Once completed in privacy, with the repressed thoughts on paper, you will have brought yourself in touch with sex as you know it. You will have faced the fact that you’re either too shy about sex or too brazen, or anything in between. The simple act of committing your knowledge to paper in private seems to allow us to better write about the act when it must be included in stories. For once, you will have written all you know about sex. The initial reason for clumsily stumbling through the obligatory scenes is gone. Committing your views to paper that first time only once is, for the writer, like the first step on the moon. Once you take that first step, you overcome hesitation and apprehension.
You needn’t analyze your responses to these exercises and try to convince yourself that you understand yourself sexually. All this exercise accomplishes is to help you find easier ways of expressing sexuality through writing. It’s almost like saying, “Never mind who you are. Just get in touch with it.” The premise is that once you have written all you know about sex, you will not hesitate to write about it again.
You may not be happy with the very next love scene you write but now you will be able to examine and critique the scene in first draft. Having already written something you know conditions the mind, and the Muse. Now you’ll want to improve upon your scene and your Muse will happily comply. After all, you’ve already written out far more than you need.
Most critics say that in writing sex scenes that we are to suggest, or imply the action. Tantalize your reader with only suggestions of what people do in the sex scenes. Suggest. Writing out every last detail of the sex act becomes nothing more than pornography. That could ruin the image your story needs to convey. You will know exactly what you wish to include in your descriptions and what to leave out after having completed this simple exercise.
This is a good sex scene, leaving something to the imagination:
With all the teasing they had done through dinner – subliminal foreplay – he was already too excited when he slipped between the sheets beside her. He seemed hesitant. The moment she pressed her body against his, he pulled away suddenly and his breathing changed. He clutched a handful of sheet and drew it to himself as he struggled to maintain his composure. Then he said, “I-Im sorry. We’re going to have to wait a while.”
At first she was disappointed. Then she realized she had teased him mercilessly and kept him waiting right through coffee and desert and had herself, brought on his great embarrassment. She smiled, nibbled his ear then prodded his shoulder. “Roll over,” she said. “I’ll give you a feather massage.”
This, to me, is what I call porn writing:
With all the teasing they had done through dinner – subliminal foreplay – he was too excited as he slipped between the sheets. He pressed hard against her and his body felt coarse and clammy. He clutched at her buttocks and breathed heavily and immediately lost it on her thigh.
She felt dirty and frustrated. Her super stud was a dud. In disgust, she threw back the sheet and made a dash for a hot shower where one potential evening of good sex slid down the drain.
Did the coarseness of the second version destroy the sensuousness you felt from the first?
While I realize both versions will appeal to different audiences and that both versions have their places in appropriate plots, it’s still better to leave something to the imagination even if you have your character purging her disappointment in the shower.
Learn to write sex scenes with finesse. It’ll work in every plot.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Have you ever been stopped cold with writer’s block? I’ve never had writer’s block.
Something I recommend you doing is first maintaining a list of all your published pieces as they are accepted. I keep separate lists for novels, short stories, flashes, poetry, articles, even gag lines. Be compulsive with your list. It makes certain information easily found. You should be keeping a list of all your successes. That information can be widely used in your promotions. As your list grows, it is validation that you are a writer.
Any stories you may be working on, too, are right there in your word processor.
When you feel stuck, particularly when you feel distraught over the lack of acceptances for your gems, you should never try to work through your anger and disappointment. Instead, re-read something you’ve already written.
Do not read anything by someone else. It may only serve to tell you that you are not this or that type of writer and when will you measure up. Instead, read your own successful pieces. This helps you realize that you are capable of turning out great prose. It affirms that you do not have to measure up to anyone else’s capabilities.
This trick also works with pieces you feel good about but haven’t yet found acceptance and publication. If you feel it is some of your best work, read it through again. I’ve done exactly that and found I wanted to improve pieces I thought was some of my best writing.
Writing is an ongoing opportunity for improvement. If you believe your writing ability has failed you, re-read your own work. It will show you just how much you have improved over time. It will give you a jolt of confidence to keep going.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
In fleshing out the narrative of a story, writers need to describe mannerisms of the characters. These gestures and habits help the reader know your story people and what makes them tick. The actions each character performs must be in accordance with the scene and their responses to it.
These seemingly innocent extras that the writer adds must be accurate. Readers, especially avid readers, know when something isn’t right as the plot moves along. A wrong point or description can stick in the readers mind and distract from their ability to suspend disbelief and to lose themselves in a story.
An example might be when you have your character making physical gestures. When they roll their eyes, make sure it fits what you having them doing. Neurolinguistics teaches that a person rolls their eyes to the left if telling a lie, also known as constructed (made up) information. So if your character is telling a lie, make sure you don’t say he rolled his eyes to the right, which is from where remembered (true) information is pulled in.
Instead of being so detailed, which necessitates accuracy, you might simply want to say something like:
“He rolled his eyes, looking disgusted, and then studied the papers again.”
That’s a simple sentence that not only provides a good description of what is happening with the character at that moment, but also allows the reader to feel the character’s emotion.
A different example is if you have a left-handed cop. You might assume all cops in your story are right-handed, but suppose you make your cop character different. To flesh out his actions, you might want to add something to the fact that in spite of being an awkward left-hander, he was an award winning sharp-shooter quicker than lightning with his left handed draw. His left hand draw was quicker than any of the right handed cops on the force.
To include something like this about the cop does not and perhaps should not all be added when the cop first enters the story. Defining actions and gestures such as these are parsed out throughout the story whenever a scene allows for them. Perhaps with the cop, he might be identified as a sharp-shooter early in the story. Deeper into the story when the scene dictates him drawing his service revolver quickly, the rest could be added. Breaking up the information like this adds cohesiveness to the telling of the tale. Readers will remember that he was a sharp-shooter and will feel the connectedness to this character.
As with psychological aspects such as rolling the eyes in one direction or another, or other physical gestures, these must be accurate or they should not be included if the writer is unsure about the legitimacy of the facts.
Keep your readers in mind at all times during the writing of a story. Know that readers have read enough stories to know when an author is weak in their research.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
MA: Today I am delighted to welcome Charles S. Weinblatt as my guest author. Charles was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952. He is a retired University of Toledo administrator. He is the author of Jacob’s Courage and Job Seeking Skills for Students. His biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education. Charles was a frequent Toledo television news guest, providing business, economic and labor-management insight. He received the 2004 Douglas Frasier Swift Award and he was awarded a certificate of achievement by Chrysler Corporation.
Charles, welcome! Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background, and what you did before writing professionally.
CW: I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952; raised the only child in a middle-class home. My father was a pioneering Toledo (OH) psychiatrist, starting his practice in 1932. He was well known in the professional community. He was also a football star at The University of Toledo in the 1920s and again at Michigan, while in medical school. Tremendously intelligent and gentle, he was the perfect role model. My book is dedicated to my dad, who gave me all of the tools to become a good person. It is also dedicated to the six million lost souls murdered by The Third Reich. They are gone, but will never be forgotten.
I am a graduate of The University of Toledo, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. My post-university career spanned 31 years; the first 15 years devoted to psychiatric and vocational rehabilitation counseling, followed by 16 years at The University of Toledo. During my last nine years at the University, I created and led The Division of Organization Development. My division helped businesses improve their performance. We generated consulting opportunities for faculty and earned considerable revenue for the University.
My biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education. I continue to live in Ohio with my wife, who is a retired special education teacher. We have two adult children.
MA: So what brought you to writing fiction?
CW: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. As a child, I wrote short stories and even some poetry. After college, my focus turned to family and career. Writing was pushed away for a while. Yet, the interest never departed and I was happy to return to it in earnest in retirement.
I had to retire at age 51 due to disability. Since I retired at a fairly young age, I decided that I should remain as mentally productive as possible. I decided to pursue writing. I had already been published for non-fiction in 1986, for a textbook called Job Seeking Skills for Students (Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company). After my University career, I turned to fiction. Three years later, my Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage, (Mazo Publishers), was published.
I made no conscious decision to write novels. Perhaps, as Mozart once described for his composition, the words were already within me. With Jacob’s Courage, I sometimes felt as though I was taking dictation.
I had known as a young adult that members of my maternal extended family were Holocaust victims. Only after I retired did those thoughts rise to the surface in a way that I could harness. I could not tell the story of my lost ancestors in any other format than a novel. No member of my current family knew enough about our lost relatives to write a memoir or a non-fictional account. No amount of research could produce an explanation for their disappearance into the darkness of Nazi-occupied Russia. Like millions of other innocent Europeans, they disappeared, without a trace. Perhaps they were shot and bulldozed into a trench, as at Babi-Yar, or maybe they were gassed in a death camp, such as Auschwitz, or possibly they perished from starvation, forced labor or the ubiquitous disease that existed in Nazi concentration camps. So, it was to be a fictional account.
I committed myself to creating a story of young lovers who became trapped within the horror and brutality of the Holocaust, as I imagined happened to countless young Jews, although not necessarily my ancestors. My hope was also that this story would be inspirational, perhaps as holocaust education for young people. Nowhere else today is it more important to teach about the Holocaust than with our children and grandchildren. A novel is a good choice for Holocaust education. Rather than dry historical accounts that go in one ear and out the other, a coming-of-age love story can engage youthful minds in a way that non-fiction does not. In the words of writer and philosopher George Santayana, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
I was also able to ground portions of the novel in fact, based upon my 100-year-old mother’s memories. As a child in Russia, she witnessed the brutality and terror of pogroms against her Jewish relatives. And, while these experiences occurred before the Holocaust, they provided significant grounding for important character development. She will soon be 101 years old, yet she can recall with perfect clarity the terror of Russian anti-Semitism.
MA: Please tell my readers about Jacob’s Courage.
CW: Jacob’s Courage chronicles the dazzling beauty of passionate love and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. This is a tender coming of age story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. The historical novel presents scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Follow lovers Jacob and Rachael from their comfortable Salzburg homes to a decrepit ghetto, from there to a prison camp where they became man and wife. Revel in their excitement as they escape and join the local partisans, fighting their Nazi tormentors. Finally ride the crowded, fetid train to the terror of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Stung by the death of loved-ones, enslaved and starved, they have nothing to count on but faith, love and courage. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.
MA: How did you develop your protagonists’ characters…I understand you have two?
CW: The primary protagonist is Jacob, a 17-year old Austrian. He’s a very normal young man, eyeing the transition from secondary school to university. Jacob has some of my unique character weaknesses. It was important that my protagonists appear as normal young people, just like anyone else. The secondary protagonist is Jacob’s true love Rachael. Rachael is everything a young man would want; she is beautiful, bright, charming, deeply in love and fiercely loyal. Together, the young lovers are confronted with the most horrifying experience imaginable. To survive, they have only themselves to count on. They were not heroic individuals until they reached the precipice of destruction. I imagine that each of us wishes that we would become heroic under such circumstances.
MA: What are their strengths and weaknesses?
CW: Jacob Silverman is a very normal 17-year old. His thoughts focus upon three things: attending university, becoming a physician and, most of all, his precious love Rachael Goldberg. The young lovers had everything to look forward to, until Germany invaded Austria.
One night, in a terrifying nightmare, more real than life itself, Jacob finds himself older, emaciated and weak, in a large brick building with a roaring fire. He soon realizes that men wearing striped pajamas are burning the bodies of dead naked women and girls. Jacob awoke with acrid smoke in his lungs and a premonition that he would play a role in saving his people, who had been almost completely destroyed.
Sleeping inside of this normal boy was a future leader of men in combat. Yet, to reach that critical point in his life, Jacob would face starvation, sickness, brutality, forced labor and the death of his loved ones. He would need to find uncommon strength of body and spirit; and he would require good fortune, including the ability to play virtuoso violin.
MA: I imagine that with your subject matter, you had plenty of possible antagonists to develop.
CW: With Nazi Germany, it’s not difficult to create a credible antagonist. I created one particularly vicious antagonist, a commandant at Theresienstadt called Strobel. In that concentration camp, Strobel gained complete control over Rachael. This evil man followed her around the camp and made it his business to know everything about her. The result was very ugly.
In reality, the typical Holocaust survivor resided in several different ghettos and camps. Incarcerated Jews (and tens of thousands of others) became a source of free slave labor for The German Armed forces and for German industrialists. They were moved from place to place, as their slave labor could best assist the Third Reich. In addition, concentration camp commandants were often transferred. So, it would have been unusual for the typical prisoner and commandant to have been together very long. But, there were certainly many colorful commandants, guards and kapos at each camp.
MA: Did any of your family’s real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?
CW: Certainly my fears and desires as a teenager became part of Jacob’s personality. He was brighter than me and far better behaved. Yet, I felt comfortable with his character development. I was far more worried about developing Rachael’s character. It’s a challenge writing a major character about someone of a different gender. Nevertheless, I believe that teenagers, especially young lovers, have some very common personality characteristics. My challenge was more in portraying how those characters changed and developed when faced with the most terrifying experiences imaginable. Holocaust survivors were not the same people that they were when the Holocaust began. No human could absorb the unrelenting daily terror, the death and murder of loved ones, the physical abuse, brutal forced labor and years of starvation and sickness, without it changing their personality. The lucky ones remained sane – and even that is arguable. My characters also had to change, yet without losing the better parts of their psyche. Without passionate love, they likely could not have managed it.
MA: So, what’s in your future writing plans?
CW: I recently completed a children’s book and I’m almost done with a science fiction novel. I’m thinking about writing another Holocaust book, or possibly a sequel to Jacob’s Courage. One thing I will try to avoid in the future is a book as long as Jacob’s Courage. At 524 pages, it was a serious investment in time. Yet, I could not have covered the final seven years of the Holocaust with less material. In fact, at my publisher’s urging, I removed some parts of the manuscript. My science fiction novel will come in at about 200 pages, a much more rapid commitment to reading. Whichever way I turn, I will always be writing something.
MA: You sound like you keep very busy with your writing! Will we see Jacob or Rachael again in a follow-on to Jacob’s Courage?
CW: Because Jacob and Rachael became heroic figures in my Holocaust novel, there is a natural pilot for a sequel. And, because they had to wait a long time in a displaced persons camp, there would be an increased likelihood that they would have immigrated to the Holy Land. They also had simultaneous dreams about being in a place that they later learned was Palestine. With Jacob’s leadership and combat experience, he would be a natural for an officer position in Israel’s nascent armed forces. Rachael would also have a natural role to play in the start of the Jewish nation. So, stay tuned.
MA: I will! Is there anything else you would like to add?
CW: Writing is a talent. Some people are born writers. The rest of us envy them. Still, writing is a skill that can be cultivated. If you think that you might have the ability to be a successful writer, maybe you do. Take writing courses at your local college or university. Participate in continuing education courses. Read books about how to develop your writing skills and take on-line courses. While it’s true that the vast majority of us will never become a renowned author, it feels pretty good to cash a royalty check. It could happen for you. Never give up!
And for those of you who could care less about earning money from it, just enjoy! It feels great to create stories about unknown people in unforeseen circumstances. Whether anyone reads it or not, it will always be your unique creation. For us, writing is not a matter of dollars and sense. It’s a matter of love.
MA: Thanks, Charles. I encourage all my readers to visit Charles’s blog: Jacob’s Courage Read More
MA: It’s always fun to have authors make return visits to my blog, and today I am joined by one such previous guest, Cynthia Vespia. Cynthia first posted with me on January 8, 2010, and you can read her original post here: Cynthia Vespia, Demon Hunter Author, Guests with Mike Angley.
Cynthia’s first novel, a medieval fiction entitled The Crescent (iUniverse) was published in August 2005. The novel was unanimously praised as “an engaging, descriptive read” which prompted a sell-out at Borders Bookstore in less than one hour during the first official autograph signing.
In 2009 she released Demon Hunter: The Chosen One (AspenMountainPress.com) which quickly reached number 3 on the Fictionwise.com bestseller list. The success of Demon Hunter was followed up by the sequel, Demon Hunter 2: Seek & Destroy which takes the characters and the reader on a journey that begins on the high seas and ends in Hell. Both novels (published in e-book format) were nominated for Best Series in 2009 by LRC Cafe.
Cynthia’s latest release returns to the contemporary side of thrillers but still contains that special “twist” that her novels are fast becoming known for. Life, Death, and Back (WeavingDreamsPublishing) delves into the paranormal when a man’s life is tragically cut short and he remains on Earth in the spiritual form to tie up loose ends.
Welcome back, Cynthia, and congratulations on your new release. Tell us a little more about you and what drives you to write.
CV: I believe we are all born with an innate talent and desire, something that drives us above anything else. Whether we develop and pursue that talent is up to us in the end. I’ve been interested in writing since I was a little girl and I’m fortunate enough to have realized my dream of publication. Most people never ever see their dreams realized. Sometimes life becomes what happens to you while you’re busy making plans. That is why my new release Life, Death, and Back is so special to me.
MA: And you mean it just released, as in two days ago, I believe! What do you enjoy most about the writing experience?
CV: Story telling. I like the escape novels bring. Creating worlds, characters, it’s always juiced me. I used to read alot as a kid and I loved the way writers like Piers Anthony, Robert E Howard, and C.S. Lewis used to draw me in to their stories. It’s been a passion of mine for years.
MA: You have to tell us all about Life, Death and Back.
CV: In the wake of his death Bryan Caleb begins to realize how precious living is and how much he’d taken for granted. Now he has unfinished business. In exchange for more time on Earth, Bryan has been granted guardianship. Even as he struggles with his own mortality Bryan must find the compassion within himself to help guide Lisa Zane, an emotionally and spiritually drained young girl, through her troubled life to find her true purpose. For it is only with Lisa’s help that Bryan can rescue his very own son from the life of crime he has fallen into before Kriticos Caleb’s fate mirrors his father’s…in death.
Life, Death, and Back was written in the spirit of all classic thrillers and suspense novels, but it carries with it crossover appeal. The phenomena of ghosts and angels is a widely discussed topic spreading to many channels. There are many who have seen and experienced things not completely explainable. This novel is intended for them as well.
MA: How risky was it for you to develop your protagonists’ character?
CV: Usually when writing a contemporary thriller you can push the boundaries but it needs to stay based in reality otherwise you lose your audience. But I had alot of freedom in the development of Bryan Caleb because you tell me how someone who comes back from the dead is going to act! It did present a challenge though. I wanted Bryan to be ethereal but remain emotional at the same time. Without emotion you can’t drive the story and Bryan needed to draw from his heart and soul to take on some of the obstacles that I put in his path.
MA: I like obstacles. They make thrillers…well…thrilling! What makes Bryan “tick?”
CV: Bryan’s a guy who’s had a blessed life but it has been cut short so he’s pretty bitter about it. He’s caught between worlds unable to contact his loved ones and presented with a task of helping this troubled girl Lisa Zane get out of the trouble and danger she’s found herself in. So his current predicament represents both strengths and weaknesses at the same time.
MA: So who is the main character that torments Bryan? Who’s the bad guy?
CV: I have my antagonists such as Cyrus Houston the criminal mastermind holding Lisa against her will. And also Kriticos Caleb, Bryan’s own son, who poses a very real threat and detriment to Bryan’s causes. But I’d say the nemesis in Life, Death, and Back is really Bryan’s ability to cope with everything that is being presented to him. From being tragically killed and walking the second plane as a ghost to being resurrected and having to relearn life skills, it’s all alot for one man to deal with…how does he do it? Well you’ll have to pick up your copy to find out!
MA: How did you come up with the idea for the story?
CV: The idea to write Life, Death, and Back came from a need to delve into the mysteries of death and the afterlife. At an early age I had to overcome some tough losses to my immediate family. Dealing with such tragedy sticks with you, it becomes part of your soul, and is probably reflective in this story. The novel is a fast-paced thrill ride that asks and answers alot of questions. How will we be remembered? Who will we leave behind? What is our legacy? And most importantly how can we make a difference while we still live? Not often in life do we get second chances. We make our mistakes and must continue on, hopefully a little wiser having learned from the experience.
MA: Some lofty questions, indeed! What are your future writing plans? Any new ideas?
CV: I have many. At the moment I’m seeking a home for my suspense novel Lucky Sevens which captures the spirit of my hometown Las Vegas and focuses on the raw human emotions unique to the people who live, work, and play there. In correlation with that I’m going to be focusing on more contemporary thrillers and suspense novels…and as always they will be real life situations you could find yourself in but hope to God you never do.
MA: Will you continue to feature the same protagonist in future stories? Will any other characters migrate over to future books?
CV: That’s an interesting question and I’m filing it into my subconscious right this minute. I can’t really say what the future will hold except that I will continue to bring you more exciting reads so stay connected via my website. By the way, Life, Death, and Back is available through WeavingDreamsPublishing.com and your local retailer. Look for me on Facebook and Twitter.
MA: Thanks, Cynthia. Folks – visit Cynthia’s website for more information about her and her stories: http://www.cynthiavespia.com/
MA: Please help me welcome best-selling author, Frank Fiore. Frank has sold over 50,000 copies of his non-fiction books. He has now turned his talents to writing fiction. His first novel, CyberKill, is a techno-thriller that answers the question “How far will an artificial intelligence go for revenge”. CyberKill has garnered five star reviews on Amazon. Frank’s writing experience also includes guest columns on social commentary and future trends published in the Arizona Republic and the Tribune papers in the metro Phoenix area. Through his writings, he has shown an ability to explain in a simplified manner, complex issues and trends. He and his wife of 30 years have one son. They live in Paradise Valley, AZ.
It sounds like writing has been a passion for many years, and you’ve been quite successful at it. Is this something you’ve always done professionally?
FF: I started out as an entrepreneur. During his college years, I started, wrote and edited the New Times newspaper which is now a multi-state operation. From there I went on to start several business and retired to take on writing full-time.
My interests in future patterns and trends range over many years and many projects. I co-wrote the Terran Project, a self-published book on community futures design processes, and worked as a researcher for Alvin Toffler on a series of high school texts on the future. I designed and taught courses and seminars on the future of society, technology and business and was appointed by the Mayor of Phoenix to serve on the Phoenix Futures Forum as co-chairperson and served on several vital committees.
MA: I’ve always enjoyed reading the Tofflers’ works. When I was in the USAF, Alvin and his wife visited the Air Command and Staff College when I was a student there to talk about future trends. Fascinating stuff! With your background, why the transition to novels?
FF: I’ve always wanted to be novelist. I wrote my first novel in high school then another when I was in my late 20s. Both were not very good. Like many novelists, I write to entertain but also to make a point – to try and educate the reader in something they might not have been aware of.
MA: Tell us about CyberKill.
FF: My first novel is CyberKill. Fans of Tom Clancy, James Patterson and Clive Cussler, would enjoy this twist on the Frankenstein myth.
A brilliant programmer, Travis Cole, inadvertently creates “Dorian,” an artificial intelligence that lives on the Internet. After Cole attempts to terminate his creation, Dorian stalks his young daughter through cyberspace in an attempt to reach Cole to seek revenge. When cyber-terrorism events threaten the United States, they turn out to stem from the forsaken and bitter Dorian.
In the final conflict, Dorian seeks to kill his creator – even if it has to destroy all of humanity to do it.
MA: Where did you come up with the idea for the story?
FF: Many years ago I read an article in Time magazine about a young artificial intelligence (AI) programmer. He had created a series of AI agents and sent them out over the internet to see if they would evolve. I thought to myself, what if the programmer terminated his experiment? If the Artificial Intelligence evolved into a real intelligence, would they take his act of shutting down the experiment as attempted murder? From there, I thought “How far would an artificial intelligence go for revenge?” and stalk Travis Cole, my protagonist, through cyberspace to kill him. The end result was CyberKill. (cyberkill.frankfiore.com)
MA: Tell us more about Travis Cole.
FF: Travis is an intelligent and gifted programmer but he’s into shortcuts. That provides the opening that AI agent can exploit and reach Cole.
Readers are not interested in a main character that can do or know everything. It’s not only unreal but it makes for boring story telling. The main hero has to have his sidekicks – people who know what he doesn’t know – and that builds a relationship and makes the characters feel more real to the reader. It also lets the author play one off the other to create interesting dialogue and an interesting story.
I try and combine the male and female leads into what one character would be. Between them, they know enough to drive the story forward with the help of secondary characters. Besides a little flirting and possible love interest adds to the story.
MA: I take it that Dorian is the antagonist?
FF: The ‘bad guy’ is the AI software agent he created. The AI agent becomes super-intelligent and names himself Dorian.
MA: I don’t know if you’ve dabbled with AI at all, but from your background you’ve certainly had an interest in related studies. Any real life influences in the story?
FF: All my life I have been interested in many, many subjects – from the social sciences to the human sciences to science itself. All of this interest has helped me develop interesting and believable characters and stories. Also, CyberKill is speculative fiction with a science bent. That means the technology the geographic locations, government and military installations and organizations, information warfare scenarios, artificial intelligence, robots, and the information and communications technology in this book all exist.
As for the genetic weapon, pieces of the technology are either in existence or in the research and development stage. Now, according to the Department of Defense, it doesn’t exist. But the Fars News Agency of Iran reported otherwise last year.
I wanted to show the reader that what happens in the book could very well happen today. So I had to take what was known, combine it with other knowns and then stretch the facts a little.
MA: (chuckling) That pesky Department of Defense! So what’s next in your writing journey?
FF: I’ve just completed the first two novels of a three book series called the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash.
The Chronicles of Jeremy Nash is a new thriller series about a noted debunker and skeptic of conspiracy theories, urban legends and myths. Jeremy Nash is pressed into pursuing them by threats to himself, family and reputation. The Chronicles of Jeremy Nash capitalizes on the continuing interest of the reading public in conspiracy theories, unsolved mysteries, urban myths, New Age beliefs and paranormal events. I also feeds the growing appetite of the public for ‘puzzle stories’ in the vein of National Treasure and Indiana Jones with a little of the X-Files thrown in. The formula of the chronicles consists of a conspiracy theory, unsolved mystery, urban myth, New Age belief or paranormal practice that Nash is forced to pursue; combined with an underlying real world event, organization or persons that is somehow connected to what he is pursuing. This provides the thriller aspect of the stories.
MA: Fascinating. Anything else you’d like to add?
FF: I watch movies because I write my novels as movies. Movie scripts have a structure that is shared by novels. Both have a similar 3 or 4 act structure (spine/skeleton) that involves a hook, generally with the main character involved, then the ordinary world (who they are, etc) the first turning point, tests and trials, reversals, black moment when all seems lost, climax, the epiphany and reward. This is not a formula, it’s classic mythic structure and it’s used in both mediums. Current contemporary commercial novels are much faster paced than in the past, no matter what genre. Some genres (action and thrillers) move faster than others but the whole market has shifted. We are a USA Today society that deals in sound bites and Tweets, and that doesn’t bode well for the slow moving novel. Read More
Fellow Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) Author Erin Rainwater Swings by to Visit with Mike Angley
MA: It’s a real treat for me today to have as my guest a fellow member of the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA), and Rocky Mountain neighbor, Erin Rainwater. Erin is a Pennsylvania native who says she probably should have been born in the 19th century but somehow got flash-forwarded into the 20th. There was never any question that she would be a nurse when she grew up, regardless of which century she was in. And beginning in about the seventh grade, there was no question that she’d launch that nursing career in the military. The daughter of a WWII intelligence officer, she entered the Army after graduating from nursing school. That was during the Vietnam War era, and she was privileged to care for the bodies and spirits of soldiers and veterans, including repatriated POWs and MIAs. Her military experience has helped in writing parts of her novels. Her support of the military has been life long and is ongoing, and one of her favorite pastimes is volunteering at the USO in Denver. She participated in Operation Desert Swap, having “adopted” a soldier in Iraq to whom she sent a copy of her novel for reading and swapping with his fellow troops. Erin now lives in Colorado with her husband of 35 years, has four children and the four most adorable grandchildren on the planet.
Erin, thank you for your service. Please tell us a little more about your background, especially your military service.
ER: My “back story” consists of being born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, attending nursing school there, and going directly into the Army Nurse Corps upon graduation. I served for three years during the Vietnam War era, including duty stations at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, the 121st Evac Hospital in Korea, and at Walter Reed in D.C. I got married while still in the Army, and after my discharge I worked part time—mostly in ICU—while raising our four children. I only started writing when I was in my thirties.
MA: I’m familiar with the 121st from my two tours in Korea…a huge facility. Nursing and writing – how did you end up becoming an author?
ER: I’ve always loved fiction, especially historicals, so it was natural for me to migrate toward that genre when I began writing. As for novel length versus short stories, it’s not so much a choice as a lack of ability on my part to write shorter tales. I just plain lack the capacity to spin a yarn in less than 45,000 words. My new release, Refining Fires, started out as a short story, but there was just too much story to tell, and my attempts to limit it failed miserably. My critique group hounded me into telling the full story, so the three-part novel was born. I consider the term “short story” an oxymoron.
MA: Tell us more about your latest release.
ER: Refining Fires is unique in format and storytelling approach. It’s three-stories-in-one format, beginning with “Refining Fire.” Clare Canterbury is a nurse with a tarnished professional reputation seeking work. Any work. She answers an ad for a live-in nurse situation, caring for a disabled Korean War veteran. Little does she know what she’s in for. He tosses her out of his home. But his anger is no match for her pluck, and she finagles her way into his employ, his home, and eventually his heart. As she ministers to Peter’s body, his soul develops a raw yearning for a life and a love he’d long ago thought hopeless. Theirs is quite a romance, but “Refining Fire” is only the beginning of their love story. In the second story, a little girl named Susannah shows grit beyond her years as she faces her biggest fear. She must go it alone on a treacherous journey down a mountain to save her mother’s life, then faces harder times yet to come. The love that Peter and Clare share has an immense impact on this extraordinary child who is filled with “Blind Courage.” Finally, you’ll meet the “Kept Woman” bent on self-destruction until a child and a man from her past teach her about who has been keeping her all along. Refining Fires is not your prototypical romance. It’s made up of three stories of people seeking redemption in one form or another, whose paths cross, showing how God’s hand is ever on us, leading and refining as we go.
MA: I understand you take a unique approach to developing your characters. Please talk about that.
ER: This might sound strange, but for me it’s never been so much about my developing my characters as it is my catching on to the nuances of their personalities. Although I begin with a concept of who I want the main characters to be and what they will be like, I honestly discover things about them right along with the reader as we trek further into the story. Take Peter Cochran in Refining Fires, for instance. We initially see his darker, angry side, but in time, as the walls of his internal fortress begin to crumble, we gain insight into what’s been there all along—astounding courage (even in the face of death, I later discovered), humility, a sense of humor, and the longing to be loved for who he is and not for what he has.
MA: What are Peter’s strengths and weaknesses?
ER: I mentioned his courage, which is one of his great strengths. His nurse Clare points out that not only did he show heroism in the war but during his recovery from his injuries as well—fourteen times he’s been through those operating room doors, plus he learned to walk again, every step he took a victory in itself. His greatest weakness is his lack of awareness that he possesses any of these strengths, or that any of it matters. He also had chosen a lifestyle contrary to his early Christian upbringing, then became embittered when consequence time arrived.
MA: What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
ER: Ooh, that is such a cool question. In my two previous books, I’ve had some really nasty villains (one reader told me every time the heavy in True Colors entered the scene it made her skin crawl). And there is one character in Refining Fires who definitely is the “bad girl.” But for the most part, Peter is his own worst nemesis.
MA: Given your nursing background, your service in the military, and your overseas time in Korea, I imagine a lot of your real experiences influenced your writing of Refining Fires?
ER: Yep, they sure did. Clare Canterbury is a former Army nurse, as am I. Some of our military experiences were similar. Read More
Selecting a point of view for your stories is the first step in finding your “voice” in writing.
When you begin to write a story, whether a short story or a novel, you first need to know from which point of view (POV) the story will be told. You can always change this once the story is written or just doesn’t work out the way you had intended, but it’s best to plan from the beginning.
You cannot successfully write a story unless you’ve chosen your point of view.
1st Person POV – The story is told through the mind of one character. 1st Person is also used when the author is telling a story or nonfiction experience from his or her own POV. When writing this way, what unfolds in the telling can only be what the point of view character perceives. The author cannot provide a point of view from another character’s mind.
2nd Person POV – The writer speaks directly to another character using “you.” 2nd Person is the least favored and most difficult point of view to use in fiction. The reader then becomes the protagonist; the hero or heroine. Joyce Carol Oates writes in 2nd Person.
3rd Person POV – Stories are usually written through the main character’s POV. Use 3rd person to replace the tightness of 1st and 2nd Person in a story. 3rd Person can be broken down into varying styles of points of view. Here are three:
• 3rd Person Limited – This means that the entire story is written from the main character’s POV and everything is told in past tense. The reader gets to know only what the main POV character knows. I find this stimulating because it can hide the obvious and keep the climax a secret till the riveting ending. This is the POV that is easiest to read and is readily accepted by publishers.
• 3rd Person Omniscient – The narrator takes an all encompassing view of the story action. Many points of view can be utilized. This can be quite an intricate way to write because too much detail needs to be included and may over-complicate the story. A poorly written omniscient story may inadvertently give away the ending thereby deflating a reader’s enjoyment. A well-written story in this POV was And then There Were None by Agatha Christie.
•3rd Person Multiple – The story is told from several characters’ points of view. This has an effect to heighten drama and action if successful at writing from multiple characters’ points of view. Tony Hillerman’s Coyote Waits is a perfect example here.
No set rule for points of view applies when writing. A writer usually sticks to the POV that feels comfortable.
If you are a beginning writer, try writing several paragraphs, including dialogue, from each POV. You will know immediately what feels right for your way of storytelling.
I suggest you stick with one character’s POV to begin with. Even successful writers risk giving readers whiplash when pinging back and forth between points of view.
Nora Roberts head-hops but does it with such skill the reader barely notices the jumps.
Once you have established your favored POV, get busy writing your story. Your “voice” will develop as you write. “Voice” is your storytelling ability; it identifies your style.
In our day-to-day lives, our simplest personal actions say something about our motivations, temperament, and mind-set. Stories and their plots reveal much more that can be stated by quoting the story synopsis when a potential buyer asks, “What’s your book about?”
In my adventure/suspense novel, The Tropics, the plot is about the dangers of island living, cloaked from tourists by balmy breezes and swaying palm trees. It’s about people fighting for survival and finding inner strength to go on in spite of life-threatening situations in which they find themselves. It’s about inner strength. Read More