My guest today is Margie Church, AKA Churchlady, author of romance/thriller novels with “SASS.” She tells me that stands for Suspense, Angst, Seductive Sizzle. Margie is a married mom of two children, and a Minnesota native. He writing career began early when she published in “McCall’s Magazine” in the sixth grade. Margie describes her professions as a mother and author whose guilty pleasures are great beer, real vanilla ice cream, and lobster. I couldn’t agree more with that list! Read More
Tag Archives: act
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
Become an Actor
Quite often, I hear people say that they have a lot of difficulty when writing dialogue. Here are some tips for improving dialogue and making it a snap to write:
1) Know the character you have established.
* Is your character male or female?
* In what time period is your setting?
* Is your character laid back or a Type A personality who’s always jittery?
* What is your character’s purpose in the story?
2) Assuming you know the above facts about your character, they can only speak one way.
* Write a line of dialogue.
* Then stand in front of a mirror and become an actor.
* Put yourself in that character’s mind.
* Be the character.
* Speak the line.
* Gesture when you speak.
* Use facial gestures.
* Try speaking the dialogue in difference accents or drawls.
* You already know the basics of your character and the particular scenes, so you won’t find too many ways he or she can speak.
3) As you speak, try changing the words of the sentence of dialogue.
* Try saying the same thing in a different way.
4) Act out the characters parts.
* Be one or more characters interchangeably.
* Interact and speak the lines of each.
* Your mind will automatically “round out” what is needed.
* You may decide instead of a character with stilted language, he or she becomes relaxed and easy going.
* Each state of mind produces different ways of speaking.
You may find that your character also changes in personality. Be careful here. If you’ve completed your story and then change a character’s mannerisms, which may affect personality, you may need to make a sweep through the entire story to bring that character in line with the new image you’ve created. But if that’s what it takes to make your story hum, you do it.
Chances are, you won’t make sweeping changes with this technique unless they are needed. You will simply find new ways to put some zing into the dialogue.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Parts of a Story
Parts of a story can be seen as action scenes or major scenes tied together with other action. They can also be seen simply as beginning, middle, and ending.
Tips for writing a story are many and varied. I’ve put together some suggestions that will help you analyze your own story plot. Or you may finally be able to get your story started. You’ll be writing a book before you know it!
These suggestions apply to any stories of any length. The only difference is in genre.
In fiction, you may lead your characters to do whatever the story dictates.
In nonfiction, you will have the usual beginning, middle, and ending, but you cannot manipulate occurrences since they actually happened.
Paying attention to the details given below can help you put your own story together. Other articles on this site will cover many more aspects of building a short story or novel.
The suggestions below apply to plot action and holding a reader’s interest. Building characters, a scene, or settings will be covered in other articles.
Here then, discussing parts of a story, are some valuable tips for writing a story, or for writing a book.
Always, that’s ALWAYS; remember to include the five senses in all parts of a story.
Most always, you will write the story from the point of view of your main character’s five senses. If any other character must say something about the heat that’s about to make them faint, this is a great way to have a person other than the main character contribute to the description of a setting.
If your reader’s five senses are stimulated, you are more likely to immerse that reader in your story.
The very first word or two should grab the reader’s attention.
In books written ages ago, it might have been okay to begin “The weather was temperate. I was feeling good.” Today, this is a waste of eight first words. Today’s readers want action or something to grab their attention to entice them to read further.
One of the most important tips for writing a story is to make sure you realize the value of your very first words. They must grab the reader’s attention.
The beginnings are the most crucial parts of a story.
All the main characters should be revealed early on.
Oftentimes, when writing a book of some length, new characters are introduced late in a story or plot. This seems only a crutch to get out of a dead-end plot situation to get the story moving again. There can be no saviors dropping into a story, only characters interacting together from near the beginning and carrying the plot toward conclusion.
In multi-genre writing, characters might pop up anywhere. Still, in order to make them credible, they must have a reason for being included.
Important characteristics of each character should be exposed.
Not important is a visual run-down of what each character may look like. Most important is to build each character’s personality.
It’s okay to state a few facts about their physical appearances, but it’s best done when describing them in action. If some information doesn’t help the reader visualize the character, or doesn’t apply to action to take place deeper in the story, leave it out.
An example: If a man never ties his shoelaces, only include something like that to emphasize his lackadaisical attitude (that you’ve already established) and if, deeper into the story, it’s what causes him to fall and break his neck. Otherwise, leave it out. Every act, every word, must have a reason for being included in parts of a story.
The main dilemma of the entire story line should be introduced in the first chapter.
Of all the parts of a story, this one is crucial.
The main dilemma can also simply be strongly hinted at as long as it’s immediately and progressively developed as the story moves along. The reader must see the succession of events moving along as it reveals more and more of the dilemma.
I don’t advise stringing the reader along. Let them know the dilemma as soon as possible. Otherwise, the reader may ask, “What’s the point.” They will put your book down and may not pick it up again.
When writing a short story, unlike writing a book, the dilemma must be revealed as soon as possible.
Almost everything in the first chapter should be considered foreshadowing.
All the plot action and character traits are set-up to propel the rest of the story. I have written a great article titled Foreshadowing, which deals with exactly that – better than I can explain here in few words.
Keep in mind that all parts of a story must lead to another, must hint at the next event. A future event should cause the reader to remember something that was said or done a few pages or chapters back.
Give your characters tough situations to face that make the readers wonder how things could possibly be resolved.
Make it seem there is no resolution. The situations are what flesh out the story.
Readers know that most situations get worse before they get better. This should determine exactly where you step into the action of the dilemma. Yes, step into it. Do not try to build the dilemma. You will be building back-story.
Have the situation already happening when your story jumps into it.
If you want to have your characters having a fun picnic in a park, and then a shooter comes along and ruins the day, that’s okay too. Just don’t waste too many words setting up how nice the day turned out to be.
Think of this example as if watching a movie. We see the family having fun in the park. We SEE everything immediately. Ten seconds after the film begins, the shooter comes along. If you think of the scene this way, you will know how quickly you must start the action in your written work. You will know how much to include in the first few sentences and how much to omit.
Thinking of your opening as a movie is good practice for including only that which applies and then getting on with your story.
Back-story is information that helps show why the characters have a dilemma.
Use back-story sparingly. Introduce it in snippets of conversation, or in your characters’ memories. Use it only if it enhances the present action. Too much back-story and the plot will stall instead of plunging your reader head first into the bramble bush.
An open ending of each chapter, known as the proverbial cliffhanger, encourages the reader to turn the page.
Another invaluable point in the parts of a story is to try to have cliffhangers at the ends of each chapter. Don’t bring all the action to a close just because the chapter is ending. The reader won’t have a reason to read further.
Leave some events open and questions unanswered. All the while, infuse that chapter with all that it can hold for that particular scene.
When writing a book, you will have many chapters in which you can build cliffhangers as well as great endings when the meanings of these are later revealed.
In various parts of a story, when developing the plot and continuing the action, what the characters experience must be a result of the plot dilemma you originally introduced.
Think about what you created. If you have someone robbing a bank, the plot dictates how these people elude the police. In the end, they are caught. A simple trail to follow only made interesting by complications you add.
Another example is if you begin your story with a seamstress sewing clothes, this could lead anywhere. However, you’ve chosen a topic that may be difficult to develop enough to hold a reader’s immediate interest. Your market for such a story would be limited.
The seamstress would then have to create some gorgeous line of clothing, maybe accidentally, that propels her to fashion design stardom. Maybe she comes in contact with the socially elite, while she, herself, lives in squalor. Think how a story like that might end. Her status is either elevated, or she remains an unknown.
Parts of a story such as this might suggest this seamstress is blind to improving her lot though she wants to. The ending must show the reader how the seamstress overlooks her chance at a better life – and is, perhaps, better for it. Or maybe she finds happiness and reason to stay in her own little world.
Endings make or break your story.
If a reader reads all the way to the ending and the ending falls flat, you will have a greatly disappointed would-be fan. That reader will not suggest her friends read the book. In fact, she may never buy another of your books.
The ending must follow the action. Only one ending would be apropos for any story, with rare exceptions.
The parts of a story must come together so that, with the climax and denouement, the reader feels a degree of satisfaction at having shared the characters lives.
Many stories have more than one ending.
More than one ending would be where the plot contains one or more subplots that, while carrying the main plot, are also nearly stories unto themselves. See my article Forensic Evidence in Plots. In the case of strong subplots, you would then have the main story ending, along with a wrap up of one or more subplots.
Ideally the subplots should wrap up before the main ending. That way, the wrap up of the subplots feed into the climax of the main story line.
When crafting the climax of any story, the actions of the characters will dictate the ending.
You’ve heard the saying “Let the story write itself,” haven’t you? Your story will write itself.
Don’t be concerned about the ending till you’ve arrived at the ending. Allow your characters to perform, to achieve greatness in their endeavors or their dastardly deeds. When you finally arrive at the ending, the characters’ actions will dictate the ending.
Then, as I always say, There is always an exception to every rule.
When I wrote my Egyptian novel, The Ka, I had the ending before I began. I also had many other scenes and knew how the story would flow. But I had to massage and manipulate the story line to arrive at the ending I could not change.
The denouement is the lesson learned after the climax has been realized.
Either or both the character and reader understand the result of the action that occurred in all the parts of a story.
For example, let’s say your character bumbles around doing bad things to people. Then he is caught in a situation where he needs help and things look pretty bleak because no one wants to help him. But someone steps forward, sees the good in the kid, and gives him a chance to turn his life around.
The climax to all this would be the kid getting help in the eleventh hour. The denouement would be the realization the kid has about how his actions hurt people and almost ruined his chance for getting help for himself. The kid’s life does a turn around and he now teaches other kids about good and evil.
The denouement is his self-realization, plus what the reader gets from it also.
Parts of a story can be developed on their own.
Often times, my mind is overflowing with the action of a scene that I write the scene without anything leading to it. Later, I go back and bring threads forward into the new action.
As long as you tie the scenes together in a cohesive manner, nothing says you can’t write the parts of a story that come into your mind in a rush. Write it! Catch that spark of creativity as it happens.
Tips for writing a story, as outlined above, are meant to help you understand the creative steps along the way to writing a book or short story; steps a writer must utilize in the beginnings, middles and endings of stories.
The parts of a story are scenes of action. Tie them together. Make one action cause another, and write it one page at a time.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
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
When I began to scrutinize my writing for words I could cut and still keep the story together, I was surprised! In the interest of keeping my stories lean and to the point, I found I could drop modifiers and make my sentences more professional.
Sometimes we want to add a word or two, seemingly to deepen the meaning of an act or some bit of dialogue. This is where many writers ruin their stories. For example:
She was so very ecstatic!
“So” and “very” are modifiers that needn’t be used in this sentence. The word ecstatic is the height of elation, the nth degree. The word needs no modifiers.
She was ecstatic!
Three little words that say exactly what I meant it to say without being verbose and taking up word space in the story that could be put to better use.
Another word is “just.”
– It was just that he wanted to go and she didn’t.
– The problem was that he wanted to go and she didn’t.
Drop the modifiers even if you must rewrite the sentence. Notice, too, that the corrected sentence doesn’t begin with “it,” which has no meaning when used this way. “It” has no meaning at the beginning of a sentence until we know what the sentence is about.
“It” can begin a sentence, usually inside a paragraph, when what is being referred to has already been mentioned.
Another example of dead words or overuse is the word “had.”
When writing in 3rd Person or past tense, it’s appropriate to use the word early in a paragraph. The rest of the paragraph should not contain the word “had.” Had sets up the paragraph in past tense. Only occasionally will there be no way around it and you must use it twice. Used early in the paragraph it sets up the tone of the action, even through subsequent paragraphs.
More dead words appear at the beginnings and ending of sentences.
-Where are you at?
-Where are you going to?
-That they could not have known, they took a chance anyway.
-They came running around the corner.
In some cases, your characters may speak like this, but sentences such as these should not be part of the narration. Unless we know to what or to whom these particular words refer before using them, they are out of place and make the subject of conversation obscure.
A Halloween Treat: “Wanted Undead or Alive” Authors Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry Descend to the Child Finder Trilogy Blog
MIKE ANGLEY: No trick, just some treats this Halloween! I’m delighted to take a departure from my norm (fiction authors) and host Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry today. They have co-authored a non-fiction book, WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, an ideal topic for today. Let me introduce them first, then jump into the interview.
Janice Gable Bashman has written for THE BIG THRILL, NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and many others. She can be reached at www.janicegablebashman.com.
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner and a writer for Marvel Comics. He has written a number of award-winning nonfiction books and novels on the paranormal and supernatural, including THE CRYPTOPEDIA, VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THEY BITE, ZOMBIE CSU and PATIENT ZERO. He can be reached at www.jonathanmaberry.com.
MIKE ANGLEY: Tell us about your book.
JANICE GABLE BASHMAN: WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE deals with the struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers. It includes interviews with folks like Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, Charlaine Harris and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics & fantasy artists.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Our book starts with good vs evil as a concept and then we chase it through philosophy, religion, politics, literature, art, film, comics, pop-culture and the real world. It’s such a complex topic, one that’s fundamental to all of our human experience, from evolution to the formation of tribes and society. We take a look at it historically, mythologically, in terms of storytelling from cave paintings to literature, we track it through pop culture and into our modern real world.
The book has a real sense of humor, too. We have fun with the topic as well as bringing a lot of information to the reader.
Plus the book is illustrated with forty black and white pieces and eight killer color plates. Artists like Chad Savage, Jacob Parmentier, Don Maitz, Francis Tsai, David Leri, Scott Grimando, Jason Beam, Alan F. Beck, Billy Tackett and more.
MIKE ANGLEY: Why did you decide to tackle the battle of good versus evil?
BASHMAN: The concept of good vs evil surrounds us. There’s just no avoiding it, and it’s been around for as long as man has walked the earth. Yet the definition of what’s good and what’s evil varies depending on who you’re asking—it’s not a black and white issue, so there are a whole slew of things to cover on the topic. In WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, we tackle the whole good and evil idea in a fun and exciting way—through its presence in movies, books, comics, pop culture, and real life.
MABERRY: I’ve done four previous books on the supernatural but they mostly focused on the predators (VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, ZOMBIE CSU and THEY BITE—all available from Citadel Press). I wanted to wrap that series with a book based entirely on the good guys. Now that we know what’s out there in the dark, who are we gonna call?
Also, times have become tough lately. Wars, racial tension everywhere, religious tension everywhere, the economy in the toilet…it’s nice to shift focus from those things that frighten us and take a look at what is going to save our butts. And, yeah, the book doesn’t deal entirely with real world problems (after all, most of us aren’t like to have to fend off a vampire or werewolf!) but it’s reassuring to know that at no time in our vast and complex human experience has mankind ever said: “Screw it, the Big Bad is too big and too bad.” We always fight back, we always rise. That, more than anything, is the heart of this book.
MIKE ANGLEY: You delve into fiction, movies, and comics, and interview so many great people in the book. Sounds like a ton of research, yet the book’s a fun read. How do turn all that material into something so exciting?
BASHMAN: What’s not fun about talking about good and evil? Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs vampires. Batman vs The Joker. Dracula vs Van Helsing. FBI profilers vs serial killers. Ghosts vs ghost hunters. It’s the ultimate showdown between opposing forces. We take a look at this concept from all angles and put it together in a manner that’s easy to read with lots of interviews, sidebars, and interesting facts. There’s something for everyone in WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE.
MABERRY: I’m a research junkie. I started out as a magazine writer and did a lot of that for a lot of years. I also wrote college textbooks that I wanted my students to not only read but ENJOY reading. That’s the challenge of writing for the mass market –you have to develop a set of instincts for what people want to know. At the same time you have to be able to craft what you write so that you can impart useful information in a digestible fashion, even with the notoriously short attention-span of the modern reader.
That said, having a Big Picture sensibility in the writing helps us to present the info in a way that is neither offense nor off-putting. Sometimes that means using a bit of snarky humor, and sometimes it’s taking off the disguise and allowing the reader to glimpse our own inner geeks. Once they know that we’re part of their crowd, the book becomes more of an act of sharing cool stuff with our peers than authors writing to a demographic. Much more fun.
MIKE ANGLEY: Vampires have been the subject of fiction and fantasy for many years, but what do you make of the current interest in them with such moves as the Twilight series?
BASHMAN: The enduring appeal of Vampires is one that seems to have no end. People are fascinated by beings that can live forever. The Twilight series moves that whole vampire idea into one that appeals to a generation of readers who want their vampires attractive and appealing. None of this bite your neck stuff and you become a nasty being. The idea of falling in love with a vampire, of being in love forever until the end of time, is one that many women (and men) find attractive. But what the interest in vampires really allows us do is to examine good vs evil in a way that is easily tolerated.
MABERRY: Vampires will always be popular, and there will always be new spins on them. Currently it’s the tween crowd with TWILIGHT and the urban fantasy crowd with Laurell K. Hamilton, L.A. Banks and that crowd. A few years ago it was Anne Rice, Stephen King and Chelsea Quinn Yarbrough. Before that it was Hammer Films, and so on. Vampires are changeable characters who represent our desires to transcend the limitations and natural crudities of human physical existence. They are, to the modern pop culture era, what the gods of Olympus were to the Greeks: admirable, larger than life characters that we can idealize, lust after, want to be, and be entertained by.
There has been a lot of unfair criticism about the TWILIGHT books and movies. I don’t play into that. Those movies and books have done immeasurable good for the vampire as a pop culture commodity. And a lot of people are getting massive career boosts as a result, even though they are some of the loudest critics.
A Big Picture way to look at it is, if the readers get tired of sparkly pretty-boy vampires, then they’ll go looking for nastier horror-based vampires. That’s already happening—hence books like THE STRAIN by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE. The so-called backlash is really just the process of people seeing one thing, deciding that it’s not for them, and seeking out something that’s a better fit. The contempt so many people throw at TWILIGHT is more than just snobbish, it’s ill-informed and short-sighted.
MIKE ANGLEY: How do you manage the writing process when there are two people writing one book?
BASHMAN: We each came into this project with our own strengths and that made it easy to decide who should tackle what part of the book. The most difficult aspect was finding one voice that worked for both writers so that the book read like one person wrote it. We accomplished this fairly easily, with some trial and error, since we had worked together on a number of articles in the past.
MABERRY: We also divided the book according to personal interest and existing knowledge base. I tackled stuff that played to my strengths –vampires, comics, pulp fiction, etc. Janice played to her strengths. She’s writing a book on thrillers, so she tackled serial killers, etc.
I agree that finding a single voice was a challenge. We’re different kinds of people and different kinds of writers, but now, even I have a hard time remembering who wrote what. Janice even picked up my smartass sense of humor—which means that I may have caused her some permanent damage. On the other hand, she’s an enormously disciplined writer, so I hope I picked up some good writing habits through osmosis.
MIKE ANGLEY: What’s the hardest part about writing a book with someone else? The easiest?
BASHMAN: I can honestly say that I didn’t find any aspect of writing the book with Jonathan difficult. It’s important have an open line of communication with your writing partner and a willingness to view things from your partner’s perspective. Otherwise, you run into the potential to butt heads on some matters. We both came into this project with the attitude that we’re writing a book together and we’re going to do what needs to be done to write the best possible book we can. When both partners have the same goal in mind and both share an excitement for the subject matter, it makes it pretty easy to co-author a book.
MABERRY: I agree…this was a fun, easy, fast and very rewarding process. It helps that we’re friends and have a lot of mutual respect. That goes a long damn way in making the book fun to write and (I hope) fun to read.
MIKE ANGLEY: What’s next for you guys?
BASHMAN: I’m finishing up a proposal for my next non-fiction book; it’s still under wraps so I can’t share the details at this time. I can say that dozens of key players are already on board for the project and it’s sure to be a fun one. I continue to write for various publications, and I’ll also be shopping a young adult novel shortly.
MABERRY: This has been my most productive year to date. Between novels, nonfiction books, short stories and comics (for Marvel), I’ve had something new coming out every month, and often multiple things coming out in a single week.
Next up is ROT & RUIN, my first young adult novel. It’s set fourteen years after the zombie apocalypse and kicks off a new series that will be released in hardcover by Simon & Schuster. Then I have my third Joe Ledger thriller, THE KING OF PLAGUES, hitting stores in March from St. Martins Griffin. I also have three mini-series from Marvel in the pipeline. MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE PUNISHER is already running, and it’s a post-apocalyptic existentialist adventure. Very strange, even for me. Next up is BLACK PANTHER: KLAWS OF THE PANTHER, kicking off in October; and then in January we launch CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, a five-issue Marvel Event that follows Cap from World War II to present day. And my graphic novel, DOOMWAR, debuts in hardcover in October.
I’m currently writing DEAD OF NIGHT, a standalone zombie novel to be release by Griffin in June.
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.
“How’d you like my story?” he asked, as I returned his edited manuscript.
We’d built up a good working relationship over the last few months but this was the limit. “C’mon, DH. You copied ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’,” I said. He and I have been through this act before.
“Not really,” he said. “I saw a way to make it better.”
I almost laughed. “There’s no creativity in rewriting someone else’s stories. You copied at least one line verbatim.” He looked sheepish but shrugged it off. “Your lady, Sable Erwin, like Lawrence’s Mabel Pervin, after having been saved from drowning herself in the pond asks, ‘Who undressed me?’”
“I liked that line,” he said.
“You even used the same staircase scene from Lawrence’s story.”
“No, my staircase is on the opposite wall.” He held up his manuscript. “This is my story. All mine. And it’s better.”
“These are not yours. You simply rewrite other people’s stories by wearing out your Thesaurus. You’ve used lines straight from original bodies of work. Like…like that.” I gestured toward his manuscript. I was sickened by what he’d been doing all along. Frustrated, too, because I’d been editing his work and since I’m not as widely read, didn’t catch on right away. “When you submit these around, professional readers spot the similarities.”
“With all the writers around today, no one knows who wrote what anymore.”
“The only thing your rewriting is getting you is a reputation as the person with the most rejections.”
By now, I knew I’d better be careful of what I said. I wasn’t going to convince him of the error of his ways but I, at least, wanted to make a point. “I can’t edit you anymore,” I said. “And you needn’t continue to edit my work.”
“That’s fine with me. Your POVs are always confused anyway.”
“That’s because you read from a man’s point of view. I am woman. If I begin a story with “I” and the antagonist (opposing character) is named Bobby, and the “I” and Bobby is married, then the “I” is female. So you shouldn’t ask me to clarify “I” in the first sentence of the story.”
“Women use “Bobby.”
“Most likely spelled ‘Bobbi.’ You know I don’t write from a male POV.”
“Creativity works in many ways,” he snapped. He evidently thought the conversation on points of view too hot. “I happen to get inspired by the better writers.”
“But you’re not creating your own masterpieces. You’re just reworking theirs. That’s plagiarism any way you distort it.”
His expression told me I had said the dreaded word. “What about you?” he asked from the hot seat. “You read Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and that’s what inspired you to write ‘Caught in a Rip.’ That’s plagiarism. The Old Man is out at sea alone talking to himself. Your Lilly character is out at sea alone talking. What do you call that?”
“Well, first of all, The Old Man is talking to his marlin and to the sharks. He’s always safe because he’s in a boat and can see the lights of Havana to guide him back to shore.” I suddenly realized I didn’t have to defend myself but it was too late. “My ‘Lillian’ is in the water, out of sight of shore and most likely caught in the North Equatorial Current with nothing to her benefit but snorkel, mask and fins. And since she’s alone, it took practiced writing skills to get the reader to know that the dialog is interior monologue that everyone probably goes through before they die.”
“Same story,” he said. “You copied Hemingway.” Now he was acting like a person who saw the end of something good and meant to have the last say, but I wasn’t through.
“I read Hemingway’s book three or four times over two decades,” I said. “While it inspired my plots, by the time I wrote “The Tropics,” it had been three years since I last read the ‘The Old Man.’ I didn’t pick up Hemingway again until I was into the third draft of my ‘Caught in a Rip’ story.” He said nothing. I couldn’t help but finish making my point. “When did you ever put a book aside and never open it while writing you own story?”
“Don’t have to,” he said. He rolled the manuscript he held into a scroll and tapped it against a palm. “My plots come right from what I’ve read. Gotta catch inspiration when it happens.” He was so in denial.
“DH,” I said. “It’s one thing to be inspired by great writers; another to write your own story without copying.”
“You think I’m not writing my own stuff?” he said, whining.
“When’s the last time you’ve written your own story to final draft without looking at anything that someone else has written?”
He fidgeted, tapped the scroll against his hand again, thinking. He honestly looked like he didn’t understand, a way of acting at which I’ve come to learn he was very good.
I was into this way over my head but I didn’t want to read any more of his copy cat stories. And I didn’t want him reading any more of my stuff. Had anything I’d written inspired him, he’d probably already rewritten it and sent it out, so my stories wouldn’t have a chance if read by a same editor. “DH,” I said. “What about your name? You admit your DH Harvey is a pseudonym. No one knows your real name.”
“You think I care?”
“Well, now that I’ve read this takeoff on ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,’ I think I know from where you derived your pen name.” I smiled pleasantly when I said that. I had wanted to end this conversation shortly but my curiosity prodded me onward.
“Oh, tell me, please.”
“My guess is you fancy yourself a Chekov or a Steinbeck or any of the others you’ve copied. Now that you’ve copied DH Lawrence, you’ve given away the secret of your pseudonym. Lawrence is both a first and last name. So is Harvey. Everyone knows your name is not DH Harvey or DH anything.”
Again he hedged. “One reason people use pseudonyms is that they don’t want their identities known.” So what did he have to hide?
“Let’s just end this, okay?” I tried to soften my words because when he tries he really does do a fine edit of my work. “I don’t want to exchange edits any more.”
“Okay,” he said and shrugged. “That leaves me more time to write. I found an opening chapter that I can rewrite for my next novel.”
I dared ask, “And what are you borrowing now?”
He looked smug. “I’ve just finished reading ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoyevsky,” he said. “And I know I can make it better.”
MA: Today I have the pleasure of interviewing award-winning, best-selling author, Miss Mae. Miss Mae holds a special place in my heart because she honored me with my first guest blog as a new author when I was trying to navigate the waters of marketing and promotion!
She has a long list of books that have earned awards and special accolades. “Said the Spider to the Fly”, published by The Wild Rose Press, has consistently rated outstanding reviews and has won the esteemed title of Best Book of the Week for The Long and the Short of It Reviews and from The Romance Studio. It can be purchased both in digital format and in print directly from the publisher’s site. “When the Bough Breaks”, a young adult coming-of-age is the first from Whimsical Publications. Not only has this book generated top reviews, it’s also won a Best Cover of the Month award, and won the 2009 P & E Readers’ Poll in the YA category.
The highly acclaimed “It’s Elementary, My Dear Winifred” won a 2009 Top Ten Read at MyShelf.com. It’s slanted for a late summer re-release from Whimsical Publications, with the second in the “Dear Winifred” series planned to be finished late 2010.
She also enjoys writing humor and non-fiction articles. Besides her monthly contributions to the ezine American Chronicle, some of her publications can be found in The Front Porch Magazine, Good Old Days, and Writers Weekly.
Whew! I could go on and on…Miss Mae, welcome to my blog. It’s such an honor to have you guest with me. It’s obvious you have a love for writing, so why novels in particular? Read More