Tag Archives: goal

Jun 17

Historical Fiction Writer Ellen Brazer Visits with Mike Angley

MA: I’m joined today by author Ellen Brazer. Before getting published, Ellen did just about everything but write. She was in business. She worked for the State of Israel, and she was involved with the community. She actually did not begin to write seriously until she was in her forties. So tell us, Ellen, with no real writing background, how was it that you came to pen novels?

EB: I was waiting for some medical test results to come back. I was extremely successful in business when I was very young and while waiting for that phone call I asked myself what mountain had I yet to climb. The answer for me was writing a book. I have a dear friend who is a Pulitzer Prize winner. When I wrote my first draft of Hearts of Fire I pressed the Caps Lock key on the computer and wrote the entire first draft in capital letters with almost no punctuation. It was my writing friend who said, there is something here and you must keep going. That first book took me 10 years to write. The manuscript went from under the bed to the closet and then back under the bed again. A doctor friend took it on a ski vacation and he was the one that finally got me to become serious about getting the book published.

MA: I can’t even imagine going more than a full sentence with the Caps Lock Key on! Tell us about what you write.

EB: I write historical fiction. Let me tell you about Clouds Across the Sun. Before the end of WWII, Hitler charged a group of his most trusted and brilliant comrades with a mission—educate your progeny and then elevate them to positions of power throughout the world. Steeped in fact and impeccably researched, Clouds Across the Sun is the story of just one of these children.

From Naples, Florida, New York City, and Washington D.C., to Israel and then the killing grounds of Vilnius, Poland (Lithuania) this story is one of great romance, discovery, redemption, and enlightenment as Jotto Wells unravels the intrigue surrounding a plan to take over the government of the United States.

MA: How did you develop your characters? Was there a great deal of research involved into the lives of people from this era?

EB: I am not sure as writers that we develop our characters. I think they are born to the page and then they develop us. Whenever I have a new character I find myself sitting back and watching their personality emerge. Sometimes I have to rein them in when it feels like they are doing something out of character but most of the time they are in control of me. In Clouds Across the Sun I have more than one protagonist and I was always amazed that they each had their own distinct voice.

MA: More than one protagonist? Tell us about one of them.

EB: I will focus on Jo for this question. She is very independent and self-assured. As the first woman Senator from New York she is intelligent and opinionated. Her greatest weakness is that she falls prey to her family’s influence over her.

MA: Any unique antagonists, other than the obvious?

EB: I think I do bad guys really well and in this book there are some really evil people. When creating an antagonist in the Holocaust time period it is challenging to show all sides of the personality. My antagonist is a Nazi doctor from the Concentration Camps. We see him as a dangerous monster but we also see him as a loving father. The danger is constant when he comes to America after the war with one goal: placing someone under his influence as President of the United States

MA: Do your novels ever fool people into thinking more of the fiction is actual fact?

EB: I write historical fiction that is so based in fact that when people finish my book they tell me that they are chilled and always ask themselves: Could this happen? Is it happening? I talk about IBM, The Red Cross, Hitler and Henry Ford’s close friendship and how the U.S. allowed thousands of known Nazis into the U.S. in exchange for information about our new enemy, Russia.

MA: Interesting…so what’s next?

EB: I am writing an historical novel that takes place in the year 135 of the Common Era. It was a time period when the Jews believed that Shimon Bar Kockba was the Messiah. Following him, they managed to defeat Rome and for a three year period Israel was under the control of the Jews. And So It Was Written is the story of two brothers, one who becomes a famous physician in Rome and the other becomes a commander in the Jewish army. There are some very unique and controversial elements to this book that I am keeping close to the vest so stayed tuned. I am in the process of rewriting and I hope to be finished within the year.

MA: Well thank you, Ellen. I encourage everyone to visit Ellen’s website for more information: http://ellenbrazer.com/Home_Page.html Read More

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May 27

Mystery Author J. D. (Dave) Webb Visits with Mike Angley

MA: My guest today is author J. D. (Dave) Webb. Dave resides in Illinois with his wife (43 years counting) and their toy poodle, Ginger, losing all family votes 2 to 1. Dave served in the Security Service of the Air Force as a Chinese linguist and weather analyst in Viet Nam and the Philippines prior to spending 25 years in corporate management. After a company purge he promoted himself to cobbler and he owned a shoe repair and sales shop for 11 years. But being a full time author, always a dream, became a reality in 2002. Dave has garnered several awards. His first novel Shepherd’s Pie won a publisher’s Golden Wings Award for excellence in writing. His second novel Moon Over Chicago was a top ten finisher in the 2008 Preditors and Editors Poll in the mystery category and was a finalist in the prestigious 2008 Eppie awards by the Electronic Publishing Internet Connection. His latest book, Smudge, recently placed fifth in the mystery category of the 2011 Preditors and Editors poll. He is also the Owner and Moderator of the Publishing and Promoting Yahoo group with over 900 international members.
That’s an impressive and diverse resume, Dave! Tell us why you chose to write novels.
DW: Actually the novels chose me. I’d always written short stories, but wanted – no needed – to write novels. They are what I love to read and they are what I love to write.
MA: What kind of stories do you write?
DW: I write family friendly mysteries, no excessive violence, gore or profanity. I realize that goes against the current trend. Rex Stout once said (not sure of the exact quote), “Mysteries can contain sex or violence if it is essential to the story. That is perfectly all right. There is none of that in mine. So it must not be essential.”
I have a series featuring laid-back Chicago PI Mike Shepherd. Shepherd’s Pie reflects that Mike loves pie and swears it helps him solve a case. In this one he is hounded by Ferlin Husky Lewis, the serial killer he is trying to capture. In Her Name Is Mommy Mike finds a tot in a busy mall whose mom has been kidnapped from that mall. His promise to her is that he’ll find her mommy. Moon Over Chicago – Amateur sleuth and cobbler Fulton Moon merely tries to help a customer out of an abusive relationship. But his attempts to help never go as planned. Smudge chronicles the adventures of Trish Morgan a paralegal in a small Chicago suburb. She wipes a smudge off her ATM screen one night and it’s blood. Then she hears a moan coming from the alley next to the bank. She shouldn’t go into that alley, but she does.
MA: How do you go about developing your characters?
DW: My characters seem to develop themselves. Often one pops up and I have no idea where he/she comes from. I wrestle with them to stay on plot. They are sometimes headstrong. I develop back story as I go with them and I have to keep notes to make sure I know who they are.
MA: Tell us about how you shape your heroes.
DW: All my protagonists are competent and smart but with weaknesses. I also make my antagonists equally smart and competent. I abhor the uncouth, whiskey-swilling images of PIs. I don’t subscribe to the recurring bad guy. Each book can be a standalone and good always triumphs.
MA: Does your art imitate your life in any way?
DW: Well, let’s see. I’ve never been chased by a serial killer, never had a bald headed giant florist beat me up, never had an abusive husband, so I guess the answer is mostly no. For Her Name Is Mommy I did see a tot alone on a mall bench one busy Christmas shopping trip. I wondered where her parents were and after about four minutes the girl’s mother popped out of a shop and retrieved her child. I was incensed that she’d leave a small child alone in a busy mall for even a few seconds. I decided she needed to be punished – so I put her in my book and had her kidnapped. It was great therapy. I now do it often. Someone ticks me off, they wind up in my book and suffer consequences. My attempt to right the world.
MA: (chuckling) I might want to tick you off in time for a new release of my own. Can’t get too much PR, you know! Any irons in any current fires?
DW: My work in progress is called Gulf Terror. The premise is – what if the gulf oil spill was a suicide bombing by two terrorists? And one of them survives and is loose in Louisiana, planning more destruction?
I have begun the third in the Mike Shepherd series and the second in the Fulton Moon series. I have no plans right now to do a sequel to Smudge, but who knows? My characters have minds of their own it seems. I have another novel almost one third done about a young Pakistani boy orphaned by a tribal chief, taken to Afghanistan and forced to become part of the man’s militia. The young boy’s only goal is to survive to avenge his father’s murder.
MA: What methods do you use to avoid writer’s block or push through it? Do you even get writer’s block?
DW: I can remember a famous author saying there is no such thing as writers block. That is just someone’s excuse for laziness. I don’t remember who it was so I won’t get him/her in trouble. There are times when I get stuck and can’t think where to go next. I don’t consider it writer’s block because I know where I want to go, just not how I want to get there. Sometimes my characters are telling me to go one way and I want to go another. They often win.
MA: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
DW: A writer’s mantra should be – Butt in the chair. The best thing to do is like anything else, practice your craft. Read what you are writing. If it’s mysteries, read mysteries. Read the how to books. Go to writer’s conferences, join a writer’s group, and subscribe to writer’s magazines. I do all these things.
MA: Great advice! I would like my readers to visit Dave Webb’s website for more information about this intriguing author and his works: www.jdwebb.com
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May 20

Sylvia Ramsey, Author of “An Underground Jewell,” Visits with Mike Angley

MA: Folks, help me welcome today’s guest-blogger, Sylvia Ramsey. Growing up in a rural area of Missouri and being the child of a father born in 1898, she feels that her interpretation of life spans several generations. This influence can be recognized in both her poetry and her short stories. She has experienced life at many levels. One of her most prized possessions is a personal letter that was written to her by Rosemary A. Thurber giving her permission to adapt her father’s short story “The Last Clock” to be used for Readers Theatre.

Sylvia is presently a Communications professor and the Academic Resource Center Coordinator at GMC Community College in Martinez, GA. She describes herself as a determined scrapper who will wrench all the very best from life that she is capable of conquering. Her philosophy of life is reflected in her poems. “Armor For Survival” and “A Tired Vagabond.” More about the author can be found on her website or on the authors den website. http://www.authorsden.com/sylvialramsey1.
Her novel, An Underground Jewell, was a labor of love. She explains, “The ideas for stories all come from my life experiences and knowledge I have gained along the way. The book, An Underground Jewell, spawned from a short story that was written about a Christmas Eve in the distant future when life on earth had changed drastically. That story was written in 1989.

Where did the idea for the novel come from?

SR: The idea to create a novel originated because I let imagination loose to wonder about the possibilities of this story. I first began by creating a character who would write the story, and the reason why she wrote it. At that point, I began to develop other characters and a plot. I finally began writing the book. At one point, I had to stop writing because my husband became very ill, and I became his caregiver. At the same time, I was diagnosed with T3 bladder cancer. To add to the delay, my computer crashed and I had to start over. I was lucky that I had part of it printed out. After my husband died, I began writing again. Finally, 20 years later, it was finished and published. “ An Underground Jewell and my other two books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

MA: How did you develop the character of your protagonist?

SR: Elizabeth Jewell is a very unusual woman in many ways. My best friend says that she is me, but I think her character has the traits of both my mother and paternal grandmother. Both of these ladies were strong and independent. I do not think either one of them would have left their future up to fate, because they never did. Elizabeth is like them, she sees a threat and does what she needs to do to help clear herself of the accusation. I can see where my friend would identify with me because I share some of the same traits. I wanted her to be unique in her world, and have enough foresight to see things around her that others may not see. She is intelligent enough to know that she needed help to clear herself, and because of her connections, she knew who to ask to help. There are several heroes in the novel, and there are many mysteries to solve other than clearing Elizabeth’s name. Some are solved along the way, and others are not revealed until the end. I have had people remark that I have revealed the outcome in my description, but they are only getting privy to the story on the surface, because it is much more complex than that.

MA: So who is your antagonist in the story?

SR: The “bad guys” are members of a group who have aspirations to control the society of the Western world. They have managed to infiltrate various agencies of our government to do so. Their underlying motive is control. They have an excellent understand of how language influences thinking and perceptual reality, so they have launched a long-term scheme to achieve their goal to control the people’s perception of reality.

MA: When did you start writing?
SR: I began writing when I was nine years old. I was the reporter for our 4-H club, and a new reporter at the local paper took me under his wing. He encouraged me to write feature article in addition to community news. By the age of twelve- years-old, I was getting bylines and a small paycheck each month. I have been writing something ever since. I do not remember thinking, “I want to be a writer”. It was just a part of who I am, and what I do.
I am always writing something, but not as a “profession”. I do a lot of writing at the college, blogging, and on my Facebook page. Currently, I am doing a blog series on Living with Bladder Cancer for the Healthy Women website. I am a sixteen-year bladder cancer survivor, and even though it is ranked fifth in prevalence over all, ranked fourth in males and as prevalent as cervical cancer but deadlier in women, it is very underserved. There is little awareness in the public sector, and even the medical community as a whole is basically under educated. I have a new blog that I just launched, Thoughtful Reflections, on which I hope to feature a variety of people in the field related to the publishing world.
MA: What type of professional writing do you do?
SR: In the everyday world at my “job”, I write lesson plans, reports and various types of writing that is done within the field of higher education. I have had research articles published in professional journals. In the mass media area, I have written news and feature articles for newspapers and magazines. In the creative realm, my love is poetry. Over one hundred of my poems have been published in literary journals. In 2004, my first book of poetry, Pulse Points of a Woman’s World, was published; in 2009 my first novel, An Underground Jewell, and in December of 2110, my first children’s book, Merchild Land was published.
MA: What projects are you working on now or plan for the future?
SR: There is a novel in the works that is a fantasy titled the Dark Crystals of Miradirth, and a collection of short stories titled, Squirrel Tales. I have several web pages, a blog (Thoughtful Reflections – http://wwwthouhtfulreflections.blogspot.com/), and a Facebook page called Ramsey’s Sacrificial Metaphor. I hope to do many more articles on bladder cancer as well as a collection of survivor stories. As far as An Underground Jewell is concerned, I have thought about doing another book that features the main character, but right now, I have other stories to tell.
MA: Sylvia, thanks very much for blogging with me today. I want my readers to know a few things about Sylvia, some of which she’s mentioned in passing, above. Sylvia is a 16-year survivor of bladder cancer, and looks at the experience as another learning peak in life. She is very much aware that even though this is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, it is very much underserved. She serves as the Vice-President of the American Bladder Cancer Society because she knows how important to provide support to those who have experienced this cancer, and how important it is to create more awareness around the world. That is why all of her royalties go to the American Bladder Cancer Society, www.bladdercancersupport.org. In March of this year, she sent them checks for close to $600 from her book sales. Her books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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Jan 28

Scientist-Turned-Novelist Paul Guthrie Joins Mike Angley Today

MA: My guest-blogger today is Paul Guthrie. Paul – or Dr. Guthrie – is a scientist by training and vocation. He received a BA in Physics from Cornell University, followed by a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts. After graduation, Paul went to work for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD. His work was primarily in the development of computer models to simulate the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere in order to understand ozone depletion and climate change. After thirteen years he left NASA and joined a consulting firm in San Rafael CA, working mainly on air pollution issues for the EPA. By then he was irrevocably committed to the use of computers and the development of software. In 1999 he left the environmental field entirely and became involved in developing software for biotechnology and medical applications, which he continues to do part time. Starting in 2002, however, Paul decided to pursue another interest, that of writing fiction. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, still married to the same person after thirty-seven years. We have two grown children.

Now that’s a fascinating biography you have, Paul. I am curious about how you found an interest in fiction with so much science in your life.

PG: I’m a scientist, with degrees in physics and astronomy. Working on issues like climate change, I was part of the collision of science, where truth (even approximate truth) is an ultimate goal, with politics, where truth is irrelevant. And I like to read. I‘ve read lots of fantasy and SF over the years, from classic “hard” SF to Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan, Martin, Stephenson, Gibson…the list goes on and on. I also like technology thrillers, like early Tom Clancy and early Michael Crichton.

MA: It’s good to have a wide breadth of interests, but how did you end up writing fiction, and why novels?

PG: My teachers always said I was a good writer, back before I chose a career in science and technology. In 2002 the medical imaging startup where I was working ran out of money and went belly up. Writing seemed like a good way to keep my mind occupied until something else turned up. Something else never did. Why novels…the form is long enough to really explore characters and story. You can say a lot of things in a novel.

MA: Tell us about your novel.

PG: “The Wrong God” crosses genres a bit. It involves something that looks like magic, elements of science fiction, some real science, politics and religion. Here’s the pitch:
Since the beginnings of history people have believed in magic, but California science writer Andy Taggart is not one of them. Until the day that John Chalk, his old friend from grad school, makes a ballpoint pen rise to stand on end – untouched. From that moment Andy is caught up in John’s mystery. Is this an illusion or is it new physics? Why can John do things that other people can’t – things that will mark him in some eyes as a worker of miracles? And why does John think someone is watching him?

Someone is watching. Wendell Murchison is possibly the most powerful man in America. He controls wealth, his own cable news network, an army of evangelical political operatives, and the President of the United States, but he wants more. From the new America of terrorist sleeper cells, detention camps and legalized torture he sees a path to levels of power not seen since the Inquisition. He would make a new all-out war of religion; all he needs is a leader – the New Prophet, John Chalk. Whether John believes or not.

When John refuses and disappears, Andy is left to face an adversary who will offer bribes, publish lies, send goon squads to beat him, whatever it takes to force him to betray John. Under constant surveillance and unsure who he can trust, Andy can’t stand alone; he has to find John. But even together, what can they do against Murchison? Levitating pens won’t stop him and there’s no point in hoping for miracles if you don’t believe in anybody’s gods.

Actually, it all grew out of a single observation. Traditional epic fantasy often involves ancient magic, with a venerable sage or a sacred book to explain the magic. My question was, how did the book get written? Who were the poor bastards who first discovered magic and had to figure out how it worked without killing themselves? Since I assumed (naturally) that they would approach it like scientists, the story became contemporary.

MA: That sounds intriguing, and it contains many of the same elements I enjoy reading about and writing with my own work. Tell us how you developed Andy’s character.

PG: Andy is kind of an almost-scientist. He has the training, but he isn’t entirely part of that world, the way John is. Andy can see the ambiguities in John’s discovery. I tend to like stories of ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, so he had to be somewhat unheroic.

MA: Andy’s strengths? Weaknesses?

PG: Strengths…determination, loyalty, intelligence, humility, his love for his girlfriend, Rachel.
Weaknesses…fear, self-doubt, a little envy.

MA: It sounds like this Murchison guy is pretty devious…your antagonist, I assume?

PG: Oh yeah. I spent a lot of time on Wendell Murchison. My wife kept asking for more backstory. I kind of saw him as an amalgam of the kinds of people who have been involved at the intersection of great wealth, political propaganda, and the religious right.

MA: I almost hesitate to ask if any real-life experiences made their way into your story, especially given you hard science background.

PG: I guess the main influences were knowing how physicists think and approach problems, and experience watching scientists collide with politics. One other thing isn’t really central to the plot, but I’m a student and player of Taiko, the big Japanese drums. I gave that to Andy so I could try to describe it.

MA: I spent many years in Japan and always enjoyed Taiko drum performances, so I can relate to that character aspect (and a good thing you gave that to your hero!). So what’s next?
PG: I’m working on another novel that is still an untitled work in progress. It’s unrelated, more of a straight-ahead technology/political thriller. Beyond that I have notes for two more books to continue the story of “The Wrong God.”

MA: Thanks, Paul! You have a great blend of real science colliding with fiction in your work. I like the confluence of the two. For my readers, please check out Paul’s website: http://www.thewronggod.com Read More

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Nov 24

“Plot Elements” by Mary Deal

Plot Elements

by

Mary Deal

Plot elements are always the same when writing any story through the stages of writing development. This includes when writing creative nonfiction.

If you are adept at summarizing stories, I doubt you will ever find stories where any of the points listed below are missing.

Analyze some of your own stories. Notice if you, too, have included each of these elements in your writing.

If any of these elements are missing from your stories, chances are, it will be a story you felt you weren’t ready to sell or publish because something “wasn’t quite right.” Check the stages of writing development of your story for plot elements.

The list below shows the major construction blocks and the order in which they will happen as a story progresses.

Set Up (Want): The protagonist’s or characters’ needs

Rising Action: What the character does to reach his or her desired goal

Reversals (Plots Points): Something happens to the character to thwart him or her achieving their heart’s desire. Either right choices or mistakes are made by the character.

This is one of the areas that allow you to take your story in a new direction from what the character had intended. This is a major portion of the story because your character should be headed toward his or her goal when an occurrence stops them cold.

This will be the lengthiest of the stages of writing development. This section is considered the middle of the story. You’ve heard people refer to “sagging middles?” A sagging middle means the writer did not keep up the action going through the middle of the book. An attention grabbing beginning falls flat when the excitement fades in a dull sagging middle. Then while slogging through a questionable middle, the reader may never make it to the climactic ending.

Recognition: The character realizes what he or she must do, how they must change, in order to overcome their mistakes and achieve their goal(s).

This is one of the plot elements that bring about an Aha! experience. However, the character may not always make the right decision for change.

The Recognition portion of plot elements is NOT the climax. Do not confuse recognition of a problem with the climax of a story.

This is another of the major story building points. Perhaps the character still insists on pursuing what they set out to achieve, in spite of receiving great setbacks. Then finally, once they acknowledge that they need to make changes, those elements and change need to be developed.

This is the second lengthiest of the stages of writing development. Now the character must not only right the wrongs, but also forge ahead to heal the situation.

Climax: The climactic – or at least surprising – result of the action, or where the character ends up, what situation they find themselves in, embroiled or accomplished.

This is also the lesson of the story, the message or metaphor that you, the writer, hope to accomplish by writing the piece. You need not incorporate a moral or ethical message in your stories. However, as you move your characters through their story lives, you inadvertently give the reader a lesson in right and wrong.

Plot elements say this portion of the story should be quick, for added impetus of the realization. It brings the story to a close.

Denouement (Sometimes optional): Of the plot points, this is the lesson learned by the character(s), the after-thoughts, from the character’s choices made in seeking their desire.

If the character happens not to realize his or her mistake, then this is the place where the reader will understand the result of the character’s actions, no matter how naïve or in denial the character remains.

Plot elements are easiest to build in longer stories such as novellas or novels, and creative nonfiction. The length of the story dictates how much time and verbiage can be allotted to developing the steps of the story.

In short stories, the writing is controlled, dependent upon the length of the story. Short stories need to be, at times, punchy, quick. It’s a nice test of making use of fewer words while utilizing all the plot elements.

In building a story through the limitations of Flash Fiction, you will see just how adept you’ve become at writing when you can incorporate all of the above plot elements in very few choice words.

However, do not be mistaken by thinking that in a full length novel you can use more words, take all the time and use all the verbiage you need to make your story work. Novels and long works need just as much attention, if not more, to writing lean as any shorter stories.

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

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Oct 15

Western Romance, Chick Lit, Feminist…all Descriptions of Mike Angley’s Guest Author, Lotus Landry and her Novel, “Skookum Man”

MA: I’m joined today by Lotus Landry, author of the Western Romance, Skookum Man. Lotus had a prior career as a software applications developer for aerospace projects – among these were line-of-sight helicopter sight stabilization code. She resides in the Los Angeles vicinity and has two adult sons. (One of her sons is able to combine software and storytelling as a video games developer). She is a native of Seattle and grew up not far from the setting of the book.

Lotus told me she chose to write a novel because she loves to work on very large and intricate projects – especially those which fall outside the boundaries of traditional genres. I can understand that with her background in the aerospace industry, something that warms my heart!

Please tell us about Skookum Man.

LL: In Skookum Man a chick lit feminist confronts a greenhorn ladies man in 1830s rainforest. It’s been tagged as: Western Romance; Feminist; Chick Lit; Pacific Northwest; Kindle Romance. The book is set in a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost, the Pacific Northwest, circa 1810. Men and women from divergent worlds meet in an Arden-like forest. In those strange woods the reader is introduced to: wood-wise ingénues, confused men, matronly women, clever animals, and assorted asses and fools. The introductions are lovingly conducted by a benign narrative presence.

That’s a happy beginning- but as the story progresses….the benign presence becomes somewhat sinister. The wood-wise ingénues lose their wisdom; the confused men become calculating; and the outpost seems to contract into itself. As in many fairy tales, the story’s conclusion is uncertain and … disturbing(?). It is a fairy tale with a modern edge – a romantic speculation – a speculative history. The book’s airy structure and modern references contribute to its bouncy, tale-like mood.

It features Jane, who is sometimes called ‘Matooskie’, and her accidental boyfriend, Robert. Jane, who knows how to take care of herself in the remote rain forest of the Pacific Northwest, has been brought up as a free range child. She is multicultural and disciplined enough to master Latin.

Robert is a newly arrived officer at the fort, a remote place with several peculiar luxuries but very few romantic options. He has a history of being a slick player of sophisticated women of the London social scene. He is honored as ‘skookum’ by the local Indian clan even though he demonstrates that he has no wilderness skill sets.

MA: Tell us more about Jane, or Matooskie.

LL: The main character, Matooskie, has trouble integrating her two natures. She has a Chinook Indian heritage from which she derives her expertise for surviving in the forests, but she is also eager to please her father by adopting the trappings of a proper British lady.

Matooskie is extremely tenacious and goal directed and loves keeping secrets. She is sharp enough to master Latin with the assistance of the private tutors who pass through the fortress as guests.

MA: Yours is such a unique story…how did you come up with the idea?

LL: I was influenced by contemporaries from the Pacific Northwest. When I wrote the heroine as a person with a passion for botany and a compulsion to classify plants, I gave her the habits of my best friend’s mother, a horticultural writer, who deposited her children on trailheads in remote mountain forests where the children were instructed to seek rare plant species.

When I invented another woman, the woefully displaced British matron of the story, I gave her the confusion of a 20th century transplant to Oregon from Maryland, who mistakenly thought that she could not leave the house – for months—until the rain stopped. I included native people as some of the first people I myself saw when I moved into Oregon were Indians spearing and smoking fish along the old Columbia River highway.

MA: Any person, childhood experiences that you drew from?

LL: When I consider the inspiration for writing Skookum Man, it becomes apparent that whatever happened to me in the fourth grade did not stay in the fourth grade. Of course, this is the year that kids become immersed in the history of their respective states and the folklore sticks to them like pieces of campfire marsh mellows on a stick – even when they settle elsewhere. In my case, we studied sea explorers and the forts and covered wagons and it wasn’t unusual for one chum to blurt out that she was a descendant of the famous trapper, Joe Meek. Regrettably, when one moves away and settles in another state, one ends up clueless (for decades) about the arcane of the new state because fourth grade can only happen in one place. The brain accumulates only one set of lore that is reinforced by the field trips of childhood.

MA: Okay, so what’s in your writing future?

LL: I’m currently working on my next novel, a cozy mystery set in contemporary Orange County, California. It features two career women with unusual occupations who belong to a Homeowners Association.

MA: Lotus – thanks for stopping by and telling us all about Skookum Man. If my readers want to learn more, please visit: www.matooskie.com.
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Oct 13

“Forensic Evidence in Plots” (A Subject Near and Dear to my Heart!) by Mary Deal

Forensic Evidence in Plots

Forensic science could kill your story.

With forensic evidence being able to convict a perpetrator on as little as a millimeter of hair fiber, for example, plots of stories and films could be brought to an end too abruptly. Too, explaining the forensic evidence and showing how it affects the outcome could take over any plot.

When a subplot takes over and becomes the action, this is to lose control of your story. It is important that the main plot hold the most interesting, the most critical action. Then, no matter how contorted a subplot, it will only serve to enhance the main plot. True, too, any twist or turn in a subplot must enhance the main plot action. It cannot be included only to enhance the subplot. There is a risk here of having your subplot become a story unto itself and distract from the purpose it should serve. Any action in a subplot must feed into but not be greater than the main action.

A perfect example of a subplot nearly taking over can be found in the movie, Witness, (1985). The good cop, John Book, discovers fellow officer, McFee, has committed a murder. When John Book discloses this to his boss, Schaeffer, he soon learns Schaeffer is just as corrupt. The bad cops are selling off confiscated drugs. Once found out, both Schaeffer and McFee want to kill John Book.

This is a simple subplot that adds to and is intrinsic to complicating the action of the main plot. This subplot of clandestine activities within the police department blocks the hero from accomplishing his goal of bringing the perpetrator to justice and heightens tension in the story. So, too, does the fact that John Book needs to hide out and heal while yet another person turns him in.

Considering Pamela Wallace won an Oscar for co-writing the script for Witness, how many times can such good cop/bad cop plots be done? If some cops are to be the bad guys in scripts, after the impact that Witness made in films, bad cop plots began taking more drastic turns.

In a thriller I started writing a few years ago, soon after I completed the rough draft of the manuscript, an explosion in forensic science occurred and my story immediately became outdated. A year of work had to be shelved. But my plot is so unique! I kept saying. I had to find a way to save it. I did. To this day, it is still a unique story.

The murders and arson I conjured in my original story could today be easily solved. How could I learn enough about forensic science in order to thwart its proving effects in my plot and still keep the action running?

Then I read, You Can Write a Movie, also written by Pamela Wallace. Finally, I hit upon a way to get around forensic science without myself having to become a forensic scientist.

In Witness, Wallace had crooked cops tampering with evidence. I have crooked cops in my mystery too. However, I could not be satisfied with simply adding crooked cops into the mix. It seemed all too convenient and way overdone in films. But not if you throw into the melee a radical group who just happens to get their kicks from wrongdoing.

In my story, I wanted to convolute the subplot way past the point of simplicity and yet not have it threaten to take over the main plot, as it almost does in Witness. My story has a subplot of not just crooked cops but a group of social renegades as well. But as I said, this was not enough for me. I have further complicated my plot with a hierarchy within the group of bad guys—and girls—all trying to out-do or eliminate one another in order to rise in stature. Then, so as not to distort from the main plot action, anything this group does enhances or thwarts the heroine from accomplishing her goal to help bring the proper person to justice.

While a certain amount of evidence is a must in order to redirect the finger of guilt toward the real perpetrator, my plot becomes complicated when evidence disappears. People within the wicked hierarchy fall or rise to power dependent upon who loses and finds and uses said evidence to climb another rung on the proverbial ladder. While all this is going on, an innocent inmate moves perilously closer to a date with lethal injection.

Ultimately, you cannot get away from using forensic evidence, but if there is no evidence to test, or if it is found and lost again, this heightens the excitement of your plot. If your story lacks excitement or is too easily solved, interrupt the pathway that connects the dots. Maybe kill off the only person who knows about the smoking gun. Let corroboration be found later on. There is no way to get around the fact that forensic science can solve most crimes these days, but only if there is evidentiary proof to test.

While no forensic evidence was needed to solve the murder in Witness, the complications that arose and blocked John Book from accomplishing his goal made for an exciting story. However, you must complicate your story to delay the final scene that forensic science can prematurely bring about. Make your plot as contorted as possible. Because of the splash Witness made by using the simple subplot of good cop/bad cop, chances are, another serious story of this type won’t fly because that kind of plot is simple and would have to be better than Witness. You must complicate your plot and learn something about the forensic information your story needs. The writer need not learn about all forensic science, only as much as must be used to enhance that one plot; enough to hide the true facts from being found too soon.

NOTE: The novel that Mary mentioned writing in this article is her new thriller, Down to the Needle, which was recently released. Read More

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Sep 10

Scary Storyteller Julie Achterhoff Returns to Visit with Mike Angley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MA: What are her strengths and weaknesses?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s now on sale on Kindle for $3.19

Here is a review by Apex Reviews:

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

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

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

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

Chelsea Perry
Apex Reviews
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May 07

“The SIN of Addison Hall” Author Jeffrey Onorato Visits the Child Finder Trilogy

Residing in a country where beautiful people are considered superior, Addison Hall is an anomaly. A mildly repugnant man, he is forced by the twisted hierarchy of his dictator to live in less than adequate living situations. The days become increasingly arduous as he toils in an unpleasant job, stricken with the disappointment of his current situation. Besides the dark comedy of his disastrous attempts at romance and his friend’s antics, Addison’s life is fairly dull. Then he meets Otka, a beautiful woman who owns the local coffee shop. After witnessing a chance encounter where Addison risks his life to save the life of a dog, Otka takes an obvious interest in him. Addison is perplexed by her reciprocated intrigue. Past experiences with such a valued creature of the opposite sex has left him tainted and doubting her motives.

The SIN of Addison Hall entrances the reader with delicious conflicts of human wanting and wavering uncertainty with an ending that will leave you begging for more. Read More

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Feb 26

Mark W. Danielson Zooms In To Guest On The Child Finder Trilogy

Visiting the Child Finder Trilogy today is author Mark W. Danielson. Mark grew up in El Cerrito, California, overlooking San Francisco Bay. He received his BA degree from the University of Northern Colorado and earned his MA from Webster University while serving as a Navy pilot. He currently travels the globe as an MD-11 captain for Federal Express. Mr. Danielson has published over 100 non-fiction articles in various periodicals since 1978. Diablo’s Shadow is his third reality-based suspense novel, following The Innocent Never Knew, and Danger Within. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, he has participated in numerous author events, including the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Men of Mystery, Barnes and Noble Mystery Author’s Night, Cutting Edge Murder, Hi-Jinks on the High Seas, and Kids Love a Mystery. His interests include hiking, fine arts, tennis, and restoring cars and boats. His varied experience and travel is evident in his writing. He and his wife live in Denver, Colorado, not far up the road from me! Read More

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