Tag Archives: moment

Nov 16

Author Mary Deal Shares Her Perspective On Foreshadowing With Mike Angley

I am excited to post — with permission, of course — an article that Mary Deal has put together with her perspective on foreshadowing. I told her when she sent me the article that I love this particular literary device, and I’m pretty good at spotting it when I read. Because I can spot it so well, when I write my own stories, I try to use it with great subtlety. In fact, I like to sprinkle foreshadowing dust in my books, and then pull the foreshadowed hints together like a bunch of threads at the climax to the story. Read More

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Jun 03

Back for Her THIRD Visit with Mike Angley: Julie Achterhoff!

MA: Julie Achterhoff was born in Michigan, but brought up mostly in the big city of San Francisco and a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. Her imagination was sparked by experiencing these different ways of life. She grew up reading very adult horror, mystery, and thriller novels passed to her by her mother. When reading she would get as excited about the writing of the books as the reading. She ended up becoming a home birth midwife with five children of her own. Still, with every book she read there was that gnawing urge to write something of her own.

Julie – welcome BACK! This is your third visit to my blog, and while I’ve had a few authors guest with me twice, you are the first with a triple visit.

My readers can go back and read the original posts Julie did with me, first on January 1, 2010, and then again on September 10, 2010.

Please remind my readers what you did before beginning your writing journey.

JA: I was a midwife raising a family for about 17 years, but when the oldest got big and responsible enough to watch the younger ones I started taking a couple classes a week at the local college. Of course I picked writing and English classes. I didn’t even dare hope to actually write anything. It was this deep, dark secret I kept even from myself! I started getting addicted when teachers and other students told me what they liked about my writing. That gave me more confidence. I suddenly realized the authors of every book I’d ever read were just regular people like me who probably started out not knowing if they could write. So I allowed my deeply buried creativity out and gave it full rein.

MA: I know you didn’t start writing novels right away, but you actually began with plays, is that right?

JA: My first major effort after some short stories and essays was actually a three-act play called Angel in the House. I really got excited about seeing my work performed. I eventually hoped against hope that I could work in the movie industry. But the structure used in plays and screenplays was very stilting for me. I had to pay so much attention to form that I felt it took away from the writing. I enjoyed just writing away without a care like I could with the short stories I’d written. I just couldn’t imagine putting enough words down to make up a whole darned book. But I decided to give it a try. I figured if others could do it, so could I.

MA: So how many books are you up to at this point?

JA: I’ve now written four books. I still can’t believe it, but I swear it’s true. I just kept writing and writing, and somehow the word count kept climbing until finally it was the end and I had a whole book in my hands. The first was Quantum Earth. It’s about a team of metaphysical scientists racing to find out why we’re having more natural disasters of a higher degree leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, and if our own human thoughts are actually creating this reality. Deadly Lucidity is a thriller about a woman trapped in her nightmares and dreams. Then she meets someone who tries to help her find a way out of her own mind. He seems to be another part of her imagination, but he is also so real. Native Vengeance is a novella about a woman who meets a friend on the internet and eventually goes to visit her during the town’s main event of the year. Of course, this annual “event” isn’t what it seems. The town has an old Indian curse on it because of something that happened a long time ago. The new friend needs her so she can escape the evil that occurs each year to punish the residents of the town.

Then there’s my latest book, Earthwalker- Earth can be Hell for a Vampire. I’ve always loved vampires the most of any of the beasts around. Maybe that’s why it took me this long to write my own kind of story about them. Plus, I hate doing anything that’s “in.” So I figured I’d have to write the book so different and far from the main crowd that it would hardly resemble any vampire story from the past. I think I achieved this. Earthwalker is a book about a vampire. And there is a passionate love story. But from there on out it is different in almost every way from any past works of its kind. I think I was successful in finding a fresh new way of presenting it. It’s all in the writing, though, anyway, isn’t it? I mean if you like my writing, you’ll definitely like this book. It barely gives the reader a moment to take a breath. I write tight and lean. There’s not a lot of flowery prose or descriptive overload in my stuff. I think you learn a lot about yourself and your style of writing with each new attempt. I would call Earthwalker my dissertation.

MA: Are you the kind of writer who starts with a hero and then builds the story, or do you start with a plot and develop the right man or woman to fill the need?

JA: Whenever I begin writing a book I already have a pretty good idea of who the protagonist is. I have the framework in my mind and then let them develop and grow on the page. I say “let” them because that’s how it seems to happen. They become alive to me. I think that’s how I’m able to write a whole book at all. The characters kind of take over and tell me what could possibly happen to them that would be thrilling and exciting, but also believable to the reader.

MA: Can you give us an idea of one of your heroes or heroines?

JA: In Earthwalker, for example, Willa is the so-called heroine. In the beginning of the story she is pretty weak. She’s recently gone through some tough life situations and is worn out emotionally. But she’s basically a strong young woman with emotional reserves that she calls on from the beginning. She’s good at dealing with emergency situations, it doesn’t take much for her to catch on when something outside her past experience happens, and she has the capacity to be courageous if need be. She is also willing to sacrifice herself for a greater good. As most of us do, though, she tends to think of herself first. She does sense this about herself and ends up putting herself last. With Willa, it’s like she moves ahead two steps then one step back and so on.

MA: Where do you draw from to create your “bad guys?” I’m always intrigued by antagonists in supernatural stories.

JA: I’ve had pretty intense nightmares since I was very young, so I’ve got plenty of nasty people in my head. I actually tone them down for my books so they’re not totally evil. That would be boring. You’re always going to enjoy a story more when you can somehow relate to the bad guy/gal. It’s like your dirty little secret. It brings the reader in so they feel closer to the characters.

MA: I take it you’ve not had any real-life encounters with vampires or other such creatures, or have you (grinning)?

JA: Not at all. I like making it all up from scratch. You will probably never see a non-fiction book come out of me. The further away from reality the better. My writing is my escape. It takes me far away from this world. And that’s the way I like it!

MA: Okay, so four works of fiction down…how many more to go? Where are you headed in the near future?

JA: Just recently I had a very long and real feeling dream that inspired me to write another book. It’s been months since I’ve written anything, so it’s great to know I haven’t dried up in the writing department. The next one’s about a reporter out to research the latest drug craze. And boy is it a doozy! What a crazy dream that one was.

MA: I can only imagine! I’ve had a few intense dream in my life, so I can relate. Will your allow any characters from past books to tag along in future stories?

JA: I have been asked by several readers if there will be a follow-up to Quantum Earth. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a time-bound novel in that it revolves around a particular time, the year 2012. But I guess it all depends on what actually does happen in 2012 to tell you the truth. Maybe these characters will have more to say and do at that point. Who knows?

MA: Let’s hope the Mayan “prophecy” turns out to be a whole lot of nothin’! After all, the Mayans simply stopped counting days, without actually saying what would happen beyond the calendar. So much about that calendar is super-hyped. Any parting thoughts?

JA: I would just like to encourage anyone who has a desire to write not to make excuses or let your inner critic stop you from doing something that could bring you a lot of joy. Don’t let anything stop you. And don’t do it for the money or fame. Chances are that won’t happen. You just have to love it. And then just do it. Get those words down on that page! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. If you do it this way it’s gonna show in your writing. Then you’ll have something to be proud of.

MA: Thanks again, Julie, for coming back. I want to encourage my readers to check out Julie’s blog (http://earthwalker.tk) and her books’ website (http://julieachterhoff.tk).

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May 18

“Fine Detail behind the Scenes” by Mary Deal

Fine Detail behind the Scenes
Mary Deal

All of us perceive and interpret information predominantly in one of three different ways. They are seeing, hearing and feeling.

If you’ll notice the speech of others, three people may receive information and respond to it differently.

I see what you mean.

I hear you.

I feel I know that.

When having your story characters use any of those three verbs, it is advisable to have them stick with the same one throughout the story unless a particular situation demands else.

If your character first says, “I see what you mean,” try not to have him or her later say something like “I feel I already know that.”

When being told something, the sight-minded person will respond, “I can see that. Yes, I saw that.” They may not have actually seen the action being described but they visualize it in their mind and respond with sight-related words.

The hearing-related person perceives better through hearing, as in a lecture as opposed to quiet reading. Have you ever told a person to do something without saying why? Then that person’s response is “I hear ya’.” That person is actually telling you that he heard the unspoken meaning.

When someone feels something, they are kinesthetic. That is, they feel the effect of what is being said or shown. Whatever they perceive causes a “felt sense,” albeit known only to them at the moment, unless they say something like, “I feel you’re right about that.” Or, “I feel it in my gut.”

All of us use any of the three senses at different times, but we specifically use one most of the time. For example, I can listen to a lecture or read a text and understand, but I will better understand what is being taught if it comes with pictures and diagrams. I am visual.

If you did not realize these habits about yourself, you may be creating all your characters in your likeness. When reading your work, look for these traits in your story people. Did you use only feeling words for your characters? Or hearing words? Or seeing words? Where these characteristics are concerned, you may have passed on the predominant way you perceive the world to ALL your characters. However, all characters should be different. One may see, one may hear, one may feel.

When you establish your characters predominantly using one of these three traits, see that you carry this usage throughout the entire story. This is yet another bit of fine detail behind the scenes that helps add cohesiveness not only to your characters but to your prose as well.

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

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May 04

Oh! This is a Tough Subject! “Facing Rejection,” an Article by Mary Deal

Facing Rejection
Mary Deal

No one likes rejection, but rejection is just a word – a word on which too many writers place too much emphasis.

When you understand the process of submissions and rejection, that word will hurt less if at all. You’ll see it as just another step in your progress.

The process includes you wearing your fingertips down to nubs as you get your prose written. Before you send your submission, what you need to know is that many factors become involved in acceptance or rejection. Here are only a few:

1) Did you follow the Guidelines perfectly?

Every publisher has different guidelines because they all have varying publishing formats and processes, from the type of story they accept to the format in which they require you to submit. Do you know how to switch your story from a .doc (in Word) to .rtf (rich text format)?

So you have followed all the guidelines? Next…

2) Did you read a copy of the magazine or some of the publisher’s novels or books to understand the type of stories they accept?

Are you submitting blindly, thinking your plot is so good they will accept it? No matter how good your story, someone else has written a better one.

3) Another factor may be the mood of the person on the receiving end.

You have no control over that, but if your story doesn’t ring bells with a literary agent or editor, no matter how good, you’ll get a rejection. The agent or editor could have recently been slapped with a divorce suit, or suffers from PMS that day. You have no control and human frailties do play a part in the process.

4) Have you submitted your manuscript all over the place, especially when guidelines call for “no simultaneous submissions,” and irritated a bunch of professionals you had hoped to impress?

Agents and editors all know one another. They talk. They tell each other of their negative experiences. Once someone associates your name with a really negative experience – C’est la vie!

5) Did you meet the deadline?

Did you wait till the last possible moment to submit? Most editors will choose favorites from the early entries because they can’t depend on what’s coming in with the slug of last minute arrivals. That’s not to say they won’t change their minds when a late arrival is so good they feel compelled to share it.

People find themselves in a rush when they wait till the last minute to finish their manuscripts. When they do, it’s thrown together haphazardly. An agent or editor can’t be blamed for picking favorites early. I believe all stories get read, but it would be difficult to displace a favorite. Submit early. Show you are ready to do business.

These are just some of the reasons for rejection, both in your control and out. If you know the process and still feel depressed over a rejection, your issues are not with the word “rejection” but, perhaps, you feel you’re being slighted. That just isn’t so.

I keep records of all my submissions, acceptances, and rejections. You should do that from the beginning. I have so many rejections that, knowing the process, rejections bounce off. My response is, “Hmmm… didn’t fit in that agent. I’ll try this new one.” That’s all the thought I give to it. That’s if I followed all the guidelines correctly.

Agents may send rejections, but editors won’t tell you if you followed the guidelines. You’ll just get a standard rejection. Sometimes it’s a form letter on their office memo; other times they may hand write a note on your cover letter and return it. In the case of magazines, you may never hear from them again, maybe not even get a rejection, just… nothing. But times are changing.

One of my biggest lessons of rejection was that I forgot to transfer my manuscript into .rtf format. I sent it in .doc. I knew I’d not hear from that editor again. I submitted the story elsewhere and got it accepted. To this day, I have never heard from the first editor, nor will I send a follow-up email since the story was accepted elsewhere. The first magazine was my first and greatly favored choice. I paid for my mistake.

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

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Apr 27

Saturate Yourself by Mary Deal

Saturate Yourself


Mary Deal

Many writers see a piece of prose and feel they can write like that. When they make the attempt to write their own story or piece of poetry, they fail. Why?

We’re all told to read what we wish to write. That is, read the authors we like best. That’s one reason we choose to write in the genre we’ve chosen. But also read instruction books on how to write for a certain genre. With the advent of eReaders, more books can be available at our fingertips for a fraction of the cost. Your local library also has reference books.

Every genre has its requirements.

* A mystery solves a problem
* A romance brings two people together or apart
* Science fiction usually creates other worlds
* Fantasy has elements of imagination beyond the norm
* Literary fiction deals with a moment in time, the human element

And on and on…

One of the best ways to help you gain success with your writing endeavors is to immerse yourself in the form of writing you wish to accomplish. You’ll identify certain rules or formats followed in each type of story you read.

For example in poetry, if you’ve read a heartfelt sonnet that touched you deeply, and wish to write about your feelings but every time you try the words just don’t fall into place. The best thing you can do is to study how to write a sonnet. Read sonnets. Read other poetry so you can learn the different between forms of verse. The latter is a great way to understand the type of poetry you wish to write. Oftentimes, we must learn what it is not, versus what it is.

Read about the format of a sonnet, the grammatical make-up, and the purpose of a sonnet. When you come to understand exactly what makes a perfect sonnet, chances are, your words will tumble out in sonnet format.

Likewise, every writer should have a good grasp of what makes a great story in the genre of their choice. I want to say that you should read only the best books, but that doesn’t give you a well-rounded experience. Saturate yourself. Read some books that do not appeal to you in any way. Ask yourself why they don’t. You may realize that they were not written in proper format for the genre.

When you read books, be aware of what is good writing and plotting as opposed to poor or incomplete work. All of this helps you to know the rights and wrong, the ins and outs, of making your story great.

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

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Apr 20

Uggggh! Book Signing Failure! by Mary Deal

When a Book Signing Fails
Mary Deal

Many reasons exist for having a failed book signing event. Some reasons given below should prepare you for what is needed to be successful. Ways to save a failed book signing when no one shows up are also given.

1) The store did not advertise your event.

2) You did not take posters or advertising materials to the store to help with their promotion. This ties with #1.

3) Whether or not the store advertises widely, you should notify local papers and other venues that advertise events in that town.

4) If your event takes places in your hometown, you failed to advertise widely and on the Internet too.

5) You did not plan to give a presentation, speech or lecture that would draw people in. Most of us do not have an advertising budget that will draw lines of people out the doorway waiting for an autograph. It’s sad to see someone walk up to a table and hand the author their book. The author signs and says “Thank you.” The buyer walks away. No real connection was made.

6) Your table is not decorated appropriately. A table with your books is not enough. Have a nice table cover. Have a table sign or two; one with your Bio and photo, another with a photo of your book cover and the Synopsis printed on it.

7) Do you have post cards? Bookmarks? Business cards?

8) Are you sitting there reading while waiting?

These are some of the reasons book signings fail. Some things you can do if you have all the essentials in place but, still, no one comes.

1) Especially if the store is not busy, walk around the store offering your book marks. Do this if it looks like no one will be attending your signing.

2) The store should voluntarily announce that you are in the store and having a signing. If they have no PA system, ask how they might tell their customers that you are there.

3) If they have a way of making announcements and it looks like few will attend, ask the store to announce that you will have a drawing for a free copy of your book for all those who attend. You should always carry a brown paper bag for putting little slips of paper into with attendee’s names to be drawn after the signing.

4) Make sure your table attracts lookers. Even add a small bit of flowers if it helps make it look pleasant.

5) Have some items on your table that apply to the book. In the case of my Egyptian novel, The Ka, I had a small bowl of hand-carved scarabs waiting. Those who bought books were allowed to pick through and find two that matched.

6) If you can be an actor, dress the part. That is exciting! Do you write sword and sorcery? Dress in a costume of the time period. If the store is big enough, pre-plan a duel with someone. Of course, you will have permission from the store beforehand. Is your book about belly dancing? Wear that costume. Be daring, you wrote the book. A hard core crime writer whose signing I attended had herself carried in inside a body bag! Talk about getting people’s attention!

7) So you’ve sat there and no one attended. Get up and walk around the store carrying your book. Pass out your book marks and business cards. It may seem like a feeble last resort gesture, but at least you will have placed something into the hands of potential readers.

8) Stand at the entrance and hand out your book marks to buyers exiting with their packages. If not your books, use every moment to get something of yours into the hands of book buyers.

Many ways exist to prevent a failed book signing. Likewise, many ways exist to redeem the moment. If you have had a failed signing, you should see it as a valuable lesson in how to prepare for your next event.

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

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Mar 09

Character Mannerisms as Told by Mary Deal

Character Mannerisms
Mary Deal

In fleshing out the narrative of a story, writers need to describe mannerisms of the characters. These gestures and habits help the reader know your story people and what makes them tick. The actions each character performs must be in accordance with the scene and their responses to it.

These seemingly innocent extras that the writer adds must be accurate. Readers, especially avid readers, know when something isn’t right as the plot moves along. A wrong point or description can stick in the readers mind and distract from their ability to suspend disbelief and to lose themselves in a story.

An example might be when you have your character making physical gestures. When they roll their eyes, make sure it fits what you having them doing. Neurolinguistics teaches that a person rolls their eyes to the left if telling a lie, also known as constructed (made up) information. So if your character is telling a lie, make sure you don’t say he rolled his eyes to the right, which is from where remembered (true) information is pulled in.

Instead of being so detailed, which necessitates accuracy, you might simply want to say something like:

“He rolled his eyes, looking disgusted, and then studied the papers again.”

That’s a simple sentence that not only provides a good description of what is happening with the character at that moment, but also allows the reader to feel the character’s emotion.

A different example is if you have a left-handed cop. You might assume all cops in your story are right-handed, but suppose you make your cop character different. To flesh out his actions, you might want to add something to the fact that in spite of being an awkward left-hander, he was an award winning sharp-shooter quicker than lightning with his left handed draw. His left hand draw was quicker than any of the right handed cops on the force.

To include something like this about the cop does not and perhaps should not all be added when the cop first enters the story. Defining actions and gestures such as these are parsed out throughout the story whenever a scene allows for them. Perhaps with the cop, he might be identified as a sharp-shooter early in the story. Deeper into the story when the scene dictates him drawing his service revolver quickly, the rest could be added. Breaking up the information like this adds cohesiveness to the telling of the tale. Readers will remember that he was a sharp-shooter and will feel the connectedness to this character.

As with psychological aspects such as rolling the eyes in one direction or another, or other physical gestures, these must be accurate or they should not be included if the writer is unsure about the legitimacy of the facts.

Keep your readers in mind at all times during the writing of a story. Know that readers have read enough stories to know when an author is weak in their research.

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

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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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Dec 15

“Sentence Structure” does not mean “20 to Life,” but it does mean …

Sentence Structure

We’re all told that when we write to simply let the words flow uncensored. Never mind punctuation and sentence structure, just get the words and ideas out. This method works for me and many other people. Still others plan out their sentences in their minds before writing or they edit each sentence written before going on to the next. With any way you choose to write, you will find yourself editing your sentences to make them grammatically correct and to fit the pace of your story.

In order to write the correct sentence for the “moment” of that part of the story, a writer must understand the differences between simple, compound and complex sentences. When I talk about a particular “moment” in a story, a writer needs to know how to use those sentences to pick up the pace of the action or slow it down. Sentences can make a reader breathless and keep turning pages, or they can cause the reader to read more slowly in order to understand a more difficult passage.

Simple Sentences

These are also known as independent clauses and are short and to the point. When we first learned to read, we read sentences that, to an adult, seemed more like bits and pieces. “Jack ran away.” “The ball rolled away.”

As we advanced in our reading skills, sentences became longer, though probably remained simple: “See where the ball rolled into the pasture.”

Simple sentences need to be paced, that is, interspersed among compound and complex sentences. Simple sentences can have a staccato effect between absorbing the action and meaning of a story.

A simple sentence contains a subject and a verb. Simply, a person or thing and the action they perform. Use simple sentences to quicken the action. However, too many short sentences, one after another, can make your story seem juvenile.

Compound Sentences

Compound sentences contain two independent clauses which are joined by:

for – a preposition
and, but, or – conjunctions
so, yet – adverbs
nor – a conjunction and an adverb

A comma always precedes the word that conjoins the two independent clauses making them a compound sentence.

An example:

~ I went to the store, and my friend went to the Post Office.

Complex Sentences

Where a compound sentence contains two independent clauses, a complex sentence has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A dependent clause completes the action, but cannot stand alone as a whole and complete sentence.

A complex sentence always uses one of these words to join the two parts of the sentence: after, when, although, because, since, or the pronouns who, whom, which, that, they.

When a sentence begins with any of the words from the first group, a comma is inserted at the end of the dependent clause before the sentence finishes. Note this example:

~ After Rita helped me with the dishes, she and her boyfriend went out.

When one of the connecting pronouns is used, no comma is included. Example:

~ Rita and her boyfriend went out after they helped me with the dishes.

It is advisable to study the choice of words used to connect parts of a sentence. In some cases, the insertion of the wrong word can change what you imply with the sentence.

Short sentences can quicken the pace of the story for the reader. Longer sentences can slow down the pace and offer a lot more information. It is important that you have a balance of each as you write.

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