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Nov 30

Author Mary Deal Writes About “A False Sense Of Value” On The Child Finder Trilogy

When we writers select a topic on which to expound, chances are, we choose that topic because of its emotional impact on ourselves. We feel something strongly and want to let the world know our opinion. If we felt nothing, what’s to write?

Once the essay or story is finished and we’re feeling good about having gotten our brainstorm on paper, the next step is to decide if what we’ve written is important enough to send out to get published. Or have we simply committed a lot of weak personal opinion and gibberish to paper? Read More

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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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Jul 15

Multi-Published Novelist Louis P. Solomon Guests with Mike Angley Today

MA: I am pleased to welcome to my blog today, Dr. Louis P. Solomon. Louis founded Life Echoes, a Family Legacy Book Publishing Service. In addition he founded Pearl River Publishing (PRP), a publishing house. He spent most of his career in the military-industrial community in government and industry. He continues to be a consultant on business, technical, and financial issues. He is technically trained with a PhD from UCLA in Engineering in 1965.

Louis has written several books including five novels: The Third Legacy, Gotcha!, Unknown Connections, Library of the Sands, and Instrument of Vengeance, and several nonfiction books: Transparent Oceans: Defeat of the Soviet Submarine Force, Teleworking—A Complete Guide for Managers and Teleworkers and the Solomon Haggadah.

You have a fascinating background, especially in the technical realm. Please tell us more.

LS: I have substantial academic technical training. I have had a varied career, covering multiple disciplines, both in government and in the private sector. I received a PhD in Engineering from UCLA in 1965, specializing in Fluid Mechanics, Applied Mathematics, and Electromagnetic Theory.

Prior to entering government service I was one of three founders of a very successful consulting firm, Planning Systems Incorporated (PSI) which grew from three to over 400 people located in several states. PSI primarily supported the United States Navy (USN) during the Cold War. After ten years with PSI I went to work for the Department of the Navy for nine years as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES). As the Associate Director of Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity (NORDA) for Program Management I was responsible for the Long Range Acoustic Propagation Project (LRAPP).

Subsequently I worked with the DoD National Security Education Program (NSEP) in placing within the federal government over 3,000 NSEP award recipients (graduate and undergraduates in all academic fields) who lived and studied throughout the world and learned less commonly taught languages and cultures. I also served as a subject matter expert in developing The Language Corps for the Department of Defense (DoD) as a national entity to support government agencies in times of national emergencies.

In addition to PSI, I am a founder and chief executive of several firms: LPS Collaborative Group, (a very unusual technical and management consulting firm), Pearl River Publishing (a book publishing firm) and Life Echoes, (a Family Legacy Book Publishing Service). In addition, I sporadically write a blog: The Wisdom of Solomon, which focuses on subjects which are of interest to me.

MA: I can understand the technical writing you’ve done, but how did you end up writing novels?

LS: In a single sentence: My Mother made me.

I wrote many technical reports and refereed technical papers. I eventually lost interest in discussing and writing about detailed technical issues. That is work for people beginning their careers.

I had no interest in writing fiction until my Mother came to me one day and told me that she had a fiction story she wanted me to write, based upon an actual event. Being a dutiful son, I said that I would write the story and promptly did nothing. But she was a tough old lady, and nagged me about it, regularly. I continued to put her off. But I was then invited, as part of a family outing to celebrate the 80th birthday of my mother-in-law, to go on an ocean voyage for a week. I find cruise ships the height of boredom, but as a son-in-law, I was obliged to accept the invitation with good graces. I then realized this was a heaven sent opportunity. I took my Mac Power Book laptop, and spent every day from 0600 to 1800 in the ship’s library. It was a nice little quiet room, which was never visited by another single soul during the entire trip. I wrote all day long, and by the time the cruise was over, I had completed the first draft of the book. My Mother loved it, and I found it a very interesting tale. This story, The Third Legacy, was edited by Linda Jenkins, who has edited not only all my books, but used to edit all my technical documents and refereed journal articles which I wrote while I was associated with NORDA. She is a superb editor, and I always accept follow her suggestions about making changes to the documents I entrust in her editorial care.

MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?

LS: My professional career did not inspire my writing. It had an effect on how I write my novels, just as my technical training influenced how I write. I focus on relatively complex stories, which fit together in order and sequence. All parts of my stories hang together. The problem that I have is that I do not focus on the characters of my books. I like them all, and would associate with them in real life, if they, in fact existed. But I don’t emphasize the emotional part of my novels, nor the character interactions. To me the story is one that I tell, in detail, in what I would characterize as a somewhat laconic voice. This is, I believe, the major drawback to all my novels. If I continue to write novels, and I probably will, I will be searching for someone who is very good at constructing characters who are lovable, hate able, etc. My coauthor will probably be sought as a budding playwright.

All my characters are based, to a greater and lesser degree on people I know, or knew. The skills and capabilities of my characters are based upon real people. However, I should add that I do not pay much attention to the human characteristics of real or imaginary people. They are what they are, and that is how I deal with people in real life. I like them, or do not; and friendships develop or not. I assume they think the same about me, but this may be an inaccurate assessment. I have many long term, close friends, in many fields and areas of endeavor, but I never think about them purely in an emotional way. They are wonderful in that sense that they have great enjoyment to me, but I never analyze them.

MA: Tell us more about your novels.

LS: I have already mentioned my first novel: The Third Legacy. This novel, written at my Mother’s request and prodding, was based upon the historical fact that Hermann Goering, Reich Marshall of the Third Reich, was sentenced to death for War Crimes at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trial at the end of World War II. He died a few hours before he was to be hung. How he died, and who helped him was never discovered or explained. This single event allowed me to develop a tale which explained all the facts, and hopefully was interesting as a novel.

The second novel, Gotcha! was based upon the Enron scandal and the terrible effects on the people who worked for Enron. The entire story of the Enron scandal was part of a Pulitzer Prize article from several Washington Post writers. I was infuriated by the way Enron executives handled themselves and decided that I could write a story which would have the characters, originally part of a fictional corporation who underwent the same series of events that Enron encountered. Once I had the idea of wrecking vengeance, the story was easy to develop.

The third novel, Unknown Connections was a little different. I have just finished a nonfiction book: Transparent Oceans: The Defeat of the Soviet Submarine Force. This book was written for a very select professional group of people who were familiar with the issues of naval submarine warfare during the Cold War. But several people suggested that I take the same information and create fictional characters and retell the story as part of a novel, using the same information. I did, and Unknown Connections is the result.

The fourth novel, Library of the Sands, is based upon the factual event of the destruction of the library at Alexandria in the 7th Century by the invading Arab armies. The library was itself about 1,000 years old at that time. It was the largest and most complete library in the Western Hemisphere with collections dating back 1,000 years from many sources. The librarians had a long and wonderful history in developing and protecting the collection. It was, and remains, my contention that the men and women of the 7th Century were emotionally no different than the men and women of the 21st Century; but the technology is different. If I were the Chief Librarian of the Alexandria Library at the time would I let my collection be destroyed by the invading armies? Absolutely not. So, how would I protect the collection which was in my care and my responsibility? The novel, Library of the Sands, is in fact, devoted to telling the imaginary story about how this was actually accomplished.

The most recent novel, Instrument of Vengeance, is due to my enjoyment of the assassin which was told about in the series of novels by Lawrence Block. I enjoyed them, and then, as is my habit, I asked myself how someone becomes an assassin, and how can a business which offers assassination as a service, exist in the modern world? How do you find clients? How do you stay free and not get caught by the law enforcement services? After thinking about it for a little while, and with the technical background I have, it was easy to solve the problem. So, I wrote a novel about how it could be done. All the technical details are correct, and plausible.

MA: How would you characterize the antagonists in your stories?

LS: My bad guys are really not people, but events and organizations.

MA: Will you keep writing fiction, or are you going to concentrate more on your technical writing?

LS: I will continue to write novels as ideas and events appeal to me. I can’t predict what they will be, or when they will occur. But my current focus on my firm, Life Echoes, I expect will have me encounter some interesting historical events and stories which I will use as a basis for a new novel, or series of novels.

MA: Thanks very much, Louis, for being my guest-blogger today. I encourage my readers to learn more about Louis Solomon by visiting his many websites:

www.pearlriverpublishing.net
www.lifeechoes.net
www.lpscolg.com
www.lpsseminars.com/LPSS/Presentations.html
www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/louispsolomon Read More

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Jul 08

Celia A. Andriello Guests with Mike Angley

MA: I am pleased to welcome today’s guest, Celia Andriello. Celia is definitely one of the more colorful authors to guest-blog with me. I will let her tell us more about her.
CA: All of my novels are based on my life experiences be it via my roots in parental abuse beyond anyone’s imagination, teaching publically and privately, building creative businesses, trafficking in various products for the benefit of mankind, providing my gift of motivational speeches to various environmental groups and “rights” movements, travel, building the first dream of microcomputers, or just sharing a war with my endearing Viet Nam survivors. Throughout my journey I have been overwhelmed with the inconsistencies of what is said and what is done. My novels are like any fiction; woven into the thread of truth.
MA: That’s quite a resume! Tell us how you began writing.
CA: It all began with “Betty Butterfly.” (Don’t laugh. It’s all true.) It was a second grade assignment that my teacher sliced and diced with her red pen. Fortunately the winds transported the prose into another teacher’s custody and I was immediately proclaimed “a singular creative writer.” I wasn’t sure what it meant, but her smile indicated that it was certainly better than the assassinating red pen.
One must grow-up, sort of, and come face-to-face with what it was that created this “gift for fiction.” There is nothing like two questionable parents to stimulate the best in their children. Therapy was my greatest teacher.
MA: Why novels?
CA: I stick to the novel format to keep from being sued. It’s as simple as that.
MA: Um, okay.
CA: All of my characters have a thread of real character in them. I have known a multitude and revere them through fiction.
MA: What genre do your write?
CA: This has been a devilish question for I really don’t know which to choose. For the sake of my sanity I have often fallen back on general fiction; but it’s more than that. Hear the Calliope: A sentimental Journey on the Earth Ride (circa 1950 – 1986) lays the foundation of betrayal; family and government, for the latter is a parental construct. Within wounds are exposed and delved into in order for the reader to comprehend the distortions in the adult character after the onslaught(s). At the same time humor is woven into the gore in order to repair the damages for the heroes to develop their own personal “more perfect union with the support of a very unique circle of friends. At the same time all previous dogma is discarded; there is no religion, there is no ethnicity, there is only human.
MA: Tell us about your heroine.
CA: Marinda is a young lady who is neither black nor white, nor does she know her ethnic background. Although she was raised Roman Catholic, she has come to understand that the teachings that she tried desperately to embrace as a child never made much sense to her even though she can recite the verse. Even her name is a misnomer. In order to restructure the world to fit her and her companions’ needs she had to be a compilation of the unknown.
Her weakness is her self-doubt created at home through an abusive life style of her parents and supported by her priest. Through her torturous childhood she has come to believe that she is incapable of being loved because she deserves only pain.
On the other hand her strength is her intelligence that takes her through med studies in conjunction with her psychiatric degree. Through her wisdom she is able to re-connect all that meets because she is able to admit that she’s struggling through her traumas as well and can share with them what she’s learned from being the innocent dupe. Likewise her soul mate, Dale, a survivor of friendly fire learns and enhances her methods with his spiritual knowledge.
Within me is housed the stories of the universe for my experiences have fanned out to touch all directions. It is impossible for me to stop writing. I have tried to not avail. I recently finished KILLER: Is Suicide Painless?

MA: Thanks, Celia for that interesting interview. Folks, visit Celia’s blog for more information about her and her writing: http://hubpages.com/hub/HAUDENOSAUNEE-my-faithful-Indian-companion

Read More

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Jun 01

Having Trouble Choosing a Subtitle? Ask Mary Deal for Advice

Choosing a Subtitle
by
Mary Deal

Sometimes you can conjure what you think is the best title ever for your book. No one has used that title and there is nothing close to it in all of literature. Then, after a while, you begin to wonder if your great title covers all that your book entails. You search for a new title but always return to the one you first chose. It is that good!

So you begin to wonder if you should also use a subtitle. Subtitles used to be seen as a way to enhance a weak title. However, at the writing of this article, the consensus is that if you want to utilize a great chance to tell more about your book, use a subtitle. Keep in mind, however, that some titles will never need a subtitle.

What subtitle would you add to Gone with the Wind or The Old Man and the Sea?

Peruse book selling sites and notice any recent books that have no subtitles. Notice those that do use subtitles. You will get a “feel” for when to use and when not to use.

Usually a title will tell the overall feeling or story without giving away any exact details. Using a subtitle allows you to hint at more of the detail.

Subtitles must be as short as possible. I have seen books with eight to ten words in the title alone, and then a subtitle with the same number or more words is added. This represents not only a misuse of a subtitle but shows an overall title not well thought out.

Your subtitle should give the strongest clue as to what the story is about. If you choose a subtitle because your title is not necessarily weak but is broad inclusively, then your subtitle will draw the reader in. Think of it. The title is unique and catches the reader’s attention. Then the subtitle tells more of what they can inspect of the prose. I use prose here because nonfiction, even books like cookbooks, sometimes has subtitles.

The reader will need to learn something about the book from the subtitle. Never use a subtitle with the intention of keeping the reader’s eyes glued to your cover. It doesn’t work that way. Every word must offer the reader something to learn about the book. A lackluster subtitle leaves the potential book buyer with a ho-hum feeling.

Your title can be anything from plain and simple to quirky. Whatever it represents will be enhanced and enticing through the subtitle.

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

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May 25

Mary Deal Talks about Creating Your Story Title

Creating Your Story Title

Something writers of multiple stories will experience: Titles may come to you in a flash. Some will take some thinking through.

If you’ve written your first and only story thus far, you may feel you have a great title for that one piece of prose. However, caution should be taken due to lack of experience in titles. You can only know how easy or how difficult choosing a title will be when you’ve written a few stories.

For the person who writes many stories or many books, again, choosing a title may come easy, or it may be one of the most difficult aspects of writing.

Your book will first be judged by its title and cover art. Those are the first two criteria that will attract a potential buyer if they know nothing about you or your book or books. The title and cover must entice the viewer to look further and flip to the back cover and read the synopsis.

Here are some tips to help both the beginning writer and the experienced.

~ Your title should covey the overall message of the story.

An example would be if your story is about a crime taking place in an apple orchard. If you title your book “The Apple Orchard,” then you might have the front cover showing something happening in an orchard, or something related to the crime. Otherwise, a bland title like “The Apple Orchard” could represent anything from a romance to a UFO abduction under the apple trees. The title and cover of this book must work together.

An example of this type of title is Joseph Wambaugh’s “The Onion Field.” His cover is a very dark field with telephone poles and gorgeous sky in the distance. If you did not know the crime behind “The Onion Field” you would have no idea what the story might be about. Wambaugh is just lucky enough to be a bestselling author so people know him and what type of stories he writes, but most of us are not yet bestselling authors. We need more to attract readers.

~ Use an important phrase from within your story. It can be from the narrative or the dialogue.

In my latest thriller, Down to the Needle, the character Joe Arno is goading Det. Britto to hurry. Time is running out. An innocent person will go to lethal injection. Arno says, “Do something, Britto. We don’t want this case to go down to the needle.” This story is about how the case slides mercilessly all the way down to the needle. In my mind, I asked myself: What better title could there be?

Be selective. Choose some of your very best lines of narration or dialogue. Use the very best, or change the wording a bit to fit.

~ An overall theme.

In my award winning thriller, River Bones, I selected from the overall theme. The Sacramento River runs through rural farm and crop lands. Tourists vacation in boats and some stay through the summer. Though illegal, they dump their dinner leftover meat bones and other foodstuffs into the river. It’s easy to find bones here and there or washed up near the river banks. It’s also easy to find bones when a crime is committed by a person who buries his victims in the soft damp river banks that promotes decay.

I named that novel River Bones for that reason, also because just the mention of bones can send shivers down a person’s spine.

In order to decide just the right title for your story, think about what you’ve written. Think about the best lines you’ve written. Your title is right there in your prose.

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

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May 04

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

Facing Rejection
by
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 15

Dressed for a Kill Author, Brian Bianco, Sleuths in to Visit with Mike Angley

MA: Today I am pleased to interview Brian Bianco, author of Dressed for a Kill. Brian began writing in 2000, and he’s presently working on books two and three. He says they are not part of any trilogy, and they not in the same genre. Brian spent 20 years is in the insurance industry, but he’s not visited it again, for which he is grateful! Brian has lived in Vancouver and surrounding communities all his life.

So, Brian, tell us why you made the transition from insurance to writing.

BB: Since the late nineties, I had been itching to do something else with my life, rather than continue on in the insurance field, having worked for some of the biggest brokerage firms in the world. It was no longer gratifying. I’ve always considered myself to be creative by nature, drawing (representation under ‘author’ on my website) being a part of that creativity when I was younger but not so much younger. On my website under the link ‘inspiration’ you will find the true reason behind me deciding that I wanted to write. The story is true even if it sounds a little corny.

MA: Why novels? Why not Insurance for Dummies (chuckling)?

BB: Writing novels was something I thought I could do and be good at it. After writing my first novel, if I thought it wasn’t good enough, the book, along with me would never have seen the light of day. I liked the challenge that writing presented to me personally—to be able to create something out of nothing other than what we as writers can think of and then somehow put it all together. Wow!

MA: What is Dressed for a Kill all about?

BB: My story revolves around a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who aside from working on the biggest story of his life, is also confronted with problems at home. The following is what can be found on the back cover:

To Chicago Trib reporter Miles Fischer, it was just another rape and murder trial, until the two convicted felons are found dead in the muddy parking lot of a rundown bar just days after their surprising acquittal. His curiosity turns to suspicion after searching the archives where he discovers two more cases similar to the one in Tweeksbury. Is it a coincidence? Miles doesn’t think so. In fact, he believes he knows who the killer is after a chance encounter. Miles draws the ire of the FBI and becomes tight-lipped when confronted to disclose what he knows after publishing an article connecting all three. He wants the story and the glory that goes with it, and believes he is the only one who can identify the killer. He sets his sights on Seattle and creates a game of cat-and-mouse with the FBI and an ex-cop turned private investigator, who is after the same thing but for different reasons. What he and the private investigator don’t realize is just how deadly this game is about to become.

MA: That sounds exciting! So did you mold any characters from people you knew in real life, perhaps from your years in the insurance biz?

BB: I actually used some of the characteristics from me personally and transferred them over to the main character, Miles Fischer. I’ve had one person who reviewed the book call him, “a character you love to hate”, which took me aback somewhat, believing Miles is a good guy. I’ve had others who read the book say they loved the character, Miles Fischer, but then again, the book is really not about me. It’s about the fictional character, Miles Fischer. I would say the main character is both of these, ‘love him’ or ‘hate him’.

MA: Hmmm, so a protagonist who may not or may not be so likeable…tell us more about his personality.

BB: His strengths are his beliefs in the truth and finding out what those truths are, no matter what the cost, even though at times he skirts the truth in order to get what he wants. I would also have to say he’s not one to give up, again, no matter what the cost may be to both his family and his own personal safety. He’s opinionated (but aren’t we all?) and it’s those opinions (beliefs) that keep him going while around him, his marriage falls apart. He sees things as black and white, no grey areas, so I would say this trait can be construed as both positive and/or negative.

His weaknesses are he can be drawn to a pretty face (some called him a ‘womanizer’) that can lead him into making the wrong decisions to his own detriment. He can also be sarcastic to a fault when the situation suits him. He hates rules when they tie his hands. He thinks highly of himself, but he’s not as smart as he thinks he is, alas, the final chapters in the book which expose his failings with regard to his pursuit of the killer.

MA: Do you also have an antagonist who is as likeable/unlikeable as Miles?

BB: On the question of an antagonist, I would have to say it could be and probably is more than one. Bruno Carboni, the PI, is certainly the main one, since both he and Fischer are after the same thing. Agent Donlon is also an antagonist, since Fischer has no regard for the FBI as he pursues the killer with Donlon on his back. His wife, Erin, could also be considered in the same mode since she is against him in his pursuit of the story, wanting him to give it to someone else so that he can be at home with her while she delivers their first child. The problems going on in the marriage between Miles and Erin were taken from real-life. Mine to be exact.

MA: You told me you are working on two new projects. Tell us about them.

BB: Presently I’m working on two books; both are completely different from my first novel. One is written in the first person, my first attempt at what I think is harder to write. Therein lies the challenge.

MA: Thanks, Brian, for swinging by and chatting about your novel, Dressed for a Kill. To my readers, please stop by Brian’s website for more information: http://www.brianbianco.ca
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Apr 06

Sex…with Finesse by Mary Deal (Contains Adult Content: That Ought to Bring in a Few Extra Visitors!)

Sex…with Finesse
by
Mary Deal

(Adult content)

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

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Jan 21

Fellow Air Force Veteran & Author, Alan Simon, Guest-blogs with Mike Angley

MA: My guest today is Alan Simon, the author or co-author of 30 books dating back to the early 1980s. His writing career began with the 1st edition of How to be A Successful Computer Consultant (McGraw-Hill) that sold approximately 200,000 copies in 4 editions over the next 15 years. He is the author of three titles in the “For Dummies” franchise series and has written extensively about technology and business topics. In 2009 Alan began experimenting in self-publishing with Blocking and Tackling Your Way to Management Success in which he set 40 fundamental management lessons against a backdrop of 40 stories from the history of his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2010, Alan branched out into fiction with the publication of his first two novels including The First Christmas of the War, set at Christmastime, 1941 – only weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Alan currently lives in Phoenix and in the past has lived in Pittsburgh, Tucson, Colorado Springs, Denver, and northeastern Pennsylvania.

Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background…the prequel if you would to your writing career.

AS: The best way to describe my professional background is to quote The Beatles: “The long and winding road…” I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA until my family moved to Tucson, Arizona just before my 16th birthday. I attended college at Arizona State in Tempe and then went to graduate school at the University of Arizona back in Tucson before heading off to Colorado Springs where I spent four years as a U.S. Air Force officer stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. In the Air Force I wrote software for one of the real-life “War Games” systems, referring to the early 1980s movie in which Matthew Broderick breaks into Cheyenne Mountain’s computers to play “thermonuclear war.” After my Air Force days I worked for a series of technology and consulting companies in a variety of roles, including several as a national or global practice leader in business intelligence and data warehousing. I began my own firm – currently called Thinking Helmet, Inc. – in 2006.

In many ways my writing career began as an “accident.” When I was an Air Force officer in the early 1980s I started a small computer consulting business on the side mostly so I could stay up to date with the technology of the then-brand new “microcomputers” that were very different than the old-fashioned mainframes we used in the Air Force. One day I was thinking about all of the tasks I had to do to set up my company and learn about new technology and suddenly thought there might be a book in the making there. I wrote a proposal, sent it off to McGraw-Hill, and presto! Book deal! (Little did I know the publishing game wasn’t quite that easy…)

MA: Well, I definitely have a soft spot for fellow Air Force vets, and I am very familiar with Cheyenne Mountain during my work in Air Force Space Command nearby. With such a technical and non-fiction writing background, how did you end up writing fiction?

AS: I began “dabbling” in fiction approximately 25 years ago, sequestered in a near-deserted hotel in the mountains of Colorado in late May of 1985. I had gone there to spend a week finishing up the final manuscript for my first book, How to be a Successful Computer Consultant. (Thinking back, my long-ago writing getaway in the Rockies was sort of a combination of two works from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King: “The Shining” meets “Misery” !)

Whenever I’d take a break from polishing that manuscript during that trip, I’d shift to write two or three more draft pages for an idea I had for a “potboiler” novel; something that in retrospect was heavily influenced by the writing style and typical plot lines from popular writers of the day such as Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon. I shelved that book for all eternity shortly thereafter, but over the next two decades spent thousands of hours – and wrote the proverbial million words of fiction – on any number of long-dormant projects, as fiction writing grew into a deep passion of mine.

MA: Speaking of The Shining, my kids and I once spent a night in the “Stephen King” room at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, where King stayed and wrote the book. Sadly, nothing spooky happened during our stay there. So tell us about your novels.

AS: I wrote two novels in parallel with each other over a period of 6+ years; both were self-published this past year. The first is entitled The First Christmas of the War and is a family saga set at Christmastime, 1941…only weeks after Pearl Harbor. Beyond the overarching and terrifying news coming back from the war front, each family member has his or her own “mini-drama” going on, and the story interweaves the “macro” and “micro” plots in a day-by-day format beginning with the Saturday before Christmas and ending the day after Christmas.

The other novel is entitled Unfinished Business and just like The First Christmas of the War, it’s set in my hometown of Pittsburgh. I like to think of Unfinished Business as “a darker Bridges of Madison County story” that begins in flashback with a brief wartime affair that takes place in 1942. The plot of the story is based around the resumption of that affair nine years later, in 1951, when Roseanne DeMarco’s steelworker husband is called up from the Army Reserves and set off to the Korean War…just as her long-ago “friend” reappears in Pittsburgh as she’s struggling to make ends meet.

MA: I have a hard enough time writing one story, so I can’t imagine what two parallel ones must be like. Who are your protagonists?

AS: In The First Christmas of the War I’m fortunate enough to have a number of main characters who essentially are an “ensemble cast” as the book’s protagonist. The family’s patriarch – Gerald Coleman – is patterned after one of my grandfathers. He’s a shoemaker who is fortunate enough to have made a decent enough living during the Depression. His wife, Irene Coleman, is the classic homemaker of the day…she runs her household and her family and is always looking out for the best interests of every family member. The eldest son, Jonathan, is patterned after characters such as those played by Sean Penn and Nicholas Cage in the 1980s movie Racing with the Moon…he knows with certainty he’s headed off to war soon and is trying to come to grips with this sudden reality. The rest of the family members are all “demographically appropriate” for 1941 children and teenagers.

In Unfinished Business I tried my best to get inside the head of Roseanne DeMarco. Her husband is suddenly sent off to war, she has no safety net to fall back on, and in general she’s sleepwalking through life…and here comes this person from the past who was her “partner” in an illicit yet exciting brief period of her young life. Throughout the book she’s conflicted between the renewal of this excitement and her increasing guilt about what she’s doing while her husband is away at war.

MA: They both sound interesting. Who are the antagonists in the stories?

AS: The First Christmas of the War doesn’t have an antagonist…unless you want to think of Hitler and Tojo as off-the-pages antagonists who made the story (and the war) possible!

In Unfinished Business Frank Donaldson – the main with whom Roseanne DeMarco renews her affair – is very much an antagonist, but a carefully constructed one. I patterned his character after that of Noel Airman in Herman Wouk’s 1955 novel, Marjorie Morningstar. At first he seems suave, debonair, the man of Roseanne DeMarco’s dreams who has returned to her…but increasingly his fascination in the story with Jack Kerouac (then a brand new novelist) becomes symbolic of his own character flaws.

MA: How much of your real life’s story influenced your writing?

AS: When I moved from Pittsburgh to Tucson just before my 16th birthday, I was very homesick for my original city and spent many hours in the high school and public libraries reading books about Pittsburgh and its history. Since I planned to go into the military in one way or another, I was also very interested in the World War II era and the aftermath, including the boom years of the 1950s. So my fascination with mid-20th century Pittsburgh formed the foundation for both of these novels. I spent many hours researching the facts and tidbits for both stories, though when appropriate I took a bit of poetic license in the interest of moving the story along.

In both books – especially The First Christmas of the War – I did use my real-life great-grandfather’s produce business in Pittsburgh as a plot vehicle, and in First Christmas had eldest son Jonathan working side-by-side with my real-life great-uncles in a couple of scenes. I dedicated that book to those great-uncles, all of them gone now, as members of the “greatest generation” who (to use the words of the book’s dedication) “sacrificed much of their youth to the Second World War.”

MA: So what’s next for you? You are so versatile, I can imagine either a novel or some techno-geek book coming soon!

MA: The biggest challenge I have is getting my head and hands around a much-too-full list of to-be-written projects for 2011. In all seriousness, I have a list of about 15 business, technology and management topics; 25-30 ideas for novels and short stories; and another non-fiction, self-help oriented title based on my own personal close call on 9/11. (A schedule quirk put me in Pittsburgh for a speech that morning, scheduled to fly to San Francisco from there that afternoon; otherwise I almost certainly would have been on United Flight 93 since I was shuttling between projects and proposals in New Jersey and the San Francisco bay area for the consulting company I worked for then.)

MA: Wow! I’m glad you missed the original flight, and it’s nice to hear you plan to turn that experience into something good that may help others. With regard to fiction, would any of your future writing involve characters from your first two novels?

AS: The First Christmas of the War is actually the first of a series of four holiday-set, similarly-structured novels featuring the Coleman family. Next up is Thanksgiving, 1942, taking place – as one can tell from the title – eleven months after the initial book’s Christmas, 1941 setting. The next title is The First Christmas After the War, set at Christmastime, 1945. Finally, a concluding novel set in the 1970s takes a final holiday visit with the Coleman family.

MA: Sounds like a nice set of books. Anything else you’d like add before we wrap it up?

AS: Over the years, I’ve had many, many people ask me about the writing business and my own experiences in the context of book or story ideas they’ve had themselves. I always enjoy sharing my experiences with others and am always more than willing to help people navigate today’s publishing world, craft proposals…pretty much anything.

MA: Thanks Alan for appearing on my blog, and thanks for your military service. Please visit Alan’s websites for more information about this amazing author and his projects: www.alansimonbooks.com and www.thinkinghelmet.com.
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