Tag Archives: Writing Assistance

An Interview with Becca Puglisi

This one is rather special to me as it features one of the folks who really helped me improve my work. Without this lovely writer, and her co-author, I’d still be struggling with rewrites.

R.w.Foster: Please introduce yourself to my readers.IMG_3114

Becca Puglisi: Hi, there! My name is Becca Puglisi, and I’m one of the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. I also write YA historical fiction and fantasy. I also keep busy running my blog, Writers Helping Writers, which has become something of a hub for descriptive writing.

R.w.Fo: Tell us about your latest or upcoming release, please.

BP: My co-author, Angela Ackerman, and I are really excited about a totally new journey that we’re undertaking. We’ve teamed up with Lee Powell, a talented software designer, to create a software product for writers wanting to elevate their storytelling. One Stop For WritersTM is a website that contains a host of reference materials that can help writers improve. As writers ourselves, the three of us understood the frustration of always having to stop drafting, revising, or arranging our stories to go and research different things: multi-sensory descriptions for a setting, how to effectively convey a character’s emotion, figuring out which events from the past may have helped to mold a hero into who he has become. At One Stop, we’re providing resources like these, along with customizable tools and worksheets, craft tutorials on difficult areas of writing, idea generators, and more—all in one convenient place. Our hope is that in creating this software, we will also create the one thing writers really need: more time to write.

R.w.F.: Are you traditionally published, self-published, an independent or some combination?

BP: Our books are self-published.

R.w.F: What made you decide to go this route?

BP: Well, self-publishing, wasn’t our first choice. We’d always had the dream of going the traditional route—getting the call from an agent or editor and being accepted by a publisher. We had just started down this road when copycat sites starting popping up around the Internet, where people had lifted our Emotion Thesaurus content and just pasted it onto their sites. We realized that we didn’t have time to find an agent, then an editor, and wait 12-18 months for the book to be published. So we decided to do it ourselves and get it out there as fast as possible.

 

I love telling this story because it’s a great example of how there isn’t one correct path to publishing. Self-publishing made sense for us; we had a large fan base, we were firmly established on social media, and nonfiction books can do well when self-published. I’m also partnered with a marketing genius in Angela Ackerman, which was hugely beneficial. So, even though we had no idea how to do it, we knew it was the right thing to do. And it’s worked out really well for us.

R.w.F: Do you have any advice for those wanting to start writing?

BP: There’s so much information out there about how to succeed as a writer, which can be really overwhelming for new writers, because it’s impossible to do it all. So, in my opinion, there are two must-haves.

 

First, make time to write. Do it in car line, on your lunch break, before the family wakes up or after they go to sleep. Take those moments whenever they come, and just write.

 

Secondly, you grow exponentially when you study the craft. Attend workshops, read books, listen to podcasts, subscribe to the blogs of knowledgeable authors and industry professionals—whatever works for you, do it. I would also strongly advise new writers to get into a critique group or find a critique partner. It’s difficult to grow when you don’t know your problem areas, and we’re often too close to our own writing to see those difficult spots. Having someone else read your work is instrumental in learning what you need to work on; conversely, reading other people’s work opens your eyes to problem areas, different styles of writing, and new techniques that you can then apply to your own writing.

 

And now for a few fun questions:

 

R.w.F: What is your favorite soda?

BP: All of them. I’m literally addicted to soda in any form. There’s some kind of psychological issue there that I haven’t figured out; I just know that if I drink it at all, it doesn’t matter what parameters or limits I impose, I will soon be mainlining the stuff all the day long. So I’ve had to cut it out completely. I’m now developing an addiction to Snapple…

 

R.w.F: What is the Last song you listened to?

BP: Blue Collar Man by Styx. This is currently my five-year-old’s favorite song. I hear it a lot.

 

R.w.F: What is your favorite desktop picture?

BP: It’s one of my family. Before my mother-in-law passed away last year, we arranged for an extended family photo shoot. This one was taken of my immediate family, and it accurately captures some of the personality of each of us. Props to the photographer, Jennifer Stonebrink at Yankee-Belle.

 

R.w.F: Cool stuff. Thank you for agreeing to this interview, and the enlightening (for me) stuff.

 

BP: Thank you for having me, Robert!

 

If you want to check out those awesome books mentioned by Becca, you can find them at some of the links below:

Emotion Thesaurus

The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws

Guest Post from E.D.C. Johnson

Today, I have a guest post for y’all from the wonderful E.D.C. Johnson. She’s the author of the excellent YA story called Moonflower. It’s available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A brief blurb about the story: After Josephine Wood’s father dies of cancer, her mother up-roots the two of them and moves to the city. Josie hates her city life, but her teenage issues are of little consequence when they have a car accident and she wakes up in a strange land (reminiscent of Victorian Europe) alone. Lost, with her school backpack as the only connection to her world, Josie struggles to find her way home. She is found by Lucius Conrí, the son of a Marquess, who possesses royal blood and the gift to shift into a wolf’s form at will. Can the kind-hearted Lucius help her find her way while winning her love, or will she fall for Donovan Conrí his older, more serious brother and heir to the Conrí wealth?

And now, Ms. Johnson, it’s all yours.

***

Three Main Aspects That Make a Good Love-Triangle

There are three main aspects that make a good love-triangle:  both of the potential romantic leads need to have contrast, there must be both pros and cons for the protagonist to be involved with either choice and finally the protagonist must be riddled with indecision.

In my novel Moonflower, the two love interests, Lucius Conrí and Donovan Conrí, are brothers with very different personalities.  Not only is Donovan the older brother, he was raised to be the next heir as Marquess.  He serves in the military and takes his future very seriously.  In great contrast Lucius, as the younger brother, knows that he is not destined for greatness like his brother.  He did not have the luxury of countless tutors preparing him for his future.  Konrad, an old alchemist, was his only teacher but also became a mentor and friend.  He is a hard worker but focuses his energy in the here-and-now.  These qualities present two distinct choices, no Ménage à trois in this YA book.

For a love triangle to truly sizzle the characters need flawed realism.  If any character is too good to be true then it gets annoying and pointless.  Donovan has some in-your-face pros and cons.  At first the reader may not be sold on him as a possible love interest.  Although he is smokin’ hot, Donovan’s demeanor is judgmental, exclusive and self-important.  Our heroine, Josephine Woods, has to peel away his layers to discover his inner self.  His confidence, maturity and passion make him a total babe.

Lucius is the younger energetic brother with a bit of growing up to do.  He wears his heart on his sleeve and acts impulsively.  Despite his weaknesses he has lots of love to give and a kind heart.  He wants the best for all the people in his land.  Lucius is crazy about Josie and, hey, what girl doesn’t like that?!

These amazing qualities and intriguing flaws makes it difficult for Josie to decide which brother is the one for her.  Throw in her desire to return home, away from them altogether, and she becomes apprehensive to invest too much into either of the two boys.  The inner struggle Josie has debating between Donovan and Lucius is the crown to this royal affair.  The suspense and the process excites the reader and allows them to develop a favorite brother to root for.  Team Donovan or team Lucius, which will you be?

You can find more information about EDC Johnson and her novel Moonflower at:

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Moonflower-EDC-...

Website:  http://www.edcjohnson.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/EDCJohnson

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/EDCJohnson

Show, Don’t Tell Lesson Pt II

81ImYB6fptL__SL1500_Two days ago, I posted an excerpt from R.S.Guthrie’s writing help book Ink. Yesterday, I shared a section of one of my Works In Progress. Today, I break it down, and I hope you tell me whether you think I succeeded in showing you what happened, or if I told you what happened.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

I stole along the hallway that lead to my former cell as I had when I escaped. I still didn’t know why it had been switched from the one closer to the arena, but didn’t really care either. Cool air from an unseen opening to the outside blew gently across my face. I soon found myself at the intersection from my previous journey through here. I wondered if I should continue forward towards the source of the breeze, or to my left and into the darkness. After several moments of indecisiveness, I resorted to eenie-meenie-miney-moe. I went left, into the darkness, with some trepidation. I had no idea what was down here. I was bothered by the fact that I hadn’t heard anything since I left Weijia on the elevator, and the dark silence was kind of spooky the way it seemed to lay heavily on me. As I walked, the air seemed to grow thicker, heavier and more ominous. Oddly enough, even though there was no light in the hallway, it appeared to get gradually darker. Just ahead of me, I heard a little boy giggle suddenly. I froze, the hairs on my body all standing at attention, goose bumps running over my body. The sound stopped with no echoes. I drew the sword I had gotten from a clan Silverhame smith. I was glad to have its weight in my hand.

I wanted to show Carter’s worry, and nervousness about being in this location again. I also wanted to show something was hunting him.

I resumed walking, and then I heard footsteps behind me. I whirled around, bringing the longsword up in a defensive posture. When I halted, the footsteps also stopped. I held my breath, straining my ears for any sounds, but there were none. I reluctantly began to walk again, but this time I heard nothing except my own heartbeat which had ramped up remarkably. The silence didn’t remain for long, however. Just ahead of me, I heard a baby begin to cry. I began to hurry, the fear in that young voice spurring my steps. The crying baby changed to a young girl shrieking, then a young woman screaming, then an old woman choking, then stopped. I admit, my nerves were now completely shot. I stumbled to a halt again, and simply leaned against a stone wall, trembling like I had a cold.

Here, I wanted to show that though Carter is scared, he’s willing to push past to help someone in need. And, I wanted to build the tension.

After I had caught my breath again, and regained my composure, I pushed against the wall, intending to go upright. Instead, I felt the hardness of the stone give way to the soft yielding of flesh. At the same time, I felt a long, wet tongue slide up the side of my face. I screamed in revulsion and disgust and thrust my sword at who, or whatever had just licked me. The only resistance my sword felt was when it impacted the far wall of the hallway. Malevolent laughter echoed through the darkness.

Here, I wanted to show his hunter’s power, and ability to get into Carter’s head.

A sinister voice whispered near my right ear, “If you do not study…”

Then, it moved to just in front of me and thundered,

“YOU! SHALL NOT!! PAAASSSSS!!!!”

As the booming of the abrupt shout died away, I started laughing aloud.

“Really?” I said, wiping tears of mirth from my eyes. “Are you really misquoting Lord of the Rings at me?!”

Here, I wanted to give the reader a small break from the tension with a little humor. I also wanted the reader and Carter to relax a bit.

There was no response. Still chuckling a bit, I resumed walking. I gradually became aware that I could faintly see the stone walls and floor of the hallway again. I walked further, and the light grew only a little brighter. I soon realized it was due to a mist that somehow hung in the air. After another five minutes of travel, it was like I was in an ethereal realm. I moved to touch the wall on my right hand so I wouldn’t get turned around, and my hand met nothing. I stumbled forward into the mist and landed on my stomach, knocking the wind from myself.

I took a couple of minutes to recover, not fully noticing the moisture that was sinking into my clothing. I finally stood, and when my clothing clung to me, swore. ‘Just what I fucking need: my clothes to be wet,’ I thought. I trudged across the sodden, muddy ground, grimacing with disgust with each step. I really hated the feel of wet deerskin against my flesh. Thunder rumbled off to my right, causing me to wonder if I had wandered outside somehow. A warm rain began to fall on me. Finding it infinitely better than the cold dampness that had already surrounded me, I paused to enjoy it. I tilted my head back to better enjoy the feel of the rain. I soon caught whiff of a familiar, coppery scent. I opened my eyes. Sure enough, blood was falling from the sky like rain. I heaved a sigh and trudged onwards. Ten feet later, I tripped over a stone block. I rolled onto my back, clutching my injured shin and swearing like a sailor.

With this section, I wanted to build the tension up in a hurry. At the same time, I wanted to gross out the reader a bit. 

Something made me roll rapidly to my right. The world imploded around me. I smelled ozone an instant before a shockwave sent me rolling further away. When the world ceased spinning, I sat up and opened my eyes. The mist cleared enough for me to see a blackened crater where I had been laying just moments before. ‘Okay, somebody doesn’t want me to continue. I must be going the right way,’ I thought. Curiosity had me check out the stone I tripped over earlier. I picked up my dropped sword as I approached it.

The stone looked to be ordinary granite. It was largely white with striations of grey and black. It was also polished to a high sheen. From the angle I approached it from, I couldn’t make anything else out. I walked around and froze, my heart in my throat. Claws had gouged out a name and two dates.

CARTER MARCUS BLAKE

10/9/20XX – 5/6/20XX

I must admit: seeing that freaked me out. For one, I never use my middle name. I can’t stand it. For another, I had an inkling that the second date was today. I heard a sliding step as if someone was attempting to sneak up on me. I whirled, sword up in a ready defensive position. There was no one there. I cautiously made my way passed the stone with my name on it and began to move faster, something telling me that time was running out.

With this section, I wanted to show the demon hunting Carter was a master of psychological warfare. I want it to seem like the demon has a way in the reader’s mind, too.

A large dark shape plummeted to the ground in front of me. I leaped backward instinctively. Lightning flashed rapidly, illuminating the newcomer in staccato bursts. It was one of the largest demons I had ever seen. It was crouched in front of me, black wings furled over its massive muscled back. It had four long, thick arms, the lower two of which were planted on the ground and two hugely muscled legs, coiled and ready to launch it into action. It had long and sharp looking horns sticking out of its skull-like head. An elongated, heavy tail swished back and forth like a cat’s. It watched me with glowing silvery orange eyes, licking its face occasionally. Its wings unfurled and began to lazily flap, stirring up a surprisingly pleasant breeze. The wings were black near the demon’s shoulders and gradually faded to red near the primary feathers. There was a stripe of yellow at delineating the covert feathers. Keeping its eyes on me, the demon slowly raised one of its arms from the ground, carefully moved it forward, and then lowered it. This movement was followed promptly by a matching step forward by its opposite leg. ‘This thing is stalking me,’ I thought with wonder.

Trying to show that I wouldn’t be intimidated, I twirled my sword before me, then snapped it down to my right. Outwardly, I was bold, ready to fight. Inwardly, I was nervous and scared as hell. The demon lowered its body, ready to pounce. I dropped my right foot behind me, turning to that I would present a smaller target and so that I could put more power behind my first swing. I brought my sword up into my left hand and gripped it lightly, yet firmly. The demon took another slow step forward, this time moving the opposite arm and leg from last time.

The demon launched into its attack. My swinging sword was tore from my grasp. Sword flew in one direction, I in another. I rolled a few feet, and lunged upright. The demon was on me in an instant, ripping and clawing at my flesh. I frantically threw up my forearms and knees to block its unrelenting assault. After four frantic minutes, I saw an opening and took ruthless advantage. It swung both of its right arms at my head. I ducked under the upper fist, blocked the lower one with my forearms and launched my right knee up into its jaw, staggering the monster. It roared in frustration and swung both its left arms. I landed in a crouch. When both left fists whistled through the air over my head, I slammed my left elbow into its right knee. The demon’s knee buckled as it bellowed in pain. It crashed to the ground. I rose to my feet and raced for my sword.

I want to show that just because Carter knows how to fight, due to his time in the arena, he’s not invincible.

I reached it, and took it gladly into my hands once more. I turned to the demon, ready to resume the battle on more equal terms. Moving faster that I thought possible, the demon charged. When it reached me, I found myself lifted in the air. The demon had each of my limbs in one of its colossal hands. It roared in my face and then flung me. I flew on a short, hard trajectory and crashed into a wall. My skull bounced against it, sending sparkles of light shooting across my sight. The impact knocked the wind from me and caused my vision to go blurry. My ears rang, and I felt nauseous. I wasn’t sure of where I was, or what had happened to me. I slowly pushed myself upright and saw two four-armed demons charging at me. I tried to get to my feet, but couldn’t seem to get my limbs to work together. The demon yanked me up and slammed me against the wall again. It began to batter me with its free fists. My body twitched and swung from the thud of its fists. It was interesting: I was able to feel the impacts, but I felt no pain.

I wanted the reader to know that Carter’s skull bouncing off the wall gave him a concussion.

The demon flung me away from it again. My flight was once more short, and remarkably, pleasant. The landing, a lot less so. Fortunately, the jarring landing served to clear the cobwebs from my mind. I rolled to my feet just as the demon landed hard where I had just been lying. Instinct had me rocketing my fist up to explode against its jaw as I shoved my feet against the ground to provide extra force. The demon’s head snapped back, and it crashed to the ground. Pain raced up from my damaged hand, grabbed a dance partner in my shoulder and did the tango in my skull to the tune of a throbbing headache. I tasted copper in my mouth and spat to one side. Blood and a tooth hit the ground.

“You bastard,” I said.

I looked at the demon which was just getting to its hands and knees. I ran up and punted the demon in its head as if I were trying to kick the winning fifty yard field goal at the Super Bowl with the entire New England Patriots defensive line attempting to stop me. The arch of my foot caught it on its jaw. My knee caught the side of its horn. The demon collapsed, semi-conscious. I collapsed, clutching my knee. I rolled around for a couple of minutes until the demon let out a gasping snore, reminding me of its presence. I got up, hobbled over to where I last saw my sword and picked it up, swearing under my breath. I balanced on my non-bruised leg and kicked the other one out a few times, trying to work the pain out. I gingerly set my foot back down and tested my weight on it. When it held up, I turned and limped back to where the demon was just beginning to stir.

In this section, I wanted this to show that sometimes, an act of desperation can win a fight.

‘Hey, I’m Dr. Gregory House,’ I thought randomly. The demon had pushed itself back up to it hands and knees once more. I poised near its shoulders, my sword held tightly in my hands. I held it above its neck and paused, waiting for it to come further up. As it did, I brought the sharp blade down with all my might. A scream of fury issued from my lungs as the longsword impacted, then sliced through, the demons thick neck. Crimson blood shot up from the stump like a geyser. It slashed against me, hot and delicious. I stood over the demon corpse, savoring my victory. My chest heaved as I thrust my bloody sword in the air and bellowed my triumph to the sky.

With this section, I wanted a bit of humor to give the reader a break from the tension, and at the same time, to show that Carter’s still affected by the head injury. With the last three lines, I want the reader to feel the same exhilaration that he did.

Well, folks, did I succeed here? Let me know in the comments below. If I did, thank R.S.Guthrie by purchasing his book over at Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. If I didn’t, blame me.

 

Show, Don’t Tell Lesson Pt I

81ImYB6fptL__SL1500_Yesterday, I posted an excerpt from R.S.Guthrie’s book Ink. The section I chose was about Showing the reader the events of the story, rather han telling them what happened. When you show the events, it serves to draw your reader further into your story. Conversely, when you tell, you pull them out. I think I learned the lesson (am probably wrong), and I’m going to use a scene from my Work In Progress Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I to illustrate. I’ll post the section, then tomorrow, I’ll break down what I was trying to show. It’s up to you to decide whether I showed you, or if I told you. Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

I stole along the hallway that lead to my former cell as I had when I escaped. I still didn’t know why it had been switched from the one closer to the arena, but didn’t really care either. Cool air from an unseen opening to the outside blew gently across my face. I soon found myself at the intersection from my previous journey through here. I wondered if I should continue forward towards the source of the breeze, or to my left and into the darkness. After several moments of indecisiveness, I resorted to eenie-meenie-miney-moe. I went left, into the darkness, with some trepidation. I had no idea what was down here. I was bothered by the fact that I hadn’t heard anything since I left Weijia on the elevator, and the dark silence was kind of spooky the way it seemed to lay heavily on me. As I walked, the air seemed to grow thicker, heavier and more ominous. Oddly enough, even though there was no light in the hallway, it appeared to get gradually darker. Just ahead of me, I heard a little boy giggle suddenly. I froze, the hairs on my body all standing at attention, goose bumps running over my body. The sound stopped with no echoes. I drew the sword I had gotten from a clan Silverhame smith. I was glad to have its weight in my hand.

I resumed walking, and then I heard footsteps behind me. I whirled around, bringing the longsword up in a defensive posture. When I halted, the footsteps also stopped. I held my breath, straining my ears for any sounds, but there were none. I reluctantly began to walk again, but this time I heard nothing except my own heartbeat which had ramped up remarkably. The silence didn’t remain for long, however. Just ahead of me, I heard a baby begin to cry. I began to hurry, the fear in that young voice spurring my steps. The crying baby changed to a young girl shrieking, then a young woman screaming, then an old woman choking, then stopped. I admit, my nerves were now completely shot. I stumbled to a halt again, and simply leaned against a stone wall, trembling like I had a cold.

After I had caught my breath again, and regained my composure, I pushed against the wall, intending to go upright. Instead, I felt the hardness of the stone give way to the soft yielding of flesh. At the same time, I felt a long, wet tongue slide up the side of my face. I screamed in revulsion and disgust and thrust my sword at who, or whatever had just licked me. The only resistance my sword felt was went it impacted the far wall of the hallway. Malevolent laughter echoed through the darkness.

A sinister voice whispered near my right ear, “If you do not study…”

Then, it moved to just in front of me and thundered,

“YOU! SHALL NOT!! PAAASSSSS!!!!”

As the booming of the abrupt shout died away, I started laughing aloud.

“Really?” I said, wiping tears of mirth from my eyes. “Are you really misquoting Lord of the Rings at me?!”

There was no response. Still chuckling a bit, I resumed walking. I gradually became aware that I could faintly see the stone walls and floor of the hallway again. I walked further, and the light grew only a little brighter. I soon realized it was due to a mist that somehow hung in the air. After another five minutes of travel, it was like I was in an ethereal realm. I moved to touch the wall on my right hand so I wouldn’t get turned around, and my hand met nothing. I stumbled forward into the mist and landed on my stomach, knocking the wind from myself.

I took a couple of minutes to recover, not fully noticing the moisture that was sinking into my clothing. I finally stood, and when my clothing clung to me, swore. ‘Just what I fucking need: my clothes to be wet,’ I thought. I trudged across the sodden, muddy ground, grimacing with disgust with each step. I really hated the feel of wet deerskin against my flesh. Thunder rumbled off to my right, causing me to wonder if I had wandered outside somehow. A warm rain began to fall on me. Finding it infinitely better than the cold dampness that had already surrounded me, I paused to enjoy it. I tilted my head back to better enjoy the feel of the rain. I soon caught whiff of a familiar, coppery scent. I opened my eyes. Sure enough, blood was falling from the sky like rain. I heaved a sigh and trudged onwards. Ten feet later, I tripped over a stone block. I rolled onto my back, clutching my injured shin and swearing like a sailor.

Something made me roll rapidly to my right. The world imploded around me. I smelled ozone an instant before a shockwave sent me rolling further away. When the world ceased spinning, I sat up and opened my eyes. The mist cleared enough for me to see a blackened crater where I had been laying just moments before. ‘Okay, somebody doesn’t want me to continue. I must be going the right way,’ I thought. Curiosity had me check out the stone I tripped over earlier. I picked up my dropped sword as I approached it.

The stone looked to be ordinary granite. It was largely white with striations of grey and black. It was also polished to a high sheen. From the angle I approached it from, I couldn’t make anything else out. I walked around and froze, my heart in my throat. Claws had gouged out a name and two dates.

CARTER MARCUS BLAKE

10/9/20XX – 5/6/20XX

I must admit: seeing that freaked me out. For one, I never use my middle name. I can’t stand it. For another, I had an inkling that the second date was today. I heard a sliding step as if someone was attempting to sneak up on me. I whirled, sword up in a ready defensive position. There was no one there. I cautiously made my way passed the stone with my name on it and began to move faster, something telling me that time was running out.

A large dark shape plummeted to the ground in front of me. I leaped backward instinctively. Lightning flashed rapidly, illuminating the newcomer in staccato bursts. It was one of the largest demons I had ever seen. It was crouched in front of me, black wings furled over its massive muscled back. It had four long, thick arms, the lower two of which were planted on the ground and two hugely muscled legs, coiled and ready to launch it into action. It had long and sharp looking horns sticking out of its skull-like head. An elongated, heavy tail swished back and forth like a cat’s. It watched me with glowing silvery orange eyes, licking its face occasionally. Its wings unfurled and began to lazily flap, stirring up a surprisingly pleasant breeze. The wings were black near the demon’s shoulders and gradually faded to red near the primary feathers. There was a stripe of yellow at delineating the covert feathers. Keeping its eyes on me, the demon slowly raised one of its arms from the ground, carefully moved it forward, and then lowered it. This movement was followed promptly by a matching step forward by its opposite leg. ‘This thing is stalking me,’ I thought with wonder.

Trying to show that I wouldn’t be intimidated, I twirled my sword before me, then snapped it down to my right. Outwardly, I was bold, ready to fight. Inwardly, I was nervous and scared as hell. The demon lowered its body, ready to pounce. I dropped my right foot behind me, turning to that I would present a smaller target and so that I could put more power behind my first swing. I brought my sword up into my left hand and gripped it lightly, yet firmly. The demon took another slow step forward, this time moving the opposite arm and leg from last time.

The demon launched into its attack. My swinging sword was tore from my grasp. Sword flew in one direction, I in another. I rolled a few feet, and lunged upright. The demon was on me in an instant, ripping and clawing at my flesh. I frantically threw up my forearms and knees to block its unrelenting assault. After four frantic minutes, I saw an opening and took ruthless advantage. It swung both of its right arms at my head. I ducked under the upper fist, blocked the lower one with my forearms and launched my right knee up into its jaw, staggering the monster. It roared in frustration and swung both its left arms. I landed in a crouch. When both left fists whistled through the air over my head, I slammed my left elbow into its right knee. The demon’s knee buckled as it bellowed in pain. It crashed to the ground.  I rose to my feet and raced for my sword.

I reached it, and took it gladly into my hands once more. I turned to the demon, ready to resume the battle on more equal terms. Moving faster that I thought possible, the demon charged. When it reached me, I found myself lifted in the air. The demon had each of my limbs in one of its colossal hands. It roared in my face and then flung me. I flew on a short, hard trajectory and crashed into a wall. My skull bounced against it, sending sparkles of light shooting across my sight. The impact knocked the wind from me and caused my vision to go blurry. My ears rang, and I felt nauseous. I wasn’t sure of where I was, or what had happened to me. I slowly pushed myself upright and saw two four-armed demons charging at me. I tried to get to my feet, but couldn’t seem to get my limbs to work together. The demon yanked me up and slammed me against the wall again. It began to batter me with its free fists. My body twitched and swung from the thud of its fists. It was interesting: I was able to feel the impacts, but I felt no pain.

The demon flung me away from it again. My flight was once more short, and remarkably, pleasant. The landing, a lot less so. Fortunately, the jarring landing served to clear the cobwebs from my mind. I rolled to my feet just as the demon landed hard where I had just been lying. Instinct had me rocketing my fist up to explode against its jaw as I shoved my feet against the ground to provide extra force. The demon’s head snapped back, and it crashed to the ground. Pain raced up from my damaged hand, grabbed a dance partner in my shoulder and did the tango in my skull to the tune of a throbbing headache. I tasted copper in my mouth and spat to one side. Blood and a tooth hit the ground.

“You bastard,” I said.

I looked at the demon which was just getting to its hands and knees. I ran up and punted the demon in its head as if I were trying to kick the winning fifty yard field goal at the Super Bowl with the entire New England Patriots defensive line attempting to stop me. The arch of my foot caught it on its jaw. My knee caught the side of its horn. The demon collapsed, semi-conscious. I collapsed, clutching my knee. I rolled around for a couple of minutes until the demon let out a gasping snore, reminding me of its presence. I got up, hobbled over to where I last saw my sword and picked it up, swearing under my breath. I balanced on my non-bruised leg and kicked the other one out a few times, trying to work the pain out. I gingerly set my foot back down and tested my weight on it. When it held up, I turned and limped back to where the demon was just beginning to stir.

‘Hey, I’m Dr. Gregory House,’ I thought randomly. The demon had pushed itself back up to it hands and knees once more. I poised near its shoulders, my sword held tightly in my hands. I held it above its neck and paused, waiting for it to come further up. As it did, I brought the sharp blade down with all my might. A scream of fury issued from my lungs as the longsword impacted, then sliced though, the demons thick neck. Crimson blood shot up from the stump like a geyser. It slashed against me, hot and delicious. I stood over the demon corpse, savoring my victory. My chest heaved as I thrust my bloody sword in the air and bellowed my triumph to the sky.

Tomorrow, I’ll break it down for you.

Ink by R.S.Guthrie & Something I Learned From It

Not too long ago, R.S.Guthrie released a new book called Ink. It’s about the craft of writing, and how to get better at it. I wrote a review about it here. Look for “R.w.Foster”.
I got in touch with Rob the other day and requested to post an excerpt from it and, using my writing, demonstrate what I learned from it. Why am I wanting to do this, you ask? A couple of reasons. One, I like Rob Guthrie and want to promote his stuff. I promote what I like. 2) I want to help others become better writers, as I struggle with the same (it’s in the blog tagline). The more writing we have in the world, the better the world is, in my opinion. But, enough of me blathering. You want the excerpt. It follows the jump.

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Show, Don’t Tell

This is THE RULE. All the other rules are subservient to this one. The other rules are tools to help your writing show the reader. Here’s an exercise: Remember “Show and Tell” in grammar school? You know, once a week or once a month each student would bring in something about which they could show AND tell. Now I want you to imagine this simple scene. Little Susie Frockmaker has just walked into a hushed classroom of twenty-something first-graders. She’s wearing her cutest pink dress; her mother has done her blonde hair all especially curly before she went to school; she is smiling like the goat that ate the tractor tire. And she’s carrying, in a meshed-metal cage, a huge white rabbit. Its alive, you Horror writers. Twitching, munching on some carrots. The bottom of the cage has cardboard and there’s fresh grass Susie’s dad put in there just for such an occasion. Little Susie Frockmaker takes the cage and, still smiling wide (  you didn’t know that goats that finish off tires are irrepressibly happy creatures), places the caged, gorgeous rabbit on a small table at the front of the room. There is an audible, “ooooh” as she does so, little Susie Frockmaker, nor the teacher, nor any other student having said a single word. Has Susie shown anything yet? Oh, I know the point of the “Show” part for little persons is when the rabbit is let out of the cage and they get to hold him and feel the soft tufts of fur and worry about him biting them and all manner of enjoyment, but my question still stands: Has Susie shown anything yet? I say she has, without one single word. Remember the smile and the fresh-laid grass and the cage itself? I’ll give you three choices as to what the other young children might be thinking they’ve already seen, without being told a thing:
1.      It’s rabbit stew for lunch.
2.      Little Susie Frockmaker just gave birth to a clean, live rabbit in the hallway just before class.
3.      On the way to school, the rabbits that rule the world played a cruel trick on one of their own and caged him, forcing him to attend Show and Tell at Mockery Elementary School.
4.      Susie Frockmaker has a new pet rabbit.
Now I’ll admit, I’ve grown up in some pretty small places like Iowa or Wyoming where there probably was some kid in the back happy as frog excrement that they were having rabbit for lunch (and in fact did end up having rabbit for dinner. Again.). But with that smile, beaming of pride, her nicest dress, the curls her mother did special for this day? Yeah, it’s corny (no Iowa pun intended), but it’s also true, isn’t it? Now that doesn’t mean Tell is off the books altogether. She can tell us his name. But that brat-shit Tommy Dipstick could blurt out, “RASCAL. You got him for your birthday.” (Because Tommy, of course, was an unwanted guest at the farm when Susie received her present—just as Tommy’s an unwanted guest most everywhere he shows up.)  You could argue, but I’d call Tommy’s outburst showing. In fact, I didn’t even have to Tell you that Tommy was there because you likely already figured out something to that effect—and the story can later confirm or deny what guess you made, but either way, you didn’t have to be told anything. You see, that’s how you have to start thinking. In what ways can I deliver information to the reader through interesting twists in the story? Imagine how loudly little Susie Frockmaker is going to BAWL in horror when she realizes the whole surprise she’s been practically wetting herself over has been ruined by that little Dipstick. That is the simplest example of showing and not telling I could come up with. Apologies all around for making it more of a children’s tale, but I tried to give it legs just a small bit. Not very Chekhovian.

From Ink by R.S.Guthrie, pub March, 2013.

Pretty interesting, eh? Tomorrow, I’ll show you how I implemented this lesson in my own work.

Lists, Lists, Every-fecking-one Does Lists…

…so, I say, “Feck it. I will as well.” 😀

    My favorite blogs

Sweet Mother – This is one of the funniest blogs I subscribe to. When I jump aboard WordPress, Sweet Mother’s blog is one of my first stops. Without fail, she has me laugh, or raises my passions so I am ready to argue. Click the name of her blog to go check her out. You won’t regret it.

Dreamshadow59, – This is another funny blog I subscribe to. I usually jump on her blog every day. Her humor is different that Sweet Mother’s, a little darker, and usually drunker. 😉 Go check her out if you need your funny bone tickled. Click the name to go.

The Book Shelf Muse – Wow. Since I found this blog, my writing has improved dramatically. Their Setting thesaurus and Emotion Thesaurus are invaluable to me. I used to write stuff like, “The forest was big,” and “Joe smiled.” Now, I write stuff like, “The verdant evergreen forest stretched for miles. Pine fills your nostrils are dappled sunlight caresses your cheeks,” and “Joe’s face lit. His eyes crinkled at the corners as his lips arched. He leaned forward, joy radiating from him.” Then, I go polish it. If you want to make your writing better, but aren’t sure how, click the name to check out the blog of Ms. Angela Ackerman and Ms. Becca Puglisi.

The MP Website – This is the site of one of my new favorite writers. I’ve had the pleasure of critiquing her first novel, and I must say, it is shaping up to be epic. Click the name and you’ll see.

    My Favorite Books

H.E.R.O: Metamorphosis – This is the first novel about Supers from author Kevin Rau. Three friends are exposed to a gene “super virus” from a meteor shower that turns them to supers. Stephanie becomes a “Blaster” named Psystar, Rael becomes a “Mutant” named Black Tiger, and Lance becomes a “Brick” named Spartan. This novel explains how the Main Characters become Supers and what the kinds of Supers are. This is always free. Do yourself a favor and click the title to get it for your Kindle.

Black Beast: A Clan of MacAuley Novel and Lost – Two excellent novels by R.S.Guthrie. I reviewed them earlier in the fall. Click here to re-read them, then click the titles to go buy them. You’ll like them as much as I do.

HERO: New Markets – This is the kick ass sequel to Metamorphosis. In this one, Pystar, Black Tiger and Spartan have to deal with the abduction of new Supers. Some villain is selling them as mind-wiped slaves. A fun page turner. Go check it out by clicking the title.

The Emotion Thesaurus: I know, I mentioned it earlier, but I love this writing resource. It is set up so that you can jump to the emotion that you want to write about and see physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses and cues of long-term exposure to that feeling. There are also Writer’s Tips and links to further emotions. For example, fear may escalate to terror. Click the title to go buy it. By the way, I was referring to the digital version of the book. You could also buy the print version.

    Favorite Movies

The Avengers: This was a brilliant culmination of the individual member movies that lead to it. It felt like a superhero movie, something that we’ve not had from DC for a long time. The guys had their issues, but they didn’t whine about them. They settled their problems like comic book heroes should: They beat their differences away. 🙂 The action is epic, and the laughs genuine. Watch it if you haven’t yet.

The Dark Knight Rises – The first trilogy ender that didn’t feel like it crapped on the ones that came before it. The story was decent, if preachy, but it fit with what Chris Nolan already set up. I had a few issues with it, but they are personal gripes. I’m not reviewing the movie, just saying whether I liked it. I do. Go watch it if you haven’t yet.

The Amazing Spider-Man – Fun new take on Spider-Man, but come on! How many times do we have to see his origin story? At least they are sticking a little closer to the source material. Peter dates Gwen, builds his webshooters and sews his costume. Why doesn’t Hollywood want anyone to have a secret identity? That’s irritating.

Expendables 2 – A throw-back to 80’s action movies. It’s a lot of fun. There’s almost everything a guy movie is supposed to have: Explosions, guns, and death. However, it’s missing a few things: Blood, Boobs, and plot. I was disappointed that my favorite character got put on a bus in the first 30 minutes, but, it’s still fun. Go watch it if you haven’t.

    Favorite Timewasters

Facebook – Do I really need to say more? Whether it’s reading friend’s status’, or looking at pics on my favorite pages, one way or another, it’s sucked a lot of my time away. Click the name and send me a friend request.

Tvtropes.org – I love how some of my favorite things are deconstructed on this site. It’s also given me ideas for my novel. It has also sucked up a lot of my time. Click the name and check them out.

Kindle App for PC – The novels are awesome, but the biggest way this thing sucked away my time was looking for more stuff to read. I have more books that I know what to do with.

Chatting with friends – This is by far my biggest time sink. I’ve chatted with my two friends for hours on end without getting any of my work done. Ostensibly, we gather to assist each other with our novels. This happens maybe 10% of the time. The rest of it? (shrugs)

Alright. Those are my lists. Click the links, meet new people and new entertainments. Me? I’m gonna go edit Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake. I have to get it done.

HELP THE ELF: I Found Santa’s Missing Nice List!

Hi everyone! As you may remember, a few weeks ago PETE the Elf had a touch too much Eggnog at the Holiday Christmas Party and as he stumbled home, he lost Santa's NICE LIST.

The North Wind scattered the papers to all four corners of the world, and The Bookshelf Muse put out a call to help find them in order to SAVE CHRISTMAS.

Ever since I read about it, I've been on the lookout. And then today, EUREKA!

Yes that's right...I found part of Santa's missing NICE LIST. There it was, fluttering in the wind, half caught under the corner of my welcome mat. And shock of all shocks, I recognized the name, and I bet you will too.

Here it is below:

ImageChef.com

NAME: Jennifer Boyce & Fabiola Surya

LOCATION: North America

NICE LEVEL: Jen, 95%; Fab, 94%

NAUGHTY LEVEL: Jen, 5%; Fab 6%

OBSERVATIONS: Jen and Fab are great friends, awesome beta readers, are generous with their time and all around fantastic women. They could, however do with more pineapple! The amounts they eat is terrible.

RECOMMENDATION:     a) Coal                   b) Gift

~ ~ * ~ ~

Because poor Pete is dashing all over the place trying to hunt down the rest of Santa's missing Nice List, I decided to take care of this one myself. Ladies, I feel so blessed to know you! Though it isn't much, I hope you enjoy the gift I sent to your inbox and have a wonderful Christmas!

How about you, Readers? Is there someone you'd like to say Happy Holidays to, or tell them how much they mean to you? JOIN US! There's plenty of days left until Christmas, and sometimes a kind word can lift people up in a way that they really need. It's as easy as sending a free ecard or email note, posting on a Facebook wall or sending out a tweet. So go ahead and spread some kindness and cheer!

Photo credit:

assorted gold baubles (christmasstockimages.com) / CC BY 3.0

Contest Time

Yep, I’ve decided I’m gonna run a contest for my followers. Since I don’t have two pennies to rub together, atm, I’m going to give away an edit and critique of a 1,000 word work that you e-mail me. Here’s the way it works, leave me a comment below with a brief blurb about whatever you’re working on, and follow this blog. That’s it!

I will announce the winner on Sunday. Good luck, all.

One last thing: Liking the post doesn’t get you an entry. The blurbs do. I can’t select something if it’s not there for me to read.

Today, R.S.Guthrie Takes Over…

Rob-75x850-Cropped…Posting on my blog. He’s a great author of Books such as Black Beast and Lost. Both are phenomenal books. Give them a read. To check out what up coming novels he has coming (like Blood Land) Check out his blog robonwriting. Tell him beginingsinwriting sent you. Without further ado, here’s Rob:

The Self-Publishing Dream (Or Was It Nightmare?)

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It was so much simpler when writing was just a dream. I mean, everything works out in a dream, and unknown things like deadlines and marketing campaigns with their cost and timing and effectiveness aren’t in the dream—after all, their unknown, right?

And what about the slush pile you were planning to avoid by self-publishing instead of sending your manuscript into the maw of overworked, underpaid, tumultuous world of traditional publishing? Send it there you might never see it again and even if you did what were the chances of it not having a form rejection slip attached to it?

Here’s the rub: the slush pile has moved to the marketplace. Yes, the ability for any man, woman, or child with an Internet connection to publish a book is one of the most fantastic things to happen to the unpublished writer. Want to know what one of the absolute worst things to happen to those same writers turned out to be?

Same thing.

Now this is not all doom and gloom. If you’re like me (or you were a Scout) you like to be prepared. Know what you’re in for. Muster your courage. Become the warrior you were always meant to be. (And when you’re done fighting those bloody battles you’re really going to need that sword as a machete to cut your way out of the middle of the “Jungle of Unknown Writers” for the next few years.
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Writing the book is the easy part, my friends. It really is. You have about three or four other full-time jobs awaiting you after the completion of your masterpiece. You are the Marketing Department, the Accounting Department, the Art Department, the Accounts Payable department, the CEO, the CFO, and a few other jobs I’ve forgotten due to the anti-depression medication.

Okay, that’s more like six or seven jobs above and beyond AUTHOR. The good news is even if you went the traditional publishing route, were signed, and waited until you were old and gray to see your book on the shelves, you’d be expected to do most of those things yourself (at your cost) anyway.

So here I am going to lay out some things, high level, you need to think about and my opinion on them (based on semi-substantial experience):

1. Hire a cover designer. There are a LOT of them out there who work for major publishers (or even publishers in general) who do work on the side. You should not have to pay more than $100-200 for a really nice cover. Make sure that you get the spine and back cover if you are going to have a paperback made.
2. Have a paperback made. You aren’t going to make money off of it, but you owe yourself after dreaming all those years of seeing your book in print to finally see it in print! And people want signed copies (book signings are a great way to meet your readers and even if they aren’t giant revenue producers, they make you feel more like an author and things that bolster your confidence are going to be very important in the first year or two.
3. Hire an editor and a proofreader. Yes, two different people. I like to think of it as checks and balances because the professions do overlap so you get some bonus work by using two different professionals instead of just one. (I hope I didn’t just ruin half my relationships with editors and proofreaders.) Again, you should be able to find reasonably priced people for each but expect to pay a bit more for the editing. That’s hard work.
4. Whatever date you have in mind for your “release”, plan to send it to advanced reader/reviewers as far ahead of time as possible. They are called Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) and you need to leverage them big time. Some advertisers won’t even allow you to pay for an ad without a certain number of reviews and a particular average score (say 4.5 out of 5 stars). You’re also going to have better luck actually getting them to post the reviews if your book is already out there digitally published on Amazon (and wherever else). Trust me, you hitting “publish” and your book being “available for sale”, while majorly exciting for you, means nothing to the marketplace. Just another web page no one knows about…YET.
5. Get on every social networking site there is (Twitter, Facebook Author Page, LinkedIn, GoodReads, etc.). And do it now (i.e. ahead of the release of your book). They say buyers have to see your name 3-4 times before it sinks into their brain that they might want to buy something from you. You need exposure. Pay for a decent website. That’s one thing that’s going to cost you a little bit more—definitely one of those “you get what you pay for” things. But look at it this way: your webpage is like your home on the Internet (and will be for a very long time). It’s also Grand Central Station through which all trains of reader will connect to your books. Make sure it looks good and performs nicely.
6. Grow thick skin. I mean skin that makes an alligators look like rice paper. No matter how good you are, no matter how nice you are—in fact, many times inversely proportionally to these things—you are going to be disliked, poorly reviewed, and even hated. You won’t even know why. This is the hardest part for me. I take things personally. DON’T. EVER. If you write well and produce quality material, the readers who love you will one day come. To Hades with the rest.

I know this makes self-publishing sound scary. Guess what? It is. Nothing worth getting in this life is without hard work, crazy levels of patience, and the ability to levitate above all the crap and still get up every day and start it all over again.

If you are truly a writer—if it truly is a passion; if you love it—you’ll get up every day and get done what needs to get done.

I Heart WritingIt’s a love affair. Actually, it’s a marriage. Love affairs come and go. This is your passion; this is what you’ve decided to dedicate your life to—richer, poorer, sickness, health, good reviews, haters, etc.

No one can take away your talent OR your love. And the combination of the two (with a lot of determination and outlasting the others mixed in) will get you there.

Click this again.
Click this.

Thanks for those words, Rob. They are ones to study on. Now, if y’all will excuse me, my Kindle says I downloaded his new book, Blood Land already. Let me go read it. I’ll review it here when I’m done.

Dreams Image credit: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

Guy With Sword Image credit: aaronamat / 123RF Stock Photo

I Image credit: burakowski / 123RF Stock Photo

In Defense of the Lonely Adverb [post 2 of 3]

The much maligned adverb has many detractors. I haven’t really been able to figure out why, other than from what I hear is the adverb represents laziness on the part of the author. Me? I think they’re acting snobbishly. Heh. Yeah, I did that on purpose. Here’s the thing: I’ve always felt that all words serve a purpose. Otherwise, why would they have been created & taught to us? Some passages could use adverbs and our readers won’t object. Hell, they may not even fecking notice. *gasp!* Say it ain’t so! Never. It is very true that most readers won’t notice your adverbs. How do I know? I never noticed them until I became an author and had folks point them out to me.

I’ll let author Robert Masello explain with an excerpt from his novel “Robert’s Rules of Writing” (I love that title for some reason):

“When it comes to writing, there is perhaps no more vilified part of the language than adverbs. Even Stephan King in his book On Writing declares, “The adverb is not your friend.” Like many writers, he considers them weak and weaslelly, words that cling to other words – verbs, adjectives and even other adverbs – draining them of impact, or just cluttering up the page.”

Okay, that’s a pretty strong argument against them. No writer wants their work cluttered with useless words, right? What else does he have to say about it?

“What drives most opponents of the adverb up the wall is the fact that these adverbs are being used – in their heated opinion – to do the work that a properly chosen verb, for instance, could and should have done on its own. For instance, instead of saying a soldier ran wildly, why not say he charged? Instead of saying the horse rose up defiantly, why not say it reared up? Isn’t that easier and more to the point? Well, yes and no. In a lot of cases, it’s true the right verb can do the work on its own, but sometimes it can’t. And I would submit that adverbs add a lot of leeway and variety that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Oh? Could you give us examples, sir?

“Take that horse rearing up for example – couldn’t he have reared anxiously, out of fear? And wouldn’t that have been misunderstood if that “defiantly” not been thrown in for additional clarification? In the hands of a better writer, maybe it would have been entirely clear why the horse was rearing up – maybe we would have known from previous pages this was one brave, unruly horse. But then again, maybe not.”

Okay. That’s a good point. Maybe some authors use adverbs for training wheels, or guidelines, for their readers. Maybe they aren’t certain things are clear enough and want to make sure their readers know where the author is going, or trying to say. I would also add this: Consider the solider from earlier. For me, as a reader, saying he charged is vastly different from he ran wildly. This is because to me, saying “charge” implies the solider is maintaining his discipline and training. I would accept that at the beginning of a battle, or one where he was winning. I wouldn’t expect, or want, that if the soldier’s squad is being routed. “The soldier ran wildly” implies to me that he’s scared and running for his life. Something didn’t go right.

So, do you think Robert’s book would be useful to you? You can buy it here. I own it an use it a lot.