Monday, January 30, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: SUPER STRUCTURE, by James Scott Bell

Good news! Just because you're a pantser doesn't mean that you'll get hives or strain some mental processes by thinking ahead to create structure for your novel.

It also doesn't mean that plotters are superior writers and have it easier than pantsers, so stop gloating right now.

Structure is necessary for your book to make sense, for the story to work, for readers to be satisfied. When structure crystallizes for you all depends on what type of writer you are -- before, during, during revisions, during the final polish. But the bottom line is that you need it eventually, or your book will languish in the slush pile, even if you publish it yourself.

James Scott Bell is a master teacher of writing principles and practices. Super Structure boils down to a checklist of events that MUST occur within your story for characters to grow and for action to make sense and for readers to close the book with a happy sigh -- even if it's a downer ending, weird as that may sound.

Yet just because there's a checklist doesn't mean it's formula. Think about this: formulas exist because they WORK. It's the application that proves the skill and talent of the writer.

He explains through the process what each step means, and how to set up for those changes, the transitions from the main character's ordinary world into the world of change and growth and learning, facing challenges, making choices, and coming out the other end. Yeah, easy to talk about, but putting that into practice is a little harder. With Bell's help, it's a little easier. Now to put it into practice.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Taste the Book: SU-MA

"I've got it," Sara said, over Su-Ma's greeting. "Gabe's phone. But I can't hold onto it for long. I followed him to the coffee shop and it fell out of his pocket. He was pacing around, waiting for Haley, but she didn't show. He called her and she didn't answer, and he didn't watch what he was doing when he put it back in his pocket. Are you ready?"

"Uh -- Gabe -- the phone. Right." Su-Ma looked around for the instructions Sophie had written out yesterday. All she had to do was click on the screen where the program was ready to run and download from Arc's computer, over the Internet, into Sara's phone, and then into Gabe's phone, which she had plugged into hers. She didn't quite understand how Sophie and Joan had figured out a way to use the power cord socket on the phones to share information, but then, she wasn't the resident technical miracle worker. "Got it." Her hand felt oddly steady on the mouse. Two clicks and it was ready to go. "All plugged in?"

"What's up?" Jenni said, coming into the communication room. Su-Ma held up a finger, signaling for her to wait.

"Hooked up and ready," Sara responded.

"And... launching." Su-Ma turned from the monitor, breathing a sigh of relief. She had feared she would mess up. "Sara got her hands on Gabe's phone."

"Should I get Joan? I saw her taking breakfast to Sophie."

"Yeah, just so she can get right to work on whatever we find."

"Something going on?" Sara said, as Jenni left the room.

"Sophie had a scare last night. I'm not really sure on the details."

"Tell her I'm praying, and give her my love."

Su-Ma focused on the clock hanging on the wall over the monitors. She wished she hadn't indulged in that bit of silly whimsy and bought Taz. Right now he looked positively gleeful about the problems they were facing. She promised herself, as soon as she was allowed to get around on her own two feet again, she was going to climb up and take that stupid clock down off the wall. The second hand crept slowly around the face, the ticking growing louder, fighting with her heartbeat for dominance. The data scrolling across the screen seemed to slow down, so just a few characters appeared with every tick of the clock. Then it was two ticks. Then three.

"Danger, danger, Will Robinson," Sara muttered. "Sorry, but he's on his way back. Gotta disengage. Did we get anything good?"

"I don't know!"

"Signing off."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The War Room

Lots of progress!

I had a goal of 80K words in January for MUSIC IN THE NIGHT, the last book in the Guardians of the Time Stream series. I passed 80K this morning, and anticipate finishing my first draft of the book by the end of the month!

Also, I'm revising a book that I had tentatively accepted by a publisher, who then expressed some difficulties with the storyline and character development. I told them I would brainstorm in December and revise in January. Well, I'm finally getting that revising done. Don't know if I'll have a polished book ready to turn in February 1, but we're getting closer!!!

Here's the really exciting news: COVER ART.

I have 2 books coming out in April.
SANCTUARY, the next book in the Guardians of the Time Stream series from Desert Breeze Publishing.
And GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE, another book set in the weird little town of Neighborlee, Ohio, published by Uncial Press.

SANCTUARY takes up right where THE BLUE LOTUS SOCIETY left off. Ess has more puzzles and problems from her past to unravel, the biggest being the discovery that her grandparents tampered with her memory, to protect her from enemies and to hide the secrets of the Originators. Plus, the discovery of a traitor implies that the leadership of the Originators and the safety of Sanctuary, their headquarters on the West Coast, might just be compromised. Ess goes for a crash course in Originator history while heading west to face her past and her family's enemies. Important, dangerous responsibilities could be resting on her shoulders, but how can she decide when she doesn't have vital information?

GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE takes readers back to the
childhood of one of the characters you've met in previous books set in Neighborlee. Lanie Zephyr is a newspaper reporter and part-time comedian who looks at life from doorknob level because an accident put her in a wheelchair. Now, in GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE, told in her own words, readers can learn about Lanie's mysterious origins, how she and her orphanage friends learned to become semi-pseudo-superheros, and the general background weirdness and history and traditions of Neighborlee. In Book 2, due out next year, readers will finally learn about the accident that put Lanie in her wheelchair and blunted her semi-pseudo-superhero powers.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: CURE FOR THE COMMON LIFE, by Max Lucado

Just shows how busy I've been -- for the last few years -- that I haven't read a Max Lucado book for quite a while. I really missed reading him, because his style is simple and easy to read, and he communicates so clearly, with humor and wisdom.

CURE FOR THE COMMON LIFE has the subtitle of: Living in Your Sweet Spot.

What's the sweet spot? It's that place where you're doing what you love. It's where a job is no longer work. When you're doing what God designed you to do, following your heart, using the talents programmed into you since before birth.

He talks about discovering your S.T.O.R.Y -- your Strengths, Topic (what you enjoy doing), Optimal conditions, Relationships, and your Yes -- when you look up to Heaven and say, "I was made to do this."

Then the last 1/3 of the book is full of tests and questions and fill-in-the-blank to help you analyze yourself and discover that sweet spot, where you were made to be, where everything works, and you're fulfilling your destiny.

Be prepared to have your eyes opened and your mind blown and your life path changed -- maybe getting on course for the first time in your life. Heady stuff!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Taste the Book: SU-MA

From my newest release: SU-MA, Quarry Hall Book 10, from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Su-Ma remembered her joke the day before, about building up her muscles with all the exercise she'd get, pushing her wheelchair. She wished she could go back in time and slap her day-younger self. Nobody thought to warn her how hard it was to push a wheelchair through gravel. Packed dirt was much easier, even if there were small rocks under the surface, making it uneven. She looked at the birch tree-lined path leading from the far side of the upper gardens to the tea houses looking over the lagoons. Just what kind of an optimistic idiot had she been, to think a tour of the grounds under arm power would be a good way to build up endurance?

Her phone rang, startling a squeak out of her. She laughed at herself for a few seconds while the ringtone toodled through Audio Adrenaline's "My Father's House," the ringtone for the Quarry Hall switchboard. Why would the switchboard be calling her?

"Hello?" She flinched when she realized she sounded somewhat breathless.

"I can see you," Connie sing-songed.

Su-Ma turned around as far as the chair would allow and looked up at the small window on the third floor, at the far end of the long communications room. She stuck her tongue out, then held her hand flat under her chin and waggled her fingers. Most of the girls had started using the "high sign" after a Little Rascals marathon one extremely rainy Saturday. No response meant Connie could see her, but no close-up details.

"What's up?"

"Elizabeth is looking for you. They need you at the phone conference with Xander. She said something about it being your brain-child, so you should be involved."

"Uh oh." Su-Ma thought back to yesterday's call from Haley. At least she hadn't let the rude young woman know the name they used for her now: Miss God's-Gift-to-Arc.

"You're not in trouble," Connie said with a chuckle. "Do you need help getting in?"

"If they want to talk to me before lunchtime, yeah. Does anyone have any idea how hard it is to roll down the paths around here?"

"Go complain to the Americans with Disabilities committee." Then Connie hung up.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: CRESS, by Marissa Meyer

The third book in the Lunar Chronicles weaves yet another faerie tale into the fascinating SF saga where the people living on the moon keep moving closer toward the inevitable conflict with Earth.

CRESS takes a new twist on Rapunzel, including lots of overgrown hair, Rapunzel landing in the desert, and the hero being blinded -- and yeah, the wicked witch. Lots of wicked witches.

In between Cress's struggle to escape her satellite "tower" that she's been trapped in since childhood, meeting the rascally Captain Thorne, the two of them crashing in and surviving in the desert, we have the further struggles of Cinder and her odd assortment of allies as they keep trying to find out evil Lunar Queen Levana is up to, the cause of the plague devastating Earth, and now the big challenge: stopping the wedding between Levana and Emperor Kai -- Cinder's handsome prince.

Wow. Did anyone hear me scream last week when I finished CRESS and realized there was another book to read before I could find out who survives the battle? Right now, Scarlet is a prisoner on the moon, Wolf is ready to die of despair, Thorne hasn't gotten his eyesight back yet, the Lunar guard who was helping them is ratting them out to Queen Levana, and Kai has just learned all of Cinder's world-shaking secrets. Can love grow in this environment -- and survive?

Thank goodness I got an Amazon gift card for Christmas. Guess what I'm spending it on? WINTER, the 4th Lunar Chronicles book.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Taste the Book: SU-MA

"I don't really have time for the whole ugly soap opera. I mean, the telenovela stuff has got nothing on this." A raspy laugh. "Okay, the short version is that she's a really distant cousin. She got hurt this winter, and someone who knows somebody else saw her name on the paperwork and they started asking questions, and my freakazoid relatives finally started talking, and somebody finally told me. I mean, come on, I find out I have a girl cousin my own age that nobody ever told me existed. Wouldn't you make contact? Us against the world kind of thing?"

Su-Ma's instinctive response was to say Sue-Marie no longer worked here, or she had found the phone or borrowed it, or a dozen other weak lies that might just work if this previously unknown, very distant cousin was as uncomfortable as she sounded. She could just say this was a wrong number. After all, chances were this alleged cousin was just as bad as the rest of the family and she had really only made contact because she thought she could profit from the connection. After all, so many people seemed to think the Arc Foundation was made out of money, and they all wanted a share.

Yet what if this girl felt just as unwanted, unwelcome, awkward and inconvenient as Su-Ma had been made to feel, growing up? She was quite ready to believe someone in her attenuated, easily offended family had known there was another girl she could have grown up with. They had denied the two of them a chance at a pleasant family situation.

"Everybody calls me Su-Ma," she said instead, and stopped with the toes of her sneakers against the edge of the long reflecting pool fountain one level down from the patio.


Maybe this cousin had changed her mind.

"Uh -- hi, Su-Ma. I'm Nia. Short for Lavinia. They named me for Great-great-granny Cooper-Smythe." An awkward, raspy laugh. "Did they even tell you about her?"

Monday, January 9, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: CHRISTIAN HORROR, by Mike Duran

The basic question posed by the author, a rising name in the Christian horror genre is: Can Christians write books with horror elements? A more insightful question might be: Should they? What purpose can be served for the kingdom of God by writing horror?

The conclusions and the caveats might surprise you.

Duran discusses the horror genre in general, the psychological and spiritual elements, aspects, and effects, the history, notable names, and just what makes something "horror." You might be surprised to hear -- and please do stop to consider -- that with all the gruesome, violent and gory aspects of the Bible, it could fit the definition.

That makes you stop and think, doesn't it? So maybe you have to rework your definition of horror?

The book is thought-provoking and sometimes generates some uncomfortable moments, as the author holds up the mirror to make us face our self-righteous, judgmental tendencies. The race to condemn and give ourselves a pat on the back for not being "like those people." Even if you don't particularly like any aspects of horror, whether in writing or film or other art ... you might want to check this out, just to get a slightly different perspective and some food for thought.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Taste the Book: SU-MA

From my newest release, SU-MA, Quarry Hall Book 10, from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Su-Ma had an awful suspicion that she didn't want to follow up on. Her phone rang, startling a squeak out of her. Her new ringtone, Petra's song, "Not of This World," earned grins and chuckles from the other three. She stuck her tongue out at Sophie and tapped the screen to answer the call, expecting it to simply be another telemarketer. The song was specifically chosen as the general ringtone, for numbers and contacts she didn't know or hadn't classified or blocked.

"Yeah, who is this?" a scratchy-young female voice demanded as soon as she said hello.

"This is the owner of this phone. Who are you calling for?"

From the corner of her eye, Su-Ma saw Vincent open his eyes and raise his head, and her stomach felt like it dropped another five inches. She had hoped he was asleep. That meant she wasn't going to be able to put off reporting to him about George any longer.

"Listen, smart--" The caller sighed. "Sorry, kind of nervous."

"Who are you calling to talk to? Chances are pretty good this is a wrong number, since it's--"

No, the worst thing she could do would be to admit to someone who might turn out to be trouble, that this was an unlisted number. Her leg ached enough to make it twitch. Maybe moving would help. Offering an embarrassed smile to Elizabeth, Carter, and Sophie, she got up and went down the far side of the patio, off the end where Vincent wasn't lying.

"I really think this is a wrong number," she said.

"Sorry. I started off wrong. Look, I'm trying to catch up with Sue-Marie Stankiwiecz."

"Why?" escaped her nearly in a yelp. Su-Ma stumbled on the last step. She glanced over her shoulder, but no one seemed to be watching her. "How did you get this number?"

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The War Room

Happy New Year!

We're off to a good start, with projects picked out for the year and some attempt at keeping records of what's been accomplished and what still needs to be done.

I've written about 15K words in MUSIC IN THE NIGHT, the final book in the Guardians of the Time Stream series -- steampunk from Desert Breeze Publishing.

The next book, SANCTUARY, is due to be released in April.

I entered 3 books in the Realm Makers competition yesterday. Winners will be announced this July at the 5th Realm Makers convention, to be held in Reno. Should be lots of fun! Cross your fingers and say some prayers for me.

Right now it's rainy and windy and cold. I have to wonder -- we've had it easy so far this winter, so when is the really bad weather going to hit? Kind of scary, if you think about it.

I hope you all have had a great start to the new year.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: SCARLET, by Marissa Meyer

The second book of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, SCARLET is a roller coaster ride and an adaptation of the basic elements of the faerie tale of Red Riding Hood into a science fiction setting, so cleverly done I just have to sit and shake my head and say "wow" enough times to get really irritating.

Scarlet is a redhead, French, a farm girl delivering produce from her grandmother's farm. Her "hood" is a red hoodie, and it gets pretty beat up and shredded by the end of the story. The wolf is a guy named Wolf and yeah, at a couple points in the story, he's "this close" to eating Red -- err -- Scarlet.

Grandma has vanished and Scarlet becomes convinced that Wolf is involved. As she digs into things, she puts enough clues together to realize Grandma knows a lot of dangerous things. See, Grandma was a spaceship pilot, and she was involved with some residents of the moon, and Grandma knows what happened to the missing Lunar princess.

How does this tie into Cinder, who was in prison, waiting to be handed over to the evil Lunar queen at the end of book one? Now, Cinder has broken out of prison and she's on the run and learning a lot of things about her past. In a stolen spaceship, she and her fellow fugitive manage to stay one step ahead of the  military forces hunting her. Just in time, she meets up with Scarlet, and a few more pieces come together.

War has come to Earth, and in some ways, it's Cinder's fault -- or perhaps more accurately, her responsibility. Time for her to accept her destiny, her heritage, find supporters and get a revolution going in time to rescue the handsome prince/newly crowned Emperor, before he's forced to marry the evil queen in what is sure to be the shortest marriage on record.

Read these books!