Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wounded Characters

Victoria Chatham came up with this month's topic: To make our stories interesting our characters often have some kind of psychological, spiritual or physical wounds. The process of healing them because the character’s arc, the meat in our stories. What mental, physical or spiritual wounds or scars have you used in your stories?

All fiction is about the human experience in some way, even when animals are the characters. So who wants to read about a perfect person? Someone who has it all together, always says the right thing, does the correct thing, never reacts in an inappropriate way, never lies, cheats, steals, or schemes? There is no such person. When a reader encounters one, the character's utter perfection becomes a flaw hiding a deep-rooted problem. History shows some great examples. Of course, some of the stories of these historical beings have changed with the telling. There is no one left alive who really knows what Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn were really like. The authors studied events and journals to interpret their personalities.  Which is exactly what fiction authors do.

Readers want characters they can empathize with: someone who has faced tough times filled with painful experiences and survived: difficult emotional and/or physical  journeys of self discovery and courageous achievement.

My Black Angel series which starts with Rogue's Rules was about a character whose mind was destroyed, but rebuilt itself as six different personalities. Crewkin also deals with loss when one member of a starship's crew survives the loss of the ship and all her crewmembers after being raised to see them as her total world. While my stories have many other character aspects and faults, most of my stories deal with abandonment or estrangement of some type, and working to be accepted as they are.

Other authors have stories about commitment, loss of all types, overcoming disabilities, learning to accept themselves, the list is near endless. So are the endings. Some survive and thrive, some don't.

Everyone learns something from reading, and I'm sure authors learn about character from the writing process.

What type of character flaws or dilemmas do you like to read about?

Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
Dr. Bob Rich
Rachael Kosinski
Anne Stenhouse 
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax
A.J. Maguire
Fiona McGier 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Under the Sun

Here we are in the middle of astrological time of the sign of Leo, which represents the sun. In Michigan it is nearing the close of summer, but people are tanning on our many beaches. The day’s length is beginning to shorten from the solstice, and reaches its equinox next month, but its light and solar energy are still causing beautiful, bright days, high temperatures and skin burn.

According to Alice G. Walton, who has studied biopsychology and behavioral neuroscience, the sun might be addictive. In an article in Forbes Magazine she states it is not proven fact, but that "since there’s an evolutionary drive to get at least some sun exposure – sunlight triggers vitamin D synthesis – it’s not so farfetched that the process might be addicting." Addicting? That has such a negative connotation, but I can see overly tanned individuals might well be addicted. Over all though, the sun’s makes the day brighter encouraging me, and I suspect you, to get outdoors and enjoy the day. It makes ordinary days enjoyable.

First off, the sun goes by many names like sol (Latin, Swedish, Portugese), sole (Italian), soleil (French), solntsa, son (Afrikaans), sonce (Slovenian), sunce (Serbian), sonne (German), soorajh (Hindu), zon (Dutch), zundi (Yiddish), and araw (Filipino), aurinko (Finnish), giiziss (Ojibwa), helios (Greek) helo (Breton) haul (Welsh), kala (Hawaiian), khorshid (Persian), te rā (Maori), tai-yang (Mandarin), taiyo (Japanese), nikko (Japanese sunshine). I’ve read Sanskrit has many different names for the sun, maybe as many as a thousand, but include Mitra, soorya, ravi, and arka.

Did ancients know the world could not survive without the sun? Did they know that plants use photosynthesis to turn its energy into food, which feed animals? I doubt it. Certainly, they knew the sun brought daylight and felt its warmth. They had to notice day length affected plant growth and the weather. Since they were outdoors for greater periods than most people today, and if the new discovery is true, the rays probably addicted them to its light and warmth. Glimpsing the the sun for seconds brings brief blindness, staring for longer periods brings permanent blindness, something the ancients would have known. They would have watched it with careful respect.
Fire brought from the gods was a gift of the sun's power. Closely linked to the sun in ancient minds, fire also gave light, warmth, but could also burn just like the sun.

Very early in his history, man tied the sun to time. Ultimately, hours and calendars evolved from what we now know is the Earth’s rotation around the sun. At that time man thought the sun traveled in an arc above the land. Early man noticed the sun’s cycle each day, and its cycle throughout the year that affected the length of day and night, but they must have puzzled over where the sun came from and where it went at night. The rare eclipse with its dark center and surrounding
corona became the eye of god, and a symbol of power.

That corona bestowed authority and divinity. Crowns, aureoles, and halos given to deities and royalty, mimic the corona's rays as seen through squinting eyes.  

Another common symbol is the circle with rays expanding from it, often with a face. Because of the night day relationship, the sun and moon are often tied together in images. Birds who share the sky were also seen as symbols of the sun.

As the largest thing flying through the sky, the sun was a mystery demanding explanation. This mystery led to fables and myths about male and female deities forming or controlling the fiery orb, so since ancient times the sun has played an important character in folklore and myth. The Stanford Solar Center (fun site) has a list of all the sun gods and their myths here, it also has a page of solar symbols, and information about the sun itself

Three known mythic creatures were associated with the sun. Kua Fu was a Chinese giant who chased the sun. The East also had a three-legged crow-like that represented the sun. Actually, there were 10 of these three legged sun birds feasting on the fruit of a mulberry tree of learning in the valley of the sun. They took turns flying around the world, one leaving each day, another leaving when the other returned; but when all appeared on the same day, the world burned up. The third mythic symbol of the sun is the phoenix of Greek Mythology which self immolates periodically to be born anew.

Eventually, five billion years from now, the sun will become a red giant and engulf the Earth. Life will have ended long before then. As the gravitational forces with the sun allow it to expand, the heat from the star will bake the Earth. It is estimated humans can live on the planet for about a billion more years, that is if we don't destroy it or ourselves before then. Perhaps there is a chance man can take to the stars looking for a new home to settle. As authors’ predict man’s future in space and scientists word toward that goal, the power of the sun will continue to fulfill its primeval function in narratives. So if you want to play with ancient, present, or future stories, you might well want to know about the sun. It affects everything.

Quote from King James Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:11:  I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

What Makes a Novel Memorable?

My opinion on what makes a memorable novel is that everyone has their own criteria, and NY Bestsellers list isn't a good guide. Stories that live in my mind have touched me in a special way, and it seems the reasons are wide and varied.  I'm most likely to be hooked by the author, but not always. I loved Mary Stewart's mystery-romance novels, also Georgette Heyer's Georgian and Regency historical romances, Sergeanne Golon's Angelique series, some Jude Deveraux and Roberta Gellis books, and in science fiction/fantasy I've enjoyed F.M. Busby's Demo Trilogy, C.J. Cherryh's books, Anne McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern, Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, among others. These worlds are very memorable and reinforced by the number of books in each one, but I seldom remember the specific characters and plot lines of each book.

I remember many single books, too. For instance, I remember the first book I read by myself start to finish, and I remember very well some of the youth oriented books I read as a child (or in turn read to my children). Dr. Seuss was kid-friendly. Currently I read about 55 fiction books a year and non-fiction books as needed. Of all those fiction stories, only a few stand out. One was How to Bake a Perfect Life. It was about a women character I really identified with. She was a baker and used sour dough. So do I. She had family problems. I tend to find family situations with attendant misunderstandings or characters who have been abandoned most alluring.  However, of all those classics I was forced to read in high school, the only one I remember is Pride and Prejudice. (Me and a million other women—and, ahem, I have all those aforementioned books in a Harvard Classics collection on my bookshelf.) The funny thing about this Pride and Prejudice story was it is now a historical romance, but when written was a contemporary romance. Go figure.

Most non-fiction books I read, though, are not start to finish, but more pick and chose what I want to read about. Currently I'm reading a book that goes through all the days of December 1941. While I'm reading this book for background for a story, I have other interest as my Dad was at Hickam Field on December 7th, so Pearl Harbor is always a very interesting topic to me. The things I'm learning about what happened during that first month of war for the U.S. are astounding. For instance, a woman went to prison for a year for contributing to the delinquency of minors and her two sons became wards of the court because her boys didn't salute the flag in their classroom. Another man had a $200 fine for disorderly conduct for booing President Roosevelt in a movie theater. Two hundred dollars was a lot of money then. Strange doings on the home front. And...women were told not to put too many lipstick prints on the mail being sent to their husbands and boyfriends in service. Those lip prints could be taken for secret enemy code! This type of information demonstrates that no matter how strange some fiction seems, reality can trump it. So I'll remember this book for a long time.

While I read just about anything except horror or vampires, historical and historical romance novels are my favorite genres, but because I know a lot about history, any discrepancies with historical fact makes the story stand out as memorably bad. My favorite historical is Dorothy Dunnett's The Lymond Chronicles because the series was so historically accurate, along with having great characters, fantastic story lines, great descriptions and other overall qualities. It was a hard series to get into because the hero starts out an antihero and goes through phases between being a heroic and stellar man and an unscrupulous, nefarious malefactor. I never thought I get through the first novel, but then absolutely had to read the next five. Understandable, as it was the 15th Century after all, so set in one of my favorite historical eras. 

I also love scifi/fantasy, but the plots have to be based on some sort of science or some other believable setting that has been well set up. When those are done right, the stories are hard to forget.

As always, check the following links for more views on this topic:

Judith Copek
Beverley Bateman
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax 
Marci Baun 
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines

Friday, July 1, 2016

Rogue's Rules eBook Free This Month!

You can download a free ebook copy of Rogue's Rules in mobi, pdf, or epub formats from SmashWords this month only. Rogue's Rules is a scifi space opera and first of the Black Angel series.

"Traitor… mutineer… deserter… slanderous words fixed to Ensign Jezlynn Chambers’ name. Unable to refute the charges, the six individuals inhabiting her body remember nothing about the battle that ended her career, destroyed her ship… and shattered the Ensign’s mind."

Click on this link to Rogue's Rules

Click on Buy and enter code SFREE and download your copy.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Involvement in Reading and Emotion

Sometimes when reading I find myself laughing out loud, not often, not as often as I've suddenly felt tears dampening my cheeks, or felt my stomach tied in knows from overwhelming tension, or my mind reeling in curiosity. When it happens, I know the story was well worth the read.

I love reading a good story, but each 'good' story reaches me on a different level. Sometimes it's because I immediately identify with a character, or the character's untenable situation. Sometimes it's because the story line makes me think, or whet's my curiosity, or because the story takes me somewhere in time or space I've never been. The major link tying these together is the emotional one, which often involves bonding with a character. With the characters who catch my mind, I laugh, cry, feel their pain, their doubts, their regrets, and breath with deep satisfaction at their triumphs. These are the stories I remember best because of that emotional identification.

I don't mean to imply that I want only what would be classified as a morally impeccable character. The main characters I like can begin as troubled or injured people, but their road to redemption must be lined with believable problems and set backs. There are a few situations where I have trouble suspending my disbelief to get into the story.

I'm reading a book right now where the hero leaves me ambivalent. Yes, there is a reason for his immoral behavior: survival in the mean streets of  one of America's cities. And yes, he grew up with a horribly abusive parent. He has finally caused the death of someone whom he considered a friend, and thinks his own death is near until the unobtainable women he loves arrives.

Sorry, I'm having a real hard time bonding with this character or the heroine who will forgive him anything. While I know he is going to try and redeem himself for this woman, I don't buy it. Not yet, at least. Maybe the author will surprise me.

Stories about  guys or gals in tough times can be very emotional; however, I also believe continual criminal or cruel behavior changes the tenor of a mind making it impossible to change without colossal cost of some kind. Nor can I identify with a character who is just too good to be true; I don't believe them. I guess what I'm saying is the more human the character in respects to how I view people, the more real they feel, the more emotionally involved I become in their story. Without that, for me, there is no reason to read.

So I know the bounds of my emotional relationship with characters, and while I can make that tie and enjoy it, it does have its limits.

Visit the following authors and read their opinions on the topic!

Skye Taylor
Anne Stenhouse 
Marci Baun 
Heather Haven
Victoria Chatham
Dr. Bob Rich
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines 
Margaret Fieland

Sunday, June 5, 2016

You can pre-order Dragoons' Journey for $2.99 during the month of June! Take advantage of the offer while you can.

A snippet about the villain:

Rictor’s instructions required him to finish the task begun so long ago: destroy Habitat Lakeesh. It must die for Colonial Pact success. It had been the easiest habitat to infiltrate. The former Lord Ado had been a pathologically greedy, narcissistic sociopath, easily bought and manipulated, which had made the job easier. Since Hilliard had also protected Rictor from discovery as another Colonial Pact advisor, albeit for an impressive sum, Rictor felt some small obligation for Hilliard’s welfare.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Conflict in Stories

Writing conflict is hard for me, even reading it is sometimes hard. If involved in a novel where I know the  characters, it upsets me as if I were in the room where the conflict was taking place between friends: uncomfortable, worried. Since all stories involve conflict of some sort, I guess that is the reaction writers want.

Fiction characters have motives for what they do, and conflict brings out their purposes, which can range from outright hatred to a cross-purposes where one character has a convoluted sense of love  where he or she believes his or her actions protect the one they love. Many other situations also lead to conflict between characters providing the drama readers want. Sometimes the reader knows ahead of time what causes the conflict, sometimes they find out later when the problem is solved. These are the type of excerpts that I believe get readers entangled in a story line.

This is an excerpt from a contemporary romance that is no longer published but I may self-publish it. It starts out the story, so in this case, readers do not yet know the characters. I hope the situation is clear with reading.
Amanda pushed through the glass front door expecting to have to plow past secretaries and assorted office henchmen, but as luck would have it, Wade Preston stood in the reception area talking with his partner, Edward Van Haitsma. Wade’s height and dark hair made a strong contrast to his partner’s shorter frame and fair hair. Both were good looking by anyone’s standard. Wade held a stack of papers. The two men looked as if they had just finished a heated discussion.

“Whatever you want!” Van Haitsma said as he turned and walked away, his shoes pounding an upset rhythm on the refinished, highly polished oak flooring.

Preston’s fiancée, Melisa Rillema, stood nearby with her arms crossed. A pout marred the perfection of her face. Since only the woman’s mouth moved, without a hint of frown lines, Amanda snorted, suspecting cosmetic injections. Melisa would make a perfect wife for Wade. Two beautiful, congenial rich rats running in a social superiority maze. Melisa’s long blonde hair rippled about her shoulders as she turned her head to glance at Amanda, then back to Wade who had walked over to her.

As she strode forward to interrupt the couple’s private interlude, Wade looked over at her, anger etching his face. She checked her step, then charged ahead. Hell, he had to expect a storm from the letter he sent her. As Wade watched her approach, his face firmed into what Amanda privately called the bulldog behind the businessman’s mask. It infuriated her to have to spend her precious lunchtime taking care of this matter. This time, she would talk to Wade Preston face-to-face and make her position clear.

“Mrs. Carter, how can I help you?”

He recognized her? His voice and demeanor were politely bland, but remnants of anger lingered in lines around his handsome features. He called her by her married name, something she’d thrown away after her divorce. She held Preston’s gaze with determination. As a freshman teenager in high school with hormones and the idealism of innocence, Amanda’s dreamworld starred the senior quarterback, Wade Preston. Back then he had been oblivious of her.

“It’s Ms. Blanchard, now. You can help me, Mr. Preston, by accepting the fact that I do not want to sell my property. Not now, and not in the future. Furthermore, I will not let you steal it from me.” Heads turned toward the sound of her angry tones. Most looked like employees and quickly looked away when Amanda stared back at them. Wade’s face deepened in color, his mouth and jaw set, his eyes darkening.

She waved the envelope under his nose. He took it, looked at the address and pulled the sheets from inside. His brows scrunched lower as he read.

“You’ve received an offer at fair-market price,” Wade said, his voice firm, low and controlled. Her temper eased slightly seeing the wrinkle between his brows as he looked at her letter.

Melisa smiled pityingly at Amanda. “I would think in your dire circumstances, Wade’s offer was manna from Heaven.” Her tone pure condescension.

“Stay out of this,” Wade said with a fierce gaze at his fiancée. Amanda thought Melisa’s smile more smirk than
compliant and doubted the woman even heard Wade’s words.

“What could you possibly know about my situation?” Amanda said. “And how does any of this involve you?”

The smile never faltered. “I understand it is a very generous offer.”

Amanda’s rage fired anew. Melisa had no part in this, and her opinion was not only unneeded, but also unwanted. “Generous if I were willing to sell out what my family has worked generations to build. I’m not.” Amanda turned back to Wade Preston, grabbed the letter from his hand and clutched it in her fist.

His frowning gaze turned to Amanda, his brows lowering until they nearly touched. “I don’t know what you are
alleging. As I said, this is an offer at fair-market price for your property.”

“You missed the threat of an eminent domain seizure. I don’t care what dirty tricks you try with the bank, or the
county Planning Department, or the Commissioners, or the township board. I will fight you every step of the way.”

“Then you better hire a lawyer,” Melisa cut in with a practiced tinkling sound that substituted for a laugh.

“Melisa…” Wade’s tone held a warning and his scowl deepened.
I have blogged on conflict scenes before in an excerpt from  'Loser's Game' and in this example from 'Acceptance.'

Check out how the author's listed handle conflict in scenes from their stories.

Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich 
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax 
Fiona McGier
Rachael Kosinski
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Judith Copek

Monday, April 25, 2016

New Book: Dragoon's Journey

Update: I got the dates wrong! Information now correct:
Wings Publishing will release Dragoon's Journey for June pre-order for $2.99, with  publishing scheduled for July. The new website is Books-By-WingsPress. This story ends the story started in Home World ~ Aginfeld and continued in The Nanite Warrior. 

 Opening Line:
Fugitives do not readily enter any heavily policed community, especially ones with populations rabidly paranoid of strangers. Somewhere like the planet Aginfeld. Even if the planet currently held a magnetic draw to galactic tourists, the residents’ mistrust ran deep.

Dragoons, super-soldiers, won the battles but lost the war. Betrayed by their government and held in cryogenic storage for use in future wars, they seek their best-worst chance for finding a home -- Aginfeld, a planet in the last stages of bioformation. The Colonial Pact, a corporation even established governments fear, wants it. To claim their home the Dragoons must tame the most dangerous, traitorous habitat on Aginfeld.