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.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Drama and Emotion of Weather

Weather: whatever is happening outside.
Weather is more than just an outdoors condition, it is the Earth telling us we live in it, and at its whim, no matter how we harm what it has developed over millions of millennia. Right now, Earth is our only home. Though we often try to disregard the weather, it affects us. Weather determines what type of shelter we need, how we dress, what we eat, often what we can or cannot do.

This is stating the obvious, everyone knows this, which is the reason it is so effective in stories. It is a story telling device, often used in movies. I’m sure you can think of film scenes where weather was used effectively to show danger or despair, triumph or joy.

It works because weather involves the reader’s memory and imagination, and helps to show rather than tell a situation. Weather adds drama by involving the reader’s familiarity with weather so that he or she can connect it to the situation without a lot of telling. A bright bolt of lightning warns readers of incipient trouble. They know what a prediction of tornado or hurricane means to the characters. A snowstorm can indicate dangerous travel and the possibility of being stranded. An extended drought means the possibility of fire storms, too much rain, or melting snow, means the chance of floods; and if the weather is too perfect? Surely something bad is coming soon.

Because weather can also affects our mood, when days of dark gloomy overcast skies pass, it can bring on a character’s sadness or depression. A heat wave means characters might be irritable, and a drought indicates worry. It is amazing the number of ways weather can evolve a story.

I have used weather with purpose in writing, and then not. In one of my stories, Home Word ~ Aginfeld, I deprived the characters of weather, put them on an inhospitable planet undergoing bioformation, the inhabitants living in closed habitats. After a thousand years the inhabitants are afraid of anything outside the habitat, enough to even close off all views of outside. How strange would that be?

Visit the blogs listed below and read other author's opinions on weather in writing
Skye Taylor
Rachael Kosinski
Beverley Bateman
Anne Stenhouse 
Helena Fairfax 
Judith Copek
Victoria Chatham 
Kay Sisk
Dr. Bob Rich