Thursday, November 29, 2012

GREEN LIGHT DELIVERY: Funny noir sci-fi giveaway!

Need some holiday reading? Need a gift for a sci-fi lover in your life?

Enter to win a signed paperback copy of my humorous, noir-inspired science fiction adventure novel, Green Light Delivery!

The book:

Webrid is a carter, like his mother and grandfather before him. It's not glamorous work, but it pays the bills, and it gives him time to ogle the sexy women on the streets of Bexilla's capital. Mostly, he buys and sells small goods and does the occasional transport run for a client. Then he gets mugged by a robot. Now, with a strange green laser implanted in his skull and a small fortune deposited in his bank account, Webrid has to make the most difficult delivery of his life. He doesn't know who his client is, or what he's carrying, but he knows that a whole lot of very dangerous people are extremely interested in what's in his head. Literally. And they'll do whatever it takes to get it. With the help of some truly alien friends, a simple carter will journey across worlds to deliver his cargo. And hopefully keep his head in the process.

Here are some nice reviews on Amazon.

Read an excerpt here.

The contest:

Open to U.S. postal addresses only (because of shipping costs). Please leave your email address and the name of your favorite sci-fi book or movie either 1) in the comments section below or 2) privately by messaging me on my FB author page.

One luck winner gets a paperback copy of Green Light Delivery, with a personalized signature at the winner's request (to yourself or a gift recipient).

Enter by Wednesday, December 5, 11:59 pm EST. Winner will be announced here (and via email) on Thursday, December 6.

Please spread the word. Thanks and good luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gwen Thompson: Your Book Is Like Your Apartment

My guest today is Gwen Thompson, whose first book, Men Beware Women, won the Miami University Press 2011 Novella Contest and was just published by Miami University Press. Gwen has a particularly interesting perspective on writing because of her other work as a feng shui  consultant. Here she shares some fascinating advice about using words to your greatest advantage.

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Form : function :: sound : sense.  Yes, I know analogies have been eliminated from the SATs, but that doesn't let writers off the hook for making apt comparisons.  This particular analogy is a favorite of mine because when I'm not creating imaginary settings as a writer, I'm helping people re-create their real-life settings as a feng shui consultant:  At its most basic, feng shui is the art of harmonizing form and function in your home, where objects that only serve a practical purpose without pleasing the senses are missed opportunities.  City dwellers living in small spaces soon learn to be extra mindful about choosing household items that do double duty in this way.  With space always at a premium on the page, writers do well to choose their words as wisely. 

This is why my training regimen as a writer includes listening to the Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4.  The BBC broadcast original 45-minute radio plays in every style and on every subject imaginable five days a week, and make them available to listen to online for a full week after they're broadcast.  Besides providing me with a refresher course in trans-Atlantic idioms while I was writing MEN BEWARE WOMEN (set in Oxford and New York), Radio 4's afternoon plays are consistently compelling and well-written for the simple reason that they have to be.  Unlike in the theatre or on film, where special effects, scenery, costumes, and actors easy on the eyes can distract audiences from all manner of bad writing, you can't get away with lame dialogue in a medium where dialogue is all there is.  What draws us to remember and re-read our favorite passages of writing is the conviction that the author has said what he or she is trying to say in the best possible way: good writing is where sound meets sense.  In fiction this of course applies to narration and description as well as to dialogue--no surprises there.

What surprised me, as a first-time author, was how form and function, sound and sense came into play together on my book's cover.  The form the designer chose--the view through the gate into the quad of an Oxford college--gives potential readers an enticing glimpse of the world where much of the book takes place, fulfilling a cover's function of luring you to look inside the book and enter the story.  The title MEN BEWARE WOMEN is a play on the title of a play by Thomas Middleton called WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN that figures in the plot, but it also sounds a lot like a warning label.  Turning this title into part of the scene by placing it on the type of sign where you'd expect to see a prohibition posted (namely, KEEP OFF THE GRASS) deepens the sense of being drawn fully and immediately into the world within the pages.   

But when sound and sense are mismatched, whether accidentally in mistranslations or deliberately as in the Twinkie Song, comedy ensues, intentional or not. 

Writers, beware!

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You can learn more about Gwen Thompson's writing on her website.
She also has a site dedicated to her feng shui work.
You can purchase Men Beware Women from the publisher, at Amazon, or at BN.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Novelist Carol Hedges on YA Heroines

Creating an effective main character is a complicated process, and writing a female protagonist in YA is particularly delicate work. British novelist Carol Hedges joins us today to discuss this challenge.  
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"I like the idea of being strong. I've grown up with the concept. It's in my bones and my blood. Strong people survive. They don't go under."
            So speaks 18 year old Annie, the heroine of my new ebook Jigsaw Pieces. My genre is YA Crime Fiction, and for me, there are two ingredients that go to make up a successful book in this genre. The first, clearly, is a crime of some sort. In Jigsaw Pieces, set in 1998 it is the mysterious death of one of Annie's fellow students. In my 'Spy Girl' series, crimes vary from selling drugs to teenagers (Once Upon a Crime) to stealing a priceless holy relic (Dead Man Talking).
            The second ingredient is a strong female protagonist. Annie Skaerdstadt, Jazmin Dawson. So what makes a strong character? Well, it's not enough just to tell readers they are strong. Strong characters have to demonstrate their strength, usually by being pitted against challenging events, or other characters. Annie is taken from her birthplace, Norway, and dumped in an English school, where she has to develop a carapace to survive the daily bullying. Jazmin is up against an adult world that does not want her meddling and playing detective, and is prepared to take drastic and dangerous steps to keep her out. Through both girls' determination and actions, we learn how strong characters function and survive in difficult situations.
            But strength can also be shown in softness: Annie has a compassionate side, shown when she bonds with the mute World War 1 veteran Billy Donne, whom she meets in a nursing home. Jazmin is intensely loyal to her friend Zeb Stone, even when he fancies another girl. Strong characters also must have failings and flaws, an inner fault line that makes us warm to them. Maybe because they are a little like us?
             At the end of Jigsaw Pieces, Annie discovers that there is still a vital piece of the Jigsaw missing from her life. In the Spy Girl books, Jazmin is faced with the reality that she is not cut from adult cloth - yet.
            And here we see the final ingredient of a strong character - there must alway be a sense that there is more to be grasped, new and different conflicts to be overcome. For a strong character, the journey is never complete; there is another story waiting to be told.
            I love writing strong female characters like Annie and Jazmin because they are so multifaceted and complex. They challenge me and push me to my limits. I hope they do the same for my readers as well.

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You can learn more about Carol on her blog, or follow her on Twitter @carolJhedges
You can buy Jigsaw Pieces as an ebook on Amazon or Amazon UK.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

No, No, NaNoWriMo

Happy November 1. I wish you all a happy and productive National Novel Writing Month. Please excuse me if I sit this holiday out.

I often consider why participating in NaNoWriMo is so unappealing to me, when so many writers find it inspiring. And I've decided it's because of the mantra that keeps me writing at least a bit every day:

Anything is better than nothing.

Yes, as a novelist and short story writer, those are the words I live by. If I look at a novel as a 70,000-word monster that needs to be created and cleaned up before it's worth anything, I'd never even start. But if I think of it as a building I can lay one brick at a time (and on really good days, ten bricks), then it seems completely doable.

For me, the very concept of NaNoWriMo makes me feel stress, not motivation. Too much needs to be accomplished in too short a time, so my mantra wouldn't hold up.

So no NaNoWriMo for me, thank you. But that's not to say I'm not working on a novel. In fact, I'm at different stages on two of them: I'm polishing a middle grade historical to ready it for an agent hunt, and I'm doing the revisions my publisher requested for the sequel to Green Light Delivery. I expect to have a very productive November. At my own pace.

And to those of you for whom NaNoWriMo gets your writing engines stoked, I hope it's a fantastic experience and you write up a storm!