Monthly Archives: July 2013

Book Review: On Writing, by Stephen King

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Book: On Writing

Author: Stephen King

Year: 2000 (10 yr anniversary edition)

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre: Nonfiction

I don’t read a lot of books about writing any more. Gone are the college days of memorizing Strunk and White and reading John Gardner’s book about fiction writing. But I’ve enjoyed Stephen King’s books for a long time, and I heard such good things about this book that I had to check it out. What surprised me was that much of the book wasn’t so much about how to write, but an autobiography of how a bestselling author came to be. Even when describing his childhood, King shows what a storyteller he is. There’s a lot to learn just from that.

In his “Toolbox” section, he gets more into the–oh God, here it comes–nuts and bolts of things. I like that he does mention Strunk and White and grammar in general, as well as the active vs. passive writing. I also agree with the “closed door” policy, at least in that the first draft shouldn’t have your editorial side looking over your shoulder. He gives a nice example of a short story before and after editing, which I found encouraging, because it looked like what I already do.

Some information regarding publishing is outdated, but overall, I found this a good book for aspiring writers  to read, both for information and inspiration.

Author Interview: Elle Jacklee

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I know I usually post my author interviews on Thursdays, but that’s the day I’m starting my new job. I have no idea if I’ll time to post anything then, so I’ll go ahead and offer this week’s feature early. Meet Elle Jacklee, who has written a middle grade/YA fantasy. It’s getting some pretty good reviews over at Goodreads! Check her out here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6547901.Elle_Jacklee

1.  What first drew you to writing?

When I was seven years old and having a lot of fun reading, I decided that I wanted to write stories in the hopes that people might enjoy them as much as I enjoyed other people’s stories. That’s still my goal today.

2.  I understand you’ve written a middle grade YA novel. What drew you to this particular age group?

That’s the age that I was when I began reading the books that had the biggest impact on me. I think that the transition to middle grade/YA books, which are typically more complex, more mature, and (hopefully!) even a little more intriguing than the kinds of books kids in that age range had been reading previously, can be an exciting step. If a child of that age hasn’t already fallen in love with reading, it’s that genre of books that might spark that passion. If my stories can do that for someone, that spells success for me.

3.  How challenging is it to write for a younger audience?  Do you employ any strategies?

I don’t consciously employ any strategies. I actually am quite comfortable writing for this age range. My target audience is at that fun place, somewhere between being still young enough to really be able to throw themselves into a story that is whimsical and fantastical, yet old enough to appreciate plot twists that can puzzle and surprise. It’s really the best of two worlds!

4.  Tell me about the book.

The Tree of Mindala centers around Miranda Moon, an almost-twelve-year old girl whose vivid imagination has a way of getting her into trouble. She embarks (unexpectedly!) on an adventure with her straight-laced, pessimistic younger brother, Marcus. They arrive in Wunderwood, a place where magic flows through the trees and somehow, everyone already knows their family name. Coincidentally, an evil warlock, Thornton Crow, has just been freed from a long banishment, and resumes his agenda to find The Tree of Mindala, the source of all the magic in the realm, and seize it for his own. Miranda and Marcus discover branches of their own family tree that they hadn’t even known existed. And that Thornton has a score to settle with anyone in their bloodline. Especially them.

When Miranda discovers just how Thornton came to be freed from his prison, she realizes its up to her to stop him. She must decide if she can carry out the task that will either save Wunderwood or doom it forever.

5.  Who is your favorite writer, and why? If I have to pick one, then it has to be C.S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was my favorite book when I was a middle grader myself (and is still on my short list today). I fell in love with his Narnia and all the characters who resided there. But there are so many other writers that I love equally nowadays, like Jeff Wheeler, Lindsay Buroker, and J.K. Rowling to name a tiny fraction. They all have an amazing talent for creating new, vivid worlds that provide the escape I’m looking for when I pick up a book.

6.  You and I share a similar theme in our novels–magic flowing directly from nature. How did you come up with this magical system, and is there a message behind it?

I’ve always been a lover of the outdoors and I find nature really fascinating and magical in a very real way. It’s nature’s tendency to maintain a delicate balance along with my belief in the connection that we all have to nature that comprise the underlying theme of The Tree of Mindala.

7.  What was the hardest part about publishing your book?

After much careful consideration, I chose to self-publish, which was relatively easy. The hard part is the marketing! I think it’s safe to say that most writers would rather be writing 😉

8.  Tell me about your next project.

I am currently working on the next book in the Wunderwood series, The Triad of the Tree. It picks up about a year after the end of the first book. Events during Miranda’s and Marcus’ first trip to Wunderwood have compromised the health of The Tree of Mindala to the point that it cannot be saved. A new Tree must be planted before the original Tree dies, or else, not only magic, but people will die with it. By ancient decree, only the Triad, a group chosen by magical means, can open the box that contains the seeds which must be planted. The problem is the Triad has been broken. Restoring it will be much easier said than done. And time is running out…

Interview featured on Cult of Me blog

Wow I’ve been posting a lot this week! This may change as I transition to my new job. Meanwhile, I’ve been featured on Michael Brooke’s blog here: http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/guest-author-interview-judy-goodwin.html . He’s the writer of Cult of Me and other books, and I featured him a while back on my blog here.

Check it out!

Kristine’s Popcorn Kitten post

Oopsie. I looked at my calendar today for this week’s “Author Interview” and realized that somehow I had failed to schedule a writer for today!

No fear, however. I just read an amazing post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, whom I consider to be one of my mentors in having a successful writing career. She was traditionally published for a long time, but has now decided that for print novels indie publishing is better.

Go and find out why in her latest post.

Between her posts and her husband Dean Wesley Smith’s posts, I’ve learned a ton about what is happening in the publishing world from writers who are straddling both sides. It’s also been interesting reading guests posts by other hybrid traditional/indie writers on Joe Konrath’s blog.

All I can say is that anyone who wants to seriously be a writer should be looking at the blogs of other writers who have been around for years.

There’s a lot you can learn.

Book Review: The Gauntlet Thrown by Cheryl Dyson and Xina Marie Uhl

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Book: The Gauntlet Thrown (Book 1 of the Gauntlet Trilogy)

Authors: Cheryl Dyson and Xina Marie Uhl

Publisher: XC Publishing

Year: 2012

I found this free, and apparently it still is available free as a way to promote the series, a practice that I’m not sure is that great an idea. That being said, I found this an enjoyable read in a pretty straightforward sword and sorcery milieu. The book also had quite a few humorous moments, and in general this is a light-hearted book suitable for young adults and up.

The book starts with a classic Enemy Mine scenario: Brydon captures Toryn as the man tries to ambush and kill him. As Brydon is on an important quest to earn the hand of his land’s princess, he decides to take his enemy with him. Thus starts a grand adventure.

I had a few nitpicks with the story–it seems like every female that Brydon and Toryn meet are attracted to them, which I found rather unrealistic and a little silly after a while. However the plot itself is engaging, and the world is very well done, with different alliances and politics for each country. This is one of those “simple quest becomes very complicated very quickly” stories, and each new twist kept me interested. By the end I was a little concerned about the size of the cast. I think the next book’s danger will be falling into Robert Jordon’s trap of a cast that is too large and complicated. It would also be nice to see some relationships solidify beyond the Brydon/Toryn bromance.

All in all I thought this was a decent read, well worth a look. I think the writers should charge something more than free for it, but that’s just me. Free works when it’s an incentive to read something to get into a series, but I think far too many people don’t even read the free novels they download, whereas if they paid for it, they’re more likely to take the time to read it.

Author Interview: David Toft

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This week’s author interview is with David Toft, who has written several books including the Butterflies series and a new series, The Kyklos Trilogy. You can find more details about David on Goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4429634.David_Toft

1. When did you start to write, and how did it come about?

I’ve had stories in my head for as long as I can remember, but didn’t start to write them down until about twenty years ago. Why did I start to write them down? I honestly don’t know, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.

2. Where do you get ideas for your books?

It sounds really trite to say they just appear, but they just appear. Things just happen and my imagination runs away with them. Years ago, driving through Wales in a steady flow of traffic some idiot comes hurtling down the outside dodging back into the line of traffic to avoid oncoming vehicles. “I hope he crashes,” Mary said. A couple of miles along he had, and A Gift of Butterflies was born.

3. I see that your “Butterfly” series is described by one reviewer as a techno-thriller. Would you categorize it that way, and why?

I like ‘thriller’, but I’m not sure where ‘techno’ came from. I tend to have only the briefest flirtations with technology both in my life and in my writing. Having said that, I like just about any categorization that’s not ‘fantasy’. Just the word fantasy, I think, alienates so many potential readers. How many times have I heard, ‘I don’t read fantasy’? They’re missing out on some great writing. I’m guilty myself. I never read ‘romance’, who knows what I’m missing out on.

4. Tell me about your latest book.

The Cycles Turn is the first book of a yet to be finished Kyklos Trilogy, and the first time I’ve actually set out to write a series. The discovery of a crucified cat in the chapel of his school plunges Augustus Braithwaite, a headmaster cruising toward a comfortable retirement, into a battle to prevent the renewal cycles of occult covens. His crusade leads him through many different worlds to a final confrontation on Inishbofin, an island off the west coast of Ireland. Thinking himself victorious he returns home, but……That’s enough.

5. I understand you write fantasy, science fiction and paranormal. What draws you to these genres?

I think my love of writing. I have tremendous admiration for authors, especially authors of historical fiction, who go through thousands of hours of meticulous research to get everything absolutely right. Me…I just want to write, and fantasy allows me to dive into my imagination unrestrained even by the laws of physics. Or perhaps I’m just too lazy to do proper research.

6. Who is your favorite writer, and why?

I don’t really have one, though if pushed I’d have to say John Irving because I’ve read nothing of his that I haven’t enjoyed tremendously. My wife Mary is a much more avid reader than I, and if she says ‘you’ll like this one’, I read it. She’s never been wrong.

7. What are you working on now? Tell me about it.

I’ve just finished the first draft of Worlds End, the second book of the Kyklos Trilogy, and am working through a first edit that is turning into more of a rewrite. The renewal cycles of the covens in book one pale into insignificance as a greater cycle nears its end, but the knowledge and skills he gained in fighting them might just give Augustus the edge he needs to prevent the whole world descending into chaos. I’m loving it.

8. How do you work on a series?

The Kyklos trilogy is the first time I’ve actually set out with the intention of writing a series. The Butterflies Trilogy just sort of happened because I loved the Butterflies theme so much, I couldn’t let it go. My plan with the Kyklos Trilogy is to up the ante with each book so that what seems all important in one drops into perspective with the next. A bit like growing older, I suppose. I am determined though, to make each volume better than the last. I suspect that when writing stops being a learning curve, I’ll stop writing, and I plan to keep on learning for a few books yet.

Getting paid to write

I just have to announce that after a little break from technical writing during the Recession, I’m back! The last four years I had to get a job in education as as academic counselor–not a bad job, but also not one that pays much. Just yesterday I received a job offer that will pay me twice as much doing what I already love:  writing. Yes, it’s technical writing, but it’s still something I love. I did it for years as a consultant before my government contracts ran dry with state budgets in crisis.

So yay!

Meanwhile, I’m down to about 3000 words to go on my second novel, Journey to Landaran. I’m also about to publish the second Cathy Pembroke tale, “Fairies At Fisherman’s Wharf.” I have my draft cover here, thanks to an artist in Thailand who did the fairy, Pasunna Zacrifa:

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I’ll also be commissioning a new cover for the first Cathy Pembroke story, “A Troll Under Golden Gate Bridge” using the same artist. I love DeviantArt–one of the best places to find artists from all over the world with really reasonable commission rates. I’ll probably wait until I have the new cover for “Trolls” to roll them both out at once.