Tag Archives: fiction

Settings

There was a discussion recently on kboards.com about whether writers “live” near where their books are set. Since I write mostly fantasy and science fiction, that would definitely be “no.” Yet a lot of writers do seem to write about places near where they call home. Stephen King is a perfect example of this, with so many of his books set in Maine. Others seem to go the opposite way, and I fall into this bunch. I like to write about places I’ve only visited, or even places that I’ve never been (but would love to see.)

An example of this is Heart of the Witch. I based the continent of Argessa on Australia; there is coastal rainforest, a mountain range, and then a large desert in the heart of the continent.  The closest I have come to rainforests comes from travel to tropical parts of Mexico, Hawaii, and walking through swampland and forests in Florida. The only mountains I’ve been on include northern Arizona, California, Nevada, and also the Alps in Switzerland.

I can count the number of times I’ve been in the snow on my fingers, and yet I set much of Journey to Landaran in an alpine setting in the dead of winter, with snow everywhere. Yes, I had to confer with beta readers who were more used to wintry weather to check my facts. But I can tell that that coming from a hot desert, I know what it’s like to get cold, because I get cold easily!

For me, I’m fascinated by that which is new and different to me. I’ve always had a love of forests–my grandmother had a cabin at Silver Lake in northern California, and I absolutely loved the place even though there was no electricity. Or toilets. (We did have a sink, which drew water directly from the lake.) I was also an exchange student in Germany, and lived for a summer in a tiny village in the middle of the Black Forest. I think that’s why these kinds of settings are so much richer and more interesting to me. I can write about deserts, sure. I’ve lived in one my entire life. But I do love variety. And what better excuse to travel than for research? I’ve visited San Francisco enough times that I feel pretty confident writing about it. When I dreamt up a story about Mayan ruins, I researched them, and I was finally able to visit a Mayan ruin a few years back.

We are formed by that which is familiar to us, but also that which is foreign and strange. “Write what you know” might be a popular axiom, but I’d add “Don’t be afraid to wander abroad into the unknown.”

Oh, and today’s featured image? That’s a picture I took from a helicopter tour of Maui.

Maui

Ogres at Alcatraz Isle has gone wide!

Today I’d like to announce that the urban fantasy short fiction “Ogres at Alcatraz Isle” is now available for wide distribution! That means you can now find it at Barnes and Noble, Google Books, iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo and more.

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Some links to share:

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Judy_Goodwin_Ogres_at_Alcatraz_Isle?id=edbpCQAAQBAJ

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1122158552?ean=2940151978347

Kobo:  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/ogres-at-alcatraz-isle

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/551417

Enjoy!

Description:

The Fae are at it again! All over the world, deforestation has caused the barriers between world to breakdown. Now monsters are invading the city. Cathy Pembroke, a member of the Bay Area’s new Fae Enforcement Division, must deal with everything from trolls to fairies to goblins knocking up the local Circle K. Only this time, it’s much worse.  Ogres have taken over the popular tourist attraction at Alcatraz Isle, and worse, they’ve taken hostages. Cathy and her team must find a way to rescue the humans and the landmark. It’s their greatest challenge yet.

Free today through Friday! A paranormal novella

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The holidays were so crazy, I nearly forgot all about this! From now through Friday January 9th, you can grab my paranormal novella on Amazon for free!  Dreams of the past become a message for the present when Iona starts seeing Mayan temples and dreams of death.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Dreams-Constellations-Judy-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B00D7NQDHQ/

Description:

By day, Iona Mendoza is a college student at the University of Arizona, studying psychology and trying to avoid Justin Tabers, an annoying fellow student. By night, however, she is the daughter of a Mayan priest, being forced to marry against her will before the neighboring kingdom attacks her city. As the danger escalates, Iona begins to encounter issues in her real life–or are the dreams more real?

She must figure out the mystery before war comes to her dreams and possibly takes away both her futures.

Excerpt:

This can’t be a dream.

Iona walked through the center of the marketplace, bustling with women wearing cotton blouses and skirts or men wearing only loincloths. They spoke in a near constant chatter of syllables she knew she shouldn’t understand, but she did. It was crowded, the sun blazing overhead, and heat of the earth seeped through her thin sandals. People muttered about the lack of rain, the lack of food. It hadn’t always been this way, Iona knew, although she didn’t know how she knew. She fought her way through the busy streets, towards the temple district, towards home.

The palace was a long rectangular building with many windows and doors, two-storied and flanked by towers. There were memories, memories that Iona had but could not clearly recall, of battles that had been fought between local tribes, leading to the buildup of higher walls, grander towers. She lived inside the palace, in one of the many rooms, but she was not royalty. As soon as Iona thought that, she was inside the palace, in one of the rooms, dimly lit by a single window shining light onto an earthen floor. Her father was there, speaking to her.

“There’s talk that Ucit Zok is going to attack the city again,” he was saying, but Iona was only half hearing the words. Something felt wrong, but she wasn’t sure what it was. She looked down at her hands, noticing the brown skin, the calluses and cracked nails. There was a jade bracelet on her wrist that looked like a parrot. Those were not her hands. And yet, they were.

Her father spoke again. “Ixtar, do you hear what I am saying? The city is becoming unstable. I want to make sure you are safe. I’m going to arrange your marriage to Tuk Baal, the merchant. He is wealthy, and he has the option to trade with our enemies or leave this city if things grow worse.” Iona stared at the wizened-looking man before her, wearing a long loincloth and a beaded necklace with some kind of animal claw dangling just above his chest. He was a stranger. Yet he was also her father.

“I don’t wish to marry him,” Iona found herself saying. And she didn’t–Tuk was a stupid, loud man who laughed too much and showed off his wealth.

“You will marry him. The wedding will take place in three days, during the summer solstice. It is an auspicious year.” A chill went through Iona at her father’s words.

“I would rather die,” she told him, but she obediently took the clay tablet from him to deliver his message to Tuk Baal.

Author Interview: Robert Spake

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This week’s indie author interview is with Robert Spake, who has written and published several of his short stories as well as a novel, Angel and Hellfire. Find more about him at Goodreads here:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6862513.Robert_D_Spake .

1. What first inspired you to write?
I wouldn’t say I was inspired by anything in particular, it’s just part of my
nature I think, although it didn’t manifest itself until I was 18. I was in
college and I had a couple of ideas for stories, so I started writing and then
the ideas started coming thick and fast and since then I’ve never been able to
stop. It was like I was flooded with all this creativity that almost
overwhelmed me, and then I knew that if I didn’t write these stories no-one
would so I felt it was almost my duty or responsibility to bring these stories
out into the world.

2. Where do you get your ideas for your books?
My mind wanders a lot so a lot of them just come from thinking. I’m also
influenced by movies and books and songs, often an idea sparks in me because
I’ve been exposed to another idea. I studied philosophy and that helped me to
look at things from different angles, but really I’m just interested in a lot
of things and I like to write about things I’m interested in. An idea will
flash in my mind and I’ll just have to run with it.

3. I see that you write both short stories and novels. Which do you prefer, and
why?
I think they both have their merits. I read a good quote, I think it was Philip
K. Dick who said it but I’m not sure, but it basically said that short stories
are to explore an idea or a concept while a novel is to explore a character and
the world they inhabit. I really love short stories because I get to bounce
between different ideas and I can see the finished product a lot sooner than
with novels, but I can put more of myself into a novel and I think they tend to
have more of an impact on a reader. If I had to choose I’d have to say novels,
but they take more work to write. Both types have their merits though.

4. What kind of book would you say “Angelic Hellfire” is, and why?
What type of reader would it appeal to?
I always say it’s a sci-fi coming of age story. I think it would mostly appeal
to the young adult crowd, but I’d like to think most people could take
something from it. It’s really about coming to terms with who you are and
finding your place in the world, overcoming your own insecurities and realising
that no matter how small you feel sometimes compared to the vastness of the
universe you still matter. I think most people struggle with those ideas at one
time or another, especially when we’re passing into adulthood and the whole
world opens up before us, so Aaliyah is an embodiment of that struggle.

5. Who is your favorite writer, and why?
W. Somerset Maughm. I only discovered him fairly recently but I instantly fell
in love with his beautiful prose and some of the attitudes his characters
express, particularly about love, are identical to my own feelings. I think
he’s incredibly underrated too because I’ve never heard much said about him and
I think he should be more widely-known.

6. Tell me about your latest book.
My latest release is I, Tomorrow? and Other Stories, a collection of 12
stories. There’s a bit of a mix – some sci-fi, a couple of romantic tragedies, a
Greek tragedy and a few other ideas I was playing around with. I’m proud of it
and while the stories would fit into different genres they mostly deal with
similar themes, examining the nature of the universe and ourselves. I included
author notes which give some background information on the stories and some of
my feelings towards them because I always find it interesting when authors
provide an insight into their stories.

7. What are you working on next?
Well I have my ongoing serial story about a superhero which is updated weekly
on my blog. I’m also working on a story called Hit Hard which is about a

women’s boxing world champion and her struggle to find a challenge in her
sport. Along with that I’ve just come up with an idea for a pirate story, and I
have a fairytale in the works as well as a sequel for Angelic Hellfire, so
plenty to keep me busy!

8. What is the best advice you could give to new writers?
I think I just have to echo advice that served me well – read and write as much
as you can.

Storyboarding fiction

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So I’m researching websites for work at the moment, and one of the activities we’re doing is creating storyboards of screens that a user would move through on the website. This got me to thinking about writing fiction, and how you can use storyboarding there as well.

I do a lot of my plot design in my head–I create the scene, then let the characters do as their personalities would dictate, running the “tape” so to speak and seeing what happens. It’s like a mini-movie all in my brain. For an important scene, I may run the scenario several times, from different characters’ perspectives–not because I plan to write in a different point of view or make someone else the protagonist, but because in order to figure out what someone is going to do, you have to get inside their head. So I may drop inside my female heroine’s head and see how she’d react, but then run it again from the villain’s perspective. How would he react? And so on.

This, in fact, is storyboarding.  The only real difference is I’m not drawing it out on paper physically.

That got me to thinking. There have been times when I’ve plotted out a scene, but I don’t write it down, and when I actually get in front of a keyboard to type it out, I’ve forgotten which scenario I liked best. So maybe I should be writing them down! Or drawing stick figures–something!

I’m curious how many other writers out there have toyed with this process and if it has worked for them. If you think about it, this is a common tool used in TV and movie making. Why shouldn’t it be used in writing fiction?

Example:  Character A (we’ll call her Sasha) wants to get inside her evil boss’s file cabinet to locate the file that will prove he’s been embezzling from the company. She’s smart, brave, but rash and tends to act without thinking. So she goes into his office one day at work while he’s at lunch–only he forgot his cell phone, so while she’s digging around in the file cabinet, he returns. She’s forced to think quickly and hides under the desk, hoping he won’t notice her.

Now this could go a few ways. One, he doesn’t see her. Maybe he’s distracted by the confrontation they had earlier, or may he’s just not that observant a guy (in which case he’s not as great a villain because he’s not as talented as her). She has a tense moment, but is able to find the file once he leaves again. But maybe he is observant, and he does discover her! What then?

You get the picture.

By following the scene through different outcomes, you may find the plot you had originally thought of was not the best, not the most exciting. By exploring different options, you may find something fresh and original. We always think of the clichés. first.

So storyboard it!

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…

Book Review: Never Trust Your Cell Phone (and other short stories)

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Title:  Never Trust Your Cell Phone (collected of short stories)

Author: Carla Anne Acheson

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Genre: Literary

I don’t tend to read a lot of literary fiction–I had my fill of it in college as an English/Creative Writing major. That being said, I do enjoy short stories at times, particularly in horror, science fiction, or speculative fiction a la Twilight Zone or Kurt Vonnegut.

This book is an anthology of seven short stories, ranging in topic and length. My favorite was definitely the story upon which the anthology is named, “The Plane Trip.” This story in fact so reminded me of a particular Twilight Zone movie scene, and I wonder if that was the inspiration. I also enjoyed “A Pocket Full of Sunshine,” “Pausing for Thought,” and “Yin and Yang”. I didn’t like “The Hollow Man” or “Is That Normal” as much–they were rather depressing, and acted more as character studies or abstract thoughts than true stories.

The writing is intensely personal and emotional, mostly in 1st person. I could totally see Alana Morrisette writing songs off of some of these because they are about relationships, the good, bad and ugly. There is a somewhat dark tone to everything. (Reminds me of my poems).

I read this anthology while on the plane, and I’d say that’s the right sort of setting for a series of short stories–it makes for a quick reading. The stories have no true connection to one another, but again that theme of relationship is what binds the book as a whole. Even the last story is about a relationship, a conversation. It just doesn’t end the way the protagonist expects.

Overall I thought this was a decent read. The last story was the best and stood out the most for me. I’d give it three and a half stars out of five.