Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guest Post, by A M Jenner: It's All in the Details

Sixth stop on my international blog tour, Dublin Ireland. Thanks so much to Paul Carroll for hosting me; it’s good to be here.

I'm sure we’ve all heard the old adage, "The devil is in the details". I've certainly found this to be true when writing novels. Some days it is devilishly tricky to strike the proper balance between too many details and not enough of the little beggars.

As an author, my job is to keep my reader totally engrossed in my story. I don't want them to put it down until they’ve finished it. When a reader finishes a book in one session, they become completely convinced that the book was "too good to put down". This leads to them telling their friends about the book that was too good to put down, which leads to more people who want to read my books.

As long as I can keep the reader's mind entirely inside of my story, there’s no danger of them putting the book down voluntarily. If they do have to put it down, I want them to be thinking about it, with their mind still in the story, until they have the opportunity to pick it back up.

In order to keep a reader that involved in a story, the place has to seem like a real place. The characters have to seem like real people. And the reader has to be able to relate the problems facing the hero.
What does that have to do with descriptive details? Everything!

If I put my characters in a car and send them someplace, it’s not very interesting if they’re traveling through a blank, gray wasteland. My readers’ minds will be wandering off, trying to figure out those background details I haven’t given. To keep that from happening, I have to provide some of the details of what is happening outside of the car.

Think about it. If you’re a passenger in a car, even if you’re involved in a conversation, you are peripherally aware of what is going on outside of the car. You’re aware of the landmarks you pass, red lights you stop at, and the idiot on the motorcycle who just cut you off. If I put some of these descriptors in between the lines of dialogue, it’s much more interesting to read and seems more like a real conversation.

At first novice writers might think that the more detail that’s included, the better the story will be. This is not true. Too many details are just as damaging to your readers’ attention span as too few. For example, if my character walks into an office for an interview, time is not going to stop while they examine every item in the office and describe it in their mind in loving detail. They’ll pick up the details a little at a time as various objects come to their attention.

As they first step through the door, they’ll notice the color and lushness of the carpet. When they greet the interviewer across the desk, they’ll notice the size and placement of the desk, and possibly what it’s made of, if it’s an unusual material. No one is going to consciously notice a plain metal office desk with Formica top, when they are busy being concerned with their upcoming interview. However, they might notice the beautiful hand-carved oak desk with a glass top to protect the carvings, simply because of its unusual construction.

They’ll probably not notice what the interviewer is wearing, unless they were worried about their own appearance earlier, and are comparing the two outfits in their mind. They will notice the one outstanding physical characteristic of the interviewer, however, whether it’s hair of an unusual length, style, or color, an overly large nose, eyes that don't match, or a prominent wart. Most characters should have one outstanding physical characteristic, which is mentioned often enough in the narrative to assist in identification.

What’s the right amount of detail to include? This is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. A lot of it depends on the setting, not just of your novel, but of the particular scene within the novel. For example, most people have seen enough historical movies, that if the characters are in a large manor house, and I state they walk into the library, the reader can provide a picture of a large room full of books, probably containing a fireplace with a grouping of chairs nearby. However, if I have the character walk into the buttery, the reader is likely to conjure a picture of a small room with a wooden butter churn. A buttery is actually a small room near the dining room where plates, silverware, and other serving implements are kept handy. In this instance, a quick description of either the appearance or the use of the room is in order.

When I sent The Siege of Kwennjurat out to my beta readers, there were several places where they asked me for more details. There were also several places where they noted the action was too slow, and I therefore removed some of the details. In one place, I knew I had the mix exactly right, because one reader asked for more details while another was complaining there were too many. Learning how many details and where to put them is an ongoing process for every author.

About the book: The Siege of Kwennjurat is the second book in the Kwennjurat Chronicles. Alone in Kwenndara, Princess Tanella cares for the refugees from war-torn Jurisse, while she worries about her loved ones’ safety. Her new husband Fergan is two days away in Renthenn, coordinating the business of two kingdoms.

Kings Jameisaan and Fergasse join forces in Jurisse to pursue the war against the Black Army. They know Liammial hasn't played his last card, and are willing to give their lives to protect their people and their children.

Who will triumph and claim the throne of Kwennjurat?

About the author: A M Jenner lives in Gilbert, Arizona, with her family, a car named Babycakes, several quirky computers, and around 5,000 books. A self-professed hermit, she loves to interact with her readers online. Her books are available at www.am-jenner.com, as well as most major online retailers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I'm Still Here

I'm always overly aware of how little opportunity I get to write on this blog of late. With college back in motion, I don't find myself with the most time in the world, which only leads me on to think more about how little I keep up with my extra writing. Finding the time to unwind and to write and to get my college work done while having to take on extra hours in work and manage increasingly busy schedules is difficult. Doing it while playing Final Fantasy 7 again is nigh-impossible.

I disgress. I am still here, even if I am not appearing to write very much, or say very much, or do very much at all. I have been trying to keep up with certain "obligations" regarding social networking, setting up a Paper.li, and using Instagram to enter the world of Hipster-ism and attempt to capture some banality to show that everything doesn't have to be interesting, but we can certainly pretend it is, and anyway: look there's a picture.

As for writing, I've gotten myself a keyboard for my tablet - and yes, gotten myself a tablet, in case I forgot to mention that - that now enables me to write more freely without having to turn my laptop on my midnight and wait for it to groan itself into consciousness. I will use it, obviously, because there will always be a need for it, but my tablet is much more convenient to set up for writing at the time being. I cannot see myself writing a whole novel like this, with certainly problems arising from the use of quotation marks (par example: "o" actually comes out ö") and the general lack of a spell checker that would make writing a novel easier.

Yes, I am a fan of the red squiggly line, even if it does sometimes highlight terms I want to keep in the book.

Most of my time, lately, has been spent writing my research paper. It's not qute so arduous a task that I don't get to see people, but it does mean I don't get to justify much time to myself. I have to finish reading a book for it, and soon, and have to actually write the secong chapter. However, I think I can manage it. The Seven Deadly Sins have provided for me a treasure-trove of entertainment, and reading up on them has proven itself to be a lot more interesting than I anticipated, even in picking them specifically for that reason.

When I complete my paper, I'll be left with more time to myself, in theory. I have been asked already, repeatedly, if I'll be taking part in NaNoWriMo this year. My laboured and wary response to that is this: I'm thinking about it.

I don't yet know what I would write. Part of me wishes to monopolise the time and write three novellas instead of one novel. Either way it's possibly insane. The other option is to work on a Young Adult novel I've been mulling over for a wee while, but I have a lot of reading to do for that one before I sit down and write it, because it's one of those books that requires things to be tasteful and accurate within current literature and social contexts.

Isn't that a fun thing to think about? Imagine me having to be politically correct all the time. I wouldn't be much fun when drunk, that's for sure!

Again, I digress. NaNoWriMo is such a succinctly terrifying but thrilling prospect that dwelling on it for long periods of time after midnight is bound to lead to utter sleeplessness. With work every Sunday, doing that isn't advisable. So, I'll be quick about this.

My workload in college is set to decrease after Halloween. I will have two essays and a journal to write (on Comedy, that great beast of English Literature left unattended in many cases due to its sometimes-slapstick nature, which no one likes to critique academically, but everyone claims to know something about in general, less frightening terms than a whole module riding on it.) Anyway, with that decrease due, I could, technically, take on more work. Technically. In saying that, I do also have the less-than-small manner of organising something within two separate societies, possibly, maybe, and having to actually research for my work, and prepare for teaching placement in January. (We'll butcher that dragon and sell its scales when the time comes, but for now...)

So, I might do NaNoWriMo. I definitely have books to write in it, anyway. We shall see what actually becomes of it in due time. Probably I'll start then realise I'm a mad man with too much to do and too little time to do it, and struggle on anyway until I give up, a failure and have to reconcile my lack of words with brownies. Homemade, with rich chocolate.

Again, I digress, but I do wish I had a brownie at the moment.

The point of this post, then, if there ever was one, was to say that I am still here, still alive, and still writing - even if I don't put out every week.* I'm hoping I get to actually write something, at least every week, that will end up on this blog, while getting a flash story on my site almost every week. I need to edit one I wrote on Thursday before it goes public. For that, I'll need the laptop.

Anyway, there we have it: I'm not dead, I'm still writing, and I've tried to make my excuses sound in some way like I know what I'm talking about in various fields. Not a bad night's writing, if I do say so myself. What I can proudly say** is that I had little trouble in actually writing this post, and am therefore more likely to write through my tablet again when the time comes. And who knows, maybe I'll actually get back into a routine of it! Well, a man can dream.

*Sounds like my ex-wife. (Did I mention I tell ex-wife jokes? All the time? I'm told it gets annoying, and it's never funny. But like I said, everyone claims to know something about comedy. I just didn't say if they were right.)
**Oh, there's a Deadly Sin. My soul go bye-bye!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Post, by Gabriel Fitzpatrick: Falling for a Professional Liar

Today on the blog, finishing up on his Literary+ Blog Tour, we have Gabriel Fitzpatrick. He's been busy this past week and a half on tour, promoting his new book Rmnce. With that wee intro out of the way, I'll hand you over to Gabriel.

Falling for a Professional Liar

There are those who say that dating people who lie for a living is a loaded prospect. It’s a mindset which is not hard to fathom, since trust forms such a core part of most people’s conception of romantic love, and a large part of the cynical side of trust is in the ability to detect when the other person is lying. The more a person lies, as the reasoning goes, the better they get at it, and the harder it becomes to separate fact from fiction.

This last collocation, fact from fiction, is fortuitous since it leads us to the particular breed of professional liar which is relevant to my world: That is, fiction writers. While actors, poker players, and politicians are experienced in the practical side of lying, being practiced in telling lies, writers exist on the other side of the coin, being practiced in inventing lies. We spend our days and nights sitting at computers lying to empty pages, wracking our brains to come up with plausible falsehoods which can be woven together into a grand narrative of abject fiction.

So, the question becomes, how can one be expected to trust such a person? A professional liar must surely have a greater propensity to dissemblance than one who only lies casually, a hobbyist liar if you will. Yet this is a question which acts on presumptions which need not be true.

The most interesting of these is that it is always assumed that the truth, honesty as a practice, is the ideal to be striven for in a romantic relationship. One could, I hope, certainly imagine a relationship which might go quite beautifully built on a foundation of lies, provided the liar could maintain them as if they were the truth without any cracks forming (and who better to create a rock-solid foundation for such an arrangement than a writer?) and crafted them in such a way as to serve a desired purpose.

Most people who claim to want the truth want, instead, the sensation of being told the truth in conjunction with the pleasantness of a lifestyle without strife. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. Thus, from a purely utilitarian standpoint, the standpoint of the maximization of subjective happiness, a benevolent, well-intentioned professional liar is perhaps the best possible partner. Capable of building for their lover a beautiful world, a beautiful fiction in which they may both live happily, a professional liar can bear the burden of reality unilaterally; two professional liars in conjunction can very nearly escape the fundaments of relationship reality entirely, a state which seems quite pleasant to contemplate.

Gabriel’s new book, Rmnce, hit digital shelves October 1st! Find it on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Rmnce series is a love story told in 4 parts. It follows a couple from the first drunkenly passionate days of their college romance all the way through a life together, often tumultuous, always overwhelming, and overridingly disquieting as only true love can be.

Rmnce is not, however, your traditional love story. Or perhaps more accurately, it does not appear to be your traditional love story. It is written entirely through the communications of the couple. Text messages, emails, and even a few old-fashioned letters make up the entirety of a story, what one early reader termed "A story not so much written as formed organically in the negative space."

It is, in short, a commentary on love in the digital age, a tribute to the great love affairs of the digital generation, romance not lost in the sea of text-speak and instant gratification, but merely obscured from the prying eyes of those too far removed from its cultural roots.

Buy on Amazon
Buy on Smashwords

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Guest Post, by John O'Brien - Haunted Halloween Blog Tour

Today, we've got a guest post as part of the Haunted Halloween Blog Tour. You can find more info about that below, but in the meantime, I'll hand you over to John O'Brien, author of the A New World series.


Hello there. My name is John O’Brien and I’m the author of the series, A New World. I released the fifth book, “A New World: Awakening”, a couple of months ago and am starting on the sixth book tentatively titled “A New World: Dissension”. 

Halloween is almost upon us with ghouls, goblins, and all manners of creatures roaming the streets. Imagine those streets actually being roamed by the real thing. Barricaded in your house with zombies or rage creatures prowling constantly. Not knowing when the next will come banging to your door. I wouldn’t recommend leaving the light on or answering the door. The trick would be on you and you would definitely be the treat.

I’ve often thought about the post-apocalyptic world and what it would be like. My first thought is “Great!” but in reality, it would be a struggle every day. Your family at risk and having to be in survival mode every minute of every day. As fun as that sounds having to scrounge for food and taking your weapon to create holes in the heads of said creatures, but there are a thousand other issues to think about. Sanitation, the dead that are around, medical supplies, knowing that any injury can fester and be life threatening, water supplies, marauders, etc. Yeah, not the ideal world we may think and dream about.

But, honestly, I both would enjoy it and dread an actual event at the same time. It would definitely push the survival skills to the extreme where any mistake or lapse in judgment could be the last. Where one is constantly tired and the right decision difficult to make. And one thing to think about after a period of time under constant threat is the PTSD that is most certainly to occur in everyone. Everyone has their breaking point and it would take a large amount of mental stamina to continue to survive. That’s why having family or others around is important. Each one can boost the other through the difficult times.

What can you do? Make sure you have your stamina built up beforehand. Cardio will go a long ways to help. Have you ever carried a weapon and gear over a distance? Run down the block with gear and then thought about having the energy and stamina to fight? All things to consider. However, yes, bring it on and I’ll meet you at Cabelas. 

John O'Brien
For me, I’ll be hunkered down at my desk hammering out the latest on Jack Walker and his merry little band. Or at least envisioning their next escapade. Perhaps that might be with a beverage of choice enjoying the late fall evening. And then finding my pillow to fall off into a world of night runners.

So, think about that when you are opening the door to hand out the candy. Look out on the street at the groups of ghouls prowling the area looking for treats and think about them being the real thing. Most importantly, enjoy your evening and see in the post-apocalypse.

All five of us - Tonia Brown, James N Cook, John O' Brien, Armand Rosamilia and Mark Tufo - hope you have been following along on the Haunted Halloween Blog Tour 2012. We love to see comments after the posts, and we also love to pick a random commenter and give away a free eBook or even a signed print book, so maybe you'll get lucky!

We have centralized all the upcoming dates and blog posts on a Facebook event page. Feel free to join us there and see what is coming up next!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Twin Madness

Back when we were due to start college again, my brother asked a few of us on Facebook one simple question: "what time are peeps heading in at?"

This is a simple question, and required a simple answer. Unfortunately for him, I was the only one online at the moment, and though I was in the same building, I still decided to respond. I do advise you click the links we each posted.

Me: PEEPS! http://junkfoodnews.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/JUST-BORN-MARSHMALLOW-PEEPS.jpg

Him: you have issues...

Me: MARSHMELLOW PEEPS! http://youtu.be/jPYXtzy1ExM

Him: yeah, a lot of issues...

Me: <3 br="br">
Him: http://byobworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/middle_finger.png

(At this point, a friend popped in. We'll keep her name a secret, and call her Le Friend.)

Le Friend: lols at the twins! Imma heading in for lunchtime. Got things to do!

Him: now you're just being ridiculous Paul... so 12ish [Le Friend]?

Le Friend: emmmmmmmm maybe. have to shower and go into town for a few then college

Me: Now? http://media.fakeposters.com/results/2009/07/18/5x4z58noij.jpg

Him: alright cool. Ignoring Paul, what about everyone else?

At this point, the conversation nearly ended. But sure, it was good fun while it lasted. I'm fairly sure I annoyed him a little bit, but only insofar as he wanted an answer, and instead received undiluted insanity, sparked by the excitement of getting to see my friends for the first time since before teaching placement.

And for the record: yes, this is how I spend my time when I'm not in college or writing. Memes fo' life, yo.