Category Archives: Books

All Is Quiet, Or Is It?

I realized that if you’re following me solely on my website that it’s been fairly quiet the last few weeks. You might assume that means not much is happening, picture me lounging on the couch, sipping an adult beverage. Eating bon bons. If only that were true!

The lull in updates and commentary here indicates a far different situation. Once again, I might or might not have embarked on more than I can keep up with. How is this possible? I was just as involved with a writing organization last year as I am now with my new President gig. My day job isn’t any more demanding than last year. My husband doesn’t work nights anymore so with him here at night to take some of the load I should be ahead of the game. I learned how to say No! So what the hell is going on?

SCSteamfest-ARGH

I forgot one giant detail. I didn’t have to do the Dance Mom thing with Big Sister last year. It was bliss which I did not appreciate and now is gone. Welcome back twelve to eighteen HOUR days, every weekend, sitting on bleachers in high school gymnasiums. I could write during that time. Except I’ll have a six year old in tow, who wants to follow in her sister’s footsteps next year, and will have to be entertained. I still hold out hope I can get some extra writing in over the next two months of dance season, even if it means shoving an electronic device in her line of vision to accomplish it.

I have a deadline – self imposed but still a deadline – to get my novel drafted by May. Not only because I want to pitch it to a publisher – a hand-picked publisher via an inside track with one of their editors – who will be a World Horror Con. Which is a big enough reason alone. But, I also need to go back to school and finish my degree so it doesn’t hinder me with the day job anymore. I know I can’t write and be a college student at the same time. I assume it will only take me six months to finish my degree. In that time I could be shopping the novel around for a home. Querying doesn’t take as many hours, right? Wishful thinking? Perhaps. Call me a dreamer.

I haven’t fully committed to the school thing and logistics are far from being worked out on both the scheduling and the financial fronts but it keeps coming up. I think it’s the Universe pushing me into action. To test my theory, or so I tell myself when I wonder why I didn’t say no to this one, I enrolled in a month-long workshop with three classes a week AND homework this month. No, I did not know it was that intense when I enrolled (on a whim of course).  It’s a fabulous workshop taught by a very successful author about the art of revision. The knowledge will not be wasted and I’ll know if I am capable of adding the school insanity if I survive the month and keep up with everything else in life. I’ll let you know how that goes.

If I’m quiet here, know it isn’t because I don’t have anything going on. It’s because I have too much going on and I’m working hard to get a novel out for those of you who keep clamoring for more, more, more. (Something I only ever dreamed of.) In the meantime, if you’ve picked up a copy of “It Came From the Great Salt Lake” and liked my story, I’d love it if you left a review so other people could stumble across it, too.

Thanks as always for sharing this journey with me!


Cover Reveal – It Came From The Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror

My publisher revealed this glorious cover yesterday and I am even more excited now for the upcoming release. It is gorgeous and haunting and mysterious. But best of all is seeing my name on the cover. (Call me narcissistic but it’s a first so I’m going to celebrate it!)

UHWA2015-cover via Facebook

The cover artist is Carter Reid, creator of The Zombie Nation web comic.

One of the unique elements of this anthology is that every author either is from, or has lived in, Utah – including the cover artist. The theme draws every story together around one of the most recognizable and distinguishable landmarks in the state but the stories are still extremely diverse, showcasing some amazing talent the state houses. I can’t wait for you all to read it!

In a creepy side note that thrills me beyond compare… I am the thirteenth story in the collection. My lucky number!


Book List Archive 2015

Time for the yearly round up and archive of my efforts to remain a well-read person. This year I did not reach my goal but I did read a lot of really great books. Here they are, all summed up, for your reading pleasure. And in reverse chronological order because my OCD did not win that fight – this time.

  • The Innocent, Harlan Coben (Book Club) – a light yet entertaining whodunit perfect for the beach or a long weekend. The ending was satisfying although pieces of the story were a tad predictable.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – one of the best books I read all year which definitely lived up to all the hype I had heard about it. There are very bleak elements that leave you feeling grateful for the life you have since they are painted so authentically through the characters. A truly phenomenal book that everyone should read!
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Laroux (Book Club) – a classic that I hadn’t read. I probably would have put it down had it not been a book club pick. I just can’t get into period pieces that old but still I’m glad I read it.
  • The Good Girl, Mary Kubica – also a good read but only because of how it was written. I found myself trying to solve the mystery of “before or after WHAT” all the way through. The ending was very satisfying. A great read for anyone who likes a whodunit.
  • The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – one of the best reads of the year. Finally a smart, adult novel with twists I didn’t see coming and characters with real depth. It kept me guessing to the end and I recommend it now to everyone who asks.
  • Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (Book Club) – a light and easy read that left me wanting far more details than were given since it was written for the superficial YA market who doesn’t demand it. Such a shame!
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr – had so much potential but, just like most novels set in the WWII era, left me feeling bleak and unfulfilled. I think it’s safe to say this is not one of my favorite genres.
  • The Fold, Peter Clines – I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name from the best scifi book I’d read the last year or so. Little did I know it was a continuation of that story which had stuck with me so much. Very enjoyable read!
  • The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg – I disliked this book so much. It was very clearly written for a YA audience who cannot think critically for themselves. The concepts were intriguing but not enough detail was given for anything to be plausible and the whole thing left me feeling insulted. My daughter probably would have liked it when she was eleven. To be fair, that’s probably the intended market so there’s that.
  • Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson – a great stand-alone read from the master of epic fantasy. He is still one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin (Book Club) – it was interesting to see how poor Chinese live but the book overall was not a very compelling one.
  • Mr Mercedes, Stephen King – a good old horror novel by one of my favorite authors.
  • Being Mortal, Atul Gawande – a fantastic book about living on our own terms and dying the same way. Every person everywhere should read this book. I expected it to be a social commentary about the current hot topic of Physician Assisted Suicide or The Right to Die which I was also expected to hate. What I got instead was one of the best books about one of the hardest topics any of us will ever face. I wish I’d read this book before my Mom passed away…
  • Celeste, The Unseen #2, Johnny Worthen (ARC) – the much anticipated sequel to Eleanor which did not disappoint. Except for the fact that the third is not released yet and so I must wait.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), Patrick Rothfuss – a much anticipated sequel that fell short for me and felt disappointingly like a setup book for the third one.
  • Altered Perceptions, short stories to benefit mental health – I bought this as part of a crowd fund campaign to benefit a local author suffering with a mental health disorder. It is a collection of well-known authors with either deleted scenes or unpublished works. I got it for the Brandon Sanderson early draft of The Way of Kings. And THEN…. It was by far one of the BEST books I’ve read in a long time. Not because of the stories themselves, but because every author included a personal essay about how mental health had touched their lives in some way. Every person everywhere should read this book! Better yet, they should just publish the author essays and that is what everyone should read. Seriously, go read this book.
  • The Brand Demand, Johnny Worthen – FABULOUS social satire set in Salt Lake City so it felt like all the politics and struggles were real. One of my favorite books of the year.
  • Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd (Book Club) – a novel set around the time of the IRA in Ireland with some interesting facts about archaeology.
  • ITIL Service Strategy – a brutal course but I passed the exam and am now certified!
  • The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman (Book Club) – an interesting novelization of ancient Christianity with strong female characters. I wanted to hate it but it was a good read.
  • The Archangel Agenda, A.K. Alexander & Jen Greyson – this was a light and semi-steamy read but felt like a serialized novel where just the first act of the story was included and you had to buy the second (and probably third) to get the entire story. Apparently that’s the “in” thing now for Kindle readers?
  • Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese (Book Club) – a very slow burn but a fantastic read with a killer ending.
  • Firefight, Brandon Sanderson – much anticipated sequel to Steelheart which Hubby and I both loved.
  • Pretty Things, Christine Haggerty – a novella retelling of a Grimm Fairytale. I’m not a huge fan of the fairy tale but this was not a bad read. Not as Grimm or as dark as I had anticipated and it was very short.

It was disappointing to count and realize I only finished twenty four books of the forty total I set out to read this year. That’s an average of two books a month which is better than years past when I struggled just to finish the book club pick each month. I consume most of my books on Audible which means this small list represents the amount of time I had over the year where it was possible to multi-task. Because of that, it still feels like an overall accomplishment for the year. Here’s to bettering it next year!


Cover Reveal: The Finger Trap by Johnny Worthen

The genre will never be the same… one of my favorite authors jumps into the noir detective pool with his latest book. I want to read it based solely on the beautiful cover.

TFTCover

Because I know it is hard these days to judge a book JUST by the cover, here’s the blurb:

With wit and humor, this modern mystery is a refreshing spin on the noir detective genre

Tony Flaner is a malingering, part-time comedian who is full of sarcasm and never finished a thing in his life. He’s had 12 years to prepare for his divorce and didn’t. He had his entire life to choose a career and hasn’t. Now time’s up, and he’s in a world of trouble. But all of that changes when Tony takes a first date to a drunken party and ends with him facing prison for the murder of a girl he hardly knew. To save himself, wise-cracking Tony must discover who the mysterious girl was, what she was involved in, and what the hell she saw in him in the first place.

Let me tell you, I’ve been hearing about this story – the first in a series – for almost a year and I am dying for my own copy.

Pre-order your copy here!


Cover reveal: Black Jack by Mikki Kells

Mikki Kells is a very hip fellow author and friend. When she asked me if I’d help spread the word about her new book coming soon with a cover reveal, I agreed.

Black Jack Cover

It is a second book so don’t read the synopsis if you don’t want tiny hints of spoilers… Seriously, you’ve been warned (but it sounds ubber cool so just read it anyway!)

Melanie S’velare is a survivor, the strongest witch in her coven, and a princess. With the key to her magic, the Ace of Hearts, presumably destroyed, her powers continue to grow. As her power increases, her control on them becomes weaker until it is clear she may be the most powerful witch on the planet and the most dangerous. The Alaman, another coven, concerned by her strength, send an ambassador to gauge her control, stability, and how dangerous she truly is. The Alaman are well known for killing witches who pose a threat to their own powerful hold over the globe and if they see fit to end her life, she will have no choice but to fight.

With her soulmate by her side and the remains of her Vanguard, Melanie strives to maneuver a maze of political scandals designed to make her falter. If she fails, she will not only lose her throne to the traitorous Lord Rossi, but also her life to the fiery Alaman.

Melanie can only pray her secret that the Ace of Hearts is alive and manipulating them all in a final deadly game is never revealed.

 

Black Jack book two in the Ace of Hearts series will be released July 2015.

 

headshot Mikki Kells

Mikki Kells is both a writer and a rider. She spends her nights crafting fantastical stories and her afternoons bowing to the demands of her beloved horse. Her interests in fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal stories developed from a childhood of imaginary exploits and continue to influence her professional career. She resides in central Utah.

To check out book one in the series go here: http://www.amazon.com/Ace-Hearts-1-Mikki-Kells/dp/0615885055

 

 

Follow Mikki for more news, contests, and extras.

www.mikkikells.com

Twitter/Instagram: @mikkikells

Blog: www.mikkikells.tumblr.com


Interview: Adrienne Monson

Today I have the pleasure of talking with fellow author, Adrienne Monson, about her new book Defiance releasing later this month.

 

Defiance HighRes

Leisha and Samantha barely survived. Now, an explosive battle between the vampires and immortals seems imminent. It’s more important than ever before that the prophecy child is found, but there’s a problem—Leisha has lost her powers. She seems like nothing more than a human. Her newfound humanity is further complicated when Tafari, her old lover, appears with a desire for reconciliation. Can Leisha lock up the past to save those she loves, or will fate tear everything from her once again?

 

 

 

 

Where did your idea for Defiance come from?

I’ve had a fascination with vampires since I was 11. It was inevitable that the first story I write included these mythical creatures, with my own personal twist to them.

Many argue the trend in vampire novels have come and gone. What makes yours different from the rest?

Like everything else, the market for vampires does a roller coaster. But even on the downward slope, there’s fans that will always pick it up. My vampires are unique in many ways, one of which is the story talks about how they came into existence in the first place using Voodoo magic.

What is your secret to balancing romance without cliche?

If you have a strong plot and three-dimensional characters, the romance will just work. It’s when an author forces a romance that a reader doesn’t really feel that it becomes cliche.

What’s the key to writing a second book in a series?

Have the end in mind. Even if you plan on writing a 12 book series, always know exactly where everyone is going to end up at the end. Hopefully, if you do that, all the previous books will flow together.

How long did it take you to write Defiance?

One year. Someday I’ll get as good as some other authors I know and pop out a new book every couple months. Someday…

Adrienne Author - 3650What is your writing process? Where and when do you write?

I have young kids at home, so it’s dicey to have that time. I generally wait until the kids are in bed, which gives me a solid two hours a night. I also have an amazing critique group, and we go on writers retreats twice a year. It’s amazing how much I write during those trips!

What is your favorite part of being an author?

Interacting with the readers! I’ve gotten some amazing messages online from fans and it’s always a blast to meet more readers at book signings. They keep me going on the days I feel like throwing in the towel.

Least favorite?

Actually sitting my butt in the chair to write. Maybe I chose the wrong career… 😉

How did you go from aspiring writer to published author?

It’s really about keeping your eyes open for opportunities and taking it when they come along. I kept going to writers conferences, joined writing groups and critique groups. I immersed myself in the industry as much as possible and worked on improving my craft while seeking opportunities. One day, it paid off!

Any advice for other aspiring writers?

Join an awesome critique group with other writers that will tell you what’s what. Keep an open mind and don’t get defensive about your work. If people are putting in the time to give you feedback, recognize it. It doesn’t mean that they’re right – that’s up to you to decide. But make sure you listen with an open mind before you disagree.

Keep writing. Keep seeking opportunities and don’t give up!

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your journey?

That people actually like my books. I know it sounds silly, but I’m critical and insecure when it comes to my craft. I handle criticism from others better than compliments. So I was actually surprised that people really like what I write! (And I have to remind myself of that sometimes.)

Where can readers find and connect with you?

If you’re in the Salt Lake area, don’t miss the launch party for Defiance! Come get your book signed by the author, win door prizes (signed books, gift cards to restaurants and Amazon) and have a great time.

When: February 28, 2015 from 2:00 – 5:00 PM

Where: Barnes & Noble – Sugarhouse

1104 East 2100 South, Salt Lake City UT

http://www.adriennemonson.com/

https://twitter.com/#!/adriennemonson

https://www.amazon.com/author/adriennemonson

https://www.facebook.com/adriennemonson

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6584385.Adrienne_Monson

 


Secrets & Doors: My Personal Irony

I love being part of the Secret Door Society. The vision of giving back to the world appeals to me on many levels. This project isn’t just about getting a publishing credential or selling books. And when you buy a copy, it isn’t just about buying another book. It’s about helping make a difference; making the world a better place. Secrets & Doors is significant for me as a debut author. Wherever the rest of my career takes me, this will always be my first; the culmination of toil and hard work that started with my love of reading way back when I was a child, thanks to my mom.

The irony of Secrets & Doors for me also lies with my mom. All proceeds – from both the authors as well as Crimson Edge Publishing – are being donated to diabetes research. After decades of suffering from this horrible disease, my mom died just five months before my first published work would help rid the world of it. Wherever the rest of my career takes me, this one will always be dedicated to her.

Mom - pic from FB

How does one die of diabetes? In more ways than a horror writer can imagine. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, and kidney failure are the most serious long-term complications. Diabetes also damages the nerves, can lead to amputation of limbs and muscle wasting diseases, damages the eyes and affects every organ system if left untreated. In my mom’s case, it led to liver disease and kidney failure which took her from us at the arguably young age of sixty-five.

Imagine a world where no more moms died of diabetes. No more kids had to take daily injections of insulin to survive. Projects like this are just the beginning for the Secret Door Society but none will have such a personal impact for me like Secrets & Doors. Thanks for letting me be a part of it!


Another Interview for Secrets & Doors

Another stop on the blog tour took me to visit the lovely Kathy Jones and an interview that peeks into my writing process.

Author Interview with Terra Luft part of the Secrets & Doors short story collection

Thanks to Kathy for hosting me!

 


My First Interview as an Author

Check out this very insightful interview over at Amy Bank’s blog today.

My Interview with Author Terra Luft

It was fun to be the author interviewed rather than doing the interview (and hoping someday someone would want to interview me). Thanks for having me, Amy!


Setting the Scene in a Small Piece

Let’s talk short fiction for a minute. I learned so much about writing any length piece by writing short stories. For the Secrets & Doors blog tour, each author is discussing an aspect of writing. Writing is far more difficult when each sentence must do more than one thing since you can’t devote an entire sentence to each aspect of the writing. The old adage of “choose your words wisely” applies especially to short fiction. Set a tone, build characters, set the stage, provide necessary information for the reader to move the plot forward – all of these can be done with an economy of words.

Reflection is a sci-fi dystopian story where the people of Earth have been living on another planet after fleeing a threat that is still searching for them. In order to protect themselves, they hid the truth in rules that over generations have become folklore and superstition. It was originally written as a novelette at eight thousand words. Far too long for the submission guidelines for this project. Cutting more than half the words while conveying an alien world and telling the story was challenging. When setting this particular scene, I found it most effective not to point out every detail but, instead, to note those things that were different from our world. The sky that isn’t blue, the absence of tall mountains, and that it rarely rains become significant. Contrasting these differences with what the reader knows already from his own experience highlights them, creating the backdrop of the story.

Choosing your words wisely is true in individual scenes as well. I am a novel writer which means I can use lots of words. But I don’t have to. Instead of saying he turned and picked up a box, he just picked it up. My writing group called me Verbose Girl because in the early days I had a tendency to write a lot to make sure I fully explained every detail. It didn’t always translate to the reader as I wanted it to. The truth is, even novel writing is better when you use an economy of words like a smaller piece. The last thing you want is your reader to get bogged down. The tighter the language, the more engrossing the story becomes.

SDS Banner


Interview: Callie Stoker, Editor

CallieheadshotAs part of the official launch, I have the privilege of interviewing the talented Callie Stoker, Editor of Secrets & Doors available from Crimson Edge Publishing. Callie is a freelance editor and owner of The Manuscript Doctor.

 

 

 

 

SDSebookCover

Open the door and unlock the secrets in eleven short stories from The Secret Door Society, an organization of fantasy and science fiction authors dedicated to charitable work. All proceeds from this anthology benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their quest to cure Type One Diabetes (T1D).

In these pages you’ll discover a modern woman trapped in an old fashioned dreamscape, a futuristic temp worker who fights against her programming, a beautiful vampire’s secret mission disrupted by betrayal, a sorcerer’s epic battle against a water dragon, the source of magical mirrors—and more. There are tales for every science fiction and fantasy taste, including new works from award-winning authors Johnny Worthen, Lehua Parker, Christine Haggerty, and Adrienne Monson.

Join us in the fight against T1D as you peek into a world of magical and mysterious doorways—if you dare.

 

In my own history as a reader, I never knew the value of an anthology and rarely picked them up. A collection of short stories gives you a taste of the writing style of many authors and could be the way you find your next favorite, or decide which novels you’re willing to take a chance on. Being one of the authors in this anthology, I know exactly what went into creating my individual piece. The editing process is more of a mystery. I wanted some insights – secrets even – so I sat down with Callie to get all the insider information I could.

Secrets & Doors is an anthology with eleven authors, but your name is the only one on the cover. How does that work?

The decision is ultimately up to the publisher. Some anthologies will include the author’s names on the cover, although that can often result in a busy and confusing image. For this anthology it was decided that a streamlined cover with a beautiful image would sell best, and I think we are all very pleased with the result. The editor is often the driving force behind the creation of an anthology, sending out a call for submissions and choosing from those submissions, and thus usually receives a publishing credit on the cover. The creation process for this anthology was a cohesive and synergistic one. Although my name ended up on the cover, that shouldn’t overshadow the incredible work by the Secret Door Society in writing, polishing, and perfecting their stories. I think we accomplished a lot with this collection and I’m very proud of it.

Tell us about your journey. How did you become an editor?

I started out as a writer! A wonderful group of me and three women expressed an equal desire to write, so we formed a writing group called Once Upon a Keyboard. This was ten years ago and since then, two of the women have been published, I became an editor, and we gained a new member, a copy editor, over a year ago.

My shift from writer to editor is expressed perfectly in my favorite quote by E.B. White, “An editor is a person that knows more about writing than writers do, but has escaped the terrible desire to write.” This fact was a frustration to me early on when my writing buddies would talk about their stories with such passion and I struggled to eke out a plot from a single idea. My passion emerged as I read and critiqued my fellow writers’ work. I was able to see the weakness while praising the strengths. I could clearly define what wasn’t working and put them on the path of how to make it successful.

I’ve spent the last several years intensely educating myself in the craft of writing. I believe that a good editor teaches and instructs while critiquing so that the author is left uplifted and inspired to apply a better understanding of craft to their future work.callielogo

I launched my personal business in 2014 and its success has shown me the current need writers have of an editor that can not only correct punctuation and grammar, but supply individualized instruction based on writing craft.

What goes into editing an anthology?

Anthologies are a collection of short works (stories, essays or poems) tied together by a common theme. It is the editor, often called the curating editor, who sends out a call for stories fitting the theme and reads and selects from the submittals. The curating editor also chooses the order of the stories so that each transition creates the best experience for the reader. Finally, the curating editor takes the lead in the editing process, completing or overseeing the stages of revisal.

What do you like the most about the editing process?

I am unendingly impressed by the creativity of writers. It is often said that there are no more “new ideas,” yet there are also infinite new perspectives on old ideas. I often feel privileged to read a writer’s fledgling ideas and witness as they develop. I love helping the author see how their ideas can be coaxed and nurtured into a successful story by helping them understand what kind of a story they are writing and how to make each scene and each character leap off the page.

Anything you wish you didn’t have to do as an editor?

At times I’ll need to change the tense or point of view of an entire manuscript which can be a little tedious. At the same time, making these changes is extremely satisfying when the end result is a clean draft. Proofreading may be the most tedious of tasks, but there are creative ways to go about it like changing up the font and size of the document to trick your eyes into seeing it for the first time, or reading the manuscript backwards so that you forget the story or the grammar and see only the typos or misspelled words. Sometimes I enjoy mixing up my content editing work with these tasks.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I have an ongoing client list that keeps me always reading and editing. These clients include published authors, unpublished writers, screenwriters, bloggers, and non-fiction writers. I am currently working with a publisher on the second book of a series and look forward to working in the future as a freelance editor for publishers.

Any free advice to any aspiring writers out there?

First: Read. Read. Read. Read your genre. Read outside your genre. Read the greats. Read the current stuff. A big part of storytelling is about story tropes. Tropes aren’t a bad thing, they are a recognized story form and there is a reason they exist: because they are story types that are repeated again and again. When you know the tropes, you are better equipped to treat them correctly in your own writing and to know what has come before and how to build on it. I can promise you that your level of reading will affect the depth of your writing and increase your creativity.

Second: Know what kind of story you are writing. This may seem simple and obvious, but I’m not just talking about genre and demographics (although knowing these is also important). Are you telling an adventure story? A mystery? Is this a character development story or a save the world story? The best tool for discovering this is Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. Quotient. If you don’t know it, learn it. Every story is either a Milieu (Setting), Idea, Character, or Event story, or a mixture of these. When you know the story you are writing you’ll know where to begin and end your story, what conflicts to focus on, and how to create the most satisfying arc for your characters. This is the number one thing I work on with my clients.

Where can readers find you?

Please visit my website, www.themanuscriptdr.com, to see what kind of services a freelance editor can offer. If you are curious about what level of critique could help your own work, you can submit your first chapter through my website for a free sample edit. Perhaps a personal editor is exactly what your writing needs to get you to the next level.

Also find me on Facebook and Google+ as “The Manuscript Doctor” or Twitter @themanuscriptdr

Check out my writing group’s website, www.onceuponakeyboard.com. We’ve compiled the best articles, links, videos and podcasts on writing advice. We’ve done the research so you can do the writing.

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If you’d like to pre-order your copy of Secrets & Doors, you can do so at the following links.

Paperbook: https://www.createspace.com/5209804

eBook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SNUZYGE


The Art of Combat – with Joshua Robertson

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Joshua Robertson, author of the upcoming Melkorka from Crimson Edge Publishing. I asked him to share some writing tips and he was nice enough to oblige. Thanks, and welcome, Joshua!

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The Art of Combat

In younger years, I always thought that R.A. Salvatore was the master of writing fight scenes. If you have not read his works, I would suggest starting with Homeland, Book 1 of the Dark Elf Trilogy, featuring the legendary Drizzt. This fantasy author presents combat so well that it appeared to naturally flow in his novels in the same way that other storytellers would write about the scenery. When I think of exceptional fighting in novels, I still think of Salvatore.

Those that have read my novels tell me that I share this strength in my writing. If anything, I assume that this comes from years of playing tabletop RPGs, combat-oriented video games, and sparring with my brother throughout the years. I will leave it to the fans to decide how well I actually execute combat in my novels. However, I wanted to take an opportunity to share just a few tidbits on improving your written combat. My disclaimer to these tips is that I don’t always follow the rules. Sometimes, it is important to intentionally neglect them to capitalize on something within a scene…and sometimes, I simply forget. In any case, it is good to keep these concepts handy!

Keep It Quick

A fight scene is supposed to be fast paced and tense for the character. This is not the time to be explaining how the horizon melds perfectly against the tree line. You want to keep the language in the book glued to the fight scene when it is taking place, while maintaining a flow that does not make it confusing for the reader. What do I mean by that? The English language can be molded in many ways to enhance your writing. Changing passive sentences to active sentences will change the entire feel of a fight. However, I think the easiest rule to begin with is to cut your adjectives and adverbs. They slow the reading process and destroy the emotional feel that most authors believe them to enhance.

John fiercely thrust his serrated sword forward and quickly pierced through the knight’s armor. [or] John thrust his sword through the knight’s armor. You get the idea. One example gives a fancy visual for speculation where the other pushes the reader into the next line of action. Combat is a time for action.

Another quick tip, if the terrain is an important element for the combat, then you must set it up in a previous scene or prior to the combat. Good writers will lay the groundwork well in advance of when it is actually needed.

Use Suspense

Suspense is your friend. Take any great fantasy novel and know that you are spending the first hundreds of pages preparing for a climatic end that may only last a few pages [or paragraphs] at the end. One of my beta readers for Melkorka shared with me that this was an element of the novel that kept him turning the pages. And, even at the end of the novel, he was yearning for more.

In reality, most fights do not last long. Anyone else watch UFC in their spare time? A couple of minutes and the entire conflict is over. You may watch commercials the entire week prior to the fight, and then watch someone be beat to a pulp for 45 seconds. The trick for the fantasy writer is having this also be reflected in the novel. Well-structured suspense is what makes that fight scene great.

Be Clear

Your readers will lose interest if they cannot visualize the scene or the characters placement. It is not everything, but it is important to know your battleground. I have done fighting scenes many ways. I have used maps, figurines, or even danced around my house to practice different maneuvers with swords and whatnot. The author has to know what is going on in order to tell the reader what is happening.

Without being too stereotypical, fantasy has long been a genre for nerds and geeks. As you may have guessed that we within the nerd community have certain expectations. We like things to be realistic within the guidelines of the genre. Sure, magic exists – but there are certain rules and properties it has to follow, right? Fights, including pure physical combat, also have rules to follow, such as force and leverage. You will find that readers can forgive some of these mistakes in a well-written novel, but if it is consistently flawed, you will lose your audience. Conducting fight scenes requires the author to conduct research. You have to know the weight of a sword, the reloading rate of a crossbow, the distance a person can jump, and what impact a lance has on iron armor. Then, once you know what you are talking about, write the scene be clear, accurate, and realistic.

Be Purposeful

One of my biggest peeves in some fantasy novels is fight scenes that have nothing to do with the plot structure or character development. Many times you will find authors that will write fight scenes without any purpose, or they will defend the scene with “This scene is important to demonstrate my MC’s strength and agility.” That, my friends, does not advance the plot. It is filler and confuses readers because they are looking for a deeper connection and how this particular scene ties into the character’s motivations. It is not helpful to open your book with a scene of a character fighting a band of robbers on the side of the road, unless those robbers are an intricate piece of the plot line.

Why is this important? I think the primary reason is that the reader grows to skim your battle scenes, no matter how important they could possibly be. If I am frequently reading about punches, kicks, and parries in the novel, then the combat begins to lose its meaning. I can remember great scenes in Tolkien and Jordan and Sanderson because the motivation of the characters enhanced the fight. There should always be a good reason for combat.

***

MelkorkaFinalFrontCoverKaelandur was forged by the Highborn to slay one of their own, Nedezhda Mager. As their slave, Branimir Baran never thought to question his cruel masters until he is forced to take part in the execution. His actions begin a chain of events that will lead him to confront demons, cannibals, and himself as he is forced to question his own morality and the true meaning of good and evil.

Book One of the dark fantasy series, Thrice Nine Legends, available on Amazon January 2015.

 

 

 

 

Author Bio

Joshua began crafting the world for Melkorka in 1999, and has since continued writing flash fiction, short stories, poems, children’s books, and epic fantasy novels. Joshua is the author of the transitional children’s book, Bo Bunny and the Trouble. He is also the co-creator of the fantasy tabletop game, Thrice Nine Legends, due to be released in 2015. Joshua currently lives in Alaska with his wife and children.

 You can find Joshua at the following links:

Facebook

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Website

Crimson Edge (Melkorka Ebook available for Pre-Order Now)

JoshuaRobertson


Book List Archive 2014

It’s New Year’s Day – time for reflection and putting away Christmas decorations. It has become tradition to capture my yearly list of books I’ve read from the site and archive them as a blog post with a little insight about each one. Long gone are the days I had time (or energy) to review every one as separate posts. However, if you’re on Goodreads, friend me up since I give at least a little blurb and a rating there when I finish reading. Here’s my efforts this year to become remain a well-read author.

  • The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor (work book club) – Self-help is not my favorite genre but this one was fabulous and just what I needed at the time. It even influenced my January blogging.
  • These Is My Words, Nancy E. Turner (book club)
  • Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell – the movie was better. Rarely is this true, but this time it is.
  • The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson – rocked my epic fantasy world like nothing else since Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed – a great read and another surprise since I rarely like memoirs
  • A Prisoner of Birth, Jeffrey Archer (book club)
  • Beatrysel, Johnny Worthen – one of the best books I read this year. Mostly because it was dark and unique and spoke to  me deep down in my core like nothing before it. (Caution: Not for the faint of heart!)
  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson – more than hooked on this author and this series especially. I devoured it!
  • In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, Irene Gut Opdyke (book club)
  • The Colony: Genesis, Michaelbrent Collings (not my favorite this year!)
  • Eleanor, Johnny Worthen (ARC*) – seriously, if you haven’t read this book go get a copy right now. Kids and adults and everyone in between will love this one. Johnny won Utah’s Writer of the Year for this book and it was deserving.
  • NOS4A2, Joe Hill – fabulous horror book like Stephen King used to write.
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers – (work book club)
  • The Tipping Point, Malcome Gladwell (work book club)
  • Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia – great military fiction with a supernatural twist
  • Heft, Liz Moore (book club) – one of the best we read this year.
  • Copper Descent (ARC*), Angela Hartley – one of my first blog tour posts
  • The Shining, Stephen King – I read this as a kid and wanted a re-read before the sequel. Not as frightening the second time around.
  • Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – changed the way I look at a mundane piece of the world. Still the master!
  • Second Firsts, Christina Rasmussen – (book club) – great read about dealing with loss. It was amazing to help deal with the loss of my health at the time. Little did I know I’d need it on such a deeper level later.
  • ITIL Service Operation – technical manual for a certification. Not a light or very enjoyable read, but necessary. I lament all the great fiction I could have read instead!
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (my pick for book club) Amazing, amazing. I love Gaiman!
  • Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia – guilty pleasure via Audible
  • Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell – great read if you’re a writer
  • Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth (book club)
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth (book club) – I wanted to hate it after seeing the movie but it was better and I didn’t.
  • The Colony: Renegades, Michaelbrent Collings – got a free copy on Audible and hoped the sequel was better. It wasn’t.
  • The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman – the book my doctor told me to read when embarking on veganism
  • Suspect, Robert Crais – recommended author to study on writing action which did not disappoint
  • Mitosis, Brandon Sanderson – more like a short story but I had to buy it so it counts!
  • Heart of Annihilation, C.R. Asay – (book club) another blog tour visitor (written by my writing group buddy)
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry – my oldest had to read it and kept talking about it and the movie was coming out so…
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie (book club)
  • ITIL Continual Service Improvement – another technical manual and certification that took far too much time away from “real” reading. But I passed!
  • The Martian, Andy Weir – best science fiction of the year that I happened to just stumble upon on Audible.
  • The Fault In Our Stars, John Green – did not live up to the hype!
  • Revival, Stephen King
  • Insurgent, Veronica Roth
  • Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler – great stories and a great behind-the-scenes look on the writing process of successful authors.

I have a rule that life is too short to waste time on books I don’t like after a few chapters. This list does not include two books I put down only partially read this year. One of them being Outlander, yes the same one everyone raves about and that they made a television series about. The other was some drivel that I don’t even remember the title of. Given all the time outside of work it took me to obtain two new professional certifications this year, I got a ton of great reading in. Can’t wait to do it all again in 2015! Happy reading to all my fellow readers out there.

*ARC = Advanced Reader Copy in the publishing world. Which means I got to read it before it was available to the public. Always a fabulous thing for an impatient woman like me!