Yes, but with a caution

ms-hsMindspeak/Heartspeak by Sandy Nathan

Summary: Dr. Clarisse Hull is a brilliant theoretical physicist living in a world of schemes and hidden peril. Her revolutionary research manages to prove the existence of alternative universes, and she uses Quantum Physics to create portals in time space, which lead to other worlds. Unfortunately, she can’t present the core of her work, which is classified as Top Secret and owned by the government, just like herself. This is because Clarisse is a secret black ops agent, and has been one all of her adult life.

Clarisse’s university doesn’t believe her claims and ends up denying her tenure and firing her. However, the denizens of the alternate reality she reached do recognize her achievement, and they grab her up faster than you can say, “lead our army and take over planet Earth.”

Now Clarisse finds herself captive in an alternative universe, desperately searching for her way home from a sadistic empire across sub-molecular frontiers. She must save herself, in order to save everyone on Earth. Along the way she will encounter breathtaking adventure and hideous betrayal, but also find the love of her life.

Recommend: Yes, but with a caveat (see review below)

Review: The writing is crisp, brilliant, and…blunt. There is nothing soft, warm, or fuzzy about Ms. Nathan’s writing or her characters, and hence, my problem. The author’s writing was well-paced, clear and easy-to-read; the topic was something I always enjoy (alternate realities and time travel are my favorites, especially when the author uses current scientific theories to create a bridge from the world of here-and-now to their world of what-if). However, the problem (for me) was that I was unable to relate to any of her characters. And they are excellently developed, well-thought out, and absolutely believable characters. But therein lies the problem.

Her characters were more prone to use violence to resolve issues, while I’m more comfortable using persuasion and dialogue. Her characters were rather cold and shut off (think Spock from Star Trek), which made it hard for me to empathize with their predicament.

I do not find this a flaw in the book, the writing, or of the author. I find this to be my issue…The characters in this book were great representations of a particular type of person; unfortunately, these are also the type of people I would probably avoid in the real world, simply because we have little to nothing in common.

So, while I do recommend this book for its excellent writing, exceptional concept, and very real characters, do be aware that these characters are not the warm and fuzzy-type of characters that most authors create. Also, understand that these characters primarily tend to use violence in dealing with their situations.

The Writer’s Game – Sample 3

Shoot

(1st chapter of a romance by Anne Obert)

lips“I’m gonna count to three, and then I start shooting!” The threat echoed down the hallway as I fumbled with the door.

I twisted the knob again while yanking at the door. The hinges squealed as the door crashed open. I dashed onto the set just as the photographer raised his camera. Pete was probably one of the best commercial photographers around, but he was impatient, demanding, and cold…in a hot kind of way.

If it weren’t for his personality, I might have actually found Pete attractive. He had sapphire eyes and midnight hair, with a face that was more interesting than handsome. As for the body, well…let’s just say, I wouldn’t mind cozying up to that body. A warm shiver raced down my spine, but soon turned cold when his steely gaze pierced me, his impatience plainly visible.

I used one hand to stop the swaying of the hoop skirt on the period gown I was wearing and adjusted the low-cut bodice. We were in some museum-quality ballroom with bright filigree everywhere, and parquet floors. Several other models in satin britches or lace and satin gowns were also positioned in small groups and pairings throughout the room. This week I was selling Real Nature products, maple syrup and hot dogs. What maple syrup had to do with a fancy dress ball, I had no idea.

“Positions! Let’s go, everyone!”

I picked up the plastic bottle of maple syrup and held it out as if I were offering it to the Queen herself; then I plastered a smile on my face and began to twirl, dip, twist, and dance to Pete’s commands.

“Can you move any less gracefully? You look like a pregnant moose on roller skates…”

“No, not over there…I need you to look this way.”

“Are you always so clumsy?”

Yeah, the world of modeling was just so glamorous. If I didn’t need the money to help with my mom’s medical bills, I’d tell Pete exactly what I thought of him, I mused as I tried to contort my body into the positions he demanded. It was as if I was nothing more than another prop to him. He tugged at the dress, swatted my hand when my fingers encroached on the vendor’s label, and groused when I needed to grab a drink from my water bottle.

Four hours and two costume changes later, he said we had enough for that product. Now it was time to work on the photos for Real Nature hot dogs. Another costume change, another wig, and now we were seated around an elaborate dining room table being served Real Nature hot dogs. I tried to look enthusiastic, but truthfully, I just wanted it to be over with. The wig itched, the dress felt as if it was three sizes too small, and I really wanted to get over to the hospital and check on my mom.

 

 

The Writer’s Game – Sample 2

Shooting Off-Script

(1st chapter of a mystery by TA Sullivan)

 

“I’m gonna count to three, and then I start shooting!” the gunman shouted as he pointed his weapon at the hostages.

Hunkered behind a desk about four cubes away, my partner and I exchanged worried looks.

My partner’s face was drawn as she whispered, “What do we do?”

I opened my mouth to answer, and burst out laughing. A moment later, my partner, joined in.

“Cut…cut,” the director turned to us. “Really?”

“I’m sorry,” I muttered as we continued laughing. “But you have to admit, it’s a bit cliché.” The writing for this show had been getting so insipid lately; not that the show had ever been more than your basic cop drama. I played the rugged, rumpled, and slightly jaded cop, whose instincts were nearly always right; while up-and-coming actress, Pam Brewer, played my over-eager, naïve, rookie partner. As I said, very typical. Still, the writing had never been this hackneyed.

The director gave us several minutes to pull ourselves together, and we set up to do the scene again.

“I’m gonna count to three, and then I start shooting!” The actor playing this week’s crook waved his gun menacingly at the cowering hostages.

I exchanged looks with Pam and we managed to hold it together this time. However, when she opened her mouth to utter her line, it was drowned out by the crack of gun fire. This time when we looked at each other, the confusion and worry were genuine. We were definitely not acting.

I heard a scream echo from across the sound stage, and I jumped to my feet. A moment later, Pam and I joined the rest of cast and crew as they rushed toward the apartment set. At least a dozen members of the cast and crew of “Police Beat” were ringed around the bloody body. I could hear the pounding of racing feet coming up behind me as the rest of the staff came to see what had happened. Pam gagged and turned away, and somewhere behind the apartment set wall I heard someone getting sick. At least they hadn’t vomited all over the crime scene, I thought. Yeah, call me Mr. Sensitive.

murder-mystery

The Writer’s Game -Sample 1

The Shooter (a short story by DL Sullivan)

“I’m gonna count to 3, and then I start shooting!” I said.  The man’s grin widened with confidence as though he knew a secret that would ultimately save him.

I was determined to right the wrong he had committed on the little blond-haired girl standing behind me.  The look of sadness that suffused her small face had nearly broken my heart.

My face felt flushed from the anger I felt inside.  I couldn’t stand by and let this happen to this precious little girl without reprisal for the man’s callous actions.

I had checked the gun I grabbed from the top of the short wall separating us.  I smirked as I saw that he had changed the sight on the gun to shoot a little to the left of center.  My experience years earlier in the Special Forces came in very handy now.   I could have stripped this gun down to its individual parts and reassembled it with my eyes blindfolded.

His smile faltered as I counted, “One.”

The man’s seemingly calm, smug smile couldn’t hide the hint of worry on his face.  The corners of his mouth twitched ever so slightly in a nervous tick.  Sweat was beading on his upper lip despite the cool evening air.

I stared directly into his gray eyes as I counted, “Two.”

He straightened from his casual slouch.  His eyes darted from side to side looking for a way to escape his fate.

“Three,” I said with finality.  I quickly raised the gun, aimed a little to the right of center, and fired.

The man jerked violently when the gun went off.  The look of surprise on his face was a joy to see as the bell rang loudly, indicating I had hit the target square in the middle of the bullseye.

“We’ll take that giant teddy bear, now,” I said with a satisfied smile.

The carney looked dumbfounded as he reached for the bear sitting behind him.  I swear, I think the bear was smiling, too.  With a look of defeat on his face, he took the bear in both hands and slowly handed the bear to me over the short wall of the booth.

I turned around and held the bear out to the little girl.  The look of delight on her face as she took possession of the bear filled me with joy.

I would remember this day for a very. long. time.

giant-teddy-bear

 

 

The Writer’s Game

ahamomentTwice a month a member of my writing group comes up with a sentence, piece of dialogue, phrase, or concept and challenges us to use it to create a short story, poem, or opening chapter to a book in any genre.

It’s a fun way to push ourselves and stretch our writing talents. It’s also a fun way to give ourselves permission to try out genres that we might otherwise shy away from. For instance, I primarily write fantasy and paranormal books, but I love to read mysteries and thrillers. This little game gives me a chance to try writing the opening for a mystery, thriller, western, or any other type of book without the pressure. After all, it’s a game…it’s all in fun. And if it happens to lead to another book or a publishable short story, then all the better.

What I also love about this game is how many ideas can spring from a simple sentence, phrase, or piece of dialogue. We each get about a week to come up with an idea and rough it out before presenting our results to the group. Some writers may have a single idea; others, two or three ideas; and still others, may come up blank. It’s okay, though, because it’s not a contest, just a helpful exercise to get your brain thinking in different ways.

“I’m gonna count to 3, and then I start shooting!”

That was the prompt for the game we got at our last meeting. What can you come up with using that? What story or images does that bit of dialogue spark in your mind?

In a couple of days I will present three of the results based on this bit of dialogue. In the meantime, see what you can come up with, and feel free to post them as part of the comments, or on your own blog…

I always love to see what ideas people can find in something so simple as the sentence above.

 

4 Free Marketing Tools for Authors

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Most authors are not sales people. We tend to be loners and introverts, rather than extroverts and life-of-the-party types. Because of this temperament, many of us find that selling our books doesn’t come easily. Yet, without a bit of marketing, our books and other writings are unnoticed and often overlooked.

For each reader out there, there are at least a 1000 books that “hit the shelves” every day. Yet, without something to entice readers to find them, most of these books may never find a single reader, and many may only be found by the author’s friends and family. Yet, every book has 4 free, built-in sales and marketing points that many of us authors overlook.

Every time you, as the author, publish one of your works, you need to provide:

  1. A book cover

Think about it. What makes potential readers select a book written by an unknown author from an overwhelming list of unknown authors? The cover. Whether at a brick and mortar book store or online, a winning cover can make potential readers stop and check out your book. You need to create a cover that is unique and eye-catching, but the design also has to visually convey what your book is about. If your story is about space exploration, don’t show an image of a haunted house. And if it’s about vampires, don’t use space ships (well…unless it’s a book about space vampires). Worst of all, though, don’t give potential readers a blank cover with just the title and your name on it. That says you don’t care enough about the readers to even try to entice them.

  1. A book synopsis

I remember at a book conference, one of the guest author panelists said, if you can’t summarize your story, then you don’t understand your own plotline. What is the main arc of your story? What is it your characters are trying to do, solve, resolve, or accomplish? But don’t get side-tracked by subplots, just summarize the main idea of your story.

Every distribution site I’ve seen asks authors to provide a summary of the book (some even ask for two summaries—a long summary consisting of 1000 words, and a short summary containing only 200 words). That’s where you can really shine; after all, writing is what you do, right? So, give the reader something great.

If a potential reader has stopped to consider your cover, the next thing that reader will want is an overview of what the book is about. Give your potential readers the high-points of the story; give them a reason to want your book over someone else’s. There are millions of science fiction, romance, and murder mystery stories out there, why should they read yours?

  1. An author write up

Many readers also want to know something about you, the author. They want to know who you are and what makes you tick. They need to know what makes you worthy of their time, or what qualifies you to be an author on a specific topic? However, when you answer these questions, don’t go overboard, yet don’t be too skimpy, either.

Some authors feel that they need to include their whole resume in their author bio; while others feel they don’t need to include any information at all. The truth of it is, many readers of fiction and non-fiction want a way to relate to you as a person; it helps them decide whether they want to give your work a chance. For instance, if you put in your author bio that you love chocolate, potential readers can go, “Ooooh, so do I.” Or perhaps you are a volunteer, a mother, or a person who rescues animals, if it relates to your book topic, tell the reader. It helps them relate to you, and it helps them accept that you just might know something about your book topic.

You especially need to include some biographical information if the book is non-fiction. That’s because potential readers are even more insistent on knowing that the author is someone they can trust to give them information on this particular topic. Potential readers want to know that if the book is about art history that you have the knowledge, background, or credentials to write knowledgably about that topic.

  1. A book sample

Some authors shy away from including book samples. Perhaps they feel they don’t need to give away their hard work. Yet, how else can potential readers gauge whether your writing style and their reading styles will mesh? How do they know they want to travel the story world with you as their guide if they can’t see your writing style? In a brick and mortar store, a reader can always pull the book off the shelf and read a sentence, a paragraph, or even several chapters. If you don’t give them the same chance when shopping online, then you’re tossing away possible sales.

As an author, you need to give the reader every possible chance to find you, find out about you, and to find out about your characters and your story. Personally, as a reader, the above-mentioned 4 items are key to whether I’ll buy your book. So, make sure you include them; because, when you use them, and use them well, you make your book shine.

A review of “How to Self-Promote…”

BK_bookcover“How to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk” by Bruce Kasanoff

Summary: This book purports to help you promote yourself and your service or product by showing you how to be the best you you can be.

Recommended: Yes

Review: the book is primarily a collection of insights based on common sense. Yet, even common sense isn’t always common or easily recognized when it pushes you to step outside your comfort zone.

This book holds your hand as you step beyond your self-doubts and venture into that world of “I am worth it.”

Unlike most similar books, Mr. Kasanoff actually explains how to take these baby steps. He doesn’t just tell you that you need to be generous, he explains some of the ways you can be generous and still end up promoting yourself. For instance, his first chapter (which is entitled, “Help This Person”) explains how you can help yourself by helping others (really helping others, not just going through the motions). He makes it seem so easy that you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it yourself. In fact, I found myself nodding along as I read, while thinking, “I can do that.” One of the examples he gives of helping others to help yourself is this: when the phone rings on a busy day, don’t get frustrated by the interruption. Instead, think about how you can help the person who is calling…really help them. When you help them, they remember you (in a positive way). Then when you need help, they want to return the favor.

All his chapters are like this. Each one helps you determine how to be the kind of person other people want to help, want to promote, and want to remember.

It’s a fast read, but one read-through isn’t enough. This is the type of book you will find yourself referring to over and over again.