Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blog Tour

I am a member of a small group of authors who support each other’s works.   Susan Union, author of Rode to Death, recently tapped me on the shoulder to join a Writing Process Blog Tour along with asking me four questions.  Be sure to check out Susan’s novel on Amazon.com.

Here are my responses to the Blog Tour questions:

1. What am I working on?

I have two writing projects in the works. IT GOES ON is my first collection of short stories and is scheduled to be published on June 1st.  Two of the stories in the collection have received 2013 WritersTYPE Awards.  The stories in the contemporary collection range from inspirational to tragic, from lighthearted to suspenseful and are intended to keep the reader entertained to the very end, with the end being only twenty minutes away.

My other project is the second book in the Miles Stevens series, CYBER ONE, targeted for a August-September release.   Stevens is a CIA operative who’s sent back in time from his home in the year 2050 to stop worldwide disasters.   In CYBER ONE, he’s on a mission to stop a cyberattack on U.S. financial systems that occurred in the year 2032.  MELTING SAND, released last year, was the first novel in the series.   The series combines the action/adventure of CIA missions with time travel mystery.   The disasters are those discussed on today’s cable news programs as potentially looming in the future, but for Miles Stevens, they’ve already happened, and he needs to find a way to alter history.

2. Why do I write what I write?

I retired from a 32-year career while still in my mid-fifties.  Retired, recently widowed, and needing an outlet, writing actually found me.   It fills my time, and I find it personally rewarding.  I write mainly action/adventure novels targeting adult audiences.   The genre gives my active imagination the most room to explore.   I’ve self-published three novels the past three years, CORRUPT CONNECTION, BETTER LATE THAN EVER, and MELTING SAND.  I hope you check them out on Amazon. 

3. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My action/adventure novels have three common elements:  They involve a hero and heroine facing a powerful foe. They take place in the not-so-distant future, providing both plausibility and freedom of imagination.  And they include a dash of romance.   While clearly all three of my novels are focused on action/adventure, I attempt to appeal to a broad audience by including these three elements.

4. What is my writing process?  

I typically write early in the morning or late in the evening.  I find I am most alert during these times of the day, and I have fewer distractions.  I usually have the overall outline of where my book will take me before I begin, but I leave enough flexibility in the plot(s) to surprise even me with new turns as they appear along the way.  Once I begin a writing project, I rarely take more than a few days away from it, and I write the entire book before editing begins.  Editing is a joint project with my wife, an experienced newspaper editor,  and can take longer than creating the original draft.     

I now will tag Michael Murphy, author of Goodbye Emily and The Yankee Club and ask he answer these four questions on his blog and keep the Blog Tour rolling.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Focus on the Tree, Not the Forest

Hundreds of thousands of new books are written each year on an endless array of topics.  The odds of becoming a successful novelist are about the same as getting struck by lightning on your way to claiming your winning lottery ticket.  As an aspiring writer, it's easy to become frustrated by the enormity of the task, the vastness of it all.  

I've concluded there isn't much I can do about the playing field.  It is what it is. Each year will present thousands of new writers, and many will possess education and natural abilities superior to mine.  It's unlikely the competition is going to let up anytime soon.  So, I’ve decided the best thing I can do is focus on me.

Sure, I should strive to learn from others and to improve my product, taking from them what I find applies to my style of writing and my intended audience, but if I find myself focusing too much on what’s going on around me, I tend to lose track of my writing and my goals.  

I liken it to being a tree in the forest. Any single tree seems lost, unimportant, insignificant, but if you shrink your focus to include only the space surrounding the tree, its role and importance are magnified.  It has a job to do, a space to fill, and the sky’s the limit.

And so is my role in writing.  I have a job to do, an audience to reach. I may be but a single tree in the vast forest of writers, but I can’t let that get in my way.  And to those critics who recommend putting limitations on how many and which authors are published, you may just as well propose culling lesser trees from the forest.  What would remain would not be as grand as the original forest, and besides, some of those lesser trees are still growing.     


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Testing Character Development? Pull Excerpts

There are many articles on how to effectively develop characters.  At the bottom of this post, I’ve included links to articles that I’ve found particularly helpful.  The purpose of this post is to share one tip that I find useful.

The introduction of a character needs to be sufficient and consistent with the appearances of the protagonist throughout the entire story--beginning to end.  To test how well (or how poorly) I’ve done, I like to pull excerpts from the novel that describe the physical attributes of a particular character or describe the character reacting to various situations.  This not only helps me determine if I’ve been consistent and sufficient with the way I want to portray him or her, but it also helps me assess whether the character is compelling, interesting, and believable.

Below are excerpts from CYBER ONE, a novel I’m currently writing, that describe the primary protagonist, Miles Stevens.  They were taken from three different chapters.  Do you think they are sufficient and consistent?

CYBER ONE-A Miles Stevens Novel #2
His body was hardened from months of grueling training. Moisture funneled to the center of his chest and rippled over his abs before disappearing into the waistband of his trunks.     

Miles had studied French and Russian while an undergraduate at Yale and was conversationally fluent in both, but he found learning Arabic much more difficult. He hoped that he’d only need to learn to speak the language. Learning to read it, or even worse, to write it, would be nearly impossible in just a few months.  The right-to-left, back-to-front Arabic printing seemed illogical.   

To pass the time, Rian went to sit beside the pool with a magazine, while Tamir and Miles conversed in Arabic.  Miles had continued to work not only on vocabulary, but also on improving his inflection and tone.  At six-two with dark brown hair and tanned skin, Miles could almost pass for an Arab, except for his piercing blue eyes.  

His blood was pumping. It was a nervous energy he hadn’t felt in months. He loved the challenge of a new mission.  It was like combining the strategy of chess with the endurance of a triathlon. Miles also harbored hope that Terri might somehow be involved in his next mission, or that he would at least learn her status. 

While excited to learn his next mission, Miles was headed into uncharted waters.  He knew little about computer technology, and frankly, didn’t want to know.  His strength had been sorting through political, governmental, and personal conflicts. He liked hunting down bad guys, not deciphering computer code.   

He no longer wondered about his past.  His memory had returned weeks ago, and Miles was fully aware he had no family waiting for him if and when he was able to return to his natural time and place. 

A tall, tanned, and striking-looking couple, Rian and Miles had heads turning as they carried their trays across the cafeteria to sit at a table next to a wall of windows.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Introductory Paragraphs


It's universally agreed by writers and readers alike that the first page of a novel or the introduction to a short story are vitally important, but I think it's more important for the short story. You have limited time to set the tone and develop the plot for a short story.  In a novel, you can draw readers in over several pages, but an entire short story may only be 10 pages. You need pull them in rapidly by disclosing more about the plot, possibly even introducing the primary conflict in the story in the first few lines.

I try to do this by providing a one-paragraph teaser that discloses the tone of the story and as much of the plot as possible without giving away the ending.  I then immediately return to the beginning, which can be days, weeks, even years earlier than the introductory paragraph.  Below are a few examples of short story introductions from my collection, IT GOES ON, coming out in June.
Something for Nothing
There was no master plan. One bad decision had just led to the next.  They were like gamblers, doubling each successive bet as they continued to lose, believing it would take just one good hand to turn their luck around.  The final hand dealt to Rich and Ellen Price was their ruin, and it came from a dealer they never anticipated.  

A Costly Legacy

Going back was not something he thought possible.  He’d vowed never to return.  Five years ago, James Elliott was driven from Benson, Indiana, a victim of his own secret. A majority of the 1,830 townspeople despised him. As he turned off Route 151 and crept along Main Street, James doubted his homecoming would be friendly, but there was someone he needed to see and things he needed to say.  His time was short.

 A Christmas Found

The space between us had widened.  Years ago, reaching my hand to her waist beneath the sheets, she would have instinctively backed her body into mine, grasping my arm and entwining it around her.  She often initiated what came next.  But I couldn’t remember the last time I tested her willingness.  It’d been so long that I no longer thought about trying.  Invisible walls partitioned off our thoughts, our desires, our communication.  Neither of us wanted it that way.  It had just happened.