Monday, November 26, 2012

A Gift for You

My holiday gift to you really is a Christmas present this year. For five days beginning tomorrow, November 27th, 2012, you may download a free copy of the Kindle version of Fulfillment, my novel of the first Christmas.

Fulfillment will change the way you think about the first Christmas. One of my Amazon reviewers called it “… the most unique version of the Christian Nativity story ever written.” So far, it’s received one five-star and two four-star reviews. (For my Christmas present, I’m hoping Santa… and you… enjoy Fulfillment enough to give it a five-star review on Amazon.)

I wrote Fulfillment by first asking: What was Satan up to while God was going about the business of sending his son to save the world?

In my story, Satan sets out to stop the birth of Christ. Since Jesus is too powerful to take on directly, Satan decides to kill the mother before Jesus is born. Of course you know how the story ends. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The suspense, horror and awe in my novel occur on the journey. If the idea of Satan hungering for your soul doesn’t keep you awake at night, read Fulfillment. It will.

Free Fulfillment - for 5 days only beginning tomorrow
Click here to download a free copy of my Christmas novel, Fulfillment, for your Kindle starting tomorrow, November 27th and running through Saturday, December 1st. You may purchase the paperback version on the same Amazon page. The paperback "buy" link is below the book cover image. And you may click on the book cover to read a section of the novel for free before you download your copy. That's always a good idea to see if you like the novel before downloading it.

And if you can't wait that long, it's only a couple of bucks on my Amazon Author Page. See all of my Amazon books by clicking here.

Need a Kindle? Download the free version of the Kindle reader for your computer, tablet or smart phone from Amazon by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life is Like a Zombie Movie

Recently, I came to the conclusion that life is very much like a zombie movie.  Life is out to get you.
You're alive and you keep moving to keep it that way.  Everyone else is in the same situation as you and you're all working together.  There's always someone that will risk everything they have to keep the group alive and there's always someone who is only with the group for their own advantage.  So, everyone you're with can be trusted, to an extent.  We have to weed through those who we can rely on and those who we need to stay weary of.  All the while, life is chasing after you in order to feed off you.
Sure, zombies usually are slow moving and you can run away from them (except of course the crazy mutant variety).  They, like life, are always waiting for you around the corner.  Sure, you can bunker down and try to keep your situation safe but eventually you'll have to make some kind of gamble or eventually your defenses will get broken down. That's always when it's the most dangerous too.  When you think you're safe and you get complacent, that's when the defenses get smashed and you're on the run again.
The worst part of it all is that the whole time you know in the back of your head: Life (like zombies) will eventually kill you.
This isn't all that bad, actually. For starters, everyone dies eventually, obviously.  But also, like Duke Leto Atreides told his son Paul in Frank Herbert's Dune, 'The first step in avoiding a trap, is knowing of it.'  In this context, once the realization, that life is a tough and messed up thing, is achieved it becomes more manageable or at least slightly more navigable.  Everyone is in the same position of keeping their life going.  We're all exhausted and tired but we still fight on.  Because once we see that the world isn't what it used to be before the zombie apocalypse (or in real life once people have to start being more independent and support themselves or someone else) we get a better sense of what we're dealing with and how to move forward.  Just like in a zombie movie, you can't give up and you have to keep going.  So, be like the survivors.  Just because it looks (and for them it literally is) like the end of the world, it doesn't mean there isn't hope.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Genre Separates the Indies from the Traditionals

Genre is the one place where you may find a major difference between traditionally published novels and indie published novels.

Traditionals fit into bookstores
Traditionally published novels have to fit into a very narrowly defined genre space in a bookstore. The author has to adhere to the rules of genre so that the novel is easily identified as belonging to the genre. A mystery story is clearly distinct from its first cousin, the thriller, for example.

Unless you are a well-known author of best sellers, the reader isn’t shopping for your book in a book store. Instead, the reader is browsing the shelves looking for an interesting mystery, thriller, romance or whatever genre they prefer. The challenge for the new traditionally published author is to build a fan base that will seek books written by them in the future.

The indie difference
Indie published authors don’t have to worry as much about genre definitions because they aren’t marketing in traditional bookstore outlets. And their fan base is built from loyal family and friends and word-of-mouth. Such buyers are buying the author more than the book. Indie novel readers tend to select the author first and the book second.

The challenge for the indie author is to reach new readers through social media and online marketing combined with speaking gigs and traditional PR efforts. Indie authors still need a genre to identify the book’s place in Amazon or Smash Words, but the author self-selects the genre.

The indie author need only select the genre that most nearly fits what the story is about. This leaves the indie author with more freedom to mix genres and experiment with genre formats in ways traditionally published authors can’t. This is a subtle difference, but one you can notice if you look for it. But you have to know the basic rules of the genre you enjoy reading.

Speaking of reading...
My new horror novel Hags is about an ex-con who is accused of serial murders while battling a human-sized faerie and a couple of hags as evil as any from the Middle Ages. As the body count mounts, will he learn the secret of the hags before he becomes their next victim?

Today is the last day to download Hags for free. But you have to act before midnight tonight. Obtain your free copy for your Kindle reader by clicking here.

Don’t have a Kindle reader? Download the free version for your computer or smart phone from Amazon by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Is the Theme of Your Life?

Can you spot the theme in the books you are reading? One clue to the theme is to identify the main character’s biggest fault. Micah in Hags has issues with unresolved anger. He has other issues like a defeated outlook at the beginning of the story. For fun, watch how Micah’s personality becomes stronger as you move forward in the plot. What theme does that point to? How about a message like “forgiveness makes you stronger.” Or “don’t let adversity get you down.”

Another way to look at theme is to consider your own life.
What is the thread that runs through your world? You may want to start with your biggest fault. Or your biggest disappointment. Or that thing that keeps happening over and over again to you. Why do you suppose that keeps happening to you? There’s a theme in your life. The good news is it is not too late to change the theme or make it work for you instead of against you. Ask a few trusted friends about the theme they see running through your life. What themes run through the lives of your friends?

Read Hags for Free Now
Download Hags for free this week only from Amazon for your Kindle reader by clicking here.

Don’t have a Kindle reader? Download the free version for your computer or smart phone from Amazon by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why Aren't You Like That?

A good story has a point. The author starts with an idea and writes a cool first draft. Like your first read, it is mainly about the plot. Then the author notices something interesting about the story, or maybe the author intended it all along. The thing that’s noticed is the moral of the story. It’s like those old faerie tales where at the end, you read something like, “And the moral of the story is never go into the woods alone.” Well, in a good novel, the author is telling us something about our world. Think of it as the life lesson illustrated by the story.

During the editing process, good authors go back through their story and bring out this moral so it weaves like a thread running through the fabric of the tale. In horror and other thrillers or fantasy fiction, the theme is often innocence to experience. Super8 is a good example of a movie using an innocence to experience theme.

One way to look for theme is to watch how the main character changes and then look for similar changes in other characters. Pets and monsters count as characters as do computers and robots. And elves and dwarves. Not sure about zombies and vampires. Does going from dead to undead count as a character change?

The main theme in Hags, my new horror story, is forgiveness. As in real life, you meet a lot of characters who are hurting. They have to learn how to forgive. Some do, some don’t and some are just flat out evil. So what’s a hero to do? Forgive the forgivable and kill the evil guys? Or refuse to forgive the really wicked deeds of the past?

Read Hags for Free Now
Download Hags for free this week only from Amazon for your Kindle reader by clicking here.

Don’t have a Kindle reader? Download the free version for your computer or smart phone from Amazon by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why Give Hags Away?

You can read Hags for free on your Kindle as a result of my three goals:

Spread the word: By giving Hags away free for five days, I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it so much that you’ll tell your friends and family about it.

Generate Amazon reviews: If you enjoy reading Hags, I invite you to let other readers know about it by posting a review on Amazon.

Establish a baseline for future novel marketing: This is my first big book giveaway and I’m curious to know how many books to expect people to download during the five-day giveaway. And I want to know if the giveaway produces any kind of sales bounce following the giveaway period as a result of publicity and word-of-mouth advertising. How many books can I expect to have downloaded from Amazon in five days? Is a hundred reasonable? How about five hundred or a thousand? How about several thousand? I’ve heard of people giving away thousands of books through this kind of promotion. The good news is you can follow my success on my business blog by clicking here. (If you are reading this after the week of October 8-12, 2012, you'll have to click on those dates on my business blog.)

Read Hags for Free Now
Download Hags for free this week only from Amazon for your Kindle reader by clicking here.

Don’t have a Kindle reader? Download the free version for your computer or smart phone from Amazon by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Monday, October 8, 2012

How Scary Is Your World

The world says, “What you can’t see can’t hurt you.” But it’s the scary invisible things that haunt your soul and keep you from the life you deserve. My new horror novel, Hags, takes you on a journey through this invisible world.

Hags is set in one of the most normal of normal places, assuming there is such a thing as normal. The location is Naperville, Illinois, an upscale small city located in the heart of Chicago’s western suburbs.  It’s a real place that I populate with unreal characters ranging from an unlikely ex-con hero to a couple of hags as dangerous as any from the Middle Ages.

What evil lurks in the hearts of people (to paraphrase an old radio show)? For one of my characters, it’s life as a mad serial killer. But wait, why stop at one mad serial killer when you can have two? Let’s mix in a demon posing as a faerie to go along with the hags and you have the makings of mayhem, murder and worse in Naperville, Illinois. Let’s add in a little romance… okay, maybe more than a bit and…

But instead of telling you about the book at length, why not read it for yourself. For free.

The big giveaway
This is DAY 1 of my FIVE-DAY GIVEAWAY. You read that right. I’m giving away my new novel, Hags, on for free for five days. Download it now for your Kindle reader by clicking here. Don’t have a Kindle? You can download the free version for your computer or smart phone from Amazon by clicking here.

Free reading device software. Free novel. Nothing scary about a giveaway. But what about my new novel? Better leave the lights on when you read Hags. It’s scary horror suspense in my unique mix of noir and humor. Enjoy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Reading for More than Plot?

Everyone loves to read for the plot. How many times do you hear someone say, “Don’t tell me the ending; you’ll spoil it?” But there is so much more to a story. The more you know what to look for in a story, the more you will get out of it.  And the more you will benefit from your reading experience. Enjoy the plot as you read your free copy of Hags next week, but while you’re at it, look for these other attributes of a good novel:

Theme: A good story has a point to it. In horror stories and other thrillers or fantasy fiction, the theme is often innocence to experience. The movie, Super8, is a good example of an innocence to experience theme. What’s cool about Super8 is the monster also goes through an innocence to experience event, particularly in the backstory.

Interesting Characters: A character has to go through an event or series of events that change his or her life. Learning has to take place. The cool thing about following the main character is you can learn the same thing the character is learning through the character’s experience.

Style: Style is about two things. One is the way the author plays with or uses the language. Style is also about how the author tells a story, the way the plot is put together. For a quick study on style, watch an Alfred Hitchcock movie and then a James Bond movie. Both movies are in the suspense or thriller genre, but with very different styles. Hitchcock stories tend to build slowly with a touch of humor. Bond movies move at a breakneck pace from start to finish. Bond humor is flippant. Hitchcock humor is subtle.  What other differences do you notice?

Pacing: As you move through the story, notice when the story picks up speed or slows down at times. The fast pace emphasizes or highlights the danger and action of the plot. The author slows the pace down to emphasize character and scene.

Consistency with Genre Rules: The genre or type of story you enjoy reading has basic rules. A mystery story is always about a crime that happened either in the past or at the beginning of the story. Otherwise, it’s a thriller if the crimes are still happening. Romance novels always have a happy ending. Otherwise it’s a literary story or love story, but not a romance. The more you know about the genre you enjoy reading, the more you can appreciate how the author plays with the rules to create a unique reading experience.

Get Hagged
Mark your calendar for October 8th through October 12th to download your free Kindle copy of Hags, my new horror novel. And if you just can’t wait, you can download a pre-launch copy right now for only $2.99 by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Real Naperville, Setting for Hags

My new novel, Hags, takes place in Naperville, Illinois, located in the far west suburbs of Chicago. Naperville is a city of 141,853 people according to the 2010 Census. The median age is 35. Micah Probert, the main character, fits right in at age 38 when the story begins. Median annual family income is more than $117,000, quite a bit more than what Peevy O’Malley, Micah’s ex-girlfriend, earns as a barista. Naperville takes up 38.77 square miles of DuPage County. According to Money Magazine, Naperville is one of the five best cities in the United States to live.

Where is Bob’s Coffee Emporium?
A lot of the action takes place in Bob’s Coffee Emporium, a fictional coffee shop. As such, it exists within the covers of my novel. However, I pictured it on the southeast corner of Main and Jefferson in downtown Naperville. At the time of this writing, a Starbucks sits on that space. It’s smaller than my vision of Bob’s but it’s nice to know you can find a cup of coffee if you visit the neighborhood.

Micah’s fixer upper
If you walk north on Main Street from Starbucks about two blocks, you’ll find where Micah owned his fixer upper house. Denise Appleby owned the house next door. At one time there actually were two rather dilapidated houses on the block, but they were torn down years ago to make way for new construction.

Get Hagged
Mark your calendar for October 8th through October 12th to download your free Kindle copy of Hags, my new horror novel. And if you just can’t wait, you can download a pre-launch copy right now for only $2.99 by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Time to Join a Writer's Group?

The Write Time Writer’s Group meets in Geneva, Illinois, a couple of times a month. We’re not your usual writer’s group, but that should come as no surprise given the makeup of our members. We operate as a writer’s support group following a formula instituted by our founder and past leader, noted author John Kador, who has since moved on to my old neck of the woods in Pennsylvania.

As a support group, we are not focused on critiquing, although we will critique when asked. Instead, our focus is on discussing the craft and writing. We do speed writing exercises using prompts. Each exercise takes about three or four minutes during our meetings.

How well does this type of writer’s group work? I have seen writers move from a vague hobby interest to become excellent writers. One of members has been picked up by the premier agent representing authors in the sci-fi genre. Another writer has had negotiations with a Hollywood agent representing script writers. Several members are indie-published authors. We have a published poet. One of our past members has achieved national recognition for her published poetry. We have a professional editor in the group who helps to keep our grammar on track.

Sound interesting? The Write Time Writer’s Group is a free writer’s group. If you live within a reasonable commute of Geneva, Illinois, contact me about joining.

Get Hagged
Only five days until the launch of my new novel, Hags, on October 8, 2012 with a five-day free giveaway of the Kindle version. Mark your calendar for October 8th through October 12th to download your free copy. And if you just can’t wait, you can download a pre-launch copy right now for only $2.99 by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are You Ready to be Hagged?

Is the lady living next door to you really the gorgeous sweetheart she appears to be? Is she 28 or 128? Welcome to the secret world of Hags, where people are not who they at first appear to be.

In this horror-thriller set in Naperville, Illinois, you’ll meet a demon masquerading as a faerie, complete with gossamer wings. You’ll greet Bob, the diminutive owner of Bob’s Coffee Emporium. And there’s Peevy O’Malley, the 300-pound barista who hates all men because of Micah Probert. Be sure to say hello to Peevy’s evil sister, Janice O’Malley. And no visit to Hags is complete without introducing yourself to Lionel Langdon, the principal of the local high school who twists new meaning from the expression, “Your principal is your pal, young lady.” And I'll introduce you to… but why spoil the tale?

As with all my stories, you’ll meet a group of characters slightly askew of normal, including a few who are too weird and evil to mention in a blog post. And you’ll find some of their innocent victims, the young ladies of Naperville, Illinois. Leave the lights on because this horror story is better than caffeine.

Hags launches October 8, 2012 with a five-day free giveaway of the Kindle version. Mark your calendar for October 8th through October 12th to download your free copy. And if you just can’t wait, you can download a pre-launch copy right now for only $2.99 by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Monday, October 1, 2012

Announcing Hags

This Present Darkness meets The Blair Witch Project in Paul R. Lloyd's new novel Hags. After 15 years in prison for a rape he says he didn’t commit, Micah Probert returns to his hometown of Naperville, Illinois, where he starts his first day by discovering a human-sized faerie flitting about in his backyard, a dead body in the parking lot behind his house, a pioneer ghost in his kitchen, and a local coffee shop that serves the darkest roast this side of Hades. It’s in this coffee shop that his ex-girlfriend from high school now works and where he runs into her sister, the victim in Micah’s long ago rape trial.

But the real action begins when Micah learns that the beautiful young woman living next door to his fixer-upper, the girl he has just started dating, may actually be a witch as wicked as any from medieval times. Mix in a few dark secrets, a serial killer or two, a hot romance or two, and this novel takes you deep into the heart of horror in the suburbs. Will Micah heed the call to spiritual warfare with the evil forces mounted against him in time to save the city of Naperville? And will he discover the secret identity of the second hag who is out to destroy him?

To celebrate the launch of Hags, I’m planning to give away the Kindle version for free for five days. This five-day giveaway is my way to share my writing with as many readers as possible. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy reading Hags so much that you’ll help me spread the word about my new novel. As I’m sure you’re aware, this type of BUZZ is essential to generating interest, book reviews and sales. I should have the date finalized for the giveaway so I can announce it in the next day or two. If I don’t run into any glitches, the five-day giveaway will begin next Monday, October 8, 2012.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read my first indie novel, Fulfillment, it’s still available. You may click here for the Amazon Kindle version or click here for the paperback. Fulfillment is the Christmas story as pure suspense, thriller, horror, mystery, romance and spiritual warfare. Satan is out to stop the first Christmas by attacking Mary, a pregnant teenager with moxie and connections in high places. Keep your lights on.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Writing prompt results

And here's my contribution. Hey, better late than never. This being my first post here, I had to get some thing set up before I could join the fun.

The were-girl turned back into a normal businesswoman, only to look around quizzingly. This wasn't the first time Lydia turned into a monster in the middle of an important business meeting. This is the first time everyone stuck around afterwards, though.

“Go on,” Sullivan, the associate vice president, said.

“What, are you kidding?” Lydia demanded. “I spent the last hour rampaging across the office. I assumed you all would have run away screaming and called the cops. Or at least fired me.”

“But not one else has the quarterly numbers,” Sullivan explained.

“I savaged Jenkins!” she screamed, pointing at a pile of blood and shredded business casualwear.

“Jenkins the intern,” Sullivan corrected.

Friday, July 27, 2012

This week's writing prompt--results

The Phaserheads not only jointly blog, but also meet as a writer support group twice monthly. We talk about writing-related topics from the mechanics of good writing to marketing a book, we report on what we've been writing (sometimes sharing a short excerpt with the group) ... and we do short writing exercises using prompts: a concept, a phrase, or a sentence is announced and a time set, usually between 3 and 5 minutes. Our rule is that everyone has to write but you don't have to share what you wrote if you came up blank or just don't like what you did.

The need to go with the first thing that pops into your head and write like crazy for a couple of minutes leads to some very creative writing.The fun part of doing this in a group, though, is hearing what everyone else wrote. As this blog's name reflects, we have writers of mystery-suspense stories, others who do fantasy and one whose chosen genre is science fiction. We have poets, at least one writer who nearly always goes for the totally offbeat humor, and one who often ends up with a romantic (more or less) triangle in the story. It gets really fun when the group members write against style, choosing an approach more characteristic of one of the other writers.

So, on to one of this week's prompts: "The weregirl turned back into"
Image courtesy of cscarlett15 via

I came up with the following:

The weregirl turned back into the bar. “Y’all go on to the party,” she called to the group, “don’t wait for me. I’ll catch up with you when I can.”

To a chorus of ok's and see-ya's, she waved and took off down the street at a quick walk. She turned at the first cross street, then dashed into the park and toward the museum. This last-minute stuff was getting old—and she really liked this bunch of friends. She’d been teased about being a Cinderella tonight and had to have the reference explained –that she was always running away around midnight. But if she didn’t make it back to the portrait gallery before the moon set …

I'm not entirely sure where I was going with this. We all played with some aspect of what a weregirl was when she wasn't a girl. The idea of having her be something other than an animal, or a male human, intrigued me. The art museum seemed to hold such promise, but she would still need to be something at least quasi-living for the "were" characteristic to take hold. I'm not sure whether she would have turned out to be a plant in the portrait gallery, or maybe a wooden sculpture, with wood that somehow retained a quasi-life aspect.

OK, group--who's next?

Monday, July 23, 2012

The zen of writing

Writing is an odd sort of occupation. Writers want to communicate with others—but not necessarily have any direct contact with their readers. The writing itself, generally intended to be shared with at least dozens of readers and possibly hundreds or thousands, usually gets created in solitude and if not in silence, then with a sound-background of the writer’s choice.

Writers differ widely in their approach to writing, too. Some swear by organization: not just outline, but detailed character descriptions, and action mapped out to the level of chapter-by-chapter, at least. Others just pick up pen, pencil or keyboard and start writing, with or without any idea where this essay or story might end up. After all, one can always fix inconsistencies and plot omissions in the edit stage.

I fall somewhere between these two extremes myself. I always have some idea what I want to say in a short essay, and I started my few novel-length works (2 more-or-less done, one more barely started) with an idea about the identity and personality of at least two main characters, the opening problem and a goal or endpoint. But I leave myself plenty of leeway, starting out with vast uncharted areas within the general territory I intend to cover.

Partly, this reflects a rebellion against early how-to-write training in school, which insisted that an essay must be fully outlined, supporting ideas and all. That never worked well for me. As I’d begin to write from my outline, I’d always find myself departing from my outline: thinking of better examples to support my argument or a better order in which to present them. So I got in the habit of writing my essay or report first, working directly from my notes. Once the paper had been written, I could go back and make an outline that reflected what I actually wrote, thus keeping my teachers happy.

But an approach to the writing process that I can only describe as a sort of zen forms other big reason for leaving myself wiggle room when I start to write. While I can understand the rationale behind mapping everything out beforehand—even admire those for whom such a technique works—I can only admire from afar. For me, ignorance of exactly how the story will unfold between opening and goal allows me to come to the story’s details fresh. And somehow I help the loose ends stitch themselves together by the end.

I’d probably have better control over length if I preplanned more, though.

Susan shares more thoughts about the process of writing on her blog about writing,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Literary Fiction is... well... literary

Authors of literary fiction focus on the art of writing as the main interest of the author and the reader. Literary artists write novels that have plot, but they are more concerned about creating a sort of onion effect. The more you read the story, the more you discover. As you peel away one layer of story, say the plot, you find a second story built around the theme. Read the story once for what happens. Go back to ask why. Another reading gets you thinking about how the author created such a beautiful, cohesive whole. You may enjoy the way the author developed the character as the story moved forward. The main character goes through a big change of some sort. Literary stories may or may not have a beginning, a middle and an end.

One example of an artistic onion layer can be found in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Read the novel a few times and you begin to see that all the characters equate to bulls or cows of one sort or another. That’s why the author spends so much time telling you about bullfighting and the different types of bulls. Gaining that understanding from a single reading is difficult. Knowing it helps to make the story come together for you.

Meanwhile… back to suspense/thriller novels
Serious writers of suspense/thriller novels or other genre fiction will tell you they do the same thing literary novelists do in creating character depth and layers of artistic merit. And they will point out that most literary authors actually write genre fiction. For example, Charles Dickens, if not the first author of a murder mystery novel, was certainly an early adapter of the genre. So what’s the difference for you as a reader?

The first rule is to find novels you enjoy. Read other novels written by the same author or authors. If you enjoy the classics, you may enjoy modern authors who pride themselves in writing “literary” novels. If you enjoy murder mysteries, read them.

The point is simply this: the better authors invest themselves in developing the literary quality of their work as well as entertaining you with a good plot. “Literary” authors generally are not concerned as much about plot as they are character and literary tradition. They mainly write for themselves as artists. They trust that literary readers will find their work.

Genre authors emphasize telling a compelling story within their genre to entertain their readers. Their stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. They know how to develop a character so you can empathize with her. They know how to make you weep or laugh. They are not afraid to kill off a character, but also recognize there are consequences to their actions. They know how to make you want to turn the page, something literary authors are less concerned about.

Read literary novels when you enjoy an author who plays with the language, writes poetically and provides insights into philosophy and why the world works the way it does. Read genre fiction when you want to enjoy a good tale well told.

And speaking of tales worth telling, please consider my suspense/thriller novel Fulfillment, click here for Amazon or click here for paperback.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

based on true events

Hovering bedside, the demon started out in a playful mood.  He toyed with ideas of escape from imminent danger, entangled relationships from disparate social circles, and added a smattering of spooks and creeps where appropriate.  His specialty was not so much in blood and gore, but illusions of deformity, illness and the like.  He liked to throw in possessed children, depending on the dreamer.

This time she happened to be an insouciant waste of time.  She was one of those.  One of those who like to write on the side.  On the side, top, bottom and middle of their daily lives, they were unassuming emotional vampires, sucking the beauty and chaos out from any situation, as if they couldn't cope without arranging words to process the things that did and didn't happen.  Getting chills in her bed, she secretly lavished in the scared feeling.  Instead of waking up, forcing happy thoughts, or crying out to God, she seemed to be trying to actually
prolong the nightmare.  Could this be this right?  Along the edges of his consciousness, the demon began to suspect that she was working out descriptions of characters and setting from what she saw.  Infuriated that the writer was using even this opportunity to cultivate plot fodder for scenes of her next book, shook her awake with a loud shriek and dissipated out of the room.
The demon returned with new strategies, worse images.  But the woman in her fear, welcomed it and would wake up to begin writing furiously before the details tapered out.  This of course challenged the demon even more....

Sometimes our muses aren't friendly.  I was thinking, that writers make muses out of anything, seizing upon facts, thoughts, events, all the time with a persistent ulterior motive: in part, to exploit them as material for their writing. Whether it be the experience of a nightmare, a loved one's financial or health struggles, romances of all kinds, etc., we are opportunists of all we encounter whether or not we like it.

What do you think?  Are we vampires?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You Noir What You Noir

In this video I talk about my dark, mysterious "noir" writing style. Enjoy.

To learn more about my suspense novel Fulfillment, click here for Amazon or click here for paperback.

For more on this topic, please visit my author blog by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reading Suspense/Thriller Fiction

Writers choose a genre of fiction that works best for them. I focus on suspense/thriller while mixing in elements of other genres. This video covers the types of fiction I blend together to make a story.

To learn more about my suspense novel Fulfillment, click here for Amazon or click here for paperback.

For more on this topic, please visit my author blog by clicking here.

Here’s another novel idea…
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Series: How to Read Suspense

I'm launching a new series of short videos and follow-up commentary for readers of suspense or thriller stories.

Is this you?
You find a book you like. You read it. You enjoy it. You put it on a shelf, toss it, give it away, return it to the library or wrap the fish in it, but your rarely read the novel more than once. Why not? You can learn a lot by reading a novel for the second or third time. For example, you enjoyed the book so much, you couldn't put it down. Ever wonder how the author kept your attention?

Starting with plot and character
The first topic in my series on reading suspense fiction is character-driven fiction versus plot-driven fiction. What's the difference? Why should you care as a reader? Enjoy the video.

Learn more by clicking here. And be sure to share with your friends by clicking on the social media buttons below.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

getting to know your characters

I've always been in awe of how one of my favorite authors Dostoevsky orchestrates such large casts of characters whose voices are distinct and constant (except when he intends to have them break their character mold, which they often do for various motives) and whose personalities can become as real and close to you as your own familys' and friends'.  Give him just one, two or three characters to work with, and he manages to go deeper than you ever wanted into their every crevice.  Your characters were not built in a day.  Remember that they have years of experiences, aspirations, traumas, etc. behind them.  Even if they're brand new, there's history in the world they live and the generations of shoulders they're standing on.

I've heard a number of ways to get to know who it is you are writing through, and about, in your story.  Of course, there is a plethora of inspiration in the real-life characters all around us.  We can draw from our own individual characteristics in different phases of our life.  Often our characters will be a similitude or mish-mash or an extreme version of people we know in real life, or wished we knew, or wished we didn't know...

Last night, our fearless leader Paul mentioned going through a hypothetical interview with each character, asking them questions and thinking of what they would answer, to get a sense for the voice of the characters.  I wondered why I had never taken this idea to paper, as I'm always thinking more about characterization and character development than of plot. (An important side note: remember that setting can also be treated as a character in itself that changes depending on whose point of view we are seeing through.  Setting has been described as simply the opinion of a character of where he/she is.)

Admittedly, some weak points of mine (somewhat uncharted territory for me), are dialogue and showing rather than telling.  Telling is easier.  There are times when telling is appropriate and necessary.  It's also usually a lot more boring, when it comes to knowing a person.  In this, I have to challenge myself to write longer, write more, to illustrate who this person is through examples of how they respond to life, rather than omnisciently splurging their hopes/dreams/fears and attitudes right away.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Putting it to paper.

      There are many ways a person can write a story.  There is no proper way or way that it has to be done.  Writing just more or less happens.
      I've found that the style I use best is the form in which you map it out first, find out where I'm going with the story before writing too much.  I started out with the 'write by the seat of your pants' style.  I couldn't figure out how I wanted to start my book so I started somewhere in the middle and just kept writing.
It wasn't until I took History of Theater in college that I figured out that I could start my book in the middle of the story.  The professor shared that when you watch a play you are witnessing a snippet of the character's whole story.  What he meant was that you weren't watching the character's entire life ie: birth, childhood, adolescence, and so forth.  So what you are seeing is the portion of the character's life pertinent to story of the play.
      Once I learned that, I decided that I would use what I've written as the beginning of my book.  From there I realized that I wasn't sure where I wanted the story to go.  Some writers are okay with that and it's fine.  My writer's blocks tend to deal with me not writing because I don't know what is going to happen in my story.
So my method is the story boarding style.  I have several white boards that I map the whole plot line of my book out on.  These plot points are not set in stone and I have changed them as I've gotten feedback and found out some plot points are weak or irrelevant to the story or characters.  You just can't set it in stone.  That will limit you too much, especially if your story takes a turn you hadn't anticipated earlier (which happens quite often).
      When I actual go to write, I pick a plot point that I feel like I can tease out into a scene.  It might be a large scene that is several pages in length or it could end up being only half a page just so I get the plot element into the story.  Once I'm done writing it down and typing it up, I go back to my white board and update the point with a little more elaboration so that when I go back to look at the board later I can remember easier how I expanded it.
      I am very visual with my planning.  I've drawn maps of the areas my characters have gone so that I can describe them better in the book.  When creating a new world it helps to remember where all your landmarks are in relation to each other.  Or while writing the second book of my series, I realized that I had a hard time remembering where certain characters were in their own story lines, relative to each other.  So I took one of my white boards and drew out a timeline for each character.  One time line above the other so that when I plotted the points of the timeline for each character, the points then showed, in more readily available format, where each character was.
     I'm not saying this is the best way to write a story, and I'm sure it doesn't work for everyone.  This is the way I set it up though and it keeps me on track.  That being said, I'm always curious about other writer's methods and ways I can try differently to keep the creativity flowing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Ending of Mass Effect

(If you haven't finished the game I apologize there are some SPOILERS in this discussion)

There has been this huge discussion about the recently released game Mass Effect 3.  It was a huge hit with game critics and an absolute turn down for players.  The biggest reason being the ending of the game.

I have played it through once and seen the possible endings of the game afterward from people recording their choices on YouTube.  While there are a lot of holes in the endings, particularly pertaining to the scene with the Normandy flying between Mass Relays, there is something that a lot of the people who played the Mass Effect line have left out.  The fact that not every story has a completely happy ending.

I felt fine with my choice and the end of the game.  With a series so immense as the Mass Effect series is, to accommodate for all the choices a player could have chosen while playing would have been astronomical.  But the true fact of the matter is, it is the writers of the story that have planned out what ending it will ultimately be.  The fact that the writers left an Easter egg at the end of one of the choices just means that that ending was the one they had planned the whole time.    Not to mention the possibility for future games and spin offs.  

Yes, I know that the game was made to shape the galaxy into how the player wanted to, like deciding which species gets to live and which doesn't or who you want to befriend or not.  But its similar to the saying, "you can't bring money with you".  Meaning that you can't take money with you through the grave.  So whatever you do in the game will ultimately not matter at the end because the threat you have to face at the end will either destroy you or leave you limping and bleeding afterwards.  Yes, limping and bleeding is better than being dead but what I'm saying is even if you've won you still had the crap beat out of you.

As many of the players who really looked into the game, aside from playing it through to romance some alien chick or shoot up space meanies, should know from the Star Trek franchise that there is sometimes a no win situation.  So when Shepard dies at the end and strands the massive fleet he brought with him to Earth that is a no win situation.  Yeah, the threat to the galaxy is gone but sacrifices had to be made to do so.  That's what Admiral Hackett had been saying for the entire game.

You may say you hate the ending of the series but what you're not seeing is that the writers did exactly what writers are supposed to do.  Draw out your emotions and feelings so that they can be felt by you and, if they can pull it off, those around you as well.  What the players are kicking and screaming about is that they didn't get a 'Hollywood Ending'.  Not every story has a 'Hollywood Ending' and that's great. Not having happy endings is something that people remember.

All of this is not to say that writers shouldn't take into consideration what their audience feels.  If they didn't, they would get lazy.  As we've all seen with absurd amount of remakes and reboots of older movies coming out of Hollywood.  If writers didn't take their audiences' views into consideration the literary world would dissolve into too few actually creative books.  Much like what is coming out of Hollywood.  This point may not be pointed at the writers as much as producers not willing to put out movies that are original either way there has to be new ideas to promote growth.  But back to my main point.  What I'm saying is that even though a story is the work of a writer, the writer still writes the story so that other people will read it.  There has to be a trust for the writers to write something that will move the audience, whether to make them happy or sad or even angry, and an understanding that if something is written with an upsetting ending that it will still be well written and not just a cop out.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The true worth of silly stuff

This blog is the joint product of a writers group. Which probably leads you, the reader, to ask: What does a writers group do? Good question.
If you ask members of 50 different writers groups what their group does for them, you’ll probably get more than 50 answers. I base this prediction in part on the knowledge that people differ in what they want from such a group, and in part on my own inability to give the same answer as to what our group does twice in a row.
I enjoy the somewhat free-form aspects of our writers group meetings and our twin focus on encouraging each other and doing 3-5 minute writing exercises. I’d never done these before I joined this group. If you haven’t, all I can say is, it’s kinda the writer’s version of speed-dating, but way more fun. 
For instance, one week one of the prompts had us incorporating the following list of random words into a story: acolyte, tiddlywinks, pickles, galaxy, is, razor. Here’s what I came up with:
Here we sit on the razor edge of the galaxy, where time is slowed by the speed of our rotation, playing tiddlywinks with data chips for the treat of winning one of the few remaining pickles from ships' stores.
Who knew how delightful a pickle could be after months of vitamin drinks, yeast-protein and various processed starches? We, the acolytes of the religion of galactic exploration, had outrun our supply lines in our enthusiasm for discovery. Which might not have mattered except that the Frangle drive broke down.

Or the week we played around with writing prompts about endings. The first was to write the end of a dialog. So I did this to the closing lines of Hamlet

"We need to get a script together NOW for our next project, you know," said Tim. 
"Yeah, " said Harry, "but the three kings theme has been done to death, and so has the play within a play format." 
"True," said Tim. "Even Star Trek did that one, with Shakespearean actors putting on their play on the Enterprise as subtext for the plot." 
"OK," said Rafe, "so, how about a classic murder mystery?" 
"BO-ring," said Tim. 
"Maybe an overthrow of government with romantic overtones," said Harry. 
"Oh, yeah, set in space," said Tim. 
"Umm, isn't that Star Wars?" 
"Don't be a killjoy, Rafe," said Harry. 
Tim chimed in. "We could have the protagonist die at the end." 
"Hmm," said Rafe, “I guess I could work with that. But no little talking teddy bears." 
Harry grinned. "How about rainbow pastel ponies?" 
"Now cracks a noble heart," said Rafe 
"Good night sweet prince," caroled Tim. 
Harry joined in. "... and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." 
Rafe raised his notebook and cracked Harry over the head. 
Harry ducked and yelped, "Why does the drum come hither?"
But the followup prompt that week was to write about the end of everything, which really ups the ante.

Everything the priests told us was wrong. The poets came much closer with their talk of destruction by fire and ice, but that's only because anything this ... universal ... fits poetry better than plain prose. And fiction seems more plausible than the entropic death of the universe. 
Well, the universe may have millenia or even eons left before that time but our corner of it will come to an end soon enough. The larger star of this binary system, about which this planet orbits, shows daily greater instabilities, surface and subsurface. 
So tonight, the interstellar research institute sends this message out, both broadcast and engraved on the inner skin of a rocket. I'm not sure why, but someone might find it.
These things crack me up, but more than that, I look back on them amazed that they came out of my brain. Turns out, having to write something on a totally random subject can produce unprecedented subjects & styles. The other amazing thing is how completely different each writer's speed-writing efforts can be. As we read them aloud around the table, we run the gamut from mystery and suspense through scifi/fantasy, humor and romance to bad puns. Maybe some week we'll gather a sampling of just how different the writing-prompt products of different writers can be and post them here.

The Multiple Perspective Approach

There are various ways to write a book, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, a first-person perspective book is great for character development but the problem, as I see it, is that that is the only way a writer can show things happening in the story.  It seems to me that characters end up hearing things or being present to events almost haphazardly.  I know there are writers who do this well and can pull it off amazingly, but that's the case with all writing.  Some authors can pull off writing styles amazingly.
The omniscient third person where the narrator can tell the reader everything they need to know about the character the first time the character is introduced.  This makes it easier to describe things that happen that are pertinent to the story without forcing, in some manner, the main character to be there.  The drawback to this style is that it tends to give too much away to the reader.  Some readers like this, of course, because some people like to know what's going to happen or they enjoy the feeling of what I like to refer to as 'Game Show Syndrome'.  What I mean by that is, when someone watches a game show and they know the answer but the person on the screen doesn't, they sit there yelling the answer at the person even though they can't hear them.  This same thing happens with books and movies.  The classic of course being, "Don't open that door!"
There are many other ways to write than the two I listed above but those are two common ones.

The perspective I use and personally love is the multiple perspectives.  This approach still is kind of a meshing to some of the others.  It allows the writer to still be able to draw the reader in and influence their opinion of the character while allowing the freedom to show things happening in other parts of the story that may still be important to the overall story.  If done well, the story will come together and mesh well while still providing some good intrigue.  If done poorly, like when I first started writing my story, all the characters just end up seeming like the same person or different character attributes of the same person.   To me it seems that using more than one main character allows the writer to toy with the reader's emotions and get them to second guess who the 'bad guy' is in the different character relationships.

Friday, March 2, 2012

About my first book.

   I realize in my last post I spoke of my book, He Came Around the Corner, and that was the first mention of it anywhere.
   So who cares?
   Well the hope for all writers is that people will care when they write a book and I, like most writers, write to influence those around me.  The purpose of writing is not always to make someone think about something profound and philosophical, although that is sometimes the case, particularly with some classic novels.  Sometimes writers will write just to make the reader feel enjoyment from what they read.  This is why I write.
   The funny thing about writing fiction is even though books are put into archetypes, they will often fit other archetypes as well.  For instance, a mystery novel could have a strong romance element in it.  My book is a Young Adult (YA) Fantasy but it still has other elements in it.  The next secondary element, after being Fantasy, in it is the romance.  The romance of the book actually causes one of the profound questions to appear in the story: What exactly are we capable of?

   My book is about two teenagers, Drake and Athena, at the end of their senior year of high school.  On the night of a school dance, what they know as the world they live in changes.  They find themselves alone in their town, everyone they knew and who lived in the town vanish.  The power is gone and only things on batteries and generators will work.  On top of all that, the two of them have to fight for their lives because where ever they go in town, there are orcs who want to kill them.  The only thing keeping them alive are Drake's new magical ability to summon a sword and their knowledge of the town they grew up in.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Movies have them, why can't books?

I've been writing my book for several years now and when I write I listen to music. There are several scenes in my series so far that have been greatly influenced by particular songs. Songs like Jenny Was a Friend of Mine by The Killers and Adele's Set Fire to the Rain. Adele's song actually inspired a scene for the second book in the series. I also listen to soundtracks to movies as well and a group that, much to my laughter, itunes categorized as soundtrack music, Two Steps from Hell.

Which leads me to my topic. There aren't a lot of soundtracks to books out there. I'm not talking about soundtracks to movies that were adapted from books and I have heard that some books do it but it's still a small amount. So I plan on making a list of the songs I listened to while writing my book, He Came Around the Corner. I also figured I could put on the list when the song came into play in the book or even when to listen to the song when someone is reading it.

I feel that if the music made that much of an impact while writing it then it would enhance the scene while reading it. When I had my friends read excerpts to give me feedback, I suggested they listen to the soundtrack to the Lord of Rings movies while they did. They said that some of the scenes were really more pronounced when the music was playing.

I'm sure there's some science behind this, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with stimulating different parts of the brain at the same time. I've also heard a lot of discussions on how music affects people which of course is fascinating. What I'm getting at though is, if the opportunity is there, why not enjoy the music?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Abandon all fear, ye who write for youth

I have always had qualms with censorship and as a future librarian, I stand rather firmly on the first amendment and individuals' rights to privacy regarding their reading preferences. I bring this up because my Library Materials for Children class is talking about challenged (or what once would have been banned or avoided) books this week.

Some of the controversial picture books we looked at were:
Gloria Anzaldua's Friends from the Other Side
Sarah Brannen's Uncle Bobby's Wedding
Eve Bunting and David Diaz's Smoky Night
Carolivia Herron's Nappy Hair
Toshi Maruki's Hiroshima, No Pika
Walter D. Myers' Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam
Parnell and Richardson's And Tango Makes Three
Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen

Children's books have become much more wide-ranging in topics, characters, and increasingly mature in themes. Simultaneously, more parents have complaints about the content which their children are exposed to.

I can see, easily enough, the controversy behind making certain books with mature themes available to children and young adults while with others, I did not see what the fuss was about at all. For example, Smoky Night is set during riots that actually happened, where children were actually present. Moreover, the story is much more about the forging of a relationship between a family and their neighbor during a stressful time. We tend to throw the baby out with the bath water when avoiding materials that are challenging because of their content. We are also making tons of possibly dangerous assumptions and low expectations of our youth if we decide to wipe out books rather than to monitor our own children's reading habits. It's good for us to remember that books are a safe way for kids and teens to explore realities of their world, and ones which provide openings for discussion rather than leaving them to find out on their own, or "on the street."

Christine A. Jenkins, associate professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says, "The goal of children's librarianship has been stated thus for over a century: 'to put the right book into the hands of the right child at the right time.' And it is ultimately the child - the reader - who determines what that right book might be."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Great short story contest from Dave Farland

Dave Farland's epublishing house The East India Press is sponsoring a short story contest based on his recent Nightingale novel. There is no cost to enter. The deadline is March 1, so get writing! From the contest information page:

Win $1,000 cash prize
PLUS your story will be published as an opener to the Nightingale enhanced novel, as well as a stand-alone e-book
PLUS East India Press will consider your novel submission for publication
FREE to enter (no fees of any kind)
Open to all – any nationality, any age – with teens especially encouraged to enter
Finally, your chance to test your writing talent and win a shot at fame!

So how about it? GOt your 2500 word draft ready? For the curious playing from home, the cash prize amounts to $2.50/word of your story, which completely blows away the 5c/word rate listed as "pro rates" everywhere in the industry, so get writing! Nothing to lose, and I know from reputation and experience that Dave Farland runs a fantastic program. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Welcome Aboard

Our Dwarven Phaser may be missing or it may simply be that weird looking flip phone in the back of my desk drawer (I have no idea how it got in there which is what makes me suspicious that it may just be the missing alien light shooter), but we have discovered blogging. We're the Write Time Writer's Group from Geneva, Illinois. Our meet up is about 35 miles west of downtown Chicago.

If all goes according to plan, you'll be reading posts from our members. They'll introduce themselves as they come aboard. I'm Paul R. Lloyd, leader of our little tribe of scribes. I write suspense novels. My reading habits include other people's suspense stories as well as a healthy dose of horror, sci-fi and mystery.

The Missing Dwarven Phaser is about writing and editing. Here you'll find our best thoughts on the craft along with bits of braggadocio, writer's humor and the sharing of tidbits of our work, depending on how each of us chooses to participate.