Sunday, August 18, 2019

An Insightful Book about Publishing -- "The Novel"

I just finished reading James A. Michener's "The Novel," a multi-layered book about publishing, rural life, diverse characters, and writing.

While the novel has its shortcomings—it's a slow read—it provides insights into the book-publishing industry, even though it was released in 1991, before the digital age and the advent of ebooks. 

Michener, a prolific author of more than 40 books (including a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for "Tales of the South Pacific"), writes about what happens after a manuscript is sent to a publisher. And unless the author is a Stephen King, Danielle Steel,  or John Grisham (you get the idea), the book goes through several steps (slush pile, editing, rewriting, marketing, and promotion) before it sees the light of day. 

James A. Michener
Michener approached this 400-plus page novel with four points of view (author, editor, critic, and reader), with each confronting their own personal and professional challenges. He even throws in a murder near the end that takes the story off track. 

For those who want to understand the publishing process, "The Novel" fills that need. The book was recommended to me by an avid reader who found the publishing aspect fascinating. And as a published author, I found it interesting as well. 

Another aspect about Michener that caught my attention was that he was 84 when "The Novel" was published, and he went on to write four more books before he died in 1997 ("Matecumbe" was published posthumously in 2007).

Sunday, August 11, 2019

An Interview with author Lara MacGregor

Author on FaceBook
Author on GoodReads

Why did you start fiction writing and what genre(s) do you like to

I started writing at a young age because I have an artist’s soul. I needed to create things. Writing, music, and art always gave me a good way to express myself and maybe bring some happiness to other people.

As for genres, I like to read and write several types, but my favorite to write are historical fiction, romance, a dash of sci-fi, and some paranormal—especially time travel, but other types as well.

Why this/these genre(s)? What attracts you to them?

I’m a history geek, and it’s fascinating putting the values of two different eras side-by-side to see what wackiness becomes of it, hence, my love of writing time-travel novels. It’s also fun trying to come up with different methods of time travel.

As for sci-fi, I can’t get enough Star Trek and all the off-shoots. I’ve watched it all my life and love some sci-fi for this reason. That new show Orville is great. I love that I get to see a Star-Trek like setting but also get to laugh. In my time travel series Romeo Vs. Juliet, Descendants of Time, and especially in the second book of the series, The Questrist, I bring in more sci-fi. However, I prefer, overall, the way the romance genre deals with time travel over the sci-fi genre because I love happy endings.

As for paranormal, I had an unusual upbringing. Because of my mother, I saw and heard about mystical things. I learned about supernatural stuff. I grew up in a large Victorian house behind a mortuary.
Generally speaking, what is the driving force behind your characters?

My characters have to learn something. I strongly believe in life-long learning, but character growth is important too. The characters may be flawed, but the protagonists should have noble motives.

Have any of your characters changed in dramatic way from what you
imagined at the start during the writing process?
My characters have sometimes driven the story in a different direction than I had intended. That happens more often than the character him or herself changing dramatically. Sometimes I use character arcs to plot their discovery or growth.

I did have one character who comes to mind as being somewhat different than originally conceived of. In my contemporary romance, The Mask of Truth, the main character, Cory, is a prince banished to America as a boy for a crime he didn’t commit. Originally, he was darker and more cynical than he ended up being by the time the story was published. His bad experiences in his home country had tainted him. He was also the eldest brother in the original conception of the story. Now, he’s the middle-born prince, and is much more centered in comparison with what was first intended. I’m happy to say that Wings ePress has put out the first book and is due to release the second book of this series this July.  

What do you find the most difficult in finishing a story and approximately how long does it take for you to write a story?

I hate that I find loopholes sometimes after the story is done. Then I have to go back through the whole book to fix things and the things those things affect. I also hate cutting “brilliant” scenes because they don’t further the plot but would make awesome anecdotes to tell one’s friends about if they were real.

As for how long it takes to write a story, that varies widely. The quickest novel I ever wrote happened for a wild reason. I grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school and all, and said my share of Rosaries and Novenas. Once, the Archangel Raphael was the focus of my prayers. Shortly after, I got inspired like I had never been inspired before that or since, and wrote the novel that got me my first book deal, The 12th Kiss, put out with Wings ePress. I had studied the Regency era in England for some time before that, the novel’s setting, but suddenly, a new story came to me. I typed it faster than I ever had done before. The story came out of me in a matter of weeks—it just flew from my fingertips. I named an important character Raphael in gratitude. I put the manuscript up with a critique group for a year or so to tighten it up before submitting it for publication. Most of my novels started as shorter stories and took much longer to finish, sometimes several years. But not that one inspired novel…

Are there other types of writing you do such as non-fiction, or short

Yes, I write flash-fiction to full-length novels, and some is non-fiction. I have also written academic history papers and wrote a thesis to top off earning my master’s degree in history. I had a giant hole in my knowledge of American history: The War of 1812, so I decided to write my thesis about that. Specifically, I compared the patriotism of American, British, and Canadian participants in the war. Some of the stuff I came across while doing research was startling.

I’ve also written history papers on subjects as varied as the Civil Rights Movement in America, The Mexican-United States War of the mid-nineteenth century, Middle-Eastern Christian immigrants to America (in honor of my family), and making a cat museum, which would highlight history through the lens of humans’ relationship to cats—there are some good stories there! My first master’s paper was a historiographical paper analyzing the writings of five-hundred years worth of historical ponderings over Richard III of England. Was he guilty of murdering his nephews, the Princes in the Tower? After sorting through those centuries of writings and reading books on the Wars of the Roses, I don’t think Richard did it. I made it the focus of my novel, The Questrist, and had my character go back in time to warn Richard about the Battle of Bosworth. History changed, and Tudor England was wiped off the map of history.

In my undergrad years, I wrote papers as varied as French cuisine in the south of France to analyzing symphonies (My B.A. is in modern languages with a minor in music).

Has your writing affected you in any way and what would you recommend to someone wanting to start writing fiction?

Writing and music are my driving force and keep me hopeful in this life. They allow me to be inventive and feel gratitude for being given the gift of loving them so much.

To someone just starting out, read and read a lot, and read different genres and styles. I’ve read books from different centuries and from different countries and languages. Books allow one to widen their perspective and dream. Write and join a critique group. It’s how I went from someone simply good with language to someone who understood the rules of fiction—well, I’m continuously learning. I’m lucky to have a great editor—thank you, Jeanne!

One other thing…don’t let harsh critiquers get you down. You have stories in you that no one else does, and the world would benefit from hearing them. Even if your weakness is in the execution, in other words, presenting that story, be happy about that. That’s the easiest hurdle to overcome, far easier than having to overcome a lack of imagination developed enough to write stories in the first place.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Ready to Begin Fourth Boomer Lit Novel

It's been nearly six months since I finished "New Horizons," the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series.  Lately, several readers have asked if I've started on another book.

"New Horizons" was released May 1 by Wings ePress and sales have been steady and reviews have been excellent. I'm very appreciative to those who have supported my writing in the past and those who are just discovering my stories.

So now it's time to move on to the fourth book. I don't have a working title but I have produced probably 50k words. August 1st is my official start date.

So how do I already have 50k words? When working on "New Horizons" last year, the manuscript exceeded 90k and the novel was moving in a different direction. I decided to use the first 40k on "New Horizons," and the other for the next installment.  By the way, "New Horizons" ended up at nearly 70k words so there was plenty of writing involved before submitting it to my publisher.

I've been letting the remaining words simmer the past few months while conducting additional research and taking more notes about the next adventure for John and Sally Ross in their quest for peace and tranquility in their twilight years. 

Those who have read the first three books know it certainly hasn't been easy for the Kentucky couple. This thing called life always seems to be getting in the way of their quiet plans.

So if things go as planned—something I never count on in my life—the first draft of the fourth book will be finished in a couple months. After several rewrites, I hope to send the manuscript to my editor by the end of the year. 

As I have with my previous novels, I'll keep you posted on my progress, title, book cover, and release date. I already know what the fifth book is going to address, but more about that when I'm through with the fourth.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

An Interview with author Michael Embry

Michael's favorite quote:
"The art of writing is the art
of discovering what you believe."
-- Gustave Flaubert
Author's website
Author's Blog
Author on FaceBook
Twitter: @MichaelEmbry

When did you start fiction writing and what genre(s) do you like to write?

I participated in a creative writing conference in 1974 but it took me another 25 years to write my first novel, "The Touch." I've since written eight more novels, falling under contemporary mainstream, murder mystery, young adult, and boomer lit genres. I like variety in reading and writing.

Why this/these genre(s)? What attracts you to them?

These genres resonate with me. I enjoy probing the thoughts and actions of characters as they unfold in my stories. My last three novels have been in the boomer lit genre, which I plan to continue because it allows me to examine my amazing generation.

Generally speaking, what is the driving force behind your characters?

The driving force is confronting unforeseen problems and trying to make sense out of everything that is happening around them. Life isn't easy as we all deal with numerous pitfalls, disappointments, and heartbreaks.

Have any of your characters changed in a dramatic way from what you imagined
at the start during the writing process?

I would say most of the characters have grown and gained courage along the way. I want my characters to come across as real and have strengths and weaknesses that are relatable to readers.

What do you find the most difficult in finishing a story and approximately how long does it take for you to write a story?

It would be wrapping up loose ends, and in writing a series, leaving a few things that will bring readers back for the next book. It generally takes me from six to twelve weeks to write the first draft, then I go through about ten rewrites before I'm ninety-nine percent satisfied with the story (are authors ever totally satisfied?). I then rely on my editor for advice on improving the novel.

Are there other types of writing you do such as non-fiction, or short

I've written three non-fiction sports books (I was a sportswriter years ago) and one short-story collection. Although I've been approached, I doubt if I write any more non-fiction. However, I do plan to write another collection of short stories.

Has your writing affected you in any way and what would you recommend to
someone wanting to start writing fiction?

I believe writing helps me gain a better understanding of myself and others as I explore different areas of life. As for advice about writing fiction, I would recommend that the person read fiction, especially in the genre(s) they intend to write, and to read primers on fiction writing such as Jack M. Bickham's "The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)." I'd also suggest joining local writing groups, attending writing events, and getting to know other authors. Writing is a lifelong learning experience but it's necessary to learn the basics.

Read an excerpt of Michael Embry's latest release "New Horizons" (Release date: May 1, 2019)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

July Release: War Between Brother Kings

King Goran, The Tyrant, resents his brother, Corentin, for winning his throne and wants revenge even though he is due to inherit another kingship. He gets creative. Corentin’s wife, loyal younger brother, and closest friends will be dragged into it. Relationships will be tested, and lives threatened as an evil king makes war with his honorable brother.
Author Lara MacGregor lives in Colorado. She has written flash fiction to full-length novels, mostly historical, but other genres as well such as paranormal, especially time travel stories. She has a B.A. degree in Modern Languages with a minor in music and an M.A. degree in history. She plays guitar and piano and loves reading as many books as time will allow.

An exciting romance built around a handful of souls who bond as if a family intent on encouraging good fellowship…a tender relief from today’s world of human hardship.

Lara MacGregor has that knack of painting her characters with such flourish, yet somehow illustrating love and mateship in a trail of doubt and question, an envious ability.

Its sense of mateship and care for friends is persistently warming.
Kev Richardson
Award-winning author of numerous books,
most recently the Soul of Australia series

Thursday, July 18, 2019

July Release: Love is a Cheerleader Running

Liam experiences the conditions of true love when he meets a cheerleader in high school. Later, at university, he meets a fluttery girl who loves him unconditionally, but their breakup is messy. Then, while traveling, Liam meets Briana, the girl with the tidal design, the girl full of conditions. After being deceived, he becomes an exploiter of lust and love.

R.F. Gonzalez was born in a small town in the impoverished country of Nicaragua at the end of its revolution. He then immigrated with his paternal grandparents to Texas in the 80s. Soon after, he moved to Europe with his mother and father for six years. He traveled around the world and, at age nineteen, moved back to Dallas. In 2010, he earned a Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Dallas. Since then, he has been an entrepreneur, aspiring writer, and writing instructor. There are more interesting things to tell and, perhaps someday, he will write stories about it all.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

An Interview with author Richard Whitten Barnes

Author Richard Barnes
Author's website

Why did you start fiction writing and what genre(s) do you like to write?

I took a night class. I was asked to join writers group and before long I had a half dozen stories. I was encouraged by the group to turn one of my stories into a book which evolved into a WWII historical fiction. I discovered that I really enjoy doing the research. Then, I had an idea for a mystery and wrote two of them before being published by Wings ePress. Since then, I go back-and-forth between the two genres.

I recently wrote MEDALLION, the story of a Norwegian commando and a young woman; an American Flyer working for the British during the second world war.
My next book is the fifth in a series. My heroine, Andy Blake, is a Canadian Provincial Police detective. STEEL TOWN is a story about the interdiction of opioids in the steel city of Sault Ste. Marie Ontario. As usual, Andy has to balance her love life and the job of catching the bad guys.

Why this/these genres? What attracts you to them?

Writing mysteries is a challenge. First you have to have a story that is interesting for the reader. Most importantly for me is crafting a good ending. I like one that is a surprise and satisfying for the reader.
Writing Historical Fiction gives me the opportunity to satisfy my own curiosity about history and my desire to put words on paper, simultaneously.

Generally speaking, what is the driving force behind your characters? Have any of your characters changed in dramatic way from what you imagined at the start during the writing process?

I would have to half of the driving force behind my characters is of their own volition. I have had characters completely change there persona by the end of the book. In one of my books the character I had meant to be a hero turned out to be the villain. There is no question, my characters have their own mind in many respects.

What do you find the most difficult in finishing a story and approximately how long does it take for you to write a story?

I have been writing since 2009, and I am just publishing my 11th book this coming June. So, a book every year has been the norm. In every case, finishing the story is the biggest challenge. I hate it when a book just stops, as if the author ran out of ideas. I enjoy reading a book that has a thoughtful ending whether that is a surprise, or just a good feeling. Achieving this is a significant challenge.

Are there other types of writing you do such as non-fiction, or short fiction?

No, although I have thought about adding to my collection of short stories and publishing them as a group.

Has your writing affected you in any way and what would you recommend to someone wanting to start writing fiction?

Writing has almost become my raison d’ĂȘtre. There is not a day that goes by I am not thinking about a plot line or a character. I think one needs that kind of fire in the belly to be a good writer. Writing isn’t easy. My advice to someone thinking about doing this for a career would be to ask themselves if they have that kind of dedication.

Richard Whitten Barnes, author of Historical and Mystery fiction