“The Journey” Goes Where No One Has Ever Been

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The Journey by Dan O’Brien is a philosophical tale which follows The Lonely on a quest to find purpose. The Lonely is guided on the quest by The Crossroads, and sent in all four directions, where The Lonely learns needed lessons from the entities who reside there, in order to move on.

The tale of The Journey is a uniquely different story that ponders the questions of existence. I give it three quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Did You Ever Notice Mythology Has a Lot of S-E-X in It?

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If you read my post, Rethinking the Playground for the Gods series… again, then you know I’m currently working on Book 2: In the Beginning in my Playground for the Gods series. In the past two weeks, I’ve increased the word count on this novel by about 10,000 words, and updated my character chart, where I keep track of who did what in each book. I view this as being not too shabby. But, as I’m revising and adding to my partial draft, I’m noticing how much of this series revolves around sex of some sort.

In my post, It’s All in Finding the Right Market, I took a look at different markets for my Playground for the Gods series besides the science fantasy market I’ve been promoting it in. In particular, I considered both YA and NA markets, as potential market venues for this series. I dismissed both after looking back over Book 1: The Great Primordial Battle, and determining that there was too much emphasis on sex for either of these markets. After attempting to revise the book for either of these two markets would totally upturn too many story premises.

To understand why sex is such an intricate part of this epic science fantasy series, it is necessary to understand what the series is. Playground for the Gods is based on an alternate universe in which the gods of ancient civilizations were really aliens from a far galaxy whose home planet had been destroyed. The characters are those of ancient gods and goddesses and they play out their own versions of some of the myths of the ancient world, adding their own unique adventures into the mix.

The thing that I’m noticing as I research the mythologies and write my story, is that there is a lot of sex involved in many of the ancient myths. And, sex is so intricately interwoven into them that to try and tell the tales with the sex extrapolated leaves tales that have lost much of their meaning.

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For instance, I’ve been working on the part of the story in Book 2 which is based  on the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. If you know the myth, then you know that after Set chops up Osiris, Isis gathers all the pieces except one, his phallus, in order to resurrect him. Now, I have to tell you, this scene was extremely fun to write and it turned out to be quite humorous, but it doesn’t work to try and write it without the missing member. Without that, the whole story falls flat and doesn’t even make a lot of sense.

In fact, when trying to trace the lines in most ancient cultures, it seems everyone is related and incest is the norm. In Inuit mythology, Annigan rapes his sister Melina repeatedly. The Sumerian god, Anu raped his own daughter. In Greek mythology, there are same sex relations and even relations with birds or other animals. In Aztec lore, there are goddesses of carnality, sexual hunger, sexual power, sexual desire, sexual longing, sexual appetite and sexual misdeeds.

Ancient mythology is filled with sexual encounters between gods and goddesses, between gods and humans, and even strange fetish type behaviors. To write a story based on any of these myths, one cannot extract the sex and still make the story work.

no-sexThat’s why I couldn’t justify revising Book 1 to take out the sex and adult language to accommodate a YA or NA audience. While I am the author and I can make my characters do whatever I want, if in doing so, I unravel the fabric that the story is based on in order to appeal to a particular market, I’m not being true to my story or being fair to my readers. When the story doesn’t work, the readers won’t be able to suspend disbelief enough to buy into the story, and that’s not a good thing.

Visit my Playground for the Gods Facebook page for more information and updates about the series.

 

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“Ethereal Lives”: A Science Fiction Romance

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Ethereal Lives by Gem Stone is a refreshing story about a woman, Ariane, abducted by interstellar hijackers moments before Earth’s destruction. Being the only existing human makes our heroine a valuable commodity on the cosmic market. Somehow, on the way to their destination, where her captors can sell their cargo, Ariane falls in love with the ship’s captain, Ax. When the tables are turned, and Ax is captured by another ship, Ariane will stop at nothing to save him, even though he still intends to sell her.

The story is entertaining, but there are several plot points that make the suspension of disbelief very thin and the characters could be better developed. If you can get past that, it is an endearing tale and quite enjoyable. I give Ethereal Lives three quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Monthly Memo: Playing Cupid

Since this month’s memo date falls near Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write about how to pick your protagonist’s love interest for a story. I find you can’t always decide on the dynamic between a couple until you write out their first meeting. So with that in mind, here is how I go about doing that.

To start, we need to first pick your core protagonist. If you have one in mind, that’s great, skip to Step Two below. If not, begin at Step One.

Step One: Pick your protagonist.

An easy way I find to create a core protagonist when I’m really struggling is to think of three people I know. Then I think of a prominent personality trait for each of them.

For example:

Person 1: Talks too much, and rambles.

Person 2: Is obsessed with dogs.

Person 3: Is always negative.

Try to pick traits that don’t overshadow each other. So don’t pick traits like one loves cats and the other loves dogs. Once you have the three traits, combine them to create the partial personality for your new protagonist. Using those traits as a jumping point, come up with other details about the character you are creating. Male or female? Age range? Occupation?

For mine, we’ll say it’s a female, who is a vet, and who is in her late 20s.

Keep expanding the details of your protagonist until you feel like you have a good general idea of who they are.

Step Two: Find the love interest.

If you already have a protagonist in mind, make sure you can describe them as if they were one of your friends you’ve known for years. What’s their hobby, what’s their job, what’s their secret wish, what’s their favorite thing in the world, and what’s their biggest pet peeve? You should be able to at least answer the above questions, but preferably much, much more.

Once you have the general idea of the protagonist, it’s time to find their love interest. Whenever I have to find a love interest, I always make a list of the places my character is most likely to be because these are the places the love interest is most likely to be found.

For my example: My character is most likely to be in her vet’s office, at home, or maybe volunteering at an animal shelter. So the place she’s most likely to meet her future love interest is in one of those places. Let’s go with at the Vet’s office.

Once you choose where they may meet, then it’s time to choose who the love interest is. What kind of person would go to that place? For mine, it’s clearly going to be a pet owner, or maybe a vendor selling vet supplies, or even a coworker. I chose the easy one, pet owner.

Now go through the character building questions again – what does this love interest look like? What do the like to do? Why are they at this place interacting with your protagonist? Do they share any of the same personality traits as your protagonist? Do they starkly contrast to any traits? I usually like to have one strong thing that the two characters connect with (for mine, a love of animals), and then I have two or three things they can disagree on and fight over (for mine, attitude and the proper treatment for the pet).

Step Three: The first interaction.

The key to every love story, in my opinion, is the first interaction. In general, I find that love story first meetings go one of three ways: either the couple feels an instant spark, they instantly hate each other, or they barely notice each other at all except mild acknowledgment. So decide which of the three ways your meeting is going to go.

If they’re going to get along, decide what they instantly connect on and go with it. Write the scene and let try to make it last a few pages in the first draft. Show the strength of their immediate connection. Is it just physical, or is it mental, or both? Do they plan to meet again? Or never again? Explore the scene and free write a bit, you can cut it down later.

If they’re going to fight, then what is it that’s going to make them hate each other? Since my protagonist is always negative, I think it would work best if she and the pet owner get in a fight initially. She wants him to treat his dog with a specific medicine, but he’s adamant that he wants to treat the dog naturally. Whatever your characters are fighting about, write the scene.

It’s generally works better if they can both be somewhat right, because you want them both to be likable. So for mine, I wouldn’t make the illness for the dog anything serious, maybe something minor like fleas, and then the fight isn’t something that would make the owner, or the vet, unlikable.

If they’re barely going to notice each other, they still have to connect on some small scale so there is something to build their relationship on as the story progresses. So what is the small detail they’re each going to remember about each other? Do they both buy the same item in a store? Do they both do something kind for the same stranger without knowing it? Does something one does have a positive impact on the other somehow?

Write the scene and see what transpires between your protagonist and new love interest. Remember, you aren’t writing the entire relationship, you’re writing the first meeting. You want to leave room for their relationship to grow and develop. So make sure when the pair parts, there’s room for things to continue changing between them.

I really think the first meeting is the key to developing any relationship because it sets the tone for everything to come in the story for that couple. Once you have that first meeting right on paper, then you can build the rest of the relationship from there.

If you want another way to start the story for your love interest, you can also try my “Meet Cute” writing prompt on Author the World.

Until next month, happy writing!


What’s a Reviewer to Do?

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I started Writing to be Read to promote my own writing and to help other authors, through writing reflections and reviews. We’re all in the same situation. Marketing and promotion are a big part of writing these days, and authors are expected to self-promote to some extent, even if they are traditionally published. The way that books are being rated now, in many places, including Amazon, by the reviews they receive. I post partial reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads for this reason, and have even taken the time to post on Smashwords and Barnes and Nobles upon request from the author.

But, what is a reviewer to do when a book she’s reviewing falls short of all expect a film, like my review of Angel Falls Texas on Friday? Every review I publish has an end note at the bottom which reads like this:

“Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.”

I don’t believe in charging for a review because I don’t believe in paying for a review. And I don’t believe in that because I don’t think you can get an honest review when it is paid for. And I do believe a review should be honest. While I amin favor of promoting other authors with my reviews, I don’t believe in hyping up a work when it is not deserved.

Too many authors get their books on the best sellers list simply by having great reviews posted by those who love the author, but don’t honestly reflect the quality of their book. It’s sad but true. (To learn more about what that best seller label really means, check out this article by Brent Underwood.)

As I shared my post for my review of Angel Falls Texas last Friday, I reacted with a sad on each one, because I hated having to publish such a negative review. It’s certainly not going to help the author sell books, which is usually my goal. In this case, to post a review to encourage sales would have made me feel dishonest to my own readers.

I do both solicited and unsolicited reviews. Those that are unsolicited are from books I purchased on my own and I use them as fill in posts when I don’t have any solicited reviews to publish. With reviews that have been solicited by the author or I have requested an ARC from the author, which don’t rate at least three quills, I usually contact the author, tell them my assessment, and offer them the chance to not have the review published. Most authors, like my author friend Chris Tucker, opt to publish the review and take their licks, but there have been a few who have requested that I hold off publication. These authors, hopefully, then go and make revisions to improve their book and then have me give it another chance. I’d rather do that than post a review that may hurt sales.

I try to be fair in my reviews. If a book is one of a genre that is not one of my favorites, I will state that in the review, being upfront about anything that may have influenced the my opinion. But honestly, as authors who are putting their work out there, we all take the chance that someone out there will not like our work, for whatever reason, and will post an unfavorable review. After all, we are only human, and we are never going to please everyone.

As a reviewer, I know I’m not going to love every book that I review. There will be times when my reviews will be less than shining, but I have to be true to myself and to you, my readers, and publish how I honestly feel. All I can do is try and be specific about what I didn’t like in the hope that the author will take it like a critique and find something useful from my feedback to help to improve their writing or the value of the product they put out.

I think the number one thing we, as writers, can do is remember what one of my Creative Writing professors, Russell Davis, said when talking about receiving critiques from our cohorts,

“Remember, it’s not about you. It’s not personal. It’s all about the writing.”

 

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“Angel Falls Texas: The Traveler”: Not a Western Great

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I like westerns. Thanks to my creative writing instructor and adviser, I discovered that I like to write westerns, and I’m fairly good at it. So, I read Louis Lamour, Zane Grey and other western authors to absorb as much from their talents as I can, applying it to my own writing. I picked up Angel Falls Texas: The Traveler #1 The Origins by J.C. Hulsey in anticipation of a good western tale. What I got instead was a poorly written story, in which the characters’ actions make little sense.

Angel Falls Texas lacks the story line and plot points to hold readers’ interests. Characters are two dimensional and lack depth, making it difficult to connect and invest themselves in the story. There are many flaws in logic which make it nearly impossible to suspend disbelief, and there is a lot of telling, rather than showing.

A teenage boy, Jed, watches as his pa is killed and kills his father’s assailant, who happens to be the sheriff’s brother. So, he sets out on the run, assuming the sheriff will come after him, not even stopping by the home place to gather supplies for the journey. He makes friends along the way, who travel with him, because they apparently have no lives of their own, and end up back where he started, in Angel Falls, where he learns the sheriff is still gunning for him. When the sheriff returns, instead of the show down one would expect, and perhaps even anticipate,  the protagonist runs away, thus avoiding confrontation. The sheriff never even sees him, so it’s not even a close call.

In fact, there is no confrontation throughout the story. There is no conflict, no obstacles to overcome. Jed and his new friends go where they please and do what they want unhindered in any way, with no apparent destination in mind. The characters are not challenged in any way and they have no clear goal to accomplish or strive toward.  They do not have to overcome other people, the elements, or the landscape. Jed spends several months helping one new friend fix up his ranch, but when a neighboring rancher shows up and claims the ranch for his own, his friend packs up and takes to the trail with our hero, giving up without a fight, or even a word of protest.

If that weren’t bad enough, the book is riddled with typos and grammar errors. This is a pet peeve of mine because poor quality books which are self-published give self-publishing as a whole a bad name, adding to the stigma that has been placed on self-published authors. This is one of those books. The cover says this book won first place in Texas Western series, but I don’t see it.

As a fan and author of the western genre, I can only give Angel Falls Texas: The Traveler #1 The Origin one quill.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Rethinking the “Playground for the Gods” series… again

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There are many of you out there who have been following the progress of my science fantasy series, Playground for the Gods. For those who don’t know, it’s about an alien race that comes to Earth and pose as deities, and the power struggles and conflicts that arise. It’s based on the ancient mythologies and religions, with colorful characters who get up to some hilarious antics. You can read an excerpt on my Playground for the Gods Facebook page. If you’re interested, you’ll find an update on the writing processes going into these books below.

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In last month’s post, “It’s All in the Finding the Right Market“, I talked about looking at a different market for my Playground for the Gods series. Specifically, I was looking at the Young Adult and the New Adult markets. I was looking to see if perhaps these books were directed toward the right audience, or if perhaps, they might be marketed to a different audience, with revisions, of course.

After attempting said revisions on Book 1: The Great Primordial Battle, and sending it off to my alpha reader, and revising what I had for Book 2: In the Beginning, and writing some the parts of the story that were still needed, I’ve come to the conclusion that this series is not for the light of heart, or a not fully matured audience. The cuss words could be replaced easy enough, but there is just too much sex that is vital to the plot. Removing it would change the entire story.

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For heavens sake, my characters are self-indulgent beings posing as goddesses and gods. Self-indulgent behaviors are what landed them on Earth in the first place, and they are what the whole plot, as well as the individual story lines of each book are hinged upon. The indulge, many in excess, in all of the vices, including sex. They are sensual, and most are promiscuous, prompting plenty of jealousy and rage, providing a lot of the conflict in the series. In other words, I decided the sex was a necessary element that the series couldn’t do without, so YA or NA would not be a good audience for this series.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m going to finish writing the first draft of Book 2, and revise Book 1 when it comes back from my Alpha reader with suggestions. But I will be doing this with the science fiction and fantasy markets in mind, the original markets I was looking at for these books.

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Once the revisions are complete, I’ll send out submissions once more. Hopefully this time, I’ll get better results. (An acceptance letter would be nice.) Ideally, I’ll be doing this at the same time that Book 2 is with my Alpha reader, and I will be working on Book 3: Inanna’s Song, adding to the few chapters I already have written for it, and working up the outline for Book 4: Enki’s Folly. But, we all know how often things work out ideally, so I’ll just look at these task as goals to aim for and hope for the best.

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