“Kissed by Literature”: A YA collection of short fiction

Kissed by Literature

Like many authors, Jordan Elizabeth started out writing short fiction, and in Kissed by Literature, she offers us a generous sample of paranormal and speculative shorts. The trouble in writing short fiction comes in making the story feel complete, with a beginning, middle and end, using a minimal number of words. It’s not an easy thing to do, and while there are stories included that feel a little rushed in the pacing or end abruptly, as can only be expected  in a collection of shorts of this size, those that do feel complete hit the mark and give readers goosebumps. Among them, my favorites include House of Sixty Bells, a ghostly mystery solved; Satin, a tale of paranormal friendship with ulterior motives; and Lock the Door, the story of a husband’s guilt following his wife’s murder.

A delightfully eerie collection of paranormal and speculative stories, I give Kissed by Literature four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Writing for a YA Audience: CLICK YOUR CONVERSE HEELS TOGETHER

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When I write contemporary young adult stories, I draw on my own experiences growing up.  A huge part of my childhood involved wearing Converse sneakers.  Okay, you’re probably thinking that’s a sad childhood, but bear with me.  I was always obsessed with shoes.  I liked the old-fashioned ankle-boot style.  I liked the shiny Mary Janes.  I hated regular sneakers.  They weren’t cute enough.  I endured sneakers only for gym class.

In Junior High, I started seeing the other children wearing Converse sneakers.  They came in all sorts of patterns and colors, and they went over your ankle.  They were unique, and even though almost everyone had a pair, everyone had a DIFFERENT pair.  Some kids even wore mismatched sneakers or used fancy laces.  I went home to tell my grandmother I just had to have my own Converse sneakers.  (If you aren’t familiar with Converse sneakers, you have got to check out their incredible selection.)

She took me to the coolest sneaker store in the mall (I don’t remember the name of this wicked awesome store) and got me…a pair of knock-offs.  They were black and came below my ankle.  I fell in love with them because they had a side-pocket.  I wore those sneakers until they fell apart.

In the meantime, my grandmother and I went to the nearby outlet mall.  We would go once or twice a year.  At their shoe store, I saw a beautiful array of colorful Converse sneakers.  She bought be an official, high-top pair.  They were black with white pinstripes.  I wore them so much they started to fall apart…so now I don’t wear them much to preserve their life.

After that, I got a pair each time we went to the outlet mall.  I even got a pair that reached up to my thighs!  I now have twelve pairs altogether in my collection.  Converse is still my favorite brand of sneaker.

Why am I talking to you about my Converse obsession?  Well, Converse sneakers were a huge part of my childhood, from shopping for them to wearing them almost every day.  I loved wearing them to gym class with fishnet stockings.  I always write about my young adults wearing Converse because that’s what I wore.  I didn’t realize how prevalent the brand featured in my writing until an editor called it to my attention.  I went back through my writing and almost every girl character has a pair at one point in their individual stories!

If you were writing about shoes, what shoes would you mention?  What shoes are most important in your life?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  Her latest book, a post-apocalyptic novella entitled ROTHAM RACE, released July 14th fron CHBB.  If you’re wondering if it features Converse sneakers, you will have to read it to find out.

You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


“Brave New Multiverse”: A Short Story Collection

brave new multiverse

Brave New Multiverse is a collection of unusual and unique short stories by Jeff Bowles, in which there is never a dull moment. You may be amazed, amused, confused, or even a little disgusted, but you will not be bored with any of the stories in this collection.

Bowles combines the craft of short story with screenwriting to create an experimental writing style that somehow works.  His descriptive power is phenomenal, if a bit graphic. The worlds he has created may be strange and difficult to define, but they are also different from worlds encountered by any other author. In Itsies, ids are called itsies and you don’t got to love them, even if they wear a teddy bear suit. In The Many Deaths of Lazarus Lad, comic book heroes never ever die. In Detective Robot and the Murderous Spacetime Schism, robots and gorillas are detectives solving the case of the deceased dropping from the sky. In Donald Carmichael’s Brave New Multiverse: A trip to five very odd ‘verses’, where nothing is as it appears, or is it? And in Snip, Snip: where they take bigotry to new levels and have hang ups about testicles.

His characters are as diverse and unique as the worlds he’s created, and he pairs them into unanticipated couplings: Gorilla Todd and Detective Robot, an investigative team that can solve the crime, even in the face of the dead falling randomly from the sky; Donald Carmichael and Max, who don’t know love until it reaches out and bites them in the ass; Lazarus Lad and his egocentric dad, who know no other life; Nelson and Jay, who just wanted to help their injured pooch; Tug and Petunia, rude and obnoxious itsies, who may even be dangerous, belonging to Tom and Pamela, who don’t know the meaning of tough love.

Want to explore strange new worlds which you’ve never encountered before? Take a trip into any one of Jeff Bowles’ stories from this collection. I give Brave New Multiverse five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Ask the Authors: Setting

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In today’s installment of Ask the Authors, the panel will talk about setting and world building. Setting is one of the three basic elements of story, but one that is often overlooked. We spend hours plotting and developing characters, but it is important for us to give just as much attention to our settings. Through our writing, we can take readers to places both real and imagined. As authors, it is our job to paint a clear picture for our readers with our words, whether taking them to real locations requiring accurate descriptions or to whole worlds that spring from our creative imaginations, which need to be illustrated to come alive for them. Setting is important because readers must be able to immerse themselves within the world of the story for total buy-in. If readers don’t buy into our world, past, present or future, real or created, they aren’t going to read very far. Our job is to allow them to believe, and setting may be a starting point to do that.

What tools or strategies do you use in world building for your stories?

Carol Riggs: Sometimes it’s helpful to base even a fantasy or sci-fi novel on a real place or photo, then branch out from there. I use Google maps a lot (my latest novel is set around St. Louis, MO), where I can visually see where things are, and can often zoom into a street view of where I want to be. Awesome! I research places online; living with technology makes writing so much easier.

World locations

When the setting is a real one, whether past, present or future, knowledge of the location is necessary to describe in a way that readers familiar with the area, so research is necessary. Having experienced a location first hand can make it easier to visualize ourselves, and relate that vision clearly for our readers. Authors who write about their hometown or other locations they know quite well, are following the age old advice to write what you know, and it may pay off for them, if it helps provide a clear vision for the story setting.

Have you ever had places that you travel to end up in your books?

DeAnna Knippling: It’s usually the reverse.  I write about someplace and then try to travel there.  I totally geek out about seeing what my character saw.
Jordan Elizabeth: All the time!  I based Secrets of Bennett Hall after my visit to Hyde Hall near Cooperstown, NY.
Janet Garber: What I love most about writing and travel is that every experience, good or bad, can be woven into a story, used to enrich a setting. Nothing is wasted. My experiences living abroad (outside the U.S.) definitely have enriched my writing and given me incalculable insight into “foreiAgn” cultures. My next novel takes place in Mexico and in France and I was able to write about the locations with a specificity impossible to someone who had not lived in these countries.
Cynthia Vespia: In a way, yes. I was traveling to Alcatraz in San Francisco for a trip and at the same time I was in the middle of writing my thriller Sins and Virtues which opens with an escape from a maximum security prison. While I was at Alcatraz I went inside one of the cells to take a picture, as you do, and I swear something in there followed me home. When I returned to my novel I started seeing images inside my head of an attempted prison break from Alcatraz. The images were clear as day, and seen through the eyes of a middle-aged man. My character was a young female so it wasn’t just a case of a really good imagination coming to life…this felt like something else entirely. I felt this other presence through the duration of writing Sins and Virtues and it only left when I completed the book. True story.
Chris Barili: Of course. In fact, if I’m writing in the real world, I try to set things in places I have been, and preferably places I know well. Even when I’m writing in a fictional world or universe, though, the setting takes on elements of the places I’ve been, cultures I’ve experienced, and so on.  B.T. Clearwater’s current work-in-progress takes place in Denver, as did Smothered.  
Carol Riggs: I haven’t ever traveled anywhere exotic, unusual, or outside the U.S., but for instance I’ve been to (and lived on) the Oregon coast, so a few of my novels are set there. I’ve been to L.A.; one of my novels is set there but a futuristic version of it. Most of my novels are fantasy or sci-fi, so they are otherworldly and not set in real places anyway.
Art Rosch: Travel is good for writers.  Meeting other people is good for writers.  Any experience that engages the writer with the world is good for writers.  What would we write about if all we we did was hide out in our little cubbyholes and watched TV or played video games?
Fantasy Lake
In many cases however, we are called by our stories to write about places we haven’t been and are not familiar with. Although first hand experience is preferable, it is sometimes necessary to research a location without physically visiting it. Such research can lend a feel of authenticity to your story, if your research is thorough and you select details that enhance your story.
In a story we are often asked to create images for the reader of places we may not have experienced ourselves. When have you had to do that?
DeAnna Knippling: All the time.  Google maps is my friend.
Jordan Elizabeth: Most of my books require that because I write fantasy.  I like to imagine there is magic all around us, so that helps me in describing what the magic is like.
Janet Garber: When I write speculative fiction, short stories, obviously I have to make up and populate an alien world. I try to have as much fun as possible; in fact I label this “silly sci-fi.” A forthcoming story in Spectacle Magazine, entitled Seapocalypse, is about a fed-up seahorse who doesn’t like the division of labor in his household. “Shishkosh” (Newtown Literary and Tigershark) tells the story of an earthling of the future who crash lands on a very strange planet.
Cynthia Vespia: My fantasy series Demon Hunter is set in medieval times in places that didn’t really exist. That’s the fun of writing fantasy or sci-fi, or even some contemporary settings. You get to make up what it looks like. In that case, I generally will draw from places that I have been and embellish them with whatever I need to move the scene. If it happens to be a place that exists in reality that I haven’t been to then I will research it online. For instance, one of my early works had a meeting at a place called Musso & Frank in Hollywood. It is a very well known restaurant but I have never actually been there. Because it is so well known I wanted it to be described the right way, so I did my due diligence and researched the hell out of it!
Chris Barili: The entire Hell’s Butcher series so far has consisted of settings I haven’t actually seen, from Creede, CO to places in Maryland and Virginia. And not only were they PLACES I’ve never been, but during times I did not experience. So I had to immerse myself in research to get the right flavor for setting, both physical and culturally.
Carol Riggs: Yes, a lot! I write fantasy and sci-fi, so I love using my imagination to make up new places and experiences. Stories set on other planets, or even a world similar to Earth—but with magic or an unusual twist added. Fantasy novels in general tend to be set in a kind of medieval-flavored setting, more primitive with castles and huts/cottages and what not.
Sometimes it’s helpful to base even a fantasy or sci-fi novel on a real place or photo, then branch out from there. I use Google maps a lot (my latest novel is set around St. Louis, MO), where I can visually see where things are, and can often zoom into a street view of where I want to be. Awesome! I research places online; living with technology makes writing so much easier.
What are your favorite settings to write about?
DeAnna Knippling: Victorian England and parts abroad.  I love writing crime…and these people were criminals, pretty much just top to bottom.  But a close second is America during the Roaring 20s.
According to Writing-World.com, there are four methods for revealing setting: through motion, letting your setting unfold as your character moves through the scene; through your character’s experience, or what he or she knows, which may be a good reason to use multiple POVs to show how different characters see their surroundings; through your character’s feelings, similar to using the character’s experience, letting his or her mood influence how readers see the setting, or through the senses and the use of sensory detail.
Summer Beach
I think we all reveal setting through motion, even when we’re not doing it intentionally, but I think the last is most effective. While not all readers will relate to the experiences your character has had, or whatever has put your character into such an angry mood, all readers can relate to sensory information, so they are more likely to form an accurate mental picture from the details of sight, taste, touch, sound and smell. Let’s see if our panel members agree.
What kind of details do you like to add to create a mental picture of setting for your reader?
DeAnna Knippling: Smell.  Food.  Texture…temperature.  Weather.
Jordan Elizabeth: I love smell.  Sometimes we take smell for granted in real life, but adding a smell to a story can really bring it to life.
Janet Garber: The gold standard: appeals to the senses.
Cynthia Vespia: I always remember to include the 5 senses. It rounds out a better picture if you can get a real feel for the place that isn’t just a visual painting from your mind but also has depth and reality to it.
Chris Barili: I tend to be a minimalist. Until I’m not. I try to use as many of the senses as possible, without stretching or forcing it, and I like metaphorical description. “The hills lay like slumbering beasts in the distance.” Things like that to paint a picture for the reader.
Carol Riggs: I like to add sensory images, like smells or sounds. I also think it helps a reader get a better picture of what a place is like if there is a comparison added. For instance, if a set of buildings are arranged in a horseshoe shape. I tend to be a minimalist as far as setting. I myself get bored when reading a description if it wanders on past one paragraph, and my rough “rule” for my own description is to keep it to three sentences. Any more than a short paragraph seems overdone (if not interspersed with action or dialogue).
Cityscape
Would you like to share a brief excerpt from one of your best setting descriptions?
DeAnna Knippling: I’m not sure about “best” but here’s one:

There was an armchair sitting at right angles to the wheelchair; he sat in it, and the receptionist set the tray in front of them, then poured.  The teacups had saucers to them, and delicate gold spoons in case you wanted to stir sugar into your tea.  Not a single rattle.

The room smelled of flowers, not the sickly-sweet artificial scent of “flowers” but green things, growing things.  Roses, maybe, not the kind that you got at the flower shops but the real ones that used to grow along the sides of the road with bees swarming around them, back when you got more than a handful of bees in the summertime.

The tea smelled faintly of tea, which always struck Frank not smelling like anything at all.  He liked the smell of coffee better.  Coffee smelled good, even when you knew it was going to be terrible.  Alice leaned forward a little.  The way she moved made Frank think she was in a lot of pain.

“Can I get that for you?”

“Thank you, dear, if you would.”

Janet Garber: From In a Tizzy:

Spinning in a 360 degree circle, arms raised like a little girl, I could view impossibly fluffy clouds touching down on the horizon and two magnificent volcanoes, Popocatépetl and Citlaltépetl, their views unobstructed by skyscrapers, highways, power lines or telephone cables. So this is what the sky looks like! I spun and spun, it was all sublime.

I was the darling novia, outfitted in a dazzling white Mexican blouse festooned with brightly colored embroidered flowers and sporting faded blue jeans with two sexy patches I’d sewn on to hide a rip, two fish swimming in the neighborhood of my crotch. I wore my yellow work boots and pinned my signature long hair up, off my neck, as a concession to the blazing sun.

I sat on the grass in the sun shunning sunglasses and hat since I never burn—all I ever get are more freckles—and I watched Pierre play soccer with his scientist colleagues.  Game over, he sauntered over to me—I watched him slowly cross the field, swinging his arms—so sexy and smiling and seductive and . . .short?

“I never noticed,” I confided that afternoon, “but you’re rather short.” How could I have missed that?

“What are you saying, Foolish Talking Bird?” He laughed and pulled me in for a kiss. “I’m at least 170 cm.”

I pushed him away and looked around; our friends made a show of turning their heads in the other direction. “No, you’re not, Skinny Little Laughing Skeleton.” I mocked. “You liar, you!”

By way of answer, he lifted me and swung me around until I was breathless. Taking my hand he ran with me across the fields to our dusty little car. As we approached, I looked at him questioningly. “No more lessons for you, Lady. You’ve been a bad girl.”  Well, during our previous lesson on driving standard shift, I had jumped out of the car three times, slamming the door each time. He’d done the same. Either I was hopeless or he was a bad teacher. The latter is unlikely judging by his popularity with the physics staff and the students. “Oh, please, one more chance to strip the gears!” I cried out. [©2017 janet garber, from WIP novel]

Cynthia Vespia: Here is a scene from Karma, Book 1 in the Silke Butters Superhero Series

She didn’t even wait for the van to come to a full stop before she raced out the door. Her feet just glanced the pavement as she hopped over the curb and rushed in through the sliding glass doors.

Los Angeles Memorial bustled with activity. People loitered in the waiting area anxious for their turn to be called. Silke weaved between the lot of them and made her way to the reception desk.

Her voice was frantic as she asked for Maki’s room number. The receptionist tried to tell her to wait while she finished a phone call. She attempted to disregard the fact that Silke’s very best friend, who was more like a sister than Honey, was lying in a hospital bed clinging to life. She wanted Silke to wait her turn before going in to possibly see her friend for the very last time.

Silke was done waiting. She slammed her fists down on top of the desk, sending papers into the air. The impact also proceeded to pull sparks from her hands that ran over the receptionist desk directly into the phone. It sparked and popped in the nurse’s hand, forcing her to drop it and turn her attention to Silke.

It happened again. Some type of spark emitted from her own hands. She felt it before when facing off against Rostov. At that time, she felt powerful as she could drop the much larger assailant. Now she attacked a poor nurse just doing her job. What was happening?

©2017 CYNTHIA VESPIA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Chris Barili: This is from the opening scene of Smothered:

The old Victorian didn’t just sit on the street. It didn’t hunch, stand, rest, or exist. Instead, it loomed, seeming to lean out over the front sidewalk to intimidate passersby. The porch’s white rail gleamed like a sadistic grin, slashing through the pallor of the gray shingle siding, while dark windows stared like half-lidded eyes, their smoke-stained shades still in the half-drawn position they’d been in the last time human life had occupied the house nearly a year before.

The houses around it sported fresh coats of paint, most in bright, almost garish colors popular when they were built over a century ago. All had lush, green lawns and flower boxes bursting with color, not drab gray-green weed forests with wilted, long-dead skeletons of flowers. The house also lacked the bright Memorial Day banners, flags, and window trimmings of its neighbors, making it the only unpatriotic house on the block.

Carol Riggs: This excerpt is from THE BODY INSTITUTE (p. 284 paperback).

All human sounds cut off as the door closes. Cool air clings to my skin like clammy hands. A whirring, sucking noise of machinery fills the room, which smells odd, a sort of musty grease scent mingled with antiseptic.

Glow sticks hang by the door. Leo grabs one, activates it with a crack, and aims it down an aisle. Rows and rows of coffin-shaped capsules occupy the room, stacked three high like drawers in a macabre-style dresser. They make up a maze of walls a little taller than my head.

 

Art Rosch: Below is a descriptive passage from THE GODS OF THE GIFT, my first mature science fiction novel.

Excerpt from THE GODS OF THE GIFT

The Gods of The Gift on Smashwords

 “Chapter Six

The View From Castle Strobe

            Strobe, the castle of Prince Vizmir Borgomak, was the size of a small city.  An irregular wall surrounded it, made from materials that showed its antiquity.  Old stone ramparts supported later materials of brick, concrete, rammed earth and plasticene.  There were many gates, old and new.  Some were operated by winches and slid upward on squeaking chains.  Others opened by remote control, slid smoothly into recesses.  The castle had not required military defense in thousands of years.  The old arrow slits and catapult ramps had been converted into modern verandas and scenic windows. 

            The castle had eighty seven towers, each topped with a distinctive dome or minaret. Some were shaped like simple onions, pointed at the top, round and tapering at the sides.  Others had two or three flattened ovoids pushed together and topped with sharp spires. Yet others were slab sided triangles with cat-walks latticed onto their steeples. The designs on these towers were made with paint, gilding, mosaic tiles and filigree.  Color schemes were numerous and bizarre.  One large tower near the castle’s center was the shape of a tulip bulb with a flattened top.  It was decorated with blue and white triangles, alternating side by side, one triangle upright, the other pointing downward, and the triangles changed size according to the placement on the tapering shape of the spire.  Another tower was spiraled in red stipples, like a confection.  Yet another was painted as a tree against the sky, twisting gnarled branches weaving their way up the sides of the facade against the cerulean backdrop.

            There was no sense of unity to the structure.  It seemed as though the parts had been pushed together from a book of tourist architecture, showpiece images gleaned from cultures all across the galaxy.  Walls ran from one tower to another, and there were so many that the walls collided, forming useless closed yards, odd pens with little doors, dried up gardens that had been forgotten and walled off.  Some yards contained human skeletons or bones of animals and fallen birds. No two towers were the same height, or the same color.  Windows of synthglass shone in various elevations, many adorned with balconies.  Force fields protected these balconies from the intense heat of this hemisphere of the planet, which was also called Strobe.  On this hot afternoon, flags like the tongues of  snakes hung listlessly, without a breeze to sniff. At the base of the megalith, shops huddled against the castle walls, wares of many kinds were sold and traded.  Spices and electronic devices rested in adjacent stalls where their proprietors sat on stools and smoked from water pipes.  Half a mile beyond the perimeter of the castle, agriculture on an industrial scale was being practiced.  Vast fields of tall, slender plants drank from the arms of rotating sprinklers.  The plantations surrounded Castle Strobe, vanishing to the horizon in neatly planted circles.  The plants were blooming.  Each purple stalk held three or four gaudy flowers of mauve, chartreuse and orange.  The odor of a billion flowers, sweet and cloying like toffee, penetrated the skin and clothing of thousands of robiot workers, whose nervous systems were impervious to the effect of the plant.  This potent botanical was called Somniferum Cannabino Papaverum Vizmeria.  Its name in ordinary vernacular was Futufu.  It had many other names.”

This vision of the castle was inspired by the sight of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.  The cathedral is such a bizarre and colorful structure that it casts a spell over me.  In the novel, Castle Strobe is the home of a demented drug lord.  It reflects his chaotic character, his undisciplined extravagance.  This is but one of many settings that I devised in THE GODS OF THE GIFT.  I had absolute freedom to practice world building in “Gods” because there was no realistic counterpart to our own world.  I could create anything. In my latest, yet unpublished book, The Shadow Storm, I’ve had to constrain myself with a far more familiar setting  Here I had to draw a map of the planet Freeth before I began anything else.  The setting of Shadow Storm resembles our own world on the eve of World War One.  I was stimulated to write the book by the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.  I applied a maxim, that is, “Geography Is Destiny” to create a setting that was completely different from our home planet yet reminiscent of it in almost every way.  Thus the work on the map was of primary importance.  I had to foresee battles that would have global consequences.  I had to think like a military master-mind and work out the ways in which armies would be thwarted by towering mountain ranges and navies would be directed towards the control of strategic waterways.

Mountain Retreat

In many genres, especially fantasy or science fiction, stories take us into fictional worlds which spring from the depths of our imaginations, which serve as the settings for our stories. In film, there is the luxury of visual images and through sometimes elaborate sets, and in more modern times digital imaging, we are able to bring a world to life for viewers. But in fiction, we must use our words to draw those pictures mentally for our readers through action and character. It is a different medium, but it is no less challenging to create a world through the written word.

Would you like to share some thoughts on world building?

Art Rosch: World building is intriguing because it challenges me to devise new religions, new societies, new terrain and all of these factors feed into the nature and behavior of my characters.  They are people of their time and place, and this time, this place, has only a peripheral relation to our own world and the people and events that have transpired here.  The Shadow Storm is about preparing for a global war, one that will sweep the book’s characters into violent and unusual events.  I have the warm gut feeling that I’ve written a fine book.  I hope I’ll be stimulated to continue its sequel and prequel.  That depends on whether I can find readers.  Ain’t that a bitch?  Our literary landscape is so bloated with writers and their books that it’s hard to get traction.

Every day I get emails from marketing gurus promising to show me how to do book releases that will get 100+ reviews on the day of release and earn me a seven figure income.  I think, perhaps, that the marketing gurus may be earning seven figure incomes from gullible writers, but the rest of us are confined by our own economic state.  Unless we too have seven figure incomes we won’t be able to invest in enough marketing to earn seven figure income from our books.  Is this Catch-23?

Sensory detail are a favorite for revealing setting amoung our panel members. How ever you chose to reveal setting, be sure you’ve done the needed research, whether that means traveling to the physical location or researching remotely, to be able to form a clear and accurate mental picture for your readers. Remember when dealing with real locations, that there will be readers out there who are familiar with the locations and they may be quick to point out any inconsistencies.

I think our panelists have given up some food for thought when it comes to setting and workd building. Be sure to catch next week’s installment, when Ask the Authors will talk about publishing. If you have a question you’ve always wanted answered, but it’s not covered in the post on that topic, or if our panel’s answers have stirred new questions within you, pose your query in the comments. Make note if it is directed toward a specific author. Questions will be directed to the general panel unless otherwise specified. Then, in the final post for the series, I will present your questions and the responses I recieved from panel members.

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“Undercurrents”: More Than Just a Collection of Tales From the Deep

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The twenty-three stories in Undercurrents are all about the mysteries of the deep, but beyond that they are as varied as it gets. Master story telling weves tales about monsters who dwell in the ocean depths and send chills down your spine. The monsters featured range from those of legendary status to those of the fantasy realm: krackens; sea dragons in Guardian of the Sea, by Kristin Luna; sirens in The Old Man and the Sea Siren, by Steve Pantazis; fairy horses in In the Water, by Jessica Guernsey; mermonsters in All Yours, by Melissa Koons; and the underwater cat in Underwater Cats, by Mary  Pletsch – to those that are unidentified, as in Cold, Silent, and Dark, by Kary English; or spring from the recesses of the human mind, to inanimate objects as innocent as a pair of bookends in Bookend, by Chris Mandeville.

The points of view presented are varied, as well. As a reader, I was allowed to glimpse through the eyes of both hunted and hunter, getting the unusual P.O.V.s of things like a kracken in The Kraken’s Story, by Robert J. McCarter, a siren in The Siren’s Song, by Aubrey Pratt, a dragon in The Sea Dragon’s Tale, by Nancy D. DiMauro and a puffer fish in Mandala, by Jody Lynn Nye.

The stories in this collection explore more than just the waters of the deep. Sea Wind, by Kevin J. Anderson explores the idea of losing a brother to the sea. Four Billion Years of Solitude, by Alex P. Berg explores the oceans of distant planets. Eat Me, by Lauren Lang explores a revelutionary weight loss system involving antipods harvested from the sea. Songs to Sing and Stories to Tell, by L.D. Colter explores saying good-bye, and Lure, by Joy Dawn Johnson explores the connection between twins, and Sea Dreams, by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson explores the ties between friends. To Become, by C.J. Erick explores facing the unknown, while In the Garden of the Coral King, by C.H. Hung explores facing one’s own fears, and A Marsh Called Solitude, by Gregory D. Little explores self-sacrifice and altruism.

My personal favorites include Teens Teach Tech, by Terry Madden, where a teen tries to help an old woman face her fears of the past; Heroes of the Russian Federation, by Chris Barili, where an experimental bio-weapon escapes and goes out of control; and High Seas Burning, by Lee French, where the real monsters are of the human variety.

Best of all, all proceeds from this anthology go to the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship to help students without the financial means  to attend the Superstar Writing Seminar,  a seminaar that addresses the business end of writing. The Superstars have been putting together anthologies, along with seminar attendees since 2015. Undercurrents is the fourth anthology to result from the Superstar Writing Seminar. In more ways than one, the Superstar Writing Seminar is quite special and the recipient of a scholarship is fortunate indeed.

News of this seminar was exciting to me because so many writing courses or workshops focus on the craft of writing and ignore the fact that there are some business skills required in order to be a successful writer. I’ve heard many authors gripe about not realizing they had to have marketing skills as well as writing skills, or complaining about the time they must put into marketing that could be used to write instead. The line-up of Superstars who offer their expertise include Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, Eric Flint, Rebecca Moesta, James A. Owen and Brandon Sanderson. Each year they have additional guest instructors, chosen from the creme de la creme of the publishing industry. They all share their knowledge and expertise during the annual seminar, which is held in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Well-crafted stories fill this anthology exploring the ocean depths and the depths of the human mind in Undercurrents, an anthology created by master story tellers. I give it four quills.

Four Quills3

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.


“Doctrine of Indecency”: A Good Variety of Stories

Doctrine of Desire

The trick to writing erotica is being able to write a fully developed story line and add just the right amount of erotic imagry to create a story which both entertains and arouses readers at same time. There is an almost poetic art to it, a delicate balance. A balance few of the stories found in Doctrine of Indecency: 18 Coveted Tales of Lust, edited by Virginia Lee Johnson and Kat Mizera, manage to achieve. Most of the stories, while not of the exceptional variety, were not bad stories and some were quite entertaining.

I must give kudos for the variety of the stories contained within this erotic anthology. There seems to be something for everyone. Some stories stretch genre boundaries, including tales of erotic horror, such as A Cabin… Somewhere, by Kyle Perkins; the paranormal erotica of Wings of Change, by Cee Cee Houston; the anti-hero erotica of Revenge, by Virginia Lee Johnson; the speculative erotica of The Succubus’s Sin, by Taylor Rose; and the science-fiction erotica of Suicide Mission, by Lila Vale; or Lunar Gets Some Loving: A Purian Empire Short, by Crystal Dawn.  There are also those that are geared more toward the traditional erotic story lines which explore various sexual preferences such as the three-way fun of Apple Bite, by A.R. Von; or Welcome to the Dark Side, by Erin Trejo; the military erotica of Deployment – Dalliance, by E.J. Christopher; the grocery store erotica of Fruit, Veg. & Starfish, by T.L. Wainwright; the swingers erotica of 3, by Eden Rose; the S & M erotica of House of the Rising Sun, by L.J. SeXton; the stranger erotica Delayed Ecstacy, by Tiffani Lynn; and there’s even a tale of social media erotica in Yearning for Desire, by Amanda O’lone.

My three favorites: Pleasure Bite, by Brianna West is well written vampire erotica and Dangerous Desire, by Samantha Harrington is hot and steamy, yet has a decent plot. I’ve been doing a lot of playing with POV, so I was especially drawn to the stories which used mutliple character POVs. While Inferno, by Kat Mizera uses multiple POVs with some skill, Pepper’s Play Pen, by Mia Sparks uses multiple POVs and is crafted with expertise.

The variety of stories included is commendable, but since none are exceptional, nor are any terrible, but of more average quality, I give Doctrine of Indecency three quills.

Three Quills3

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Starting Off the New Year with YA Author Jordan Hallak

Jordan Hallak

I’m pleased to be able to start the New Year off with a YA author who I have interviewed for both my Book Marketing -What Works? series this past year, and my 2015 Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing series. I’ve reviewed many of her novels, (Escape From Witchwood Hollow, Cogling, Treasure DarklyVictorianThe Goat ChildrenRunners and RidersThe Path to Old TalbotWicked TreasureKistishi Island)as well as collections featuring her short stories, such as Darkscapes, Cast No Shadows, Under a Brass Moon, Chronology.

If you’re feeling a little confused right now, that’s okay, because all of the interviews and reviews were done for an author named Jordan Elizabeth, and in the very early reviews she was booked as Jordan Elizabeth Mierek. However, she’s starting off 2018 as Jordan Hallak, and we’ll hear an explanation for the different name soon. In addition to being the author of at least ten young adult novels and countless short stories, Jordan is a wife and mother, as well as often having a day job on the side. She runs a tight juggling act to keep it all balanced and still manages to craft some quality stories which are all quite entertaining. Join me in giving a warm welcome to Jordan Hallak today, on Writing to be Read.

Kaye: You’ve had a change to your last name. It threw me off and might throw of readers who know your work under the name Jordan Elizabeth. Were you recently married?

Jordan: I got married over a year ago, but I didn’t change my name right away.  I still write as “Jordan Elizabeth,” but little by little I’ve been altering Mierek to Hallak.  The most recent thing I changed was my name for my gmail account.  Even though I signed things as “Jordan Hallak,” people were getting confused who Jordan Mierek was.  I was getting documents for work to the wrong name!

Kaye: What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Jordan: Haha, I haven’t mastered it yet!  Most nights now I’m too tired to do more than scroll through facebook.  When I push myself, though, I have my husband watch the baby for an hour and I do all my writing.  Once the baby goes to bed, then I do my marketing because it isn’t as emotionally draining.  Writing leaves me breathless.

Kaye: Other than the last name, what do you think will be different for you in 2018, and why?

Jordan: My marketing budget is a lot different for this year.  I’m only going to be using what I make off royalties.  This might ruin my marketing plan, but we’ll see.  2018 is the first year where I won’t have a full time job starting out.

Kaye: What’s in store from Jordan Hallak in 2018?

Jordan: Other than my goal of landing a full time job, I want to write more novels and work on my marketing techniques.  I usually fly by my seat for the year, but this time I want to concentrate on planning out all my marketing events.  I’ve heard that’s better, so we’ll see.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Jordan: I can’t plan.  I start writing with a general sense of where the story will lead.  If I try to plot, the book becomes a chore.  It never follows the written storyline anyway.

Kaye: Any New Year’s resolutions?
Jordan:  Oh, man, this question!  Nothing really comes to mind.  I usually make resolutions as I go along.  I guess I’m going to try to get more writing time in and I’m going to try to stick to my exercise routine.  I fell out of it while I was pregnant, and then I picked it back up, and fell off the wagon (so to speak) when I got a temp job where I was working 10 hour days.  I miss exercising.  For exercise, I do yoga and belly dancing.  I also have an exercise routine to help with diastis recti.

Kaye: What is the working title of your latest book?

Jordan: My newest book will be Secrets of Bennett Hall.  It is going to be a steampunk Gothic.  I’ve always been entranced by Gothic novels, and I love the steampunk genre, so I decided to blend the two and see how it came out.

Kaye: How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?

Jordan: The titles always come at the end.  I usually call the book by the main character’s name as I’m writing, and then I see how it feels when I’m all done.  Secrets of Bennett Hall started off as Adelaide.  Adelaide is the main character who moves to Bennett Hall to work as a governess.  Secrets from the past – both her past and the estate’s past – return to haunt her.  Secrets of Bennett Hall had more of a Gothic ring to it.

Kaye: In my review of Runners and Riders, I identified the book as a part of your Treasure Chronicles Apparently, this isn’t the case, as it is the first book in a series of its own. Would you like to share how that came about?

Jordan: Runners and Riders features the same world as in the Treasure Chronicles.  I called it a “companion” novel because of that, but it was mislabeled as a novella in many places.  It is a full-length novel, and it was getting a lot of heat for being “misleading.”  People who hadn’t read the Treasure Chronicles weren’t willing to give it a chance.  It will now be book one in Return to Amston, with Secrets of Bennett Hall being book two.  Secrets will be in the same world again, but with a new cast of characters.

Kaye: So, tell us a little about this second book in the Runners and Riders.

Jordan: Joseph from Treasure Darkly will make an appearance. Remember him as Amethyst’s spurned lover?  I always felt bad about how things went down with the two of them and I wanted to give him his own story.  As I started writing about Adelaide, he just fell into place as her love interest, and they are perfect for each other.  He deserves a sweet, but strong, girl like Adelaide.  In the novel, Adelaide loses her teaching job in Hedlund and finds a new position as a governess.  Once she arrives at Bennett Hall, she meets its handsome occupant – Joseph – as well as some shady figures.  People in the village warn her about the darkness on the estate, but it isn’t until she sees the Villain lurking in the forbidden wing that she begins to believe the rumors.

Kaye: A lot of your books are of the steampunk genre. What is it that appeals to you about steampunk?

Jordan: I love the nifty inventions paired with corsets and long skirts.  I am obsessed with corsets and long skirts.  You should see my closet!

Kaye: Most of your work has been published through Curiosity Quills Press, but it sounded like you might be striking out independently. Will this second book in the Runners and Riders series be independently published?

Jordan: Secrets of Bennett Hall will be published by Curiosity Quills Press.  I haven’t decided to go the self-publishing route yet, but I might someday.  I know people who have left their publishers to try self-publishing with great results.  For now, I like having a publishing house behind me.  The support I get has been awesome.  I’m currently published by Curiosity Quills, CHBB, and Clean Reads.

Kaye: When will Secrets of Bennett Hall be available?

Jordan: Secrets releases January 30.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Jordan: It is so hard to get your book out there.  I know people are sick of me always talking about my books, but that’s the only way to spread the word.

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story? What’s the least fun part?

Jordan: The best part is actually writing it.  I become lost in the setting and the characters become my best friends.  I have an awesome time visiting this new world.  The least fun part would have to be the marketing that comes after.  When you have to push people to review and when you have to pay for ads, you start to doubt if your writing is worth it.  Then you write a new story and remember how much it is worth it.

Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Jordan: I wouldn’t worry about money anymore!  I would be happy being a stay-at-home mom and full-time writer.  There would be a lot of traveling.  I need fresh fodder for my stories.

I want to thank you, Jordan, for joining us on Writing to be Read to start the New Year off right. I wish you the best of luck in 2018, and I know Secrets of Bennett Hall will be a huge success.

Until next time, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!

2018 Happy New Year

 

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