Ask the Authors: Setting

writing

 

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

Undercurrents-Generic

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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‘Tis the Season to be Thankful

HAppy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us, and I always try to take the time this time of year to reflect on events over the past year and discover all I have to be thankful for. Although my life has been crazy busy in the most recent past, I want to share here all that I am thankful for, because you shoud never take your blessings for granted. So, the first thing I am thankful for is my Writing to be Read platform, because it allows me to share what’s on my mind.

You may have noticed that the posts on Writing to be Read have tapered off of late, and of course, you would be correct in saying so. The fact is, Writing to be Read, has gone through many changes over the past year or so, and it looks like there may be more in store in the near future. Both Robin Conley and Jeff Bowles have had to step away due to life issues. Life happens to the best of us, so we can’t fault either of them, only hope that their life issues turn out to be the good kind, the kind that takes them both onward and upward to bigger and better life experiences, so we can be thankful for them. And I’m thankful for the time we were blessed with their talent and their content.

Teacher, Teacher

I’ve had my own life issues, of the good kind. At least, they’ve been good for me and I am thankful for them in this season which is for the giving of thanks. When I went back to school for my Master’s degree, I never would have guessed that my next career move would bring me back to Western State Colorado University on the teaching end of the system. By a stroke of luck, that’s just what happened, and things have been moving pretty fast for me. I didn’t realize how much time I’d need to grade papers, but it’s a lot. As a result, my posts here, on Writing to be Read has suffered. I haven’t had the time I need to write, let alone read books for review from an already backlogged que. It was fortunate that I had sent out the interviews for the Book Marketing series before I morphed into Professor Booth. I already had a lot of that series in place, so you maybe didn’t notice my absence quite so much while it ran, even as my regular book reviews began to taper.

Over the past few weeks since the series ended, I’m sure you’ve noticed a lack of content, (one week there wasn’t even one post), which is unusual, since over the past couple of years my content has run fairly steady. And now you know why it hasn’t been lately. But I’m thankful for the wonderful opportunity which has taken my time away from Writing to be Read, even if I’m not so thankful for the lack of content and the drops in the number of visitors to the blog.

And, I am thankful that even as I dig myself out from beneath a mountain of essays, life on the writing front continues, almost without me, but not every endeavor can be a success. The Halloween release of my short “A Turn of the Tables” in the HallowErotica anthology was a bust. The publisher of the anthology got cold feet and backed out at the last minute. I didn’t mind that things didn’t work out, so much as I minded the fact that all the contributors had already been pounding on the promotion pretty hard. As short on time as I’ve been, I ran the Excerpt, and did social media promotion for the blog and the release event on Facebook, and I really felt like it had all been time wasted. But, you know what they say, “S**t happens”. I’d already had a few doubts about the quality of the publication, so it’s probably all for the best. I am thankful for the learning experience it provided, and it’s prompted me to consider more seriously doing a short story collection of my own. I think I’m going to go for it. At least that way, I will have control of the publication and promotion details.

The Collapsar Directive

I’m also thankful that the above mentioned experience is so unlike my foray with Zombie Pirates Publishing, which I can only say has been a pleasure all the way. You may remember that my short science fiction story, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”’ appeared in their Collapsar Directive anthology last August? No? Well, it did and they did a bang up job on the publication and promotion of the anthology. It was a class A piece of work, featuring stories by some very talented authors.

But now, I have another story, “The Devil Made Her Do It”, coming out in December in their next anthology, Relationship Add Vice, now available for preorder, and I’m really excited about it. The story is about a straight laced home town girl who finds herself unexplainably drawn to a strangely magnetizing man. I just finished with my part of the edits, because all contributors take part in the editing and promotion processes with ZPP, and once again, there are some really excellent stories in this collection. It makes me proud to know my work will be featured in a quality anthology. ***Warning: Shameless plug ahead*** The release date is in December, right before Christmas, and they’d make great Christmas gifts for all your literary friends.

Relationship Add Vice

In the more distant past, I am thankful for finding a publisher for Delilah. It’s been an interesting experience and I learned a lot from it.  The book is now available in both ebook and paperback. I’m also thankful for the wonderful reviews the book has received. In September, I got a royalty check. It wasn’t a lot, but it made me smile. People are reading my book. That’s so cool. I am definitely thankful for that.

Delilah and Horse Web Cover - Copy

I started to get the sequel to Delilah down on the page, getting only a short way into the second chapter before professordom took its toll. I’ve been working on it, writing a sentence at a time if it’s all the time I can find to write. I am always thankful for every spare minute I can find to write. Although I haven’t had a lot of time to actually work on it, the plot line has been simmering in my head, and is close to being ready to emerge, so stay tuned for updates. I do have the first three chapters. And as always, I’m thankful that I’m able to put words to page in a meaningful and entertaining way.

And of course, I’m thankful for my readers. That’s why I’m offering a free promotion of my short story, Last Call to coincide with the Cyber-Monday 2017 promotional event on November 27, which Sonoran Dawn Studios is hosting on Facebook. One more thing I am thankful for is my friend, D.L. Mullen, who runs Sonora Dawn Studios and acts as my P.A. and cover designer, helping me with a lot of my marketing needs. Her help has proved invaluable. I don’t know how I would do it wothout her.

Last Call Diner with Mug2 200

Of course, this was only a reprieve to jot this blog post down. There’s always more grading to do, and I need to get to it, so I need to get this posted. Academic writing is historically a pretty stiff and rigid class, nothing a student would label as fun. I have tried to incorporate interesting material into my course with the help of Dr. Mark Todd, English professor, author, and paranormal investigator, and from the looks of my students’ most recent drafts, I think I may have captured the attention of many. Although the course is pretty structured, I’m finding that academic writing has more in common with writing fiction than I had previously believed. No matter the inkwell your writing springs from, the rules of good writing always apply. Maybe I’ll talk about that in my next blog post. I hope you’ll join me.

Until then, Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?

 

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HallowErotica Anthology to be Released October 31

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HallowErotica 2017 comes from the creative minds of Scerina Elizabeth, Lucille Moncrief, and D. Fischer.  With a release date of October 31, this collection of short Paranormal, Horror, and Erotica stories from various authors including R. Tran, Kaye Lynne Booth, and Amy Hamilton promises to give readers a Halloween they’ll never forget.

Yep. That’s my name in there. In addition to being on the FMB book blog tour, HallowErotica 2017 features my story, A Turn of the Tables. The release date is, well, Halloween of course! They’re having a big HallowErotica 2017 Release Party on Facebook starting at 6 p.m. EST, and I or my PA, DL Mullen will be entertaining you throughout the 7 p.m. EST slot, so be sure to drop by.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing one of the creators of HallowErotica 2017, paranormal romance author Scerina Elizabeth for one of her other tours, and I also featured an excerpt from her book, Eternally Yours: Bloodlines.

As a special treat today, I’m featuring an excerpt from my first attempt at vampire erotica. (But we’ll keep things on the blog rated ‘R’ or under). So without further ado, here’s an excerpt from A Turn of the Tables, by yours truly:

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The sign on the door read Melina Dupree, M.D. – Psychiatrist. Michael straightened his lapel on his pinstriped suit, focusing on creating a mental shield before entering the office. Without it, mortals often felt ill at ease around his kind. The Elder Council wanted him to keep a low profile and had warned Michael to control his temper when he was chosen for the assignment. The council needed this mortal alive for now. Her research on how blood pathogens affect certain brain disorders had yielded information that could be quite unsettling to the entire vampire society.

Dr. Dupree had not found what she was looking for, but unwittingly, one of the pathogens she’d created had the potential to wipe out all vampires. It was unknown whether she herself, realized what her research had uncovered. Under other circumstances the Elder Council would have the research destroyed and she would be eliminated. But this mortal was surrounded by the aura of a coven of powerful witches, sworn enemies of all vampires. Her connection to the Sarenrea wasn’t clear, but Michael’s instructions were to bring her before the council without alerting the coven.

He pushed open the glass door to the office. Two large salt water fish tanks almost covered an entire wall on either side of the waiting room. Six tacky leather chairs sat in line in front of a gray metal desk. A girl, perhaps in her early twenties, with straight blond hair and too much make-up, sat behind the desk filing her nails. She looked up as he entered.

“Please tell Dr. Dupree that Michael Wymond is here to see her,” he said, meeting her gaze with an intense stare.

The girl sat up straighter, scanning her appointment book. She pushed the button on the intercom on her desk. “Dr. Dupree, your seven o’clock appointment is here.”

Michael’s gaze did not waver from the girl behind the desk. It wouldn’t do for her to be here when he took Dupree out.

“Send him in.”

The girl looked up, meeting his gaze before glancing away to stare at the intercom with a blank expression. Without saying a word, she reached under the desk, grabbing her purse and sweater, and left the office. Michael smiled at the thought of her hitting the street, realizing she had no idea where she was headed.

In the inner office, the antique furnishings appeared authentic. They included a wooden filing cabinet next to a free-standing mirror to his left, a beveled glass bookshelf lining the right wall, a Victorian-style Chaise lounge that no doubt served as the “analysis couch” next to the wall, and the oak desk, which Dr. Dupree sat behind.

The Sarenrae aura hit Michael strong, as the doctor peered over her black-framed librarian’s glasses at him, smiling. He wondered if she chose that style to make her look more intellectual. It was a look that worked, combined with her sandy blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her blue tailored skirt and blazer. She was the perfect picture of what a psychiatrist should be, albeit a sexy one.

Her female scent was sensual. This one had pheromones dripping off her. It stirred the maleness left within him, hardening his member as if he were still mortal. He detected the odor of fresh sex emanating from between her thighs. She’d been fucked not long ago, and still the scent of her need clung to her.

He closed his eyes, blocking his mind to those sexual thoughts, which he knew could lead nowhere. At the same time, he opened himself to her mind to see what he might learn. It was strange that he sensed no malice from her. A Sarenrae should be able to detect his true nature even with his mind shielded, but she seemed to be unaware.

When he opened his eyes, she was checking him out. Her eyes roved up and down him as she accessed the muscular man standing before her in a dark blue hoodie and black jeans. “How may I help you, Mr. Wymond?” she asked, tipping her head just a fraction to the side, her deep violet-blue eyes penetrating the depths of his stare.

Such strange eyes, meeting his gaze and holding it, drawing his eyes to hers. He’d play it cool while he probed her mind more for the answers he sought.

“I’m not here as a patient,” he said.

Her aura was strong and unmistakable, but he sensed no conscious connection with the coven. Then, a shield snapped up around her mind, like a light bulb burning out, and her thoughts were closed to him. It caught him off guard. Most mortals didn’t have strong enough minds to keep him out, but this one didn’t even seem to be aware that she’d done it.

She gazed at him with raised brow. “Then why are you here?”

With her mind shielded, subtle was out. He chose a more direct approach. “I’m a vampire,” he said with a smile, taking a seat on the leather armchair across the desk from her.

“A vampire?” She peered over her glasses at him once more, the corners of her mouth turning up ever so slightly, her brows raised over those deep blue eyes. “Of course. Is that why you request an evening appointment?” she asked.

Michael ran his hand up over the top of his head, pushing unruly black curls back from his face. Her disbelief seemed genuine. He took a deep breath, reminding himself to have patience with this mortal. He needed her, for now. “You think I’m crazy,” he said, placing his hands on the desk across from her. “You should be quaking with fear, but you’re not.”

She looked up, again meeting his gaze. “Those in my profession prefer not to label people in such manner,” she said, scribbling something on the yellow legal pad in front of her.

Each time she tipped her head as she wrote he could see her jugular pulsing in her beautifully curved neck. That, combined with the smell of her blood created a strong urge in him to jump over the desk and drink her dry, but he knew he couldn’t risk it. Perhaps when the Elder Council had finished with her…

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For more information on HallowErotica 2017 you can visit our official site @ https://scerinaelizabeth.wixsite.com/hallowerotica2017 or contact me via email Admin@ScerinaElizabeth.NET

 

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“Short Stories Not Forgotten” may be too short

Short Stories Not Forgotten

Short Stories Not Forgotten by Calvin Bender is a small collection of short fiction. As I’ve mentioned many times, a big problem with a lot of short fiction is that authors fail to get in a full story arc. With this collection four, that is a problem with every piece. In fact, these seem more like brief ideas, each being a good start for something, but none following through to make a complete story. Every one ended abruptly, with none feeling quite finished. If the author just would have given us more. In all honesty, I can’t give it more than two quills.

Two 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.