Posted: May 6, 2020 Filed under: Comic Hero, Fiction, Inspirational, Super Hero, Words to Live By, Writing, Writing to be Read | Tags: Comic Book Heroes, Comic books, DC, Marvel, Super Heroes, Words to Live By, Writing to be Read
The first Wednesday of every month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.
Look, Up in the Sky!
This month on Writing to be Read, we’ll be celebrating one of America’s original storytelling mediums, the comic book. In any other given year, one not smitten with the likes of COVID-19, May would see the release of the latest big-budget movies from Marvel and DC, their publishing divisions would be rolling out their next huge crossover events, and Free Comic Book Day would invite fans and newbies alike to visit their local comic shops and sample what’s available these days.
This year isn’t like any other year, of course. Practically everyone on the planet is being asked to make sacrifices to keep themselves and others safe. Superheroes are great at making sacrifices. In fact, you could say it’s their most important superpower. The truth is we don’t have to go out to the movies or visit a comic shop to witness feats of incredible valor and strength. All we have to do is look at the people around us. In fact, all we have to do is look in the mirror.
Now I know what you may be thinking, especially if you’ve never been a fan of the medium or if you’ve got no love for spandex-clad do-gooders on the silver screen. It is a certainty you’ve noticed Hollywood has pledged a good deal of their resources to the production of films and television series based on superheroes and supervillains. I have to tell you, as a longtime fan, it sort of gives me a thrill. When I was growing up, only nerds liked comics, spotty young men and women who argued with each other about who would win in a fight, Batman or Spider-Man, who dwelt in their parents basements and only went into the sun to hiss at it and then stalk around Lon-Chaney-style, searching for more comics.
That stereotype isn’t even close to accurate, but look, up until about fifteen years ago, it was supremely uncool to be into this stuff. Which is why I’m so pleased I inherited an absolute passion for it.
My brother, Chris, is ten years older than me, quite an age difference by the standards of most families with only two children. He started reading and collecting comics around about the time I was born, and when I was old enough to read them, he got me hooked as well. I learned so much about my favorite comic characters from cartoons and movies, but it was really Chris who taught me everything I needed to know, who allowed me to glimpse these worlds as they really are: static on the page, but full of life in your mind.
The sum total value of that knowledge is this: comic books are fun, colorful, dynamic, easy on the eyes, and short. Their stories take place over twenty-two pages, and they’re almost always about doomsday scenarios and strong, noble crusaders who nip them in the bud. I remember going through stacks and stacks of my brother’s collection, marveling at the artwork, the boldness and speed of the actual storytelling. Some of the best memories of my life involve curling up with my own short stack of comics. I looked up to Chris with all my heart. I still do. He’s a personal hero of mine.
Lots of people have analyzed the relationship between comics and myth, the Hero with a Thousand Faces, a modern manifestation of our desire for legends and tall tales. But I honestly think people’s love of superheroes, especially in today’s world, stems from a basic psychological need for good examples, guiding lights. If you venture into the world right now, you’ll see that heroes are everywhere. They’re the doctors and nurses staffing our hospitals, putting their lives on the line so we can be happy and healthy. They’re the people who continue to produce and provide us with food, the butcher at the grocery store, the delivery guy who gets your pizza to you right on time.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Even you, who must battle fear just to run a few weekly errands. And rather than seeing these fictional figures as a breed totally outside our experience, it might be more helpful to analyze their existence in relation to our deepest desires. Maybe we can see ourselves in the likes of Superman and Captain America. It doesn’t take much to look beyond yourself and lend people a helping hand when they need it, and this is the basic nature of the superhero.
Sure, their exploits are silly sometimes, even nonsensical. They wear ridiculous costumes and rattle off cheesy one-liners. You could even argue they set a bad example for young people, because no matter what seems to occur, they almost always solve every problem with their fists. But the truth is the modern world needs them. Realistically speaking, we’ve all got a good guy dwelling in our hearts and minds, and it’s possible, if we really try, to take courage and strength, and at the best of times, to let our inner super shine.
A lot of folks criticize Marvel and DC movies for their overreliance on end-of-the-world scenarios, but it’s all a subconscious thing, isn’t it? We’ve all had our personal doomsdays, have all needed to be strong when fate was against us and luck simply was not on our side. It’s a quaint pastime, reading comic books. There’s nothing magical or mystical about it. Just the enjoyment of disappearing into another world for about twenty minutes, and then reaching over to your brother’s stack and picking out another adventure.
We here at Writing to Be Read believe strongly in literacy and the spread of a better kind of virus, good storytelling. My storytelling mode of choice is often comics, which taught me right and wrong, strength and courage in the face of adversity, and which allowed me to form a connection with my brother that I value and cherish to this day. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my Mom and Dad, who bought us all those comics for all those years. As a writer, I learned a great deal of the craft from this medium. As a human being, I learned everything I needed to know about how to treat others with dignity and respect.
If nothing else, comics are clearly a great bonding opportunity, and in their purest expression, they allow us to feel, if only for a little while, like we too can bend steel, soar through the air, and leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Have a wonderful May, everybody, and tune in all month long for more superhero and supervillain themed posts and articles. We’re all in this together, always have been and always will be. You don’t have to wear a cape and save my life to be a hero in my book. All you’ve got to do is turn to your fellow man, decide you can help, and then do everything in your power to make it happen. Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
Up, up and away, everybody.
Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!
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Posted: May 4, 2020 Filed under: Animation, Blog Content, Comic Hero, Movies, Super Hero, Super Villains, Writing to be Read | Tags: Comic books, David Perlmutter, DC, Echo One, Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows, Jason Henderson, Kevin J. Anderson, Marvel, Superhero, Supervillain, Writing to be Read
In May, on Writing to be Read, our theme is Superheroes & Supervillains in celebration of comic books and comic universes, and all that it has evolved into over the years. Comic books aren’t really in my wheelhouse. I’m more of a Saturday morning cartoon type of gal, with Underdog and Mighty Mouse as my favorite heroes, and I still watch reruns of the original Batman series with Adam West and Burt Ward on ME TV. But I wanted to run this theme because I think there is a little bit of superhero in every protagonist we write, and a little bit of supervillain in every adversary.
Because I’m not versed in the comic universes, I’m turning to others, who know comics and superheroes much better than I. Jeff Bowels is much younger and wiser in this area, and he will be offering us his expertise and insight on the evolution of the comic and its characters this month, as well as a look at the similarities and differences between the characters of the Marvel and DC universes. In addition, my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest this month is international bestselling author, Kevin J. Anderson, who also authored the book, Enemies and Allies. My supporting interview will be with comic author and novelist, Jason Henderson, who most recently authored Young Captain Nemo. Both of these authors appeared at the recent WordCrafter 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference and they know what it takes to create superheroes and supervillains in their own science fiction and fantasy writing. My review for The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows, by David Perlmutter posted last Friday, and I will also be reviewing Echo One: Tales From the Secret Chronicles anthology from WordFire Press. And don’t miss “Mind Fields” this month, where Art Rosch will give us a piece on the character development of villains.
Comics are based on serialized art, and Famous Funnies is considered by many to be the first comic book, coming out in 1933 and publishing until 1955. DC‘s Superman got his start in a comic strip, and he was the first character to wear a cape, setting the image for many of the superheroes that have followed. He made his debut in his own comic book in 1939, the same year that Marvel launched Timely Comics. Not long after, DC came out with Batman in Detective Comics #27, the most sought after comic among collectors and fans alike, and he and Superman both celebrated their 80th birthdays last year.
Other superhero characters followed, including Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Aquaman, who along with Batman and and Superman, came to be known as the Big Seven of DC’s Justice League, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four: Mister Fantastic, Invisible Girl (now Invisible Woman), Thing and Human Torch, and Marvel’s X-Men: Professor X, Cyclops, Iceman, Angel (later known as Archangel), Beast and Marvel Girl (a.k.a. Pheonix/Dark Pheonix). And let’s not forget Marvel’s Hulk, Spiderman, and Ironman, Wolverine, and DC’s Swamp Thing.
It’s interesting to see how the characters, and comics have evolved into other forms of media. While comic books remain popular, as the turnout for any Comicon can demonstrate, today we see comics and comic book characters in the form of graphic novels, and they’ve made the jump to visual media, first in television, and then in film. We’ve also seen the rise of the anti-hero, giving us characters such as Dead Pool, who are the epitome of the reluctant hero in every hero’s journey. (See my review of Dead Pool (2016) here.) Although superhero, (and anti-hero), movies had a lull in popularity during the 1980s and 90s, they’ve seen a rise during the 21st century and are big money at the box office today. Statista claims that the superhero movies of 2019 grossed 3.2 billion dollars in combined domestic revenue.
However, we can only weigh the strength and goodness of the superhero by the evilness and capabilities of the villains they face. DC wove the history behind how Batman’s first adversary came to become a supervillain, the notorious Joker. Just as superheroes evolve and change, so do supervillains, and the Joker is no exception. He has changed and evolved over the years, but not always on the same evolutionary time table as superheroes. (See Jeff Bowels’ review of Joker from 2019.) But even with a supervillain, who is super-evil, there must always be a grain of humanity that makes them vulnerable. They weren’t just born evil. They have tragic histories that have twisted them into the super-evil, hard hearted villains that they are, and that makes them relatable on some level, even if we can’t bring ourselves to root for them and breath a sigh of relief when they meet their demise.
The heroes and villains in genre fiction may not have super powers or be invincible, but they do share certain qualities with the superheroes and supervillains of the comic book world, like altruism (for heroes), and selfishness and greed (for villains), and basic humanity (for all). They have a lot to teach us about making relatable heroes and villains we can love to hate. Please join us this month as we explore the world of comics, superheroes and supervillains, on Writing to be Read.
I shared above that my favorite comic superheroes as a kid were Mighty Mouse, Underdog and Batman. Let me know in the comments who your favorite superheroes or supervillains are, and why they are your favorite in the comments. Let’s talk superheroes and supervillains.
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Posted: March 2, 2020 Filed under: Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, weird western, Western, western romance, Writing to be Read | Tags: classic western, weird western, Western, western romance, Writing to be Read
The western genre has always been about man against the elements, man against man, and man against nature. Western heroes are tough and rugged, and ready to face outlaws, Indians, wild animals, and any inclement of bad weather to uphold right and see justice done. In the western genre that I grew up with the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black, and there was no question as to who was who. Cowboys were rough and rowdy, but they were gentleman when a lady was present, tipping their hats and addressing her as Ma’am. There was a clear sense of right and wrong in westerns written by Louis L’Amore and Zane Grey, and right always won out in the end.
Today’s westerns are different. Although you can still find the classic western with authors such as my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Cherokee Parks, or the guest for my supporting interview, Alan Dean Foster. But, the western of today isn’t as clear cut. Today’s westerns look past lawmen and outlaws to the less known factions of western society, with protagonists such as soiled doves, Indians, Negroes, and immigrants from many different countries, who may be looked down upon by some as less desirable, so they must work harder to convince the reader that they are the good guy. They portray segments of the western populations which have been previously overlooked or devalued. Although members of near invisible populations, they were a part of the western culture and western fiction is now giving them voice. The tales may be fiction, but the portrayal of life in the western landscape is not romanticized as much as it once may have been. It may be more stark and brutal in many ways, but they are true to the places and times of their settings.
In the western genre market, there are more female authors than ever before, and that means more female protagonists. A woman as main character can’t be a delicate flower who cowers behind her man as in westerns of old. The women of the west were tough, because they had to be. It was often a matter of survival. Even in western romance, the women are strong willed and determined, and they play many different roles on the western frontier. We all know that many women made a living in the parlor houses, bordellos, and saloons, but women played many other roles on the western frontier, and today’s western authors are capitalizing on that.
My own western, Delilah, features a tough and gritty female protagonist who, at the age of nineteen, is already hardened against life’s trials. Although not actually a romance, it does have that romance element, but she must learn to love again before that story line can come to completion. Delilah is being re-released this month with a great new cover, (designed by WordCrafter), and new front materials, including forewords by western authors Robert Hanlon and C. Emerson Law. I’m looking for feedback, so please let me know what you think of the new cover in the comments.
The historical westerns of Loretta Miles Tollefson, such as her short fiction collection, Old One Eye Pete, which I’ll be reviewing, are embedded in New Mexico territory in the 1800s. Many of Tollefson’s books feature tough female protagonists who do what they must to survive the harsh landscape and harsher men of the times, who rise above the traditional female role through strength and courage. I think an author must work harder to sell to women characters in non-traditional roles to the reader, but if written well, they make interesting and, often colorful characters that enhance their stories. readers don’t want to put down. Western romance is in abundance. At the end of March, Writing to be Read will feature a special post about my experience as a judge of the western romance category, including reviews of some of my favorite entries.
But in contemporary times, space westerns venture into the science fiction genre, and there are even western fantasy stories, such as the steampunk western romance series of Jordan Elizabeth. Westerns have branched out to combine with the paranormal, creating the weird western sub-genre, such as Death Wind, by Travis Heerman and Jim Pinto, which I will be reviewing this month. This sub-genre is growing in popularity as authors realize the potential for supernatural tales from the old west. The western frontier leaves behind many ghosts and contemporary authors are realizing their story potential.
Paranormal western is the genre for the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, but there have only been a few entries. I think maybe authors shy away from the western genre, especially those outside the U.S. that are not so familiar with the history of the American frontier. But the American frontier is not the only possible setting for a western story. Think Quiggly Down Under, for a western story set in the Australian Outback. Every country has western style stories in their history. As long as there is a western element and a paranormal element of some type in your story, it qualifies as an entry. It can be about zombies rambling over the western prairie, on vampires nesting in the Rockies. It can be a haunted hotel or saloon in a frontier town, or a restless spirit that refuses to pass on until the hombre that pulled the trigger on them pays for what he done. If you are a creative writer, then step up and take the challenge to write a paranormal western and send it to me. The deadline is April 30th, so there’s still plenty of time. Don’t forget, the author of the winning story will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. You can find the complete submission guidelines here.
Join us on Writing to be Read as we ride the landscape of the western genre and explore the possibilities. The western genre is alive and well today, although it may look different than expected. I love to hear from readers, so be sure to leave a comment to let me know you’ve visited. Also feel free to like and share.
Reviews of westerns by Loretta Miles Tollefson:
The Pain and the Sorrow
Not Just Any Man
Not My Father’s House
Reviews of steampunk western romances by Jordan Elizabeth:
Reviews of weird westerns:
Hell’s Butcher series, by Chris Barili
Chance Damnation, by DeAnna Knippling
2019 interviews with western authors:
Scott Harris – classic western
Juliette Douglas – western romance
Patricia PacJac Carroll – Christian western romance
Loretta Miles Tollefson – historical western
Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.
Posted: January 6, 2020 Filed under: Blog Content, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Self-Help, Writing, Writing to be Read | Tags: Creative Nonfiction, essays, How To, Memoir, Self-Help, True Story, Writing to be Read
Nonfiction is the stuff texts books are made of, the straight-out boring stuff that puts you to sleep, right? Not necessarily. Texts books don’t have to be boring. Nonfiction that is written creatively can capture the reader’s interest or immerse them into true life stories. From memoir, to self-help and how-to books, and yes, even text books can be highly entertaining.
True life circumstances and facts determine the story in nonfiction, yet nonfiction authors are faced with the same challenges as fiction authors to bring the characters and setting to life in the readers mind, or portray the information they wish to relate in a manner which readers can relate to. Both fiction and nonfiction authors strive to grab readers attention, now, in this digital age more so than ever before. But there are differences, as well.
To start off 2020, we’re going to delve into creative nonfiction in January. We have a pretty good sampling on the different forms that creative nonfiction might take. My author guest on “Chatting with the Pros” is bestselling author and memoirist, Diana Raab, who believes in the healing powers of writing. I will also be interviewing an author team, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd, who wrote Wild West Ghosts, one of the most informative and entertaining how-to books I’ve read. I will also be reviewing a true crime book, Missing: Murder Suspected, by Austin Stone, edited by his son Ed after his father’s passing, and a book on writing, On Being a Dictator, by Kevin J. Anderson and Martin Shoemaker. I do hope you will join us and help get Writing to be Read off to a good start for the year ahead.
For additional samplings of creative nonfiction see the following interviews and reviews:
“Chatting with the Pros: Interview with Nonfiction Author Mark Shaw”
“Interview with author Mark Shaw”
“Interview with author B.Lynn Goodwin”
Review: How I Sold 80,000 Books: Book Marketing for Authors by Alinka Rowkowski
“Interview with multi-genre author Brenda Mohammed”
“Interview with nature author Susan J. Tweit”
Review: How to Become a Published Author, by Mark Shaw
Review: The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman
Review: Stress: How Stress Affects Your Life and How to Manage It, by Dr. Christine Rose
Review: Hack Your Reader’s Brain, by Jeff Gerke
Review: Horror 101: The Way Forward (Crystal Lake Publishing)
Review: Hollywood Game Plan, by Caro;e Kirschner
Review: Simplified Writing 101, by Erin Brown Conroy
Review: The Road Has Eyes, by Art Rosch
Review: The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, by Mark Shaw
Review: Denial of Justice, by Mark Shaw
Review: Courage in the Face of Evil, by Mark Shaw
Review: Letters of May, edited by Julie Alcin
Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.
Posted: December 16, 2019 Filed under: Blog Content, Writing, Writing to be Read, WtbR Team Members | Tags: Arthur Rosch, Arthur's Visual Media Reviews, Chatting with the Pros, Growing Bookworms, Jeff Bowles, Jeff's Movie Reviews, Jordan Elizabeth, Mind Fields, Robbie Cheadle, Words to Live By, Write Me Better, Writing for a YA Audience, Writing to be Read
Wow! It’s hard to believe that 2020 will be celebrating 10 years of Writing to be Read!
We have a promising line-up shaping up and I think it will be an exciting year ahead. I’ll share some of that line-up with you, but first, let’s take a brief look at how Writing to be Read has gotten to where it is today in celebration of those first nine years. (For long time followers who have been with me a while, I may have said some of this before because I reflect on the evolution of my endeavors often, but bear with me because there are some really great changes coming.)
When I started Writing to be Read, back in 2010, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the blog, but I knew I wanted to write and I wanted somebody to read what I wrote. I was not yet a published author, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was determined to do it. I’d written for three years as the “Southern Colorado Literature Examiner” for Examiner.com, and I knew how to get review books and find authors willing to be interviewed, so that’s what I did.
Yet, I was still kind of bungling my way through. Kind of like how Laurel and Hardy always seem to make a mess of things, but in the end they manage to set things right. Of course I learned a lot along the way, and made adjustments to my blogging strategy, striving to come up with content that would bring readers to the site, because I wanted people to read my blog. After all, isn’t that what all we authors want in the end? For our writing to be read?
After I graduated from the M.F.A. program at Western State Colorado University in 2016, things began to pick up. While I learned to write book length works at Western, it also showed me the value of community in writing, which is often a solitary endeavor. We are all embarked upon our own personal author’s journey. Our joys and sorrows may be of a nature that only another author would be able to comprehend. With the growing number of indie authors out there, is important that we support and help one another along the way. Not only was I sitting on the perfect platform to promote my own books and writing, but Writing to be Read is a tool that can be used to grow community among my fellow authors.
The first blog series I created, was “Ask the Authors”, which I ran in two rounds in 2017, with the help of several great authors, who were willing to donate their time for twelve weeks for each segment. It was a successful series in which I interviewed participating authors on many aspects of writing, with the idea that we learn from those who have gone before us. Most of those authors’ words will be appearing in a book of the same name as the series, which I had hoped to publish this year through WordCrafter Press, but has now been pushed back into the coming year. (Before the release of Ask the Authors, the content must be removed from the web, so be aware that the series content will soon be removed from the blog.)
Over the past year, Writing to be Read is approaching 10,000, and many visitors have become WtbR followers. I think there are several contributing factors that account for this, starting with the Motivational Strips Certificate of Honor, which I received in April and which is now displayed proudly in the sidebar below the WordCrafter logo, for contributions made in the global online writing communities through social media. It is still a labor of love, with the payoff coming with views and engagement, rather than monetary profit.
In 2019, I ran the monthly “Chatting with the Pros” series, featuring bestselling and award winning authors, in coincidence with monthly genre themes, which has been very popular. I had some wonderful authors, who graciously agreed to be interviewed for this series. The top two interviews, with award winning Christian fiction author Angela Hunt and with bestselling romance author Maya Rodale, brought over 100 views each, with the interview with the very prolific science fiction and fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson coming in a close third. Other great interviews that this series brought were with thriller novelist John Nichol, horror authors Paul Kane and Jeffrey J. Mariotte, women’s fiction author Barbara Chapaitis, young adult fiction author Carol Riggs, crime fiction author Jenifer Ruff, mystery author Gilly Macmillon, western author Scott Harris, and nonfiction author Mark Shaw.
Also aligned with the monthly genre themes were supporting interviews with less known, but talented authors. I am pleased to find the top viewed supporting interview to be with accomplished author and scholar Shiju Pallithazheth, who has dedicated himself to the support of achievement in quality writing and is the founder of the Motivational Strips social media group. The second and third top supporting interviews were with horror author Roberta Eaton Cheadle and with nature author Susan J. Tweit.
I also reviewed many top notch books over the year’s course. Book reviews don’t tend to bring in as many views as interviews do, but the views they do bring in add up when counted. The top review for 2019, was Simplified Writing 101, making this the top review every year since I posted it, back in 2016 with over 300 total views. That’s a lot of views for a book review.
The second most viewed book review was a review from 2018, Dan Alatorre’s Night Visions horror anthology, and the third was Jordan Elizabeth’s Cogling, from 2016. That’s the nice thing about book reviews – they’re all evergreen. The top reviews actually posted in 2019 were for God’s Body, by Jeff Bowles; Selected Stories: Science Fiction Volume 2, by Kevin J. Anderson, and Through the Nethergate, by Roberta Eaton Cheadle.
Also, the addition of team members and their blog series added variety to the blog and provided more consistent publication of content on a regular basis. Writing to be Read wouldn’t be where it is today without their content. Robin Conley is a team member who is no longer with WtbR, but her evergreen “Writing Memos” make her posts receive the most views each year because they offer good, solid writing tips on the basics of writing.
The active team member with the most views in 2019 is Robbie Cheadle with her “Growing Bookworms” blog series on children’s literature and the promotion of reading. Robbie joined us at the beginning of 2019 and she’s had over 1000 views of her posts over the course of the year. Her most popular post was “Developing imagination and creativity through reading”. (For the full 2019 active contributor line-up, see my Thanksgiving post.)
Arthur’s Visual Media Reviews
Jeff’s Movie Reviews
The Writing to be Read following has grown with each passing year, as has the daily average for views, and 2019 has been the best year yet. Now we are at a time when we must look ahead to the coming year and find ways to make WtbR even better. I’ve been working on the 2020 blog schedule and I’d like to share anticipated changes with you here.
For 2020, we are going to continue with the monthly genre themes and the “Chatting with the Pros” blog series. Obviously you can’t cover all the genres in twelve months, so next year we’ll cover some that we missed, as well as giving some we did some more in depth coverage. The tentative theme schedule includes creative nonfiction, romance, western, fantasy, comic books and superheroes, speculative fiction, science fiction, young adult fiction, mystery/suspense thriller, horror/dark fiction/paranormal, action adventure, and children’s fiction. Let me know in the comments what genres you think I am missing, or if you know of an author of one of the genres covered who would be interested in giving me an interview. Writing to be Read wants to create content that its readers want, so I want to hear from you.
There will be a few changes with the Writing to be Read team, including four great new blog series! I am sad to say that Jordan Elizabeth will no longer be with the team, and her “Writing for a Y.A. Audience” blog series will be discontinued. However, the other team members have jumped right in to fill all holes in the scheduling as we moved series around and made changes.
For 2020, Art Rosch’s “The Many Faces of Poetry” will be discontinued, but it will be replaced the last Wednesday of each month with Art’s new series, “Mind Fields”. Art is always full of surprises and the segments for this new series may be on just about any topic, but they are guaranteed to be interesting and entertaining. Art actually posted a preview segment back in November to give us a little sample, with a journey into the realms beyond death in “Hitler’s Afterlife“. You may love it or hate it, but you’re sure to get a chuckle. “Arthur’s Visual Media Reviews” will continue to be on the last Friday of each month.
Jeff Bowles will continue his “Jeff’s Movie Reviews” the third Friday of each month, but “Jeff’s Pep Talk” will not appear in 2020. Instead, Jeff will offer a new series, “Words to Live By” on the first Wednesday of every month. Jeff will also fill the series slot on the third Wednesday of each month that was left open by Jordan’s departure with a new series, “Write Me Better”, which will offer writing challenges to rewrite the classics. I’m really excited about this new series because it offers the potential for reader interaction. I can’t wait to see what each of you comes up with when stepping up to Jeff’s challenges to rewrite the classics with your own style and flair. It should be a lot of fun. I may even have to try my hand at this one.
Robbie Cheadle will continue her “Growing Bookworms” series on the second Wednesday of each month and she will also offer a new poetry series on the last Saturday of each month, “Treasuring Poetry”. I was particularly pleased with the idea for this series because it offers a way to keep poetry alive on Writing to be Read. Poetry is like painting with words to create something that is beautiful for its structure and form, beyond simple meaning, and I’ve always felt it was important to have poetry included here in some way. When I first started Writing to be Read, before it was on this site, I ended each post I made with a poem. Although I have had a few poems published, my knowledge of verse is minimal. Robbie, however is quite involved in poetry communities on social media and she has the poetic know how to carry this new blog series.
As you can see, we have some really exciting new blog series for the coming year, as well as some old favorites. My guest authors and reviews are beginning to shape up, too, with some great authors and great books. I’m still searching for more though, so if you’d like to be interviewed or have a book you’d like reviewed in the coming year, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you and include you in my 2020 line-up.
On a final note, I’ve been considering switching to a paid site to eliminate some of the advertising and open up the options of what I can do with the blog. As you all know, Writing to be Read is a labor of love and the profit I get from it is in watching my following grow and engaging with my readers. So, my question to all of you now is, if I went to a paid site, would you be willing to make a donation to help cover the cost, or are you happy with the site the way it is? Please let me know what you think in the comments.
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Posted: December 2, 2019 Filed under: Books, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Writing, Writing for a YA Audience, Writing to be Read, Young Adult | Tags: Children's Stories, controversial topics, Illustrations, Writing to be Read, Young Adult Fiction
In November we’ve been seeking out children’s and young adult fiction on Writing to be Read. There are a few differences in writing for our younger readers from writing for adults. As authors, we are in a position to shape young minds, and that’s a big responsibility.
Fiction for adults relies on our words to paint a visual image for the reader, but stories for beginning readers rely heavily on illustrations to enhance our words for youngsters. Authors who have the ability to illustrate their own books may be at an advantage, because illustrations can be a sizable expense for authors like myself, who do not possess such abilities. (Long time Writing to be Read followers may be aware that I once tried to have the first book in the My Backyard Friends series published, but a halt was put on the project after a five year publication process, when the arrangement for illustrations fell through. So, I speak of this added obstacle for children’s authors first hand.)
My interview with author and artist Judy Mastrangelo talks about her Portal to the Land of Fae series and her other works, and shares several of the author’s bright and colorful illustrations. I found her work to be delightful in both text and illustrations in my review of Flower Fairies, and I’ve no doubt that her stories are enjoyed by both young and old.
Young adult authors are faced with a different dilemma, because the audience they write for still have the curiosity of children, but they are beginning to deal with adult issues in their lives, although they are not yet adults either. Controversial topics must be handled with sensitivity and finesse, because the Y.A. critics can be relentless, as is illustrated in this NY Times article about Y.A. author Amélie Wen Zhao.
On Writing to be Read, we looked at how Y.A. fantasy and science fiction author Carol Riggs deals with issues that might be frightening for adolescents in her Junction 2020 series on “Chatting with the Pros“, and saw how Jordan Elizabeth handles a dark fantasy story which deals with the controversial and often taboo topics of teen suicide, cutting, and depression in my review of Tabitha’s Death. Jordan also talks about the inspiration behind her fantasy novel, The Goat Children, which deals with the issue of Alzhiemer’s disease, on “Writing for a Y.A. Audience“.
Also in November, Robbie Cheadle also looked at the pros and cons of classic vs. contemporary children’s fiction on “Growing Bookworms“, and Jeff Bowles took a look at Disney’s new video streaming service, Disney+, on “Jeff’s Movie Reviews“, where we can find all the great tales of the Disney classics. What a great way to introduce our children to them, (or just re-watch them ourselves to indulge our own inner children).
In addition, we said goodbye to a great author, who was known and loved in the online writing communities in my “Tribute to Tom Johnson“. Tom was originally a pulp and science fiction author, but in recent years, he’s been writing children’s stories for the Wire Dog story collections. He will be greatly missed.
November has been a great month and we’ve explored a lot of children’s and young adult fiction. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself as much as I have. There is no theme for December, as I’m taking this time to breathe before the next round. I’ll be updating you about the changes that will be coming for 2020 on Writing to be Read, reviewing a couple of books which didn’t fit under this year’s themes, and throwing in a few surprises. I do hope you’ll all drop by and check it out.
Posted: March 18, 2019 Filed under: Books, Chatting with the Pros, Collaboration, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Fiction, Interview, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Teaching Writing, World Building, Writing, Writing to be Read | Tags: Chatting with the Pros, Fantasy, Kevin J. Anderson, Writing to be Read
My guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is an award winning and best selling author who has written countless novels and over 56 national and international best sellers. A majority of his works fall into the science fiction or fantasy genres, but he writes across many genres. In a recent introduction for “The Big Idea: Kevin J. Anderson“, an article about the latest release in his short fiction collection, Selected Stories, John Scalzi calls him, “one of the most prolific authors working today”, and one look at his immense book list on Amazon would leave no doubt that this is an accurate assessment. (You can find my review of selected stories here). He’s written a lot of books, 56 of which have hit the national and international best seller lists, and he’s been writing for many years, and I’m sure we will find his knowledge and experiences enlightening. Please help me welcome Kevin J. Anderson.
Kaye: You have written at least 56 national or international best sellers. What makes a good story in your mind?
Kevin: People want to read a good story with an exciting/interesting plot, a well-developed setting, and engaging characters. Make it a story you WANT to read, with clear prose and action. I don’t like muddled, glacial-paced stories where the prose is just too precious.
Kaye: Why science fiction and fantasy? Why not western or romance or mystery? What’s the attraction?
Kevin: Well, I’ve also written plenty of mysteries, and some of my work has been set in the old west, and most good stories have a strong romance component (though I don’t write category Romance or Westerns). I like to tell an interesting story, and I move around a lot among genres, even though I am primarily known for science fiction or fantasy. I grew up in a very mundane small town in rural Wisconsin, and I was captivated by SF/F from an early age, because it showed my imagination what was possible. I wanted to go to exotic places, whether they were filled with aliens or dragons. Science fiction took me to a much wider universe. (And as a skinny, nerdy kid with glasses and a bad haircut, “romance” wasn’t much of a possibility, so I stuck with spaceships and swords.)
Kaye: You wrote several Star Wars and X-Files novels. Is it difficult to immerse yourself in someone else’s settings and characters enough to pick up a thread and run with it in the same tone and writing style? How do you go about getting yourself into that mindset?
Kevin: It’s no more difficult than trying to immerse yourself in the old west or ancient Japan for a historical. A writer’s job is to absorb the story, characters, voice, and setting. I was already a big fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Files, and Dune, and I enjoyed going to work in those universes. In each instance, I would completely surround myself with the property — whether that meant watching the Star Wars films over and over again, or the episodes of the X-Files, or repeatedly rereading DUNE and its sequels. You pick up the manner of speaking, the “look and feel” of the world, and you make it into your own story.
Kaye: You’ve done several collaborations, including books of the Dune series, with Brian Herbert and the Clockwork books which you collaborated with Neil Peart, drummer for the band Rush. What is the biggest challenge when collaborating on a book?
Kevin: You both need to have the same vision for the book—which means a LOT of talking and brainstorming ahead of time—and you both need the same work ethic (so each partner puts in the same amount of time and effort…a tortoise and hare collaboration will just cause a lot of friction), and you need to be flexible. There’s never only ONE way to write a sentence or describe a scene. I would never want to collaborate with a diva!
Kaye: Do you belong to any writing organizations? If so, which ones? Do you feel your membership in these writing organizations have been helpful in your writing successes? How so?
Kevin: I belong to the Horror Writers Association (and edited three anthologies for them, the BLOOD LITE series), IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers), and SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, although some of their recent decisions have made me so upset that I would not renew my membership if I wasn’t already a lifetime member. The problem with such organizations is that you can become to engrossed in the politics and bickering that you forget your real purpose, which is to WRITE.
Kaye: You’ve written several series, including Saga of the Seven Suns, Dan Shamble P.I. and the Clockwork books? Are any of your books stand alone? Why do you lean toward series?
Kevin: I’ve written many standalone books. The one I just finished last week, a vampire/serial-killer thriller STAKE, that’s not part of a series. But I like to tell big stories, and once you’ve done all the effort of world building and character building an entire universe, you want to spend some time. To me, a trilogy is perfect — a beginning, middle, and end, with enough room to tell the story and describe the world in all its glory. Pragmatically speaking, it’s a much better decision commercially to build a series, because readers will want more and more, and each new book will help sell copies of previous volumes. Can you imagine if A.C. Doyle had stopped after writing only one Sherlock Holmes story?
Kaye: Science fiction authors create whole worlds from their imaginations, often with new languages created in their own minds, and you have created many. How do you go about creating a new language?
Kevin: Hmm, creating languages? I’m not really a linguist and I don’t know that I’ve developed full languages (though I do use weird words). I just make up the words by making what seem to be the appropriate sounds, linguistic flavors, scary sounds for monsters or villains, softer or ethereal sounds for pleasant things. I can’t really explain it more rigorously than that.
Kaye: Your work has won many prestigious awards. Which award are you most proud of? Why?
Kevin: Awards are awards, and it’s nice to have them, but I really prefer READERS. That’s what makes your writing worthwhile. It’s not terribly prestigious, but the award I value most is one I received very early in my career, when I received a trophy with an engraved brass plate and everything, naming me “The Writer with No Future” because I could produce more rejection slips than any other writer at an entire conference. To me, that didn’t mean I was a failure as a writer or that my work was awful—it proved that I was more persistent, that I kept trying, kept getting better, and never gave up. I still have that trophy.
Kaye: In addition to being an author, you and your wife, Rebecca Moesta, are publishers at Wordfire Press, but originally you were traditionally published. Why the switch to being your own publisher after being traditionally published for so many years?
Kevin: Survival. No choice. The publishing industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval equivalent to the Industrial Revolution, and I could either be a mammal and evolve or stay a dinosaur and go extinct. I am still traditionally published (four books released in 2018, in fact, and a new 3-book contract from Tor Books for an epic fantasy series), but I also have a lot of backlist titles that were out of print and my fans wanted to read them. So I started releasing them myself with all the innovations of new technology. It’s just another alternative.
Kaye: What does Wordfire press offer as a publisher for other authors?
Kevin: We are nimble and flexible, and we can produce books and get them to market far quicker than a traditional publisher can manage. But when you work with an indie publisher, or if you do it yourself, then you have to do all the work, all aspects of it. It’s another income stream and another way to get your book in front of your audience.
Kaye: Is Wordfire taking submissions? What type of fiction is Wordfire looking for?
Kevin: Not really, I’m afraid. When we are open, we’re looking for established writers who don’t need their hands held, writers who already have their own platforms, fanbases, and marketing efforts because we have to rely on them to do the work that a whole department at a traditional publisher would do.
Kaye: You recently signed on as an adjunct professor at Western State Colorado University and you are a finalist candidate for the director of their Certificate in Publishing program. What prompted you to venture into the world of academia?
Kevin: Actually, I’m now a full professor and I run their Masters program in Publishing. I will start the first group of MA students this coming summer. There’s a LOT of paperwork and bureaucracy in academia! I have taught writing and publishing quite often at countless writers’ conferences and conventions, most notably our own Superstars Writing Seminars, which is just hitting its tenth year. Becoming a professor and teaching at a beautiful university in the Colorado mountains is great, offers a little more stability than freelance writing, and (the bane of all freelancers) it gives me health insurance and benefits I wouldn’t otherwise get.
Kaye: Any writing pet peeves?
Kevin: I don’t like artsy-fartsy stuff, dense prose and opaque plots. Tell me a great story with a cool setting and interesting characters!
Kaye: Creating characters, developing plot, world building – what is the most challenging part of writing for you?
Kevin: Those are all fun, but if I had to choose I would say I have most difficulty with building rich, fleshed-out characters. Plotting and worldbuilding—that’s what I excel in.
Thanks to Kevin for sharing with us today. He’s given us food for thought with some really great answers. You can find more about Wordfire Press here: https://wordfirepress.com/. Kevin and his wife, Rebecca Moesta, head up the Superstars Writing Seminars each year in February, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for those interested in learning the business of writing. If you’d like to become a member of the Superstars Tribe, or would just like more information about Superstars, visit the folowing link: superstarswriting.com. Visit the links below to learn more about Kevin J. Anderson and his works.
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J-Anderson/e/B000AQ0072/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1545798018&sr=1-1-fkmr1
Wordfire Press: http://www.wordfire.com/
Join us next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when I’ll be chatting with romance author Maya Rodale. You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.