Welcome Jeff Bowles to “Writing to be Read”

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Last week we had our first guest post from the newest addition to the Writing to be Read team, author Jeff Bowles, who will be sharing his Pep Talk to keep writers inspired and motivated, the first Wednesday of every month. I’m excited to have him join my team, and I think you readers will be too, after you learn a little about him.
I had the good fortune to attend the same graduate program with Jeff, and I have to tell you, he is an extremely talented young man. His stories different and often don’t fit neatly into a particular genre, although I think most that I’ve read can be called speculative fiction.
For his thesis, Jeff came up with an epic idea for an Armageddon story, where a gigantic God and Satan have a  physical battle and destroy most of Earth in the process. His thesis proposal was probably an inch thick, and the story outline was very complex. All of his cohorts said, “It will be really hard to pull off, but if anyone can do it, you can, Jeff.” I heard this time and time again. Hey did pull it off, and he ended up with an awesome novel.
Since then I’ve gotten to know Jeff and I learned that he’s a madman when it comes to writing, and you never know what he’ll come up with next. But, whatever he writes, you can be assured that he will put you in the story, and even if his characters are lightning bolts, he will suspend your disbelief and make you care what happens to them.
In addition to his M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Jeff has publishing credits for many short stories, including a collection of short stories, Godling and Other Paint Stories, which he published himself. His second short story collection, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, will be released on March 28, keep an eye out here for a review). In addition to his Pep Talk here, Jeff’s wisdom and talent can be found on his own blog, God Complex. (You can also find some of Jeff’s opinions on the publishing industry in my interview with Jeff for my publishing series, The Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing.) But, the best way to get to know about Jeff is to ask questions. So that’s just what I did. I hope you enjoy the resulting interview, below.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Jeff: I’ve kind of only ever had two passions in my life, music and writing. I wrote my first story when I was about ten years old, which also happens to be the age I wrote my first song. When I got older and met my wife, I realized being a musician wouldn’t be conducive to family life, what with touring and recording and the general pressures of the business. So at that time I decided to settle on my writing, and I haven’t looked back since. Good choice. You can write a song any old time you want. Short story tales are forever.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Jeff: Let’s see … Probably the couple of comic scripts I sold to English comic book press FutureQuake. I’ve written everything from short stories, novelettes and novellas, to full-length novels, screenplays, newspaper articles, nonfiction, a bit of ghost writing, you name it. I found being diverse and far-reaching was way better than narrowing in on one small niche. At this point I could take a stab at anything, any time. Very helpful if you actually want to make a little money, and who doesn’t?

Kaye: You seem to have a bit of a preoccupation with God, which has certainly shown up in a lot of your writing. Can you tell us what that is all about?

Jeff: Ha ha, well I think I just found it to be the largest, most expansive concept in existence, right? I mean, I try to tackle topics and themes that are gargantuan in relation to small, fragile beings like you and I. That sort of thing has always appealed to me, so God was a natural extension, one most people have a strong gut reaction to in one way or another. My newer work–including my latest short story collection, dropping on March 28–has very little to do with God or gods or anything of that nature. I was also on a personal quest for God for many years, I suppose. I was raised agnostic, so my whole life I was searching for a reason to believe and worship, and corny as that might sound. Writing about Him always seemed like a good outlet for my spiritual curiosity.

Kaye: How many of your stories have been based on God to some extent, or featured God?

Jeff: Quite a few, actually. If not the Almighty Himself, I’ve tinkered with super beings, celestials, demigods, and everything in between. Most writers are timid about concepts. I go for the biggest, largest, hugest.

Kaye: Your thesis novel involves God, and Satan, too. Would you like to tell us a little about your novel?

Jeff: Sure. Body of Heaven, Body of Darkness is a contemporary horror fantasy. Harold Math watches in terror as God and Satan, each ten miles tall, beat each other to death in the rural desert of Nevada. Booze and anxiety become his life, until a strange, supernatural boy in a red cape causes a terrible car wreck that kills his fiancé and unborn son. The world slips into chaos as the deaths of the two immense beings herald national disasters and the destruction of the city of Los Angeles. A horrifying hell-beast emerges in the chaos and begins terrorizing the country, even as Harold reunites with an old flame and tries to put back together the shattered pieces of his life. At last, the boy in the cape reveals himself to Harold as the all-knowing Will of the Universe. He’s chosen him and three others to destroy this contamination before it spreads.

 

Kaye: In addition to being a very talented writer, you are an artist, as well? You did the cover for Godling, right?

Jeff: I did. Just sort of produced it on the fly. I don’t have any training or know-how really. Plenty of talent to spare though, I guess. This is my humble face. Can’t you tell? 😀
Kaye: Your stories are very unusual, your descriptions vivid. How do ideas and images develop into stories for you?
 Jeff: Well they don’t just come, that’s for sure. Most of the time I have to kind of open myself up to the universe, if you will. If I’m actively looking for ideas, working to make it happen, they often occur to me. Thing about really unique story ideas is that first blush versions of them are usually tame and have the potential of having been done before. I like to take a concept and cook it a while before I ever hit the page with it. A lot of the unusual nature of my work has come from a need to be myself. Twists and turns develop in the actual plotting. It’s hard work trying to sell stuff no one’s ever seen before, but so worth it when you do.

Kaye: You’ve had quite a few things published, including a comic book. How did that come about? Did you do the artwork for that? Or was it collaboration? Tell us about the process in either case?

Jeff: No, I didn’t do the artwork. I wrote the script and submitted it to the publisher just like you’d do with any short story. They accepted it and paired me with an artist. I got to see his work evolve over the course of several months, and it was always rewarding to check out what true artistic talent could do with my material. I couldn’t draw like that if you paid me. Writing a comic book script, though, it’s something I urge a lot of science fiction and fantasy authors to try out. Very cool, very challenging medium to work in.

Kaye: Other than God, what kinds of things of things influence your writing?
 Jeff: Movies, video games, life in general. I sort of belong to a generation that’s grown up on 24-hour media and all-encompassing entertainment options. It’s no wonder my stories are fast and loaded with concepts. I don’t think I ever intend my work to come out unusual for the sake of being unusual. Maybe it’s an attention deficit thing. I get bored with stories very easily.

 

Kaye: What are your favorite genres to read? To write?

Jeff: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror are my bread and butter. I like to read and write nonfiction and more literary work as well, but my home and my love will always be speculative stuff. It’s what I was raised on, so it’s the most natural thing in the world for me. Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Marvel and DC, all these mega-nerd story types and franchises, I probably dream the stuff at this point.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge for you when writing short fiction?  Or when tackling a novel-length work? How about when writing comic books?

Jeff: For short fiction there’s always a push and pull between expressing myself fully, telling an engrossing story, and making something concise and fully realized with a limited word count. Novels are tricky because they’re a marathon, a long-haul project, though I find the actual writing to be easier than short form on a day-to-day basis. Comic book scripts are another beast altogether. Kind of the ultimate test of a writer’s mettle when it comes to precision and execution. Highly recommend writers try it out at some point. Probably learn a thing or two in the process. Sometimes it pays to be a mad scientist with your writing. Take no prisoners! Hold nothing back!

 

Kaye: Which is your favorite type of writing? Short fiction? Novels? Comic Books?

 Jeff: I’ve produced way more short fiction than just about anything else, though I find I don’t like reading it all that much. Books and comics, those are my favorite forms of entertainment, though movies and video games are also very important to my storytelling diet.
Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?
 Jeff: No, I don’t think there is. I don’t have any cute tricks or rituals. It’s a simple equation, really: apply ass to seat and type until something’s done. There’s no accounting for hard work, and the writers who make something of themselves rarely do so without a ton of discipline and a healthy work ethic. You’ve got to write on even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.
Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
 Jeff: Game. Did I mention video games? Oh, I did? 😀

 

Kaye: Any advice for aspiring writers?

Jeff: Absolutely. NEVER GIVE UP!

 

You’ll probably find people in your life will try to dissuade you, or in the very least, that they’ll lack enthusiasm for your work, your calling, until you’ve been at it long enough you finally start to see results. You can’t let that get to you. Apply ass to seat and type until something’s done. Writers are a funny breed few people understand, and sometimes we become crotchety and bitter. But the truth is if you’re going to do this thing, you’ve got to stay focused and disciplined. Much like writing a novel, this job is a marathon. Many very famous authors had to work their butts off for years, if not decades, before people finally took them seriously. I will say it again. NEVER GIVE UP! PROMISE!

 

So, now you know a little about Jeff Bowles, which is good, because you should know who is giving you a writing Pep Talk. I hope you’ll join us every first Wednesday to read what morsels of writing wisdom Jeff has to offer. And I hope that now you’re as excited as I am to have him join the Writing to be Read team.

Interested in Jeff’s writing? Check out his latest short story collection, Godling and Other Paint Stories: https://www.amazon.com/Godling-Other-Paint-Stories-Bowles-ebook/dp/B01LDUJYHU

Twitter: @JeffBowlesLives

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeffryanbowles

Tumblr: http://authorjeffbowles.tumblr.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/JeffBowles/e/B01L7GXCU0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1479453494

YouTube’s Jeff Bowles Central: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6uMxedp3VxxUCS4zn3ulgQ

 

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“Once” May Not Be Enough for This Love Story

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Once – Ask Me Anything, Not Love by Mian Mohsin Zia, is a inspirational tale of the struggle for love by one man, Morkel, whose brand is “M–, No Time for Love”. But love strikes when it is least expected and who you would least expect to fall under it’s spell. Although it is a love story, it’s no romance and there are no HEAs in this tale.

I can’t deny that this is a cute story, but I had a hard time suspending disbelief, due partially to the fact that the characters weren’t deep enough for me to be able to care, and also because the dialog did not feel real to me. People just don’t talk that way in my experience. The characters are idealistic and I felt they acted in ways that were very unrealistic, as well. Morkel, the protagonist, comes off as being full of himself and he claims that as a novelist, he can read people, yet when love walks up and stares him in the eye, he doesn’t see it.

That being said, it is a well structured story with a clear character arc. Morkel changes as he realizes his own need for and ability to love. I found it very entertaining, but the ending was disappointing for me. I guess I’ve come to expect a HEA when I think of a love story, and I felt the promise of the premise was not fulfilled.

I will admit that Mian Mohsin Zia puts out a quality eBook, with very few typos. Obviously, he spends the money to have it edited and promote it right, as well. I suspect this may account for his amazing popularity as an author. In self-publishing, it seems, you really do get what you pay for.

OnceAsk Me Anything, Not Love is a love story from the male perspective, a unique and entertaining tale, but not a romance. I give it three quills.

 Three Quills3


The Final Weekly Writing Memo and a Writing Prompt

If you aren’t interested in my update, skip to the bottom for a writing prompt.Weekly Writing Memo

The Update

As any readers who have been checking in regularly have probably noticed, I’ve been a little behind on posting these Weekly Writing Memos for the last few months. Between picking up new jobs, constant traveling, and a big move to Los Angeles from Michigan, it’s just been a struggle to keep up. Starting in December I am also going to be embarking on a project involving studying the horror film genre, as well as some new work as a part-time assistant editor for a small publishing company.

With my increasingly complicated schedule, this is going to have to be my last Weekly Writing Memo post for a while. Instead, I’m going to be cutting back to monthly memos and the first post will be sometime in December. I’ll still be doing other guests posts now and then to fill in for Kaye when needed, and I’ll hopefully be posting more on my blog as well. If you have questions, or if just miss me dearly, feel free to contact me at my blog Author the World or on my AtW Facebook page. For my final Weekly Writing Memo, I thought I would go with a writing prompt to leave you all feeling inspired (hopefully).

Writing Prompt – The Breakfast Fight

You have a character in a restaurant. They’re eating breakfast. Start with the restaurant. What kind of place is it? What kind of tables does it have? What kind of waiters or waitresses? What kind of clientele?

Now go to your character. Who are they? What kind of mood are they in? They can start alone at the table but they can’t stay that way. Your character is about to get in an argument. Do they know it yet, or will it be a surprise?

Before the argument starts your character’s breakfast arrives. What are they eating? Is it actually breakfast time? How are they eating it?

Once everything’s in place—the breakfast, the characters—it’s time to start the fight. Have your character continue eating throughout the argument. Try to keep the characters from making the argument into a big scene for as long as possible.

When the fight ends, does your character take out his anger on anyone else? Does he snap at the waitress, or forget to leave her a tip? Does he finish his food or lose his appetite?

Where does your character go next? How will he resolve the conflict? See where the argument takes you from there. Where there’s a conflict, there’s often a story, so follow it. If you decide you don’t like the characters in the argument, try writing it from the waitress’s or another diner’s perspective. Explore the scene and the people in it, and see where the writing leads you.


“Wrinkles” – A Diverse Story of True Love, Friendship and Faith

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While representing his company at the expo, Xavier meets the woman in the next booth, Anna, and before you know it, he believes he’s fallen in love with her. Xavier doesn’t know why Anna is keeping him at a distance, never allowing him to get too close, but he is relentless in his pursuit of her and enlists his mother’s advice and the help of his friends to win her heart.

I had trouble buying into some of the occurrences in Wrinkles: A True Love Story, by Mian Mohsin Zia, but I realize a lot of this can be attributed to the fact that the culture in the story is very different from mine. Because I’ve never been to Africa, where the story is set, many of the events and customs portrayed in this book were foreign to me, making it seem strange. I may not have understood it all, but the story was compelling and touching, and I just may have learned a few things about other cultures and religions which I wasn’t previously aware of. I loved that it carried the underlying theme of integration, racial and religious tolerance.

Xavier’s relationship for his mother goes way beyond parental respect, but there are glimpses of an insecure little boy residing in the big man. This is his fatal flaw. Xavier’s biggest fear is that of losing his mother, whom he refers to as his “Lifeline”. His respect for his mother makes him a more endearing, as the doting son.

Descriptions are vivid, but they relate too many unnecessary details. We don’t need to know all the colors of clothing, color of pacifier, what materials their clothes are made from, etc… The story is repetitive and states the obvious quite a bit. Everything is spelled out for us, not giving the reader credit for being able to follow along.

There were other problems with Wrinkles, concerning formatting, punctuation, and grammar. The dialog is very stiff and formal, with dialog tags which are either missing or misplaced, there are subtle switches in point of view, a slight case of adverbitis, and a passive voice. I have put down books in cases where problems such as these, but the characters are likable enough for me to overlook them and keep reading.

What really sticks out the most for me though, was the fact that the last piece of dialog from Faith, Xavier’s mother, doesn’t ring true to her character. Throughout the whole story, she has always taught honesty, through verbal lessons and through example, and here she promises the young boy that they all be with him forever, when he asks questions about aging. Of course, we all know it would be impossible for the adults in the family to remain with him forever. The point is it isn’t true and it comes from a major character, who has been pillar of honesty thus far.

Overall, I saw some problems with this book, but the uplifting theme, heart touching story, likable characters, and compelling romance plot still make it an enjoyable read. I give Wrinkles: A True Love Story three quills.

 Three Quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Hello readers!

Originally, Writing to be Read was a blog on Today.com. If you are a reader looking for that blog, you have come to the right place. I went to publish a post one day and found the whole site was gone. Not just my blog, but the whole blogging network, had disappeared into the unexplored realms of cyberspace. So this is the new home of Writing to be Read and I am pleased that you have found your way here. If you are not a former reader, but new to my blog, then I am equally pleased. I hope that you will enjoy what you read her, perhaps even find it informative, and visit again and again. For my first post, here on WordPress, I thought I would re-post my favorite blog from the other site, not just because I am fond of it, but also because I feel that it was one of my best, so it is a good way to begin here at this new blog site. If you are a former reader that has already read this post, I can only hope that it was one of your favorites, too. And so, without futher ado…

Learning to Listen to My Muse

            Muse: taken from the Greek word, meaning a spirit or power watching over artists, poets, and musicians.   Today, it is generally used to refer simply to the power of inspiration.  In this respect, every creative mind has a muse, each taking a different form or even a distinctly individual personality.  I know mine does.

            Perhaps because of the mythological origins of the word, which actually referred to nine Greek Goddesses that acted as protectors for artists, or maybe it’s just because I am a woman and I believe that the personality of the muse takes on aspects of the mistress or master, but I always think of my muse as being female.  At the rate that Stephen King produces books, I would think that his muse must message him daily and cook, clean and take care of all menial chores, so that he can concentrate on creating best sellers.  Not mine, however.  Although I think that my muse really does try to be a good muse, playfully teasing in attempts to improve my mood when I’m down, pointing out things that she thinks might inspire me, trying desperately to cajole me into concentrating on the work at hand instead of a million other distractions, it always seems that when I need her the most, she is no where to be found.

            It is at those times when I need to write, because I have a deadline to meet, or just because I’m stuck and need to move the story forward before frustration causes me to throw up my hands in despair, that I really need my muse.  She disappeared for awhile after the death of my son, after nothing she could think to do would cheer me, but then she came up with a way to get me writing, like any good muse would, and she came back with the throttle open, doling out inspiration by the bucketful, by planting the idea that it was good to express my feelings of grief on paper.  Grief, I had plenty of and man, did I write.

            The past couple of weeks we have been busily moving into our new home, and I haven’t taken time to sit and write like I should.  As I busied myself unpacking and cleaning everything that we have had in storage for almost five years, I didn’t really pay attention as my muse tried to amuse and draw my attention to the keyboard.  Last week, when I finally got around to trying to write my blog entry, I found her sulking in the corner, with injured pride, unwilling to assist in inspiring, like a pouting child.  Today, as I prepared to sit down before the keyboard, I couldn’t help but notice the heaviness left by her total absence.  I looked high and low.  I looked here and there, but I couldn’t find her anywhere.  Finally, I gave up on trying to write and took a drive up to Lake DeWeese with my husband. 

            When we arrived at the lake, what did I find, but my muse sitting on a rock at the base of the dam. The sound of the water pounding over the top and down behind her only fueled my anger at her perceived abandonment of me.  I slashed my way through the bushes, unmindful of the sticker bushes intermingled with the willows that grabbed for the flesh of my legs.  Just before I reached her, slopping through the marshy muck, she looked up to reveal eyes full of hurt and a tear streaked cheek.  Like a slap in the face, the revelation hit me.  My muse was not acting like a rebellious child, but simply finding solitude to lick her wounds.  Wounds that I had inflicted by ignoring her, as she had danced around, trying to get my attention.  She hadn’t run away, and she wasn’t hiding.  I had chased her away.  I immediately apologized and asked her to come home.  She smiled, and pointed to a hawk, sailing on the wind currents above our heads, then pointed to a pair of geese that were sunning on the bank downstream.  All was forgiven.  My muse danced off over the water to stand in the middle of the river at the base of the dam, where no human being would be able to stay upright in the water at this height.  She spread her arms open toward the sky, the water pounding down upon her from the overflow as if to say, “I’m right here and I’m free.  All you need do, is to listen to me.”     

My Muse

My muse is always trying to inspire in every way.

She dances and sticks out her tongue, enticing me to play.

She knows just what inspires me

And she tries to make me see

A world that’s filled with beauty, everywhere I go.

Inspiration is all around, my muse does surely know.

On days when I am feeling down or am busy as can be

I don’t always take the time to see what she wants me to see.

By the time I’m ready to be inspired,

Of this game, she has grown tired.

She may be sulking in the corner, or in the other room

Seeking inspiration, she might be staring at the moon.

Listening to my muse is the wisest choice, I’ve learned.

She knows how to stir the inspiration, that within me burns.

The miracles of nature; a flower or a bird

Are brought to my attention, but she never says a word.

She shows me how the morning dew, on the grass does glisten

She fills my head with great ideas, if I will only listen.

Copyright ©2009  Kaye Lynne Booth