Friday, November 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo — How did it go?

I jumped deep into National Novel Writing Month this year. I had an idea during the summer for a book, and somewhere around late September, I decided to make it my NaNoMo project.
The idea: to write a parody of the bestseller Fifty Shades of Gray, but to do it better.

The goal: 50,000 words by the end of November.

The process: I participated in some of the social aspects of NaNoMo, but didn’t actually do all that much other than write the story as furiously as I could.

  • Before November 1, I wrote a background piece, describing the characters and outlining the plot. 
  • I logged into my account on the NaNoWriMo site and updated my word count daily.
  • I read some of the mail that came into the account, but I realized soon that I did not need the “pep talks.” I was motivated.
  • I attended one “write off” event at a café in my town: a bunch of NaNoWriMo participants gathered in the coffee shop with our computers (iPad 2 in my case) and wrote 1,667.7 words in a couple of hours. I felt quite out of place — I was by far the oldest one there. Most of the others were first- and second-year university students, and most were writing fan fiction, science-fiction or fantasy. I was the only one doing a parody. Still, I exceeded my goal, and in two and a half hours, cranked out a little over 2,000 words.
  • Every day, and I mean EVERY DAY, I wrote more than 1,667 words. A couple of times, I did over 3,000 words per day. What a feeling that is!

  • Results: One Shade of Red

    • I hit 50,000 words more than a week ahead of schedule — November 22. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have a complete novel. As of writing this on November 30, I’m sitting at 64,000 words or so and still have not reached the end. I have an outline for the conclusion, and yes, there’s room for a sequel. But there is no way I’m going to write a trilogy about this.
    • I think my basic story is better than Fifty Shades. I have more realistic characters:
    o My narrator/protagonist is a naive virgin, but there’s a reason for that: he has had a girlfriend, the “girl next door” type, since childhood, and she is fervently attached to the concept of virginity until marriage.
    o His wealthy sexual mentor, Alexis Rosse, is young, but not as unbelievably young as Christian Gray: she’s 30 or 31 (a lady never tells, or so my mother used to say — actually, she still says that), and she made her fortune the old-fashioned way: she married into it.
    • I also have what I like to tell myself is a better writing style than EL James, but I’ll let the audience judge that — after I finish rewriting and editing.

    Work to do: I’ve exceeded the word count required for “success” in NaNoMo, but I have to flesh out the conclusion. And then, I’ll have to do at least one rewrite before turning it over to a beta reader or two and an editor. In other words, there’s at least two months more work to finish this off.

    Would I do it again? I don’t think I’ll go to another “write off” event, but I would not turn down an after-party.

    Something like NaNoMo is a great motivational exercise for a writer. It’s so easy to procrastinate writing a novel —you can always tell yourself that you’re waiting for inspiration or that there are other things to do. And there’s a little something called life that seems to get in the way of writing novels.

    I enjoyed National Novel Writing Month this year. I think I’ll do it again next year. But I’m not going to wait for it: I’m going to continue writing every day, and get as many stories out of my brain and onto the computer screen as possible.

    How many of you participated in NaNoMo or NaNoWriMo 2012? Did you succeed?

    Thursday, November 29, 2012

    The reader-author connection: Joe McCoubrey on writing style

    Joe McCoubrey on Style

    Joe McCoubrey knows a thing or two about writing style. As a newspaper editor, he dealt with several writers' styles before turning to fiction with his first novel, a thriller set in his home of Northern Ireland during its "troubles."

    Joe has graciously agreed to weigh in on Written Words' Style debate.

    How would you describe your own writing style?

    I like to think it’s a tell-it-like-you-see-it style. I tend to go for the line of least resistance by getting the reader involved as quick as possible. That tends to mean I cut out the flowery stuff and reduce scene-setting to the minimum. I think it’s important, particularly in action thrillers, not to lose sight of why the reader has picked up your book – it’s certainly not to help an author indulge in rambling descriptive stuff and dialogue that takes forever to get to the point.

    Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?

    I love the styles of Lee Child, Matt Hilton, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor and James Patterson. They produce works that are not only a great read but succeed, where too many others fail, in putting the reader into the heart of the action. You can learn a lot from the style of writers like these but budding authors should never try to emulate. It’s important for an author to find his or her own style – without it I would suggest it is almost impossible to pen a credible story.

    Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?

    Yes. I’ve discarded literally dozens of books after only a chapter or two because the writing style, or more correctly, the absence of it, makes it difficult to buy into the story being told. I won’t name any particular authors but generally there are too many first-time writers who narrate their story rather than coming down from their overview perch and stepping into the events as they are unfolding.

    How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?

    I subscribe to the view that without a style that is personal and identifiable with an author he or she ends up pushing a rather large boulder up a steep hill. Style is something that develops over time and needs to be worked on. I constantly edit to make sure I’m keeping true to the style I have chosen, though it does become easier to employ with the experience of continual writing. After a while it simply becomes natural and requires reducing effort to "slip into" character.

    How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favour? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?

    In many ways it’s a combination of all these characteristics. For me the important first starting point is sentence and paragraph construction. I detest having to read a story that is filled with six or seven line sentences or where single paragraphs take up an entire page. Readers like to catch breath and be able to keep up with what’s going on in the page rather than face steep cliffs every time they turn a page. If I had a motto it would be "keep it short and tell it succinctly."

    Joe McCoubrey's first novel is
    available exclusively on Amazon

    Do you think your genre imposes certain restrictions on writing style?

    No question about it. Action demands speed and tension, not a slow build up that will leave the reader wondering when the action kicks in. I don’t mean that every page should be full of action but when the time comes for it then go to it! Obviously this would not apply to other genres where a slow-burner approach is not only necessary but is expected.

    Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?

    Yes, there has to be a connection between the reader and author. Often this will be a subconscious connection where the reader is comfortable with the writer’s style and this is what makes him or her keep going back for more. Clive Cussler is perhaps the best example of an author who has developed a way of telling his stories – the style and format never change from book to book, and that is what attracts his army of followers. They love what they get and they know they can trust the author to deliver the next time around.

    How important do you think writing style is to an author's commercial success?

    It is everything. Devising storylines and plots is relatively easy. We all see enough TV and films to be able to conjure up a story with a few twists and turns but the real work lies in being able to tell the story with authority and effect. There are, of course, a few exceptions where relative success has been achieved despite the clear absence of style. However, if a writer wants longevity in this business he or she will need to impose their style. Just look at the list of bestselling authors – they top the charts for one very good reason. They have style!

    About Joe McCoubrey

    Joe McCoubrey is a former Irish newspaper editor who is now a full-time action thriller writer. In the early seventies he was working in the civil service based at Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland government, and was watching behind the scenes as some of the country’s most momentous events unfolded. These were the early dark days of the “troubles” — events that reverberated around the world, and somehow served to push him towards his real passion of writing. He became a newspaperman, started his own media business, and took a front row seat as history was played out in Ireland.

    His debut full-length thriller Someone Has To Pay was released by Master Koda Select Publishing in September. He has also had a short action story, Death By Licence, published in an anthology and is preparing a second full-length actioner, Absence of Rules, for release in January 2013. He has now started work on an Irish crime thriller, also due out in 2013.

    Joe McCoubrey has lived all his life in the beautiful Irish town of Downpatrick, made famous by its association with the national patron saint, St. Patrick.

    You can visit him at:

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Independent book review: Sketches from the Spanish Mustang

    By Benjamin X. Wretlind

    5 stars

    Benjamin X. Wretlind’s beautiful, haunting and, to a writer, mind-blowing Sketches from the Spanish Mustang is literature of the highest kind.

    Sketches from the Spanish Mustang is a novel in disguise as a cycle of stories set in the town of Cripple Creek, Colorado, where the Spanish Mustang is one of a row of cheap casinos and bars on the main street. Each story in the cycle focuses on a character who is irrevocably damaged, close to shattering — and some do shatter in the telling of their tales. Linking them all together is The Artist, who sits across the street from the Spanish Mustang, drawing the people she sees in her sketchbook. When she fills the book, she hopes to achieve some kind of release or redemption, we learn.

    Sketches from the Spanish Mustang crosses any number of literary boundaries. It meets the requirements for “contemporary urban fantasy,” as ghosts, demons and perhaps the spirit of Death, itself feature prominently. On the other hand, it also qualifies as mainstream literature, because these fantasy genre devices could be interpreted as manifestations of delusion.

    No, wait. They can’t be. No, this is fantasy.

    Unless ghosts and demons are objectively real ...

    The plot

    The first Sketch is The Five Fortunes of Fulano. Fulano is a migrant worker from Mexico who is brought into Colorado by human smugglers for some unspecified but clearly horrible employment. Misfortune strands him in the desert, where he meets a demon, or perhaps it’s the spirit of Death. He strikes a deal, and his sacrifice is enough to make you weep.

    Nathan is a good, if boring man who discovers his wife is cheating on him. This story gets close to black humour, but it’s not for the squeamish.

    The story of Mighty Chief Dan Chappose, I have to admit, made me cringe a little because the character is an alcoholic Native American. But Wretlind skirts the problem of stereotyping with a story so layered, sensitive and realistic that we see deeper than the stereotypes and ethnicity to a person haunted by history, family and ghosts of every definition.

    It’s not all gloomy, though; Betty and Veronica are two habitual gamblers with their own spots at the slot machines, feeding in quarters or dollars or whatever you put into slot machines these days, arguing about their systems for eventually winning. Josh and Brandon are two teenagers scheming to get booze at the Mustang even though they’re underage:
    “All he had to do was stroll in, sit down and spend a little of the allowance he'd been given last week. Nickel machines would be fine, Brandon had told him. The idea was to see if the waitress would give him a drink without asking for identification. They'd rehearsed what to say and how to say it, made sure their seventeen-year-old facial stubble was grown out enough and trimmed appropriately and reviewed the case files of the rumors at the high school—kids who'd pulled off the impossible, kids who managed to get free drinks without being accosted.”

    Writing chops

    While each Sketch is a separate story — Wretlind published a number of them separately as short stories — the author weaves them together skilfully. Each Sketch separated by a chapter about the Artist or the Town of Cripple Creek, which is a character in itself.

    The different characters cross paths and interact; Carolyn is the waitress that Josh and Brandon ask for drinks; her boss is the man sleeping with Nathan’s wife, and so on. While the characters are leads in their own stories, they’re also supporting cast in each others’, even though they don’t know it.

    Wretlind crosses that artificial border between fantasy and literature, between dream and reality. (Let’s face it: by definition, any fiction is a fantasy, anyway.) By weaving together the different stories of these solid, flawed, sympathetic and realistic characters, including the town of Cripple Creek itself, the author demonstrates not only the social ties that link all of humanity, but sketches a picture in itself of the invisible energy that links all of us.

    And it’s that energy that ties all these disparate stories together and makes this book well worth reading.


    A professional, artistic style

    As a writer, Wretlind is a professional artist. His writing is lean, without any excess. Yet, he also manages to be descriptive, and I appreciate this kind of writing.

    Only a handful of people walked up and down the sidewalks in front of the casinos. Most were inside, looking for that one chance at supposed financial freedom that had hitherto evaded them. An older couple—maybe in their mid-sixties—sat on a bench almost directly across from her. Their faces were locked in perpetual frowns; cigarettes dangled from shaky hands. The man wore a leather jacket, festooned with embroidered motorcycle festivals of the past: Sturgis, Daytona, Lone Star Bike Week. His white beard hung to his chest, contrasting the dark jacket and the even darker Greek fisherman’s hat which no doubt covered a receding hairline. He suddenly guffawed at something the woman said and patted her thigh. His smile quickly returned to a frown. With her skinny jeans and rhinestone-speckled denim jacket, the two would make a good subject to sketch . . . but not today.

    At the same time, Wretlind avoids the mistakes many new writers make. There are no information dumps; he describes the characters, but we learn their back stories as we read the tale. We don’t have to read page after page about relationships or history or the structure of arcane brotherhoods. The personal is universal; the specific is general. We put together the big picture by focusing on details.

    Just like in life!

    You can find Sketches from the Spanish Mustang on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, the Kobo bookstore, Diesel, the Sony Reader Store,  and other major retailers.
    And also be sure to look up Ben Wretlind’s own blog, Drippings from the Mind of Me.

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    6 Sentence Sunday: a sample from One Shade of Red

    Image: Wikipedia Commons
    Today's Six Sunday Sample is another from my National Novel Writing Month work-in-progress, One Shade of Red, a parody of (you guessed it!) Fifty Shades of Grey.

    This excerpt comes from what's shaping up to be Chapter 7: The Dinner Date. It takes place in a high-end restaurant in downtown Toronto. The protagonist, Damian, is a student and has barely enough cash for the restaurant bill, but nothing left over for a tip.

    The solution: hero and heroine do a dine-n-dash. Don't worry: Damian pays for the food, but leaves no tip.  

    Peter Milosevic, Creative Commons
    I slammed the door shut and started the car, revving the engine. It jolted as I shifted into forward and cranked the wheel hard to the left to pull out of the parking spot. The tires squealed as we lurched onto Elm Street.
    "Careful!" Alexis squealed at the same pitch as the tires. "You don't want to attract the police's attention." But her hand was on my thigh already.
    Like it? Hate it? Leave a comment. Then go to Six Sentence Sunday to see more great samples from some great writers.

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Writing Tip: The Sentence, Part 1

    Brain structure: emw/Creative Commons
     Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of work that shows severe problems with sentence structure. Whether in fiction or non-fiction, it’s almost as if the writers do not understand what a sentence is.

    For example:

    An analysis of survey results conducted by GHI concluded that different groups of consumers face different kinds of challenges, this includes unemployed and underemployed as well as low-income groups.
     Or the opposite problem, exemplified in this case in fiction:

    The chattering of Will’s teeth, as loud as the cold north wind that blew down through mountains.
    The problem in the first case is a comma splice: joining two separate sentences with a comma, rather than separating them with a period (or maybe a semi-colon).
    In the second example, the problem is an incomplete sentence. Something is missing — a verb. This is how a grammatically complete sentence would read:

    The chattering of Will’s teeth was as loud as the cold north wind that blew down through mountains.

    That’s not a particularly creative solution, but it’s correct.

    Another example, with some light surgery to hide the actual source:

    But back to the economy, all three projects expanded simultaneously and required capitalization, no wonder the organization’s bottom line was depleted.

    The unit of expression

    Think of the sentence as your basic unit of expression. A word may be a unit of meaning, but a single word by itself does not usually express an idea.

    Back when I was in grade school, after cleaning the sabre-tooth tigers’ litter boxes, we all learned that a sentence expressed a single complete thought. To do that, it needs two elements: a verb or predicate — action — and a subject, which is usually a noun or a pronoun.

    Creative Commons
    The quick red fox jumps.

    The action word, the verb, is “jumps.” “Fox,” of course, is the subject. The rest of the words describe the subject.

    Sometimes, you don’t need the subject to be written out: “Duck!” The subject is “you, implied” — a concept that caused all sorts of confusion when I was in school.

    That’s it: noun and verb. Other words just describe the subject or complete the action. End it with a period.

    A wave of lust slammed into her body.
    Just “lust slammed” would be a grammatically complete sentence.

    The subject can also be a phrase or a clause: a group of words that function together as a noun.

    Resisting the temptation to crush her body against his and tear off her clothes took all his willpower.
    The subject in that example did not end until after “clothes.” (And “after clothes” is one of my favourite places.)

    That’s all there is to it. To write clearly, write about something doing something.

    Joining complete thoughts

    To join two complete thoughts — sentences — you have to have the right kind of link. Usually, it’s not a period, but a word or a group of words. I won’t go into the formal grammatical expression here; if you read good writing, you’ll develop a sense of what “sounds” right.

    Here are some examples of what not to do, and corrections. Again, these are taken from real sources, but doctored slightly so as to keep the guilty hidden until they can redeem their sins.

    Run-on sentence

    The run-on sentence happens when one complete idea follows another without any punctuation or joining phrases.

    Image Wikipedia Commons
    She got up and went into the bathroom and got a wet washrag and came back and laid it across her mother’s forehead.
    There are more than one problem with this example. The succession of clauses joined by “and,” while grammatically correct, gets tedious. There’s also way too much detail. You don’t need to describe every single action: your reader can figure out the intervening actions.

    She wet a rag in the bathroom and laid it across her mother’s forehead.

    Not that I minded I can curse with the best of them, as you’ve probably noticed.

    Not that I minded; I can curse with the best of them, as you’ve probably noticed.

    Comma splice

    Another common error is joining two related sentences with a comma instead of a semi-colon.
    She took his hand again, “how are we going to keep them safe?” She whispered.
    Again, there are more than one problem here:

    She took his hand again. “How are we going to keep them safe?” she whispered.
    “If we move quickly we could be off in front of the soldiers, we’ve got fast horses and money.”
    “If we move quickly we could get ahead of the soldiers — we’ve got fast horses and money.”

    “The horses need to rest tonight, so do we.” Gianni replied.

    “The horses need to rest tonight, and so do we,” Gianni replied.

    A matter of style?

    Wikipedia Commons
    Who cares, though? As long as the underlying meaning comes across, does grammar really matter?

    Yes. First of all, using grammar correctly, especially such a basic concept as understanding what a complete sentence is, is a necessary but not sufficient indicator of professionalism. Whether you’re writing fiction, advertising or technical reports, if you don’t come across as professional, no one will take your document seriously. And if the audience doesn’t believe you, why bother writing?

    Clarity is even more important. Consider this:

    For hospitals seeking increased profitability in the operating room (OR) it is essential to streamline the movement of materials from suppliers to the hands of doctors efficiently acquiring and moving supplies critical to OR procedures are measurable ways to reduce costs, increase revenue capture, optimize labour and improve process management.
    What’s efficient: doctors’ hands, or moving supplies?

    When the subject is medical care, I think clarity is pretty darn important.

    What do you think? Having trouble with sentences? Ask a question or leave a comment!

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Fantastic Fantasy Freebies!

    November 20 and 21 only: 

    You can download four fantastic Guild of Dreams fantasy books for FREE!


    By Scott Bury

    The Dark Age, eastern Europe: the earth has decided to rid itself of humanity with earthquakes, volcanoes and new plagues. Civilizations, even the mighty Roman Empire, crumble under the pressure of barbarian waves that are fleeing worse terrors.

    Rejected by his own people, pursued by a dragon, young Javor heads for Constantinople, the centre of civilization, looking for answers to the puzzle of his great-grandfather's dagger and the murder of his family.

    On the ancient, crumbling Roman highway across haunted, deserted Dacia, Javor rescues the beautiful Danisa from a human sacrifice. He cannot help falling in love with her. But Danisa has her own plans, and when she is kidnapped again, Javor has to wonder: what is the connection between his dagger, his lover and his enemies?


     An Icarus Fell Novel

     By Bruce A. Blake

    Icarus Fell's life sucked. Then he died and things got really bad.

    After muggers killed him, Icarus became a harvester, his job to help souls on their way to Heaven, and it turned out he possessed as little talent for this as he did for every other job he lost. People are dead. The deposed Angel of Death nearly took his teenage son. The Archangel Michael is angry with him and the police think he is a serial killer.

    The only one left on his side is his guardian angel, but when he asks her to help him get to Hell to rescue the souls wrongly condemned because of him, she refuses to go against Michael's wishes.

    Then another guardian shows up. Piper is beautiful, mysterious, and willing to help. Having her around turns Icarus' afterlife upside down. But knowing how to get to Hell is only half of the problem.

    Getting back with your soul is the real challenge.

    Get All Who Wander Are Lost for free from Amazon.

    BLOOD SKIES (Book 1)

    by Steven Montano

    Free on Smashwords through November 25th!

    In the time after The Black, human survivors of the Southern Claw Alliance clash with vampire legions of the Ebon Cities in a constant war for survival. Earth as we know it has been forever damaged by an arcane storm that fused our world with distant realms of madness and terror. Things that once existed only in our nightmares stalk the earth.

    Now, humanity is threatened by one of its own.

    Eric Cross, an enlisted warlock in the Southern Claw military, is part of an elite team of soldiers and mages in pursuit of a woman known as Red — a witch whose stolen knowledge threatens the future of the human race. The members of Viper Squad will traverse haunted forests and blighted tundra in their search for the traitor, a journey that ultimately leads them to the necropolis of Koth.

    There, in that haven of renegade undead, Cross will discover the dark origins of magic, and the true meaning of sacrifice...

    Experience a dark and deadly new world in the debut novel of the "Blood Skies" series from author Steven Montano.

    Get Blood Skies for free at Smashwords

    Enter Coupon Code: EL47N in the Shopping Cart.



    By Autumn M. Birt

    In the buried archives of the Temple of Dust may lie the secret to defeating the Curse, a creature which seeks to destroy 16 year old Ria for the forbidden gifts she possesses. But it is from among the ranks of those who control the Curse where Ria will find her best chance of success. Only the Priestess Niri can save Ria from the forces that hunt her, if Niri doesn’t betray the girl first. Along with Ria comes Ty and his sister, Lavinia, both bound to defend Ria from the Church of Four Orders and Niri, if they must. However, Ty has been living a life less than honest and keeping it from his sister. To survive a journey that takes them across the breadth of their world, the four must learn to trust each other before pursuit from the Church and Ty’s troubled past find them.

    Download Born of Water for free from Smashwords at

    Enter Coupon Code SQ46H in the Shopping Cart.

    Or from Amazon.

    What is style? An interview with Charity Parkerson

    How important is writing style? And just what is it, anyway — what makes up an author’s style? Can an author truly be unique?

    This week, Written Words has invited Charity Parkerson, author of paranormal romance and erotica, to tell us her thoughts on writer’s style. Read what she has to say, and then check out her work.

    How would you describe your own writing style?
    Erotic with a southern twist.

    Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?
    I really like Julie Garwood. She does a great job of mixing humor with suspense and since I’m hilarious (in my own mind) I try to add a bit of humor to my books, as well.

    Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?
    I love Jennifer Wilde and have read all of her books. However, I can’t stand her descriptive writing style. She can weave the most wonderful and engaging stories, but I find myself skipping over the three-page descriptions of someone’s dress.

    How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?
    When I first started out, I had several people tell me that I would run into trouble with reviewers because my characters have southern accents. I refused to remove it, since my books are set in the South, and it made sense that their speech would reflect that. I have run into a couple of reviews that mention it, but for the most part readers have been fine with it, and I’m glad that I did not allow anyone to talk me out of writing my own voice out of my stories.

    What are the important elements of your style? What are you trying to achieve?
    In erotica, I think that one of the most important elements is the ability to create a scene that is relatable but is still hot. I want to paint a picture with words that the reader can see, hear, and taste as if they are there.

    How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favour? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?
    My characters tend to be a little on the dark side. It’s rare that I write a perfect character. I want people to cheer for someone that they never thought they could.

    Do you think your genre imposes certain restrictions on writing style?
    I write in several genres, but I do think that erotica is the most restrictive. Most people would think that it is the least. However, several times I have sent a story to my editor believing that I’ve finished the world’s hottest erotic novel, only to learn it is classified as steamy romance. You’re expected to use words that shock people into letting down their natural prude filter.

    Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?
    I hope it’s an unconscious reaction to a great read. :-D

    How important do you think writing style is to an author's commercial success?
    It’s very important if you also factor in who you are pitching yourself to.

    Thank you, Charity.

    Charity Parkerson made the bestseller list with her book A Secure Heart. Her paranormal Sinners series was voted as one of the top ten "Best books by an Indie author in 2011." Her Sexy Witches series blends paranormal, romance and erotica. She is also one of the Four Whips, a collective of authors who have recently published the erotic short-story collection Turkey Slap 2012.

    Charity's newest book is A Splash of Hope, available from Amazon.

    She is a member of The Paranormal Romance Guild, Coffee Time Romance, and Long and Short Romance Reviews. She is also a Goodreads moderator and a Library Thing author.

    Visit her site at, and read her blog at

    You can like her at You can follow her on Twitter @CharityParkerso.

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    6 Sentence Sunday: More from One Shade of Red

    This week's sample are six more sentences from my National Novel Writing Month work-in-progress, One Shade of Red. As you've probably guessed, it's a parody of the inexplicable best-seller, Fifty Shades of Grey.

    The action in this excerpt follows the six sentences from two weeks ago.

    I couldn’t look at the pool, because I couldn’t stop looking at her. I felt like I was in junior high again. The only word that came into my mind was: stacked. There were acres of bare skin. The bathing suit barely covered her nipples and pubis, but none of those words made it into my mind at that moment.

    She looked at me, eyebrows raised, and I realized that she was waiting for me to say something.

    Like it? Hate it? Think the whole idea is ill-advised? Can't wait to read it? Leave a comment!

    Six Sentence Sunday is a continuing blog hop; authors who have blogs post six-sentence excerpts from their published works or their works-in-progress on Sunday morning, and list the link on the Six Sentence Sunday website. Check it out there are a lot of excellent writers promoting some fine work. 

    By the way, I really enjoyed doing the photo research for this post. Try Googling "red string bikini" yourself someday.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    The Next Big Thing: One Shade of Red

    Photo by Paloetic. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
    Autumn Birt, traveler, travel writer and blogger, has tagged me for The Next Big Thing blog hop. She, herself, was tagged by fantasy author Bruce Blake, whom regular readers of Written Words will remember for his guest post on style.

    The idea behind the Next Big Thing is to answer a set list of questions about your work in progress, then tag five more authors to do the same thing.

    So, here are my answers about my Next Big Thing:

    What is the working title of your book?
    One Shade of Red.

    Where did the idea come from for the book?
    As you probably guessed, it’s a parody of the best-seller, Fifty Shades of Gray.
    I first heard about the book last spring, when it was causing a stir in the mainstream media. I bought a copy for my wife, who read it and declared it terrible. She read it during our summer vacation by the coast, and repeatedly shook her head or moaned in literary disgust (at least, that’s why she told me she was moaning). 

    A lady on the sun chair next to her one day noticed her reading the book. “What did you think of it?” she asked. 
    “I think it’s terrible. Bad writing, and the characters are ridiculous,” my wife replied. “Did you read it?”

    “It was the worst book I ever read!” said our new friend.

    I read and heard several other reviews, as well. Obviously, millions of fans all around the world love the story. But most of the professional reviews I read or heard were very negative. They criticized the author’s writing abilities, the style of the book and the characterization. 

    I had to read it, myself, just to see how I fell on the reaction spectrum. To me, it’s ridiculous, too. Christian Grey, a 27-year-old self-made billionaire? It doesn’t happen very often. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, a couple of others. But they’re never super-hunks at the same time.

    And Anastasia Steele, the 22-year-old virgin? Come on.

    The names are preposterous, too. 

    And of course, those ideas eventually led to the conclusion: I could write a much better erotic romance.

    What genre does your book fall under?
    You could call it a satirical, humorous erotic romance. Or a romantic, erotic parody. Or pseudo-romantic, satirical erotica.

    Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
    Do I have to tell you this is Beyoncé?

    Beyoncé Knowles as Alexis Rosse; for the male protagonist, Damian Serr, maybe Angus T. Young — Jake from Two and a Half Men. Alternatives: Aarti Mann (Pria from The Big Bang Theory), or Eva Green for Alexis; Abhi Sinha from The Social Network would be good, too, for Damian. A younger, goofy kind of guy would be perfect.

    What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
    Where Fifty Shades of Grey is a woman’s ultimate sexual fantasy — domination by a fabulously wealthy,beautiful and sexually powerful young man with a dark flaw she can fix — One Shade of Red is every young heterosexual man’s ultimate sexual fantasy: a rich, gorgeous and sexually always available woman without any inhibitions or baggage, or anything at all to fix!

    Aarti Mann
    Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
    I will publish this book myself, as I have all my other fiction.

    How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
    I’m now working on it as my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoMo) project for 2012, so while I got the idea for it a few months ago, I started actually writing on November 1. I plan to finish no later than November 30.

    What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
    Fifty Shades, first. After that, I don’t know — I don’t read much erotica. Maybe I should start — purely for research purposes, of course!

    Who or what inspired you to write this book?
    Angus T. Jones
    As I explained above: I thought I could do much better at erotica than EL James. As far as I can tell, her premise is that women love sex, and a little bit of BDSM is fun; and the sexiest imaginable man is a handsome, thin, in-shape and immeasurably wealthy man with a deep, dark secret flaw that only she can fix. Women love to fix men, it seems.

    I flipped that premise upside down: what qualities would a young virginal man find ideal in an older lover? She (if the man in question is heterosexual) would be:
    • beautiful
    • continuously eager for sex
    • Eva Green
      completely uninhibited about any sexual practice, position or conversation
    • wealthy, so she can provide lots of toys and activities without affecting his bank account
    • and having absolutely no hang-ups or deep-down secrets — in other words, nothing to fix!

    What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
    If I may be so bold (this is my blog, after all), I think that I am a much better writer than EL James. So my characters will be much more believable, their circumstances more plausible, and their motivations clearer. Also, I promise not to give my male protagonist, Damian Serr, an “inner god.”
    However, I will give them names as preposterous as EL James gave her characters.

    What else? Sex. Lots and lots and lots of sex in this book. When you read it, keep a glass of ice water handy.

    Autumn Birt’s first novel is called Born of Water, and her Next Big Thing is Rule of Fire. Read about them on blog, Weifarer’s Wanderings. Click around her blog a bit, too, and you’ll find lots of great reading and adventure!

    Now, the five authors I have tagged are:

    Check their blogs next Wednesday, November 21.

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    Telling Tale Tales — lots of them

    Kathy Lynn Hall on Style interviews

    Writing style can vary widely over time and around the world. Like many readers, I can almost hear a particular “voice” when I read a British author as compared to an American writer. And who could argue that Dickens and other 19th-century authors had a style distinct from today’s prevailing style?
    It seems to me that commercial fiction publishers are imposing a style. Can you distinguish Dan Brown’s style from Tom Clancy’s? EL James from J. Sterling’s?

    It’s so refreshing to read an author like Kathy Lynn Hall, whose writing style is fearlessly her own. You probably already know her for Red Mojo Mama and its sequel, Red is an Attitude!, as well as The Great Twitter Adventure and other books, as well.

    Kathy, how would you describe your own writing style?

    Folksy — it took me a long time to find my “voice” and once I did I realized that it’s very earthy and one-on-one. I think I would have been one of those people sitting around the pickle barrel, telling tall tales in the old days.

    Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?

    I absolutely love Agatha Christie and Jodi Picoult, but can’t begin to write like either one of them. The only thing I think I can imitate is the way a story is woven. I often think of this as a pinball machine — anyone remember those? — when the ball starts down the chute and you’re madly trying to use the flippers to keep it pinging off all the little thingies. You keep trying to go back to the high pointers, sometimes failing, but sometimes you hit it big and everything lights up. That’s what a writer lives for.

    Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?

    No particular authors, but if a story is bereft of heart, I’m really not interested and quickly lose interest. If it’s all action and no character-building or interactions, I just stop reading it.

    How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?

    I have grown to really like my style. I’ll never be the Great American Novelist and that’s okay with me. If I can make a reader love my characters and care about them, then I’m happy. The one thing I have to watch out for is my tendency to be too concise and leave out description. I started out as a screenwriter and that’s ALL dialog, so I have to curb those tendencies.

    How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favour? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?

    It’s definitely the characters and what they say and do to each other. I could have written Castaway — the film — because my character would have invented Wilson, too.

    Do you think your genre imposes certain restrictions on writing style?

    Absolutely — I think any genre does that. My “Red” novels are romantic suspense, which demands that there be enough romance, but not so much that it becomes a romance novel, and enough action to keep you hopping. The current novel I’m working on is a political thriller and I’m stepping outside my comfort zone a bit to insert enough action.

    Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?

    With any author, I think the reader responds unconsciously at first, but eventually how you are writing rises to the surface and they begin to recognize what they like about the way you write. Or maybe what they don’t like.

    How important do you think writing style is to an author's commercial success?

    It’s everything. Almost, anyway. Style can overcome a lot. Sure, you must have a great story and characters, but if your style is clumsy or tough to read, you’ve lost the reader before they even get that far.

    Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview, Scott. I enjoyed it.

    And thank you, Kathy, for your insight.

    Kathy Lynn Hall is author of the novels Red Mojo Mama, Red is an Attitude and The Great Twitter Adventure, the short-story collection Her Heart, the autobiographical collection of musings entitled Tell Them You’re Fabulous and the social media guidebook Blog & Tweet — How to Make a Splash Online.

    She’s also a prolific blogger, maintaining seven (!) blogs simultaneously, while participating in others’ blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more. And somehow, she manages to do a whack of charity work and respond to pesky interviewers.

    Check out her blogs:

    What do you think about Kathy's comments about writing style? Leave a comment.