Friday, July 3, 2015

Discover a Great Mystery -- Fixed in Blood




Blurb:

Seattle Chief of Detectives Mort Grant is still reeling from losing his daughter -- again. Now, Mort investigates the gruesome murder of a beautiful young woman whose death was captured in a snuff film. When a second victim--and film--are discovered, Mort knows he's not dealing with an ordinary criminal. Mort hunts a twisted menace from a chain of sleazy loan shops to the dark underworld of the sex trade. But he's not the only one. Once again, The Fixer is on the hunt--and she's desperate to make things right.








Review:

Lydia and Mort Team Up to Solve the Murders of Young Prostitutes
Lydia, alias the Fixer, and Mort. Seattle's chief of detectives, have been estranged since, Allie, Mort's wayward daughter, left Lydia's care to go away with Vadim Tokarev, a Russian drug lord. Mort is living on a houseboat and continuing his work as chief of detectives. Lydia is a practicing psychologist. She misses Mort's friendship and feels that she was unfairly accused of letting Allie escape. 

In Mort's latest case, a young woman's body is found, and it's evident that she was tortured before being killed. Then another young woman is found also tortured before being killed. Both are prostitutes and were involved with an unscrupulous loan shark who charged exorbitant interest rates designed to lead the women into prostitution. When Lydia's patient, another young woman, disappears, Mort and Lydia decide it's time to work together again. 

This is another fast paced Fixer novel. The characters of Mort and Lydia are more developed than in the previous books. He's devastated by his daughter's actions. Lydia is trying to leave behind her life as the Fixer. This book gives us insight into their struggles and their need for each other's friendship. 

The plot is fast moving and the author does a good job of misdirection. It's hard to tell until the very end who is responsible. Although the idea of young women being tortured and killed is horrendous, the violence is handled tastefully with a minimum of gory details. 

I recommend this book if you're a fan of the Fixer series, or if you enjoy a good mystery. 


Author Interview:

How did you decide on the character of Lydia?
I’ve long been interested in the word “justice”. Is there any such thing, really? Can a wrong truly be atoned? Let’s take even the smallest infraction. Let’s say we’re at a dinner party, chatting. You say something incredibly funny to me and in my laughter I lean forward and clumsily spill my red wine on your beautiful white wool skirt. A minor sin, to be sure. But what could truly serve as justice for my crime? I could apologize. But there’s still that matter of that ugly red blotch on that soft white fabric. I could pay for dry-cleaning. But you might always have the perception of the skirt being “less than” whenever you took it out to wear. Perhaps you’d always be looking for a faint hint of stain the cleaners missed. I could even buy you a new skirt. But it wouldn’t be the one you fell in love with at Nordstrom’s, would it? It could never be the skirt you bought after a long search with your best friend on that fun Saturday afternoon when you stopped for coffee at that cute little place on Elm Street and those two good-looking men in running gear flirted you both.
Could I ever really make you whole again?
Take that same concept and apply it to major crimes…especially murder. Is there any way a murder can be truly and wholly avenged? I mean, even if you kill a killer, the person the killer killed is still dead, right? Those are the kinds of musings that led me to create a series dealing with the notion of justice. And once I decided to write the series I, of course, needed a main character. The Writing 101 tattoo is write what you know. I know how to be a psychologist. Bingo, my main character became a psychologist. My profession has given me entry to the lives of many who have been battered, abused, and abandoned. Presto, my psychologist main character is a woman who continues to struggle with her own history of abuse and abandonment. I’ve long been interested in the notion of justice. Voila, justice becomes the driving force of my abused and suffering clinical psychologist.
I write what I know.
Now, lest you think I am secretly a vigilante assassin with hands so bloody a gallon of Clorox wouldn’t dent the stain, well…you’ll just have to take my word for it that writing what you know can turn the corner and become the foundation for writing what you make up.
The series seems to be progressing from the violence of the first book toa much more psychological approach. What do you envision for the restof the series?
Oh, there’s gonna be a whole lot of violence coming. The next book in
the series, Fixed In Fear, comes out in October, 2015 and opens with a mass murder that is, as they say, not for the faint of heart. But you’re right, as the characters develop, we do get more of an insight into their motivations and musings. As relates to the rest of the series, I envision Lydia and Allie growing closer to an inevitable showdown. Will Mort have to choose between the two of them? And if so, where will his allegiance come down? Will he stand by his sociopathic daughter out of dedication to family? Or will he turn toward Lydia, the woman struggling so hard to live within the rules of society? As relates to Lydia’s destiny with the series, I see her continuing to wrestle the demons inside her. Most times she’ll be successful. But I’m sure there’ll be times when, despite how much she’s trying to keep her Fixer tendencies chained and bound, she’ll give in and apply her special brand of repair to those who have escaped justice.
We’ve still got plenty to learn about the other characters in the series as well. Will Jimmy ever be able to step away from the humor and cynical world-weary posture that has served to protect him from his grief? What’s with Micki? Why is a young, smart, successful, beautiful woman like her alone in life? And speaking of alone, what will happen as relates to Oliver Bane and Paul Bauer? What’s next for Larry?
There’s plenty of plot lines and character arcs knocking around in my head. I can’t wait to get them down in readable form…and I certainly can’t wait to hear what readers think.
Would you like to share anything else with my readers?
I’d like to share so much with them! Readers have made my long-standing dream of being a writer come true. I’d like to share more stories with them. And I’d like to hear theirs. I’d like to share how much I appreciate the support and kindness they’ve shown this series. And I’d like to give them more. I’d like to share a cup of coffee with them. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? To actually be able to have a leisurely conversation with someone I don’t know, but who has read my books? I’m sure most authors would love to stumble across someone reading their book, sit down next to them, and, without the reader knowing they’re speaking to the author, ask them what they think of what they’re reading. No filters. Just a straight-up, person-to-person report.
If any of your readers are interested in having a conversation with me, please contact me on Facebook (T.E.Woods) or on Twitter (@tewoodswrites) or on my website tewoodswrites.com. I’d love to hear from them.
Author Bio:
T.E. Woods is a clinical psychologist in
private practice in Madison, Wisconsin. Her scientific writings are well represented in peer-reviewed journals and academic texts. Her literary works earned her first place for Fiction at the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute. Dr. Woods enjoys kayaking, hiking, biking, and hanging around the house while her two dogs help her make sense of the world. Her habit of relaxing by conjuring up any manner of diabolical murder methods and plots often finds her friends urging her to take up knitting.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Special Bond Between Fathers and Daughters

What is it about the relationship between fathers and daughters that provokes so much exquisite tenderness, satisfying communion, longing for more, idealization from both ends, followed often if not inevitably by disappointment, hurt, and the need to understand and forgive, or to finger the guilt of not understanding and loving enough?” writes Phillip Lopate, in his introduction to Every Father's Daughter,a collection of 25 personal essays by women writers writing about their fathers. The editor, Margaret McMullan, is herself a distinguished novelist and educator. About half of these essays were written by invitation for this anthology; others were selected by Ms. McMullan and her associate, Philip Lopate, who provides an introduction. The contributors include many well-known writers—Alice Munro, Jayne Anne Phillips, Alexandra Styron, Ann Hood, Bobbie Ann Mason, Maxine Hong Kingston, among others—as well as writers less well-known but no less cogent, inventive, perceptive, lacerating, questioning, or loving of their fathers.

Review:

Fathers come in all types from successes to failures, from loving to abusive, and from companionable to distant. In Every Father's Daughter twenty-four women write about what their father meant to them. For me, the theme is expressed best by the author's introduction and the first essay in the book where Jane Smiley writes about her absent father. It shows the way two very different fathers were viewed by their daughters and how this view affected their lives.

The author had a very close relationship with her father even to taking care of him during the last days of his life. Smiley had a different experience. Her father disappeared from her life as a small child. He returned for only brief moments and that lack of a father is what she believes gave her the opportunity to grow into her own person.

The essays run from daughters growing up with famous fathers, like Lily Lopate with Alex Styron, to a father descending into alcoholism as described by Barbara Shoup. When most of these women were growing up, fathers were a glimpse of the world outside while many mothers stayed at home. This gave the fathers an exotic image, tall, handsome and charismatic.

This is a wonderful book for father's day, or any day when you think about your father. It made me laugh and cry, and most of all it reminded me about the things I loved about my own father.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.


Interview with the Author:



1.How did you decide which authors to reach out to for this collection?

In the last month of my father’s life, I read to him Alice Munro’s essay, “Working for a Living.” We had one of our last book discussions about that fox farm, the cold work, and the landscape of Canada. She was the first person I contacted. I wrote her a letter and a few months later she called and said yes, of course you can reprint my essay. I was just stunned. The other authors followed. I invited the authors my father loved or had met at some point in his life. He had dinner with Lee Smith once and she was so quick to respond. Lee led me to Jill McCorkle. I also included three former students. In the end, this collection of women writers became one big circle of friends.

2.How did your vision for this collection evolve from the start to end of this project?

At first I saw this as a collection of southern writers, men and women. But then I realized I just wanted to hear from women, daughters. I moved away from regionalizing it when I began thinking of my father’s literary tastes and what kind of man he was. He was southern but he was also very much shaped by Chicago and the Mid-West. Each time I read an essay, I would think, Would Dad like this?


3.What most surprised you about the creation of Every Father's Daughter?

I was surprised how difficult such a great collection was to get published. Jane Smiley had a Pulitzer, Maxine Hong Kingston won the National Book Award, and Alice Munro had just won a Nobel Prize. I felt this book was no-proof. Who wouldn’t want to read these writers on this particularly personal subject? And who wouldn’t want to read about fathers? I’ve always thought this collection was a sure thing, but it was much more difficult to find a publisher than I had imagined. Apparently, anthologies were no longer fashionable in the publishing industry. One editor, who declined the book, has since contacted me to tell me how she genuinely regrets not taking it.

In your introduction, you talk about how this book was a way for you to grieve. How did you come to realize this?

This particular work felt meaningful because all along I thought so much about my father. I started soon after my father died. The work – reaching out to other women, asking for their stories, and then reading them was therapeutic because it reminded me that there are other emotions besides grief. After a while, after I organized and put together the book, after I wrote my own essay, my grief transformed. It felt less like sadness and more like love.

I have encountered so many readers who have read the book and want to talk about an essay, and then, inevitably, these readers begin to tell me about their fathers. A conversation starts. This book has a power. We are remembering our fathers, and, in some cases, bringing them back to life.

4.Did you come to realize anything about your relationship with your father as you read through the essays in this collection?

I knew from the start that we were close, and that a good part of that closeness was how we stayed connected through literature. Now, I realize exactly how close we really were.



About the Author:


Margaret McMullan is the author of six award-winning novels including Aftermath Lounge, In My Mother’s House, Sources of Light, How I Found the Strong, and When I Crossed No-Bob. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Ploughshares, Southern Accents, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Sun, among several other journals and anthologies. She has received an NEA Fellowship in literature and a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Pécs in Pécs, Hungary. She currently holds the Melvin M. Peterson Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana.



Contact Information:  @margaretmcmulla @prbythebook 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Good Trend in Children's Books

I recently reviewed a book that I think is a good trend in picture books for children. Big Tractors is filled with information even adults will find useful, but the book doesn't talk down to children. The pictures are wonderful and most important it shows children what the big business of farming is like.


Review:

Farming is big business. Big tractors are required to do the planting and harvesting on large commercial farms. Big Tractors gives an overview of how these tractors look and what they do in language a child can understand.

The pictures are outstanding. They show off the tractors and implements to good advantage. In fact, the pictures are so good Daddy or Grandpa may be interested in looking through the book.

Another feature I liked is the timeline showing how tractors have changed to adapt to the new farming methods. I highly recommend this book if your child is interested in tractors. Even if you live on a small farm and your child is familiar with tractors, the pictures of monster tractors give another perspective on farming.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.
 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

et Barbara Stark-Nemon Author of Even in Darkness

About the Author:

Barbara Stark-Nemon (www.barbarastarknemon.com) grew up in Michigan, listening to her family’s stories of their former lives in Germany, which became the basis and inspiration for Even in Darkness, her first novel. Barbara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Art History and a Masters in Speech-language Pathology from the University of Michigan. After a 30-year teaching and clinical career working with deaf and language-disabled children, Barbara became a full-time writer. She lives and works in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan.


Interview:

1. What inspired you to write Even in Darkness?
Even in Darkness is based on the life of my great aunt, who alone among her siblings did not
escape Germany during the Holocaust. Her story of survival—the courage and strength she had
to remake herself and her life in the face of unspeakable loss—has been an inspiration to me
throughout my adult life. Hers is a beautiful story and having come to know it in depth I wanted to
share it and create a legacy for her.


2. You researched the book thoroughly. Did you know from the beginning how extensive
your research would become?

Yes and no. I’ve known since one of the visits I made to my great aunt in Germany many years
ago, that I wanted to write her story, so I started interviewing her (she was already over 90 years
old) and the priest, who is the other main character in this story. I also interviewed my parents
and grandparents. I already knew a lot about my grandfather and great aunt’s family from Sunday
nights around the dinner table. Then my aunt died, and the priest sent me all her personal
papers, including over 50 letters that her son had written to her during and after the war from
Palestine, where he had been sent at the age of 12. Those letters deepened and changed what I
understood about all their lives in a way I couldn’t have predicted.


3. What was one of your favorite stories that your grandfather told you about his life in
Germany?

My favorite story is one that’s actually in Even in Darkness and describes how, when all hope
appeared to be lost for getting a visa to leave Germany, my grandfather chose to try one last time
at the bidding of my 12-year-old mother who pestered him that she wanted to go to the U.S. to
join her best friend who had already emigrated. My grandfather didn’t want to frighten my mother
by telling her that he’d tried repeatedly to see the American consul and been denied an
appointment. My mother begged him to go that day; it was her birthday. When he said he might
not be able to get in, she told him to tell the diplomat it was his daughter’s birthday. My
grandfather stayed all day in line at the consulate, and as he was about to be turned away yet
again, he pleaded that it was his daughter’s birthday and he just felt it was a lucky day. The
official let him in, and an hour later he had the necessary visa. That was in May of 1938, and they
were finally able to leave in October, just a few weeks before Kristallnacht.


4. Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you?

I traveled to Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and to Israel to trace all the histories and
see all the places I learned about in my grandfather’s stories and later, in the trove of personal
papers my great aunt left to me. I was able to interview even more people related to this story,
walk the streets, photograph the homes, take trains over the same routes to the concentration
camp, look out over the hills surrounding the kibbutz where all my characters lived out their lives.
In archives and museums I learned details of births, deaths, marriages, businesses, deportations,
displacements, escapes and emigrations. All this knowledge fed my imagination for the parts of
the story I didn’t and couldn’t know.


5. How did you feel reading letters written by your ancestors? What did you learn from these
letters?

This was one of the most thrilling and challenging aspects of writing Even in Darkness. To
translate these sixty-five-year-old letters and hear the voice of my mother’s cousin as a 19-yearold
pioneer in Palestine with his description of his escape from Germany and the early years of
his life half a world away was both fascinating and did more than anything else to make that time
and his character live for me. The exhaustion, desperation and heartache of his parents, having
just survived years of persecution under the Nazis, and then three years in a concentration camp
and displaced person camp, can be heard in his youthful assurances that one day it would be
safe for his mother to visit, brushing off the dangers he faced, and his exuberance for all that he
was training to accomplish on the kibbutz he and other young pioneers were starting.


6. What kinds of considerations were there in incorporating real letters into your novel?

The biggest challenge was to capture the voice, the history and the language of the letters and
still work within the story structure of the novel. It was the most poignant and concrete example of
the constant balance I had to maintain as I was writing Even in Darkness between what really
happened to the people on whom the book is based, and what worked for purposes of writing a
good novel.


7. What was the most surprising part about your research? Did you uncover any family
secrets?

There were some surprises. Through interviews with cousins in Europe I learned a different
perspective about other members of my grandfather’s family, whom I knew only though his
stories. I learned about my mother’s cousins who were hidden in a convent by nuns. I learned
about the personal decisions about faith and influence in the Catholic Church at that time that had
enormous impact on my family. I learned that another great aunt was a beautiful singer and
evaded arrest by singing for a German officer. And I learned that what people had to do to
maintain their safety and their sanity during the dangerous years of the 1930s in Germany
resulted in boundary crossing behaviors that were both courageous and painful.


Review:

Courage and Love in War-Torn Germany


In the days leading up to WWI, Klare, an eighteen-year-old German-Jewish girl, has a big decision to make. Jakob Kohler, a young Jewish attorney, wants to marry her before he goes off to fight. Klare likes him. He has good prospects, but she's unsure whether she loves him. In the pressure of a country going to war, Klare agrees to the wedding and soon finds herself a housewife and mother.

The novel follows Klare's story from her marriage before WWI through the horrors of WWII and beyond. The book is well researched and paints a realistic picture of the fate of German-Jews before, during and after the two world wars. The experiences of the author's family, which form the basis of the narrative, add realistic detail.

The book is worth reading to get the flavor of the life of an average person during the wars. However, the narrative moves very slowly. In some ways, Klare is a compelling character for the bravery with which she faces the privations and discrimination of war. However, she is a very average person. Circumstances drive her. She shows ingenuity in dealing with some of the worst problems of WWII, however, she does it in a quiet way. If you want excitement and fast-paced action, this is not a book you'll enjoy. If you're interested in life in Germany during and after the wars, the book is well done.


I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.


Press Contact:

Elena Meredith | PR by the Book






Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meet Jerssica Landmon Author of All Mascara is Not Created Equal

About the Author:


Jessica Landmon has ministered to women's groups for over a decade. She is the founder of Women Get Real Ministries, which addresses issues that all women struggle with, including fear, faith, anxiety, depression, and body image. She is happily married, and God has blessed her with two beautiful children.


Introduction to the Book:


Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media are sending mixed messages about the way we, as women, are to live our lives. Catch phrases like “YOLO” and “swag” are distorting the ideals that we should strive for. Women have more to contribute to society than being sexy, and we certainly shouldn’t attach our worth to how many likes we get on a selfie.

As a mother to a tween daughter and a teenage son, I have learned a few things about life along the way. This book is full of valuable tips or bits of wisdom that I have learned, or heard from my parents, while growing up.

Some of them are quite spiritual and have helped me through some difficult times. Some of them are
practical and certainly would have helped me to avoid some major overreactions to the silliest of things. Some are just plain amusing. They stem from those eureka moments where I was like “That is so true!” Like, who knew that the thread count of sheets really does make a difference?

This is not just another book where a mother and her daughter walk hand-in-hand in the garden as the
mom passes along life lessons. This book is more of a woman-to-woman guidebook for life
.
Now about mascara...how many of you look at celebrities and are like, there is no way their lashes can be that full! You’ve tried to layer coat after coat with your mascara and wonder why your lashes still look like, well, your lashes. You think, am I applying this wrong? Maybe I need a special brush No.

All mascara is NOT created equal! This was news to me. I don’t care how much your current mascara costs, it still might not be good. There ARE mascaras that are superior to others. You just need to find the right one.

So, as you read through the pages of this book, grab a cup of tea, and let these tips sink in. Don’t get
distracted by what society is trying to tell you to become; walk in the plan God has for you. You are God’s beautiful creation, and He has a wonderful plan for your life.


Interview:

1. Can you give us a brief summary of your book, All Mascara is Not Created Equal?

All Mascara is Not Created Equal is intended to present lighthearted, witty, and spiritually sound advice to young women and girls in “tweet-like” form to help them live a life God would approve of.

2. Where did you get the idea to write this book?

I actually started writing the book specifically for my tween daughter and intended to give it her as she entered middle school. Those years can be tough. As a parent, I’m very concerned about the message culture is marketing to our youth. It contradicts the way God has called us to live.

3. How did you come up with the playful title?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love mascara. I had tried several brands over the years and
finally discovered a fantastic mascara that I just loved. It was full of minerals and actually nourished
your lashes. Plus, it created a very full lash. I would always joke with daughter, saying that if you
remember anything I tell you remember that ‘All Mascara Is Not Created Equal.’

4. How long did it take you to write the book? Do you have any stories you can share of how you
gathered specific quotes or advice?

You could say the book took most of my life to write, as my experiences growing up and parenting are what shaped it. But, in actuality, it only took about a year to record them and fine-tune them. Most of them wrote themselves. I would be having a conversation with my kids, and all of a sudden I would give some advice. If I liked it, I would later record it. In fact, as I was compiling the tips, my kids would remind me of the things I had told them through the years. Some of the tips are just reflections of the advice my mother and father passed on to me. Of course, they
needed a little tweaking. I didn’t have to deal with the pressures of social media and cell phones
when I was growing up.

5. Did you have any challenges when writing this book? If so, what were they?
The only challenge I really faced was stopping. At some point, I had to say, this is enough. I will most certainly continue to give my daughter (and son) advice as they continue to mature, but there definitely needed to be a stopping point for the book.

6. We would love to know more about the woman behind the book. How would you describe
yourself?

Practical. Organized. Planner. These are some words that my close circle of friends and family would useto describe me. And I can’t argue with that. But, when the Holy Spirit asks me to do something, all that goes out the door. Jesus’ love for me is the most important thing in my life. My goal is that everyone would experience this type of love, which is why I am so quick to abandon my plans and do what God wants me to do. On a fun note, I am married to my high school sweetheart. I was only 16 when we started dating. He was a football player and I was a cheerleader. You don’t get any cuter than that! God has blessed us with two beautiful children who are my absolute joy.
Also, I just love Yorkies, which is why you see them all throughout the book. One day, when the timing is right, I will add one to our family.

7. What do you hope readers take away from All Mascara is Not Created Equal?

I hope women learn that pop culture shouldn’t define the kind of women we become. I hope that they
see that life is hard, but Jesus will be your comforter and strength. I hope that every woman sees her
beauty, even before she puts on her mascara. Our inner beauty is so much more important than anything on the outside.

8. Can you tell us more about the ministry behind the book, Women Get Real?

Women Get Real Ministries is all about “getting real” with other women. All too often, women put on the facade that everything is just perfect. But, in reality, they are silently suffering with issues like fear, anxiety, depression, body image, and faith. We break the rules about what is and is not
acceptable to talk about, to try and reach the hearts of women providing them with hope and healing.

9. Where can we find you online and purchase the book?

Books are available through my website, www.womengetreal.org and on Amazon. It is also being sold at many boutique stores in Connecticut.


Review:

A Book for Mothers to Share With Their Daughters

We all want the best for our children and that includes living the way God wants us to live. In today's rushed world, it's sometimes hard to find either the time or the words for mothers to talk to their daughters about moral issues and life lessons. All Mascara is Not Created Equal is an opportunity to open the discussion with a beautiful book.

The book intersperses humerus tips like the idea the movie star's mascara is different, to practical tips like be an informed voter, to religious tips like listen to God; he's pretty wise. The book is worth reading from cover to cover then selecting topics to discuss with your daughter. It's a beautiful gift to give your child.

This book will be featured on a Blog Tour from March 23-27. For more information see #WomenGetRealBlogTour .


I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.




Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Meet Michael Kechula Multi-Published Micro Fiction Author




Michael Kechula is a prize-winning multi-published author of flash or micro-fiction. His recently published book MICRO FICTION: Writing 100-Word Stories (Drabbles) For Magazines and Contests---A Self-Study Tutorial) is available from BooksForABuck.com.





Writing micro-fiction is a way to get published without the substantial commitment of writing a novel. Since Michael has been successful at it, I asked him to give us some background on how he got started as well as some tips for authors who want to try this genre.


Interview:

 
NANCY:   You write short fiction. Could you describe the different kinds? Do you have a favorite?


MIKE:  I write flash fiction and micro-fiction.  Flash fiction is a literary form in which a complete story is told in 1,000 words or less.  Micro-fiction is another literary form in which a complete story is told in 200 words or less.  One form of micro-fiction that’s popular today is the drabble, which is a complete story in exactly 100 words, not counting the title. I’ve written more flash fiction tales than micro-fiction tales, so I suppose that’s my favorite way of storytelling.

 
NANCY:  How did you get started writing short fiction?


MIKE:  About 13 years ago, I was browsing books on writing at Barnes and Noble, and I ran across a title that included the words, “Flash Fiction.”  I’d never heard of that, so I browsed the book and bought it.  However, I should have left it on the shelf, because it turned out to be mostly an academic discussion on trying to determine what flash fiction is, or should be.  The book included a few stories, which I thought were mediocre at best, as they had no plots and were just a collection of words that didn’t exceed 1,000 word count.

Feeling intuitively that flash fiction might have more to it than what I’d read in the book, I checked the internet for more information.  That led me to a Yahoo writing group, “FLASHXER” which was short for Flash Fiction Exercise Writing Group.  I joined the group, read some of the stories posted, then tried to write my own.  I was a complete failure at developing flash fiction.  Members of FLASHXER kept sending me critiques saying my stories were dull and mundane.  For some reason, I just couldn’t get the hang of writing flash.

The day I decided to forget flash fiction forever, the moderator of FLASHXER issued a new prompt.  I read it and thought maybe I’d give flash one more try, and if I failed, that would definitely be the end of my flirtation with writing  stories of so few words.
 
I recall that day very well, because I was in a do or die mood.  Raising my hands over the keyboard, I kept them in mid air, waiting for an inspiration.  To visualize what I might have looked like at that moment, think of a concert pianist who is about to perform a famous classical work with a symphony orchestra.  In about 30 seconds, he will begin his performance, so his hands are raised over the keys with his fingers ready to strike.

While my hands were raised over the keyboard, these words suddenly popped into my head:  “Martian spaghetti, $39.50 a plate.”  I can’t tell you where those words came from, especially since they sounded like something out a wild sci-fi tale--- and I wasn’t a sci-fi fan.  Nevertheless, the words of an intriguing opener came to mind,  and I started typing.  An hour later, I had written a nutty flash fiction tale of 960 words.   I spent a bit of time polishing my creation, then submitted it to FLASHXER.  Within an hour, hoorays filled my screen from everyone who critiqued my tale, which I called, “39.50 A Plate.”   Unbelievable!  I’d created a story that my peers found funny, enjoyable, creative, entertaining.  One reviewer said I should send it immediately to Alien Skin Magazine. 

I took the reviewer’s advice and submitted it to the magazine with some trepidation.  After all, just a few hours earlier I was a total failure when it came to creating a flash fiction story of any genre that anybody would care to read.   Now, I was actually submitting a flash tale to a magazine that tended to be quite fussy about what they accepted.  To my amazement,  the Alien Skin editor accepted the story a few hours later.   Thus, my first flash fiction tale had been written, accepted by my peers, and then accepted for publication in an online magazine, all within 10 hours.
Ever since then, I’ve had no problem coming up with story concepts and developing them.  As of February 2015, my flash and micro-fiction tales have been published in 157 magazines and 55 anthologies in 8 countries.  I’ve been lucky enough to have won 20 flash and micro contests:  1st prize in 12 and 2nd prize in 8 others.  I’ve won 4 Editor’s Choice awards.  Four collections of my previously published and prize-winning tales have been published as eBooks and Paperbacks.   These collections contain a total of 266 flash and micro-fiction stories.   One of my flash tales was nominated by Gemini Magazine for a Pushcart Literary Prize.  Didn’t win, but never expected my work to be nominated for any prize. 

In addition to the 4 books, I’ve written 2 self-study books that teach how to write flash fiction and micro-fiction.  The titles of these books are: “Writing Genre Flash Fiction The Minimalist Way---A Self-Study Book” and “MICRO FICTION:  Writing 100-Word Stories (Drabbles) for Magazines and Contests---A Self-Study Tutorial.”  

      
NANCY:  What are the publishing opportunities in short fiction?


MIKE:  Hundreds of online and print magazines around the world clamor for genre flash and mirco-fiction stories every month.   A lesser number seeks micro-fiction tales, especially in the drabble format.  Dozens of magazines issue submission calls  for literary flash and micro-fiction tales every month.

In addition, numerous contests are announced for flash and micro-fiction tales every month.   Most tend to seek genre fiction works.

 
NANCY:  What advice can you give to someone who wants to get started writing short fiction?

 
MIKE:  Here are some points to consider:
 
1)    Decide if you want to develop a genre fiction or literary fiction work.  If you aren’t sure of the difference, consider this:  literary works tend to be lyrical, focus on characters, and have little or no plot.  In contrast, genre works are considered the opposite of literary drabbles, because they don’t focus on characters. Instead, they focus on events, plus they have developed plots.  By events, I mean the noteworthy things that happen in a story. For example, if you’re telling about a man who’s on his way to a bank to rob it, you’ll probably focus on what happens when he arrives. You wouldn’t expend words describing his motivations, what he wore, and the color of his hair. Instead, you’d establish the fact that someone wanted to rob a bank, tell what happened when he arrived at the bank, and if he succeeded or not.
 
2)    If you decide to try your hand at genre fiction, try to be a storyteller first and writer second.  If you’re not sure how to develop your flash or micro tale as a storyteller, consider writing the story using the same words you’d use when telling it to a friend over coffee. For example, suppose you want to tell your friend about a party you went to last night. Would you tell him like this? “I went to a great party last night while the stars shone brightly in the sky and the moon gave off just enough light to give the ground a wondrous, silvery patina.” Or would you say this? “I went to a great party last night.”

Hopefully, you’d use the words shown in the second example. That’s the storyteller’s way of relating a story, while the first sentence is the writer’s artful way of embellishing a sentence with lots of visuals. You can’t help but notice the startling differences between the two.

3)    Another thing to consider:  you aren’t writing a novel or short story.  Techniques you may have learned that work very well in developing novels and short stories usually don’t work when writing very short fiction.  For example, in novels and short stories authors always include first and last names.  We don’t do that in flash or micro, because it wastes one word count each time.  This brings up the idea of always having word economy in mind when developing your story.  For most people, this is the greatest challenge they face when attempting to write flash and micro-fiction.

4)    Consider adapting a minimalist approach to writing flash or micro.  Here are the objectives I’ve developed for minimalist authors:  to tell as much story as possible, in as few words as possible, without sacrificing a smooth read.  If you can do this, you may find yourself getting published quickly and continuously.
   
5)    Edit your drafts ruthlessly.
     
Many more techniques are involved.  All are thoroughly covered in my self-study books that teach and drill readers on the flash and micro-fiction development process.  

  
NANCY:   What are you working on now?


MIKE:  I just completed the final edit on my latest collection of flash tales.  This new book is called, “Revenge Day and Other Tales of Crime and Espionage.”  I expect it will be published as an eBook and paperback in June, 2015.

 
NANCY:   Do you have any other points you'd like to share about this area?


MIKE:   Yes.  I’ve found that stories of any genre can be told via the flash or micro format.  For example, I’ve written light sci-fi, various subgenres of fantasy, horror, romance, crime, and espionage tales over the years. 
  
Don’t choose a concept that is too ambitious for flash or micro.  If your concept will require more than 4 scenes, it probably won’t work effectively if presented in the flash or micro format.

Try to use dialog as much as possible. Dialog uses far less words than narrative.
Include an opener that will grab reader’s attention and make them want to read more.
Tell instead of show.  Showing burns excessive word count.

Remember to use word economy at all times.

Edit your work ruthlessly, but not to such an extent that the read becomes choppy.
Read your first draft aloud and record it.  Play the recording several times.  You’ll notice sentences that can be smoother, especially those containing dialog.

Thanks, Nancy, for the opportunity to tell my story. 


Review: 

Write Publishable Drabbles

Crafting a Drabble is different from writing a novel or creative non-fiction. At 100 words, each word must count. Flowery description, body movements, or the weather use unnecessary words. Kechula, a multi-published micro fiction author and editor, shares his techniques in this self-study guide.

Efficiently telling a story in 100 words is the key to writing a Drabble. The chapters present methods for eliminating words and writing clear sentences. Topics include: tell don't show, hook the reader, and add a twist. Kechula includes his published micro fiction to illustrate the ideas. Questions follow the text to allow the reader to practice. The answers are given at the end of each chapter. A final series of 165 practice questions allows you to test your ability to understand and apply the concepts.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in writing micro fiction and taking advantage of the opportunities for publication in contests and on-line and print magazines. Although Kechula's book is a comprehensive guide to writing micro fiction, it does not guarantee you will be published. Telling a good story is key, but if you have a story, this book will help you hone your technique.

 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meet Kyle Prue Author of "The Sparks"

The Author:

Kyle Prue is a seventeen-year-old high school student. In an interview, he discusses some of the reasons he decided to write The Sparks, the first book in the Feud trilogy. This post is part of a blogbook tour. You can find more information by following the tour at #TheSparksBlogTour.


Interview:

  1. Where did you get the idea for the Feud series?

This is a coming of age story for young adults and I am a teen in that demographic. Everyone struggles to find their path in life and my characters are all struggling with not wanting to let people down and to find their way; forgiveness and hope is a part of that journey as well. One night, at the age of 15, I had terrible insomnia and I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about the different personalities of my siblings and myself and how we will all follow different paths. That gave me the idea to create three different families loosely based around our differing personalities. I decided it would be fun to take these families and place them in a fantasy world where the obstacles we all face could be magnified to a whole new level. I wrote out the plot for the three books that night.

  1. What drew you to write YA Fantasy?

I wanted to write for me. Recently, I’ve hit an “in-between” zone where it’s harder for me to find books I want to read. I wanted to write something that I would want to read and that would appeal to other kids my age. I wanted to appeal to boys who have lost interest in reading and I also created strong female characters that girls will love.

  1. When did you first start writing?

Like a lot of kids, I was bullied in middle school. I doubt you will ever find a kid that says, “I rocked 7th grade! That was the best time in my life.” I was short and fat and had a bowl haircut with braces. This was not a great time in my life. But I discovered I could come home and pick up a pen and create a whole fantasy world that I could control, when the rest of my life felt out of control. I learned that I loved to create characters because their potential is limitless.

I was lucky because I learned to use writing as an escape at an early age. I was in a multi-age program from 1st-3rd grade where I had the same teacher for three years. She had an experimental writing program where she gave us an hour a day to write in our journals. She told us to just write freely and not worry about punctuation or grammar, just let the creativity flow. So by the end of that program, I had a stack of notebooks filled with an adventure series. I also did a series called Three Rings that I wrote from the age of 12 to 14 when middle school was really rough. It was a 200-page manuscript. It wasn’t good, but it was good practice.


  1. What are your other interests besides writing?

I love stand up comedy because like writing, it requires an ability to look at the world in a unique way and find the humor in that. I’m a varsity swimmer for my school. I’m involved with mock trial, I’m in a number of plays every year, I started an improv club at my school and I’m really involved with our film club—we spend our weekends writing scripts and filming. We are currently working on a web series called “Amockalypse” that I’m really excited about. I pretty much gave up on sleeping after middle school.

  1. When do you find the time to write?

If you love something, you find the time. I write during any hour that I can get free. With extracurriculars, I don’t usually get home until around 7:00 p.m. or later, and then I have homework, so I may only write an hour or two during the week. I try to make time to write during the weekends and breaks—I get the most writing done in the summer. I started the second book in the trilogy, The Flames, this past summer and am working on editing it over this school year.

  1. Where is your favorite place to write?

I’ve usually got a notebook or computer on hand so any time I feel even the slightest bit inspired I can write. I am a big fan of writing in bookstores—it’s an interesting feeling to be surrounded by the works of people who have achieved what you are trying to accomplish.

  1. What is your family like?

My family is nothing like the families in the book, I better clarify that up front. My parents are incredibly supportive and have allowed me to follow my dreams. I have two siblings: a brother and a sister. They are great; we are very close. I am the youngest.

My brother and I used to fight a lot and that dynamic inspired my idea for the three feuding families in the books. We don’t fight anymore, as we’ve outgrown that phase, but it gave me plenty to write about.

  1. What were you like as a child?

I lived in a fantasy world all the time—I was always inventing stories and reenacting them. I lived in costumes. I had a cat suit that I particularly loved. My mom would always get me a new costume for Halloween and inevitably I would end up back in my cat suit when it was time to go trick-or-treating. I wore that cat suit until the legs only came to my knees. It’s weird…for some reason when you dress like a cat all the time you don’t make a ton of friends. But anyway, that’s why my parents signed me up for acting classes. I started taking acting classes at the age of six. I loved it from the start.

Currently, my whole focus is on college auditions. I’m crazy enough to be applying for programs where thousands of kids audition and they literally accept only six boys. So it’s kind of like trying to win the lottery, but I’m giving it my best shot. As I mentioned, I’m writing, directing and acting in my web series and we are launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund that this week. I spent last fall in LA and I was so lucky to take acting classes and perform improv at LA Connection. It was like what I imagine grad school is like. I spent 40 hours a week in acting classes and seminars—and still had to keep up with schoolwork online. It was intense but amazing.


Tell us where we can find your book and more information about you.

You can find more info on my website, www.kyleprue.com, Facebook www.facebook.com/kyleprue, Twitter @KylePrue and Instagram @KyleStevenPrue.


Review: 

A Fast Paced Fantasy Adventure

Neil Vapros, a member of the powerful Vapros family, wants to be an assassin to impress his father. He is assigned to kill the grandfather, titular head of the Taurlum clan. Once in the Taurlum mansion, he looks for the grandfather, but instead runs into two young Tarulum brothers, Darius and Michael. They give chase and Neil is barely able to escape.

The three primary families of Altryon: Vapros, Taurlum, and Celerium, have been given special powers designed to help protect the city from the dangers of the world outside the city walls, but for years they have been fighting each other using their powers to kill each other. Now there is a powerful emperor, but instead of fostering peace among the families, he appears to be encouraging the feud.

Young adults, teens and preteens, should enjoy this book. It's filled with action, battles, and magical encounters where young people fight to protect their families. The book focuses on plot and action and does it well. However, there is little character development. Neil does grow as he faces the forces arrayed against him, but the other characters remain static.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fast paced action with a touch of magic.


Published on Nancy Famolari's Authorspotlight (http://nancyfamolari.blgspot.com)


Purchasing the Book:


There is a special discount code for readers who want to purchase The Sparks. They can purchase the book from Kyle Prue’s store on his official website (linked). The code ‘BLOG25’ will get them 25% off an autographed copy, signed by Kyle Prue! NOTE: This code will not work on purchases made on Amazon. 
  




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