Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Plot/Storyline

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back to the “Ask the Authors 2022” Saturday blog series.

If you missed them, you can catch the first two segments here:

Segment 1Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killany/Writing Life Q & A

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-Writing Rituals Q & A

This is the third segment for this series and today I’m going to introduce you to contributing author, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, who shares her essay about her own publishing journey in the book, and bring you a Q & A on plot, or storyline, from the WordCrafter writing reference anthology, Ask the Authors 2022.

Meet Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a writer of young adult and adult fiction in the supernatural fantasy, historical horror, and historical supernatural genres. Under the name Robbie Cheadle, she is a South African children’s author, publishing the Sir Chocolate series with her son, Michael, and a poet with 2 published poetry books.

To date, Roberta has published two novels, Through the Nethergate, and A Ghost and His Gold, along with several short stories in various anthologies including Whispers of the Past, Spirits of the West, and Where Spirits Linger, all edited and compiled by Kaye Lynne Booth, and Dark Visions, Nightmareland, Spellbound, Wings & Fire, and Shadowland, all compiled by Dan Alatorre.

Robbie is also a member of the Writing to be Read blogging team and co-editor of Poetry Treasures (2021) and Poetry Treasures 2: Relationships (2022), two poetry anthologies with contributing authors who were guests from her “Treasuring Poetry” blog series. When she is not writing, Robbie enjoys working in the garden and creating fondant and cake artworks to be featured in her children’s books.

And now for the Q & A.

Plot/Storyline

How do you feel about prologues? Love them or hate them? Why?

Mario Acevedo: I’m not a fan of prologues and as I see them as superfluous to the story. If you must include a prologue, then call it Chapter One to make sure readers like me won’t flip past it.

Paul Kane: I have no strong feelings about them either way. Sometimes I’ve used them, other times I’ve gone straight into Chapter One. I know some writers who say if you can avoid Prologues then do it and just start with the first chapter, but I think if it serves a purpose then there’s a place for one. I tend to include them in the thrillers, because it’s always an event that kicks things off – so for example in Her Last Secret, it’s the death of Jordan Radcliffe, in Her Husband’s Grave it’s the discovery of a body on Golden Sands beach, and in The Family Lie it’s a couple of campers who see a man on fire in the woods. I then split the narrative into parts, and in Chapter One I tend to introduce the main protagonist, so it might be the person who’ll be doing the investigating; someone whose eyes we’ll be seeing most of the events in the book through.

Chris Barili: I normally skip prologues in the books I read, especially if they’re more than two pages long, so naturally, I try to avoid them in my own writing. I tend to be of the mind that if it’s important enough to be in the story, I can be “Chapter One” or background info sprinkled throughout the story.

Bobby Nash: Prologues have their uses. I don’t think they need to be used in every story and I certainly don’t use them as an info dump. Sometimes, they work well.

Robbie Cheadle: I have no strong feelings about prologues. If the story requires one, then it should be there, if not, it can be omitted. I have not as yet included a prologue in one of my books.

Nancy Oswald: Not too fond of them. I think it’s better to jump right into the story.

Kevin Killiany: Prologues are essentially exposition—they explain the conditions or situation that make the story itself possible and necessary. Sometimes they contain information vital to the climax or outcome of the story that the writer could not figure out how to insert into the narrative itself. Like any tool they are not good or bad in and of themselves. I have, rarely, used prologues as placeholders in rough drafts; repositories to hold essential information until I work out how to work the really important bits into the narrative. Only one of my short stories ever went to press with both a prologue and epilog: “Simple Farmer”, Total Warfare, FanPro, 2006, a tie-in story for the Classic BattleTech RPG. They contained information long-time players knew, but new and less minutia-oriented readers would need to understand the story’s significance to the game.

What is the most difficult part of the story to write: beginning, middle or end?

Mario Acevedo: For me, the entire book is a challenge. I tell new writers not to sweat a perfect beginning because it’s often not till you write the ending do you figure what the beginning needs to say. The middle is called “the swamp” for good reason and the key here is to keep in mind the story question as you introduce plot twists.

Paul Kane: This changes, depending on at which point in the story or book you ask me. It’s hard to make a start on a project, because you’ve just got the blank page in front of you. But then it’s just as hard the next day to come to it and see another blank page… I tend to flag about halfway through and wonder what the hell I’m doing or wish I’d never even started it. The end is definitely the best part, if you’ve panned it well and can bring the book in for a good landing. There’s no more satisfying feeling in the world than having written the book. I always joke that I hate writing – which for a writer probably isn’t great – but I do love having written. Having a first draft that I can then tinker with. That’s my favourite part of the process if I’m honest, apart from getting the idea in the first place and developing that. But even at an early stage, you’ve got the whole mountain of a book to write ahead of you, which can be quite daunting. 

Bobby Nash: I don’t know if I would call it more difficult to write, but the middle is usually where I start getting bogged down. Knowing when to transition from the middle to the end can be tricky.

Robbie Cheadle: It is all the same for me. I have the outline in my head, and I write in that direction. I do not find any parts more difficult, and I am for consistency and fluidity throughout my stories.

Jeff Bowles: For me, a short story or novel isn’t complete until I’ve managed to synthesize a decent tie-up ending. It can be tough to do, especially if you aren’t using a road map or outline of some sort, which I often do just to see where the story takes me. Sometimes I do a lot of preplanning, and that can certainly help, but even then, things in the plot can and do change, which means a good ending can still be hard to stick. Beginnings carry all the burden of proof, the reason someone will or won’t want to read your work, but even they depend on where a narrative ultimately ends up. As the saying goes, the seeds of an ending are always found in its beginning.

Nancy Oswald: Each book is different.

What are the elements of a good plot?

Paul Kane: That it hangs together well and is pacy. That there are no flabby bits which are unnecessary. Every bit of your story should be relevant and serve a purpose; if you could take certain bits out and still have the same plot, then they weren’t necessary in the first place. That it moves along well from beginning to the middle, to the end, and leaves a reader satisfied; and by that I mean content that they haven’t just wasted a chunk of their lives reading it. It’s why I always plan, so I can see the shape of the plot and work out what sections need to stay, which can be salvaged, and which need to be jettisoned.

Bobby Nash: I tell stories that I hope are coherent, make sense, and are entertaining. If that happens and the characters work, I’m happy.

What is the best hook you’ve ever written? Why?

Paul Kane: Ooh, that’s a hard one. Do you mean at the beginning of a story to make the reader go on? I’d say probably The Family Lie – and reviewers have mentioned this a lot! It’s the whole thing of showing those campers hearing something in the woods, looking out and seeing a guy on fire among the trees. I mean, what on earth’s going on there? If it doesn’t make you want to read on and find out then I’ve really not done my job properly. Up there with that is probably the start of Servants of Hell. That purposely mirrors the puzzle box scene with Frank from The Hellbound Heart, where he’s trying to solve the Lament Configuration and summon the Cenobites. I have a very similar scene, but right at the end you discover it’s Sherlock Holmes solving the puzzle just as the Cenobites show up. We then go back and find out how he ended up in that situation, but man what a hook! I was the one on fire the day I wrote that.

Chris Barili: Probably the opening to Guilty, the prequel to my Hell’s Butcher series. It opens with the main character face down in a saloon, dead from a gunshot wound. His first interaction is with a bartender who is half-rhinoceros.

Bobby Nash: I love this opening to Snow Falls.

“Abraham Snow knew he was about to die–

–and the thought of it pissed him off to no end.”

What kind of stakes do you set for your characters?

Paul Kane: Usually quite high stakes. Even if it’s something that’s high stakes for them alone, something that means a great deal to them, but might not to anyone else. You have to give characters motivation, nudge them to do things they might not otherwise do, and the only way to achieve that is by making it a high stakes gamble for them. They might lose their marriage, kids, or even their life. It makes a reader keep on turning the pages to find out how they’ll get on. In Lunar, the stakes really couldn’t be any higher for my protagonist Nick Skinner: he needs to find out why the world became stuck at a certain point in time; what the white-eyed Loons are roaming about, killing people; and he needs to find out where the love of his life Dawn is. Track her down and save her. Hopefully you go along with him for the ride to find out how he gets on. 

Chris Barili: Again, that depends on the story and the genre. The stakes in a romance are a broken heart or happiness, while that in a horror story might actually be losing their heart.

Bobby Nash: Every story is different, but the stakes have to impact the character on some personal level. If the character doesn’t feel anything or there’s no stakes for them, the reader has no reason to get invested.

Robbie Cheadle: Through the Nethergate and A Ghost and His Gold were both about ghosts which have become trapped in between the physical world here on earth, and the afterlife. The reasons for this happening are different in both books, but the ghosts searching for redemption, so they can move on to the next level of existence is a common thread. The Soldier and the Radium Girl is different and is about a young couple’s quest for justice.

Do you write in subplots purposefully or do they develop organically for you?

Paul Kane: I work all those out beforehand, when I do my planning. That’s when subplots will occur to me and develop organically at the ideas level when I’m figuring it all out. As I mentioned, that doesn’t mean it’s all set in stone, there is always scope to change things if it makes the story better, but it allows you to figure out what main plots and subplots you’re going to need before you even start writing.

Chris Barili: Both. I plan some, and others pop up during the course of telling the story. If your characters are realistic enough, and you know them well enough you won’t be able to avoid the latter happening at least a little in your story.

Bobby Nash: A little of both. In writing series like Snow or Sheriff Myers, I know plot points for future books so I set up things that will pay off later. There are times, however, where I’ll decide something later and go back to set up the subplots and discover they are already there. Sometimes, my characters are smarter than I am.

Robbie Cheadle: Subplots do develop organically for me and are often a result of the interesting additional information I discover through my research as I go along.

Nancy Oswald: Develop organically.

Kevin Killiany: Subplots are always purposeful. In fact I always write complex or substantive subplots as individual stories in first/rough draft. Jigsawing the parts together—trimming, expanding, and polishing as needed—is part of the editorial process. 

How do you assure that all subplots are resolved at the end of the story?

Mario Acevedo: I don’t because I like messy endings. The main story question is resolved, but usually involves a compromise by the protagonist. Unresolved subplots are good places to hitch up a sequel.

Paul Kane: Well, they might not be – but that would be something you leave dangling on purpose. For example, and this is a spoiler, at the end of The Gemini Factor we find out that one of the main characters Deborah is pregnant with twins. This was part of the subplot of her falling in love with Jack, a twin himself, who ends up getting killed. So we don’t really see the resolution of what she does about having his kids… unless I do a sequel, which actually I’m intending to do at some point. So leaving things open-ended sometimes can shoot off into yet another story. Pulling on a story thread that you’ve left dangling.

Chris Barili: Well, first off, some are not resolved because I want them to continue into the next book. For those that wrap up in the current book, I create a plot line, usually color-coded, in my beat sheet for that subplot so I don’t forget it.

Bobby Nash: Keep good notes. There was one time I realized that I had forgotten to resolve a plot point and so I started planning how to resolve it and the characters showed me which way to go. It turned out far better than my original idea. That’s why I trust my characters to get me where I need to go.

Robbie Cheadle: I engage the services of a developmental editor to read my stories carefully and help me tidy up lose threads, tighten the storyline, and produce the best story possible. I am also fortunate enough to have two Beta readers who read my work chapter-by-chapter and help me resolve issues and lose threads or contradictions as I go along.

Kevin Killiany: Sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they’re hooks for the next story.

What methods do you use to add tension and conflict to your story?

Mario Acevedo: Make sure the characters, even those on the same side, have competing agendas.

Paul Kane: Well, I use suspense to ramp up the tension. And if you want to know how that works, just go away and watch a bunch of Hitchcock movies because he was the master. Show the bomb and the ticking clock under the table, but have the characters oblivious to it. That’s suspense, folks! As for conflict, you have to have characters with different points of view, just like in real life. Where do all the arguments come from in your own life? People who disagree with you on a certain course of action or about beliefs. Just look at something like The X-Files, which I watched from start to finish again recently. Mulder’s the believer, Scully’s the sceptic, and we watched the arguments – as well as sexual tension – between them for many years. Opposing viewpoints, yet when the chips were down they worked for the common good; the perfect combination. In my novel Arcana, which is set in an alternate universe, I had a young M-Forcer whose job it is to police magic users, unwittingly fall in love with a member of a group of magic users he’s chasing. Then you ask the question: what now? Will he turn his back on what he believes for love? Or bring her in? Or is there more to what’s going on in the first place than they know? It makes for tension, conflict and… if you’ll pardon the pun, given the novel in question, sparks.

Bobby Nash: Character moments are good for this. There are also tricks you can do on the writing side. Short, choppy sentences speed up the action. Long paragraphs slow it down. That sort of thing.

Robbie Cheadle: It depends on the book in question. With my current novel, there is a lot of irony because a lot of readers will be familiar with the story of the radium girls. War stories include their own tension due to the conflict situations that are innate in the history. I make use of flawed characters so that they do things that create conflict situations through their own poorly thought-out actions and their strong ideas and views about other characters and the situations they are in due to external circumstances.

Nancy Oswald: If I’m bored the reader will be too, so I try to pay attention to that and analyze where the story gets slow (or not).

Kevin Killiany: Mostly I just add tension and conflict. You should always keep in mind that every character is the hero of their own story—every character has a reason for what they’re doing. Begin with characters you care about (Not the reader, you; fake it ≠ make it.) and give them compelling reasons for their actions. When the actions and the underlying reasons for those actions of two people you care about run contrary to each other, the conflict generates the tension.

_______________________________________________________________________

That wraps up the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series for today. I thank you for joining us and hope you found some of this useful. Next Saturday will bring you an introduction to contributing author, Paul Kane and a Q & A on Character Development. See you then.

Ask the Authors 2022

And don’t forget to grab your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 from your favorite book distributor at the special price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series, through the Books2Read UBL here: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

____________________________________________________________________

Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Pre-Writing Rituals

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back for segment 2 of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series, with an introduction to Bobby Nash, who shares how to manage the many tasks which being an author entails, to the Ask the Authors 2022 Writing Reference Anthology, and a Q & A on Pre-Writing Rituals.

Last week, we learned a little about myself and author Kevin Killiany, in addition to the Q & A session on Writing Life. If you missed it, you can find it here.

And now on to this week’s post.

Meet Bobby Nash

Bobby Nash is not a man of action, a detective, or a hero, but he loves writing about characters who are all of those things and more. Bobby is an award-winning author of novels, comic books, short stories, screenplays, and more. He is a member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers and International Thriller Writers. On occasion, he acts, appearing in movies and TV shows, usually standing behind or beside your favorite actor. From time to time, he puts pen to paper and doodles. For more information on Bobby Nash and his work, please visit him at www.bobbynash.com, www.ben-books.com, and across social media.

Pre-Writing Rituals

Please tell us what genre(s) you write in and what type of research is required for your stories?

Mario Acevedo: I write commercial fiction—novels and short stories of supernatural fantasy, horror, and hard-boiled crime. My research is to make the story and setting sound as credible as possible.

Paul Kane: All kinds really. I’ve dabbled in a lot of genres and written in a lot of formats, from comics and audio scripting to TV and film. I started out doing journalism, so non-fiction, and had a couple of books out in that vein: The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy is probably the most well-known. Then I returned to writing short stories, because I was always writing those growing up; especially for English classes where the teachers would get exasperated at the length of some of them. I started sending these off to small presses and was lucky enough to get some printed, which then led to a collection. At the same time I’d been trying to write a novel, The Gemini Factor. I’d had a stab at a few before, so technically this was about my third or fourth novel, but the first I wrote with any serious intention of getting it published – which it was eventually, and there was even an anniversary edition which came out in 2020 through Gestalt Media. That was a horror serial killer thriller, by the way – and indeed most of the stuff I was doing back then was horror, and I carried on in that vein for a little while. Then around 2007, I pitched a book to Abaddon/Rebellion for their post-apocalyptic Afterblight series, which was a reworking of Robin Hood. They accepted that and it was my first mass market novel, so I’d shifted into SF at that point and wrote three novels altogether – gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man – plus a novella for them. I also wrote my first YA novel, The Rainbow Man, as PB Kane. At the same time I was writing short films like The Opportunity and The Weeping Woman, and then some audios – I adapted The Hellbound Heart into a full cast audio drama for Bafflegab – as well as working on and running conventions. More recently I’ve moved into writing straight thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins under the name PL Kane and the first of those, Her Last Secret, Her Husband’s Grave and The Family Lie, have all done very well. In amongst all that, I’ve written a couple of short plays too, one of which – One for the Road – was performed at FantasyCon 2015.  As for research, it very much depends on the kind of story you’re telling. Crime research is very different to SF, as you can probably imagine.

Chris Barili: I write in just about every genre, and I wouldn’t say one genre requires more research than the others. Rather, I’d say one series of stories requires it: Hell’s Marshal. Because it is set in the old west, I do extensive research to make sure it is accurate, or at least believable in light of the story itself.

Bobby Nash: I write in whatever genre the publisher wants. So far, I haven’t done a lot of fantasy, nor have I attempted romance or erotica. Most of my work has a thriller element to it. I also write a lot of action and crime fiction. Research varies from project to project.

Robbie Cheadle: My YA and adult books are all historical and most have a paranormal element. I do a lot of research for each book, plotting the historical events on a timeline and then overlying the events of my plot. A Ghost and His Gold had over thirty historical sources and my current work in progress, The Soldier and the Radium Girl, will end up have at least the same number of sources, possibly even more.

I also read a lot of books in the timeframe I am writing about, especially classic books that were written during the period. This helps me gain insight into the everyday lives of people living at the time and experiencing the historical events I’m writing about.

Nancy Oswald: I write mostly Colorado-set historical history for young readers. It’s not always in the same order, but I typically start by reading history of the area, but not always. I like to visit the sites and glean as much as I can about the area. For me, museums and history centers are a huge wealth of material. 

Kevin Killiany: Young adult, because the stories are more direct and revelatory of character. “Hard” science fiction (which means the fictional science is compatible with and based on real world science) and historical. Both require serious research, because accuracy is essential to the authenticity of the story.

How do you prefer to conduct your research: Live? Online? First-hand accounts?

Mario Acevedo: While the Internet is the most used because it is right in my computer, I continue to surprise myself with what treasures you find in newspaper microfiche, libraries, and visiting a place.

Paul Kane: I mainly do my research through a mixture of online searches, books and documentaries. For example for Her Husband’s Grave I did a lot of digging into psychology and serial killers, because my main character Dr Robyn Adams helps the police with their serial cases. For The Family Lie, I watched documentaries about cults and stuff like Jonestown, which led to some sleepless nights I can tell you. The cult of personality and all that. You get first-hand accounts in documentaries about subjects like that, so I haven’t needed to go to the horse’s mouth yet. Apart from in one instance, where I had a weapons expert called Trev Preston who’d help me with some of the details in the Hooded Man series. I’d ask him bizarre things like, is possible to take down an Apache Helicopter with a bolas – and he’d say yes or no. The answer’s yes, by the way, and that scene is in Broken Arrow

Chris Barili: I do almost all my research online.  Just don’t have time or resources to go visit far away places. That said, I did do some of that during two recent road trips.

Bobby Nash: I enjoy meeting and talking to people who do the jobs. I’ve talked with FBI agents, police, doctors, etc. about their respective jobs to get a feel for what they do. That adds a personal touch to the characters I have in those roles. On-line research is an invaluable tool to have at your fingertips. I also like to travel and visit locations where I can set stories and scenes.

Robbie Cheadle: I do all my research on-line and I like to use diaries, letters, and journals from the time, if possible.  Project Gutenberg is a wonderful resource for historical research.

Nancy Oswald: See above, but add first-hand accounts if they’re available. I usually save online for while I’m drafting, because inevitably I’ll need a piece of information that I couldn’t anticipate.

Kevin Killiany: I love a library—finding and searching through physical books—but these days the internet enables one to access more information quickly. Whenever possible, I visit locations used in my stories.

What are your best research sources?

Chris Barili: Town or county historians. As them the time and they will build you a clock.

Bobby Nash: Google is readily at my fingertips. Interviewing people is also a good source of information gathering and adds a personal touch.

Nancy Oswald: I like the online dictionary of etymology. Quick and accurate.

What do you look for in a source: Aim? Accuracy? Authority? Correlation?

Paul Kane: I think you’re always looking for accuracy, because it goes back to that thing of believability again. You need to be as accurate as you can with facts, just so the reader believes in what you’re doing. That said, it’s hard to research some of the things I write about, like monster cats coming back as ghosts and attacking people, but you just have to do your best. That’s where the imagination element comes into it. I recently wrote a story for a charity anthology that takes place in the universe of my novella The Rot, and I had to do tons of research into black mold to get that right – even just for short story. It’s that important.

Robbie Cheadle: I like my stories to be as historically accurate as possible, so I actively look for accuracy and correlate the information I find with as many other sources as possible.

Nancy Oswald: I usually check more than one source if I’m in doubt. For historical fiction I like to be accurate, but love, love, love historic photos for setting. 

What pre-writing exercises do you employ: Outlining? Free writing? Brainstorming?

Paul Kane: I rarely need to brainstorm, because Ideas come to me all the time and I jot them down. This means I’ve got tons of notebooks to draw on if I ever go blank… And I do plans, outlines and chapter breakdowns for novels. I might not stick religiously to them, but I find it helps me focus and keep on the straight and narrow, to keep going whenever I lose where I might be in the story. Like a kind of roadmap. You wouldn’t set off for a destination without having one of those – or a Satnav, or your phone – so why set off on a journey of many hours of hard work and 80 or 90 thousand words without an idea of where you’re heading? Some people wing it, I know, but I suspect they’re just planning it all out in their heads or their subconscious. 

Chris Barili: Yes. And more. Any tool I can get my hands on to make my writing better.

Bobby Nash: I rarely have time for pre-writing. Deadlines do not always allow for that. I spend my writing time writing. When I’m at the beginning of a project and creating characters, I will do free writing and just start jotting down notes as I get to know the characters. Sometimes, plot/story ideas will happen in this stage too.

Robbie Cheadle: I research each section before I start writing a new chapter. As mentioned previously, I have my ending plotted prior to commencing writing and that is the direction I write towards.

Nancy Oswald: Refer to answer about plotting or pantsing. Oh, it’s blank. None of the above. I think while I write most of the time, but I have used a time-line to plot on when I’m trying to track a fiction story-line and compare it to the actual historical events.

Do you try to write to market or write what you love?

Paul Kane: The quick answer is both. I’ve written stories just for the love it them, usually they’re new ones for collections – like ‘The Butterfly Man’, that was a story for a collection from PS of the same name. But I’ve also written for specific markets, like the Hooded Man stuff, or where an editor gives you a theme for an anthology. I wrote ‘The Shadow of Death’ for an anthology called Expiration Date, for instance, ‘Shells’ for an anthology called Terror Tales of the Seaside, and ‘Presence’ for Hauntings. So at that point you’re totally writing for a specific market or theme. 

Chris Barili: Again, yes. I write to market within the boundaries of what I know and love. I won’t shoe-horn my writing into genres or labels, and while I write what I am passionate about, I don’t limit myself to things I know or share with the reader.

Bobby Nash: Write what you love. Writing to market can drive you crazy and often leave you unfulfilled. I speak from personal experience here.

Robbie Cheadle: I write what I enjoy and for my own pleasure. I would like others to enjoy my stories, but that is secondary to my primary aim of personal enjoyment. As a result, I have decided to continue to publish with smaller publishers rather than to try to get representation with a larger publishing house.

Jeff Bowles: I sort of try to do both at the same time, I suppose. I’ve always had this theory that solid, salable fiction can be fun and artistic, too. Crazy, I know, but that’s just how I feel! Anyway, I’ve sort of developed a unique style, and there’s certain subjects I seem to write about again and again, as it is with most authors, I think. When I try to write like other people, the results are mixed, so I learned a long time ago to try to hit the personal enjoyment metric and then sort out what I think is salable or not. It’s a fine line, one that’s almost always difficult to walk, but it’s almost always worth it in the end.

Nancy Oswald: I realized a long time ago I cannot write to a market. For one, living in rural Colorado, I can’t keep up with anything that resembles up-to-date or edgy. The last time I remember trying keep up with cool was when I was a teen (living in Denver) and I practiced doing “The Jerk” in front of a mirror.

Kevin Killiany: Obviously when writing tie-in fiction for a TV show or role-playing game, I have to write for the market. BUT I’m writing for that market because I love the game or show—you have to campaign constantly to get your foot in the door, and that requires a good deal of passion.
With my own, original fiction, I write solely for me. If you guys like it, that’s fantastic.

________________________

That wraps up “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series for this week. Be sure to drop by next Saturday for an introduction to multi-genre author, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, and a Q & A on plot/storyline. (Okay, many of you already know Robbie, some of you quite well. Drop by anyway for the Q & A.)

Ask the Authors 2022

You can get your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 at your favorite book distributors at the special price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series, through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

_________________________


Writer’s Corner – Five Podcasts Serious Indie Authors Won’t Want to Miss

In my publishing courses at Western State Colorado University, my instructors and mentors, Kevin J. Anderson and Allyson Longuiera have introduced us to several useful podcasts for independent authors and/or publishers and I’d like to share them with you here.

Writing Excuses : https://writingexcuses.com/2021/03/07/16-10-paying-it-forward-with-kevin-j-anderson/

Hosts Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepard, and Howard Taylor offer up tips and writing advice, mainly on craft. This podcast provides short sessions, they claim 15 minutes, but the session for the link above is closer to 30. It’s an interview with Kevin J. Anderson about paying it forward, and it’s really good, so I tought you all might enjoy it. Kevin started out with traditional publishing way back when, but has now established his own independent press in WordFire Press, so he speaks to both sides of the industry, and this interview is proof that whether published traditionally or independently, authors are a good bunch. I’m proud to be counted amoung this tribe.

But the episodes really are brief, so take a little time and explore the site. They have many interesting topics of value to authors at all stages of their career. Here’s the main page link: https://writingexcuses.com/

Six Figure Authors: https://6figureauthors.com/

With hosts Lindsay Baroker, Joe Lallo and Andrea Pearson, this podcast offers publishing and marketing tips, more than craft advice, but as six figure authors, they are crushing it and they are willing to share their advice with their listeners. I enjoy binging back episodes on my lengthy commute to and from my day job. They have a Facebook group which listeners can join, where they can pose questions to the hosts or their guests to be answered on the podcast. Lots of valuable information for authors here, whether just starting out or if you’ve been at it for a while.

The Creative Penn: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/podcasts/

I love this podcast! Host Joanna Penn (with a double N), is an author/enterprenuer and a futurist. Her podcast is filled with interviews and discussion about industry trends and where things might be headed. She’s got a killer accent which makes her fun to listen to, too.

The Self Publishing Formula: https://selfpublishingformula.com/spf-podcast/

Host Mark Dawson is a best selling independent author provides interviews and master classes on self-publishing. He and his co-host, James Blatch both have accents that are heavier and more difficult for me to understand, but they do offer up some valuable information on the independent publishing world.

Quick and Dirty Tips: https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl

This is every writers go-to podcast for all of your grammer questions, with Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty, who discusses proper grammar and common grammar mistakes. A quick reference for all grammar questions you are unsure of during writing and editing processes.

_____________________________________________________

Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribing to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.


Review in Practice – The Magic Bakery

The Magic Bakery

Authors make their livings off of the intellectual property they’ve created, but while they pay lip service to copyright, it’s mostly in the context of protecting their work from plagiarism, and many don’t realize what copyright is, how it is acquired or what it truly means. The Magic Bakery, by Dean Wesley Smith is a must read for anyone who is serious about making a career out of writing. Smith draws from decades of experience in the publishing industry to explain what copyright is and how it can be used to leverage intellectual property (IP) and maximize profits from your creative endeavors.

Smith uses the clever metaphor of a magic bakery, where the pies replenish themselves no matter how many pieces you sell, to emphasize the idea of writing as a business and simplify the explanation of how copyright works, so authors may place proper value on their work. As a seasoned author, who has published both traditionally and independently, Dean Wesley Smith offers a fresh and sensible outlook on the publishing industry and the business of writing.

The Magic Bakery offers a sensible approach to managing intellectual property and copyright for authors. Serious authors will benefit from consuming the delectable ingredients that make up this pie, so pull up a chair and savor a piece. I give it five quills.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074D7K3ZD

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribing to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.


Words to Live By – Professional Jealousy

The first Wednesday of the month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Green with Envy?

How jealous can you get? It’s an important question, one which may very well help define your ultimate level of happiness. I don’t mean the kind of jealousy that can emerge between romantic partners, or even jealousy that exists in people who constantly feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, though that in part has something to do with it.

I’m talking about professional jealousy, specifically as it occurs in the publishing world (or in any other creative field, really). It’s that sting you feel when a rival snags a big book contract, seemingly leaving you in the dust. It’s also the feeling you get when a good friend becomes successful, and you can’t seem to get anywhere close. This is not a rare experience, nor is it down to animosity or contention alone. It’s everywhere. Don’t try to deny what the world already knows. Human beings get jealous, maddeningly so, and there’s not much any of us can do about it, right?

Wrong. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that some who stumble across this post will have no idea what I’m talking about. Jealousy isn’t much of an issue for them, at least not in this sense. They may be beginners, or in some cases, they might be individuals who are much smarter than the average bear. You see, it takes a certain amount of practiced intelligence to avoid the crushing impact of full-on, green-to-the-gills jealousy.

When I was starting out with short stories, I noticed my own capacity for envy when it came to other writers in my sphere. Some of them were better than me. Much, much better. Some were bypassing shorts altogether and were producing novel-length manuscripts, which made me even more irascible. At that time, I wasn’t too terribly smart about these things. I didn’t realize what this life would come to represent to me, a brilliant and complex tapestry in which no single thread is out of place. We can’t all be huge successes. I’m sure you know that by now. Jealousy is a wholly destructive emotion. A person can use it to jumpstart their inner drive, but mostly it’s just corrosive.

Those who earn the spotlight deserve the spotlight. End of story. And it doesn’t mean you aren’t deserving too. It’s just that either by randomness or divine intervention, you’re in your own little universe with your own feathers for your own cap, and really, that rival or that friend has very little to do with any of it. Don’t let it become a mile marker for all your anxieties and worries. Their successes doesn’t make you inadequate or unskilled. It’s just that you haven’t gotten there yet, may never get there, may decide someday you didn’t really want it as bad as you thought you did.

The only real losers in this game, and I’ve long believed this about creative folks, are the ones who don’t even try, who settle for less than full creative disclosure, who don’t take at least one or two risks in their limited time here on this planet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s everyone’s solemn duty to reach for the stars and try to become something they aren’t likely to become, but look, if you’ve got the drive and ambition, it’d be a real shame to leave all your talents undeveloped and hidden from the rest of the world. Share these things, put them out there, even if you fail. Especially if you fail. Because I guarantee you’ll rarely meet (or perhaps, meet less often) that other beast of an emotion, regret.

And I would suggest you do so for reasons that live up to your lofty station as a maker of cool stuff. Don’t go after your dreams if you think they’ll add something to you that isn’t already there. Similarly, don’t do it if your goal is to crush and outperform all other applicants. Create because you love to create, publish because you’ve got something to say, stories to tell. Do these things for joyous reasons, not simply because you want to teach that vindictive high school English teacher a lesson or prove once and for all to everyone you know that you are worth a damn. Trust me, you are. Don’t even question that. Take it as a given.

Remaining anonymous is not failure. I had to learn this the hard way. Our culture can be shockingly backwards and out of sync with the realities of, well, reality. You have your own path to walk; your work and your passion is a matter of personal pride. Nobody can do things the way you can. Nobody. We are simultaneously small in the grand scheme of things and as massive as the universe itself. You are and always have been precisely all you are and always have been. I do believe that. You’re perfect enough already. Keep that notion close by at all times.

Do your work, create what can create. Do it like no one’s watching, regardless of whether or not anyone is. It’s a wide and generous world if you know what to look out for, and allowing poison into your heart won’t  solve anything for anyone. Do I still get jealous of other writers? You bet I do, but if I can, where I’m able, I decline to attach to that particular emotion and just let the old familiar sting pass on by.

Until next time.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Want to be sure not to miss any of “Words To Live By” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Writer’s Corner: Launching a writing career

Writer’s Corner

Some beginning writers may have delusions of overnight success, but any seasoned writer will tell you that it usually doesn’t happen that way. There are instances where it has, of course, but in most cases, launching a career in writing requires time, money and a lot of hard work to be successful. Writers who have realistic expectations may start out writing part time and get a solid book marketing plan under them, through trial and error and lots of A/B testing to figure out what works and what doesn’t, before trying to take their writing career to a full-time level.

I’ve been working to get my writing career off the ground for over a decade, but I’m a D.I.Y. girl and most things that I try to do, I started out doing things backward. I started my writing career right here, on Writing to be Read in 2009. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to write, but write I did. In 2012, when I didn’t have the huge following I had hoped for and undertaking a book length work seemed an insermountable hurdle, I decided I needed some help, so I enrolled in the graduate program at Western State Colorado University and by 2016, I had my M.F.A. in Creative Writing with a dual emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting.

The Six Figure Authors Podcast offers the general advice for aspiring writers to pick a genre you’ve had some success with and stick with it until you are firmly established. Then if you feel the need to cross genres, you can probably venture into a new territory without risking everything. Because that’s what you’re doing when you cross over to a genre other than the one in which you already have established a fan base.

But here I am. To date, I have published a Western, Delilah; a collection of short stories, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, which is a mish-mash of genres: time-travel, vampire, origins, satire, etc…; and a paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. I also have published a number of short stories. My flash fiction horror story, “The Haunting of Carol’s Woods”, is featured in Dan Alatorre’s Nightmareland, and my futuristic science fiction story, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, and my crime fiction love story, “The Devil Made Her Do It”, are each featured in The Collapsar Directive and Relationship Add Vice anthologies respectively, both published by Zombie Pirate Publishing, as well as a paranormal story in each of the three WordCrafter paranormal anthologies, Whispers of the Past, Spirits of the West, and our newest release, Where Spirits Linger. I even have published a nonfiction author’s reference, Ask the Authors, which arose from a blog series I ran right here on Writing to be Read.

I am ecclectic in my tastes, including music and reading, and thus the stories that percolate in my brain are also rather ecclectic. I don’t listen or read in any one genre. Why would I think up stories in only one? I don’t think I could write to market and be successful. And I’ve tried the writer for hire thing, too, but didn’t care for it. No one is saying you can’t be successful as a multi-genre author, but what all of this means is that my books are more difficult to market, because my target audience are splintered into multiple reader groups, so I have to be more creative in reaching an audience who will actually read what I write. And I have to research and know what I’m doing, because book marketing and advertising can get expensive, especially if you do all the A/B testing and stuff that you they say we need to do. Since it’s not feasible for me to stick with only one genre, I think figuring out how to attract readers for each of the genres that I write from a wider audience will be my biggest challenge.

I’m an author who listens to my characters and let’s the story unfold naturally. (I’m not really a pantser, although at one time I thought that I was. Now I find that I need to have a general idea of where my story is going and how it gets there, and a basic outline does that for me.) But the stories don’t all unfold in a single genre, and so I’ve become a multi-genre author, although that probably isn’t the fastest way to build a full-time writing career.

Readers here, followers of this blog, are the fan base that I have built over twelve years of blogging and I appreciate your support, in whatever fashion you choose to demonstrate it. I’m not sure what genre any of you read, or if any of you actually read my books, but you pop over and read my posts, regardless of the subject matter, and occasionally, some of you even comment. I really do appreciate that.

As you can see, I’m the kind of gal who decides what I want to do and plunges ahead, learning as I go. I’ve reached a point in my life where I not only want to write full-time, but I need to be a full-time writer. My love for the written word can be seen in everything I do. In addition to this blog, I’ve reported on local writing communities, attended and participated in writing fairs and conferences, hosted online writing events, created my own small press, and gone into student debt in order to become an expert on my craft. For me, writing truly is a passion and I need to do this as a career for my own mental health and well-being. In order to do that, I need to make some changes.

But, I write for the love of writing. It’s the reason that I put so much energy into this blog. I write to be read, and I’ve not monetized my blog, although I have recently had inquiries for advertising. I’ll need to research more before I make a decision on that front, but I don’t really want to monetize Writing to be Read. I like what I’ve built this site into, with the help of my wonderful Writing to be Read team members: Robbie Cheadle, Art Rosch and Jeff Bowles. I’m afraid if I monetize it, it will become something different, and perhaps unintended. I don’t want that.

That’s why I’m only making one small addition on this site and leaving the rest as is, to develop naturally into what it will become. I’m developing a plan that I can follow to transition into a full-time writer and continue this very slow launch of a writing career. I’ll keep you apprised of other upcoming changes, but for now, the only change here is a new “Buy me a tasty beverage” button in the sites top right-hand corner, where you can make a donation if you should choose to show your support for Writing to be Read in this manner.

If you do make a donation, know that it will be greatly appreciated. I’m glad that you enjoy the content here or find it helpful. Thank you all for being my readers.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you. She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); and Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”). Her western, Delilah, her paranormal mystery novella and her short story collection, Last Call, are all available in both digital and print editions.

On her authors’ blog, Writing to be Read, she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. She’s also the founder of WordCrafter. In addition to creating her own imprint in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. When not writing or editing, she is bird watching, or hiking, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.

WordCrafter: https://kayebooth.wixsite.com/wordcrafter

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribing to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.


Writer’s Corner: The Craft of Short Fiction

I’ve recently been working on two different anthologies for my classes, as well as planning two, or possibly three different anthologies, that I want to put out through WordCrafter Press next year, so it’s not surprising that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the writing of short fiction. While writing short fiction presents many of the same challenges as writing book length fiction presents, such as avoiding passive voice, using the correct tense and the right POV, and avoiding repetitive language, it also seems to present challenges for the writer, which are more prominent and more noticable in a short story.

Below is a list of what I see as the top four challenges of writing short fiction. A short story in which these challenges are met and mastered can be a delight to read, but when the writer misses the mark or doesn’t tackle these challenges skillfully, the result can be a story that doesn’t feel complete, leaving readers feeling unsatisfied.

Top 4 Challenges in Short Fiction and How to Handle Them

  1. Abrupt ending: I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read recently that start out wonderfully, promising a killer story all the way to the end and then drop the ball, leaving me wondering where the story went wrong. I think many times authors are at a loss as to how to wrap things up, and with short fiction, where word counts must be taken into consideration, they try to end too quickly, instead of taking a little more time to tie up the details of the story. – To avoid this, take the time you need to wrap things up in your story in a way that will be satisfying to the reader who has stuck with you this far. If you can’t give your story a satisfying ending within the required word count, perhaps it should become a longer work, because there is nothing more frustrating than to read an engaging story that you are really into, only to be disappointed at the end, so this is a biggie.
  2. Shallow, underdeveloped characters: In short fiction, you have a limited space in which to introduce your characters and make your reader care about what happens to them, so it is important to come out of the gate with a good strong voice that grabs the reader’s attention at the very beginning and continue with that all the way through. Making your characters interesting is something you need to do with fiction of any length, but with short fiction, you need a strong voice to bring character traits to the forefront in a succint way. Passive voice in a short story can result in a lack of interest in the reader, causing them to put the story down without taking time to get to know your characters or get into the story.
  3. Head hopping: This is always a problem when it occurs in any length work of fiction, because it tends to pull readers out of the story when they realize that the viewpoint they thought they were in, is really that of a different character. Short fiction isn’t really long enough to use multiple POVs, so it’s difficult to figure out how this even happens, but it does. The author needs to pay close attention to who the narrator is and be sure to not wander into the view point of a different character.
  4. Excessive wording: It’s important to realize that a short story is just that – short. Don’t waste space with unnecessary wording that isn’t needed. Write succintly. Say what you have to say in as few words as possible. While it’s important to paint a vivid visual image for the reader, don’t include details which are not relevant to the story in some way. World building, character development, and plot must all come together in a short amount of space, so choose your words carefully.

I love a well-written short story, and I read a lot of short fiction. When it’s done right, a short story can be every bit as engaging as a good novel. Don’t you think?

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribing to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.


Writing Challenge: A Fun Exercise in Character Development

This week I thought it might be fun to throw out a challenge to my readers and author friends. When I was earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, we were given various writing exercises, of course. To demonstrate an interesting way to develop a character, one of many, by creating a character from the characteristics of an inanimate object. It might sound strange, but honestly I can remember having a lot of fun with this particular exercise. The object I was assigned was a butter knife.

First, we were ask to do a free write about the object, associating it with characteristics which came to mind. Next, we were asked to create a character who possessed some or all ofthose characteristics, using a Proust questionaire, which is a really good tool, but any means of creating a character profile so that you really know your character would work. As always, the more you know about your character, the easier it is to write them in a scene or a story, or maybe even a series. Lastly, we were asked to write a scene that introduces the character.

You’ll find the scene that resulted from this exercise back in 2013, and I’d love to see the results of any of you who would like to accept my challenge and create their own character and scene. I had a lot of fun with this exercise and I think you will, too. My inanimate object was assigned, but you can pick one from the following list or choose one of your own: butter knife, salad bowl, spoon, fork, spatula, plate, frying pan, wine glass, corkscrew, turkey baster, tea cup, coffee pot, dish towel, broom, feather duster, brillo pad. I chose a bar scene for my introduction, but yours can take place anywhere you like. Explore the possibilities for setting as you work through this exercise in character development.

If you are up to the challenge, pick an object and do a free write about it. Then, create a character and get to know them well. You can even make your own questionaire. What are your character’s favorites: food, color, song, etc…? What do they do for fun? Occupation? You get the idea.

Then write a scene that introduces your character and send it to me at kayebooth@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to tell me what your object was. If I like it, I may ask for permission to share it here. Yours doesn’t have to be as long as mine, just keep it to a single scene that tells us who your character is.

My Introduction to Betty Lou (Butter Knife)

“Come on. Don’t be such a stick in the mud!” Christa said, urging her friend to live it up a little. “One drink is not going to kill you. I swear.”

Betty Lou sat on the bar stool with her legs crossed, hands folded in her lap. Her back was as straight and upright as if she were practicing the principles outlined in Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners, with a book perched atop her head. “Oh, all right,” she said. “But, just one. You’re sure it won’t make me look foolish?”

“I’m sure,” Christa said, waving the bartender over. As he approached them, she said, “Two long island iced teas, please.”

“Iced tea?” Betty Lou asked, with a discernible sigh, thinking anything with iced tea couldn’t be too bad.

The bartender placed two tall glasses of tea colored liquid on the bar in front of them. Christa placed some bills in his hand and picked up her glass. “Come on. Drink up,” she said, talking a long swallow.

Betty Lou picked up her glass, sniffing the pungent aroma of liquor in the glass. “It doesn’t smell like iced tea,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

“You said one drink,” said Christa, placing a hand on top of Betty Lou’s, gently pushing up toward her lips, “Now drink up. Go on.”

Betty Lou took a small sip.

“No…, drink,” urged Christa, tilting her friend’s hand up with her own, gently forcing her to take more of the liquor in her mouth.

Betty Lou choked down a swallow, making her eyes water. “That sure doesn’t taste like iced tea,” she said when she had regained her composure. “Yuck!”

“You get used to it,” said Christa, working on her own drink. “Oh good, the band’s getting ready to start.”

Betty Lou took another small sip, wrinkling her nose once more. She doubted Christa’s statement. How could anyone get used to the taste? She watched attentively as the band members came out onto the stage and began tuning instruments. “Remember,” she said, turning to her friend, who perched a cigarette on her lips and was lighting it, “I’m only staying until ten o’clock.”

“Loosen up,” said Christa, offering her a smoke from her pack. “Tonight could be a whole new beginning for you. Relax and finish your drink.”

“Couldn’t I just have a seven-up?” Betty Lou asked, plucking the offered cigarette from the pack. “I just had a rocky ending. I don’t think I’m ready for another beginning.”

“No way,” Christa said, offering her a light. “You agreed to live it up a little, remember? No taking the straight and narrow tonight. Besides, you know every time one door closes… ”

Betty Lou bent slightly to light her cigarette as Christa flicked her Bic. “Okay. Okay,” Betty Lou said. “But, only until ten. I have to debug a new program tomorrow. I want to be alert. I need a good night’s sleep.”

“Finish that drink and you’ll sleep good, I promise,” Christa said with a wink.

A man stepped onto the stage to introduce the band, as the house lights lowered. He was short and stocky, with shoulder length hair pulled back in a ponytail. The black leather pants and vest that he wore made him look like a throwback from a seventies biker gang.

“Good evening ladies and gentleman,” he said. “Thank you all for coming out.” Whistles drifted up from the audience, as he addressed them from the stage. “We have a great show for you tonight. Please allow me to introduce to you, The Ripe Melons!”

As the band began to play, Christa downed the last of her drink and signaled the bartender for another. She began to sway on her bar stool to the beat of Lynard Skynard’s, Gimme Three Steps, which The Ripe Melons managed to do a fairly good job of cranking out. Wisps of bleach blond hair fell over her eyes and she absently brushed them away.

Betty Lou took another careful sip. Maybe Christa was right. It didn’t seem so bad now. She could feel the vibrations from the music in the floor beneath her. “Do they have to play so loud?” she asked, raising her voice to be heard over the music.

Christa smiled at Betty Lou and shook her head. “Lighten up, girl,” she said. “Let your hair down.” She reached up behind her friend and yanked a pin from the tight bun on top of her head.

“Hey!” said Betty Lou, as her bun unwound and her long black ponytail unrolled and hung straight down her back.

“Come on,” Christa said. “You look so uptight.” She reached up behind her friend and pulled the hair tie out, letting her onyx hair fall loosely, softening her high cheekbones and angular jaw. “There,” she said. “Now you don’t look like you’re waiting for your last rites. You have pretty features when you just ease up a bit. You always pull your hair back tight from your face and it makes you look like your spring is wound a bit tight.”

Betty Lou was stunned by her friend’s boldness. Would she be undressing her next? She took another sip of her drink and smiled just a little, as the image of Christa reaching over and unbuttoning the top buttons of her blouse flitted through her head.

But, Christa’s hands stayed to herself as she downed her second drink and crushed out her cigarette in the ashtray. “Let’s dance,” she said, sliding down from her barstool.

Betty Lou shook her head adamantly. “No, you go ahead,” she said. “I’ll wait here and finish my drink.” She looked down at it, noticing to her own surprise, that it was almost half gone.

“Oh, come on!” said Christa, grabbing ahold of Betty Lou’s hand. “You need to get laid. Let yourself go a little.”

It took effort to stay upright on the barstool with Christa pulling on her like that, but she managed to pull her hand away. “No, really, I’m fine,” said Betty Lou. “I’ll just watch you.” She took a rather large swig from her glass as if that might convince her friend to go without her.

“Suit yourself,” said Christa, heading for the dance floor.

Sipping her drink, Betty Lou watched Christa as she approached a handsome guy with blonde, feathered hair, sitting in the second row of tables. She bent down and said something to him, then he stood and walked out onto the dance floor with her. Betty Lou couldn’t believe how bold Christa was. She could never be that forward. Even when she’d been with Matt, Betty Lou had always let him take the initiative. She had always followed his lead. They had been the perfect pair. That seemed like another life now.

A hand on her shoulder startled her out of her reverie. She turned to find herself face to face with the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. He was tall, maybe even taller than her own 6’3’’, with a muscular build that said he didn’t sit behind a desk all day. His brown hair matched the brown eyes that she found herself staring into.

“Would you like to dance?” he asked, smiling a smile that would melt any girl’s heart.

She straightened her back. Her heel began tapping on the rung of the barstool, making her knees bounce. “Uh—me?” she asked.

“Well, yes,” he replied, glancing to either side of her. “You’re the only pretty girl I see in the immediate vicinity.”

“Um…, I couldn’t,” she stammered, “I mean, um, well…”

“You don’t dance?” he asked.

“No,” she said, feeling her face flush. “At least,… not very well.”

“May I buy you a drink then?” he asked, raising a brow.

“Oh,… thank you, but I have one,” she said, holding out her glass, only to realize that it was empty.

He smiled at her again. “Looks like you need another,” he said. “May I?”

How could she refuse? “Uh,… sure,” she replied. How wishy-washy that sounded. She did her best to save face, adding, “That would be nice.” At least, it didn’t sound quite as lame as her stammering all over herself, like a school girl who’s never talked to a good looking man before.

He flagged the waitress over and ordered them each another round. Betty Lou was surprised at how at ease she felt as she sipped her new drink while they talked. Normally, when talking to members of the opposite sex, especially good looking ones, she could feel the tension build inside of her, materializing on the outside as sweaty palms and stiffened muscles through her back and neck, but she felt none of those things now. It must be the alcohol. Up until tonight, the strongest thing she’d had to drink was a wine cooler. She wasn’t used to the strong effects of hard liquor, even in a mixed drink.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to dance?” Kyle, which is what his name had turned out to be, said. “You can step all over my toes, if you like. I walk on them all day anyway.”

Betty Lou started to decline once more, but then his corny joke registered and she burst out laughing instead, the most recent sip of her drink spraying out over his pants. “Oh, fiddlesticks! I’m so sorry,” she said, grabbing her cocktail napkin off the table and dabbing at his pant leg. “This is not a good beginning, is it?”

Kyle chuckled and took it all good naturedly. “It’s okay,” he said, taking her hand in his own and looking into her eyes. “But, now you have to dance with me, even if you have two left feet.”

feltBetty Lou gazed into those big brown eyes of his, noticing a few flecks of gold in them. She’d never seen eyes like that before and now, she never wanted to look away. He offered her his hand, and she took it, letting him lead her out onto the dance floor. He pulled her in close to him and held her there as they began to sway to music. Betty Lou laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, allowing him to lead her. It felt good to be held against him so firm, heat flushing through her body, as she felt his stiffened member pressed against her leg. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad beginning after all.


Words To Live By – Boredom, Star Wars, and the Unavoidable Lull

The first Wednesday of the month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Boredom, Star Wars, and the Unavoidable Lull

So I’ve been away from my writing duties here at WtbR for a few months. Heck, I’ve been away from most of my creative obligations, not just blogging, which might be the reason I’ve been so bored sitting at home, knocking my tin cup against prison bars of digital entertainment, paperback novels, and maybe a household chore or two. Read that book you’ve read a half dozen times before? Watch the same old movie series you’ve been watching since you were a kid? Do I even have to ask?

Okay, what are we up to today? Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars or Star Trek? Maybe Indiana Jones? Hmm…

The reality is that some lucky beings on planet Earth are built like machines, incredibly industrious, real honest to god workhorses. Boy do I envy the workhorses among us. I’m just not one of them. I can admit that to myself now.

Unfortunately, and it took me far too many years to discover this about myself, I’m more of a work-in-exhausting-spurts-and-then-crash kind of guy. I’ve always been like this, even when I was in school. Sooner or later, mental and emotional exhaustion would get the better of me, and it’d be hell just to turn in assignments on time, keep a steady workflow going.

I’ve previously written about my experiences with schizoaffective disorder, at last diagnosed five years ago, so I won’t bore you with the details again. Suffice it to say, there are reasons—real and concrete medical and psychological reasons—that I can’t compete with so many avid worker bees out there. My mind and personality just don’t keep up; the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.

My family lost someone dear to us back in March, my wife’s mom, who was a wonderful person and a key figure in our lives. At that time I’d been running pretty hot as far as creative output went, having kept up with a reasonable workload, more or less, for a year or so on end. But her passing stopped me in my tracks, and I’ve sort of been floundering all summer long.

Didn’t write anything new. Didn’t even edit anything old, and I’ve got a whole unpublished novel sitting on my computer’s hard drive, an odd and hopefully entertaining piece of work I finished up at the tail end of last winter, the COVID winter, the one when we were all locked indoors anyway.

All this incompletion frazzles me. Our society tells us we’re not complete if we’re not working, and at that notion I’ve always thumbed my nose. Not because I’m a rebel or even a lazy slug (I mean, arguments could be made), but because for me, constant work has never been desirable or even possible. It hurts me that I need so much downtime. I’d like to be as dependable as a racehorse, constant as the northern star (God bless Will Shakespeare, had a phrase for everything). It’s just not how I’m built, I’m afraid. I need recuperation time, rest and relaxation that lasts however long it needs to last. There’s no way around it, at least not any I’ve found.

So does that make me an ineffective person? Worse yet, does it make me a failure in the professional sense? I feel like some people might say yes, but honestly, I’ve tried to take the bull by the horns, and well, the bull almost always has its way with me.

Schizoaffective Disorder is no joke, man. Very often I can’t trust my own conscious experience, and that’s lame, because consciousness is all human beings have. It’s the only thing given to us by default, our birthright, our entire universe. Never mind school assignments or projects that never get off the ground. What about the amazing feeling you get when you’ve completed something grand? I love that feeling. Don’t take that feeling away! I’m not done with it yet!

I’m glad to be back at Writing to be Read, but the truth is I don’t feel 100% yet. Yes, I’ve been playing video games and watching old movies and generally feeling bored out of my mind. But that’s what recuperation looks like for me. Read ‘em and weep. Or don’t.

I like to write about my everyday experience. It helps me parse through things that need careful consideration. You can’t fight your own mind. I mean, you can try, but it’s sure to cause literal raging headaches. I’m interested in learning about other long-term work habits people employ out there. Leave a note in the comments section below if you’re so inclined. How do you get your work done? Is it a struggle in the long term, or is it the easiest thing in the world for you?

Look for another Words To Live By next month. Count on it. Just don’t expect me to show up for dinner. I’ve got some more recuperation to get through. Star Wars or Star Trek again? Star Wars or Star Trek? Maybe Battlestar Galactica? Hmm…

Boredom never looked so … unavoidable. Until next time, folks.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of “Words To Live By” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Adversity makes the story

When Donald Trump ran for election the first time, in 2016, he was heard saying that he got his start when he borrowed a half million dollars from his father to start a business. He went on to say that he created a successful business and paid back that loan in something like six months. He was very proud of this feat and used it as an example of what good business sense he has, which he claimed qualified him to run the country. My response to his claim was to think to myself, ‘Yeah, if someone loaned me a half million dollars, I bet I could create a successful business, too.’

Everything I have ever done in my life, I have done on my own. There has never been anyone who would extend me a loan, or support me in my efforts. I’ve had a lot of failures, like the landscaping business I tried to start and got taken to the cleaners by my very first customer, leaving me in debt on the endeavor, but I picked myself up and tried again. Now, I have created a small independent press and I offer author services through WordCrafter. It’s small and I do it all online, out of my home. To me, that is more of an achivement than former President Trump’s multi-million dollar corporation, because I didn’t have any help in getting where I am today. I struggled to overcome all obstacle that stood in my way, and I built my business a little at a time, without loans or other help from anyone. To me there is no real story in what Trump did, but the road to success for me has been paved with obstacles and setbacks to overcome. He may be a lot richer than I am, but my story is ever so much more interesting.

Several years ago, one of the nurses that I worked with came up to me and told me how happy she was to learn that I had continued writing after my son died. She said that it meant that I was healing. The truth was, after Mike died, I had to write. I had so much grief boiling inside me that my only recourse was to write and let it all flow out. After Mike died, writing was what helped me keep my sanity. I wrote poetry. I wrote stories about Mike. I wrote and delivered his eulogy. More than likely none of it will ever be published, but the stuff I wrote during that time was powerful. If I read it now, it still brings tears to my eyes.

The negative emotions- grief, sadness, hate, anger – are all powerful emotions and to write a story that stirs those emotions is to draw your reader into the story and make them care. The positive emotions like love or triumph are powerful, as well, but they are made more powerful if the character has to struggle to achieve them. If the character is happy when the story begins, and remains happy throughout, then it’s really no big deal when he is happy at the end. But, if the character has longed for happiness, struggled to overcome the obstacles that prevent him from being happy, and the reader has been right there feeling his frustration and sorrow along the way, then the reader will be elated when, at the end, the character accomplishes his goal and achieves the ever sought after happiness. The negative emotions are what makes the positive ones that much stronger. In life, happiness is fleeting, easily forgotten as we move on to the next goal, but the negative emotions are always there, just below the surface, waiting to be called forth. They don’t go away. I miss my son now just as much as I did the day he died, and all I have to do is think about him for the tears to start to flow, even eleven years later. The negative emotions don’t fade away, like the positive seem to.

Adversity creates conflict, and conflict is why we keep reading. We have to see how the character is going to overcome whatever obstacles are placed in his way. We must read on to find out who wins the battle, to learn if our character will be triumphant, or if he will be ruined for life. Adversity, or conflict, is the key to writing a good story. Going through the characters struggles with them makes their revenge sweeter, their triumphs more elating, and their love so much stronger. Adversity is what makes us care about the characters.

So, make things hard for your characters no matter what genre you write. Beat them up, make them walk over hot coals, climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, or dive to the ocean’s depths to get the girl, find the treasure, win the race, or achieve self-discoveries. And just when they are at the lowest point they have ever been at, and it seems that there is no way to come out ahead, throw a burning building in their path, raise the stakes, throw in a ticking time bomb. Don’t make it easy for them. If a good looking guy walks into the bar and sweeps the girl off her feet without even blinking and there is no one to object, no one will care if they live happily ever after or not. When the reader is aware of the price that has been paid to achieve the goal, then your readers will care so much more. Give your characters conflict and adversity. They’ll thank you for it later, and so will your readers.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribing to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.