OKAY, REVISIONS!

2 08 2022

I received critiques of the whole novel from Noble Fusion Eastern Court. I received critiques on the first few chapters from writers on the Online Writers Workshop, plus encouragement.

Writer and OWW organizer Judith Tarr wrote: “The bones of this chapter are solid. There are some vivid and memorable images, and the story moves rapidly forward. Olivia is a strong character; her motivations are clear. There’s no question about what she wants or how she intends to get it.”

Author Kate Tyte provided useful guidance: “I feel you could make some things clearer, simpler and more obvious. I was confused by the homunculous of Olivia’s lover, for example. You have good characters and conflict, but sometimes that gets a bit lost. Gretchen wants to be cured of cancer, and maybe to get back together with her boyfriend, and to get her life together. Olivia wants to find her lover, for magical purposes. The boyfriend wants to be famous. Can you focus on making those things the focus, and very clear, and not losing sight of them?”

I am incorporating these critiques into the chapters still to be posted on OWW. I’m sending updated drafts to my non-writer friends to get their advice.

Here are two AI renderings of key images in “Saints of Flesh”. The prompt on the second one was “cancer polyp jewelry”.

experimenting with chaos magic




Kij Johnson on Good Ideas

13 05 2022




Neat Writing Tricks From “The Ruins” (If you are from Ireland and usually read this, you are my sole reader from Ireland. Thanks for reading!)

13 01 2022

While I had COVID, I took a gift card I had won at a work-place raffle and I ordered some books. The first to arrive (used from ThriftBooks) was “The Ruins” by Scott Smith. A movie had been made and is available for streaming. I had watched the movie and was really impressed. Over the years, many writers I respect had claimed that the novel itself was a compelling page-turner.

They weren’t kidding! It’s 500 pages and I tore through it in 24 hours. I hadn’t read a novel so eagerly since I was a kid. Despite knowing how the novel was going to end. Despite the characters being obvious redshirt/victims and the monster being a Pottsylvania Creeper that can do impressions.

SPOILERS

The plot: six generic white college age tourists in Mexico go off the beaten track, ignore multiple harbingers, and find themselves forced to stay in Mayan ruins covered with vines that are predatory, carnivorous, and intelligent. The natives know the vines are dangerous and will not let the kids leave the ruins, lest a tendril hitch a ride on them. Lacking resources or means to call for help, the six die rather quickly. You’d think that this plot couldn’t last longer than a Tales From The Crypt episode. But Smith makes it a compelling read over 500 pages.

How did Smith do this? I studied the book as I read and have some answers. Let’s look at style and structure first.

The POV shifts in third-person limited between the six characters. The language is contemporary with little artistic flourish. There are no chapter breaks. There is very little to break the narrative flow. I skimmed the prose easily. Jumping POVs kept scenes from being too long and gave moments where characters could assess a situation from different perspectives.

The plot is a basic Four Beat Structure. The McGuffin for going to The Ruins was to find a missing brother. That drew the plot up to Beat One about 20% in. The brother’s body is found literally when a character notices the vines seems crowding him. The plot questions shifts from “Where Is?” to “How?”. Within that 20%, all the plot elements have been established: a phone ringing in a deep pit, birdcalls from within the vines, and the vines’ peculiar growth.

The other three beats are Reveals Of Horror and the characters’ reactions. Beat Two is discovering the vines are acidic and grow quickly to eat any meat. Beat Three reveals the starving characters discovering the bird calls are actually coming from the vines’ blossoms, and that the vines are as fast as snakes. In Beat Four, the ringing phone is also a mimicry to lure them into the pit to be digested. Characters die on the way, of course, and after each horrid realization there is a POV change where the next character summarizes anew the whole dire situation.

Another group of tourists is supposed to come looking for the doomed, but even that isn’t taken seriously. That group shows up at the end much too late, only to climb The Ruins to presumably seal their own fate.

I noted the McGuffin handoff when the missing brother is found dead. That handoff is made into a “What Is Happening” through the world-building of The Ruins themselves. The brother is found amid the wreckage of an archeological dig. No other bodies are found. There are notebooks, though, and passports and other documents. I was waiting for them to try to piece together the clues. But Smith quite rightly made the paperwork a tease to keep my attention and concentrated on the character interaction. It was the same when the archeologists remains were found, when the natives (rendered in ways sympathetic and distinct) organized, and in examining The Ruins themselves. Just enough world-building to create believability, then moving on with the plot.

The most important aspect of the novel comes with establishing the six redshirt/victims themselves. We learn about them through description and behavior. There is almost no dialogue for the first forty pages. This perspective one step removed shows that this is “an ensemble” so to speak and there is no main character. What is vital is that it sets us up as watchers and not sympathizers. We are set up to watch flawed WASP college kids get drunk, make a lot of assumptions, and Get What’s Coming To Drunk Assuming WASP College Kids.

One could argue that what kills them is White Privilege and this is addressed in the book. It’s touched on only briefly, because deep sociological reflection would create sympathy and ruin plot momentum.

The first forty pages also set tone really well. From the first sentence, the characters spend their time with churning hangovers, sizzling sunburns, bleary from lack of sleep, resentful of another’s actions, menaced by snarling dogs, unsettled by disease and poverty. I’m going to pay more attention to using environment to create tone.

The horror I felt for their fate came through the sensory descriptions. Tendrils squirmed under skin. Acidic sap burned hands. Hopes dropped into chilled horror. Amputations cracked and snapped. I found myself thinking “these guys were dopes, but day-um they didn’t deserve all this.”

This is a good book. The movie has a better ending, in that it follows a Main Character out of the six who becomes the sensory touchstone for the viewer.





This Week I Had COVID, So This Is What I Did (Hello DirtySciFiBuddha and Literary Titan)

8 01 2022

I’ve been looking through “Idea Book” by Jack Heffron. Heffron uses exercises to find personal experiences as inspiration. I like this and will let you know how this goes.

Here is a found footage movie review site. It is comprehensive and the reviews are thorough.

I won a raffle at my job and got a $50 gift card, which I spent on books, of course. First in is this anthology. William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki The Ghost Finder has been a favorite. Had no idea so many authors wrote occult detectives, including Robert Chambers and Dion Fortune. Many names new to me in the ToC and I’m looking forward to sampling in the coming weeks.





Writers: How To Arrange Your Scenes and Structure Your Novel

20 11 2018

Do you attend writers’ conferences? I did recently…

Not a conference in my location, mind you. This was held by the Oak Park library of Johnson County, Kansas USA, a rather well-funded facility hosting a well-run symposium. There were only two lecture tracks, but one author had done panels at the 2019 SFWA Conference in Pittsburgh. Cora Carmack flew in from Austin to talk writing.

She recommends Jack Bickam’s Scene and Structure. For her, many years of figuring things out on her own clicked together after having read this book.

Here are my notes from her lecture with added explanations.

A) Story Goal

1) What will a character do to restore their self-worth (“Get things right”, “Get back to Hobbiton safe in time for elevenses”). a) Self-worth is based on self-perception. i) The character goal is to restore their perceived original values and regain control of their environment.

2) A story raises a Question  a) every event is filtered through accomplishing the Goal.

B) Cause and Effect  1) Every specified element in a story must have later purpose  2) Every effect or event must have a cause tied to an earlier element.

C) Stimulus and Response  1) Stimulus MUST BE EXTERNAL  a) action or dialogue   2) Response MUST BE IMMEDIATE   a) if the response is illogical, that illogic must be explained internally (have the character reflect that maybe it’s not the right choice, but it’s the right choice FOR THEM because [add rationalization here]).

A plot is structured STIMULUS > INTERNALIZATION > RESPONSE

D) Scenes = Building Blocks  1) State the goal of the scene (“the 3 oclock meeting was to summarize the events for the boss”), 2) Introduce conflict/opposition (“Jimmy and Helen did not agree on the ramifications”)   3) FAIL TO REACH GOAL (“Meeting left us more confused and doubtful”)  a) The scene’s goal could be met, but the Story Goal must be made more difficult

E) SCENE STRUCTURE IS DIFFERENT FROM STORY STRUCTURE

F) SCENE Goals  1) Always from POV character  2) IMMEDIATE  a) Clear goal that both      i) relates to long-term goals   ii) raises the Scene Goal

G) Conflict Development  1) IS the scene   2) MUST be about the scene goal  3) Details the Conflict

H) HOW-TOs  1) Dialogue  2) Action  3) MUST BE VISIBLE  a) Non-POV characters can only respond to sensory data (even if telepathic or magical, still counts as sensory).

I) The Scene Ends In Disaster   1) MUst be a) a Straight Denial of the Goal or  b) YES, BUT (adding a complication) or c) NO, AND FURTHERMORE YOU LOSE THIS TOO.

THE CHARACTER MUST LEAVE EVERY SCENE IN WORSE SHAPE

Before writing a scene: Set goals, arrange escalating loss, and figure how it moves the story forward.

EMOTION >> THOUGHT >> DECISION >> NEW GOAL

Introduce these elements in this order:

Setting + Protagonist + Problem + Antagonist + Conflict + Goal

###

Reading this again, it clarified a lot of things needed for my first draft in NaNoWriMo. I’m at 10K words, and while I have two POV characters (slight burden), one has a goal he is concealing from non-POV characters (more difficult), whilehaving to delineate a magic system and backstory from a previous novel (eek).

I’ve laid out the novel elements well, I think. The problem is maintaining the POVs cause-and-effect while giving each character an arc.

Oh and I’m pantsing, which means I’ll be freaking out in another 10K words as the elements have to be amended.





Trying Advertising Campaigns and BOOK TWO IS GO!

29 10 2018

I’m trying Amazon Sales Marketing to promote Lampreyhead Book Two. I have set a “per-click” budget of 22 cents per click with a limit of $100. The goal is to see if the twenty two cents brings in a purchase at $2.99. If not, I will have to change tactics, or ad copy, or maybe even venues.

The audio book is on hold until I can get the advertsingbudget established. My dayjob is in retail. I do not want to take out of savings, because I already did that to do the cover art.

So! Book Two is out!

“The action scenes are fantastic! Wow. The story really pulled me in.” – Dona Fox, Amazon horror author

Ned didn’t dare turn to look. He burst through the doors and out the back door. Sprayed the threshold.
He scooped up the bag he’d left at the door. Ran around the side of the store to the front.
Bag bouncing in left hand and squirt gun raised in his right, Ned clenched his jaw and rounded the corner to the side of the store. He slowed as he approached the next corner. He crouched and peered.
The glass doors glowed with divine light. Along the door sat several white propane tanks, obviously brought by the Banquet.
Hands at his eyes, Bogen snarled. “Let us in!”
The other three played with Don like cats with a mouse. The woman seized his face. She lifted him from his feet. She reached under her hem and produced a gleaming knife. She lowered her mouth onto his. Waggled her head in mockery of a passionate kiss as the knife came down onto his face. Don thrashed and kicked.
What do I do? I can’t let him die!
She dropped him, Don’s face black with gore. His lips seemed impossibly wide, showing blackened teeth in the blue light.
She sliced his lips off.
The rest fell upon him.
Pieces flew. Something like cloth flipped away then flopped like a wet towel.
Don’s legs kicked in electric agony.
Above the scene, a voice called in their strange, hissing language.
Atop the roof, glowing sickly yellow from the Top Tech sign, the Judas in a chef’s hat waved a white-clad arm. He thrust a white arm behind him to the roof.
The skylights!
Ned cursed himself.
The roof had a dozen skylights. Each were protected only by a grill of thin iron.
I have to shut him up!
It was easily twenty feet up to the roof. Ned didn’t remember the last time he’d leapt that high.
He set down his bag and took out the jug of holy water.
He crouched. Hesitated. Took three steps back. Cursed himself and ran to the wall. Stomped with all his strength.
Mid-air, his foot as his work shoe went flying. The jug loosened in his grip.
For a hysterical moment, the jug gurgled inches from his face. He bobbled it and thrust it above his head.
He landed on the roof off balance. His right foot slid from beneath him and he landed on his ass. The plastic jug skittered away against the tar paper.
The chef hissed again, joyful and grotesque.
His white ass pointed at Ned.
Scooping up the jug, Ned removed the cap. A beam of light shot from within. He held the jug at arm’s length.
Ned crept behind the chef. He threw the plastic bottle and ducked away.
The chef’s back exploded.
The chef screamed. He clawed at his back as the holy water savaged him. Scrabbling and twisting, he lost his footing. The chef tumbled over the edge of the building.
Ned gained a lease on his lamprey-themed, vampire-prototype life. His new handler Amanda is ready with fashion advice, business acumen, or her gun. He provides days-long orgasms to now higher-paying clients. Ned wants to bury his selfish past. Thanks to his new magic books, he resolves to fight his family of fellow prototypes, the Formulae.
When Amanda finds Evil at a big box electronics store, Ned leaps in ready to fight and get that employee discount. But the best employees disappear. Mysterious customers buy startling amounts of stuff. TVs show visions of cannibal blood-feasts. Spirits say the store is doomed.
Are the Formulae involved?
In the spirit of Clive Barker and Stephen King, Ned gets fishy. Can he save the missing employees? Save the store from massacre? Or will he just swim away with quality electronics at a low price?

Book-2-Big-Box-Pback





Amazon Review: FIVE STARS for Lampreyhead Book One!

24 10 2018

He was created to please Satan, then – abandoned. Our hero is an abominable creature who, though…

Says author Dona Fox!

Click it! Click it and read!

My romp has emotional underpinnings that may out-Herzog Herzog. If you like the idea of Herzog creating a “Buffy” episode, it seems this may be the series for you.

Find out for yourself! Click the cover to read on Kindle Unlimited or purchase it outright. It’s just in time for Halloween. Takes only three hours to read. Try it today.

Book-1-Fishtown-Pback

 

 

 

 





Writers: Pay For Proofreaders

19 10 2018

I’m now fixing the typos and usage problems in “Lampreyhead”.

The problems got past multiple layers of readers and software.

When professionals say you should pay for a proofreader, they aren’t kidding.

I’m quite embarassed.





Writers: For Amazon and Goodreads Reviews…

13 10 2018

Reviewing on amazon





942 Downloads! Be The First To Review!

10 10 2018

The launch of “Fishtown Blood Bath” couldn’t have gone better, y’all!

As of this morning, 942 of you have downloaded the free Kindle book and are racing to be the cool kid with the first review.

At 36,000 words, it’s a quick, rowdy read. See weird vampires, guns, magic, and very nearly the end of the world.

It’ll be an afternoon well spent. Download a free copy now. Offer ends Saturday.

Book-1-Fishtown-Pback








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