Author, Voice, Writing

Author, author, speak to me!

I cried last night … twice. Reading the final chapters of Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, did me in. The story was just that real to me. Throughout the book I experienced love and heartbreak, beauty and horror, fear and exultation because Hosseini is an excellent writer. And yet, not everyone agrees with me.

Engrossed reader.Have you ever experienced the shock of looking at the reviews of a book you loved and seeing that some readers hated it? Although more than 350,000 readers rated Hosseini’s book four or five stars at Goodreads, a shocking number gave it only one. Considering that the background of this novel is war-torn Afghanistan, I suppose some of those low ratings could be politically motivated. But what about the others?

I’ve loved all three of Hosseini’s novels. That’s not because I love reading stories set in Afghanistan or stories about the effects of war on people’s lives. So why is he one of my favorite authors? Why is Anne Tyler? Or Stephen King? Or Maeve Binchy?

Voice. It’s the author’s voice.

Often I open a novel that either a professional reviewer or a friend has assured me I’ll love, and I simply can’t read it. It’s not the subject, not the setting, not the quality of the writing that fails to excite me—it’s the author’s voice. That voice is not one I’m attuned to, which is neither my fault nor the author’s. And certainly, that alone is no cause for me to say it’s a terrible book.

The voices of the writers I prefer don’t all sound the same. I study them, copying whole pages by hand trying to understand what makes them sing for me. Word choice, syntax, tone, rhythm, etc. are all elements of writing style, but I think writers can have similar styles and yet the voice is different. There’s something more that defines voice. It’s an element lying below all the rest. Something that breathes life into the words. Something, I think, that can’t be learned.

Naturally, I wonder about my own writer’s voice. It’s still trying to struggle out of its chrysalis. I hope it’s on its way to being pure and honest and alive. Because then, someday, readers will count my voice among their favorites.

Linda

Author, Book Reviews, My Books, Writing

Christa Polkinhorn is talking about me!

Since I confused a lot of you on Tuesday, I’m playing it safe today. So I’ll just let you know that Christa Polkinhorn is talking about me on her blog today.

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Also, I’ll say thank you to those who signed up for my newsletter after they saw my announcement about the June issue on Facebook and Twitter. Welcome aboard.

The temps will be over 100° F here in the San Joaquin Valley the next few days. I hope the weather is more human-friendly where you are. Have a fabulous weekend!

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Author, Books, Guest Post, Novel, Writing

Seeing Ghosts with James Garcia, Jr.

Seeing-ghosts_smToday’s guest is James Garcia, Jr. or “Jimmy” as he signs the comments he leaves on this blog. In a previous post, I told you how much I enjoyed reading his vampire novel Dance on Fire. But his latest book is not a horror novel, it’s a romance. Okay, yeah. Obviously the title is Seeing Ghosts, so it’s a paranormal romance. Great cover, right? Here’s the description and then I’ll let Mr. Garcia take the floor:

Paul Herrera finds himself bequeathed a mysterious old house near the California central coast by a deceased aunt he never knew. The woman who shows it to him is the spitting image of his wife, taken from him three years before in a senseless car accident which also took his unborn son. While he deals with the ghosts of a past he cannot let go, there are new ghosts Paul must deal with – alone for the week in the expansive two-storey house that he will soon discover holds many secrets. Eventually, he will see that he is surrounded by ghosts as he struggles to hold onto the only thing that he has left in this world – his sanity.

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James Garcia, Jr.

So, you ask, how in the world could a guy who started reading and writing horror fiction end up writing a romance? Well, it is a paranormal romance, so it really isn’t that big of a leap…

Truth be told, although I grew up reading The Amityville Horror and early works by Clive Barker and Mr. King, and watching films like The ThingPoltergeist and the original Friday the 13th films, my tastes have evolved with age. Now in my 40’s I find myself more comfortable with horror suspense than horror gore. If it’s splatter or torture porn, I’m really not interested. As one may excuse language and nudity when it’s necessary for the plot, I feel the same about violence. There’s certain rough aspects to The ExorcistThe Silence of the Lambs or more recently Let Me In, but the stories are so good that they work on every level.

Though I grew up with horror fiction and heavy metal music, my teenage years and a real lack of dating brought me to face issues of the heart. Even though my wife and I have been together now for twenty five years, I still remember those teenage years where every sad song seemed to be about me. Perhaps one might suggest that there is still a small part of me that wonders if love can be forever, and whether I might yet find myself alone once more? Only God knows. We have a wonderful life together, yet there’s still a part of me in touch with those feelings of love and loss.

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My favorite novel is not scary in the least: Beach Music by Pat Conroy. It is a work of genius. It is not paranormal, and I never wanted to read it; however, a sister in law of mine coerced me into picking it up. All these years later I have yet to put it down, reading it or at least parts of it periodically over that time. It is great drama and has a bit of everything in it. I will go to my grave a happy man if I’m considered half as good a writer as Mr. Conroy. Couple this with the fact that I’m most comfortable with a romantic comedy on my television, and you will now begin to understand how it came about that I ended up writing Seeing Ghosts.

I always hoped to write a haunted house story before my writing days were finished, but I did not want to rush it. I had seen too many films or books begin with so much promise, but fall flat in the end. This is not to say that I have written the greatest haunted house story in the history of mankind. But I do think I have come up with something that is very special – it certainly is to me.

And I hope it is for you as well. You’ll have to let me know.

As I say over at my blog, we’ll talk soon.

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The official release date for Seeing Ghosts is June 5.  

Author, Author Interviews, Books, Guest Post

Persecuted by my characters!

Christa_PolkinhornMy guest today is author Christa Polkinhorn. I “met” Christa online a couple of years ago. Since then she’s answered about a million of my questions, served as a beta reader, and been an all-around A+ supporter of my work. I’d say it’s about time I let her speak to you here. Please welcome Christa as she describes a “visit” from her characters.

~~~~~

After finishing Love of a Stonemason, the second book in my Family Portrait series, I wanted to take a break from “my family on paper” and work on something entirely different. I opened a new Word document and began to type. I was at the second paragraph of the first chapter, when I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. I turned around and gasped.

After years of writing, my heart still stutters when I see him. Tall, broad-shouldered, muscular, with unruly dark hair and those vivid verdigris-green eyes, Andreas is the kind of man I could still fall for—after all, I created him. He isn’t perfect by any means. He has a temper and can be quite crude at times, but he did mature somewhat over the years. Besides, what would I do with perfection? What’s more important, he is a passionate man with a kind heart.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m writing or at least I was trying to until you appeared out of nowhere. What are you doing here anyway? I thought I sent you and your family on vacation.”

He gave me the familiar “what-the-heck-are-you-talking-about” look—his eyes narrowed and a deep furrow formed between his eyebrows. “We’ve been on vacation long enough; we’re bored; we want some action again.” There was an irritated undertone to his deep, throaty voice.

“Look.” I raised my hand and motioned him to sit down on the chair across the living room, but he remained standing. “Look, I’ll think of something for you again, but right now, I’m busy with a different book. You just have to wait your turn.”

AUF-190“A different book? What different book? You’ve been saying this for weeks and from what I see, you’re still at the second paragraph.”

He was right, darn it, but how did he know? “Okay,” I admitted. “I’m having a hard time but you hounding me doesn’t make it any easier.”

“I know what the problem is,” Andreas brushed through his unruly hair. “You write the wrong stuff. You should write about us.”

“I think I still decide what I want to or should write about,” I said. “By the way, when was the last time you had a haircut?”

He beamed. “You like unruly hair; that’s why you gave it to me.”

“Stop grinning,” I said.

“You shouldn’t use ‘grin’ in your writing so much; it’s bad style.”

“You know, Andreas, you’re really getting on my nerves right now. Would you please—”

“Oh, here you are; I was wondering what happened to you.” Karla stepped into the room, giving Andreas a sweet smile. She was dressed in a yellow-and-green slinky summer dress which flattered her tanned skin. I have to admit; I do create attractive-looking characters.

“Talking to our author.” Andreas hugged her and winked at me. “Trying to get her off her lazy butt and write the sequel.”

“With such language you’ll never convince me to go on,” I said, trying to give him a punishing look. But I never manage to get really angry at him, no matter how irritating he is sometimes.

LOS_190 “Heya,” a younger voice said and two more characters appeared—the children, Tonio and Laura, sixteen and eighteen by now. Tonio smiled at me.

“How was your vacation?” I asked with a sigh.

“Okay, but it got boring, nothing to do,” Tonio said. “And I desperately need some new clothes.

It was only now that I noticed his flashy shirt. “Seems like you have some nice outfits.”

“That’s my last clean one,” he said, a slight reproach in his voice.

With another sigh, I turned toward Laura and marveled once again how much she resembled her father, the same green eyes and dark, wavy hair, and strong physique. She, too, was attractive, but she keeps complaining that I didn’t give her the slender figure her mother had.

“Okay, since we’re all here now. How about some discussion about our future life,” Andreas said. “I think we’re all ready for more. I mean you created us and you can’t just abandon us like this. We have a right to our lives.”

“A right?” I raised an eyebrow. The nerve. “I think you forget who is in charge here. I will write another sequel but first, I want to work on something else, as I mentioned before.”

“Ahem,” Andreas stood tall. “What about . . . .” And he gave me a whole list of adventures he was going to engage in.

I raised my hand and stopped him short. “I decide what you guys are going to do.”

“Okay.” Andreas shrugged. “Just trying to be helpful. I mean, we’d love you to write our stories. You’ve been quite a pain in the butt and given us some hard times, but all in all our lives have been okay. However, if you don’t want to continue, we can always go and find another author.”

“Oh, yeah? And who do you think is going to put up with you?” I snickered.

“You’d be surprised. To tell you the truth I’ve received some offers.”

Emilia_190I’m convinced he was merely bluffing—or was he? “All right, I’ll write another book. I’ll start in a while.”

“Can I have a decent boyfriend, finally?” Laura asked.

“We’ll see about that,” I muttered. “I haven’t figured it all out yet.”

“And please, give me a few more exhibitions and make me paint some great pictures.” Karla put a hand on my shoulder or was this merely the breeze coming from the open window.

“Okay. We’ll see.”

Andreas brushed through his hair again. “Yes, and, I’d really like another trip to—“

“Enough,” I shout. “Leave the details up to me.”

“New clothes, please.” Tonio raised his arms in a defensive gesture. “Just saying, so you don’t forget.”

“All right, guys, thanks for dropping by. However, if you want me to finish the sequel within a reasonable timeframe, you got to back off and leave me to it. Understood?”

“Yeah, all right,” Andreas said and the others nodded.

“Okay, that’s settled. Now could you please disappear and let me get back to work.

Karla and the children faded away a little, but Andreas stood his ground. He waited until I closed the Word document I was working on and opened a new one.

I typed “Emilia (Family Portrait, Part 3).”

He nodded, smiled, and disappeared.

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Now that you’re intrigued by Christa’s characters, click on the covers of her Family Portrait trilogy to learn where you can purchase the trilogy. And right now, you’re in luck because the first book in the series, An Uncommon Family, is on sale for only 99-cents!

You can find Christa on her blogFacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Goodreads. You can’t miss her. She’s the one with the cheery smile and a sparkle in her eye!

AUF-190   LOS_190   Emilia_190

elle

Author, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Promotion, Writing

The Next Big Thing

Author Christa Polkinhorn, tagged me to answer these questions about my work in progress. This author meme is called The Next Big Thing. Please read Christa’s responses about Emilia, her next big thing. At the end of  this post, you’ll see who I’ve tagged.

AIT_page_frontWhat is the working title of your next book? It’s titled An Illusion of Trust and is now available at Amazon in ebook and print.

Where did the idea come from for the book? It’s a sequel to my novel The Brevity of Roses. I ended that book with Jalal and Renee’s engagement, but that wasn’t the end of the story I’d written in my head. They were both troubled people, but I knew for certain Renee’s emotional damage would surface as she experienced the realities of marriage and parenthood, so I wrote An Illusion of Trust to tell that part of the story.

What genre does your book fall under? This is contemporary fiction. I suppose it will appeal mainly to women, but I hesitate to call it women’s fiction because that classification is often interpreted as romance or chick lit, which this is not. Maybe I could call it literary women’s fiction.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Though I do mentally cast certain actors as my characters, I decline to share my picks for the same reason I don’t dwell a lot on the physical descriptions of characters in my writing. Unless there’s a good reason to force my image on readers, I want them to visualize my characters as they like. I mention or allude to Renee’s petite stature and long hair several times, and I mention once (in this book) that she has gray eyes. In my head, she’s a more petite version of a certain actress.

Jalal was described in more detail in The Brevity of Roses because Meredith gave her poetic mind free reign as she observed him: “… it was hard to ignore this man with his beautiful skin, like fine tea-dyed silk, and hair, as black as any she had ever seen, curling down to his shoulders, and if he chanced to look up from the book he now read, she was certain his eyes would seem as deep and dark as temple pools on a moonless night.” He has a slight change of appearance in An Illusion of Trust, but even with this number of details I think readers could “cast” several different actors in his role.

If you’re familiar with my characters Renee and Jalal and pictured a celebrity as you read about them, please share. I’m curious to know if anyone sees who I see.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

This is the tag line: In this sequel to The Brevity of Roses, Renee Vaziri discovers that even when your dreams come true your nightmares remain.

Here’s a distillation from the back cover blurb, which is more a one-line synopsis: When Renee Marshall locked the door on her dark past and married Jalal Vaziri, she hoped for a quiet life, but as the stress of living in his society increases, the traumas of her past begin to poison the present and threaten to destroy everything she treasures.

 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

This sequel will be another indie novel published under my imprint Two-Four-Six Publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

That’s a difficult question for me to answer because I don’t write a typical first draft. I develop the story in my head and make written notes for several months to a year (or more) before I start to actually write a draft. And because I edit as I write, what I end up with is a step or two beyond the proverbial “shitty first draft”. Specifically, I wrote this “first draft” in two stages. I wrote for three months and then a health problem forced me to let it languish for a couple of months, during which indecision on what my next book should be cropped up and delayed me even more. When I picked up my WIP again, I finished in seven months, so I guess it took about ten months to write what I call a first draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I’m going to have to pass on this one. Most every novel I read is contemporary, but I’m not familiar with one I can compare to this story. My favorite author is Anne Tyler, so I’m sure her style has influenced mine.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? After I finished writing The Brevity of Roses, my characters refused to stop talking to me. In fact, as I was writing it, I kept thinking about what would happen to them past the point I planned to end the book. So while I was still editing Brevity, I started writing out scenes and snatches of dialogue that would, mostly, become part of An Illusion of Trust. An image that haunted me, from a scene that didn’t make it into Illusion, was the impetus for a particular element in this book.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I don’t want you to leave you with the impression this story is relentless doom and gloom. As those who’ve read the first part of Jalal and Renee’s story already know, they indulge in a healthy dose of smartass humor. And marriage certainly hasn’t turned down the heat between them. 😉

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Now, in a week or two, each of these fine authors will tell you about their next big thing. Visit their blogs today and subscribe, if you haven’t already, so you won’t miss learning about three more good books to watch for.

Natasha Alexander

Anne Gallagher

Jessica Luton

If you’d like to help me build a buzz for An Illusion of Trust, please click those cute little share buttons below.

elle