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Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

MSH Blog Tour Week 10: Block


Here's what's on tap for week 10 of the blog tour:  Writing style:  do you use sprints? Exercises? Prompts?  Just knucke down? Describe your usual routine and what you do to get out of a funk and beat writer's block.

This week is a host and post and my guest is Aya Walksfar. She is the author of Dead Men and Cats and the soon-to-be-released Good Intentions. She can be reached at   http://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor  or her blog at http://www.ayawalksfar.com  

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FACING DOWN WRITER’S BLOCK


“Wake up!” Jaimie Wolfwalker shook my shoulder as her breath tickled my ear with her whisper. “Wake up! There’s work to do. If we don’t find Auntie...I’m afraid of what might happen.” 

I swat at her with one hand and roll over, crack open an eye. “Cripes! Jaimie, do you know it’s 3 A.M.? I just got to bed at 2! Come on, give me a break. I sat in front of that computer for two solid hours and got six words typed!” 

“Please, get up. I already turned the computer back on. All you have to do is sit down and write.”  Jaimie’s fingertips bit into my shoulder as she shook me more vigorously than before. 

I swung my legs out of bed and stumbled through the dark house. Ghostly blue light seeped from my office. My office chair scooted a little when I flopped down on it. Rubbing burning eyes with the back of one hand, I jiggled the mouse and woke up the computer. Jaimie had thoughtfully pulled up a blank page in the novel Street Harvest

Muzzy minded, I scrolled back a chapter and began reading. The words ran in circles on the computer page. “I’ve got to have some tea before I can even read this.” 

Jaimie followed me into the kitchen, probably afraid I would sneak off to the living room and plop out on the couch. I made a cup of Awake Tea and hoped it would live up to its name. Cup in hand I returned to the computer.  

A half hour later I stared at the determinedly blank computer page. With a sigh, I shoved the chair away from the desk. “I can’t do it, Jaimie. Come on. I am exhausted and Street Harvest isn’t even due to come out until 2014! Cut me some slack.” 

“The book may not be due by your publisher, but what about me? What about Auntie? Do you think we can wait?”

“I’ll work on it tomorrow, well, I guess I mean later today. Okay?” 

“No. You’re just procrastinating. Just do it.” 

I rubbed my neck as I stared at her face pinched with worry. “Just do it, huh?”

“Yes, just start putting words on paper. Or in this case, computer screen. It’ll make sense after a while.” 

I stared into her dark eyes. “You that worried about Auntie?” 

She nodded. “Her and the kids.” 

“I’ll do my best. Can’t guarantee anything, you know?” 

“Yes, I understand.” She tucked her hair behind her ears and pulled up the wood, straight-back chair. 

Desk chair wheeled back up to my keyboard, I began to type.   

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I'd like to thank Aya Walksfar to coming to my humble blog and be sure to visit her blog and Facebook page. As always, thanks for reading.



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Happy Birthday: Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970. A filmmaker and screenwriter, Nolan is best known for his Dark Knight trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises).

Like most people, I discovered Nolan by watching Memento. This backwards-timeline noir is an intricate puzzle that keeps you thinking and guessing until the end (beginning?). I love the film and have watched every film of Nolan's since. There was something about him that I couldn't put my finger on until I read a quote about Nolan not being an artist, like most directors, but instead an architect, carefully building each film, knowing each twist and turn.

And that is why I like him: his films are structured so beautifully. He once said there wouldn't be a director's cut of his films because every scene fulfills a purpose. To me, no film matches that statement more than The Prestige. Every scene in a movie (or book, for that matter) should fulfill one of three purposes: move the plot forward, reveal character, or set up future situations. No scene, almost no line of dialogue, is wasted in The Prestige. In the beginning, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) declares he can do a magic trick no one else can. It is true because he has a twin brother. Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) casually tells his girlfriend he changed his name so not to embarrass his family; you find later he is the wealthy Lord Caldlow. How would a wealthy family want to be associated with a magician? All these clues and more are woven so well into the narrative they are easy to miss but so important.
The ending may be shocking, but when you go back and watch it again and realize every clue was there, even in supposedly throwaway lines, you see how beautifully that story is structured. Nolan's stories aren't painted, they are built.

I am trying to follow his formula in my work. I need to go through my stories and cut out the fluff and fat. For authors wanting to make their stories leaner, more muscular, and to have purpose, I'd suggest studying Nolan's films. I saw an excellent post about how Inception avoids the information dump common to many SF stories by weaving the needed details into the narrative. Read it here.

Whether it's old time London, Gotham City, or Cobb's psyche, Christopher Nolan is a master architect. Any storyteller, visual or prose, could use his work as an example of how to build a compelling narrative.

Friday, July 26, 2013

MSH Blog Tour Week 9: Plotter

"Plotter or pantser?  Discuss which you do, if it's a 50/50 or 70/30 or whatever your style is." That is the theme for this week on the MSH blog tour. I wrote about this before in a post on March 15, 2012. Since my process hasn't changed much since then, I'll repost what I wrote in a slightly modified version.


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 Most of what I learned about writing comes from Syd Field's book Screenplay and Stephen King's On Writing. I won't do a review of these books so just bear in mind that many of my habits came from these two works.

I start with an outline, a road map of my story. It isn't long, usually not more than four pages. I begin with a log line, a short descriptive overview of the story, the kind of thing you would find in TV Guide or such; usually only one or two sentences long. After that I figure out five things: opening, ending, Plot Point 1, Midpoint, and Plot Point 2 (PP1, MP, and PP2, for short). These are the main parts of my story, the road signs that tell it what direction to take.

The opening and ending are fairly straightforward: what is the hero doing at the beginning of the story before they get into their situation; do they win in the end or lose? These are usually pretty easy to figure out.

PP1, MP, and PP2 aren't quite so easy. In a two hour movie these usually happen about thirty minutes, sixty minutes, and ninety minutes, respectively, into the movie. These are the points where the hero (or heroes) have to make their decisions or something drastic happens to them at this point. Often in action movies PP1 is when the hero learns what the villain has done or trying to do and PP2 is when the hero is captured or when the villain has almost started his final plan. Once I figure out these two points, I have signs to direct my story towards. As I think and write my outline these may change over time but the function of them don't. They are there to anchor my story. In Adventure Hunters, the opening is the three adventurers in the ruin, the ending is telling their last story, PP1 is deciding to search for the Lambda Driver and PP2 is when the golems are activated.

After figuring out those four points, I write an outline, having split my story into four acts. The traditional story structure is three acts, but with the MP coming in the middle of Act 2 and splitting it in half, it's easier for me to think of them as four separate acts. Act 1 ends with PP1, Act 2 ends with PP2 and Act 3 ends when the story ends. I then write fourteen "scenes" for each act, rough outlines of all the major scenes in my story. These descriptions are brief and don't include every detail, they are just general outlines to give me a rough idea of what my story will be like. This is, without a doubt, the hardest part for me, especially Act 2. Syd Field calls writing the outline (or treatment) a "kick in the pants" exercise. Now I have to take my half-baked idea and turn it into a narrative. 

I don't have every detail worked out, only the major parts. There are many things I'll leave blank and figure out as I am writing the story. Some take me by surprise. An example of this is in Adventure Hunters when the three heroes go to meet the gargoyles. My outline had it written as a very straightforward "gather their collective breath and get information" series of scenes. But as I was writing their journey through the forest I needed more tension. I needed a character to be scared of the gargoyles who lived in the forest. Neither Regina or Artorius fit the bill, it wasn't in their character. That left Lisa. So as I wrote the scenes, I made her first be angry and racist towards the gargoyles. But that didn't work, so I changed it into a fear bordering on a phobia. But why was she scared? I eventually wrote a scene explaining why, tying it in with a traumatic experience with her parents from her childhood. This was something I never planned on when I created Lisa and wasn't in my original outline, it grew as I was writing and was a pleasant surprise.

Syd Field says to write a four page outline, Stephen King makes it up as he goes along, and Jeffery Deaver writes 100-200 page outlines for his stories, knowing every twist and turn along the way. I'm aiming for somewhere in the middle. Without an outline I write about thirty pages and get lost and frustrated, I've done it before. But a 100 or 200 pages outline? I might as well just write the novel. Deaver is a thriller writer and a master of plot twists, he needs to know every twist and turn in advance to make sure everything fits together. There are merits to all three approaches, I think. 

After I'm happy with my outline and hopefully find it without too many plot holes, I'll start writing. I refer to my outline and use it as a map but it isn't gospel, I'll change it if I think something else works better. Along with my outline I have a word count I try to shoot for. Again, this number isn't ironclad but if I get close to it I'm happy. I think it helps me out, knowing that I'm inching closer to a goal and giving me a feeling of accomplishment. However, I won't write just to fill up a word count, if my story ends and I have nothing else to say, it ends. I don't want to stuff it with useless filler.

So there you are, a glimpse into my writing process. If any other readers out there would be willing to share their process I'd love to read them, just write in the comments box. As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Movie Review: The Shining

I just watched Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining. I'm sure I'm going to upset lots of horror fans and film students by saying "So what?"

That was my feeling after seeing the film. While it has been praised up and down and Kubrick is considered a filmmaking genius, I had never seen his version of The Shining, although I had read Stephen King's book and watched the TV-movie adaptation. Kubrick's version is considered a horror classic but I just didn't feel it. No matter how much creepy music, jump cuts, or shots of a manically grinning Jack Nicholson, I didn't feel any suspense or unease.

King has stated that "There's a lot to like about it. But it's a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside, you can sit in it and you can enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery - the only thing you can't do is drive it anywhere." And I have to say I agree with him. While the visuals are outstanding and it is a technically brilliant film, the story, the horror that makes a horror movie is absent.

One of King's disagreements with the film was the total elimination of Jack Torrance's alcoholism (a very personal subject for King since he was an alcoholic as well) and the destruction of the family unit. In the book, Jack is basically a good guy. He did some bad things in the past (dislocating his son's shoulder in a fit of drunken anger) but he is on the rise. He is desperate to lift himself and he is mending. That makes his descent into madness even more terrifying. At first, readers wonder if it is indeed the isolation and emptiness getting to him, but it later becomes an internal struggle between him and the Overlook. The hotel sees his dark soul and Jack tries to fight back, but is ultimately too weak to overcome the hotel's evilness. This touches upon two scary situations: there is darkness in everyone, and if the father turns against the family, who is there to protect them?

Kubrick's version of Wendy seemed like a woman on the verge of a breakdown from the very first scene. Where is the tension of her watching her husband become crazy? It isn't there. King's Wendy was a woman who had a carefree life finally having to face ugly and terrifying decisions. Kubrick's looked like she had already seen horrible stuff.

Kubrick cut out the heart of the book, and that heart is what made it scary. The film isn't a total waste, and like I said is a visual treat. But it is a beautiful car with no engine.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: Voice Of The Sword

Voice Of The Sword is a YA urban fantasy set in modern day Tokyo. It deals with Reiko Bergman, a high school student who gets drawn into an inter-dimensional war between two factions, one of which is the demons and monsters of Japanese mythology.

I really liked this book. The author, John Paul Catton, has lived in Tokyo for 15 years and it shows. He describes places in great detail and many of the cultural references and observations could only have been done by someone living in Japan for quite a while. The story was fast-paced, full of action and bits of humor. Reiko was a well-developed character, although I thought she accepted things a bit too easily, although I think that is a conceit of the story, in order to get everything moving along. Genji is a stand-out character, a parody of the talents that populate Japanese variety shows but isn't the doofus you initially think he is. There is more to him than meets the eye and I hope more is revealed about him in later volumes.

The enemies seem straight out of anime and manga and several times I found myself thinking that, especially when a set of plates and dinnerware came alive, creating a humanoid figure with cups for elbow and saucers for eyes. It was great, I loved it. While the book wasn't exhausting in description, there were vivid details that added to the atmosphere of the story.

I recommend this book, especially anyone interested in anime, manga or Japanese history and culture. This is the first in the Sword, Mirror, Jewel Trilogy and I look forward to the rest.

Visit John Paul Catton's official site to learn more about Voice Of The Sword and his other works.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Review: Rys Rising

A while back, I teased about the fantasy novel Rys Rising, by Tracy Falbe. Now it is time to post my review as part of Falbe's blog tour.

Here is the official synopsis from Goodreads: "An outlaw rises to become a dreaded warlord, the terror of kings. He takes the name Amar and seeks to join the Kez, the fiercest mercenary society in the tribal kingdoms of Gyhwen. His fearless ambition is inspired by Onja, a mysterious rys female whose magic has shaped Amar into a loyal friend. He zealously pursues her every command and hopes to join her in her mythic homeland of Jingten. But he knows little about the challenges confronting Onja. She and all rys are the reviled creations of the tabre of Nufal, and Onja longs to expel her hated masters. To liberate the rys, she knows that she will need more than Amar's help. Onja sees her best hope for an ally in Dacian, a prodigy among rys, but he is loyal to the ruling tabre order and dreams of winning equality for the rys nonviolently. He holds tenaciously to his ideals even as the tabre brutally subjugate him. Will he endure more dark abuses for the sake of peace or reach out to Onja? And what fate is Amar blindly embracing as he kills for her? Like a tree crashing in a storm, all civilizations will crack when hit by the force of the rys rising."

I was given an ebook copy in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour. I'll start with what I didn't like. This book is Book One of the Rys Rising trilogy (Savage Storm and New Religion are Books Two and Three, respectively) and this book feels like it. It reminds me very much of The Fellowship Of The Ring, in which it isn't a three-act story with plot lines that will continue. Like Fellowship, this book is ALL Act One, setting up the stage for what will come later. In that sense, the book seems long and slow to build but looking back on it, almost everything seems needed. Onja finding Amar, him joining the Kez, Dacian's training and growing rebellion, all of it is needed. I wish the book had been more structured to be a three-act story so I would have had a sense of completion but still wanting more. This is Book One and it feels like Book One.

The second issue I had with it was the constant head hopping. Whenever more than one main character is in the scene, we jump back and forth from one POV to the other. We hear Onja's thoughts and Amar's thoughts when they are in the forest. As Dacian undergoes training with his teacher Halor, we bounce from head to head. Falbe takes a third-person omniscient narrative voice in this book. Because the cast is so numerous and the storyline so complex, maybe this was needed. If each scene needed to be retold twice from each POV, it would have been a massive tome. But I feel a third-person limited POV could have worked. I eventually got use to the head hopping but it was jarring, especially in the beginning and almost, not quite but almost, feels like a cop-out from Falbe, who obviously knows this fantasy world so well.

Those points being said, the positives outweigh the negatives. Falbe has created a rich, layered Tolkien-like world without the complicated sentence structures. The humans, the tabre, the rys, all the different magic using sects, have their own history, culture, and worldview. Each one is distinct and well-thought out. Places and people have unique names and I'm almost surprised an invented language was not thrown in.

The characters are well-rounded; from Amar becoming a feared mercenary to Onja going from timid rys to a powerful creature whose intentions are slowly revealed. There is an air headed princess who I was happy to see was not air headed because she was stupid but because of her societal upbringing. Once she escapes, she proves herself capable. Many of the tropes of fantasy characters are present but didn't feel like stereotypes. Each person had their reasons for being in their circumstances.

The descriptions are vivid, especially of the armor and costumes and each different set of characters had their own style.  The cities were thought out well and given a brief history without feeling like an information dump.

All in all, I recommend this book. It may take a bit of effort to push through it, but the world and characters are rich and complex, with intertwining destinies that will be interesting to see how they are played out.

Below is more information about the book, as well as purchase links and information to a promotional giveaway.


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BannerFans.com

A remarkable trip into a stunning  new world with Rys Rising, an epic fantasy series brought to you by Tracy Falbe

Rys Rising: Book I by Tracy Falbe

Blurb

Onja can control what others see. The day will come when everyone sees things her way.

She and all rys are the reviled creations of the tabre of Nufal. Onja longs to expel her hated masters and sees her best hope for an ally in Dacian. He’s a prodigy among rys but is loyal to the ruling tabre order and dreams of winning equality for the rys nonviolently. He holds tenaciously to his ideals even as the tabre brutally subjugate him. Will he endure more dark abuses for the sake of peace or reach out to Onja?

This unique epic of complex heroes and villains engulfs readers from many angles. Packed with primitive energy, the intertwining stories of this fantasy world will indulge your cravings for intrigue, bravery, desire, and freedom.



Links


Rys Rising: Book I is available worldwide at these retailers:

Brave Luck Books


Amazon Kindle

RY’S RISING BOOK 1-FREE ON AMAZON RIGHT NOW

Amazon Paperback


Barnes & Noble


I-Tunes


Kobo


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About Tracy Falbe

I was born in Michigan in 1972 and grew up in Mount Pleasant. It's called the "Mountain Town" but there is no mountain and it's debatable about whether it's pleasant. They say it's a party town and based on extensive research as a young adult I can concur.
Because I always had the childhood fantasy of running away and joining the circus, I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1995 and lived there until 1997. Those who only stay a week are wimps, but I will say that it's the second year in Vegas that wears you down. Then I realized the pioneers were trying to get to California, so I moved to Chico, in Northern California and lived there until 2009.
In 2000, I earned a journalism degree from California State University, Chico with the conscious ambition of becoming a fiction writer. With the rapid demise of the newspaper industry and journalism in general, novelist is not such a daft pursuit after all. It's not like I'm actually going to get a job that values my education. Luckily I'm cursed with the impulse to write in a popular yet competitive genre.
My wandering has circled back and I'm currently residing in Battle Creek, Michigan, and for now my existence within the post-apocalyptic Rust Belt is suitably fascinating.


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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review: Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise Of The Federation: A Choice Of Futures

Today I'm reviewing a new release in the Star Trek book line up. It is written by Christopher L. Bennett (Watching The Clock, Orion's Hounds) and is his first entry in the Enterprise line. With this, he has fulfilled his goal to write a story from each canonical TV series. Warning, spoilers ahead.

This follows the events laid out in the ENT duology The Romulan War by Michael A. Martin. I was severely disappointed with those books and was wondering if Bennett would be able to improve on a series I think has slid downhill since the series finale. While ACOF isn't earth-shattering, it restores my faith that perhaps the ENT line can be saved.

The story takes place after the Romulan War and many of the ENT regulars have moved up in the chain of command and moved away from their friends. Archer is now an admiral and the Enterprise is a museum exhibit. T'Pol and Reed have their own commands and the rest of the crew has taken posts on these new ships. All except Trip, who is still working for Section 31. His story has been the heart of the post-finale ENT books. Since the books rewrite the episode These Are The Voyages... and establish that Trip faked his death in order to go undercover in the Romulan Empire, the character has moved from a lovable Texan to a man dealing with having a dark and shadowy job. He wants to help the Federation but isn't sure what the cost to himself will be.

The main focus, as befitting the title Rise Of The Federation, is the difficulties the young interstellar faces. A threat from the Orions is forcing the Federation to chose what kind of entity it will be: aggressive or peaceful. While we know the answer, this is virtually an unexplored era of Trek history and it will be interesting to see the details that will make the Federation into what it eventually becomes in TOS and TNG.

The book is less scientific than Bennett's other works, focusing instead on politics and intrigue. I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to more from this mini-series. I'm hoping the editors have learned from their mistake on The Romulan War, in which a pivotal era in Trek lore, mainly the war with the Romulans, was an eight year event that got shoved into two books. Bennett's book takes place over seven months but he handled it well and it didn't feel like major issues or events were handled "off-page." This book is definitely a build-up and since Bennett is writing the sequel, I expect this storyline to be handled much more fluidly. He has a good handle on the characters and we can see that the characters have matured somewhat from their last on-screen appearances. If Bennett's new novels keep up their good direction, the series can regain its footing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

MSH Blog Tour: Week 7 - Interview

Here is what we were told to do for week 7 of the MSH blog tour: "Character Interview.  Interview your main character - or characters.  BE creative people you are writers after all." I'll give it my best shot. This interview is with Artorius, one of the main characters of Adventure Hunters. The episode below is mentioned in the novel and I thought I would expand upon it.


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The following is a transcript of a prisoner interview. Officers: Commander Kee and Ensign Booker. Prisoner: Artorius.

PLACE: Jail Wing, Constable Station 3
Kee: What's your name, son?
Artorius: Artorius.
(Prisoner has Sigil Of Disgrace branded on left cheek. Letters HY) Kee: I don't recognize that Sigil. What was your kingdom?
Artorius: Hyion, sir.
Kee: Hyion? King Valdore's kingdom, right?
Artorius: Yes.
Kee: What did you do?
Artorius: I was accused of attempting a coup. I tried to stop it, not start it.
Kee: Hmm. You know why you're here?
Artorius: Wearing Paladin armor is illegal for Sigil Bearers.
Kee: How long have you been in Vaneer?
Artorius: Six months, sir.
Kee: And you hadn't been caught until now? You don't exactly blend into a crowd.
Artorius:: Your patrols are a little weak. Ensign Booker here often overlooks the meat district. Two patrols cover the northeast corners but you need more men between the Temple of Runa and the outskirts. A variation in timing between sweeps, as well as in officer rotations might improve your vigilance rate. Sir.
Booker: I swear…I've never seen this man before. I don know how he-
(To Ensign Booker) Kee: Shut it. (To Prisoner) You know our routines pretty good. Personnel, too, it seems.
Artorius: Habit.
Kee: Come on out. Got some more questions for you. Get those cuffs off him. (Prisoner demonstrates that restraints have already been removed, most likely picked by prisoner himself) Ain't you a corker.
(Interrogation moved)
PLACE: Reception area of Constable Station 3 
Kee: With skills like that, you could be quite the mercenary.
Artorius: That doesn't appeal to me
Kee: why not?
Artorius: It's not how things are done.
Kee: Really? Many of your… in your situation have stepped outside the law. Mercenaries, assassins…
Artorius:: I…I won't go that route.
Kee: Is it that simple?
Artorius: I admit, since my… I use to think in black and white. But to survive… The world is many shades of gray.
Kee: Many shades of gray… I like that. Your armor isn't all sparkly. You were involved that house fire last night, weren't you?
Artorius:: Yes, sir.
Kee: You raced in, got those two children out, while the fire department just stood back and said nothing could be done. (sighs). You put me in quite a pickle, son. A pickle. And I don't like pickles, either these or the vegetables. I been at this job a long time. I know a man when looking him in the eyes. and yours are trustworthy. you may be a Sigil Bearer but I don't think it was warranted. Maybe you'll tell me in time. (Ensign Booker attempts to talk) Shut it, Booker. (To prisoner) Now here is the deal. You don't bother us, we don't bother you. You did a great service saving those little ones last night. The parents are grateful and so am I. Stay low and stay clean. Got it?
Artorius: Yes sir. Thank you.
Kee: Now get out of here.
(Prisoner is released)
End of interview.

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I hope you enjoyed this little exercise. If you want to know more about Artorius, be sure to check out Adventure Hunters when it is released by Mountain Springs House. As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Japan: Tanabata

Tanabata, also known as the star festival, is usually celebrated on July 7, although some parts of the country celebrate on a different day, often in August. For this festival, people write their dreams and wishes on narrow pieces of colorful paper and tie them to a bamboo branch. These branches can be small ones in the home bought especially for the occasion; or ones in parks and shrines across the country. The trees are often decorated with streamers and paper link chains. Many shopping areas decorate for the holiday and there are festivals all over the country.

Tanabata came from China and has a folklore story related to it. There are several variations of the story but the basic version goes like this: a weaver princess named Orihime fell in love with a cow herder names Hikoboshi. Both of them lived in the sky. After marriage the two were so in love they neglected their jobs. Orihime's father the king was furious and separated them with a river called the Milky Way. Orihime was despondent over the loss of her lover. Her father felt bad for her and agreed that they could meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month. But if it's rainy, the two lovers must wait another year to meet again.


Sunday, July 07, 2013

Creative Teams

Comic artist Rob Liefeld tweeted a few days ago about how comic book series don't keep a consistent writing and artistic team. Every few issues, it seems, there is a new writer or artist. Where is the consistency? he asked. That got me thinking about creative teams in movies. I wish more franchises had consistent writers and directors.


Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy has a singular visual and storytelling style. The same writers and director was involved in all three films, creating a consistent product. The same thing happened with The Matrix, the National Treasure duology, and a few others. But most series have switched writers and directors after only a few films, or sometimes even every film. The Harry Potter films had four directors over eight films (Christopher Columbus directed two of them while David Yates directed the final four) and the Mission:Impossible series has had a different director for each film. Producer and star Tom Cruise said this was done on purpose, for each film to be different from the others. This is evident: the first tim is very much a Brian DePalma film, the second is a John Woo action piece, M:I 3 is essentially Alias the movie, while Ghost Protocol is the closest to the original series.

But I like the consistency of the same team of writers and director, or at the very least the same director. I think the films benefit from a singular vision, a person who has worked on what's come before and can build on that. It also creates a nice comfort zone, a sense of what to expect. If you liked the first film, you'll most likely like the second, and so on.

Sometimes it doesn't work out having the same team all the time. After the dark and disturbing bend that Batman Returns took, the studio went with a more friendly direction and that gave us Batman Forever. Those two films are so different from each other. Chris Columbus left the Harry Potter after the second film and many moviegoers remarked how different Prisoner of Azkaban was. I realize that keeping the same team isn't always possible but it seems studios are too eager to simply replace a team or reboot the series without trying to fix the previous films as a continuing series.

I would like to see more trilogies, with the same creative team signed up for multiple pictures, just like the cast are. I like the consistency and also I feel it would give the director a chance to improve on what didn't work in the previous films.

What are your thoughts? Comment below and as always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

MSH Blog Tour Week 6 - Blogs


These weeks's theme was about blogs. I'm happy to be hosting Pamela Foreman.
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As a writer, I think it's important to have multiple avenues to share your work with others. One way to do that is through a blog.
My blog, http://www.pamelaforeman.com, began in December of 2012 and I use it as a tool for readers to know what my books are and where to purchase them. I also use it for updates regarding myself and my updates on my books. I also use it to share reviews, cover reveals and more about other authors. I feel as a self-published author there is the need for supporting other self-published authors as well.
I love posting and sharing my blog and I plan on continuing to expand it to include even more content in the future!
Author Bio:Pamela Foreman is a wife of seventeen years to her high school sweetheart and the mother of four children. Having grown up in Texas, Pamela currently lives in central Virginia. Pamela received her master’s degree in accounting from Liberty University and is an avid reader. She enjoys sewing, crocheting, knitting and scrapbooking when she is not involved with her children’s activities and spending time with her husband.

Pamela is the author of the Nebraska Holds series, a series surrounding the lives of David Anderson and Annette Miller, middle-aged adults who have both gone through the sudden deaths of their spouses and each have children to continue to raise. The series currently has three books, You're Right, My Love (December 2011), Not Again, My Love (January 2013) and the third book is Secrets Abound, My Love, will be  published in July 2013.


Author Links: 

Website: http://www.pamelaforeman.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pamelaforemanauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/pamela_foreman
About Me: http://about.me/pamelaforeman
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/pef1996/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/111814691744564977712/posts

Pamela Foreman
You're Right, My Love














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Thanks to Pamela for the post. Check back next week for MSH Blog Tour's newest theme, As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

MSH American Spirit Sale

I want to share the news that Mountain Springs House is having its American Spirit sale. The ebooks in the picture below are all 50% off at Smashwords. Use the coupon next to the books title at checkout to get your discount. Keep checking Smashwords for more books to be added during the month of July. As always, if you like a book, please leave a review.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Author Spotlight: DeEtte Anderton


This month's spotlight shines on Christian author and Master Koda Select Publishing editor DeEtte Anderton.

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Tell us a bit about yourself. 
I am the mother of 6, grandmother of 12, and have been mom to many furkids, canine, feline, and aves. My cockaiel, Cricket is currently living with my good friend in Utah. I couldn't bring him to New England when I came. He sends me videos periodically to let me know he is happy and doing well. My family is extremely important to me.

I also love to crochet. I have made so many things over the years I couldn't begin to list them. My grandkids all know all they have to do is ask and I will make them what they want, whether it is a new blanket or beard beanies or toys. 

History is one of my loves, too. Now that I am in New England, I have many new places to discover!

I also have spent most of my life working with people with disabilities. My family took foster children as I grew up, and we specialized in those with disabilities. I have also directed camps for them, evaluated properties for camps, and worked as a group home manager for many years.

Do you write under a pen name? 
Yes, I write using my maiden name, DeEtte Beckstead.

What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you? 
I have written for years.  I used to teach creative writing at a private school for a few years. I also homeschooled my two youngest through high school. I have had a few poems, essays, and editorials published in various newsletters but I didn't start writing seriously until 2007 when my older son finally convinced me to join him in writing during NaNoWriMo. When I started writing then, I just started writing. I had no plan for the story or for publishing it. I was writing because I enjoyed it. Victory is the result of that. 

Do you have another job or are you a full-time writer? 
I am a full-time me! I am unemployed, but I am helping my daughter with her kids right now. 

What books have you written so far? 
So far I have two works published: The Christmas Visitors, which is a Christian paranormal short story, and Victory which is my debut novel.

Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time? 
I crochet. I make all kinds of things from afghans and baby items to toys to children's things and pet sweaters and accessories!  When I'm not crocheting, I like to do things with my grandkidlets, read, or watch movies. I also enjoy camping and being “in the woods” when I can.

What genre or age groups do you write? Why? 
Victory is Christian fiction for anyone 13 and up. I also write children's stories and have a nonfiction WIP. I write Christian fiction because I love the Lord and want my writing to reflect that.

Are your books or characters based on real life? 
To some extent, yes, some characters are; some are composites of people I know, and some are purely fictional.

Who is your favorite character from your books? Why? 
My favorite character from Victory has to be Brown Eyes. She is a child, but she has a wisdom beyond her years. She has a pure heart and, even though she has had a rough time in her young life, she remains sweet and loving. 

What is your favorite scene in your story? 
In Victory, my favorite scene is with a pigeon that dies, and Brown Eyes buries it.  

Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer. 
My typical day is different from day to day. There is no typical to it for me right now! I get up, at some point I sit down with my laptop and write. Beyond that, life is a roller coaster and mine is always full of surprises!

Where and when do you write?  
I write at the kitchen table right now, and usually when my grandkids are at school, but since it's summer, I will have to find a time!

How long does it take you to write your book/s? 
Both my published works started out as NaNo projects, so originally they took 30 days, or thereabout. They sat on my computer for 4 years, and were finally brought out again last year for editing and polishing that led to publishing.

Do have any writing rituals? Treats you have to have, places you have to be, etc.? 
I like it to be peaceful. I didn't say quiet; I said peaceful. I don't do well with conflicts going on. I can write with little kids playing and running around, but I cannot write when they fight. I like to listen to classical music or Contemporary Christian music while I write. Both help me focus on what I am doing. I don't like to be interrupted when I write, unless it is a grandkidling needing a hug or some help. I like to have coffee or water with me, and perhaps some chocolate, too. 

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what do you listen to? 
I like to listen to either classical or Contemporary Christian music. I can't have it quiet because I get too distracted by the ringing in my ears.

Do you have to be alone to write? 
I prefer to be alone as far as people go, but I used to have my dog with me. He isn't with me anymore, and I have found writing more difficult without him.

Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants? 
I am a linear writer for the most part. I may go back to adjust or change something so it will work, but most of the time I just keep moving forward. I usually write by the seat of my pants. I find I write better that way. If I try to plan, my writing comes out as contrived and doesn't have the flow it does when I don't. That could just be my own perception of it, but if I don't like it, I don't like it! I have to be happy with my writing before I am willing to take the next step with it.

What makes your writing unique? 
My writing is unique because I am unique. I write from my heart, which I realize is how most writers write, but since I am unique, I see things differently from how others do. My life experiences are different from everyone else's and that makes my perspective different. I like to use  a Christian theme in my fiction writing because that's who I am. 

I like to paint word pictures to help my readers feel part of the story, not just an observer. It's easy to get carried away with that, so I write a lot, then pull out what isn't necessary, leaving enough to still keep the story alive and warm.

Are there any messages or common themes in your stories? 
Strong family values, compassion, forgiveness, faith, freedom are all common in my stories. I like to let the reader know he is worth being loved, no matter what, because God loves us all. He may not like what we do, but He loves us!

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?  
Probably getting up the courage to let it go out into the world, stopping at the editor and publisher first. All writers think of their stories as their babies, and it's hard to let go of something so full of our time, our hearts, our passion.

What have you learned about writing from reading the books that you love? 
Characters need to be real. Even fantasy characters need to be believable. The plot needs to move the story forward and not stagnate, and the passion (love) the author has for his story needs to pour through.

If you could do everything over (writing your book, or publishing, etc.) would you change anything? 
I think I would start the publishing process sooner instead of leaving my story sit for years.

Is there anything particularly helpful you have found as you have written/edited/published? 
Have a good relationship with your publisher and editor. I am also an editor, and I like to be a teacher to the writer, telling him or her why I make the suggestions I do, as well as ask questions about things I don't know about in the story. I have learned a lot about different parts of the world, different jobs, different things by asking the writer these things. I appreciate my editor asking me about such things, too.

Do you have to travel/do much research for your books? 
With Victory and The Christmas Visitors, no. I used places that were already familiar and I created the story around those.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members in your writing journey.  
Without a doubt, it would be my long time friend and publisher, Kim Emerson. She encouraged me to get my manuscripts out, dust them off, and publish them. She has encouraged me, helped me in some tough spots, and been a wonderful friend through it all.

Do you design your own covers, or have someone else help? 
The cover for The Christmas Visitors was designed by Rebbekah White, who works with MasterKoda Select Publishing. My son Christopher Anderton did my cover for Victory. He is a graphic designer for Columbia University. I feel blessed to have both these people do my covers for me.

Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit? 
I self-edit till I am ready to send it to my publisher, who sends it to an editor. I had a friend read Victory before it was published.

Any advice for the editing process? 
Don't self-edit without sending your work to an editor. We know too well what we mean and we will see that instead of what is actually there on the page. It's easy to miss a comma, period or misplaced apostrophe. A pair of trained eyes is well worth the time and money. Your editor should be someone you trust and have good communication with, one who will explain things to you, not just tell you to “change this!”

What do you do to keep yourself going when you aren’t motivated? 
Sometimes I just walk away for awhile. It could be a few minutes or a couple days. Sometimes I just sit down and write. I often find that writing a descriptive paragraph of a setting helps me.  

What types of hero or heroine do you like best? 
I like strong heroes or heronines. Not necessarily physically strong, but emotionally strong, confident. They need to have flaws, too, but they overcome those flaws somehow to be the hero. Size isn't important in being a hero, either. 

What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?  
A good novel needs equal parts: strong characters, a good plot, and good dialogue that moves the story forward. Carefully mix with love. Sprinkle with laughter in all the right spots. and pour out into the hands of the readers in such a manner as to not overwhelm them, but to entice them to beg for more. 

A good plot should be realistic even if it is a total fantasy. It should fit the overall story and characters. Good dialogue can be used to “fill in the blanks” of the plot or background story. A good novel shouldn't have a lot of extras that don't contribute to the story. And it should be written from the heart.

How do you go about naming characters? 
That's an interesting question. Some characters seem to name themselves, and others have to be named. Writers need to be cautious when choosing names, though. In one of my stories, the antagonist had a name very close to a man who became my son-in-law a couple years after I wrote it. I changed the antagonist's name because my son-in-law is NOTHING like the antagonist! 

Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures? 
No, I have never done that. I create pictures in my mind and describe them from that. I personally would find a physical picture limiting. Not everyone is like that, and that's fine. 

How do you pick locations for your stories? 
The town where my youngest daughter and I lived for three years is the model for the town of Victory. The setting for The Christmas Visitors was a thousand places I had seen over the years. Sometimes I use local settings, sometimes I get an idea when I see a photo.

Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?  
I am published through a small publisher, MasterKoda Select Publishing. It has been a wonderful experience, with people who truly care and are helpful and encouraging. 

Do you have any advice for other writers? 
Write about what you love. Write what is in your heart to write. Some people journal; I do not. I find it more of a hindrance than a help for me.  Don't worry about making it all work to start with; just write. There will be time later to go back and make corrections, adjustments, deletions. Write what you feel. There is that old saying “Strike while the iron is hot.” When you know you have something to write, get it written then. Carry a notebook and pen with you to make notes or write complete scenes if you are away from the keyboard. 

If a word count is important, don't fill in with words that don't add to the story. Just write. Once the first draft is finished, you can go back. 

Don't be afraid of editors; they are your friends, there to help you make your story the best it can be. Your family and friends are not generally good editors. 

Find the method that works for you and stick with it, even if your best writing buddy uses a different style. If you need to write an outline and character sketches first, do so. If you write better just sitting down and writing, do that.

Don't be discouraged. Not everyone should be published, and not everything should be published, even by the best authors. If you enjoy writing, then write! Whether or not you ever get anything published, you are a writer if you write.

When you read, what is your favorite genre? 
I enjoy classics, as well as other fiction. I generally don't go for much sci-fi/fantasy, but I love LOTR, The Hobbit, and Chronicles of Narnia!

What books have most influenced your life? 
Undoubtable, the Bible has. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein's writings have, too. 

Who is your favorite character from any book and why? 
Again, a hard question. I love Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. She is a strong woman in a world that doesn't always appreciate that quality. She is loving and cares for her family. 

I also love Samwise Gamgee in LOTR.  He is a faithful friend, willing to die with or for his friend. He is loyal and has strength when others fail. 

For reading, do you prefer ebooks or physical books?  
Personally, I love the feel of a nice hardcover book in my hands! Paperbacks are next, and ebooks follow that. However, since I have a limited space, I am thankful I have the Kindle app on my iPad and can carry an entire library with me wherever I go! I think the most important part is being able to read, not so much how it is available!

What is your most favorite book and why? 
I love Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, Moby Dick, LOTR, Narnia, Pride and Prejudice..... but of those, right now I would have to say LOTR  because of the good vs evil and the strong, inspiring characters. Each of the main characters is unique and brings something different to the story.  

What is the worst book you have ever read and why? 
I really couldn't say because if I don't like a book, I won't read it! 

What tips would you give readers when choosing a book? 
Every once in a while, try a different genre from what you normally read. You may discover a new favorite!

Are there particular writers that you admire? 
Again, I would say C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I love how they tell their stories. 

If there was one author you could meet with and learn from one on one, who would you choose? 
C.S. Lewis would be the one.

Who has most influenced or inspired your writing? 
That would be Kim Emerson. She believed in me before I even thought I could be published. She encouraged me all the way, and continues to help me now. She is a good friend to have. 

Which three authors would you like to hang out with socially for a day? 
C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Jane Austen

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 
Yes! G Mitchell Baker, Joe McCoubrey, Brad Fleming, KD Emerson, to name a few!

What are your current projects? 
I am working on a story with my own family stories included.

Is there a genre you haven’t done before that you would like to try?
I have plenty to handle right now!

Do you have any ideas that you plan to work on in the future? 
Yes. I have a WIP about my first puppy mill rescue. It's her story, and I hope to include a few stories of other rescues I know!

Would you say that your dreams have come true or are you still working on them?  
I'm still working on them. I will keep working on them till I die!

Five book recommendations from you… 
In no particular order:  Victory (of course!), Lethal Believers—The Innocents by G Mitchell Baker, Digitus 233 by KD Emerson, Death by Licence by Joe McCoubrey, and  Fateful Night Book One (What She Knew Trilogy) by KR Hughes and TL Burns.

Do you have a blog? What do you blog about? 
My blog is http://deetteanderton.wordpress.com. I blog about writing, pets, crocheting, family, and I frequently interview other authors!

What would you like to achieve in the next five years? 
I would like to publish two or three more books. I wouldn't mind doing a workshop for kids to encourage them to write, either. :)

What is the best review of your work you've received to date? 
“When I first heard this was a Christian story I thought, are they going to be conking me over the head with biblical verses? Then I started reading it. It is a story of hurt and abuse, but most importantly redemption. It is a modern tale that is very relatable to anyone who has a past. It lets you know that no matter who you are you are worthy of love. I loved how it seemed to be from the viewpoint of a young girl who tells the story from her perspective. Not all is at it seems and many judge a person based on looks. This is one book that once you start it you won't be able to put it down. I found it a very enjoyable read that kept me entertained and guessing throughout the whole book until the last page. I look forward to other stories from this author and would even be willing to read more Christian books from her. Thank you very much for a great story DeEtte!"

What format(s) are your books available in? 
They are available as ebooks for Kindle. 

Is there anything else you would like to share or tell us?
Author and blogger, DeEtte Anderton started writing in 2007 when her son challenged her to get involved in NaNoWriMo. The manuscript sat untouched with several others until January of 2012 when a good friend encouraged her to seek publication. The Christmas Visitors is her first short story, and her current novel, Victory is also her first.
DeEtte spent much of her childhood playing the piano, clarinet, and guitar, reading, and making up stories. She was active in Girl Scouts, which gave her a wide variety of experiences. While in college, she was on the University of Utah Synchronized Swim team, and taught year-round camping and survival skills for Girl Scouts. She has spent many years working with people with disabilities.
Originally from the State of Utah in the U.S.A., currently DeEtte lives in New England where she writes full time and works on the editing team of Master Koda Select Publishing. Her other interests include swimming, crocheting, reading, traveling, history, and her grandchildren. In addition, this devoted mother of six and grandmother of twelve has been a concerned participant in dog rescue services for many years.   
Links:
             http://amzn.co.uk/B00AJ9QEKM
The Christmas Visitors: http://amzn.com/B00ACNOXOY
                                 http://amzn.co.uk/B00ACNOXOY
Twitter:  @DBAnderton











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I'd like to thank DeEtte Anderton for stopping by. I read a sample of Victory and really enjoyed it. Hopefully, I will get around to reading it (my to-read list is getting longer and longer). If you enjoyed DeEtte Anderton's work, support her by leaving a review from wherever you bought her book. As always, thanks for reading.