Thursday, May 30, 2013

KINDLE VERSION OF "THE BRIDGE" NOW 1/2 OFF AT AMAZON...

ATTENTION ALL KINDLE READERS!

My paranormal mystery novel "THE BRIDGE" is now on sale for $1.49 on Amazon.  Grab your copy while it's at this new low price, because I don't know how long it will last.  There are reviews here as well as a chance to sample the book.  So take advantage while you can.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B86DR9G


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Working In The Vampire Genre, Plus An Anthology Review...

Since I started work on my first vampire story, I decided to see what other stories and variations have been done on the vampire myth already.  To this end I pulled out an anthology book of vampire stories that's been in my possession for about 20 years now.

Everyone is pretty familiar with the works of Anne Rice, Stephanie Meyer, and of course Bram Stoker.  But what about other authors who've tapped into this vein (I know this pun sucks... but so do vampires ba-da-bum).  This collection can be a huge help to any author with plans on attacking this famous mythos by giving them a chance to see what others have done before them.  I know I found it helpful and enlightening.



THE PENGUIN BOOK OF VAMPIRE STORIES is one of the best anthologies I've ever found.  Part of the reason is that it covers authors who've touched on this subject as far back as 1816 and goes up to 1984.  There are a number of familiar names in this book like Clark Ashton Smith, Sheridan Le Fanu, Tanith Lee, and August Derleth to name just a few.  But what fascinates me the most is seeing how the vampire legend is explored.  We meet the legendary "Varney The Vampire", the seductive and dangerous "Carmilla", as well as  Stoker's missing chapter from Dracula which was released as a short story several years after the novel itself was published.  I understand in some later printings, it was put back into the novel where it belonged.  Alas my copy of Dracula is one of the ones without it, so finding this missing chapter in this collection was a treat for me.

The first 2 installments in this collection: "Fragment of a Novel"  (1816) and "The Vampyre" (1819) were of particular interest to me since their creation were the direct result of a bet made between the poet Percy Shelley, his wife Mary, Lord Byron and John Polidori.  The four were spending a summer together and during a particularly boring rainy night they all agreed to a little contest.  Each was to create a full length horror story within a certain amount of time.  These 2 stories were the entries by Byron and Polidori respectively.  Neither is fully finished.  In fact Mary Shelley was the only one to complete her story the legendary "Frankenstein".

Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla" is another brilliant piece in this collection.  Published in 1872, it predates Stoker's more famous "Dracula" by a few decades.  Considered a 'lesbian' vampire story since both the victims and the antagonist are women.  But it's here where we really find one of the first demonstrations of  the sensuous behavior that has been built upon by so many modern writers of vampire fiction.  Yet, it is not love or real affection.  I'll quote a passage from the story so you can see what I mean.

     "...the vampire is prone to be fascinated with an engrossing vehemence, resembling passion
      of love, by particular persons.  In pursuit of these it will exercise inexhaustible patience and
      stratagem, for access to a particular object may be obstructed in a hundred ways.  It will
      never desist until it has satiated its passion, and drained the very life of its coveted victim.
      But it will, in these cases, husband and protract its murderous enjoyment with the refinement
      of an epicure, and heighten it by the gradual approaches of an artful courtship.  In these cases
      it seems to yearn for something like sympathy and consent.  In ordinary ones it goes direct to
      its object, overpowers with violence, and strangles and exhausts often at a single feast..."

So here we see that alluring nature that is so eroticized these days.  But clearly in this passage we see that clearly there is no real affection for the victim at all.  It's fascinating to see how one idea is singled out and made romantic, while the consequences are ignored these days.  However, I cannot criticize modern writers for this.  Every author wants to put a different spin on an old legend and this can be seen throughout this collection.

We have "Luella Miller" by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman in 1902.  No blood letting here, but the title character definitely has a kind of vampiric nature, willing or otherwise.  She is almost a sympathetic character in some ways.

Later we find C. L. Moore's "Shambleau" in 1933, where the author takes us on a science fiction journey to another planet where we meet a vampire-like being, who also shares some resemblance to the legendary Medusa of ancient Greece.

There's also the legendary Fritz Lieber's offering "The Girl With The Hungry Eyes" from 1949.  Or August Derleth's 1939 "Drifting Snow" where we meet a pair of Snow Vampires.

For almost a century authors have been putting their own spin on this famous myth and many will continue for years to come, myself included.

I give this collection a full 5 STAR rating and highly recommend it to any fan of the genre.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Book Review: "Cat Playing Cupid" number 14 in the Joe Grey Mystery Series....


My rating: 5 - STARS




This fourteenth outing for the Joe Grey Mystery Series was fun and intriguing for me. While I haven't read the full series yet, I did read the earliest books and was quickly drawn into this wonderful world where some cats can speak and think on par with humans, while others cannot.

Miss Murphy keeps each story building on this mystery either slightly or heavily.  In this case it was more heavily focused on while at the same time dealing with a classic whodunnit.  What is the connection between a body, dead 10 years, up in Oregon have to the mysterious disappearance of a local man who was going on a hike locally?  And when a second body, also dead some 10 years, is discovered in an unmarked grave the big questions arise. Could this one be the missing local man?  If not, then who is it?  And why were they buried with a book that frightens the speaking cats, because it contains hints about them?

These are just a few of the questions that arise in this story.  We also get to see a bit more of the lives of these intelligent/talking cats.  It turns out not all wish to live among humans.  In fact may are feral and distrustful of humans in general.  Yet, they understand that there are some people they can trust and reach out to in a crisis.  The scenes where this happens and the ferals reach out to those they believe they can trust up to a point, are quite touching and moving.  We see the cats' point of view of the world, side-by-side with these trusted humans.  And while we may not entirely agree with either side, the author does give us food for thought.  She makes us look back on some of the relationships we've had over time.  In particular those people who had very different ideas about the world.

Another nice touch to these books is that they do not focus solely on the cats themselves but the people in their lives.  It is an ensemble piece that keeps growing and evolving, along with the characters themselves.  We are slowly introduced to more and more of the many residents of Molena Point (which is modeled upon Carmel California where the author resides).

This is an excellent series that keeps you coming back for more.  You'll find yourself cheering for the cats and their people, as well as a number of the secondary characters who keep the series growing.  One of the more feel-good mystery series you want to curl up with on a quiet day and maybe make you wonder about any four-footed friends in your life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Observations On Writing My Second Book...

As you all know by now, I've been working on my second and third novels for a while now.  Mostly the second one which has been taking longer than I had anticipated.  At first I wondered why this was so?  I was much more experienced since my first go-round with completing a book.  I've learned a lot of the pitfalls and mistakes that can be made by now.  So I should be able to crank this puppy out in no time right?  WRONG!

Now before I proceed, remember I'm only speaking for myself and what I'm experiencing in this process.  I'm still very much on the learning curve and I would love to hear some of your experiences down in the comments section below.  You may very well wind up giving insight to other issues I haven't thought about yet, which could be very helpful.

Anyway, as I said before the process is taking longer than I'd hoped.  I originally figured I'd be laying down the plot for book four by now, while having book three 2/3's of the way done.  So what's been happening?  Why am I working so slowly?  I think it's several things.

First, the folks who've read "The Bridge" really loved it.  The editing may not have been perfect (couldn't afford a professional editor for that one), but the readers were willing to overlook any issues on that front because they were swept up on the story.  Plus they fell in love with the characters and how they interacted.  So, there are high expectations for "The Ship".  Unfortunately, I've shifted the focus to the second lead couple Julie and Cassandra, while relegating Alex and Veronica (the original lead pair) to a few brief chapters.  Naturally Julie and Cassie have a different chemistry than Alex and Veronica who had an already existing long term relationship.  But Cassie and Julie are just beginning theirs.  Yes, that's right they are lesbians for those of you who are unfamiliar with their story.  So right there the dynamics of their interactions are going to be a bit different, and not just because they are both women.  I'm approaching their situation like I would any two people who have just become a couple, but keeping in mind the added pressure and worries of being gay.  They know there will be those who disapprove, including members of their own families.  And I'm trying to make their developing relationship both tender and realistic, rather than a male fantasy where they are just eager to jump into bed with each other.  I want to the audience to see them as real people, not just stereotypes or caricatures.

But I also have to keep the reader engaged by getting them to care about these two young ladies.  So I have to juggle events and scenes in such a way to keep the audience laughing, intrigued and rooting for them while slowly building threat of the approaching danger and mystery that Julie and Cassie are about to become enmeshed in.

Now another issue is the pacing of the story.  People loved how I did it in the first book.  It wasn't too fast, nor too slow.  And I kept breaking off scenes in such a way as to make the reader eager to turn the page so they could start on the next chapter.   Not as easy as it sounds, at least for me.  But I believe I'm succeeding.

Another problem is too many details or unnecessary scenes.  This is something I encountered with the first book.  But in that case I didn't realize how much of a problem it was until after I finished the first draft and then re-read everything.  This time I keep catching it as I'm still working on the first draft, which means I go back edit and rewrite as I'm going along.  Or, I'll find a scene I wrote earlier works better in a section I'm currently working on, so I have to pull it out and move it.  Then I have to go back to where I had it and fix any issues the change made to that area.

Plus there are other issues as well, which I may cover in another entry.  But this gives you a good insight to what's going on for me as the author.  Again I'd love to hear from some of you about what you've encountered with your writing.  I am using a 'mental' outline in my head.  I tried writing one out but kept changing it over and over as I went along that it looked more like a bad set of directions that could get the most experienced cartographer to throw up his/her hands in surrender.  Everyone has their own style.  Plus, my characters have a tendency to change the plan as I go along by coming up with alternative ideas that were better than the ones I'd had in mind.

So again I'm making progress, just a bit slower than I'd planned.  How is the writing process for you on your 2nd, 3rd or even 7th book?  I'm sure both me and the other readers would love to hear about it.

Until next time, take care and keep writing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bringing New Life To A Genre That Has Been Explored Many Times By Others...

Okay, in my last entry I disclosed I was working on a vampire novel.  Now this is a genre that has been done and redone so many times it's unbelievable.  And almost every time there are new twists and turns added to it that they barely seem to resemble the traditional vampires that Bela Legosi and Christopher Lee made legendary in Hollywood.  Today we have vampires that just totally ooze sex appeal, can sparkle in daylight instead of turning to dust, can have sex and produce offspring, are either monsters or saints, etc.  And they are still as popular as ever in spite of all the changes to the original legend.

Now I'm not just talking about Bram Stoker's "Dracula".  That was not the first vampire story.  There were many others. If you ever get the opportunity check out "The Penguin Book Of Vampire Stories" and you'll see ones that predate Mr. Stoker's work by quite a few years.  But in that collection you'll also meet other kinds of vampires: snow vampires, ones who hide inside portratis, aliens on different planets, etc.  In this collection there are creatures of all sorts and shapes that are still called vampires. 

This brings me to today's subject.  How can you breathe new life into a genre that has been written about so many times over?  Well that's up to the writer.  As in the case of Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer and others, they tweek the original vampire concept to suit their story ideas.  Sometimes they provide and explanation about why their creations don't adhere to all the old legends, sometimes not.

So, you may be thinking, "Okay Allan, how are you going to 'tweek' the vampire concept and make it fresh and different?  What changes are you going to make to the traditional weaknesses and rules?"

Here's my answer.  All the traditional rules of garlic, being welcomed into a place, avoid sunlight, shape-shift, control minions, etc. will be in effect.  So where am I making the change?  Simple, my vampire is NOT undead.

At this point I'm sure a number of you are thinking if he's not undead then he can't be supernatural.  So how can all those limitations and vulnerabilities still apply to him?  That's where the creative writing process comes in.  All of these things will be addressed in the story.  And it won't just be about a biography about my vampire.  There will be dangers.  The internet allows people access to a lot of information.  And this story will be taking place in modern day.  So there will be suspicious townspeople, cops on the hunt, the threat of discovery, a ghost, and villains (human and otherwise) to be battled.

So there you have it.  A new take on a much used subject.  But instead of changing all the rules, I'm working with them and making new reasons for why they apply.  And in doing so, I'm hoping that a number of you are already really intrigued and are looking forward to checking the story out when it's ready.  If this is the case, then I've succeeded in breathing new life and interest into a genre that has been worked and reworked many times over.  And it can be done with so many other genres such as fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, you name it.  

So what genre or legendary creature/being have you thought about working on?  Is there one close to your heart that's been done a lot already?  If so, how can you make it new and interesting?  Are there rules for how it behaves or can be dealt with and what are the explanations behind it?  Is there a new way to approach these things?  Give us a new spin on it that still makes sense and intrigues us.

I'd love to hear from you and so would other people who read this blog.  Leave comments below and tell us a little about what you are working on or have in mind.  Be careful not to give your whole idea away.  Just leave tantalizing hints that will get us revved up to check your work out as soon as it's ready.

Until next time,  keep writing.






Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Musings On The 1st Person Voice In Stories...

Yesterday, against my better judgement, I started writing a second book.  Now I'm still working on "The Ship" which is the sequel to my first novel "The Bridge".  But I was having troubles with "The Ship".  I was making progress, but it was so slow I was going crazy at times.  I would write over a 1000 words in one day and then dump about half of them because they weren't moving the plot along or really helping develop the characters as much.  I kept what did seem to be working and built on that the next day.  Sometimes this is one way of dealing with Writer's Block for me.

Then yesterday, something else happened.  An idea for a different book that is part of my Para-Earth series started gelling like no one's business.  It had sat on the back-burner for so long now it was boiling over.  Scenes and characters started coming to life to such an extent I had only one of three options:

A) Start writing the book
B) Leave it alone and hope I don't forget all this great stuff that was coming up
C) Start taking notes and outlining the damn thing for later.

I tried opting for C but next thing I knew I had written the opening scene of the book and was plunging forward with the project.  Tentatively I'm calling it "The Vampire Blogs".  And as a homage to Bram Stoker who gave us "Dracula" I'm doing it as a series of journal and blog entries.  I'm choosing this route because I knew I wanted to do the entire book in the 1st person perspective.  Now most 1st person narratives stick with just one character throughout the entire story. This is a great device for a mystery or thriller because the audience can only know as much as the main character.  So when he/she gets surprised by something they didn't know, so are we.

However, I knew from the start I'd need to be showing the audience what was going on in several different people's heads while using the 1st person voice.  So how was I going to pull that off without confusing the hell out of my readers?  I turned to my "Spare Brain", my wife Helen who is more well read than me, and asked for advice.  She told me that from what she could recall it had been done before but that it could be tricky.  Then she struck on the idea of paying homage to Mr. Stoker and instead of just letters and journals, use blogs and journals on the internet since I was using a modern day setting.  This was a masterstroke on her part.  I now had a clear path of how to switch heads and keep the "I" voice without confusing the audience.  The other thing I loved was the fact that I could build more suspense by letting the audience know things that only some of the characters were aware of.  Nothing gets an audience going like seeing some of what's coming and realizing the characters don't have a clue about it yet.  Plus you can still surprise your audience at times because they don't necessarily know everything about the characters or the situation.  They know only what your characters have shared with them so far.

That's all for now.  Until next time, keep writing!