When telling works: Tea Cups and Tiger Claws by Timothy Patrick

Tea Cups & Tiger Claws

The first thing that struck me when I began reading ‘Tea Cups and Tiger Claws’ by Timothy Patrick was that the author had a strong and engaging voice, a real boon when writing in omniscient point as view as the author has here. The second thing I noted was that the story was almost entirely told rather than shown, but I felt that this might be one of the few books that could pull this off.  However, when the story moved away from Dorothea before I had developed any connection with her—basically due to the telling in omniscient POV—I changed my mind. Had the writing been more immediate, I would have felt something for her. But by the time I got to the end of the book, however, my initial impression had returned.

The couple of plot points that were introduced and left hanging (that of the basement and the suggestion of blackmail after Dorothea’s father’s death) were reincorporated at the end, solving the mystery of the hanging plot threads. When we switched generations, I thought the plot was wandering, but when we finally settled onto Sarah as the main character, it all came together again. The pacing kept me reading without wanting to pause, and the story and its themes were well developed. The end scenes were written a lot more actively than the rest of the book which, along with the drama of the story, made them highly engaging.

I liked the author’s voice a great deal. He narrated the story with a light, sometimes humorous, touch and there were a few delightful gems in his observations of the society. I also liked how he didn’t reveal the full extent of Dorothea’s insanity until the end, and how the turning point for Veronica was seeing that her mother did, in fact, love her a great deal. There is a lot to like here.

If you put aside the expositional writing, which I’m prepared, in this instance, to accept as a stylistic choice, this is an excellent story that makes a strong statement about the corrupting influence of the desire for money and power.

4 stars.

 

 

Make a really big scene

Go on. Be a pest. Throw your weight around. Scream and shout. Make a really big scene. Get right in there and get your boots dirty.

Why?

So you can write it that way.

If you’re reading a book that’s really engaging, the kind you can’t put down, where you care deeply about the characters and feel as if you’re right there with them, then the author has probably thrown themselves into the scenes and written from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

If you’re an author, you’ll want to write the kind of story that really holds people, and the way to do it is to show the story rather than tell it. The first step to doing that is to think and write in scenes. Think of them as you would a movie scene. See the scene in your mind. Each scene has a beginning, a middle and an end. Each scene has a setting, a feeling, a soundscape and characters doing something.

Write your scenes as if you are there, in the room, while the event is taking place. And if you are writing in first person or in third person close, write it as if you are the character whose point of view you are writing from. Describe things as they see, feel and hear them.

A visual artist will see things a different way to someone with no artistic sense at all, for example. The artist will describe the different hues of colour and the different shapes that define their space, while an economics professor may not notice the colours at all. He may note how many pictures are on the wall, whereas the artist will see what’s in them and how they’ve been painted.

If you immerse yourself in a scene, the dialogue will flow more naturally and you’ll know what the characters are feeling without thinking about it. The words will rise spontaneously from the experience, and if you can totally be the character, the writing will deepen that character. Their insights and actions may even surprise you, and if they surprise you, they’ll surprise the readers.

Set the scene with some of description and describe the characters’ actions while they talk so that they don’t just float around in a kind of disembodied state. Describe the light, the time of day, the colours, and especially anything that is symbolic of some element in the story.

If you put your story into scenes, you can also name them and write them on cards and move them around to get the best arrangement. You can see more easily what is extraneous and where there are gaps you need to fill in. And you won’t skip over important things, because every major event in the story will have its scene, and once you get in there prepared to get your boots dirty, what needs the attention will get it as a natural part of your willingness to make a really big scene.

Do you like making scenes?

 

Discover the writing process of two Awesome Writer Friends

Last week I published a post on my writing process and I tagged a couple of author friends from the Awesome Indies. This week they wrote about their own  writing process.

Pop over to Mary Madox’s blog and see her post about her personal writing process  here, and find Ruthanne’s story here.

Interesting: Colorworld by Rachel E Kelly

Colorworld

Colorworld by Rachel E Kelly is a new adult paranormal romance about a girl who, after a seemingly innocuous treatment for allergies, discovers that her skin is deadly. People die if she touches them. As you can imagine, this is a pretty life-altering development that throws up many challenges. Wendy wants to get rid of the curse, and the only people who look like they can help her are the people that caused the ‘ability’ to rise in the first place. She goes to a private facility where she meets Gabe.  Wendy is also highly empathetic. She can feel other people’s emotions, so she gets to know Gabe in a fairly deep way in a short period of time. The prospect of a relationship with no touching seems like a dead end so, despite being as enamoured with him as he is with her, she rebuffs his advances, and so begins the romance.

Apart from the beginning and the end, there is little action, and some fans of the paranormal may find it a little slow because of it. It’s primarily a romance, so the story focuses on how Gabe and Wendy work things out. This is set against the backdrop of a ‘mentor’, Louise, that neither of them trust, along with the frustration of finding that she either can’t help Wendy or doesn‘t want to. As the end of the book draws near, it becomes clear that Louise has a hidden agenda, one that does not want Wendy to lose her deadly ‘ability.’

In terms of action, the best part of this book is the ending. The pace picks up, the stakes rise and the evil witch is revealed. The rest of the book goes deeply into Wendy’s character, her feelings for Gabe and her discovery and experience of the colorworld, the energetic world that only she can see. Her empathetic ability also allows us to get a good character study of Gabe, who is a delightful character.

The prose is unpretentious and reads smoothly, and the descriptions of the colorworld and of how Wendy experiences Gabe’s emotions are highly evocative. Overall it’s a well-crafted book with a unique premise and a lot of potential for sequels. My only criticism is that the middle of the book could be tightened up, because aspects of Wendy’s introspection sometimes seem to go over similar ground and the descriptions of her feeling’s for Gabe are a little repetitive. One’s capacity for such things is highly subjective, and young romance readers will probably enjoy every bit of it. I also felt that this large middle section could have done with a little more tension to keep the reader eagerly flicking pages. The book was sometimes too easy to set down. All up though, it’s a solid work that sets the scene for some interesting sequels.

Great cover too.

4 stars

Have the guts to show don’t tell your story.

 crazy face1

If you’ve done much study of writing, you’ll have heard the advice ‘show don’t tell your story’. Showing a scene as distinct from simply telling the reader about it makes a huge difference to how engaged readers become in a story, and the more engaging a book is, the better the book. The more you show a story, the more exciting and riveting it is.

Showing a scene makes the reader feel as if they are in the story while it’s happening. They can see the facial expressions, smell the odours and hear the sounds. The very best writing makes the reader identify with the characters. Instead of being remote from the scene, as if outside looking in, the reader’s heart pounds along with the protagonists.

Clearly, it’s preferable to show a story rather than tell it, but it takes most authors a while to really understand the subtle aspects of writing this way. It also takes guts. The author has to be prepared to get themselves dirty. They have to get into the scene. They have to be their characters. They have to face their challenges and feel their feelings.

Some scenes may not be particularly pleasant, and since all fiction requires some form of drama, every novel worth publishing will have some tense scenes.  If the author can’t immerse themselves in such scenes, the reader certainly won’t. And you can’t truly show a scene unless you have stepped inside it yourself.

Telling is lazy writing for authors who don’t want to, or can’t, commit themselves to their stories. Once again, if the author can’t fully commit to the story, the reader certainly won’t.

Here’s an example:

His father locked him in the bathroom, then beat him with his belt and raped him.

Isn’t that a bit of a cop out? We’ve been short changed, haven’t we? What did the father look like? Was he angry? What kind of sound did the door make when it closed and the lock clicked over? How did the boy feel? Did he know what was coming?  Did it hurt? Did he fight? Did his heart race, his breath come in gasps? Did he try to escape? Scream? We don’t need to know the mechanics of the actual rape, but to get the full power of the scene, we do need to know a lot more than what was in the single sentence.

And I don’t mean like this:

He tried to escape but failed and cried while his father beat him without mercy.

I mean more like this:

He threw himself against the door and grabbed the handle, but his father wrenched his hands away and knocked him to the ground. He hit the tiles with a bone-crunching thud, rolled onto his hands and knees and scooted back against the wall, then watched with wide, terror-filled eyes as his father drew his belt from his trousers.

I rest my case.

You can’t write the second version without immersing yourself in the scene. For that you have to have the guts to put yourself in your character’s shoes and feel all their fear and pain.

If you’re reading a book where, even though the story seems good, you could easily put it down and do something else, and your eyes keep roaming towards the TV, wondering what’s on, then this is likely to be the problem.

Do you recognise when a book is telling instead of showing?

 

Excellent YA urban fantasy: ‘Sacrifice’ by Jennifer Quintenz

 

Sacrifice (Daughters of Lilith, #3)

‘Sacrifice’ by Jennifer Quintenz is the third in the young adult Daughters of Lilith Series and it is every bit as good as the previous books. Quintenz knows how to hold a reader and keep them turning the pages to find out what will happen next. It’s a hard book to put down.

The story revolves around a girl who though a succubus herself (a daughter of Lilith) she stands on the side of the sons of Adam in an age-old battle that, unknown by most humans, has been raging since the beginning of human history. She loves a boy that she cannot have without risk of draining his life-force, and this adds a bittersweet touch to a powerful story.

This series has the vitality that makes the characters and the world they inhabit as real as our own. There’s plenty of action, but there’s also plenty of character development and growth that together deliver a very satisfying whole. The plot is gripping and often surprising, and the characters face moral dilemmas and terrible challenges that don’t always turn out well. Even so, the author manages to end the book with a slither of hope.

On top of this, the author writes well and handles her material skilfully. Very highly recommended for all lovers of YA urban fantasy. You won’t get better than this in this genre. 5 stars.

Buy Now

Kindle US 

Kindle UK

See all the books in this terrific series here.

 

Why you’ll have to wait for the book.

For twenty weeks now, I have published the World Within Worlds writings. During that time, they have moved in my mind from being a series of writings linked by Prunella Smith’s experience of each scene to something more cohesive. I gradually came to see in them the possibility of a novel, a not-novel novel I called it because of its loose structure. After a few more scenes had appeared, I realised that they were falling into a DNA style structure that, though still somewhat disjointed, could actually be called a novel. (link to post on that)

Soon after that, a flurry of different scenes appeared in my mind leading in a direction I had never previously imagined. In order to make sense of the jumble, I got out my sticky notes, labelled each one with the name of a scene and stuck them on a time line. They fitted together perfectly, with the tension ratcheting up in all strands as the end drew near. The last line of the book even came to me.

That’s when I realised that not only did I have a novel in the making but also I could not go any further with publishing the scenes here. I cannot give away where it’s heading now, nor can I let the end out of the bag before the whole is published. Also some sensitive scenes should only be read within the context of the whole.

The themes that have emerged and are still emerging are complex. I will strengthen and refine them before final publication. The main theme is how to deal with dangerous people whilst retaining peace of mind, and woven into this main thread are issues of ethics and power in the realms of social media, gender and publishing. Running though all of this is a thread of metaphysical contemplation as Prunella tries to make sense of all her worlds. It’s possible that the end result may best be described as literary fiction. Other than that, I would call it metaphysical suspense.

What I have published here under the title of Worlds Within Worlds are basically roughly-edited first drafts, never meant to be anything other than a single scene unrelated to any other scene, but from now on the strands draw more tightly together and build to a climax. It is no longer appropriate for them to be read out of context of the whole.

So if you want to find out where it all leads, you will have to buy the book! But don’t worry it won’t be a long one, so it will cost you less than a cup of coffee. I hope that when the time comes, you will support my endeavours. Otherwise, I really won’t write another book!

Worlds Within Worlds #20 Escape.

This  post is part of  ‘WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS’, a series of writings about Prunella (Ella) Smith, author, editor & reviewer, and the many worlds she inhabits: her physical reality; her online world where disgruntled author Dita stalks;  the worlds of the books she edits; her dream world, and the world beneath the veil of her ordinary reality.
Click
 here for the previous offerings in reverse order, or here for links to  them in order.

Worlds Within Worlds #20 Escape

Somewhere in Tibet. Sometime in the 1950′s

Monkdesoktop

My eyes fly open. I cock my head, listening. No sound of movement comes through the door curtain, no bare feet on the pounded-earth floor. No muffled sounds of activity from outside penetrate the thick walls. Even the dogs are silent. I climb from my bed, open the shutter and peer into the night sky. The light of a full moon washes over me and illuminates my room. Its position dispels any fear that I may have slept too long. The gong that will call the monks to prayer is still some time away. Enough to make my escape.

Today the saffron robes will remain unworn. The robe of an ordinary man awaits, tucked beneath the blankets so my assistant will not find them. Tashi has done well. The coat he offered just last week fits perfectly and the sturdy boots he provided a month ago in preparation for this day are well worn in now.

I grab my bag—packed the night before—and heft it over my shoulder. Morning practice must wait today. My heart beats with excitement, the like of which I have never felt before. It quickens often enough with the drums of the dharmapalas practice and with my morning prostrations, but never like this. My mind is crystal clear, bright and still like the flame on a butter lamp. Alert. Stimulated by the prospect of escape. I shall not miss a moment of this adventure.

I cast a parting glance at the texts neatly stacked in rows along the wall. Others will make use of them now. The main practices I know by heart. I take only a quill, paper and ink.

The curtain parts, and after my passing falls back against the door frame with a swish. My feet propel me through the sleeping monastery. My hand on the wall guides me down the dark corridor. Hesitation doesn’t have a chance; the decision was made months ago—months that Tashi has spent preparing for this day. Now it has come, I cannot bear to be here a moment longer.

I open the door slowly, careful not to make a sound, and step outside. A great weight falls from my heart. At last I am free. I close the door softly behind me and take a deep breath of the chilly air. No incense smoke here, no smell of a hundred men and boys packed together. Even the smells of the village are muted by the cold. Guided by the moonlight, I hurry off and don’t look back.

After only a few steps, an unexpected mix of emotions arise. I watch them with curiosity until they fade in the vast expanse of my mind. I had expected the relief, but not the grief. But I suppose it is not surprising. The monastery has been my home since my parents brought me here in my seventh year. I have been blessed with excellent spiritual instruction from great masters—I mentally prostrate to my root master—but the administration, the hierarchy, the responsibilities, even the set practices have become impediments rather than the support they once were. Though my mind is free wherever I am, it is time for this body to part ways with the monastery that nurtured it.  There are advanced practices on which I need to focus, and for which only solitude will suffice. I wince at the possibility that this is a great delusion, a trap set by my ego, but my heart, where the mind of my master resides, says, ‘go’.

‘You have all the teachings, now go and practice them’, he had said.

My time as a monk is over. The life of a yogi awaits me.

I run my hand over my skull and feel the stubble. Today is shaving day, but this head will not see a razor or scissors again. A laugh escapes my lips. None of that matters where I am going. Tashi will have a hat to keep my head warm until I have hair long enough to wrap around it.

I arrive at my first destination and tap on the door of Tashi’s house. A light shines through the cracks in the shutters. I hope he got some sleep. The door opens and I am greeted by a broad smile. He bows. I bow in return, and he gestures me inside. His bedroll lies on the floor by the door where he waited for my knock.

‘All is ready, your—’

With a hand gesture, I cut him off before he can speak my title. He nods. We have spoken about this. I do not want to be anybody anymore, just an anonymous yogi living alone in the mountains. Perhaps one day I will return, but for now, I go incognito.

I refuse tea. We can stop later and make some on the way. I wish to be far from the village by the time everyone awakes. They will not find a note on my bed. They will know from the robes I left behind that the time has come for this lama to relinquish his seat. They know that Tashi, like his father before him, is my benefactor, and they will find out when he returns.

‘I will have to tell them eventually,’ he says, handing me a fleece-lined hat, ‘but I will keep them at bay as long as I can.’

I pull the hat down over my ears and open the door. ‘If they come to visit. I shall throw stones at them until they go away,’ I say as I step outside.

 

The I that writes this is not the I that lived it, and yet I feel the ache in his legs as he climbs. I smile with him when he reaches his new home and gazes at the vastness of the view with the monastery and village just a speck in the distance. I feel his gratitude when he sees how comfortable Tashi has made the cave; it must have taken him many trips—half a day each—to make it habitable again. The man’s devotion cannot be questioned.

Is this a past life creeping into my present awareness or is it simply a product of a writer’s imagination? It could be either and is likely the later, for I live the lives of all my characters to some extent.

Either way, I know what this monk does not know on this day, and I see what he cannot see at this time. He will stay on this mountain longer than three years, three months and three days, and he will watch helplessly as his monastery burns.

My Writing Process Blog Hop

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Yolanda Ramos, an author I did a manuscript appraisal for, and she asked me if I would like to take part in this blog hop.  The idea is very simple. I answer a series of questions on my writing process and my current work, then I tag new authors to answer the same questions, and the chain carries on, getting bigger as it goes along. The idea is that you hop over to the blogs of the author that I’ve tagged. They’ll be posting next Monday, and I’ll put links to their posts on my blog so you can easily find their posts.

The questions

1) What am I working on?

I’m presently working on a metaphysical suspense called Prunella Smith, author: Worlds Within Worlds. At least that’s what I’m calling it at the moment.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Metaphysical suspense is a rare combination of genres, but you could also place this book in the literary fiction category. No matter where you slot it, however, it’s different to other books in that the story is actually secondary to the main intention of the book which is to explore how the different worlds of an individual’s experience inform and reflect each other. This theme demands an associative rather than linear structure, but a central story does emerge from the interconnected strands (the different worlds of Prunella’s experiences in dreams, the internet, mediations and memories). These are woven together so that each strand deepens the main thread of her ‘real’ life.

So it’s conceptually different, and as well as exploring various layers of the self and their relationship to each other,  it delves into issues of ethics and power in genre, social media and publishing.

My fantasy and Magical Realism books differ from others because of the strong metaphysical element in the works.

3) Why do I write what I do?
It’s just what comes into my mind. Inspiration isn’t a conscious decision. That said, however, everything I write reflects my interests and who I am, so you could say I write what I do because of who I am.

4) How does my writing process work?

It’s not the same for each project. I plotted The Diamond Peak Series very carefully. You Can’t Shatter Me began as a collection of short stories about the same characters and Word Within Worlds started as just a series of writings linked only by the theme of the worlds inhabited by a character called Prunella Smith. There was no real conscious direction in this at all. The overall story evolved as I wrote.

The thing that does stay the same in my writing process, and is the basis of it all,  is that it is all motivated by a very deep and passionate inspiration. Without that, I simply don’t write.

Huge thanks to Yolanda for tagging me. Check out her website here.

I’ve also tagged two new and exciting authors for you to check out:

Ruthanne Reid writes unique and excellent fantasy. I’ve read both The Sundered and The Christmas Dragon, and not only found no fault with either of them but also really enjoyed them both. She also does the graphic art for the Awesome Indies.

Ruthanne has lived on both US coasts, owns dust-covered degrees in music and religion, and has a serious thing for popcorn. Her love of Middle Earth, deep spaces, and things that go bump in the night birthed a strange filled with aliens and magic, all of which is only enhanced by living in the wild city of Seattle.

Currently Available Works:

The Sundered (http://bit.ly/sunderedkindle) The Christmas Dragon (http://bit.ly/thechristmasdragon) Strings (free, being released serially: (http://bit.ly/stringsbook)

 

Mary Maddox is another Awesome Indies author and reviewer. I haven’t read her book Talion because it’s horror and that gives me sleepless nights, but I’ve read enough excerpts to know that its beautifully written.

Born in Soldier Summit, Utah, Mary Maddox now lives in the Midwestern United States. She graduated from Knox College with Honors in creative writing and received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She taught writing for many years at Eastern Illinois University. Her short fiction has appeared in literary journals and has been honored with a Writer’s Grant and two Literary Awards from the Illinois Arts Council. She is the author of the paranormal thriller Talion.

TALION is a gripping, intense tale of friendship, family and dark desires that blends Thomas Harris with Stephen King. It is a book that will make you want to sleep with all the lights on – if you can sleep at all.

Click through to find out more about Talion.

 

What does a line edit do?

What does a line edit do? It improves your prose.

How? A line editor does this by restructuring sentences to give clear and  engaging  prose,  and a pleasing rhythm composed of a variety of sentence structures .   Often this involves removing extraneous words and turning telling into showing to create more immediacy in the writing.

 Here’s an  example.

The Original

George  wasn’t a bit surprised by the interior of the bar. It was similar to the Clarence’s joint back in Defiance. The interior of the bar was cloaked in dark wood paneling. The bar proper was ornate to a cliché, complete with a backlit, mirrored wall lined with shelves of silhouetted liquor bottles. It ran back along the wall just inside the door.

A couple cowpokes huddled on stools at the front end of the bar. A few more were at the pool table in the opposing back corner, and another few were spattered in booths along the sidewall opposite the bar. The heart of the room was filled with classic wooden tables and spoke-backed chairs packed in too tightly. It looked like something from a black and white John Wayne movie.

After Line Editing.
The bar didn’t surprise George. Similar to Clarence’s joint back in Defiance, dark wood paneling cloaked the interior. The bar proper, ornate to a cliché and complete with a backlit, mirrored wall lined with shelves of liquor bottles, ran along the wall just inside the door.

A couple of cowpokes huddled on stools at the front end of the bar. A few more stood at the pool table in the opposing back corner, and another few lounged in booths along the sidewall opposite the bar. Classic wooden tables and spoke-backed chairs packed in too tightly filled the heart of the room. It looked like something from a black and white John Wayne movie.

What did I do?

  • Made the prose more immediate and sophisticated by restructuring sentences to replace versions of the verb to be eg was and were, with more specific and/or active verbs (eg lounged instead of were spattered and stood instead of were at) or to remove it entirely from the sentence.
  • Removed instances where the words conveyed the same thing twice, either using the same words or using similar imagery eg, the interior of the bar was repeated in consecutive sentences. Backlit means the bottles are silhouetted so it is unnecessary to repeat the imagery, particularly when it makes a sentence unwieldy as in this case.
  • Removed an unnecessary preposition, eg, ran back along the wall just inside the door. The word back is unnecessary and makes the sentence wordy.

Most readers would not notice those extraneous words, but that isn’t a reason to leave them there. The point is that they not only add nothing to the writing, they detract from it by making it unnecessarily wordy. As Dr Seuss says:  The writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a copy edit is the same as a line edit. It isn’t, and fiction requires both if it is to meet mainstream standards. A copy editor only alters sentence structure if required for grammatical accuracy, but correct grammar alone does not make good writing

 Lack of line editing is what stops a lot of indie books from making the leap from 4 to 5 stars.