Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Voice

For those of you expecting some sort of exposé or update on Blake Shelton, Usher, Shakira, or Adam Levine; I apologize. This has nothing to do with the popular American TV show, though I guess there is some similarity between the show and the topic of this post.

In the TV show, the celebrity judges are trying to identify singers with unique voices… which gave the show its name. In a way, this is what an agent/publisher, and our readers, are looking for. A Unique Voice. Or at least a voice that they can align their desires with.

The VoiceMany authors have been told by an agent/publisher that they need to find their voice. So the question becomes. What is an author’s voice?

When I first started writing, I was worried because I didn’t feel like I was skilled in all the different aspects of writing. Well, actually, I wasn’t skilled with any of them, but as I kept writing I realized that there were some things which came naturally, and others that were… let’s just say, didn’t feel very natural. Not natural at all. But as an author, I needed to develop my skills in all areas to produce a work that would draw readers to me, not to mention produce something I would not be ashamed to claim.

Learning about the areas that felt awkward to me, and training to become more proficient in them, helped to make me a more rounded writer. However, I can still easily identify where my forte lies. I am pretty good with character development, and have a knack for creating the world around my characters that readers can see and believe in. I also can describe action scenes in such a way that readers can see the action happening in their own mind, like a movie. I’ve been told that this is very similar to my personality. When talking with someone, and need to explain something to them, I go into great detail to make sure they fully understand what I am trying to say (sometimes to their chagrin). I use simple words, but long sentences. This is a trait that I realized fit my character. A desire to break things down as simply as I can, but to string them together in a way that makes sense – at least to me. I can see my philosophies, beliefs, and demeanor played out in the personalities and actions of my characters.

This is what I see as the Author’s Voice. It is unique to that author and is easily identifiable by their readers. Many new writers try to copy the voice of other, more popular authors, and while they may be able to emulate some of that author’s writing, the writer’s unique self does not come through, and the attempt fails.

Like an author’s speaking voice, their writing voice distinguishes them from all other authors. The voice is what comes across, in the author’s work, as the author’s attitude, personality, and character. They can be objective or subjective, emotional or rationale, intimate or remote, sober or whimsical, or any combination of the above. But whatever it may be; it will be unique to the author. How I speak, the words I use, the way I say them, the little flaws, and my personal idiosyncrasies; all combine to make my voice uniquely mine. And no one else has these exact same traits, so they can’t perfectly duplicate my voice.

I, and other authors, have a voice that distinguishes us from each other. It is what makes each of our writings different from anyone else’s, just like when we speak, our voices tell our listeners (readers) who we are.

In the end, the author’s voice is what they put into their work that no one else can do. It is their soul, woven into the pages of their stories.

I have shared what my voice says about me, but what about you? If you have found your own voice, please share with the rest of us as to what it is and how it impacts your writing. If you are still having difficulty identifying it, share with us your struggle – maybe we can help guide you or at least sympathize. Leave a Comment to share.

There are many different opinions on what constitutes an author’s voice, so if you have other thoughts, or just want to expand on what I said, please leave a Comment.

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Food in Fiction: Welcome Kristin

We are expanding our team again. Welcome Fantasy author Kristin S. Walker who we already interviewed a while back.

In the sky, behind her... are those wings?

In the sky, behind her… are those wings?

Kristen dreams of being a pirate mermaid who can talk to sharks, but she settles for writing stories for teens and adults. Her new novel, A Flight of Marewings, tells the adventure of a duke’s illegitimate daughter who must stop her father’s murderers–by taming a dangerous monster. You can find Kristen (and her pirate pictures) on her homepage on kristenwalker.net. You can talk good books, cats, or medieval cooking with Kristen anytime on Twitter (@KristenSWalker) or Facebook.  Today, she’ll tell us something about…

Food in Fiction (well, she said she’s into cooking, didn’t she)

Stories are more vivid for the reader when they engage all five senses, but sometimes, it’s difficult to incorporate every sense into writing. One fun way to describe taste, smell, texture, and even sight is to use food in a story. The use of food can help set the mood for a scene, to establish a particular cultural setting, or even to show something about the person who made or eats the food. And since we all have to eat, we all understand how important food is—whether it’s a character starving after they lose their supplies on a long journey or a lavish wedding feast!

Familiar Recipes

The easiest way to use food in a story is to mention something familiar or iconic. You can know which city the characters are in if they’re eating thin crust pizza (New York) or deep dish (Chicago). Certain foods also call to mind a certain time period, like Dicken’s Christmas punch. In a medieval fantasy, characters in a tavern will call for a mug of ale the way patrons in a modern bar order beer. We can learn more about the characters the more details are given. For example, does the burly trucker drink domestic beer, or does he stand out from his friends by ordering an imported brand? Does he slap his gut and complain about the flavorless light beer?

Sub cultures can also be revealed through food. Imagine the Jewish grandmother making matzo ball soup for the whole family. Do the characters like their food mild or spicy? And just about everyone has foods that make them think of their childhood. Calling to mind specific memories associated with different foods is one way to introduce a character’s history.

Sometimes, stories take a familiar food and add their own twist. Many fantasy and science-fiction stories invent a coffee alternative, like klava in the Vlad Taltos books or klah in the Dragonriders of Pern. And other stories remind of us old recipes that had been forgotten to most people, like Harry Potter’s butterbeer and many of the medieval-style foods in A Game of Thrones. While medieval cooking once meant the typical turkey legs and ale to most people, the popularity of A Game of Thrones has gotten many people interested in researching older recipes and cooking techniques for parties or just for fun. What was old is new again!

 

Fictional Dishes

Moving away from the realm of the familiar, there’s some foods in fiction that just don’t exist in the real world. These are usually found in fantasy and science fiction stories that take place in other worlds, where strange plants and animals live. As much as we can try to approximate the flavors of klah, the tree bark that it’s made from just doesn’t grow on Earth. And although my daughter has asked me many times, I can’t seem to find any unicorn meat for sale at the local grocery store!

How does an author manage to describe something that no one’s ever really eaten? Well, often by comparing it to things that are more familiar to us. But sometimes it’s just magical or impossible to replicate in the real world. For example, the elven-made lembas or waybread in The Lord of the Rings is known to taste better than honey-cakes, keep for a long time without spoiling, and a single cake can sustain a man through a full day’s march—perfect travel rations! Sadly, without the elves’ secret recipe, there’s no way we could bake anything resembling lembas.

 

Food With My Fiction

When I love a book, I want to embrace everything about it and keep enjoying it long after I read the final page. Getting art of the characters, watching a movie or TV show based on the book, eating the food—these are all ways to keep the magic of a story alive. I’ve baked shortbread to pretend I was eating lembas, mixed spices into my hot chocolate to find the perfect balance for klah, and eaten bowls of fresh fruit salad while constructing a replica of Redwall Abbey. Today, it’s even easier with the Internet, because I can find other readers’ recipes and ideas for recreating my favorite fictional meals. I even own several fan-made cookbooks, because my whole family enjoys experimenting with food!

So naturally, when I write my own stories, I make sure to put food in! I’ve had to learn to branch out a little beyond my comfort zone for this—I’m a lifelong vegetarian, but not all of my characters are, so I have to rely on others’ suggestions for meat-based dishes. Some of them are things my family likes to cook, some are dishes that I find online. But maybe someday, a reader will want to make something they found in one of my stories.

Readers–How Do You Cope With a “Mixed Marriage”?

I’m not talking about mixed religion, not even mixed race or nationality.  Then what?   I’m talking about readers who marry non-readers. Can there be any bigger divide!

I love to read.  I read a lot, always have and, God willing, always will.  I read on a wide variety of subjects and genres.  I was the kid who read the backs of the cereal boxes as I ate my cold cereal before school. When it came time to give a book report (which I hated doing–it ruined the book), I had to decide which of the many books I’d recently read that I would do the report on.

I never read while driving a car, nor can I read while riding in one–motion sickness.  I must confess that I sometimes read in the bathroom. I read magazines in waiting rooms.  While I was still working and earning a regular income, I subscribed to about 10-15 different magazines.  As soon as one would come, I would sit down and devour it in about half an hour to forty-five minutes, depending.  Much of my spending money went to buy books.  When I received a Kindle for Mother’s Day a few years ago, I found another reading medium! (Now that I have a Kindle, I buy many fewer books, but I don’t read any less.)  Reading was and is a daily constant in my life.

So what’s the problem?

My DH (Dear Husband) is not a reader.  Oh, he reads a little, but he feels that fiction is a waste of time.  He rarely reads anything but nonfiction, mostly devotion-type books.  And that, Dear Reader, brings me to my problem.  Don’t get me wrong.  My DH is a good man, but since he doesn’t read, he has a non-reader mindset.  He thinks buying books is a waste of money and reading them is a waste of time.  (Strangely enough, he is fine with my WRITING books.)  He complains that I read too much and spend too much money on books/magazines.   Now sometimes I can just let all this scolding slide off my back, but sometimes it gets to me.  So, I’m asking you readers out there who are married to non-readers.

What are your methods for coping with the great reading divide?

 

 

Author Spotlight: Juliet Nordeen

This week I’m pleased to introduce you to one of my favorite indie writers…who also happens to be one of my very best *real life* friends: Juliet Nordeen. Julie is a wonderful writer, a fabulous friend, and all-around awesome person. Take it away, Julie!

Juliet NordeenI am a child of the 80s who misses big hair, anthemic rock’n’roll songs, and The Muppets. I have been blessed with a kind father, a high-school sweetheart worth marrying, and more good friends than I ever hoped for. For fun I hang out with canines, design and make quilts, and I bake anything with a recipe containing flour and sugar…and then run my butt off at the gym so I don’t wind up carrying the calories around for the rest of my life. My writing has been published in a couple of obscure websites and anthologies to some very kind words from both readers and professional “book-tearer-aparters,” also known as critics. I’ve decided on the self-publishing route for my work because I don’t fit so well into the established paths of life. And I’m impatient.

Why did you become an author? Was it a childhood dream?
In grade school I did dream of becoming an author. In Mrs. Hepler’s fifth grade class I won a Young Authors classroom contest. I wrote “the best short story” for which I was to be awarded a day in the city with real writers, learning about the whole process of writing and publishing books. Unfortunately, for reasons probably having to do with inadequate parental support, I got bumped from that excursion and that was the beginning of being derailed from my dream.

My detour widened when the teachers at my middle school decided that I had great talents in math and science and challenged me to accelerated classes in those subjects. That lead to many tears and lots of teeth gnashing before my brain decided to get on board and make sense of things like “story problems” and “letters used inside math equations.” Though I do not regret earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I did whine and complain a lot during my engineering career about how I wanted to be a writer. About once a year I would vomit out the first few chapters of a book and naively (and stupidly) send those off to the biggest publishers I’d ever heard of. They were each nice enough to acknowledge me with a rejection.

Thankfully, about twelve years ago, the universe offered me an amazing opportunity to stop working for pay and learn the craft of writing. I was smart enough to see the gift and seize it. I’ve learned amazing things, met wonderful people, and made progress toward my dream.

Oh, wait…you asked why I’m an author. Silly me. That’s an easy answer. I’m an author because there’s this voice in my head, her name is ArtChi, and she keeps telling me stories…she absolutely will not shut up. And I’m so very glad about that. Also because I believe books are the best escape from reality, ever.

What’s your greatest obstacle in writing?
I would chock it up to lack of confidence. Every once in a while I get negative thoughts in my head that interfere with my ability to create work that I’d be willing to share with others. I think it happens when my Internal Editor gets too strong and muzzles ArtChi. I have to be very careful when I provide/accept critique of fiction or do actual editing-for-pay because it’s very easy for me to get caught up in “knowing the right thing,” which is very different from taking the kinds of chances that lead to the creation of stories.

I find that there’s a fine line between “Affect the Reader” which is my goal when conveying the stories ArtChi tells me, and “Don’t Throw the Reader Out of the Story” which is what my Internal Editor is trying to prevent. Some days it works out, some days it doesn’t. But on great days, the ones where someone I’ve never met says something nice about my work, I do my best to use those compliments to build the virtual cinder block walls of a small, comfy office with an imaginary locking steel door to throw my Internal Editor into…until I need to let it out to write a synopsis or marketing blurb.

What makes the world of your novel different from ours?
My novel is an Urban Fantasy, so it has an aspect of realistic magic involved. I’m not saying that there isn’t magic in our world, because I believe there is, though my story’s magic is that Faeries are real and they like to mess about in the lives of human beings. And I’m not talking about little flitty things that come and tend to the garden when you’re distracted, perhaps talking to the mailman. My Faeries are full-sized, cunning, smart, deadly, and highly addictive for any human lucky (or unlucky) enough to discover their sexual side.

What was the most exciting thing happening when you wrote your novel?
In my novel world? Okay, that’d be when my main character, Bailey Faye Michaels, discovers that she has a Faery mother and as a result, the power to speak telepathically with anyone she chooses. Lots of people at once, even, if that’s what the situation calls for. A telepathic conference call, if you will. The exciting turn for me in drafting the novel was when I realized that Bailey can use those telepathic skills to do more than communicate; she is capable of defending herself by invading and influencing the mind of dangerous folks. Telepathy as defense, pretty exciting.

If we’re talking about the real world…I’m oblivious, I was buried in the writing. *grin*

Who is your favorite Indie author?
I gotta have two here. I’m a recent fan of Rob Cornell’s and have been a long-term fan of Debbie Mumford/Deb Logan’s.

Who is your favorite traditionally published author?
I tend to go in phases. Right now I’d have to say Robert J. Sawyer. That man is a frickin’ genius. He writes hard Science Fiction novels based on fantastic premises. I just finished “Triggers” in which he explores the possibility of sharing a whole life’s memories with another human being and what that might mean if the memories you’re sharing come from the leader of the free world. I wouldn’t have gone to the same places he did with a premise like that, but that’s why I read. To take my mind places it wouldn’t go on its own.

If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I would live someplace with warmer weather. And I will, someday, but for now the Pacific Northwest is home. Heck, if I wait long enough the warmer weather might just come to me. Though I suppose Global Warming won’t do anything for the tilt of the Earth’s axis, so we’ll be warmer here but still lacking daylight a few months a year.

Thanks, Julie. And thanks for the plug *grin*

And now…what you’ve all been waiting for: a look at Julie’s work!

Juliet Nordeen’s Current books:

Blue Suede Darlin’ (Bailey Michaels Book 1)blue-suede-darlin

For Bailey Faye Michaels — Rockabilly drummer, fierce friend, and bedpost-notch collector — making a life-saving deal with a Faery could not have gone more sideways. Ignoring the usual Faery Godmother playbook, hauntingly beautiful Laume “rescues” the other four members of Bailey’s band, holding them hostage until Bailey completes her end of the bargain: reuniting a foster child, Hannah, with her addict father. Faeries and Faery magic complicate everything as Bailey uncovers her own ties to Faery, the destructive force of Faery-addiction, and the unyielding power of Mab, Queen of the Winter Faeries. With help from the queen’s own Winter Knight and an unexpected new human love-interest, Bailey fights a battle to rescue her best friends, her phamily, that no one but her intends for her to win…

Blue Suede Darlin’ is available from:
Amazon paperback | Amazon Kindle | Nook | Kobo

*~*~*

Mom is a Dirty Word MomEbookCover2sm

When Lara Guthrie gets the opportunity to drive one race in the top tier of stock car racing, she thinks she’s reached the pole position of her life: a great job, a wonderful fiancé in Nate Rickert, and a real chance for a car of her own to drive. But when Lara passes out during the post-race celebration, and finds out she’s pregnant, it’s like her whole world is spinning out of control.

Mom is a Dirty Word is available from:

Amazon Kindle | NookKobo

*~*~*

Coming Soon:
Short Story: Canine Agent Rocky Arnold vs. The Evil Alliance in Fiction River 9: Fantastic Detectives (edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

Moon Crowned Darlin’ (Bailey Michaels, Book 2), coming through all e-distributors in electronic and paperback in July 2014

Guest Author/Character Interview: Louise Blankenship’s Disciple series Prince Kiefan

We are very fortunate to have a guest post this week from author Louise Blankenship, an interview with one of the protags in her “gritty romance” series. I say “we” are fortunate just as a courtesy- actually, it’s ME who’s the luckiest guy on earth, because this lady is hitting the target right on the little black circle thingy at the center. The Disciple series has already run three books, and the fourth installment just went live at the start of March. I’ve wondered how to get people cranked up if they only discover you in the middle of a series- I’m chipping away at one right now myself- and here’s a great answer. Louise has combined the first three books into an epic-value tri-pack called the Disciple Half-Omnibus (I took Latin in high school, Louise, I see what you did there). So now with a single purchase you can be all caught up. I’m thinking “yes!” (you know, loud and punchy like a cheerleader), but also “yyyeesssssss” (like the evil genius who’s just had another brilliant idea).

So to whet your interest even further here’s a terrific character interview with Prince Kiefan.

Interview with a prince

Prince Kiefan is the only surviving son and heir of the king of Wodenberg. Like his father, he has a reputation for discipline and stern expectations — and he’s eager to prove himself now that he’s come of age. I had some questions for Prince Kiefan at the beginning of Disciple, Part I. He’s about to leave on a vital secret mission to find allies for the kingdom.

L: You’re an alpha male in training and this secret mission is your most important command yet. Do you feel ready for this?

Kiefan: I trust the saints’ judgement. Though Father and I disagreed over the cavalry charge that I led some months ago, he cannot deny that it won the battle. The saints have judged me fit to lead and I will not fail in my duty to them or my people.  

L: You didn’t expect the master healer to send his apprentice, though.

Kiefan (frowning): No, I was told he would be with us in this, and then he brought Kate in his stead — but the saints affirmed her, gave her charge of our well-being. One must work with what’s given.  

L: It’s not because she’s a girl, is it?

Kiefan: (he laughs) I squired with Captain Aleksandra. Any who dares doubt her will be put straight on the matter of a woman’s strength and courage. But Kate’s no disciple of the sword. She’s a healer. It’s clear enough this will be no easy journey across the mountains — none have made it and returned, that any know of. The saints ask much of us, as it is.

L: So the problem is more that she’s — bookish?

Kiefan: Kate has never even been in the saddle before today. Surely she’ll learn it, but yes, she’s spent more time among books than —

L: I hear you’re fond of books yourself.

Kiefan: Father’s seen that I’ve studied tactics and —

L: No, I mean those philosophy essays you’ve been sneaking peeks at.

Kiefan (frowns): Father’s kept my days busy enough with serious matters.

L: There’s nothing wrong with a little philosophy, surely?

Kiefan: The king of Wodenberg must be a knight, firstly. He must see to duty. We’re at war.

L: Yes, it’s always duty for you. Including a political marriage someday.

Kiefan (gets up from his seat, impatient): The privileges of the throne have their price. I’ve a mission to lead. (strides away, armor clinking)

L: You’re not concerned about traveling with a cute, philosophy-reading healer?

Kiefan (circles back): Pardon?

L: Well, she is cute.

Kiefan (spreads one hand, confused): Yes, certainly she’s… cute. Philosophy?

L: Oh, yes. She’s been reading those essays too. Her teacher might’ve sent some homework with her on the mission.

Kiefan (doesn’t know what homework is, but he gets the gist): Why should that be troublesome?

L: I’m sure it won’t be, Mr. All Work And No Play.

Kiefan: Which books is Kate bringing?

L (shooing him off): It’s not part of your duty, is it? Go, you’ve got a mission to lead.

Thanks so much Louise- I really like Kiefan, though I can just TELL he’s headed for… eh, he is out of earshot now, right?

Let’s have you back in person- did I just write that?- to talk about the saga, the travails of marketing yourself, and other Herculean Labors. Until then folks, click on these links and get in now on a terrific-looking series right on that cusp of romance and fantasy.

Back cover blurb

War is coming. Kate Carpenter is only a peasant girl, but she’s determined to help defend the kingdom and its bound saints against the invading empire. Her healing magic earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the master healer; now she must prove herself ready to stand in the front lines and save lives.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though. This is no time to be distracted by romance — the empire’s monstrous army will tear through anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical founts. All disciples must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.

Available at

AmazonNookOther major retailers

DISCIPLE, PART IV arrives on March 10th!

Get a reminder by joining L’s mailing list

Try PART I for only 99 cents!

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