A Day in Review…


Today I’ve chosen to post a few book reviews that I’ve done in an effort to bring more literature packed content to you, the reader! Plus, if you’re anything like me, you are an avid reader and quite possibly a word…um, fiend and are always looking for books. Some of these might be books you’ve never heard of, and others might be books you’ve seen advertised all over the place but have yet to enjoy a book review that invites you in to read them or tells you to run for cover and spend your money elsewhere.

I’ll include two book reviews in this post today. Both of these books are by authors that I know and would like to send a little promotion their way.

Eveningshade
Author: Stephanie Johnson
Genre: Fantasy
Length: approx. 240 pages

Eveningshade, by emerging author Stephanie Johnson, is a classic fantasy tale between good and evil. Three human women – one raised a fairy princess, the other a goblin orphan, and the third a sorceress ruler – find themselves embroiled in an epic quest to stop an evil queen from the Territory of Men from destroying the Five Lands they call home. Johnson immediately sets the pace with this novel, wasting no time sweeping away the reader in the desperation of the situation as she unleashes Queen Aeola’s sinister army of men and orcs on the unsuspecting Five Lands. Her heroines – Morganna, Francesca, and Iceis – learn of a shared heritage from their guide and mentor, a unicorn named Meadowstar, and their possible involvement in the destruction of the evil queen and her forces.

Johnson shows talent for being able to draw her readers into both the militaristic aspects of this story and also relating the personal stories of the characters involved without catapulting from one extreme to another every time she switches track in the story line. Well-paced and well-thought out, Johnson has left a mark with her debut novel that is certain to have readers looking to see what this new author will come up with next.

Fortress of Darkness
Author: Patricia Perry
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 180 pages

The Fortress of Darkness by Patricia Perry is a visually stunning fantasy. Perry’s attention to detail with a thoughtful ease sets an easy current for this sweeping story line.

Evil is spreading throughout the fragmented lands, and the Races are too lost within their own suspicion of one another to heed the signs all around them. A woman in internal conflict with herself, Sara, has set herself on the path to defeating this evil, the Vox. Requiring the aid of others, she finds herself traveling with two men, one nomad and the other an elf, along the long and dangerous road that may lead to the land’s salvation. The question remains: Can they find unity in peoples who have taken comfort in solidarity, or are the lands intended to fall one by one like dominoes set in motion several hundred years in the past?

This tale washes over the reader in tidal waves of sensory pleasure. One is simultaneously drawn from desolate lands to lush forestry, a richness of description and plot that nearly leads to imagination overload. I was thrilled with every word upon the page and engrossed with the plot until the very last point of punctuation.

Both of these fantasy novels I enjoyed very much and wanted to share with the rest of you. I know for a fact that they are both available online at Amazon.com and various other sites online. I can’t guarantee that you’ll like these books as much as I did, but they are certainly worth a look.

Just remember: Keep Dreaming. Keep Reading.

B.C. Brown

How to Write a Novel in 30 Easy Steps


There are a lot of great websites/blogs available that tell writers how to get their work published (in very vague terms that don’t actually give specifics as to “how” to actually do it), and there are great sites that tell writers how to edit/review/critique their manuscripts. But very few sites help a writer with the essential process of writing a novel.

1) Pick a tense situation in a completely fictional world of your choosing that you think can sustain a viable plot.

2) Mule over that situation and meandering plot for months and months, creating, dismantling, and re-creating characters time and time again until you go insane.

3) Agonize over an outline, pouring yourself into every detail of your imaginary world until it oozes with your personality and presence.

4) Shove your outline in a drawer and completely forget which overstuffed drawer you put it in.

5) Compose the novel, completely ignoring your outline unless you get stuck.

6) Never give up.

7) If you absolutely get stuck, try to find the blasted outline you stuffed away.

8) Still don’t give up.

9) Keep writing…Anywhere near the halfway point yet?

10) If you are, take a break – realize that you still have family and friends and they might need a little attention from their writer family member/friend.

11) Don’t get distracted – go back to the novel; you’ve recharged, now it’s time to work again.

12) Don’t give up.

13) Are you finished with it yet?

14) Find the 3/4 mark of your novel and take a break – revisit your family and friends.

15) Get back to work.

16) Don’t give up yet. This is the hardest point; you’re so close to the end, you are exhausted, and you know how the danged thing ends (unless you write like I do and never look at your outline once you stuff it in a drawer), so why continue??

17) Don’t quit now…keep going.

18) Stuck? Review your outline but keep working.

19) Get frustrated with your story.

20) Scream, kick, and rant about how your story will never be done!

21) Stare at your computer monitor for hours on end, completely blocked.

22) Take several trips to the bookstore, staring at all the titles on the shelves that are obviously way better than yours will ever be.

23) Repeat Step #22 at the local library.

24) Fall into despair and drink too much.

25) Realize you’ll never be as good as other authors and think about chucking that manuscript in favor of one that IS actually as good.

26) Also realize that the manuscript sitting on your desktop, so close to being finished, is probably just as good a starting place as any other manuscript – plus, you’re drinking too much as this point to fathom starting a new MS.

27) Sit back down at the monitor.

28) Put the bottle away, and pull the outline back out.

29) Start writing again.

30) Don’t give up until you type the words (as pretentious as they might seem) “The End”.

And there you have it! The actual steps it takes to write a novel. Of course, some of these steps might vary a little from writer to writer (like if you don’t care to become a raging alcoholic and would rather substitute some other type of vice like playing the ponies, etc.), but this gives the aspiring and budding author a step-by-step guide to writing a novel.

In actually, there might be a few steps you could skip in this instruction guide. But, if you’re going to take any one step away from this article today, you should take this one – Don’t (or Never) give up.

~B.C. Brown

Guest: J Travis Grundon’s Just the Tip…Writing Tip



Just the Tip…

New York Times Best Selling Author Janet Evanovich was asked: “What advice would you give aspiring writers?” Her answer was “WRITE!”

I have a lot of friends who talk about being a writer, or wanting to write, but they spend most of their time playing video games, watching movies, getting drunk, making excuses or spending time with the ones they love. None of these are good reasons to not be writing if it is something you really want to do.

If you want to be a writer, you have to write.

I have heard every excuse from “I don’t have the time” and “I’m not as good as my favorite author” to “I’ll never do anything with it” and “what if it’s not good enough?”

My advice to these people is SHUT UP!

An artist never paints a masterpiece without the first brush stroke. A NASCAR driver doesn’t win a race without getting behind the wheel and a writer is never successful or tells a story without putting in the time.

You have to make the time and stop crying about how bad it is before it’s even finished. It’s an editor’s job to tell you its shit. You have to just write the story you want to tell. You have the write the book you want to read and let nature take its course, but you can’t get to this step if you don’t sit down and write.

It doesn’t really matter if anyone likes it. It doesn’t matter if it has proper grammar and spelling. All that matters is that you took the time and energy to tell the story. Once that is accomplished and you achieve that feeling of accomplishment you will have the power to do it again and do anything else you set your mind to.

A lot of people talk about writing a book, but not everyone does it.

One thing I always go back to when someone asks me about being a writer is a poem by Charles Bukowski. He may have been a misogynistic asshole, but he was right about being a writer.

I don’t think anyone has ever put it better. Nothing meant more to him than his writing. Sometimes that is how it has to be.

So You Want To Be a Writer
By Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Now that you’re feeling motivated, check your Facebook page one last time, get off of the internet and do the “write thing.” Feel free to read Bukowski’s poem as often as needed to kick you in the ass and light the fire you know is inside. Do it for you.

My other 2 tips for writers are:
2.) Find/ start a writers group.
3.) Read as much as you can. The more you read the better writer you’ll become.

Check out http://jtravisgrundon.blogspot.com/ for more on these topics…soon!!!

– Travis

A Little Friendly Competition?


In an effort to keep as well-informed as possible on the wonderfully wacky world of writing, I stay tuned into several sites and information sources that provide contest information for writers looking to either “make it big” or simply those trying to “earn a little cred”. Below are three contests I found in the Writer’s Digest Yearbook edition picked up in June at my local bookstore.

(As Writer’s Digest recommends, I also urge all writers to research all affiliates/contests on their own before entering their work.)

IOWA SHORT FICTION CONTEST
Submissions: Minimum of 150 pages
Deadlines: August 1 – September 30
Fees: None
Prize: Publication by the Iowa University Press
Website: uiowapress.org/authors/iowashortfiction.htm

JUNIPER PRIZE FOR FICTION CONTEST
Submissions: Minimum of 150 pages to 350 pages
Deadlines: Check website
Fees: $25
Prize: Publication by University of Massachussets Press and $1500
Website: umass.edu/umpress/juniper_fiction.html

MILKWEED EDITIONS NATIONAL FICTION CONTEST
Submissions: Minimum 150 pages to 400 pages
Deadlines: Rolling deadline
Fees: None
Prize: Publication by Milkweed Editions and cash advance of $5000 against royalties
Website: milkweed.org/content/view/22/72

Again I urge all writers to do their own research regarding all affiliates to these contests; however, as Writer’s Digest is one of my trusted sources of information, I wanted to share these three potential contests with any writers who might want to utilize them.

Enjoy and Happy Writing!

B.C. Brown

Guest: Kenzie Michaels, So You’ve Written A Book?



So You’re Published; Now What?

“…and they lived happily ever after. The End”.

“Dear Kenzie, We’d like to offer you a contract… Here are your edits… Here’s your cover…. Your release date is…”

Wow. Now what? Your book, which you’ve worked so hard to write, submitted it to a publisher and had it accepted, bitten your nails to the quick over edits, and approved your cover, is finally available. But what comes next?

Throw yourself a release party, first and foremost. This is an accomplishment, after all. Go out to eat; enjoy some cake and ice cream with friends or family and celebrate a little. And hopefully if you blog or belong to chat loops, you’ve already posted the news, an excerpt, and the cover all over cyberspace and your website. Soak up the applause and bask in any guest blogging comments on your friends’ sites.

And get a good night’s sleep, because the real work begins the next day.

What? Oh…you didn’t know? Aren’t you glad I’m telling you this now?

Your publisher has done their job. Now everything else is up to YOU, the author, to get the word out. Watch for calls for guest bloggers or interviews. Promote your work on any promo days on the chat loops you belong to. Show up at chats with your online friends and rebuild relationships with those you’ve interacted with before, but maybe neglected while you were busy editing.

Sign up for a Google Alert on your title and name, and put quotes around them; otherwise you’ll get hit with any or all uses of the words. One of the groups I belong to is the marketing for romance writers, and the members are very generous in answering any questions pertaining to promotions.

Have some bookmarks made up, or postcards to send out. VistaPrint.com is a wonderful source to find inexpensive promotional items, as well as your local office supply store. I sent my local Office Max a copy of my cover and pay about eleven dollars for one hundred bookmarks.

If your book is coming out into print, look around in the community for places to network. My alter ego placed a few copies of her books in gift shops on consignment. I’m considering doing the same at a local adult gift shop with my own books. I’ll buy a copy of my own work, download it to CD and set the price accordingly. Don’t forget to leave a few of your business cards with the owners. I’ve also set up at local festivals, contacted book stores to set up signings, and set up booths at craft fairs at Fish Fries around my area. If you don’t know who to contact, call the fire station once you see the signs and ask to speak to the person in charge of the booth rentals. Call the local Chamber of Commerce to find out about when the festivals take place. And if it’s too late to set up, go and talk to the vendors. Ask about fees, who to contact, and the hours.

And above all else, don’t stop writing! Because at some point, someone will ask ‘What is your next book about?”

Genre-Schmenre

In this world, there are insane amounts of information available. The internet alone has opened up an immense collection of information readily available at your fingertips. That is, IF you know the correct keyword to use. If not, well, then we start to get cross information of completely unrelated topics. And, we’ve all seen those goofy commercials with the pregnant woman at yoga class quoting keyword/search engine information overload, or the husband and wife in bed who end up arguing due to his keyword/search engine information overload.

For writers, there is a completely different type of keyword overload, and it is generically defined as one simple, somewhat inoccuous little word with a H-U-G-E meaning – GENRE.

Genre, as defined, by Webster’s English Language Dictionary:

A class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular form, content, technique, or the like.

Seems simple, right? If we read and understand the definition, then describing our work of fiction should be easy. I mean, what topic does our literary baby fall into? Well, let’s take an example of a classic story and define what topic it falls into. For this example, we will use a well-known and well-documented fictional tale – ‘Wuthering Heights’.

‘Wuthering Heights’ basic story outline is as follows:

Many people, generally those who have never read the book, consider Wuthering Heights to Romeo and Juliet on the Yorkshire Moors. But this is a mistake. Really the story is one of revenge. It follows the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like person, from childhood (about seven years old) to his death in his late thirties. Heathcliff rises in his adopted family and then is reduced to the status of a servant, running away when the young woman he loves decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated and sets about gaining his revenge on the two families that he believed ruined his life.

Now, here is a listing of the different types of genres that you and most people might be aware of:

  • Romance
  • Science fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Women’s Lit.
  • Historical
  • Western
  • Contemporary Lit.
  • Horror
  • General Lit.
  • Young Adult (or YA)
  • Mystery

Seems fairly straight forward, right? Well, one would think so. However, there is another type of genre listings that are not as straight forward. These are subgenre listings, and subgenre listings can be both a hindrance and help to the writer. Here is a list of subgenres I’m talking about:

  • Supernatural
  • Post Apocolyptic
  • Slasher
  • Erotica
  • Criminal Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Court Thriller
  • Realist
  • Modern ________

Seem as easy? If so, then you are one of the lucky ones. However, most writers easily become confused about the different types of genres available that may be applicable to their story. Often times, when asking an author what his/her particular story is about, one ends up hearing that that author’s story is a “paranormal/historical/romance with an adult theme.”

Huh? So this story is about werewolves/vampires/ghosts set in the past (so non-modern day conveniences) with a prominent love story for readers over the age of 16 years? Hummmmm…Totally self-explanatory!

Right. So let’s take a look at what is so confusing about this way of using genre to define one’s tale.

Writers are ego-centric people on a whole. Woah, there, wait a minute, B.C.! You’re making us out to seem like bad guys, you writers are saying right now. (Or, at least, the writer’s in my head are saying right now.) But, truthfully, I’m not. Authors ARE ego-centric; we have to be. It is a staple of our craft. Without the ability to focus wholly on one’s self, we would not be able to create diverse characters that are both rich and varied. But saying that we are ego-centric people, does not mean that we are wrapped up solely in ourselves either. It simply means that we, as writers, have the capability to turn our mind’s eye inward and focus on ourselves to the point of excluding all others. By doing so, authors can split themselves, the whole, into as many different entities as required to fill an entire world with fresh, different faces and personalities.

So what are you getting at here, B.C.?

Well, the point I am trying to get to is that with writers being ego-centric people, we also tend to lead very lonely lives. The actual process of literary art is a solitary practice. Have you ever seen a writer’s group hard at work? Twenty or thirty authors all clustered around a table, a laptop or notepad at the ready, and the room is silent since all their heads/feet are bopping rythmically to whatever song/event is being pumped through the tiny speakers of their earbuds/headphones. Despite the illusion of community, the writer him/herself is isolated. The people around him are peripheral to the world, the characters, he/she has already immersed themselves into.

The point already?

Ever been around someone who is lonely and doesn’t want to be? They tend to be chatter bugs that you can’t shut up. The same is true of most writers. Writers are people-people; we have to be in order to market our work (that is when our egos do not get in the way). And writers also tend to be little kids are heart. We have overactive imaginations that run rampant and seek out opportunities to include things and people in them. With that understood, you can better relate to what writers experience when someone actually ASKS them about their work.

Many people are interested in the arts. Millions of people flock to art galleries and museums, clubs and concerts; but, on a whole, looking at a picture or listening to a song floating through the air is “easy” art interest. The act of reading itself takes effort and time. So when a writer is approached by someone concerning the work they’d already done, when they are approached by someone showing genuine interest, writer’s – well – they tend to get a little overexcited. And, lastly, it can be difficult to clearly define something that is as intricately written as a story, which normally contains a plot and one to two subplots. Once you’ve started weaving that particular braid, it can be easy to get caught up in the complexities of a story well crafted. (Or, at least, we HOPE well crafted.)

Authors are masters of “the hook”. We learn very early on that we have to “hook” the reader, or else they will put down our book and move on to the next guys. If that next guy can’t “hook” them, then they move on to the next and next and next, and so on until they find the one book that draws them in. And once the author has lost the opportunity of “hooking” you into their story, as a general rule, they’ve lost you entirely as a reader for that book, that world. So when a potential reader expresses interest in their story, an author can forget that sometimes less is more and let their imaginations get carried away. Because, after all, they have written THE quinessential story of all time and you MUST read it, MUST be interested in it. Right?

Riiiiight.

So that is what happens when a writer is asked to describe their story. We jump straight to the hook. (In this case, we’ll jump straight to Wuthering Height’s hook.) The only difficulty is that we know nothing about the potential reader we are speaking to, or relatively nothing most likely, so we try to expand our book topic to include as many possible hooks as we can. Despite the fact that there is only one ghost, who is a peripheral character in the story by the way, in the whole book, I excitedly blurb that my book is paranormal (because my reader MIGHT like paranormal stories). And I KNOW that my story is a romance, so I add that it is a romance. Now my story has become a paranormal/romance. BUT my story also has a historical slant to it, so I feel the need to include historical to the list of genre because the reader might really dig that. So I’m up to a paranormal/historical/romance. Oh, wait, but I’m not done! My story also has a mystery in it, so I’m now up to a paranormal/historical/mystery/romance.

Starting to get a little wordy here, huh? Most editors and agents think so as well. In most research I’ve done concerning manuscript (MS) submission and Query submission, I’ve found that most agents seems to have a preference to a two-word genre tag. The old addage of less is more is as true in the literary field as any other and, by giving too much information (hence information overload), the writer begins to damage their chances of the reader actually caring about the piece. By the time we’ve gotten out our third description of the book, our reader’s eyes have began to glaze and a little pool of spittle has began forming in the corners of their mouthes. Clearly, we’ve oversold – like the used car salesman trying too hard to upsell you the Ford Taurus on the lot because it has heated seats instead of selling you the simple Toyota Corola you were originally looking at. And, as a consumer, you’d be just as put off by this salesman and your potential reader has now become of you. So the basic advice is that writers should stick with a two word genre that is as close to the major plot arches of the story as possible. In our case of Wuthering Heights, we would define our story as a historical/romance. If your reader isn’t interested in either historical or romance, then you might have hit a snag in selling your story to them; however, I can guarantee that the more information you give them, the more the chance their eyes are going to glaze and their mouthes are going to go all drooly. And you’ve lost them regardless of what you say.

What am I trying to get at with this article? A) To help clearly define what genre is, B) To illustrate how writers like you and I misuse and abuse this valuable and necessary tool, and C) To smack writers everywhere in the face with the simple knowledge of “less is more”. Or, I suppose, saying I am “equipping” writers with a simple truth sounds a little better, doesn’t it? LOL

For more information concerning writing, please visit often to www.bcbrownbooks.blogspot.com, www.bcbrown.webs.com, or follow me on Facebook (bc brown books @ gmail . com) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/bcbrownbooks).

{Currently Reading: The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts by Lilian Jackson Braun and Speaking with the Angel edited by Nick Hornby (short story anthology) and The Anthology of the Living Dead by J. Travis Grundon (short story anthology of collected authors)}

B.C. Brown