Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dust Bunnies and Revelations

I'm sitting in the library where I grew up, where my love of books first developed. It's the same--and yet different. Bright, airy and quiet. Full of possibilities.

I've been able to revisit a lot of my past this week in my hometown, particularly in cleaning out boxes of old things (the main purpose of my trip). I happened upon a short story I'd written my sophomore year--that I'd completely forgotten about. About a girl who goes to the country and has to choose between two brothers--one, attractive and suave, the other, a bit uglier and kinder. The moral of the story, of course, was the kinder brother was the correct choice. If only I'd taken my own advice sooner.

I also happened upon a pay stub from the town's newspaper for my very first published article (also from my sophomore year). I remembered that one--but forgotten I was paid $25.00 for it. Another paper, a certificate, revealed I wrote an essay that put me in the top 2 percent in a state-wide exam.

These puzzle pieces pointed to something I didn't realize until I was in my late twenties: that writing was something I was always meant to do. It was there, lying dormant, waiting to be picked up. It just took me a long time to realize it.

So--be sure you clean out those dust bunnies (both external and internal) once in a while. You'll never know what you might find.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

SOUL KISSED, by Erin Kellison

I'm super excited about Erin Kellison's newest release, SOUL KISSED, the second in the Shadow Kissed series. The first one, FIRE KISSED, was amazing--I couldn't put it down. And, if you go on Amazon today, you can get the first book in the Shadow series, SHADOW BOUND, for free!

While the world slumbers in Shadow, a fatal plague has swept through magekind. No one is immune to its ravages, and now that her father is dead, Cari Dolan must wield the fearful magic of her House to save innocent lives.

At the mage Council's bidding, dangerous outsider Mason Stray joins forces with Cari to hunt down the fiend responsible. But can he trust the daughter of wealth and privilege, especially when his own son is at risk?

The princess will always welcome to her bed the warrior, even if one must pay the ultimate price...

Some people will do anything to avoid it. Even trade their immortal souls for endless existence.

Secretly, inexorably, they are infiltrating our world, sucking the essence out of unsuspecting victims with their hideous parody of a kiss.

Adam Thorne founded the Institute to study and destroy his monster of a brother, but the key to its success is held in the pale, slender hand of a woman on the run. There is something hauntingly different about Talia O’Brien, her unknowing sensuality, her uncanny way of slipping into Shadow.

This is the place between life and what comes after—a dark forest of fantasy, filled with beauty, peril, mystery. And Talia is about to open the door.

To purchase these beauties for yourself, click on the links below: 


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Character Development Don'ts, Courtesy of Burt Wonderstone

Technical note: Something may be wrong with the comment function. Will be investigating. If you try commenting on this post, and are unable, please email me at writerlibrarian (at) gmail (dot) com.

Spoiler note: There are lots of them below, so beware.

So, okay. I like Steve Carell. A lot. But when he does movies like Burt Wonderstone, it leaves me scratching my head. Steve Carell is way too smart for this. At least I hope he is. (Well, I guess there was Evan Almighty. And Despicable Me 2. And then he's doing Anchorman 2 this summer. Um.)

When I saw Burt Wonderstone, I finally understood the perils of poor character development--the consequences that occur when the protagonist doesn't develop along with the plot, and in Burt's case, sometimes regresses. It reminded me of some good advice I'd gotten recently at a conference--to examine my characters at each important plot point to see how they've developed with the story.

I'll be showing you Burt at various stages, using Janice Hardy's plot points in my example: Opening scene - Inciting event - Act one crisis - Act two revelation - Midpoint reversal - Act three disaster - Climax -Wrap up

Opening Scene

This part is pretty endearing, and probably my favorite part of the movie. It starts out in 1982, when Burt is growing up. He's bullied, and latch-key kid. He even has to make his own birthday cake when his mom has to stay late at work. His birthday present is a magic set from the great Rance Holloway--and here his love of magic begins. He brings the kit to school and develops a friendship with his future magic partner and friend, Anton Marvelton. So far, so good.

Inciting Event

I wasn't really clear when this occurred, if it actually did--and this is why starting in flashback isn't always a good idea. They had to flash forward through Burt and Anton's "big break" at Bally's in Las Vegas, and the hiring of a new assistant named Nicole. And then it flashed forward yet another ten years to show their act growing stale. A lot of exposition, here.

Act One Crisis

Burt and Anton take a back seat to a David Blaine-like street magician named Steve Gray, and Doug, the owner of Bally's, kicks them to the curb after an unsuccessful stunt. Anton quits and goes abroad to Cambodia, and Burt tries to do the two-man act by himself--without changing a single thing. This Burt is completely different from his 11-year-old counterpart. It seems doing magic all these years has regressed him into an 8-year-old. He refuses to change his act, even though the plot elements insist he should.

Act Two Revelation

This never happened. We spend the next 30 or so minutes seeing Burt waffling, refusing to budge, ignoring others who try to help him--until he ends up bankrupt. I know it's customary for some characters to be stubborn, but here, he's just clueless. When Nicole offers to put him up for the night, he leaves his dinner dishes outside the front door because he's so used to room service. What happened to the self-sufficient kid who baked his own cake in the oven?

Midpoint Reversal

When Burt ends up performing magic in a retirement home, he meets his idol, Rance Holloway--who started his love of magic in the first place. At last, the movie becomes watchable again. Burt checks his stupidity and ego at the door, and decides to team up with Rance to do a magic show for Doug's kid's birthday party. He's now more humble, and more willing to try new things in his act. But it took meeting his idol to shake him out of his stupor.

Act Three Disaster

This never really happened either, unless you count Burt's humiliation at the kid's birthday party, when Steve Gray takes over his show. But this makes Steve look worse than Burt. At the party, Burt finds out about a competition for the upcoming main act at Doug's new hotel (redundantly called "Doug"), and decides to enter. Everything is on the up and up. Anton returns, and he and Burt collaborate on the one act they couldn't do as kids--the disappearing audience.


This is still the same Burt we saw at the midpoint reversal, so not much growth has happened since. The character who develops the most here is Rance--who decides to take part in a public magic show for the first time in years. Burt flawlessly executes his disappearing audience trick by using a drug Anton discovered in Cambodia to make everyone pass out. There's no suspense here at all--Steve Gray takes himself out of the running early on by drilling a hole into his head.

Wrap Up

This is just a montage of Burt, Anton, and Nicole shuffling around audience bodies to the point of breaking them to demonstrate the back-end of their disappearing audience trick. No further growth here, either.

So there you have it. And hopefully Steve Carell will stop accepting these crappy scripts.

Now it's your turn--take a snapshot of your character at each plot development and see if they're different or not. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I'm excited to feature Gini Koch's latest in her Alien series, ALIEN IN THE HOUSE. You should also check out her new novella, HAPPY ACRES HAUNTED HOTEL FOR ACTIVE SENIORS--it's completely hysterical!

Jeff and Kitty Katt-Martini have learned the ins and outs of Washington politics, not to mention how to prevail in intergalactic war and foil dangerous plots. But, in the aftermath of Operation Destruction, the Gower girls’ powers are burned out, the entire A-C population has been “outed” as the aliens living on Earth that they are, and, worst of all, ACE is nowhere to be found.

Then murder and mayhem are served up at an important dinner party at the American Centaurion Embassy, and when the dust settles Alpha Team and the Diplomatic Corps have more problems than just a dead Congressman.

Is there a single criminal mastermind—or multiple enemies—behind all the conspiracies that want Kitty dead and the A-Cs gone or co-opted to become the War Division?

The return of the best assassins in the business, the reappearance of two individuals long-presumed dead, Agent Malcolm Buchanan felled by something no one can identify or cure, and new technology that can block even the most powerful empath on Earth … all of this means the game’s officially afoot.

Then Vance Beaumont comes to Kitty with a wild theory that someone is systematically killing off the House of Representatives…

It’s up to Kitty and the rest of the gang to find out what’s really going on and why. But will they be able to stop the killer or killers before the rest of the U.S. House of Representatives become casualties? And will the replacement Representative for New Mexico’s 2nd District, who happens to be Jeff Martini, be the next to die?

Welcome to Happy Acres (Haunted) Hotel for Active Seniors, the premiere senior living facility in all of Southern California (especially if you’re already dead)!

At Happy Acres we pride ourselves on the depth and breadth of our elder care (and for how many haunts we have -- 789 and counting!) as we surround your loved ones with vibrant, interesting people of their own generation (and many generations prior).

Happy Acres is fully staffed 24/7 by a team of dedicated (and in some cases, spellbound) medical staff, as well as housing one of the state-of-the-art medical inpatient and outpatient facilities in the Southland (just don’t see your doctor after dark), so your loved ones are ensured the best care in their golden years (and long after, as well).

Don’t let the rumors (all true) fool you -- while Happy Acres is indeed the best, its costs won’t race your beloved elders to an early grave (no, others will handle that). So come to Happy Acres, a facility you’ll love so much you’ll never want to leave!

Gini also answered some updated interview questions!

You crank out a lot of books under many pen names. What keeps you on top of deadlines, and what do you recommend to published writers who may be experiencing burn-out?

Sheer force of will keeps me on top of deadlines and sometimes even that’s not enough. LOL As for what I’d tell other published authors, it’s what we tell each other -- alcohol is your friend, taking a couple hours off to go out to lunch with your friends is a good thing, and remember that the house can always get cleaned up to perfection once the book is turned in.

Everyone’s different, and we all burn out in some way at some time. But temporary burnout is different from career ending burnout. The best advice I have is that when the people around you start telling you that you need to take a break, it’s time to listen to them and do as they say. Usually your family and friends will spot you burning out well before you yourself do.

It's good to remember that burn-out isn't always permanent--and you're right, down time is important (and necessary). In the acknowledgments section of THE HAPPY ACRES HOTEL FOR ACTIVE SENIORS, I noticed you mentioned your grandmother Julia. Is Julia similar to the main character Maddie? If so, how?

She is somewhat, though honestly, Maddie has a lot more in common with Kitty from my Alien series than my grandmother. But my grandmother was fun and funny, she wasn’t really afraid of anything, and men just LOVED her, so there’s a lot of her in Maddie that way. And she proved to me that you’re only old if you THINK you’re old. My grandmother was in her early 90’s when she died, but she never, ever seemed old.

Reminds me of my grandmother--and why I miss her so much. In the newest book in your Alien Series, ALIEN IN THE HOUSE, Jeff and Kitty Katt-Martini have to solve a murder of a Congressman. What was this idea inspired by, and how do you keep your ideas and characters fresh when writing a series?

My first reading love was mysteries, and I have a mystery in almost everything I write, even if it’s not the main genre or subgenre I’m writing in. I wanted to see how Kitty and Company would handle a full on, straightforward murder mystery, which is how this book came about.

As for keeping the characters and ideas fresh, Kitty and the others are all aging, and changing. As you age, your experiences change you somewhat and what you do changes, and that alters what’s going on around you and how you react to it. I love these characters and I enjoy telling their story, so keeping them fresh isn’t all that hard.

Getting new ideas is a little harder, but again, the characters are on a path and I enjoy getting them to their next pivotal moments, so that’s not so hard. And the characters usually tell me the rest of what’s going on as I’m writing. So it all works out.

Following character paths along pivotal moments sounds like a great way to help a story along too. Great strategy! In our last interview, you said a lot of great things about the art and craft of writing. In your opinion, how is art different than craft, and how does one practice art versus craft?

Art is the thing -- the book, the painting, the sculpture, the TV show, the movie, the dance, etc. Art can be done well or poorly, but even if it’s bad it’s still art, if you will. Craft, however, is how you make art that’s wonderful and amazing. Craft is the constant practice and perfection of your art. The practice of art IS craft, but as with any kind of practice, the goal is to get better and better, not remain the same.

No one would ever want to buy a handmade dining room table from someone who literally just made their first table. Why? Because no one would have the faith that this first table was any good. The person who’d made the table wouldn’t have had enough practice making tables to be 100% sure this table could hold a full Thanksgiving dinner without collapsing. However, after that table maker has made hundreds of tables, then the customer can feel pretty sure that the artisan knows how to make a table that can stand up and stay up.

And yet we tend to treat art differently, as if, merely because we WANT it to be great, we don’t have to practice our craft like everyone else. “I wrote ‘The End’ so it’s READY!” is the cry far too many newer authors rally around. You wrote the end and that means it’s just really the beginning of all the rest of the craft work you need to do to make that book an actual piece of art that someone else wants to read.

Excellent example--and you're right--it's definitely more of a marathon than a sprint! Of all the books you've written, which are the ones you're most proud of? Why?

I’m proud of all of them. Some are published and some are not, but I’m proud of everything I’ve written, even the things no one will ever see. I’m proud because it’s so easy to say “I want to write” and yet so few people actually do, and even less actually finish something, let alone send it out on submission, etc. So I’m proud of everything because I actually walked the walk, not just talked the talk.

But if forced to pick one and only one, it’d have to be the first book in the Alien series, TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN, because that book landed me a great agent, a two-book deal with DAW, and launched my career. So it’ll always be the most special one for me.

Author Bio

Gini Koch lives in Hell’s Orientation Area (aka Phoenix, AZ), works her butt off (sadly, not literally) by day, and writes by night with the rest of the beautiful people. She writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series for Musa Publishing. As G.J. Koch she writes the Alexander Outland series. She also writes under a variety of other pen names (including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch), listens to all kinds of music 24/7, and is a proud comics geek-girl willing to discuss at any time why Wolverine is the best superhero ever (even if Deadpool does get all the best lines). She speaks frequently on what it takes to become a successful author and other aspects of writing and the publishing business. She is also the Lead Editor at Raphael’s Village, an online, nonpaying ’zine. Because she wasn’t busy enough, Gini’s added on featured guest columnist, reviewer, and webcaster for Slice of SciFi and It’s Comic Book Day. She can be reached through her website at www.ginikoch.com.

To get more of Gini's books for yourself, click on the links below: