Tag Archives: action

Are you lucky if you have a warrior monk as a mentor?

I’m so happy to invite C. S. Boyack to my blog today. I’ve visited his blog many times: https://www.facebook.com/ColdhandBoyack and consider him a friend, even though we’ve never met. He’s recently released a new novel, SERANG, and I’m halfway through it right now. I loved SERANG in the novel, VOYAGE OF THE LANGERNFISH, a fantasy/pirate/adventure novel, and I’ve been waiting for this prequel that tells her beginning story.

He hasn’t disappointed. The daughter of a fisherman, when her father dies on his ship, her mother can’t support her and takes her to a temple to be raised by warrior monks. If you haven’t read VOYAGE OF THE LANTERNFISH, no problem. This story can easily stand alone.

  1. Welcome, Craig. And now that I have you here, I’m curious. How did you decide on the life lessons Serang must learn to develop into her full potential? And how did you develop a wise tone and philosophy for your various masters?

First of all, thank you for the invitation, and I consider my online connections to be true friends. We may never meet in person, but I have many online friends.

Serang is a child when the story begins, and she’s about to embark upon training that takes a lifetime to master. This isn’t just a physical skill, but emotional and spiritual as well. She comes pre-packaged with her own problems, and a child would dwell upon those issues. I focused upon her issues as a point for her growth.

Serang’s masters are older, more mature versions of herself. They all have a tragic history, but rose above that to find a quality of life beyond the traditional orphan or beggar. Basically, I took a wise man/woman character, then pointed that character at Serang’s problems.

 

  1. I’m enjoying the character of Yong, who eventually becomes her master. Why does he befriend a rat? Is it perhaps because you, like me, were born in a year of the Chinese rat?

Ha! That could be part of it, and I am really focusing on that in a completely different book. It will come out in the Spring sometime. This is about Serang, so I’ll concentrate on her.

Master Yong is a wandering monk. This means he is a complete package, and an older reflection of what Serang is expected to become. In my mind, monks do not hold anything in particular in reverence or disdain. They seek to understand it, and its place in the world.

As a “wandering” monk, the wilderness can be lonely at times. It made sense for Yong to adopt a pet. The rat is portable, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choose him from the Chinese Zodiac.

 

  1. What gave you the idea for the giant catfish that can kill a person while he/she tries to reel it in for supper?

The goonch catfish is an actual creature swimming in Asian waters today. He has a reputation for taking the occasional child swimmer.

This is a fantasy, and while reality is a good start, I ramped him up a bit.

It’s rather amazing, but this story uses a lot of actual creatures. There are actual orchid mantises, camel spiders, and saiga antelope. In some instances, I used them as they are, in others I powered them up as needed.

 

  1. This is, essentially, a fantasy coming-of-age story. What made you choose to write about a kick-ass female protagonist? (And I have to say, so far, all of the women in this book are intelligent and strong.)

I’ve been told I write good female characters. (I hope I do justice to my male characters, too.) Serang was pure dumb luck, if I’m to be completely honest.

When I wrote Voyage of the Lanternfish, I wanted an international cast to make up my crew. My vision was a grouping of society’s downtrodden people taking the world into their own hands.

Serang walked down the dock and joined the crew. At this time, she was fully formed and came with her own baggage, even a minor addiction to alcohol. Fleshing those things out in small doses, led me to the idea that she deserved her own story.

 

  1. You write a few different genres. What are some of your other ones?

I refer to myself as a writer of speculative fiction. This is a big field, and includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and all the sub-genres of those.

You could find any of those genres in my back-catalog. What I try to do is include that speculative element in all my stories.

Sometimes that element is fairly strong, like in my stories about Lizzie and The Hat. Other times, it’s present, but in a lesser form. Serang kind of fits that style. This isn’t to say there aren’t fantasy creatures and magical elements in this story, but it’s more about her personal growth.

 

  1. On the blog Story Empire and your own blog, you’ve talked about how you develop your novels. You use a storyboard. Can you give a brief idea how that works?

I don’t know how brief I can be, but it’s worth a shot. I like a good challenge.

I use an app, but it’s basically just a cork board. Someone could tape things to the garage wall and do the same thing. I make one index card for the theme, almost like a mission statement. Then I make four columns to divide the three act structure of my story. (Act two gets two columns.) The tops and bottoms are major turning points in a story.

I fill out cards to mark all of those turning points, then give it some time. I add index cards to the board depending on each column, but aiming from the top of the column to the bottom. Think of it like driving from one town to another, but there are several routes to choose from. As long as you get where you’re going it works.

While the turning points keep my acts in order, the entire board keeps my writing in order. I free-write from card to card, and it tends to work for me.

I used to add photos and even checklists with things I want to include. Pinterest has replaced part of this for me, but sticky notes and checklists are part of the equation. As an example, I had a character once who had to go through the stages of grieving. I made a checklist and marked them off as he moved from step to step.

I still prepare a storyboard for each book, but they are getting more minimal with each outing. Maybe that comes from experience. One real advantage is I have half-a-dozen of them going at any given time. It isn’t hard to end one story and dive right into the next one. As ideas pop up, I add a card to that board.

 

Thanks so much for visiting. Before you leave, would you share a short excerpt from your book? And any other information you’d care to share with us?

Hmm, a short excerpt:

“I haven’t seen a single river monster. No crocodiles, gigantic snakes, nothing. I’m supposed to be exercising, so I’m going for a swim. The current is slow and steady here. If it works, you can try it, too.” She stripped off her hat, boots, and leggings, then dove over the side.

By swimming hard, she was able to keep pace with the boat. It had more area for the river to push, so she had to work to keep up. Eventually she fell behind, so she veered toward the rope and kept swimming.

“You’ll have to stop before you run out of rope,” Yong yelled.

“I know… but it feels good… to move lazy muscles,” she puffed between the words.

An extra puff sounded off to her left, and a strong odor of fish drifted over her. Another sounded off to her right. A series of rapid clicks were answered on the opposite side. A large grey fin broke the surface beside her.

Serang redoubled her efforts and gained slightly on the boat. A bulbous grey head broke the surface on her right. It had a long snout with a row of peg-like teeth the size of her little finger. She grabbed the rope and started pulling herself toward the boat. “Help me, Master.”

Yong laughed hysterically. “Hurry, before they eat you.”

How could her master be so cruel? The creature on her left passed underneath to join the other one. The clicking increased. More of the creatures surrounded her until there were a dozen or more. They started jumping, splashing water over her head. It sounded as if they were laughing at her.

Hand over hand, she finally reached the rope. Her muscles burned as she pulled herself above the water then groped for the railing.

Yong caught her wrist, pulled her onto the deck, then dropped her like a wet sack. “Thank you, Master. They could have killed me.”

“No doubt, but they never would.” One of the creatures leaped high above the water and looked at her. “These are river dolphins. They are benevolent creatures. Sometimes they help downing boatmen. They were checking to see if you needed help.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it was too funny.” He pushed his hat toward her. “Take the tiller. My turn.” He dove over the side.

***

Monastic life is all about duty, service, harmony. For Serang, a young girl abandoned at the temple by her mother after the death of her father, that life becomes all she knows. The monks give her purpose, and become her new family.

 

When political upheaval causes chaos throughout the land, Serang again loses everything and everyone she loves. Alone, she struggles to survive. She convinces a wandering monk to take her under his wing and complete her training. Thus begin her adventures through strange lands and her trials to become a confident, capable, independent adult.

 

This is a coming of age story set in a fantasy world. It’s filled with monsters and martial arts, difficulties and dangers. The serious situations preclude the story from the levity of its predecessor, Voyage of the Lanternfish, but it provides a compelling look at the origin of one of the saga’s most fascinating characters.

 

Purchase Link http://mybook.to/Serang

Serang cover

 

Social Media:

C.S. bio & blog

 

Blog My Novels Twitter Goodreads Facebook Pinterest BookBub

 

 

Finding Balance

I’m a Libra–the sign of the scales, so I thought my life came with some automatic balance.  Come to find out, one of my favorite astrologers explained that being a Libra meant I was constantly SEARCHING for balance.  A whole different thing entirely.  And after I thought about it, aren’t most people striving for balance, too?

The old saying “Too much work and no fun make Jack a dull boy” could apply to too much of anything.   I read a thread on twitter recently where Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost (both New Times bestselling authors) worked so many hours writing their books that Jeaniene Frost ended up in the hospital and both suffered from too much stress and felt everything else in their lives got neglected.  What were they missing?  Balance.

Now, I’d love to be a bestselling author, but not enough to ONLY write.  I like seeing my husband, kids, and grandkids.  I like having family and friends over for suppers.  I enjoy cooking and gardening.  I’m not very exciting, but I’m happy.  Of course, if all I did was play, I’d feel out of sync, too.  I like checking off goals when I finish them.  They give me a sense of accomplishment.  Too much down time, and I get antsy.

As a writer, I strive for balance in my books, too.  I recently finished reading Maria V. Snyder’s POISON STUDY.  I really liked it and highly recommend it, but the book had so much action, with the heroine under constant attack from enemies on all sides, that it felt like too much of a good thing.  For me, the book’s rhythm began to feel repetitive.  She created wonderful characters, and I’d have liked to spend a little more time with them.  Valek, especially, was fascinating.  So were many of the minor characters.  On the other hand, though, I’ve read books where action would be welcome.  It feels like nothing is happening, page after page.  No character development.  No clues to add up.  The pacing’s so slow, the story barely moves forward.

I also recently finished reading Cee Cee James’s cozy mystery CHERRY PIE OR DIE.  I loved the characters, the interaction between them, and the clues sprinkled here and there that teased me to solve the murder.  The pacing took its time, taunting me with tidbits of information and red herrings, like cozies do.  And that’s one of the things I liked about the book.

Great books create a balance between action, dialogue, setting, character development, and building momentum through pacing and tension.  Not many of us get every scene, every page right.  And not all of us can even agree on what’s good and what’s not.  What excites me can make another reader close the book and toss it aside.  But for whatever you’re working on now, I hope you find a good balance.  And happy writing!

My webpage:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Twitter:  @judypost

 

 

Writing: What motivates your character? Does it work?

First off, I have a summer cold, so if ideas don’t always blend together in this blog, my head’s a little fuzzy. But here goes:

I just finished reading a book that I loved, but sometimes, I had to MAKE myself keep turning the pages. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? It was, and I had mixed feelings about it. I loved every scene, every character. The villains were deliciously complicated, and sometimes, I actually felt sympathetic to them–the sign of a good writer. But sometimes, the decisions the main character made felt forced. They worked for the plot and led to tension and battles, but I kept thinking there might have been a better way to handle the situation, and that the character was smart enough to think about something less dangerous. True, the bad guy is forcing her hand, but the story felt like she was reacting to one threat after another without ever saying, “Hey, what if…..?” But then that might be just me. I usually think first, act later. My daughter read the same book and said it was her favorite in the entire series. But then my daughter has no fear. Just goes to show you. But my reaction to the story made me think.

A character’s motivations have to feel REAL. He has to want something enough that he’ll take risks to get it or achieve it. But the risks have to make sense. It’s hard for me to follow a hero who doesn’t care, who’s so blase’, he just goes through the motions to see what happens. I have just as much trouble following a hero who takes risks he doesn’t need to, someone who puts himself and his friends in trouble when there’s a better way to solve the problem. Conflicted motivations are really hard to pull off, and that’s where I ran into trouble in the book I read. People are complicated, and I like that. But when a character is so complicated that I can’t decide what he’s trying to achieve, I waffle.

The other thing that slowed me down in this book was the nonstop action. After three fight scenes back to back, I just got tired. I had to put the book down to take a break. Don’t get me wrong. These were some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever read. But there were a LOT of them. Books need tension, and that tension has to build and build and build. But sometimes, I need to catch my breath.

Did I love this book? Yes, but not as much as the last one. Will I read the next book in the series? A big yes. Did this book make me think about writing and what works for me and what doesn’t? A resounding yes, because I kept asking myself, How can each scene be so good, and I need to put the book down for a minute?

Reading other writers, really good writers, are such great learning experiences. Hope you find authors who push you to be a better writer.

Writing and YA

I have three friends who write YA. I love their writing and love their stories, but I don’t know the genre that well, so invited Susan Bahr to be a guest on my blog this week. She reads and writes YA and is generous enough to share her ideas with us. I think they can apply to all good writing. Thanks, Sue!

Thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts on Young Adult fantasy, Judy!
I’ll call this post “The Evolution of Sue, the author.”

It started almost five years ago, when I launched into writing. Oh, those days of blissful ignorance. Genre? Plot structure? Voice? I didn’t even understand POV! But I was on fire, and the words just flowed.
Flash forward about a year and picture brave little Sue prepping for her first agent pitch session at her first writer’s conference. I thought I was prepared, until one of my fellow attendees turned to me and asked, “So, what’s your story’s genre?” Gulp. She must have read the terror in my eyes, because she took pity and helped me figure something out. And I’ll be forever grateful.

Advance another year or two and now I’m batting around writing terms like an old pro. My knowledge has expanded, but one thing has remained consistent: my love for young adult fantasy. Here’s a fun fact: More adults read Young Adult fiction than young adults. A survey in 2012 put the number of adult readers at 55%. As of 2014, it’s 68%!! No more closet reading for old Sue (which is a good thing, as my eyes aren’t what they used to be)

I read YA fantasy. I write YA fantasy. And here are just three reasons why I believe every author can benefit from reading at least one YA fantasy this year.

1. Pacing. No brainer. Young people watch six second clips (Vines), communicate in 140 characters and snap-chat. Long-winded, slow-developing plots just aren’t going to cut it with this crowd. I believe, even if I wasn’t writing YA, that my stories have benefited from understanding this basic rule: Never bore your readers.
2. Strong protagonists. Most seem to be female and what’s wrong with that? These characters have an arc, a goal, and usually some kind of kick-ass quality that sets them apart. They also must grab and hold a young reader, so they need to feel well-rounded.
3. Visual action. Lots and lots of showing, not telling. Fantasy novels must, by definition, set the reader in a well-defined world and THAT requires all the senses. I love stepping into a new place with new rules. I love reading and I love writing fantasy for the world-building.

I now have three completed manuscripts, all in various stages of editing. Each one is unique. Each one is a Young Adult. If you’d like to check out my writing, you can find it at:

http://www.wattpad.com/user/vermontwriter
My author blog can be found at http://www.suebahr.com

Happy reading!
Sue

Sue’s summer reads:
FullSizeRender

Sue and I traded blogs this week, so my usual post can be found on her blog. Hope you check it out: https://suebahr.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/passiveactive-voice-explained-finally/

And P.S. My 3rd Wolf’s Bane novel–Magicks Uncaged–is now available on Kindle:

Writing Goals 2013

I’ve been reading more books that are outside of my usual tastes lately, and it’s been good for me.  It’s made me think about what makes a good book.  When I read my favorite authors, I expect them to deliver certain things really well.  And they almost always do…that’s why they’re my favorites. But when I try a new author or a new genre, I don’t know what to expect, and I end up paying more attention to how the plot is constructed and the characters are developed.  It makes me think more about what works and what doesn’t…and how I’ve told my own stories, and how I can tell them better.

Things I’ve learned:

1.  Great scenes do not necessarily create a great book.  I’ve read quite a few novels lately where each scene is entertaining, and I keep turning the pages, but when I finish the novel, I realize something was lacking.  I enjoyed the book, but I didn’t love it.  The book didn’t demand much from me, so I didn’t invest much into it.  The novel’s a great one-shot read, but I wouldn’t go back for more.

2.  Repetition kills tension.  Every author knows that repeating information in a novel is redundant and loses a reader’s interest, but using the same technique over and over again gets old too.  I quit reading mystery writers who killed someone every time their plot started to sag.  I’m not against a death here or there to keep tension up, but enough is enough.  And glopping on more gore doesn’t make the scene more original.  The same goes for battles in fantasy novels.  Even if the writer adds a new element each time to keep the scenes fresh, the technique gets old.  The writer needs to change it up and surprise us.  Don’t be predictable.

3.  Angst isn’t enough to make me like a character.  Every protagonist has a problem, or an author wouldn’t have a story.  I’ve read a few stories lately where the writer straps a bad choice/experience onto the main character, and she carries it everywhere with her.  It affects the way she interacts with others.  I like that.  It adds depth, but it’s not enough.  The character has to come alive as a person to hold my interest.  She does this through her actions, not her thoughts.  What she does says more about her than lots of internal dialogue.

4.  Balance is hard to find.  My favorite books get it right.  Every main character comes to life.  No character fills a “slot”–this is the love interest, this is the bad guy, this is the potential body when someone has to die, etc.  There’s internal and external conflict, and there’s tension between characters.  Every scene has a purpose and conflict of some kind.

5.  Knowing the rules of good writing and doing them are two different things.  But my goal for 2013 is to try to grow as a writer, to make my stories more powerful or to involve the reader more.

Also, I want to thank anyone who’s taken the time to write any kind of feedback for my stories or novels, from long reviews to one sentence opinions.  I appreciate it.  Constructive criticism is a blessing.  It makes me think.

I hope 2013 is a great year for all of you–whatever your endeavors.  And if you’re an author, I hope you flex your writing muscles and your stories are better than ever.  What’s your favorite novel?  And why?