The Lure of Words by Tara Fox Hall

Tara Fox Hall Guest Blogging at aecurzon.wordpress.com

I am very happy to introduce once more, the delightful Tara Fox Hall, with her thoughts on the possible pitfalls of writing a series. Welcome back Tara and lots of luck with your new book – Taken in the Night.

We authors usually began writing because we love stories. What can compare to losing yourself for a few hours—-or longer!—in a superb novel that makes everyday hassles fade into dust? Readers love to discover new worlds. We writers feel compelled to create them, to make our own alternate reality of good and evil, conflict and compromise, passion and betrayal. Yet there is also a pitfall here lying in wait for authors that readers never have to learn to avoid: the lure of words.

When creating a rough draft of a manuscript, authors usually do their own thing. For me, it’s jotting down all kind of ideas on where the plot should go (or might go), as well as the key events or period of time I want to cover in the book. As I write, I check my notes for ideas on what comes next. This usually results in several ideas not being used in the final draft, as they—for whatever reason—have nothing to do with the central plot of the given work in progress. This is not to say that the ideas aren’t good, only that they aren’t relevant to the ideas the book presents (or don’t work to move events along in a series work). These “N/A ideas” get put aside. Taken for His Own - Book CoverAfter the final draft is complete, I again read through the book several times for content, answering questions left hanging (ex: how did character X get home for the next scene, where did character Y get the gun he’s got in Chapter 4, etc.). This is done to make sure that everything flows evenly and the action moves right long. But there is also a final step I do, which is read through to make sure that every word I’ve used is necessary. As I read, if I begin to skip sections out of boredom, I take a hard look to make sure those sections need to be there. Anything that is superfluous is deleted, like a sentence whose subject is restated from the one previous. Passages of merit that don’t belong are cut out and saved for a possible later use in a future book.

This drive to be concise as possible might seem extreme to some, especially as there is no tight word count on novels as a rule. Writers could also argue that most readers want the books they love to be long, to draw out their reading enjoyment as long as possible. While that’s true, most any reader at some point in their lives read a tome that was verbose and overly long. I see this most often in fantasy, but lately in other works as well, especially series books. There are sections—and sometimes chapters—that could be summarized by a page, a paragraph, or sometimes even be left out…and the book itself still remains whole and complete. Writers who do this have fallen victim to the lure of words. 

Succumbing to the lure of words is a gradual process. The first stories a writer pens usually are short, or at least direct. Few words are wasted in the telling of the tale, and there is likely little elaboration or false clues (in mystery writing circles, this used to be known as a red herring: an informal fallacy that leads the reader to a false conclusion, making the story more exciting than a straightforward plot). But the more books a novelist produces, the harder it becomes to rein in a work, especially in a series. More and more characters come on the scene, each with their own histories. Landscapes evolve (ex: a world which before comprised of two cities and the land between them now adds on a sea, several other cities across the sea, and five most cities inland from the initial two). Some of this happens because the longer a story is, by necessity the more complex it must become to sustain the ongoing action. There is also possibly an unconscious desire by the author not to end the series, especially if it’s popular. So early books which held lots of action and suspense give way to sequels where not much happens, even as the books themselves get longer. This complication of the story along with “plot drag” tends to upset the reader and leave them unsatisfied. In this, a writer must always remember that they are telling a story not only for themselves, but also for their audience.

Resist the lure of words, series writers. Your readers will thank you for it!

Taken in the Night Book CoverBlurb for Taken in the Night: When Theo disappears, Sar is left bereft, the uncertain guardian of Theo’s newly born werecougar daughter, Elle. As months pass, clues emerge about Theo’s disappearance, yet the twisting trail ends repeatedly without answer. In her grief, Sar turns to Danial and hesitantly begins to build a life with him and Elle.

Excerpt: Lying on my pillow was a small box of Godiva Chocolate. I picked up the card beside it.

“To my Love, on our third Christmas, Danial.”

I put the chocolates beside my bed, resisting the urge to eat one. The next thing I knew, it was Christmas afternoon.

Danial was gone when I awoke, the rumpled bed the only testament that he’d come to bed. Worried he was up, I wrapped a robe around me, and went looking for him. Opening the bedroom door, I stepped into flowers.

There were vases everywhere, with roses of all colors: red, white, yellow, blue, pink, and multi-colored. The sweet fresh scent of roses wakened my senses. I took a deep breath.

“Here’s another one,” Terian said with a grin, handing me a bucket filled with water and more roses. “We’ve run out of vases.”

I took it from him, taking a deep breath in the silky petals. “How many did he order?”

“One for each day we have spent together,” said Danial from above me.

I looked up to the loft, meeting Danial’s eyes. “Danial, that is over five hundred flowers!” I said, shocked.

“Five hundred, thirty-three,” he replied with a loving smile. “I’ve been listening for you to get up for hours, hoping you’d delay long enough to get them in position. There are four hundred and eighty here so far, so it was pretty close.”

“I can’t believe you did this,” I said slowly, looking around me in wonder.

“This Christmas called for more than a box of chocolate,” he said, leaning over the railing, his dark hair falling forward. “And I know you like flowers.”

“I love them,” I said, burying my face again in soft fresh petals.

“Here’s another,” Elle said, carrying in an armful. “There are no more containers.”

“I’ll get another bucket,” Terian said, rolling his eyes, and we all broke into laughter.

Buy links for Taken in the Night

amazon.us

amazon.co.uk

Smashwords

Lulu – (Print copies)

Melange Books – (HTML and PDF)

Author Links

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Other Books by Tara Fox Hall 

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Woo Hoo! “Mungai” is the Main Feature This Week on The Bridge of Deaths Blog

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - A Children's Book by Amelia E Curzon - Book CoverMUNGAI AND THE GOA CONSTRICTOR

(recommended reading age: 9 to 90)

Probably one of the best books you and your family will read this year!

Likened to both Orwell’s Animal Farm and Kipling’s Jungle Book (though a very different tale) it is hoped Mungai and the Goa Constrictor will …… Read more at: The Bridge of Deaths on Tumblr

Guest Post: Of Charity and Consequence by Tara Fox Hall

A huge thanks to Amelia Curzon for having me again at her blog.  Initially she had asked me here to talk a little bit about two charity anthologies I recently contributed to. But there was something else I needed to say…Tara Fox Hall Guest Blogging at aecurzon.wordpress.com

A wise man named Edmund Burke said once that all that was needed for evil in the world to triumph was for good people to do nothing, and he’s right. It is f-ing hard to live in the world today and contend with all the hassles that a normal day requires, plus make that extra effort to help someone in need. It’s much easier to make excuses and not help, especially when it’s not a life or death situation. The consequences of non-action don’t always have to be personally dealt with, or the resulting suffering seen firsthand. As time goes on, it usually gets easier to pretend that everything worked out okay without your help.

Before anyone thinks I’m casting stones self-righteously, I admit that I’ve done this. One night last April as I was going down to town with my husband to a friend’s party, he remarked that we had passed a cat hit in the road. I didn’t make him go back because we were already late. Two or three hours later, going home, we both saw that there were now two cats hit in the road only a few feet apart. This time I made him stop, and got out to pull them off….and found to my horror that one of the cat’s was still alive, just paralyzed. I got him off the road, but he still died in my arms. And I will wonder the rest of my life if I had pulled the initial cat’s body out of the road when we first went past if the other cat—who was likely his friend/companion—would have gotten hit at all.

Click here to read the entire heart-wrenching story on my Goodreads Blog

In short, I’ve felt overworked and overloaded and let a situation slide that I should have addressed (or instead addressed it too late, as above). But these are always the moments I look back on with shame, because I know—and I knew then— I should have acted differently. And I don’t want to be that person. I want to be someone who tries her best to help to the best of her ability, and looks back with satisfaction that she did the right thing. Maybe I won’t get it right every time. But I’m sure as hell going to give it my best shot.

Now onto the charity anthologies!

Fear Anthology'sBook Cover from Guest Blog at aecurzon.wordpress.com

Fear: A Modern Anthology of Horror and Terror brings together, for the first time, tales of murder, monsters and madness, by sixty of the world’s best indie horror authors. My short story “Grandma’s House” is in Volume #1. All royalties from sales will go directly to the international charities, Barnardos and Médecins Sans Frontières (a.k.a. Doctors Without Borders). At 99 cents, it’s a steal!
Amazon Link

Excerpt from “Granma’s House”:

Granma’s house was huge, by most standards. It wasn’t a mansion by any means, but there were a full 3 floors, and a large basement, though there was no way in hell I was going down there, not even if the furnace shut off…

Where had that thought come from? I’d never been scared of anything in my life. And why should I be afraid here? No one had been murdered here, or anything…

There was a soft noise from upstairs, so soft I wondered if I’d heard anything. God, what was wrong with me? I was imagining something out to get me. No wonder my doctor had prescribed tomorrow’s procedure.

Angry with myself, I turned on some lights, then settled into my Granma’s chair. What should I read? I’d brought a novel—horror, of course—and some old Flinch comic books, and also some stationery with sailboats on it to catch up on letters. I sifted through the paper, only then realizing that it had been my grandfather’s. His name and this address were on each page across the top

I had the crazy thought that if I wrote my thoughts down and left them in his room upstairs, he would be able to read them. We could communicate that way…

“Stop it,” I told myself angrily, setting down the cards. “You know that’s not true. What has everyone been telling you?”

I got up again, then looked at the clock. It was near nine, definitely time for bed. But as I got my duffel bag and went to grasp the old hallway door, I heard that noise again upstairs, a soft sound.

“Stop being stupid!” I said aloud angrily, then wrenched the door open and went to the base of the stairs.

Plastic still coated the thick carpet. But my grandfather had been a big believer in plastic. We had teased Granma after he died, telling her that we’d expected she would get covered in plastic bags and labeled, then put in a closet, as he’d done to practically everything else they owned.

But she had, didn’t she? a voice inside my head said. She got covered in plastic bag in that kitchen, when she died there.      

I pushed the thought aside, then put my foot on the step. A slight creek answered the pressure, louder as I put my full weight on it.

Should have remembered these stairs, I thought. Every single one creaks.

The noise from upstairs came again. This time I couldn’t tell myself it had been my imagination.

I waited, fear sliding up my spine.

The sound came again, footsteps maybe. Soft creaking, too slow to be anything else.

Someone was up there? Who? Grandpa? I couldn’t see. The staircase was a split level, with the upper part at a right angle to the first, and hidden by a wall, I wouldn’t see what it was until it stood right in front of me..

The sounds approached, until they were at the top of the stairs.

“Grandpa?” I said, my voice creaking more than the stairs, so it came out like a child’s plea.

There was silence, then a creak, deliberate. And close.

Whatever it was, it was coming down the stairs.

I held my ground, fighting the urge to run. This had to be a ghost, and it if was, it surely meant me no harm, Hadn’t I just been asking to communicate? If my grandpa was making the effort, what kind of jerk would I be to run away?

Another creak came, another step descended.

What if it wasn’t a ghost? What if it was someone crazy who’d broken in and was using the empty house for a base? A serial killer or something? Maybe the noises I’d heard had been him killing a victim!

Another creak, another step.

That couldn’t be true. It wasn’t logical, the doors had all been locked, everything had been secure. There was even a layer of dust on the floor I’d disturbed coming in here…

Another creak. Another stair. Whatever it was, it was halfway to the landing.

I just had to be brave…I had to trust that my fear was irrational. It had to be a ghost. And I would be woman enough to stand here and face it.

The sounds stopped. Whatever was there was waiting. But waiting for what?

Wild at Heart Vol II Book Cover on Guest Blog at aecurzon.wordpress.comWild at Heart Young Adult Stories (Vol. II) is a collection of short stories that includes a wonderful variety of contemporary and paranormal tales, and was produced by the Diamond State Romance Authors as a project of love to benefit the residents of the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. All profits from this collection will go directly to the refuge to help with the care and feeding of the rescued animals. This anthology includes my short story, “Heart’s Solace.”

Amazon Link

Excerpt from Heart’s “Solace”:

The next few months were magical. Nazdeha was a perfect companion, following Tasha everywhere. They explored the forest, her on horseback, and he in the trees shadowing her. They spent hours lounging in the sun, Tasha reading to Nazdeha as the great cat lolled with eyes closed, her head pillowed on his flank. He slept in her bed, his bulk curled on one side of the great king size bed, Tasha on the other.

The great cat communicated through nods and shakes of his head. He purred when he was pleased or thankful, and distanced himself from her when he was upset. Encouraged, Tasha made an alphabet from large pieces of paper, and laid them out on the floor, telling him to step on the letters, to spell out words for her. “Tell me who you are,” she said excitedly, pencil and paper in hand.

Instead of the expected grateful purr, Tasha’s efforts instead got her a shake of the head, and the silent treatment for the rest of the night.

Tasha was undaunted by Nazdeha’s refusal to communicate beyond yes and no answers. She remained convinced he was a man under a curse, like in fairy tales  Several times, she pleaded with him to change his form, to show her the man she knew he must be.

But Nazdeha would only look at her, as if he couldn’t understand. Afterwards, he always would retreat away from her and curl into a ball for at least an hour.

Surmising he was trapped in lion form, Tasha stopped mentioning it. Talk of what he had once been only upset him. She had no way to break a curse. That he was here with her was enough for Tasha.

****

Late summer became fall. And with the winter wind came a letter from Tasha’s father, telling her he would not be home again for Christmas, but that she was welcome to meet him in Moscow, if she wanted to make the trip.

Tasha tore up the letter. “He knows I hate the city,” she said. “Besides, I couldn’t take you there, Nazdeha. I’m not leaving you here alone for the holidays.”

The cougar nuzzled her shoulder, his loud purr a vibration she felt through her thick sweater.

“Do you need to go out before bed?” Tasha asked. “It’s close to midnight.”

Nazdeha nodded, then jumped up off the bed, and walked to the bedroom door.

Tasha followed, opening the door so he could leave.

The lion trotted out.

Instead of readying herself for bed, as she usually did, Tasha paused, and then looked out the door, watching the shadow of the lion as it traveled down the long hallway.

Nazdeha had headed for the kitchen, not outside to relieve himself.

Curious, Tasha hurried after the cat, creeping down the long hallway and into the kitchen. A naked man was in front of the refrigerator, his scarred back to her as he ate pickles from a jar. She let out a gasp.

The man heard her and swore, then grabbed a dishtowel to cover himself. “Don’t look at me!”

Tasha turned away, her cheeks burning. “So you can change form.”

“Yes,” came the hesitant reply. “Go upstairs, Tasha. I’ll leave—”

His voice was rough, either naturally or from disuse. It was the sexiest voice she had ever heard in her life. “You’ll do nothing of the kind. Don’t you dare change back, Nazdeha. I think I deserve some answers.”

“It’s Theo, actually,” the man said sadly. “That’s my real name.”

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For info on my recently published series books Lash: Shadow Man and Broken Promise, click on the titles

Guest Post: Portraying My Characters as Real Human Beings by Dianne Lynn Gardner

Author Dianne Lynn Gardner

I am very happy to introduce my guest for the week, Dianne Gardner, who asks if teenagers can turn their awareness of their parent’s inadequacies into respect for them, as Ian, the main protagonist in her book does, and grasp what a large part the power of love plays. Welcome Dianne and thank you for being here.

As much as Ian wants him to be, Alex Wilson isn’t a perfect father.

I’ve heard a little buzz about my book Deception Peak concerning that very subject. Alex Wilson, a grown man, a father, doesn’t make excellent choices, he’s a little selfish actually and  the reader wonders if they can trust him. But really, as they say, there’s a method behind the madness! It wasn’t an accident.

I wanted to write a book that teen-age boys can relate to. I don’t come from a perfectIan Wilson from the book Deception Peak by Dianne Gardner family, and my kids certainly weren’t raised in one. I see many, many children being raised in single parent homes. Often the parents aren’t much more mature than the kids. Not their fault. Perhaps they had emotional issues that set them back. In Alex’s case, he’s still surviving the death of his spouse, and coming to grips with being a single parent.  No one taught him how and he certainly didn’t expect things to turn out like they did.

A broken family means imperfection.

How could I put a perfect dad in a book meant for teens living in an imperfect world?

They’d know I was lying to them.

Alex Wilson - A character in Deception Peak by Dianne Lynn GardnerAnd you know, there isn’t anything in the Book of Life that says just because we reach a certain age (adulthood— when’s that by the way?) we’re going to make perfect choices… like there’s some software programmed into our brains that clicks on at age such-and-such.

If I were writing that message in my stories, than woe to the kids who’d be waiting around for the reboot!

It just doesn’t happen. And it isn’t fair to kids to try and convince them otherwise.

We are in the middle of a journey. Child, young adult, adult, senior, whatever stage we’re at, we’re learning and growing. Hopefully we get some sense  as we grow older, but there are events in life that can set us back too.

What’s important, and something that I wanted to make sure the reader gets from the series, is that no matter how many faults Ian finally realizes his father has-he still loves him.

No matter how many personal problems parents have today; problems like Dad not paying child support, or not coming around to see their children enough, or Mom drinking too much, or Mom and Dad fighting, or even Mom and Dad not understanding what the kids are going through…the real issue Deception Peak addresses is, how can I love my parent despite his or her inadequacies?

For Ian, he doesn’t even see it as a choice. He loves his dad. Period. But he wrestles with passing judgment on him none the less. It isn’t until his eyes are opened to how others view the world, that he realizes his critical eye.

Indeed, the need for family becomes evident in the midst of tragedy, and Ian is exposed to tragedy.

One of the most crucial eye openers Ian gets is when he meets Vilfred for the first time. A cripple, unable to move but for his friendly smile and wise advice, Ian learns the story of Vilfred’s sacrifice to save an undeserving people from their own idol worship. It humbles Ian. Vilfred is a man who was much like his own father once. A hunter, strong, caring. With Vilfred as his mentor, Ian begins to appreciate his father, and to respect him.

As a side note, compared to some of the situations kids find themselves in these days I’d say Alex Wilson is a pretty cool dad – regardless of taking the plunge with his son into a dangerous and mysterious realm.

“Deception Peak”, published by Hydra Publications, is available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle  formats.

Hydra Publications

Official book blog

Book video trailer

Deception Peak by Dianne Lynn Gardner- Book cover

Children’s Book of the Week: The Adventures of the Frog Prince

The Adventures of the Frog Prince Book cover

My choice for this week’s Children’s Book of the Week is the fun read, The Adventures of the Frog Prince by J.R. Barker. This is a quick and witty read which I would deem suitable for 8/9 year olds and upwards.

Please come over and read more about this fun book at Mungai and the Goa Constrictor