Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Ghostly Halloween

It's the time of year to pull those pumpkin vines, bundle the corn stalks and put away the outdoor furniture. Fall is for coming to the hearth with a good book and a hot cup of cocoa-a time to look inward and reminisce about spring and summer days that warmed the garden and brought forth the crops for harvest.

The sudden shift of light, the clouds with hints of a storm bundled inside, the night that comes more quickly . . . all of these are October, and there's a slight charge in the air as the old myths stir within our memory.

Persephone once again returns to Hades as she was bound to do. Demeter bemoans the loss of her daughter and the earth goes silent and infertile for the months they are separated.

Now is the time for ghosts to walk among us, while our minds grow quiet in the long chilled nights.

I haven't written a ghost story in a few years, but I had a couple published a while ago in Crow Toes Quarterly, so I thought to celebrate the season, I'd share this one. It's written for middle grade readers, so I hope you'll print it and read it or give it to a young reader who would like to be a tad scared by the THE GHOSTLY DOUBLE.

photo by sgrunt

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Visit from Beth Fehlbaum

I'm so excited to have a fellow WestSide author, BETH FEHLBAUM visit me this week. Here are some of the things Beth has to say about her books, HOPE IN PATIENCE and COURAGE IN PATIENCE. She tells us a bit about herself and shares some advice for writers. Welcome, Beth.

What triggered the idea for your books, Hope in Patience and Courage in Patience?

I had been in therapy for a little over a year. I was sexually abused from the age of 8 to 15 and emotionally abused much longer than that. I was writing stories and poems as a way of processing my grief, disbelief, and rage, and sharing them with my therapist.  One day, he suggested that I try writing a novel.  I tried for about four months but I kept ending up in the same place of trying to figure out why I had been abused and why my mom turned her back on me when I asked for help as a teen, and again when I told her I was struggling with what happened in my childhood.  

One day I realized that I was getting nowhere and decided to try telling a story of recovery from the point of view of a 15 year old girl who was a recent transplant to the Piney Woods of East Texas.  That’s how Ashley Nicole Asher, age 15, and the tiny East Texas town of Patience came to be. 

In my own life, I longed for a father since I had never really known my biological father, and my stepfather was my perpetrator, so I gave Ashley a very strong father figure in David.  

I guess you could say that what triggered the Patience series was my own longing to understand and move past my own pain. 

Is there a favorite line or two from either of your books that you'd like to share with us?

The sentence that serves as the preface for Courage in Patience is, “Courage is not so much avoiding danger but is conquering it.” And the sentence that prefaces Hope in Patience is, “Hope is the opposite of fear.”  Both of those are credited to “A wise person”—and that wise person is my (now-former) therapist.  

Are you working on another book? Can you give us a sneak preview?

I am working on Truth in Patience, the third and probably last book in the Patience series. It opens with Ashley making out with her boyfriend, Joshua, who we meet in Hope in Patience—and she’s struggling with something that’s very common to survivors of sexual abuse—the desire to be close to someone she loves, conflicting with this screaming, freaking out inner voice that is basically setting off sirens in her head because it’s so, so difficult to be physically close with someone when the only “version” of that the victim has previously had was in the context of molestation or rape.  I’m about four chapters in so far, and I plan on finishing the first draft the summer of 2011. 

What's been the most exciting/daunting part of becoming a published author?

It’s very exciting to be nominated for an award: Hope in Patience was nominated for a 2011 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  It’s exciting to be a more public person, and also somewhat daunting.  I’m starting to be asked to speak at things like luncheons and crime victim support group meetings, and that’s both exciting and a little nerve-wracking.  One thing I’ve learned from my life experiences is to compare things that make me nervous to the worst things that I’ve ever been through.  It really helps put it in perspective!  Even though it’s not always easy for me to “come out” as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I really want people to know that there is hope for recovery.  It’s a very hard road to travel, but it can be done. 

Is there anything you can share with hopeful writers that might help them-- something about writing or seeking representation or preparing for publication.

I would encourage them to “just write.”  Write for the joy that it brings you or the feeling it gives you inside, and write the very best manuscript you can for yourself…THEN worry about finding an agent and selling your work.  Believe in yourself and never give up.

As far as preparing for publication, it’s a lot of hard work.  Publicists are great, and I do have one for the launch of Hope in Patience, but writers need to be aware that to get your book “out there”, it takes an enormous amount of self-promotion.  If you just sit back and wait for your books to become known, it probably won’t happen. 

I invite readers to stop by my WEBSITE, and check out Chapter previews for both Hope in Patience and Courage in Patience! 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Drac Facts

He look pretty suave to me.
I hadn't read Dracula in a long while, so I checked out a copy of the latest edition and found a fascinating introduction by Joan Acocella (American journalist and dance critic for the New Yorker.) She shared so many interesting facts that I'd either forgotten or never heard of, and, since they heightened my appreciation of this iconic novel, I thought I'd share some with you to celebrate this dark season.

First, as you probably know the lovely idea of the living dead wasn't orignial with Bram Stoker. These creatures had been around in European folklore for a long time before Stoker created the sensual count and captured the imagination of the reading public. "Captured the imagination" is another way of saying "lured them with the forbidden." 

"I love those taboos," and so say all of us.
The idea of the suave, enticing male figure didn't originate with Stoker. It was Lord Byron's personal physician, John Pilidori,  who wrote The Vampyre: A Tale and published it in 1819. He might even have crafted his undead character after the handsome Byron himself and used an outline of a story Bryon had started. By all accounts, The Vampyre was an erotic tale, luring readers with innocent virgins and an irresistible fiend. Wowzer! No wonder it was a hit. Remember, in last week's post I suggested writers could keep readers hooked by exploring taboos; the good doctor must have known that.  

Here's something I had never read before. Mary Gowin was a guest of Lord Byron's good friend and neighbor,  Percy Bysshe Shelley, during a summer stay at Lake Geneva. As a game several of the guests wrote or started to write ghost stories. While Polidore worked on his Vampyre story, eighteen-year-old Gowin began writing Frankenstein. This was in 1816. I would say that there were some significant ghostly vibes around that Swiss lake that year.

There have been more than 150 movies made about Dracula. The first one was a silent film titled Nosferatu and came out in 1922.

Bella Lugosi began playing Count Dracula on stage in 1927 and became the count on screen for most of his career. It wasn't what he wanted, but in the end it made him famous. Ms. Acocella writes, "[Lugosi] was buried in his Dracula cloak."

Bram Stoker was born outside of Dublin in 1847. He was very ill  and bedridden until he was seven, and mentioned how that time alone, turned him into an introspective person whose thoughts during those early years became books in his later ones.

About 1871 he turned to acting, but didn't do very well. Next he became a drama critic (sounds like revenge to me) and started to write short stories. His first novel, The Snake's Pass was published in in1890. He publishes Dracula in 1897.
Bram Stoker
So what other facts are there about our famous writer and his famous book, Dracula? Can you share them here? Thanks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Write Good and Spooky

I was thinking about all the books that I've read that were really spooky. You know the ones you can't read after dark when your home alone? My top hit when I was a kid was Dracula or anything vampyrish. I went back to the original Bram Stoker book the other day and started reading it again. It still "got to me" enough that 1) I kept reading and 2) I tried to warn those characters about the dude with the weird eyes.

So why did this story grab me and scare me . . . again? Here's what I came up with and here's what I think I, as a writer, have to master. See what you think and let me know what else I need to add to this list of strategies.

Strategy #1 Keep 'em guessing--the characters, that is. What one character knows, the other(s) shouldn't, but the reader should. That will drive the reader "bats," and he'll keep urging each character to wake up, turn around, pay attention!

Strategy #2 Take your time cluing those characters into what's afoot. Make the character very slooow to discover what the reader knows.

Jonathan Harker Knows He's Dracula's Prisoner
Strategy #3 Let the characters understand and have control in their world, but show that they ain't dealing with their world as they know it. All the time these characters are doing what they know is right or logical and that has worked in the past, mysterious events continue around them and that evil dude is doing people in--maybe getting ready to do in those oblivious characters too.

Strategy #4 Never make the the bad guy all bad and good guy all good. It's really tantalizing when the bad guy is handsome, kind of sweet, but deadly. A little avarice, cowardice or greed in the good guy makes it a little harder to root for him at times, so the reader is conflicted: pull for the hero or his enemy who is totally awesome and exciting?

Strategy #5 Give your female characters some backbone, yet keep them vulnerable and feminine, witty, sometimes wise and sometimes (especially when it comes to that evil guy) foolish.

Strategy #6 Get into some of those cultural taboos and show how the characters really feel about them, The forbidden is always enticing and should be for those people in your book as well as those reading it.

So what else can a writer do to hook the reader and keep him hooked until The End?

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's October and Some Vampyres are Loose

Welcome debut author, ELIZABETH KOLOSZIEJ who's kicking off my new series dedicated to October.
 VAMPYRE KISSES is a great way to start this month that's all about stories of the dead or the undead, those spirits who feast on the living. And look at her cover! Eye-catching, isn't it? But wait! There's super contest as well. Check it out here.

Thanks for stopping in and for answering all my questions, Elizabeth.

 My first one is how do you pronounce your last name? It's an intriguing set of consonants and vowels, but if I ever meet you in person I'll mess it up.

It’s funny; I have only had a handful of people capable of pronouncing it correctly the first time around. Most of those people are Polish though, which is the origin of the name. It is pronounced, KO-LA-G. People ask why I didn’t use a pen name and I simply tell them, it is because I want people to learn how to pronounce it and spell it. That way I don’t have to go through the: K O L O D (as in David) Z (as in Zerbra) I E J (as in Jack). Hehe.

What drew you to writing about vampires?

I always explain to people that it is my mother’s fault and it really is. Because of her I grew up with vampires and the supernatural around me because she was interested in it. She watched Buffy, read Ann Rice, and even play The Masquerade. She is one of my greatest resources to go to when I am having a vampire dilemma.
Since it was around me I grew to love it too and it just interested me to no end. There is so much controversy around the subject of vampires and their abilities and such. It really just felt natural to write about it. Like falling in love you don’t understand what it always is about that person but you are in love with them and no one else. Same thing goes for why I write about the supernatural.

Besides your book, do you have a favorite classic and/or a favorite contemporary vampire story?

It is so difficult to pick just one vampire story I love. It really depends on the time and what is around. At this moment, I have fallen for Jeaniene Frost’s books, which tell the story of Cat and Bones. The writing is phenomenal.
But no, I don’t have just one favorite. I draw inspiration and get influenced by every story I read. Each one does something for me in a different way.

Every book is unique in some way, but there are thousands of vampire stories. How does your book stand out from the rest? What will the readers

Readers are actually finding that Vampyre Kisses is really different from the more popular books out there. Most of the uniqueness comes from the Greek Mythology mixed with Folklore and my own imagination. You get to actually see the gods in my book and hear them speak. Along with this, there is a great in depth history on vampires and how they came to be. Finally, I have included a witch, which (haha) is something not a lot of people include in a vampire story. I know Kim Harrison does but her world is very different from mine.
Tell us a bit about your MC. She sounds like an amazing character with a legacy of witchcraft and a quest to take on. If this is turned into a movie who would you select to play her? And how about Trent? In your trailer, he's got the "eyes."
When I think of Faith the first thing that comes to mind is how determined of a person she is. Even though she has her breaking points in the book she still manages to get to her feet and keep going. She is more intelligent than some female leads but it does take her a little while to understand everything clearly. But to me that just says that she likes to know all the perspectives and understand the situation perfectly before coming up with a solution. Faith is a loving and caring woman who would do just about anything for anyone.
Trent is a vampire I really love; mostly because he really loves being a vampire and drinking blood. I personally get tired of reading about vampires who hate being vampires and such. I always think, ok go stand out in the sun and die then if it’s THAT bad. But Trent is a vampire that is extremely protective of Faith and would do anything to save her. Sometimes he feels like she doesn’t need him though because she is showing that she can do so much on her own. Trent will learn that she does need him, more than he realizes.   
If Vampyre Kisses were turned into a movie I would actually want “no-bodies” to play the parts. It is really difficult for me to see Faith and Trent and so far no one in Hollywood has struck me. I think it would be hard for me to pick out my characters because I am so attached to them and see them as something unique.  
That was great, Elizabeth. Here are the places you can find Vampyre Kisses, so for a great October read buy now.

Barnes & Noble

Be sure to visit Elizabeth on facebook and Twitter. She'd appreciate your friendship and your follow.