Friday, June 28, 2013

Dark Fantasy Short Story

I published one of my short stories, No Vacancy, on Amazon. Check it out!

Never underestimate the constricting power fear holds.

Everyone in the city has a demon inside them. The monsters are submissive— for now. A barrier prevents them from infecting the world. Half-human, Trinny Bates escaped demon possession. She and her guardian can leave this deadly city. So, why do they stay?

A shadow moved in her living room. Trinny Bates ignored it. It separated from the darkness and walked towards her bed. She still kept her eyes to the miserable ceiling. The shadow’s movements were erratic as though the bones were fighting to escape the flesh. It wasn’t her imagination. Trinny sat up to confront the intruder.

She slapped her face to shake away the grogginess and opened the darkness around the person. Now, instead of the blinding devil, thin smoke existed. Trinny focused. The figure gave her memories more power than necessary. They ravaged her mind, traveled down her throat and stomped on her heart. 

Marilyn Cory stood in front of her bed. No soul gleamed behind those eyes. Pernicious delight stopped Trinny from retrieving her gun. She took the joy at seeing her friend, rolled it in the back of her throat and tried to spit it out. Marilyn had been like a sister to her. She couldn’t shoot her. 

Marilyn’s naked body convulsed. The flesh fought the demon, had been fighting for too long. Her friend’s once bright green eyes were hollow. Most of her skin had rotted off and the rest resembled a bruised tomato.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: World War Z

When I first saw the trailer for World War Z, I was like this would be something I'd love to see if only Brad Pitt wasn't playing the lead. I haven't liked many of his movies. In the end, I reconsidered and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed this one. I  haven't read the book so I can't compare the two. From experience, I'd think the book would be much better.

First of all, on the day of the apocalypse, forget food and shelter, the first thing I'm doing is going the nearest gun store and loading up like Rambo. 

Although World War Z is a zombie apocalypse movie, there wasn't any gore or blood. Zombies were eating people, yes, but we didn't see it. All the bloody stuff happened off screen. Who knew there could be a tasteful zombie movie- and that it would work. 

You knew these things were zombies but they didn't look disgusting. Some zombies in other movies- the mere sight of them would turn your stomach. With World War Z, the scariest thing about the undead was how well they used their numbers. They were like ants. There was never just one or two of them. 

I loved watching them move. They were like a hoard of insects. I especially liked when we got a birds-eyes view of an area while the zombies and people were running. All we saw was a mass of moving black specks. 

I wouldn't say the story was perfect but I didn't notice the plot-holes until I started thinking about the movie afterwards. It really did have me on the edge of my seat. As soon as a scene was over, everything in me relaxed. I hadn't even noticed I was holding my breath. A movie hasn't had that effect on me in awhile. Some of the scenes reminded me of video games and why I have a love/hate relationship with them. You're traveling through an empty building/area, you know something is going to pop out and attack but you don't know when. The suspense alone could give you heart attacks. 

That being said, this movie would've been better if it was longer. Maybe, because of time, I don't know, they never explained what Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) actually did for the UN. I mean, wherever he went, he was treated like a VIP but I didn't understand why. Just saying he's from the UN means nothing to me. I understood that he had quit his job, it had him going to dangerous places and he was good at it. I could've done with a bit more back-story where Lane was concerned. The lack of info bothered me but not so much that I couldn't enjoy the movie. 

Also, we got to see what other counties were doing about the zombie apocalypse. The measures they took made sense. As for the United States, the movie made it look like we were relying on one person to save us. That's highly unlikely. 

In other apocalyptic movies involving one family, we get a dad who, for whatever reason- usually work- has lost touch with his wife and kids. Then, the world ends and while running for their lives, the father becomes a better man. His wife and kids love him again. All those warm and fuzzes are nice but that theme has gotten really tired. World War Z wasn't like that. At the beginning, we got that Lane had quit his job so he could be with his family.

Despite the fact that the movie focused on one man, the story managed to keep true to the title- it involved the world. All in all, a good way to spend a Saturday evening. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Narrative vs. Dialogue

How do you decided whether to use narrative or dialogue? 

When I got my manuscript back from the editor, one of the problems she had with a section was that she didn't understand who the people were. It was a total information dump.  It had been an internal monologue. So, to make it more understandable, I added interaction -dialogue- with other characters to show instead of tell. It reads a lot better.

Though I love classic horror stories by Poe and Lovecraft and stories by D.H. Lawrence, the one problem I have with their tales is that the first couple of pages are just nothing but narrative. I struggle through it because I know their style. The story eventually picks up. If you're a new writer, readers may not struggle through it. 

It's hard to get into the book if I only get what's going on the characters mind. I need some interaction. I've noticed, in most stories I read, that when I get to a section of narrative, I usually skim down to see when we'll get back to any dialogue. In most cases, I'd prefer information more through dialogue than narrative. That being said, narrative does have it's place. In gene fiction, especially with a story that takes place in another world, how do you balance the two? 

Here's an interesting discussion on Goodreads about this: Narrative versus Dialogue

Scenery (Setting)
This is where narrative comes in handy.  I mean, the characters can talk about what a place looks like but I'd rather have it through narrative. I'd say don't go crazy with the descriptions. If you do too much, you'll end up going right over the readers' heads. I've been known to skip sections because there was just way too much description. 

Time Passing
If we're with a character and several days have passed or the character is just traveling and nothing exciting is happening- this is another great place where narrative works better than dialogue. However, personal preference, the character may travel alone for a year, that doesn't mean I want a chapter's worth of narrative. They don't have to talk to anyone, they can overhear an important conversation. 

Breaking Up Dialogue
Dialogue is awesome. It's a great way to convey information. However, there is such a thing as too much talking. Remembering the novels I've read, I can't think of an instance where one had straight dialogue for one page. Even if the characters spent the entire chapter talking- as in the last chapters in the Harry Potter books- it's not just straight dialogue. If yours is a page long or more, use narrative to break it up. 

Information Dump
You have this power system you've created. You're just so proud of it that you want to unload all the information onto your reader, at one time. Don't do it. It's boring and it can confuse them. Most won't even remember it all. Decided what the reader needs to know at that moment. Mix it up. Give us narrative then have characters talking about their powers. 

The best way to know how to balance dialogue and narrative is to read- a lot. This way, you'll know what you like and what you don't like. For instance, I don't like when authors spend entire paragraphs describing every little detail of the character's appearance. That's too much narrative. 

Good Things to Remember From Writer's Digest:
  • "Is the story moving a little too slowly, and do I need to speed things up? (Use dialogue.)
  • Is it time to give the reader some background on the characters so they’re more sympathetic? (Use narrative, dialogue or a combination of the two.)
  • Do I have too many dialogue scenes in a row? (Use action or narrative.)
  • Are my characters constantly confiding in others about things they should only be pondering in their minds? (Use narrative.)
  • Likewise, are my characters alone in their heads when my characters in conversation would be more effective and lively? (Use dialogue.)
  • Is my story top-heavy in any way at all—too much dialogue, too much narrative or too much action? (Insert more of the elements that are missing.)
  • Are my characters providing too many background details as they’re talking to each other (Use narrative.)"

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mythical Creature: Nine-Tailed Fox

Since this one appears a lot in anime, I figured it must have some root in Japanese mythology.

Image Credit: tvojtatkooo

There are different nine-tailed foxes with different stories. For this post, I'll focus on the Kumiho.

A fox that lives a thousand years turns into a Kumiho- like its Japanese and Chinese counterparts the kitsune and the huli jing. Also known as gumiho, Kumiho is a creature that appears in the oral tales and legends of Korea and are similar to European fairies.  It can transform into a beautiful women and seduces men to kill and eat. Sometimes, they take the form of a bride to devour a groom after his wedding.

The current Japanese kitsune can sometimes be evil and sometimes good, but the Korean counterpart, over the years, has become a symbol of evil.  It's not a benign trickster who delights only in fooling people. There is no doubt that the Kumiho is an evil creature- unlike the fox of Japanese folklore, who will sometimes change into a woman to marry a man who has been kind to it. The kumiho never appears as a benevolent figure. It is a demoness. Legends tell that while the Kumiho is capable transforming its appearance, there is still something persistently fox-like about it.

Image credit: iGoMid
It is unclear at which point in time Koreans began viewing the Kumiho as a purely evil creature, since many of the ancient texts mention benevolent Kumihos assisting humans. In fact, many of the older texts make more frequent mention of wicked humans tricking kind but naive Kumihos.

As the mythology of the Kumiho evolved, it was later believed that the creature had to consume human hearts in order to survive. Another version of the mythology, however, holds that with enough will, a Kumiho could become fully, permanently human and lose its evil character.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Finding Readers Through Social Media

All these amazing groups exist that allow writers to connect with each other. That's awesome. Writers are readers after all. It's nice to discuss your writing with people who would actually "get it." But, how do we connect with readers who aren't writers?

Twitter Search (from 3 Great Ways To Find Readers For Your Books On Twitter by Jonathan Gunson)
"The method is to type into Twitter’s search panel certain words and phrases that readers of your fiction genre might be using in their Tweets. Doing a few of these searches will start to reveal readers of that fiction genre in significant numbers.
Then just go through the search results and follow those readers that you feel belong to your book genre, based on what they say in their Tweets." 
Here's another good article about finding readers through Twitter:
How Twitter Hashtags Help Authors Find Readers
  • "Set yourself up as an author on Goodreads. To do this, your book must already be part of the Goodreads database. Click on the author (that's you!) and follow the links to the Goodreads Author Program. In essence, you're claiming your book as your own. It will be linked to your personal user profile.
  • Join a group which is genuinely interesting to you, and then contribute to it. Keep up with discussions, and contribute in a meaningful way. That is: don't spam the group with nudges to buy your book. That will only make enemies.
  • List a giveaway for your book the month before it comes out." 
I also read somewhere that you can have a giveaway about 3 months before your book is released.  

Here's a useful slideshow about Goodreads!
Using Goodreads to Promote Your Books from PatrickBR

 I'm familiar with LibraryThing but I haven't used it extensively. It's an alternative to Goodreads but you don't hear about it as much. When I was in graduate school, though, a lot of students were on it. I actually had an assignment where I had to use LibraryThing. I'd say this is something to look into.

How Authors Can Use LibraryThing

At first, Pinterest was one of those sites were I was like "Another one. Seriously?!" But, when I got into it, I enjoyed using it. I love Pinterest. How can you use a photo sharing site to connect with readers? Fortunately, when Pinterest exploded onto the scene almost every publishing and literary website/blog was posting tips on how authors can use it to promote their book and brand.

Network: How to Use Pinterest to Connect with Readers
5 Ideas for Using Pinterest as an Author

This is one of the reasons I love the time we're in. Yes, the barriers to entry are falling. Anyone with an idea and decent computer skills can publish a book. Discoverabilty is an issue because there's so much out there.

But, there's no one way to promote your book or brand. There are tips and best practices but you can do something totally out of left field and still get the results you want. We can apply our creativity to more than just our story. I never thought of marketing and promotion as an exercise in creativity but it is. The added bonus, I can do it all through a medium I'm most comfortable with- Social Media. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Write Great Dialogue

One of my favorite parts of crafting a story is writing dialogue. I read somewhere that to be great at writing dialogue, you need to be good a talking to people. This bothered me. I mean, I'm an introvert. I can talk to people but I'm much better at writing. You don't need the gift of gab to be good at writing dialogue. I certainly don't have it and my dialogues are good if I do say so myself ;)

How do you write great dialogue?

Listening and People Watching
You don't need to be a conversationalist. You need to be a good listener and observer. This whole people watching thing- all I can picture is someone looking down the mouth of the people talking beside them. Don't do that. You don't have to hear what they're saying. People aren't standing or sitting like statues when they're talking. Gestures give you clues to what the conversation is about. Use TV, movies and personal experiences to make your dialogue sound authentic.

Don't think too much about it. Just write. Dialogue is supposed to flow naturally. Remember my post on Your Characters' Voice? Know your characters as if they were your best friends. When writing, get into their headspace. Know how they'd respond to something. I was on the train one day looking at a discarded cup under the seat. For fun, I thought of what my characters would say if they were sitting in my seat looking at that cup. It was a fun little exercise.

Be careful of He said and She said
These tags are important but use them too much and the dialogue doesn't flow naturally.

Jon leaned his chair back, bumping it against Mary's desk for the hundredth time.
"Stop hitting my desk," Mary snapped, shoving his chair forward.
"I don't see your name on it," Jon said.
"Can't you come up with anything more original," Mary said.
"I could but why waste my creativity on something like you," Jon responded.
"Something!" Mary spat. "I'm not the little blood sucking insect pestering everyone."

When you have a conversation between only two people, you don't need to keep using he said and she said. Also, try substituting, "said" for an action or add some internal dialogue.

Jon leaned his chair back, bumping it against Mary's desk for the hundredth time.
"Stop hitting my desk." Mary shoved his chair forward.
"I don't see your name on it," Jon said.
"Can't you come up with anything more original."
"I could but why waste my creativity on something like you."
She hated how his voice remained level.
"Something! I'm not the little blood sucking insect pestering everyone."

Beware the Exclamation Point
There are no hard and fast rules to writing but I'd say stay away from the exclamation point. It's similar to the sentence- "She felt something growing in her chest." It's the lazy way out. Don't use something, show us what she felt. Instead of using exclamation points, add action that indicates strong feelings.

"Something! I'm not the little blood sucking insect pestering everyone."


"Something." Mary slammed her desk into his chair."I'm not the little blood sucking insect pestering everyone."

For me, the hardest part about writing dialogue is how to make it read the way it sounds. Action tags help with this. So does punctuation i.e. ellipses and em dashes. Read how other authors handle punctuations to understand how to use them. The great thing about being a writer is we don't have to use complete sentences. Fragments work wonders in dialogue. 

Your dialogue doesn't have to perfect the first time you write it. It probably won't be perfect. That's what editing is for.

Useful links:
Writing Dialogue: The 5 Best Ways to Make Your Characaters' Conversation Seem Real 

Monday, June 3, 2013

BookExpo America 2013

This past week was the first time my employer/publisher, Aubey LLC, exhibited at BookExpo America. We were super excited when we arrived on Wednesday to set up our booth, especially when we saw our company name.
We got to see the exhibit hall before opening day. It was awesome seeing BEA behind the scenes.
The expo lasted from Thursday-Saturday. For the first two days, only exhibitors, librarians, staff and authors were there and it still had a lot of people.
This expo is massive. Traffic to our booth on the first two days was pretty good. We were giving away free copies of my mom's new books Finding Me...Again? and Found. We also gave out key chains with my blue butterfly on it. Things really picked up on Saturday when BEA opened to the public.
On Saturday, we had special giveaways. People could have free posters. One had a poem from my mom's book and the other had my book cover on it. We also gave away mugs. One had the cover of a book Aubey is publishing either late this year or early next year called U.S. Civil Service Yesterday, Today...And Tomorrow. The other mug had my blue butterfly and info about my book, The Sciell, on it.
People devoured the mugs. The one for The Sciell was gone before the afternoon! They loved my cover and the blue butterfly. Since I created all the images, it was nice to know people found them eye-catching. They were also really interested in my book. I always knew I'd publish but I rarely thought about whether or not readers would like my story. It was awesome to find out so many people were interested in The Sciell. I got into a friendly debate with one person because they didn't understand how darkness couldn't be evil.
Because several of us were at the booth, we each took turns walking around the other exhibits giving us time to collect so many free stuff. It was awesome.
Getting home each day was an adventure. We had like two or three tote bags full of books. Speaking of which, when I'm at a conference, I usually scope out the bags. One booth was passing out these gorgeous Hobbit bags. I saw some awesome ones that I wanted but each time I went to the booth, they were all gone. There's even a method to collecting bags. The best time to do it was at the start of the day. After noon, it's so hard to find the good ones.

Then, there were the free book signings. The line for these things were crazy but so worth it. I mean, free books signed by the author- awesomeness. I'd been really looking forward to horror author Jonathan Maberry and horror anthology editor Ellen Datlow's signings. Can't wait to read their books!

All in all, this first BEA for Aubey LLC was a success. My mom signed over 200 copies of her books, people loved my swag and were interested in my book, the business made some new contacts and we got some great information to help us expand. More importantly- we had fun.

For more pictures go to Aubey LLC or my Facebook page.
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