Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Trouble With Conflict by Victoria Chatham

I've been struggling with a current work in progress, His Unexpected Muse: Berkeley Square Book 3, because my characters are way too ordinary. I've been trying to imbue some darker aspects into them, and it's just not happening.

For me, being a non-violent person (read mile-wide yellow streak down my spine) I often find it challenging to write conflict into my stories. Murder mysteries and thrillers with graphic content tend to make me squirm or give up reading or watching them. That’s not to say that I can’t appreciate good writing or great acting, just that I’d rather not have my sleep disturbed by bad dreams after experiencing it, thank you very much. Yes, folks, that’s just how much it can upset me.

However, conflict is a must-have to write a good story. Without conflict, there really is no story. I think of an example I have given to writing classes in the past of a couple cleaning their teeth. Let's call them Amelia and Roger. They go into the bathroom. He takes the cap off the tube of toothpaste, squeezes it in the middle to get the required amount of paste on his brush, then gives the toothpaste to her. She does the same and, as soon as her toothbrush is loaded, she screws the cap back on. It's routine and boring. Nothing happens, and it does not move the story forward. Heck, it isn't even a story.

BUT – what if they don't go into the bathroom together? What if Roger goes in first, showers, shaves, cleans his teeth? What if he squeezes the toothpaste in the middle and she likes to press it from the bottom, rolling it up as each part of the tube becomes flattened? What if he always throws it on the side of the basin and leaves the cap off, allowing just a bit of toothpaste to escape and make a mess on the porcelain which causes her to yell at him? And he bellows right back "it's only frigging toothpaste!" What if this happens every morning until she could just shoot him? Oh, oh. Did I say ‘shoot him’? This is not routine or boring. We have conflict. We have a story. 

What I have just described is external conflict, but that can lead to internal conflict as well. What if Amelia now struggles with herself? If she feels so strongly that she could shoot Roger, does that mean she doesn't love him anymore? Or does it just suggest that because he has not paid any attention to her constant requests for him to replace the cap on the tube of toothpaste, she is just totally frustrated with him? Her internal conflict could escalate to the point where she could convince herself that she has to shoot him for her own sanity. And if she really could fire a gun at him, where would she get it? Is there one in the house? Does she have a license to carry? If she did actually shoot him, what then? Would her shot kill him, or just wound him? Or, her internal conflict could go in another direction altogether. What if this is the one small thing that finished their relationship? What if she decided to leave Roger instead? What horizons does that open up?

In these last two paragraphs what I've shown is person versus person conflict and then the internal conflict of one of the characters. Other types of conflict in writing could be a person against nature as in the movie about Aron Ralston who, after trapping his arm under a boulder in a Utah canyon, went five days without food and water before breaking his arm and amputating it with a pocketknife to get free. Or it could be a person against society as in any dystopian fable. A person against fate makes that person's freedom of choice seem impossible as in The Handmaid's Tale. A person against the unknown opens the door for all sorts of situations, I'm thinking Stephen King here. What about a person up against technology? Does anyone remember Hal the computer in the movie 2001 a Space Odyssey?

So now I am going to do interviews with my characters and hope that something dark emerges from each of them so that I can build it into a conflict between them. Hm. Actually, after writing this post, I can already see some possibilities with fate.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Whack 'Em Upside The Head (Not the Title of My Urban Fantasy Book. But I'm Thinking Of It, Next.)

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Whack 'Em Upside The Head
(Not the Title of My Urban Fantasy Book. But I'm Thinking Of It, Next.)

 Exciting week! I did a podcast for an audience of thousands of reader and book lovers on 'The Author's Show' podcast. Which, if anyone is interested, is probably the largest author show podcast site in the world. If you are wondering as an author, the podcast itself is free to do, they would like you to buy it later to put on your webpages, but that is up to you. I thought just the exposure in front of a listening audience of thousands of readers was fantastic.
I'll admit the opening question initially stumped me a little (you do get to see them beforehand so you can think about your answers) and I had to really think about it: 

Why would someone want to buy this Urban Fantasy book, out of the tens of thousands of urban fantasy books lining the bookshelf?

Well, for me, I believe in whacking a reader upside the head, toss them kicking and screaming into the book, and just when they think they are starting to figure things out I toss them a curveball in the manner of Sandy Koufax, pull the plug and hit "restart". In other words, no immediate backfill, just hammer them into the action.

What is your unwritten rule as a published writer?

The hero or heroine must win somehow in the end. Otherwise I think we'd be living in a very depressing world if even one of the bad dudes ran everything. I believe that in addition to being an entertaining read, which is what a book should really be, a reader should get that feel-good factor and maybe something to help them to be a better person. Through my writing, I really want to inspire others, even if only in a small way.

Did your environment or upbringing play a major role in your writing and did you use it to your advantage?

I think so. I was the eldest of seven, raised only by my mom. We were really not well off (not any fault of my mom, she worked very hard) so I felt that it was up to me to do the best I could too for my brothers and sisters and to make the most out of what we had. Which, as JK Rowling has once said, "When you're on rock bottom, the only way is up." I feel very grateful for the experiences that led me on my writing path and to finally being published.

When did you first begin writing?

Seriously, in high school, on a creative writing course. I've said this before on another blog, but the idea was to create writing flow. In other words, to learn to just let go and begin writing from the subconscious mind No editing, just write.

Based on your experience as a writer, what one recommendation would you make to authors just starting?

Well, like I did when I was younger, in some sort of creative writing course. Learn to set the subconscious mind free. Once you get the knack, you can just let the story write itself.

Tell us about this urban fantasy book?

The Joining, Book One in the Ainsworth Chronicles, has Carol Ainsworth, Vancouver Detective undercover at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria. There's two mafia families coming in supposedly for a wedding to join the families together, only they aren't there just for that. They're setting up a west coast drug operation, but they figured without an old curse involving the mob and the area's ghosts. One of the mob leaders is found hanged in his room, presumably by a ghost, and on top of that young boys start to disappear. One is Carol's only nephew. Detective Ainsworth soon has her hands full trying to fend off a hunky FBI agent and a hunkier mobster when a crazy psychic lady (oh, and she really is a true, old-fashioned lady) shows up bearing a crystal skull, claiming Carol requested her presence. Agnes can read minds, and see ghosts, but her true reason for being there is to solve a decades-old abduction of a young lad and she soon realizes that it is tied to the other abductions. There's also ancient ghosts trapped in the sewers of Victoria due to the old curse involving the mob. They have been living off the energy produced by the drug-takers that go down into the sewers to get stoned. Among them, one begins to JOIN with human DNA.  

Who did you write your paranormal book for?

The lovers of ghost stories, the urban fantasy/paranormal crowd, and readers that like to be dragged kicking and screaming into a novel and shoved down a roller-coaster of a ride with no idea how it is going to end.

Is there a central message in the paranormal book?

I asked my wife and her immediate answer was "stay the bleep away from ghosts." But it mainly is about life. Just when you think you've got it all solved, something throws you a massive curveball. So I guess it's how to pick up the pieces and "keep buggering on". (That's not my phrase; I borrowed it from a very influential man from the nineteen forties!).

If you had to choose, what would you say is the single most important idea you’re sharing in your book that is really going to add value to the reader’s life?

Keep buggering on. Don't give up. I had nearly four hundred rejections before my first novel was accepted. No matter what your goal is, stick to it. Pick yourself up when knocked down and keep going. Use those curveballs to your advantage. Like Carol does in this book.

If you could compare this book with any other published books out there under the fantasy genre that we might already be familiar with, which book would it be and why?

Similar to Charles de Lint's Greenmantle or Moonheart. Where spiritual beings, whether it's First Nations, Irish, German or Russian folklore, exist along with us on this planet.

Do you do a lot of research on your subjects and why?

I do. Usually in the research I come across great ideas for the book, or for those that will come after. I've often said that life is stranger than fiction can ever be. Some of the most valuable research can come from just talking to people; at home, at work or on the road. I stayed at the Empress Hotel just last year, and gleaned valuable information from a couple of the staff. I already knew that it was reportedly haunted by several ghosts, including the architect, Sir Francis Rattenbury. My favourite was that from the front doorman who recounted the story of a couple that, when they went to their locked room to unpack, found that his wife's clothing been mysteriously replaced with "ghost clothing". "Ghost clothing?" I asked? "Yes" he said. "Real, old clothing." Another curious story came from a wonderful character on the street, as we were looking up at the wonderful old building that was the Rogers Chocolate Factory, now just their retail outlet. He reported that his friend's dog, that he walks by there almost every day, will often stop, hackles up, and growl at the upstairs window of that building.

As a fantasy writer what is the one question you ask yourself?

"What if?" "What if" this really happened or "what if" this happened instead, and off goes my muse on a tangent. Or, like the above story with the "ghost clothing", "what if" that really happened. Does that mean there really is a ghost, or someone from, or even (as there is reportedly a time vortex in Victoria as well) in the past, walking around in modern clothes? (I discovered that in my research, and several people have sworn they've gone into it!).
So the bigger question is, has someone really come back from the past to travel around today? Well maybe. I think it is quite possible. Read The Joining for my take on it.


I also just found out that I have been selected to be one of the Storytellers for Vancouver's Story Slam. See link below. Vancouver Story Slam

 urban fantasy, paranormal thriller, published author, fantasy genre, fantasy reader, the authors show, paranormal book.

To Purchase Online

To Purchase Online

Frank Talaber
My webpage

Frank Talaber’s Writing Style? He usually responds with: Mix Dan Millman (Way of The Peaceful Warrior) with Charles De Lint (Moonheart) and throw in a mad scattering of Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get The Blues).
PS: He’s better looking than Stephen King (Carrie, The Stand, It, The Shining) and his romantic stuff will have you gasping quicker than Robert James Waller (Bridges Of Madison County).
Or as is often said: You don’t have to be mad to be a writer, but it sure helps.

And if you like the craziness, join me on my newsletter group 

Go to my published author facebook page, link below and scroll down on the left side column.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Armchair Travelogue: Touring England--The Cotswolds with J.Q. Rose

Terror on Sunshine Boulevard by J.Q. Rose
Paranormal mystery
Click here to find more mysteries by J.Q.
at BWL Publishing Authors Page 

Hello and welcome to the Books We Love Insiders Blog!

Many readers are experiencing a very tough winter in their part of the world. Books and movies are a great way to escape the reality of freezing weather, ice, rain, floods.

Today, I'd like you to sit back and relax in your favorite chair and escape with my husband, Gardener Ted, and me for an armchair travelogue of the Cotswolds when we visited England in June 2018.
Watch the video below. If you have more to add about the Cotswolds or want to ask a question, please leave a comment below.

VIDEO: Touring England--The Cotswolds

Video: Touring England The Cotswolds

Thank you for joining us. I'll be sharing more videos about our trip in upcoming blog posts.

Toodle pip!

About J.Q.

Author J.Q. Rose
Whether the story is fiction or non-fiction, J.Q. Rose is focused on the story. She offers readers chills, giggles and quirky characters woven within the pages of her mystery novels. Her published mysteries are Deadly Undertaking, Terror on Sunshine Boulevard and Dangerous Sanctuary released by Books We Love Publishing.  Blogging, photography, Pegs and Jokers board games, and travel are the things that keep her out of trouble. 

Click here to connect online with J.Q. at her blog, Focused on Story.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Spiritual Healing Jungle Style by Stuart R. West

Visit lovely Peculiar County, just a click away.
Here we go again, back into the Amazon rain forest...

As things go, I'm kinda skeptical by nature. Which is a funny way to phrase it: "by nature." Because during our eight day sojourn into the jungle, "nature" challenged some of my earlier, stubborn notions.
Me in all my glory getting dowsed by a shaman!
Jungle Momma, the amazing organizer of our Peruvian trip, is--like my wife and many others in our party--a pharmacist. These days, however, she resides in Iquitos and the jungle, soaking up all the information she can regarding the vast, untapped, and downright amazing array of herbal and plant medicines available in the jungle. She's also been apprenticing with a shaman for the past twenty years.
Antonio, the Maestro!
Which brings me to Antonio, el Maestro Magia! Antonio, one of the last of the red-hot shamans, is a fascinating guy. He carries within him immense knowledge passed down from previous shamans, sadly the end of the line. Since his village civilized and moved into Iquitos with direct TV dishes, no one's interested in carrying on the shamanic traditions any longer, preferring the sparkly, new-fangled allure of Western medicine. A shame.

Antonio's part miracle worker, part doctor, part magician, and a pinch of dirty ol' man. Maybe even a sliver of Catskills vaudeville stand-up comic. Savvier than he appears, he pretends to not speak English at all, although we had our suspicions.  During his stay at our lodge, he was sequestered in the back conference room, down a very long walkway and closer to the jungle, because he couldn't handle all of the city energy in the lodge for too long. 

Yet, the reach of civilization had touched Antonio, too. Wearing an Americanized ballcap, emblazoned with the letter "M," and duded out in designer jeans and stylin' kicks, he resembled a tourist emulating American style (or lack thereof). I so wanted the "M" on his cap to stand for "magic." Alas, it was a corporate symbol for Iquitos' mega supplier of cable TV and cell phone plans.

The stories surrounding Antonio are amazing. With one look he diagnosed someone's cancer with his "MRI vision." He healed someone's growing fungal attack with jungle plants when all  Western medicine failed. Father of many, lover of even more, no one truly knows Antonio's age, but it's guestimated at around 82 or so. Given that, he's in better shape than I am, leaping off boats with ease and (terrifyingly) running through the jungle bare-foot.
El Maestro Magia!
Our first night in the jungle lodge, Antonio arranged a group blessing. This consisted of us donning our swimsuits; one by one, he doused us with a bucket of cold water with flowers stirred into the mix. His blessing went untranslated. For all I know, he could've been singing the Brady Bunch theme song.
We were then given the option of having a personal, spiritual healing session with el Maestro Magia. I waffled back and forth, wanting to experience it, yet fearful of what he might find out about my health. Did I believe in his unexplained abilities? I don't know. But I was afraid enough to waffle. And after the stories I'd been told by intelligent, sane people, I'd be a fool to dismiss Antonio's talents out-of-hand. So, I continued to waffle. Man, can I waffle, more waffling than the local pancake shop, a waffling talent I've perfected over many years of waffling. I mean, if I've got some kind of necrotic skin disease, isn't it better to not know about it until the last second?

At the final moment, I took a giant leap of faith over my waffles and landed in Antonio's domain, off the griddle and into the frying pan. 
I entered the circular room, empty except for Antonio sitting in a folding chair, head bowed. I approached him, shook his hand. Quietly he muttered something, gestured toward the folding chair across from him. I sat. He slapped some kinda nice-smelling oil on my face and doubled down on my head (I kinda think he liked the feel of my slick pate as he gave it a few extra smacks). A cigar was lit as he smoked herbal tobacco, constantly blowing it on me as he whistled a nameless, tuneless song. I closed my eyes, went with it, tried to "get out of my head" as I was instructed (usually an impossible task; I mean where else am I gonna go?), as he brushed palm leaves all over me.

I'm not sure what happened, but something did. The constant rustling of the dried leaves fell into a drum-like pattern. Pungent, rich smoke transported me elsewhere. With my eyes shut, I envisioned the past, ancient tribes beating drums, dancing around a fire, a community of respect for Mother Earth.

A duck-like call at my temples brought me back; Antonio sucking out the bad energy from my head. When it ended, I was disappointed. Eyes still closed, I waited. Finally, Antonio said, "okay," a universal word. I opened my eyes, felt comfortably numb, rested yet exhilarated.

I stumbled out to the communal hammock/nap room and just lay there contemplating my navel for half an hour.

Was I really transported back in time? No. Probably just my writerly senses propelling me into a flight of fantasy. But I felt more rested, comfortable, and at peace than I had for a while. It also made me consider bigger issues than my rather small Kansas City backyard.

Other members of our group experienced different things. My wife felt connected to water. She said, "We're moving close to water." I said, "Okay, as long as there's air conditioning."

Another person felt a shoulder wound heal and the word "metaphysical" kept bouncing around his mind. One woman said it felt like the aftermath of a really great massage. I couldn't argue with that. Another guy shrugged, said, "it was alright."

On the other hand, Antonio also strongly believes in love potions, so there's that.

Speaking of unexplainable and magical happenings, book a trip to scenic Peculiar County, where things are never as they appear.

Captain Kidd & Wooden Ships by Katherine Pym

YA for All Ages London 1665  ~*~*~*~ Capt Kidd in NY Harbor. It was traditional to have wives & lovers aboard before sail...