Monday, January 30, 2017

LESSONS LEARNED FROM WRITING AND PARENTING


Author G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

I used to think I was pretty smart, so when my husband and I decided to start a family, I wasn’t too worried about whether I knew what I was doing. Likewise, when I decided to write my first novel, it didn’t look that hard, either. Ha! How wrong I was, on both accounts.

Rhino Skin

At a writing workshop early in my career, a short story I’d written was ripped to shreds by the workshop leader. “Throw it out,” he said. “It’s not worth saving or trying to revise.” I wanted to crawl under a blanket and die.

Over the past couple of decades, my kids have periodically had similarly harsh criticisms of me when they didn’t like rules or consequences I’d imposed upon them. Room cleaning, video games, and curfews were three of the most popular causes for protest. I love each of my kids with all my heart, and I know they love me, too. Even so, we’ve shared some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that nearly shattered my heart.

As a writer and a parent, I’ve had to develop thick skin. It was a matter of survival. But that’s not to say my heart became smaller or weaker. If anything, it’s grown larger and stronger as I’ve watched my children--and my characters--struggle through life’s complexities.

The Damnable Legacy
Staying True

When one of my sons was in fifth grade, a boy in his classroom bullied him relentlessly. The teacher and principal refused to intervene, so I took the matter into my own hands. I went into the school one morning with my son. We had a kind and gentle chat with the other boy. All seemed good between the kids after that, but the principal felt undermined. He criticized me harshly for doing what I did. I was humiliated by his reprimand in front of the schoolchildren. But I didn’t regret the action I’d taken. I’d remained true to my son, and to my values against bullying, no matter the consequences.

As a member of various writing critique groups over the years, I’ve received a lot of ideas on how to improve my work. Cut this scene! Show more skin! No, please don’t kill off that character! Although grateful for every comment I received, I sometimes felt lost—especially when the comments conflicted with one another. It was like having some people point north while others pointed south. I nearly lost track of where my story, and its characters, were headed.

It’s a fact: we live in a society where criticism is the norm. Even with rhino skin, I’ve found it confusing. But writing and parenting have taught me to expect criticism, to listen to it with grace, and to weave it into my work, and my life, when it makes sense—so long as I can stay true to my own values, goals, and dreams.

Input Versus Output

When I first became a parent, I thought it was all about me bringing up a child and teaching him everything from shoe tying to relationship building. Likewise, when I first sat down to write, I thought the goal was, quite simply, telling stories to others.

Women on the Brink
But I’ve learned that neither writing nor parenting is solely about output. In fact, it’s more about input from others. My kids have taught me at least as much as I’ve taught them, not just about Snapchat and Game of Thrones but about honesty, trust, and communications. And my literary community--especially my readers--have inundated me with wisdom, not only about the craft of writing but also about the art of being human.

As it turns out, writing and parenting are two of the most complex and humbling challenges I’ve ever undertaken, and I’m grateful for both.


G. Elizabeth Kretchmer is the author of  The Damnable Legacy and Women on the Brink. She’s currently working on another novel and a self-help book about writing for wellness, drawn from her experience teaching workshops to survivors of cancer, domestic violence, and brain injuries. She has an essay in the forthcoming anthology, Just a Little More Time, and her other short work has appeared in the New York Times as well as other publications. Visit her website at www.gekretchmer.com like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Starbucks, Lovers, Infidelity & Writing

Author Tony Faggioli

“One of the most often overlooked aspects of infidelity is the pain that exists within the cheater, long before the act in question takes place, that subsequently causes the pain in the person being cheated on,” she said as she sat across from me, her hipster glasses resting perfectly on the bridge of her nose and her hands folded neatly in her lap. As the third therapist who had agreed to an interview with me about this topic, she was the one who gave me the final piece of the puzzle that I needed to make Kyle Fasano, the main character in The Millionth Trilogy, more human.

It was the decision that some people make to hurt the one they love that drew me to the topic of lust and infidelity as the central catalyst for the spiritual war that breaks out across all three novels. This was not going to be a nuanced, intellectual journey into the topic, like, say, The Bridges of Madison County. No. It was going to be more like an Apocalypse Now story, of human hearts torn, ravaged, at war and on the verge of madness. Because to be honest, that’s what I’d seen in the lives of those around me who’d been cheated on. Complete devastation.  

“Why?” I wondered, while sequestered in the alcove of my favorite Starbucks one morning. Why was this particular…sin…so much more profound than the others? So much so, in fact, that “crimes of passion” are one of the top three reasons for murder. I decided that for the purposes of this story, lust, temptation, selfishness and the labyrinth of consequences that follow infidelity were going to be given center stage, amongst angels and demons, hell and hell on earth. I interviewed a detective at with the Los Angeles Police Departments Central Station, as well as a few pastors, to gain both a humanistic and spiritual view of the consequences.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:  

BOOK 1, “ONE IN A MILLION”, HAS REACHED #1 IN FREE CRIME, #1 IN FREE PARANORMAL and #2 IN FREE SUPERNATURAL IN THE PAST THREE MONTHS. AT ONE POINT IT EVEN MADE IT TO #37 IN AMAZON TOP #100 THRILLERS.

BOOK 2, “A MILLION TO ONE”, HAD ITS VILLIAN COMPARED TO HANNIBAL LECTER BY KIRKUS REVIEWS IN OCTOBER. NEEDLESS TO SAY, I WAS VERY HAPPY ABOUT THIS. 

BOOK 3, “ONE PLUS ONE”, EARNED THE HONER OF BEING A “FEATURED REVIEW” IN KIRKUS REVIEWS MAGAZINE LAST NOVEMBER.  I’M TOLD THAT ONLY 10% OF THE REVIEWS DONE EACH YEAR BY KIRKUS EARN THIS DISTINCTION AND I WAS THRILLED.

MY 4TH BOOK, THE SNOW GLOBE, A PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER, IS SET TO BE RELEASED ON MARCH 17TH, 2017. IT IS A STAND ALONE NOVEL ABOUT A WOMAN BEING STALKED ACROSS THE COUNTRY BY HER EX-FIANCE.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ME OR MY BOOKS PLEASE CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE: tonyfaggioli.com




Monday, January 23, 2017

Why take the risk of creating a female protagonist?


Why did I take the risk of creating a female protagonist (please note that I did not say heroine) who is profanely spoiled, mindlessly impulsive, supremely selfish and at times, downright irritating? When I was inspired to give life to the character of Lacey de la Roche in The Irish Tempest, I naively thought that she would become more palatable over the span of ten years as she matured from a feisty eleven year old to a wife and mother. Alas, she would have none of it and remains to this day, as I toil on the sequel, quite resistant to self-improvement. I blame this on the psychoanalytic theory of nature/nurture and genre stereotyping. Lacey is very much a product of a privileged environment. Left motherless at four, adored by a benignly neglectful father, indulged by a bewildered domestic staff and of course, perpetually bullied and beloved by the male protagonist, Courtland O’Rourke. Such extremes of nurturing only exacerbate the less endearing aspects of her nature.

The Irish Tempest by Elizabeth J. Sparrow
When pedaling the manuscript to agents, I resorted to carefully constructed euphemistic descriptors such as “she is a selectively kind-hearted child”. Translation: if you cross her, she will torture the piss out of you. Or “precociously astute” meaning that lacking an innate filter, she will utter some rather cruel, petty and/or shockingly rude things. One agent seethed over Lacey’s penchant to “lie and connive - to manipulate others to get her way”. Apparently, she did not adhere to a mysterious code of behavior for romance heroines. I do cringe as I type that word. There are times when she does behave admirably, unselfishly – even heroically. But haven’t we all, at one time or another?

So why did I take the risk of making Lacey such an aberrant creature? There are notable literary exceptions: Shakespeare’s Kate, Austen’s Emma and of course, Mitchell’s magnificently unapologetic, Scarlett. These are women of passionate purpose and steely stamina. They live and love on their terms, successfully or disastrously. While they persevere the way many real women do, they are confined to a genre that prefers them to be handmaidens to the male protagonist.

This brings me to Court, Lacey’s one and only, despite her primal attraction to the sociopathic Ransom Longo. Court needs Lacey to be exactly who she is. Though he is ten years older, experienced with women and charmingly overbearing, he is emotionally needy of her. I quote from the proposal scene, “In this dank hole, reduced to atavistic longing, desire trumped denial. He: pragmatic, brooding and skeptical; and she: vivacious, impetuous, and mercurial were two lambent bodies spinning within the same orbit. He deflected the heat from her volatility and she burnished the rough from his reticence.”

I expect that some readers will pass on The Irish Tempest because Lacey is not their cup of tea. I know that there will be reviews from those who tried a few sips and couldn’t quite swallow her for more than a few chapters. I hope that those who she exasperates, read on and discover what the other characters have to offer them. It’s a risk that I’m willing to take. 

Check out Elizabeth on her website and follow her on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Meet Novelist, Weird Fiction Writer, and Future Ruler of the Earth: JM Guillen

JM Guillen

In the Year of our Lord nineteen-ought-eight, JM Guillen was part of a secret government expedition to explore Antarctica in the hopes that it would be possible to establish a base there. As a brilliant and respected scientist, he was quite excited about being one of the first humans to set foot on this foreboding continent.

He gathered all of his finest scienc-tician equipment, prepared to do some fine science-ing.

BUT WHO WOULD HAVE EXPECTED THAT ANTARCTICA WAS RULED BY ANGRY-BUT-SENTIENT DINOSAURS?

These creatures, classified as “Sauro-sapiens,” had mastered the entire Terra Australis Incognita. Three hundred million years of evolution had left them basically the same, except they had thumbs now. Also psionic powers. With these gifts, they had crafted an advanced civilization.

LIKE DETROIT.

The Sauro-sapiens used vents that stretched deep into the Hollow Earth to remain warm. There they worshiped shadows which dwelt behind the stars and created their own empire, distant from mammalian affairs.

Windslinger by JM Guillen
BUT NOW THAT HUMANS HAD DISCOVERED THEIR EXISTENCE, THE “APE-KIN” HAD TO BE RITUALLY SLAUGHTERED!

OH NO!

As his party was devoured by shamanic triceratops (which apparently are carnivores now), JM Guillen escaped by befriending a hyper intelligent velociraptor by the name of “Rupert.” Rupert was a master of drunken Kung Fu, and led our hero deep into the ruins of the hollow Earth. There they found hieroglyphics that showed forbidden lore that no living being had ever grasped.

Soon, the two spent their days in long, intricate rites evoking the Names of Things Which Dwelt Beneath. They learned of the curves and angles of time, and beheld lost vistas upon worlds which had long been forgotten.

Half a year later, the two crawled out of a cave in the Tierra Del Fuego archipelago, both of them changed forever. JM Guillen's days of science-ing were gone, for he had been broken in the depths.

Now they knew things that could not be forgotten, and that wisdom came with a dark and terrible price. Yet they understood their responsibility. Together, they swore to use the ancient knowledge they had discovered for the good of mankind.

Later, they changed their minds and turned to horrific evil.

As a result of these events, JM Guillen began to write bizarre works of science fiction and fantasy. His newest work, “Windslinger,” is just the best thing ever. You should check it out and also tell your friends.

His dark and terrible lair can be found at www.Irrationalworlds.comDescription: https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif



Monday, January 9, 2017

Inspired To Write


Michael Kenneth Smith

 As a young teenager I became infatuated with the Civil War. Thanks to Bruce Catton, who wrote wonderful, colorful, nonfictional accounts of the war, I was inspired to read everything I could get my hands on. As time went by, I graduated to more and more sophisticated Civil War authors such as Shelby Foote and James McPherson, which lead to a deeper 
understanding of that time in our history.

When I decided to try my hand at writing an historical novel, it seemed natural to pick a subject I knew something about. My first two novels, Home Again and Scarred have deep roots in the Civil War and I am proud of the reviews that lauded their historical accuracy. Kirkus Reviews raved about Scarred “the author knows the Civil War in his bones.”

These two novels gave me a background upon which to base my fictional stories, but the Civil War platform can be somewhat limiting. I view writing as a learning experience. Learning about the historical elements is, of course, very important, but writing about the human experience of war is far more compelling to me.

Scarred by Michael Kenneth Smith
My third book, which is currently occupying most of my time is about World War II. I chose this topic because WWII offers more variety in the human experience. For instance, the role of women was more prominent. They were a key part in the resistance and many were imprisoned, tortured and shot. While prejudices are manifest in all wars, the German mindset that generated biases against Jews and others is rife with complex challenges in character development. The shear drama of a Gestapo agent asking for the identification papers of a British spy can be riveting if written properly.

I want to research and explore why the Gestapo agent hated Jews. Why the female resistance member risked her life to save a British flyer’s life. How a young Belgium woman could outfox the Nazi’s time and time again. Why hundreds and hundreds of French housed people who were being desperately sought by the Gestapo.

World War II also offers more opportunity for romance. The happily married British housewife, whose husband is off fighting the war, has a romantic interlude (or several) with others. Why? What happens during a war that changes a character’s values. I want to write about that.

Home Again by Michael Kenneth Smith
The bottom line is, for me, writing is a progression—a progression of learning and development. I want to be out of my comfort zone and reach for something higher. I want to write a difficult scene, sit back and read it, and then say, “Damn, that’s pretty good!”

Follow Michael Kenneth Smith on Facebook, Twitter and check out his Website