Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: February 2016

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing:  Pinterest

Where do you come up with your ideas for creative writing? Do you get hit with amazing concepts out of the blue, or are the ideas triggered by something you see? In many cases (mine included), visual stimuli can help to spark a train of thought or spark of creativity that eventually turns into a short story, poem, novella, or full-on novel.

For visual stimuli, it doesn’t get better than Pinterest! Pinterest is filled with (literally) millions of photos that can give you new ideas for creative writing.

For example, hit up Pinterest and type in the VERY broad search term “fantasy“. Immediately, you’ll be taken to hundreds of Pinterest boards and Pins with all kinds of awesome ideas. From breathtaking landscapes to epic battle scenes to unique creatures to out-of-this-world locations, Pinterest has the artistic imaginings of thousands of artists from around the world.

Are you more of a science fiction writer? Type “science fiction” into the search menu, and you’ll get hundreds of Boards and Pins with everything from alien races to robotic creations to new worlds to sci-fi vehicles. There are even tips and tricks on how to write good sci-fi, and images from older sci-fi novels and movies to get you inspired.

No matter what your interest, you can find fascinating, visually stimulating pictures on Pinterest. Do a quick search for relevant topics, and you’ll come up with all sorts of awesome new concepts and ideas for your creative writing. Spend a few minutes randomly clicking and surfing, and you could end up going “down the rabbit hole” and coming out the other side with amazing, twisted new ideas. You don’t want to spend all of your writing time searching Pinterest (I’ve wasted my fair share of hours doing that), but it’s a good resource to help stir your imagination and spark something creative in your brain!

 

The Childish Joy of Fiction

Humans are, by nature, a nostalgic lot. Most of the things that make us happy are things we enjoyed when we were younger. We do those things in an effort to regain those feelings of “happiness” that we experienced the last time we did those things.

Most of our happiest memories date back to our childhood. Perhaps it was something you enjoyed during your school vacation, when you were free to roam and do as you pleased. Or maybe it was something that helped you escape the misery of school, or it took your mind off of problems at home.

The great Chinese philosopher Mencius said, “Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.” The thought that immediately springs to mind is fiction–more specifically, fantasy.

I was a bit of an unusual child. A know-it-all, often excluded from activities with my peers, and sort of the ugly duckling of the lot. Not an unfamiliar story for many people. I have many happy memories of swimming, playing with friends, and spending time with my family. But some of my happiest memories are of curling up with a good book and drowning out everything around me. I literally spent an entire day (dawn till dusk) reading the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes, a gift for my 10th birthday.

While history was absolutely fascinating, it was fiction that called to me. I loved to imagine the worlds of famous fictional characters like Captain Ahab, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Robin of Locksley. Any time I needed an escape, I dove into a book. For a short time, I was transported away from my problems to a place where my childish mind could marvel at the new and unknown.

Fast forward a decade or two, and I’m still in love with fiction. I’m a grown-up (sort of) with all sorts of parental, spousal, and professional responsibilities and desires. But I haven’t lost my childlike heart or mind. I still love the new and unknown I find in the pages of fiction–especially fantasy. It’s wonderful to be able to escape my problems and read about someone else’s toil and struggle. It helps to put my problems into perspective, and it allows me a short respite from all of the things life throws at use grown-ups.

Sure, people may think it’s “childish” to love fantasy, science fiction, superheroes, and comic books. So what? Everyone has something they do in an effort to regain those childish feelings of “happiness” that is missing from their lives. They don’t share my wide-eyed child-like imagination when I dive into a new book, but in the end, we all need an escape.

I refuse to allow life to take away my childlike heart and mind, and neither should you!

 

 

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Book Review: The Defenders of Blackspire Abbey by Michael Panush

It’s Book Review Wednesday! On this, my favorite day of the week, I’m featuring a historical fiction novel with a bit of a fantastical twist to it…

 

The Defenders of Blackspire Abbey

In the bloody height of the Dark Ages, when long ships carried Viking raiders across the waves and swords decided the fates of kingdoms, monasteries offer small pockets of civilization and learning – but Blackspire Abbey is no ordinary monastery. Located on a jagged chunk of rock off the English coast, Blackspire Abbey serves as a library for forbidden books of black magic and the occult, where heresy can be studied firsthand. Blackspire Abbey has a strange guardian -the Viking warrior known as Egil the Scarred. Egil was not born, but created by a mysterious witch who sewed the pieces of fallen Vikings into a patchwork man, and animated Egil with magic to create an unstoppable solider with war fused into his very bones. Now, Egil is trying to end his wandering and forge an new life for himself.

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But danger is coming to Blackspire Abbey. Father Enrico Dori, a priest turned Satanist and author of a bloody, heretical rebellion, comes to Blackspire Abbey in chains so that he may be studied. Inquisitor Hox, a fanatic servant of God, seeks to cleanse Blackspire Abbey of heresy with Holy Fire. Viking raiders, including Egil’s former friend Ragnar Redye, seek to raid the abbey and steal its wealth. Egil’s only allies are Brother Cuthbert and Timothy Foundling, a wise monk and his apprentice, and Clare of Burgundy – a former nun turned outlaw queen sent to do penance in the abbey. They are the Defenders of Blackspire Abbey and they will stand against all foes and battle for the light of civilizations – and for their very lives.

 

My Review: 3 Stars

I REALLY wanted to like this book! After all, who doesn’t love a “heroic last stand” type of novel, especially one about the Vikings? Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment.

In terms of the writing quality, the book had a lot of problems. Grammar and syntax was off, and adverbs were way over-used. It was plagued by passive constructions, improper sentences, and more nitty gritty problems that made my “perfectionist” mind struggle to keep reading.

I also found the story line a bit hard to swallow. Don’t get me wrong: Viking Frankenstein taking on a demon-worshipping heretic–no problem! It was all the small character interactions, the way they talked to each other as if old friends, and the sequence of events that really threw me off. I like my fantasy to be as “realistic” as possible, and this lacked the realism that makes it possible for us fiction lovers to swallow a fantastical story.

The dialogue felt stunted and off, and characters spoke more like the narrator than like themselves. The action scenes were…lacking. As a man who loves a good fight scene, I was disappointed to say the least.

Where the writer excelled was at developing the character of Egil. The inner narrative was solid and gave a good look at the man–flaws, strengths, weaknesses, and all. The world in the book was fascinating and well-described. The characters (the fighting nun, the Jewish boy priest, and the curious jester fellow) were absolutely intriguing, but I felt the story didn’t do them justice.

Great concept and interesting characters, but a “hit and miss” overall.

 

Here’s a Taste:

The chanting of monks, rising and falling like ocean tides, woke Egil the Scarred from his uneasy sleep. His eyes flew open and he rammed his head further into the pillow of his cot. The chanting continued; Latin words blared in voices high and low. Outside the window, darkness still clung to the clouds. It was too early for such noise.

Egil rolled over and looked at the ceiling. His quarters were small and cozy, featuring only a few shelves, his cot, and a single wooden chair and table where his weapons and helmet rested.

Egil had been fatigued lately and slept through the chanting of the monks. Now, he had rested—or at least thought he had—and they awoke him. He wanted to return to sleep. Perhaps, if he struggled at it, he could. Then the hinges of his door squeaked.

A striped tabby shape, Tybern, the monastery cat at Blackspire Abbey, slipped into the room. The cat, strangely large, stepped lithely around the room, slithering around the cleaned plates and empty tankards Egil had tossed carelessly on the floor. Tybern moved like a ship sailing through troublesome waters, twisting and turning and then reaching Egil’s bed. He hopped up, a single, smooth motion during which he seemed to levitate. He landed straight on the side of Egil’s bed.

“By the gods,” Egil muttered. “By Odin’s One Eye. By Thor’s Hammer.” Those were his gods—not this Christ the Christian monks mewled about. But neither Egil’s gods, nor any god, seemed willing to remove Tybern. The cat pawed over to him and rubbed himself against Egil’s side, pressing his fur to the broad shoulder of Blackspire Abbey’s reluctant defender. “Away with you,” Egil ordered. “Leave me to my peace. Go and meow at the monks, you sack of fur.”

Tybern mewed in answer—a piteous, high-pitched whine. Egil sighed and sat up. Clearly, trying to sleep despite the cat and the chanting monks was a fool’s task.

He stood, stretched, and then walked to the shelf where he kept a jug of milk and a saucer. He tossed the saucer down and filled it. Tybern sprang to the milk and lapped it up, his back arching as if he was trying to climb into the bowl. Egil stared out the thin, arched window in the corner of his room.

It looked out over Blackspire Abbey—the courtyard in the center of the various structures, the tall and stately chapel where the monks prayed, the cells where they slept, and the scriptorium where they worked. All the buildings had a ridged, Gothic style, with pinnacles topped with crucifixes that stretched up into the gray clouds. That was only part of Blackspire Abbey. At the end of the courtyard, a small balcony extended.

Beyond that, the cold gray sea crashed against the black rocks that formed the base of the abbey. A wide stairwell wound down from another part of the courtyard, leading to a rocky beach. The monks had added a jutting quay to the natural harbor, where ships from the mainland could come and dock. Blackspire Abbey remained entirely on the inhospitable, secluded island and everything they could not make was brought in from the neighboring Christian kingdoms.

Blackspire Abbey possessed a harsh beauty.

Egil had pledged to protect it and the monks who dwelled there, but at that moment, he would have been happy for the sea to swallow them all.

He dressed quickly, putting his trousers, worn shirt, and blue cloak on over his hulking form. He forced his black beard into a quick braid and then set the helmet over his face. His straight Viking sword and bearded axe—War’s Flame and Frost Cutter—went into his belt. Egil paused and ran a finger along his face. Curling scars crossed every inch of his skin. They ran around his blunt nose, over his hollow cheeks and circled his eyes—one blue and one green. The scars had been with Egil his entire life.

He had not been born, but created—assembled from the bodies of Viking warriors who died in battle on foreign shores, drowned in ferocious storms across the wild seas or perished in bloody feuds in their own countries. A strange hag—an aged witch—had built Egil. He did not know why. Neither, it seemed, did she. Since then, Egil had wandered the earth as a raider and mercenary. Recently, he put that aside and taken up the defense of Blackspire Abbey. The Abbey had no attackers and yet it was not an easy task.

Tybern finished his milk. He strode over to Egil, watching the Viking with his round, shining eyes. Each seemed the size of a warrior’s shield. “Aye,” Egil said. “Time to see the monks.” He pushed open the door and stepped outside. By now, a few weak shafts of sunlight had crept down through the gray clouds. They cast long shadows across the courtyard. Egil walked over the yard, his boots clicking on the even cobblestones, and past the large statue of some saint holding aloft his holy sword. Egil glared at the statue and walked to the great church doors.

With a sigh, he pushed them open and stepped inside. The monks stood in their pews, chanting together and swaying slightly as they recited the Latin words from memory. The Abbot, a rotund fellow named Augustus, stood at the pulpit and chanted along with the monks. His flabby double chin waggled as he waved his hands along with the Latin words. Egil watched him and then looked over the other monks. Tybern appeared at his heels and sat down.

 

About the Author

Twenty-Four years old, Michael Panush has distinguished himself as one of Sacramento’s most promising young writers. Michael has published numerous short stories in a variety of e-zines including: AuroraWolf, Demon Minds, Fantastic Horror, Dark Fire Fiction, Aphelion, Horrorbound, Fantasy Gazetteer, Demonic Tome, Tiny Globule, and Defenestration.

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He is the author of Clark Reeper Tales, his first novel. Michael began telling stories when he was only nine years old. He won first place in the Sacramento Storyteller’s Guild “Liar’s Contest” in 2002 and was a finalist in the National Youth Storytelling Olympics in in 2003. In 2005, Michael’s short story entitled, Adventures in Algebra, won first place in the annual MISFITS Writing Contest.

In 2007, Michael was selected as a California Art’s Scholar and attended the Innerspark Summer Writing Program at the CalArts Institute. He graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 2008 and has recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz.

Find the book on Amazon:

Read Michael’s thoughts on his website: https://panusher.wordpress.com/

Connect with him via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelPanushAuthor

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/Michael_Panush

 

 

Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Body Language Project

One of the greatest challenges to effective creative writing is knowing how to communicate what a character is thinking or feeling without being overt. Often, you don’t need to get into deep dialogue or inner narrative to help the reader understand the thoughts or feelings of your characters. All you need is body language.

For those who want to learn more about body language, the Body Language Project website has a lot of information that will be VERY useful for your writing.

Disclaimer: This website is very much aimed at “using body language for dating/romance”, and a great deal of the content focuses on interpreting body language in order to understand attraction, sex, etc. Ignore that part of the content, and read the part that pertains to showing emotions.

The beauty of this website is that it has hundreds of pages with explanations on just about every type of basic body language out there. For example, on the Nonverbal Cue Catalog page, you’ll find articles on facial expressions, subtle body language, posture differences, types of smiles, eye contact, and more.

The Body Language Category index on the right side of the page will help you find what you’re looking for quickly. The list covers just about every emotion and intention you will be writing about, so it’s a handy resource to help you write body language in a clear, concise way.

Now, bear in mind that this resource isn’t necessarily aimed at writers. Some of the explanations are a bit long-winded, so you may have to adapt/shorten them to suit your needs. But knowing how people express their feelings and thoughts in basic body language will come in VERY handy in your creative writing.

Want to find what you’re looking for more quickly? Do a Google search for “site:bodylanguageproject.com + your query (“anger”, “happiness”, etc.). Google will search all of the indexed pages to find what you want without your having to browse the website or click through all the links.

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A Celebration of Authors Blog Hop Hunt Post

Hi I’m Andy Peloquin, author of The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer, and I’m your host for this stop in the tour.

I am pleased to be hosting KIM CORMACK, an amazing fantasy author. Somewhere in her post, you’ll find a number (not in written text, but a numeral). Write it down and collect them all as you visit every post along the way. Good luck!

 

Let There Be Dragons

Book 1: “Sweet Sleep.”

What would you do if you discovered that everything you’ve ever known to be your reality was a lie?

What if…

The things that go bump in the night, things you thought were simply a figment of your wild imagination are in fact very real?

Would you live your life differently if you knew you were going to be corrected…erased from this world sometime around your sixteenth birthday?

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You and your twin sister were never meant to be born.

There will be no place to run… No place to hide… You won’t even know they’re coming… Do you have what it takes to survive your Correction? Do you have what it takes to leave your humanity behind? If your answer is yes then hold on tight…

Buy it on Amazon

Book 2: “Enlightenment.”

Kayn lost everything and everyone she loved in a brutal attack on her family. Kayn is now an Ankh; Kevin is a Triad, her enemy, with all memory of Kayn wiped from his mind. Can his love for her survive? Will she be able to find the strength to stand against him when the time comes?

Ankh must assimilate and train its 11 new members. At least Kayn is not alone as the only newbie. They’ve lost just as much as she. It’s part of the deal…the family never survives. Bonding with their new clan and forgetting the past is critical.

Kayn must learn to fight. She must learn to do impossible things, and make choices that leave a dent in her soul and an ache in her heart. The mortal version of right and wrong is now irrelevant.

Her twin, Chloe, while dead, still feels part of her. Will Chloe be able to take over Kayn’s body? Frost keeps watching her, waiting. She feels a pull to Frost, but is it real or a Chloe memory? She longs for Kevin, but her twin’s attachment to Frost is causing her emotional conflict.

Can Kevin’s and her love survive? Will Kevin remember her?

The Testing is coming. Kayn must learn to fight and die, and stand back up to fight and die again to get through The Testing. Will she survive and what will she become? Is her destiny set? Will she find enlightenment?

This is not a fairytale. This is a nightmare.

Buy it on Amazon

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Book Three coming February 2016

 

Side Series: “Wild Thing.”

After a dark past, a teenage girl comes back from the dead and becomes a hitman for a clan of immortals.

After many years lost in places void of humanity, Grey found her. He introduced her to a partially immortal family. She’d been saved in so many ways by the Ankh. They were the family that she had always been destined to find. They would teach her to embrace the dragon that resided within her. She would learn that both the dark side of her spirit and light were equally important. Lexy of Ankh was a weapon, unmatched by any member of the other clans. She would fight for all that is good even though most of time her heart remained lost in the darkness. Greydon tried to be her handler, but Lexy of Ankh was meant to be a WILD THING.

Buy it on Amazon

 

Scavenger Hunt Hint:

The number for your clue will not be written in text, but it will be numeral. Write down all the numbers you find during the hunt and tally them together. This final number will be an entry in the Rafflecopter on the ENTER HERE page on the official website.

If you get stuck along the way because you of a broken link, please visit the AUTHORS LINK page

Did you find the number? If you did, then click this author’s link (http://kimcormack.blogspot.com.au/) to continue the Scavenger Hunt.

 

 

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Book Review: Reprobate by Martyn V. Halm

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I’m thrilled to bring you another book by Martyn V. Halm–an author whose work I have greatly enjoyed in the past. (Link to other book). Today, a thriller about a fascinating female assassin…

 

Reprobate

Assassin Katla breaks her own rules when confronted with an unusual witness…

Blessed with an almost non-existent conscience, freelance assassin and corporate troubleshooter Katla Sieltjes, expert in disguising homicide, regards murder for profit as an intricate and rewarding occupation. Her solitary existence seems more than satisfactory until a blind musician wanders in on her crime scene.

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Katla only kills for profit or to protect her anonymity, and Bram Merleyn seems harmless and unable to identify her. By sparing his life, she breaks one of her most important rules—never leave a living witness. A decision Katla might not survive to regret…

 

My Review: 4 Stars

There was a lot to love about the book:

Katla. I love assassins, and Katla was definitely an assassin worth reading. Confident, calm, collected, lethal, and yet surprisingly human (perhaps TOO human for my tastes), she’s a well-written character that deserves her role as central figure of this series. I definitely want to find out more about what she’s up to in the next books.

I LOVED the rich complexity of the world written in this book. The author has clearly done a good deal of research, and everything is explained clearly. As the blurb says “Reprobate gives a…glimpse into local Dutch culture, the narcotics trade, computer hacking, motorcycle gangs, mehndi bridal tattoos, martial arts, the psychology of social engineering, and the brutal efficacy of disciplined violence.”

However, there were a few things I found slightly flawed. First off, the climax: there was none. There was no gentle buildup, no sudden flurry of action. It simply…ended with more of a “whimper” than a “bang”. The ending was satisfying, but I was hoping for a thrilling climax to the book where all the plot points converge. Didn’t happen, and that left me disappointed.

The character of Bram Merleyn felt a tad superfluous to this particular story. Perhaps in later books he will play a more important role, but in this one he’s little more than a not-too-cleverly-placed romantic foil. The books “will she regret leaving him alive” hook never shows up in the story, so he came off like a male version of a two-dimensional romance interest.

Flaws or not, the book is EXCELLENT. The world is developed, everything is genuine and authentic, and the story is gripping. It’s definitely worth picking up as a first introduction to the world of Katla, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book.

 

Here’s a Taste:

She stepped into the corridor, closed the door behind her and turned the doorknob sign from ‘Do Not Disturb’ to ‘You Can Clean Up My Room’. With a thin smile, Katla removed the gloves and strolled down the corridor to the emergency stairs.

Behind her a door clicked shut.

Katla turned around, her left hand around the hilt of her knife.

A shoe creaked. Someone in the corridor, not moving towards the elevators, but heading in her direction.

She drew her blade and flattened herself against the inner curve of the corridor.

A slender man came into view, mouth tight with tension, a semi-automatic pistol with a long suppressor aligned with his leg.

Katla brought her knife hand up.

Eyes wide, the man jerkily raised the pistol two-handed.

With a languid flip Katla whipped her hand forward and tracked the weapon with her fingers as the knife flew from her hand. Her assailant ducked to avoid the knife and fired, the bullet hitting plaster. The blade buried itself in a doorframe next to his head.

Her left hand slipped inside the unzipped pouch. The assailant blinked and took aim again. With her hand around the Ruger’s grip Katla folded her right leg under her.

Two muted bangs sounded as she rolled backwards and ended up in a balanced crouch. The pouch fell away and her left hand swung up in a smooth arc. The barrel formed a straight line with her extended arm. She aimed at the assailant’s mouth and squeezed the trigger.

The Ruger’s loud bark filled the corridor and the revolver’s barrel swerved from the recoil. The bullet smashed into the doorway not far from her knife.

Her assailant dove for the other side of the hallway, hit the wall with his shoulder and nearly lost his pistol. The whites of his eyes showed as he fired without aiming, the muted discharge of his pistol sounding like a toy gun compared to the Ruger’s boom.

Her supporting leg collapsed and she sat down hard, the shock jarring through her spine to the arm that held the Ruger.

The assailant stumbled backwards along the wall and fired again. Bullets chipped the carpet and ricocheted past her, whining like killer bees.

With her right hand planted behind her on the carpet, Katla steadied her left arm on her raised left knee and took careful aim, the unwieldy revolver trembling in her hand. The assailant lost his nerve and ran for the elevators, hunched over to provide a smaller target.

Aiming at his lower back, Katla deftly squeezed the trigger. Blue‑white flame spat from the muzzle as the Ruger boomed for the second time. The fleeing gunman pitched forward on his belly, scrambled on all fours around the corner, and disappeared from view.

Katla kept the revolver trained on the corner.

A door slammed in the distance, but even with the ear-filters her ears rang with the echoes of the booming reports and she couldn’t tell if he was truly gone. Her palm stung from the Ruger’s recoil and fine tendrils of smoke curled up from the muzzle and cylinder as she pointed the revolver at the ceiling.

She tried to get up, but her folded right leg tingled like it had fallen asleep. She looked down. Her thigh had a frayed hole in the stocking. Blood welled around the edges and the puffed-up flesh around the wound was numb.

Oh, great.

Gritting her teeth, Katla grabbed her pouch and stuck away the Ruger, then crawled to the wall and managed to get to her feet. Dragging her useless leg, she lurched to her knife and wedged it sideways to pull the blade from the doorframe. With the knife in her left hand she moved deeper into the corridor to the emergency staircase at the far end.

 

About the Author:

Martyn V. Halm lives in Amsterdam with his wife Maaike, two children, two cats, and countless imaginary characters vying for attention.

Writing realistic crime fiction is hard work, especially when you’re a stickler for verisimilitude. When your protagonist is a seasoned killer, research can take you right up to Nietzsche’s abyss. Luckily, things get easier after the first few killings…

Apart from being an accomplished prevaricator, Martyn already possessed an eclectic variety of skills that qualified him to write the Amsterdam Assassin Series. Skills he shares with his deadly fictional characters…

Find the book on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Reprobate-Katla-Amsterdam-Assassin-ebook/dp/B0094VD7JW

Or on Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/reprobate

Read Martyn’s thoughts on his blog: https://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.com/

Or visit his website:http://tao-of-violence.weebly.com/

 

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Mythic Scribes

If you want a place for all things sci-fi, fantasy, and creative writing, Mythic Scribes is a site to check out!

The Mythic Scribes blog has A LOT of awesome resources for creative writing. There are posts on story structure, grammar, the craft of writing, fantasy and sci-fi tropes, writing advice, body language, and more. If you’re a fantasy writer, the posts on Mythic Scribes are worth a read. Even if you’re not in the fantasy genre, the posts are awesome–a few even by famous authors.

But the real value (in my opinion) is to be found in the forums…

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The forums cover just about every topic under the sun:

Fantasy writing — World building, character building, settings, description, resources, general writing questions, fiction-specific questions, and more.

Publication/promotion —  Marketing, promos, self-promotion (how to do it right), blogs, cover design tips and feedback, publishing tips, review requests, and more.

Community — About you, notice boards, writing groups (online and offline), NaNoWriMo groups and support, small talk, and more.

One of the things I found VERY awesome about Mythic Scribes was the chat feature. I was able to strike up conversations with random people, make new friends, and talk about both writing as a craft and fantasy as a genre. The people on the site range from teenagers to published authors, so there’s no end of diversity.

You can also post parts of your work, your blurb, or your cover on the site for people to give feedback on. It’s a very good way to get more interaction in a way Facebook groups often can’t.

If you want to interact with fellow lovers of fantasy and sci-fi, make new friends, and potentially reach new readers, Mythic Scribes is definitely a site you should bookmark and visit regularly.

 

Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Grammar Book

All creative writing revolves around proper grammar and punctuation. Grammar is both easy (we all know the parts of speech) and incredibly difficult (YOU try writing without adverbs and passive verbs). 90% of the “effort” in writing a novel, screenplay, or poem goes into making sure each sentence is structured just right. The plot, characters, and settings are much easier to create than a perfect sentence!

For those of you who, like me, struggle with perfectionism in grammar, Grammar Book is a great resource to check out. It is a simple, easy-to-use guide to the basics of grammar, punctuation, and effective writing.

It covers the easy rules: Nouns, verbs, pronouns, periods, quotation marks, question marks, exclamation points, capitalization, homonyms, how to write numbers, etc.

It covers the rules that should be easy, but which often end up being hard: How to use commas and how many to use in sentences, subject-verb agreement, colons and semi-colons, when to hyphenate, basic sentence phrases and clauses, who vs. that vs. which, etc.

It covers the really tough rules: How to use adverbs properly, who vs. whom, when and where to use prepositions, etc.

There are even sections on “Effective Writing“, a  list of simple tips to help you improve your creative writing style.

This site teaches the basics of proper grammar, making the rules as easy to understand as possible. For those who want to learn to write better, more streamlined sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and novels, this is a resource definitely worth checking out!

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Book Review: Subversion by J.P. Choquette

It’s Book Review Wednesday, my favorite day of the week! Today, our book is a mystery/suspense novel about a female detective/vigilante/private eye/freelance strong arm…

 

Subversion:

Tayt Waters is a vigilante. A business owner. And a woman on a mission. Helping people who have been failed by the justice system get their just rewards … one way or another.
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And then Tayt’s estranged father shows up: the key suspect in a local murder case involving a young woman. How could her father—responsible and upstanding to the point of perfection—be involved? As Tayt races to find answers, she realizes that murder isn’t the only criminal act her father is accused of. And the further she digs, the more danger she finds herself in.

 

My Review: 3.5 Stars

I very much enjoyed the character of Tayt Waters. She was well-written, grounded, and intriguing. Definitely one of the best female characters I’ve read in a long time.

However, the rest of the book was a bit hit and miss. There was no real suspense in the book, and the mystery didn’t have me particularly intrigued. There were a couple of interesting secondary and supporting characters, but the villain/s were a bit iffy. There was never really any danger for the character until the climactic moment, and even then it felt a bit slipshod.

Perhaps it was just this book that “missed the mark”. The character is a fascinating one, and if the writer can create a gripping, compelling storyline, Tayt Waters would be one to follow.

 

Here’s a Taste:

I pull into the lot of the motel minutes later. The place is a typical low-budget accommodation: slate blue with gray shutters, the paint faded and chipped when illuminated in the car’s light beams. Twenty units running along the front of the building, each featuring a pair of cheap white chairs out front and empty pots which in the summer must bloom with some hardy flower. The area is neglected and ugly, from the potholed gravel driveway to the nearby and equally rundown cottage with a neon sign flashing “office.”

A scruffy-looking young guy behind the counter barely glances up when the little bell jingles. He stares intently at his computer as though he’s just putting the final touches on a formula to cure cancer.

“Hello” I say. “I’m looking for a friend who checked in recently.” I decide not to use Patty’s name in case she’s taken on an alias. Instead, I slide the now slightly crumpled photo across the counter to him. “Can you tell me what room she’s in?”

He shakes his head without looking.

I grit my teeth. “Would you mind taking a peek before you say no?”

Twenty-Something sighs heavily, as though I’ve asked him for a ride to Chicago in his rickshaw. He looks at the photo for about two seconds, then looks away, then back. The dark eyes get wider.

“We don’t give out that kind of information about guests.”

I grab a ten dollar bill from my back pocket and slide it over the counter.

“Maybe this will help.” The guy just stares. “Look, I’m not asking for a room key, buddy, just a room number. She can decide if she wants to let me in or not.”

He glances at the money, rubs a hand over his chin.

“Nope, sorry.” He starts to look back to his computer, and I fumble in my pocket again, slipping a second ten onto the chipped surface.

“You sure?”

He looks at the money, then me, then back to the money.

He smiles. His teeth are crooked and stained a little around the edges.

“Yeah, I think I do remember now. Seeing your friend.”

“And?”

“And what?” He rubs the side of his nose, pockets the cash.  “That’s all that twenty bucks gets you. She was in the office. You need more information than that, and it will cost you another—”

I grab his shirt collar and bring his head to the counter so fast that his glasses nearly stay behind.

“Hey, are you freaking crazy?” He whines, and the sound of it makes me want to bash his head again just for the fun of it.

“Do you have a room number or not?”

“Yeah, man. I mean, yes, yes, ma’am,” he says, as I pull the fabric tighter.

“I’m losing patience,” I say, the fabric of the guy’s shirt cutting into his neck enough to make a deep red line. “And your manners could really use some work. Now,” I hiss, drawing my face close enough to his to see an ingrown hair on his forehead, “what’s the room number?”

 

Minutes later I rap on the door of number sixteen, and wait. Silence. I try to look through the curtains, but they’re drawn tight against spying eyes. I hunch low and check under the door. The door is about a half inch shorter than it should be. No light shines through. I knock again, wait. No answer.

Walking around the building, long weeds and empty cans connect with my boots every so often. I count the numbers backward and look in the rear window. This, I guess, must be the bathroom. There’s no sound of running water, no light coming from the small square. Most of the rooms appear empty, though the neighbor in number seventeen is taking a shower. I walk back to the front of the motel and retrace my steps to the car, slide in behind the wheel. Who knows how long she’ll be gone?

I lean back in my seat, the headrest wearing a familiar groove fitted to my skull. There is a dull hum of traffic on the interstate and images play behind my eyelids. I’m so tired. I didn’t realize just how much until my eyelids get heavier and heavier …

My eyes jerk open to the sound of a door slamming. I see a narrow band of light under the door of number sixteen and breathe a sigh of relief. The sooner I can get Patty talking, the sooner I can get the information I need and head home.

Hustling toward the door, I pat my jacket, making sure that the can of pepper spray is in the pocket. It’s doubtful I will need it, but still, better safe than sorry, right?

There is music playing from behind the door, seventies rock. The curtain moves as someone brushes past, and my heart does a somersault. I press myself close to the doorframe, glad that the porch light isn’t on.

I kick myself for snoozing instead of remaining focused. If Patty is volatile, there could be ugliness. If she is surprised enough, though, maybe I can weasel my way into the room.

I knock twice, in what I hope is a friendly, non-threatening manner.

“Patty?” I call out. The music continues blasting. I knock more loudly and raise my voice. “Hey, Patty?”

This time there is a flutter at the window, the curtain pulls back momentarily and her face, white and topped with teased bangs, peers out. Then the face is gone and the deadbolt is being thrown. When the door opens, it’s my mouth that’s hanging open in surprise.

 

About the Author:

J.P. Choquette is a mystery and suspense author from New England … Here in the green mountains, she writes novels that keep readers on the edge of their seats. Stand-alone books include Epidemic (2013) and Dark Circle (2014). Subversion (2014) is part of the Tayt Waters mystery series. The sequel, Restitution, was released in 2015. Choquette is currently working on another suspense novel, this one set in the deep woods of the back country.

Choquette is passionate about justice and her novels frequently interweave this theme into the fast-paced mystery/suspense stories she writes. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Choquette remains fascinated by human behavior.

In her free time, Choquette enjoys reading (of course!) riding her scooter, long walks, making junk-art and drinking hot beverages … just not all at the same time.

 

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Subversion-Waters-Mystery-J-P-Choquette-ebook/dp/B00N447UEI/

Visit her website: www.jpchoquette.com

Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Jp-Choquette/100006802386288

 

Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: The Economist Writing Guide

I–along with most authors–struggle with certain elements of creative writing on a pretty regular basis. Passive verbs, over-writing, adverb overuse, pacing, and sentence structure are just a few of the issues that we have to try to overcome in order to write beautiful prose.

Thankfully, there is a handy guide to help: The Economist’s Style Guide.

This style guide contains elements from the book that The Economist (the newspaper) gives to all its new journalists. It contains simple, useful tips and tricks on how to be the best possible writer!

Some of the tips include:

Do not be stuffy. It’s usually better to write for the “common man” than to try too hard to make your work sound intelligent. You’ll fail more often than you’d think!

Do your best to be lucid. The clearer your writing, the easier it will be for your reader to understand what you’re trying to say.

Clear thinking is the key to clear writing. The more you understand what you are trying to say, the more clearly you will be able to say it.

Use the language of everyday speech, not that of spokesmen, lawyers or bureaucrats. If you’re “pompous” or “long-winded” in your writing, you may end up confusing your readers or highlighting your own ignorance. Write plain!

The aim is not just to tell readers what you think, but to persuade them; if you use arguments, reasoning and evidence, you may succeed.

This is some of the advice given in The Economist style guide, and there is a lot more you’ll find quite handy when writing, including:

How to use abbreviations

The proper use of adjectives and adverbs

How and when to use jargon; when to clarify

How to use “new ” words

How to find horrible words

and the list goes on!

It’s quite a lengthy guide, but it’s worth checking out for some basic rules on creative writing.

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