Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mini-Reviews V and the Blog Blitz!

Check out D. L.'s BLOG BLITZ

Everyone knows I like to try new and different things, so today I present to you the BLOG BLITZ. Here’s how I see it working. Sign up on the linky list below, making sure to record your email address, and you’ll instantly become a member of the Blog Blitz Team. Then from time to time, I will select a deserving blog (that must be part of the Blitz Team) and a specific date. I will then email the team members that information and on that date we all will go out of our way to visit that blog and leave an encouraging comment on their most recent post. I'm talking about hopefully a 100+ comments appearing out of the blue in one day!

Copyright-Zan Marie Steadham, March 2009
Spring is here and we all need good reads to fill the new season. Here's my latest installments of good books to read.

BEL CANTO Ann Patchett (literary suspense)
This is an excellent book. Blending opera, terrorists, and music into a readable, edge-of-your-seat read is an amazing achievement and Ann Patchett pulls it off with style. The deep, but shifting, third POV is seamless and smooth. I never had a doubt about whose head I was in and why. Must Read!

THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE Diana Gabaldon (Historical Fiction)
You can't go wrong with Diana Gabaldon's books! This one is a great read that cuts to the heart of one of her beloved characters, Lord John Grey. Add a neat mystery and Jamie Fraser and it's as good as a read gets.

CHILDREN OF GOD Mary Doria Russell (Literary Science Fiction)
This is the sequel to The Sparrow and it is a wonderful, comprehensive conclusion to the first book. Emilio Sandoz's journey to another world as a Jesuit missionary comes full cycle and the reason for all his pain is gloriously revealed. Must Read!

CROSSING OCEANS Gina Holmes (Christian Women's Fiction)
The main character must make some tough decisions when faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Some reviewers thought the Christian content was heavy handed and others didn't see it at all. I think it's just right. Good read.

EMMA JEAN'S BAD BEHAVIOR Charlotte Rains Dixon (Women's Fiction)
Emma Jean's Bad Behavior enchanted me. The main character, Emma Jean, has a snarky exterior that hides a deeply wounded and insecure soul who is searching for the truth of the story of her life. She's delightfully flawed and I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her. Great Read!
See my interview with Charlotte Rains Dixon on February 19.

RESCUE Anita Shreve (Literary)
Rescue is a good story, but the style wasn't my taste. The third person POV was distant, but not omniscient and much of the book was in present tense.

PIRATE CAPTAIN: CHRONICLES OF A LEGEND Kerry Lynne (Historical with Romance touches)
Pirate Captain: Chronicles of a Legend, is not your usual pirate story. It’s a sprawling tale with more layers than a hundred onions. At the center of the tale lies the stories of Cate McKenzie, a woman who hides deep secrets, and Capt. Nathanael Jonathan Edward Blackthorne, a man of mystery and legend.  Good read.
See my interview with Kerry Lynne on March 12.

THE SCOTTISH PRISONER Diana Gabaldon (Historical Fiction)
This is even better than BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE and true to its title, it concerns Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey. If you've ever wondered how these two very different men can be good friends, you must read this book. Besides, we all need a dose of Diana Gabaldon while waiting for the next big Jamie and Claire book, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.

What about you? What are you reading this spring?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules for Phenomenal Storytelling

A good story is the start of a lot of entertainment. From the campfire and the classroom, to the movies and books, it still holds true that you have to have a good story to hold an audience. Now you can sample the wisdom of one of the great animated picture making companies--Pixar. Ther list of 22 Rules is from Emma Coats, a Pixar storyboard artist, who tweeted them last summer. Check out this cool graphic version HERE.

And for you who want to keep this piece of inspiration around all the time, Etsy has a poster version you can buy.

Some of them really resonate for me.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
Do you see a pattern here? ; ) I keep telling myself the goal must be, finish the book, THEN worry about the small stuff.
Follow the link and let me know which rule resonates for you?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kerry Lynne and Her New Book--Pirate Captain

I met Kerry Lynne at the Books andWriters Forum where we shared critiques in the Writers Exercises. She’d got a new book out that I wanted to share with you. Check out her website at http://www.piratecaptain.net/

Kerry Lynne’s new book, Pirate Captain: Chronicles of a Legend, is not your usual pirate story. It’s a sprawling tale with more layers than a hundred onions. At the center of the tale lies the story of Cate McKenzie, a woman who hides deep secrets, and Capt. Nathanael Jonathan Edward Blackthorne, a man of mystery and legend. The question that focuses the story is: Are the stories about Blackthorne true? And if they are, how does that affect Cate McKenzie’s attempt to leave her troubles behind and find a place to belong?

“I am Nathanael J. E. Blackthorne, the pirate captain. Please, reserve your accolades regarding me fame and conquests for another time. During the year of our lord 1753, I was sailing the West Indies, minding the oars in me own boat, pursuing me sole purpose in life: to disrupt the unholy alliance of two corrupt men, to destroy their lives as they destroyed mine. I mistakenly kidnap Catherine Mackenzie—wrong person, easy mistake, you understand—and me life went arsey-turvey. Having lost hearth and heart to the Jacobite War, and wanted for war crimes, Cate has the grit and savvy to have survived years destitute and alone in the cesspool known as London. When arrest seems imminent, Cate, through whose eyes this story is told, buys passage on the first ship away. Now, Cate desires but one thing: a place to belong. Alas, if it were only that simple. This is a story of scarred and blinded people. It’s the story of trust, or rather, the lack of it. It’s the story of loss of faith and the disbelief that Providence might ever smile again. Have you the courage to join us?”

Zan Marie—How long did it take you to write Pirate Captain: Chronicles of a Legend from first idea to publication?

Kerry Lynne—From the very first idea? That would have been about 10 years ago. From the time that I decided that I was going to attempt to actually write a book, it was a little over six.
            Seemingly like everyone, I had written in high school, and being a history major, did my fair share in college as well. Then life took over, and my writing was reduced to highly encoded, cryptic instructions (with a few magazine articles sprinkled in) for the next 30+ years. Then life took an odd turn, and through an even odder sequence of events, I circled back to writing with an online group. I was a horror. My greatest gratitude goes to those first few unfortunate souls who beta-read for me. Those were the true martyrs. I was in the world of fan fiction for several years, honing my skills. And then I wound up doing what its critics complain about most. Out of that turbulent soup rose Nathan, Cate, Thomas and a cast of several hundred characters.

 ZM—Your actions scenes are amazing! They’re easy to follow and fast paced. How do you construct them—for example, Cate’s sword fight in chapter one?

Kerry Lynne—Wow! Thanks. As to how I do it? Umm… For the most part, I start with the end result, and then work backwards. In that particular scene you mention, I needed Cate to go overboard, whether she jumped or was knocked off being a little unclear. I focus on keeping everything compact and concise, and still get the story told. When a person is in that kind of situation, thinking is reduced down to the most basic urges: yes/no, right/wrong; good/bad; live/die. Keep the sentences short, the words as single-syllabic as you can, the verbs powerful, and resort to adjectives and adverbs only when nothing else will work.

ZM—How has your experience sailing help with the writing of Pirate Captain? Have you ever sailed on a ship like the Morganse?

Kerry Lynne— I’ve been on square-riggers, but never to sail one. It’s on my bucket list; one of these days. {sigh}
   I hope my sailing experience helped lend credibility to the book. There are a lot of things in there which only another sailor could identify with, like the constant motion, or the scene with Cate trying to get her land legs back. Nathan’s slogan of “there are no secrets on a ship” is true because, big or small, you live elbow-to-elbow. No one can do anything without everyone knowing.
     The sailing aspect was also the book’s biggest problem. If you’re writing a pirate book, you have to involve ships and sailing, and yet I also knew that the whole nautical, mariner’s language thing would scare many readers off. Luckily, my MC, Cate, isn’t a very good sailor, so through her I could explain a lot of things. Since most of the book is through her POV, I could keep the “nauticalese” down to a minimum and not seem odd. In the meantime, the purists will crucify me, because I haven’t been entirely authentic. I’d like to think this book might serve as a stepping stone for those who are interested in the Age of Sail, but are intimidated by it. When all else fails, there is a glossary at the back of the e-book version, and a pdf available on our website.

ZM—As a fellow history major, I’m interested in what courses you taught. Did you specialize in the era of piracy, or something else? How did that help you research Pirate Captain?

Kerry Lynne—I was in Secondary Education, and only for a short time. You could be as innovative in the classroom as you wished, so long as you were to the Civil War by Christmas and WWII by Memorial Day.
          I specialized in Westward Movement while in school. The interest in the Age of Sailing didn’t develop until I married, my husband and some of his friends being nuts on the subject. As for the pirate aspect, I have to give all credit to Pirates of the Caribbean, and even then, it took me a long time to come around. Their “Hell’s Angels” aspect bothered me for quite a while, until I started to understand that pirates (a few deviant personalities aside) were just sailors trying to find a way to get through this world. Pirates were the first pure democracy, their captains (and often their officers) being elected. No venture was set upon without the approval of the majority. They were also the first limited corporation, their only pay being a share of the profits (swag or treasure). They were also the first to institute disability insurance, their ship’s codes often allowing extra money for the loss of fingers, eyes or legs.

ZM—Pirate Captain: Chronicles of a Legend is the first in a series. What do you plan for the series?

Kerry Lynne—As you might have discovered, Cate and Nathan’s story isn’t a smooth one. This isn’t going to be a “happily ever after,” at least not in the romance genre sense of the word. As someone once said, if you don’t have any ups or downs in life, you’re dead. As the blurb says, these are very scarred people (both physically and mentally). It’s not so much a story of chasing after what one wants, the lengths they will go to in order to keep it. There will be victories and there will heartbreak. Right now, I have plans well up into their golden years. It remains to be seen if the reader will be willing to follow along with me. <g>

 ZM—Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Kerry Lynne—Historical fiction was always my favorite, partly because of all the fascinating little details about the past and partly because those were almost always the thick ones. It’s torture for me to pick up a thin book; with all due respect, I feel like I’m reading the outline. Many have suggested that I should cut The Pirate Captain book in half, or even thirds, but that’s not the story I wanted to tell.
       The first time I thought “I want to write like this” was when I discovered Diana Gabaldon. Directly and indirectly, I have learned a lot from her. She was the one who gave me permission to work the way I wanted: not necessarily from Chapter One, Page One. Her character development and scene layering is a fascination that I’m still striving to master. She’s a sharing and gracious lady, as you well know.

ZM—What attracted you to the historical fiction genre and this particular time period? Have you written any others in that genre?

 Kerry Lynne—The Pirate Captain is my first book. Some might call it “break out;” I’ve often referred to it as “break down.” As any writer knows all too well, it’s not a smooth process. I came very near to deleting the whole thing more than once.
         The “Golden Age” of piracy was considerably earlier than when the book takes place. It needed to be in the mid-1750’s, because I needed a war and its devastation for Cate’s backstory; the Second Stuart War was perfect. It’s an interesting time, too, because it’s when the old ways began to fray at the edges. People started to realize that they did have choices, things didn’t always have to be the way they are. It makes for some interesting clashes. The pirates are a case in point: an island of democracy in a sea of imperialism.

Kerry Lynne was a history major in college and went into teaching. That didn't work, so she had two office careers. That didn't work either. Through a circuitous sequence of events, Kerry Lynne wound up in the decorative painting world, where she traveled, taught, and published for some 30 years. And then her hand wouldn't work, so she went back to what she knew: writing, history and sailing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Are You Asleep?

I don't often share personal things, but my newest experience--a sleep study--was too funny not to share.  When I got home and told him all about it, John said, "Oh, good, now you can make a character do a sleep study." 

And you never know. It just might happen. Some of the tiniest details of real life have appeared in my writing and if I carefully choose which character and where in their story it happens, it works.


Last night I did the strangest thing I’ve ever done in my life so far—a sleep study. I realize some of you may have done this, but for those who haven’t and find yourselves in need of this test, let my experience be a guide for you.

I have had disrupted sleep since I was twelve—that’s 4 ½ decades—due to Fibromyalgia. My primary care doctor wants to pin down any possible cause beyond Fibro for my problems, so off to the sleep doctor I went.

The sleep doctor was reassuring because 1) he can diagnose Fibro from the brain waves (Hurrah!), 2) Apnea and restless legs run with Fibro (I’m game to try a CPAP if I need one), and 3) don’t worry, the lab is like a hotel room. Wear your normal pajamas.

So far, so good.

Then I made some startling discoveries.

First discovery: Yes, the room was like a hotel room—a well-appointed one—except there are not towels, washcloths, tiny shampoos, and soaps. Oh, well, I thought, I’ll make do with the paper towel dispenser for washing my face since I did bring some soap. I’d shower when I got home. The other problem was it had an air freshener. I had that removed because it’s a trigger for my asthma. But the smell lingered in the air and the bedclothes.

Second discovery: The technician kept asking me if I needed anything, neglecting to tell me she had towels, washcloths, and shampoo. : (

Third discovery: There was no way to contact the “outside” world between the intake paperwork and time to wire up for sleep. No intercom. No call button. No phone. So, even if I’d thought to ask for linens, I’d been out of luck.

Fourth discovery: Oh, the wires! Miles of them! I had 27 leads attached to my legs, chest, by my eyes, on my chin, and ten just for my head. It was like someone had dumped a bowl of spaghetti on the bed! When I needed to pee, I had to get the tech to help. (Thank goodness, the intercom works during the test.) Let’s just say, I managed to ask to pee only once. Once was enough. Being careful not to get any wires in the pot or down my pants (except for the ones that were _supposed_ to be there), was a feat! Once back in bed, I had to go to sleep again with every lead a hard lump that dug into me at every turn.

Fifth discovery: I thought the sleeping part was hard, but getting unwired was even harder! The ten leads attached to my head were held in place by industrial strength goo. After they were removed I was left with a “faux hawk”. Now, my hair is straight as a stick and I’d have sworn it could never be styled in such a manner, but there it was in all its gory…er…glory. The tech gave me tips for how to wash it off when she brought in the missing towels, washcloths, and shampoo. When I asked why they hadn’t already been in the room, she said the hospital management company wouldn’t let them. Needless to say, I added _that_ to my post-study comments!

Sixth discovery: Industrial strength goo takes industrial strength effort to remove. I finally managed to stop feeling sticky after two showers, three latherings of my hair, four face washings, and five ear washings. The latter was necessary to get to layer of gunk out of the valley between my ears and my head.

So, if you find yourself in need of a sleep study, ask for linens and shampoo! Tonight, I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own, perfectly comfortable bed complete with a pillow that fits my shoulders and bed linens that don’t stink like fake flowers.

Happy ZZZZZZZs to you all! Sweet Dreams!

And the results are: (drum roll, please) No apnea, no restless legs, just the strange and unrestful brain waves of a person with chronic pain. It's called alpha-delta sleep in which the alpha waves (full consciousness) intrude on the delta waves (restorative sleep). No wonder I'm tired all the time, but at least I now know why!

Have you ever included experiences like this in your writing?

Next week, I have another Author Interview for you~~Kerry Lynne. Her new book PIRATE CAPTAIN: CHRONICLES OF A LEGEND is a good read. Be sure to check the post out. ; )