Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Blog hop

Thank you Sunny Frazier for asking me to take part in this blog hop! I've got two works-in-progress and had a hard time deciding which to choose. I decided to go with my new romantic suspense novel, Driving Karina.

Driving Karina
 by Liane Spicer

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historic? 
Karina is the main character in my WIP. She is an attorney who has just come out of a brutal divorce. She buys a sports car and goes on vacation but is injured and scarred in a car crash. She has to hire a driver when she goes back to work in the city, and to her dismay finds herself becoming attracted to the gruff, former soldier who is nothing like the smooth Ivy League types she has always been attracted to.

2) When and where is the story set? 
The story is set in Fort Lauderdale and a Caribbean island.

3) What should we know about him/her? 
Karina is a high achiever from a comfortable background for whom life has been smooth-sailing and success came easily. She is a woman of integrity but is ambitious and more than a little spoiled--until her husband drops his facade and her entire world crashes. She finds out she never really knew the man she thought she loved; that he has been unfaithful throughout their relationship; that he does not wish her well. She can't find reprieve in work because she and her ex co-owned the firm and the staff now has divided loyalties. She feels friendless and betrayed; her secure world has become an alien place where she feels she can't trust anyone.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? 
Karina's ex is a nasty piece of work, and he is determined to wrest the company from her. She is forced to rely on her driver more and more as the sand keeps shifting under her feet. There are problems with a client, and she suspects her husband of tampering with her cases. Having to cope with her injury while working through all of the above is extremely challenging for her as she has no patience with weakness, especially her own.

5) What is the personal goal of the character? 
After all the subterfuges, betrayals and illusions of the past, she wants to discover what is real and valuable in herself and in her life.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Driving Karina is the title, and this is about all I'll say about the story at this time!

7) When can we expect the book to be published? 
It should be available in stores Spring 2015.

And now, to continue the blog hop, I nominate Jewel Amethyst and Carol Mitchell.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Interview with Lynelle A. Martin, author of "Zapped, Danger in the Cell"

Wordtryst: We have a very special guest on Wordtryst today: 11 year old Lynelle A. Martin, co-author of Zapped, Danger in the Cell. Welcome, Lynelle, and congrats on your debut release! Can you tell our readers how you got started as a writer?

Lynelle: Telling stories was always a big part of my bedtime ritual. My mom and I would take turns telling each other stories or we would do team storytelling: we would make up a story and take turns adding pieces. When I was five years old I saw my Mom’s book in the book stores for the first time. I thought it was so exciting I asked her if I could write a book with her. She said that I couldn’t because she wrote grown up books. But I kept asking her until she finally gave in and decided to write a children’s book so that we could write together. We started this book when I was 8 years old. 

Wordtryst: How did you come up with the idea for your book? Tell us about the book.

Lynelle: My Mom used to work in a lab and sometimes she would take me to work with her and let me look at cells under the microscope. One time she showed me a movie with some cells dividing and I asked her, “What if someone could go into one of those cells?” I guess that, plus the fact that she was trying to teach me the parts of the cell, gave her the idea for the story.

Zapped! Danger in the cell is about four curious children on a field trip who discovers a strange machine. One of the kids touches a button on the machine and the three others got shrunk and zapped into an animal cell. While trying to escape the cell they go through a lot of exciting and dangerous adventures in different parts of the cell that have them running for their lives.

Wordtryst: When you began writing the story, did you know how it would end?

Lynelle: No. I knew I wanted it to begin with a field trip to the Museum of Natural History, because I had just been to that museum on my third grade field trip. But I had no idea how it would end.

Wordtryst: What kind of research did you do for this book?

Lynelle: We did a lot of research by watching videos on the internet that explained the parts of the cell, but I kind of thought it was boring especially when the models in the videos were labeled with words I could not even read or pronounce right at the time.

Wordtryst: When and where do you write?

Lynelle: I write anytime ideas come to my head and I decide to write them down if I can find paper. For Zapped! I wrote a lot of it during the summer of 2011 because I didn’t want to go to summer camp, so my Mom and I made it my summer project.

Wordtryst: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Lynelle: The worst part of writing is the research and the part where I sign autographs because as it is my first time having a signature it takes time to get it right.

Co-authors Jewel A. Daniel & Lynelle A. Martin
at the Baltimore Book Fair, Sept. 2014
Wordtryst: What’s the best thing about being an author?

Lynelle: The best thing about being an author is the experience of seeing my book with my name and picture on it and knowing that I wrote that.

Wordtryst: What's the worst part of being an author?

Lynelle: Signing autographs, answering lots of questions, and sitting through book conventions.

Wordtryst: Do you plan to co-author other books with your mom?

Lynelle: Yes. Zapped! is actually part of a series where kids get shrunk and go on adventures that you can only see using a microscope. We wrote the second book in the series over the summer of 2012 and we began the third one in the series this summer (2014).

Lynelle demonstrating how to make a model cell out of
jello and candy, Baltimore Book Fair Sep. 2014
Wordtryst: How do you decide which parts you would write and what your mother would write?

Lynelle: My mom is a scientist so she wrote a lot of the “sciencey” parts. We did a lot of brain storming together about what would happen to the children in each scene. I wrote a lot of the children’s dialog to make sure the children sounded like children. And I did a lot of the editing especially when we were getting ready to publish it.

Wordtryst: How did you come up with the characters?

Lynelle: My characters are based on me, and my little brother and sister. My brother and sister are funny but very mischievous, just like their namesakes in the story.

Wordtryst: Did you and your mom disagree on anything?

Lynelle: How about everything? I wanted to start the story with a field trip, she didn’t agree, but in the end we started with the field trip. She wanted the characters to be nine years old, I wanted them to be around 10 or 11, but she came around. We even disagreed on how the kids got zapped.

Wordtryst: LOL! You must have been very convincing because you got to do some things your way. I understand some disagreement is normal with creative collaborations. So, what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Lynelle: I guess I would tell them to keep writing and let their imagination guide the way.

Lynelle signing copies of Zapped! Danger in the Cell! at the
Baltimore Book Fair
Wordtryst: What are some of your favorite books?

Lynelle: Dork Diaries. I could hardly wait for each new one to come out. When I first started writing the books I was into the Magic Tree House series, but I’ve grown out of them now.

Wordtryst: Tell us three interesting or crazy things about you.

Lynelle: My sister, my brother and my Mom (They are all crazy :) ). I don’t know, let’s see … I play soccer (interesting not crazy), I do gymnastics (interesting not crazy) and I play the clarinet (interesting and crazy: I’m not kidding, it really can get crazy).

Wordtryst: Where can people buy your books?

Zapped! Danger in the Cell can be purchased at Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble in both paperback and e-book format. It can also be purchased from the publisher’s website www.caribbeanreads.com.

Wordtryst: Lynelle, thank you so much for visiting our blog today and sharing your publishing journey with us. All the best to you, and to your mom and co-author Jewel A. Daniel. We look forward to hearing all about your future collaborations!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Blog in the Round - 4 Questions and Pass It On

I’m honored that bestselling, multi-genre author, Novel Spaces blog team member, and one of the most gracious and generous people I know, Marissa Monteilh (Marissa's blog link), has asked me to participate in Blog in the Round - 4 Questions and Pass It On. She was asked by award winning author Karla K.L. Brady (Karla's blog link). In the Blog in the Round, one author invites two authors, and so on, with each answering the following four questions about their writing life. It’s a great way for readers, and other authors, to get to know us better, and it demonstrates the amazing author camaraderie and support that we have for each other. I have chosen to invite mystery writer and acquisitions editor Sunny Frazier (Sunny's blog link), and award-winning author Stefanie Worth (Stefanie's blog link). You can check out their interview answers when they post on August 04, 2014.

So here goes:

What am I working on/writing?
I have several partly written short stories and novellas that I'm working on completing and getting out of the way before I begin my August task of editing a memoir and completing the first draft of my mystery novel.

How is my writing/work different from others in its genre?
I write in several genres, and I think that my Caribbean perspective is what makes my work different from other romance, mystery and lit fic stories. Even when the stories (such as Give Me the Night) are set outside of the Caribbean, the Caribbean vibe is there. As far as literary fiction goes, while a number of writers from the Caribbean have made significant contributions to the genre, each brings a different personal ethos to the work. The islands/territories are different in terms of language and culture, even though the history is similar, and each writer's experience is unique. I don't burden myself with an agenda, a "message", unlike other writers in the arena. What I do is tell stories of lives lived, and I leave it to the readers to take from them what they will. For me, story trumps all, regardless of the genre.

Why do I write what I do?
I've been an obsessive reader from childhood, and I write the kind of stories that I like to read. I write to escape the realities of the world and create a place where I have some measure of control over outcomes. I write because I love language. While I will read pretty much any story in any genre, my main interests lie in literary fiction, relationship fiction, mystery, and memoir--and this is what I write. I also enjoy humor and satire and I strive to incorporate these in some of my writing.

How does my writing process work?
First there's the idea, which can come while I'm sleeping, washing dishes, bathing, reading... When a story comes it feels like a flash out of the blue, but I think it really evolves out of the meanderings of my subconscious. Sometimes I have to stop whatever I'm doing and write the story immediately, as happened with "Miss Annie Cooks Fish" which ended up being shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I was editing another story for a class I was taking and this one just jumped on me: Zap! Write me! I don't have a strict writing regimen; I write whenever I can. I get the most done when I'm on vacation and can maintain an interior focus, or stare into space indefinitely without freaking people out. I write the first draft then send the manuscript to my beta reader. When I get it back I start editing. This takes several passes until I tell myself to leave the darned thing alone or I'd never be done.

Thanks again, Marissa, for including me. I can't wait to read each author's blog as they travel in the round, a unique and inspiring circle of writer love!

Monday, 23 June 2014

The trouble with my Kindle library

Piles and piles of books
I don't have a Kindle, but I've been downloading e-books to the app at a much faster rate than I can read
them. I still buy the occasional hard copy—ill-advised since I ran out of shelf space years ago and the bookcase I bought last year filled up instantly with the piles that were sitting on bed, chairs and desk—but most of my book purchases over the last five years have been of the digital variety.

Since I plan to put a dent in my TBR backlog this summer, I decided to 'get organized' (always a dangerous undertaking for me) by dividing the Kindle titles into categories. The result was as follows:

1: Books by writers I know. (scores, maybe hundreds)
2: Classics to be read or re-read. (scores)
3: Books on eating, cooking and generally living more healthfully. (a handful)
4: Books on e-publishing (a few)
5: Novels, biographies and memoirs NOT by authors I know. (a few)
6: Miscellaneous titles, like the experimental baby books for my granddaughter. (a few)

The problem with my Kindle library became clear: apparently, I own scores, possibly hundreds, of books that I bought or downloaded free simply to support authors I know. I have little or no interest in reading maybe 95% of these books, so what do I do with them? I have to wade through these to get to those that I actually plan to read. I'd like to delete the unwanted books but feel guilty about this although I know I'll never get around to reading, for example, love stories that pair humans with vampires, dragons, tigers or wolves, those that are gruesome, weird and humorless (I can read gruesome and weird if there's humor involved), and those by authors I've sampled whose writing doesn't grab me for one reason or another.

The other categories are fine: I'm picking my way through the Fanons, Alighieris, and Flauberts that I've been wanting to read, like, forever; I've started on the books by authors I know that I do want to read, such as Jamaica Dreaming by Eugenia O'Neal that I read in its entirety yesterday, and William Doonan's Mediterranean Grave; don't plan on reading any more books on e-publishing for a while; and I'll schedule the 'healthful living' books for maybe every other month. But that first category is headache-inducing.

Do you buy/download lots of books you don't plan to read just to support authors you know? What on earth do you do with them?

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Shortlist oasis

I sometimes describe my writing career (I use the term loosely here) as a desert with the occasional oasis that makes it all worthwhile. What is the desert comprised of? Years of toiling in the dark, the laborious search for agents and publishers, the chimerical nature of the publishing industry that follows neither the rules of logic nor of commerce, the clogging up of online bookstores with the slush pile (there, I've said it, and I'm by no means referring to the worthwhile, well-written and edited indie books out there)...

...The shrinkage and near-disappearance of the author advance.
...The social media time-suck requirement that does little unless the writer is already established.
...The fact that some publishers are still robbing writers blind.

Sand, sand, lots of dry sand.

But every now and then something thrilling happens that makes it all worthwhile. Signing with my agent back in 2006 was one; she was the first industry professional to validate my writing, and one of my first fans. The first sale to a publisher, the first release, the first sighting of a book with your name on it in a bookstore, the first (and every single) fan letter, the good and great reviews, the writing network built up over years, the kindness of strangers...

My latest oasis experience has been the shortlisting of one of my stories for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I'm not ashamed to say it made me delirious with joy, partly because I'm well aware that genre writers, especially those who dabble in romance, are not taken seriously by the literary establishment. But that aside, it just feels good to have one's work recognised in this way. For the rest of the month, drinks are on me!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

New release: Give Me the Night

This novel has had quite a journey to publication, but here it is at last. Give Me the Night will be available in stores March 23.

Run, Naeva, run!
Leaving her island home and fleeing to Miami to escape a man who has a yen to kill her should have simplified life for Naeva, but she stumbles immediately into a torrid romance with the yummy Dr. Avery Dubois and has to fend off the advances of her slightly sinister boss while dodging the claws of the felines at the agency where she works. Wracked by nightmares and shadowed by her pursuer, she struggles to find a new normal, but when the long-lost cousin who takes her in on her arrival starts putting his demented plan into action, her life begins to careen out of control once more...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The name crazies

Multiple Identity Disorder?
I'll admit right up front that I have more name issues than the average human. I started life with four names--three given plus the surname, a surname that became a compound when I got married and added a hyphen and the surname of my spouse. After the wedding, all I had to do was flash a marriage certificate (cost: 25 cents for official stamp) and changes went into effect on all IDs, accounts, permits and passes.

One divorce later, I discovered that reverting to the maiden name was not a simple matter of dropping the hyphen and second surname that no longer fit. No siree. I needed an affidavit. I paid for that piece of paper (cost: $50) and went along my deluded way thinking all was well in Namesville.

Four years ago when I went to renew IDs and passport, I discovered that all was not well; I needed a deed poll (cost: $2000) because the first name I'd carried all my life was actually the third on my birth certificate. I paid up and figured my naming ordeals were over.

Fast forward to 2013 when a certain government agency advised me that my married surname (the hyphenated compound one) was still my legal name even though I have a passport, two IDs and an affidavit that say otherwise. An affidavit is not a legal instrument, they claimed, and as such their hands were tied in certain matters until I got a second deed poll (cost: another $2000) to officially revert to my own goddamned maiden name. I think I lost consciousness at that point. When I came to, I shut up and put up.

So that was the end of that, right? Alas, no. Name issues continue to haunt me. I write in several genres and I've got one name for the romance fiction persona, another for the spec fic, and yet another version that I reserve for lit fic and the long-neglected memoir. Now there's a mystery novel in the making and I'm considering a new handle for that too, but I've had it up to here with my multiple identities, not to mention the feeding and watering of various social media places that keep them all separate and tidy.

What say you? Should I just keep the ones I already have? Abandon all but my 'real' name? Let one of the existing names do double duty for the mystery? Or should I put on my big girl shorts and add yet another identity to the mix? This thing is driving me bananas and I'm tempted to wipe the slate and just go by The Writer Formerly Known As...

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Setting the scene

Pigeon Point Tobago, setting of a scene in Cafe au Lait
Settings, both in my reading and writing, are often as important to me as character and plot. I treasure writers
who can bring a location, time and social context so vividly to life that I feel I've not just read about a place but actually spent time there. What is setting precisely? It's the overall atmosphere (place, time, society) and the particular physical setting of each scene.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami, from Give Me the Night
When I think of alluring settings, Gerald Durrell's Corfu stories come to mind. His stories which are set in Africa, Argentina, Guyana and other places are equally compelling setting-wise. If I ever make it to his zoo on Jersey Island, I'm sure I'll recognize the place. I can even recall the smell of animal droppings in his backyard in England when it used to be cluttered with animals in cages--though I've never visited that island. I can hear his neighbors quarreling over the fence about the squawking of the exotic birds and screeches of the primates, just as I'm painfully familiar with the colonial India of E.M. Forster, the dust-clogged Canadian prairies of Farley Mowat, and the blistering near-mystical Australian outback of Arthur Upfield. Yes, I'm a setting whore of sorts.

The settings in my books are usually places I know intimately, such as the Caribbean and South Florida, or that I've imagined intimately, such as the post-apocalyptic barren permafrost wastes in my speculative short story, Bird. Whether the scene is a placid
Arctic tundra, similar to the landscape in Bird
beach or a tropical swamp, a Miami metropolis of highways and metrorails or a lichen-covered polar wasteland, I labor over the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures and rhythms that create that elusive element, setting. To me, these are as important as the speech patterns, personal tics, actions and psychological journeys of the characters. As such, I prize highly the review of an Amazon UK reader who said she was on Google Maps the entire time she was reading one of my stories, following the characters around. This, to me, is proof that the setting came alive and excited the reader to the point where she was living the story, an immersion that's essential to my reading experience, and which I try to create for my readers.

How important is setting to your writing? Do you labor over it, or is it a mere backdrop to that all-important element--the plot?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Burned: Why I hesitate to give advice to new writers

Head in the clouds
Sunny Frazier's article "Fame and Fortune? Fugetaboutit" over on Novel Spaces brought back memories of the times I almost injured friendships in my zeal to help aspiring writers come to terms with the realities of the publishing industry. Those experiences taught me to leave people to their illusions unless they specifically asked for my input.

First there was the case of Friend A. He is not a reader (except for the publications of his particular religious sect) and it shows in his writing which is unwieldy and preachy. He was out of a job and decided, since I had just snared a publishing contract, that he would write a memoir and make some fast money. Fast money? This was around 2006/2007 when Amazon's KDP platform did not exist. I explained the process of getting a book published and the time involved, but he brushed all of that aside. He'd get a big advance that would take care of all his expenses until the royalties started pouring in. Okay...

This brought us to the work that has to be done before signing that lovely contract—you know, the querying of agents and publishers. At the time few agents were accepting e-queries and the process involved lots of printing out of letters, synopses and sample chapters and mailing them to another country (my friend lives in the Caribbean, as I do) with International Mailing Coupons or return envelopes with US stamps on them. And before that, I informed Friend A, a lot of research had to be done to find the agents/editors who might be interested—online research with ultra-slow dial-up connections (remember those?)... My friend's response?

"Oh, you know all about that stuff so you can do it for me."

I think my jaw must have hit the floor at the same time my eyebrows collided with the roof, knowing as I did the years of hard work and research that led to that first publishing contract of mine. (And I'm not even talking about the writing itself here.) Hadn't I just explained all of this to my friend? Yet he thought I had a few spare months or years lying around, late nights included, to do this on his behalf. It was at this point that I began to write off his publishing aspirations, because writers must be willing to do the work. You're not willing to do the work involved? Then you're not serious, buddy. But a friend is a friend, so I hung in there and kept trying to help...

I took a deep breath and moved along to the actual writing. His book was going to be a memoir, and he had written an introduction and a few chapters. I told him the same rules apply as with a novel: there must be a narrative arc, it must be interesting and written in a style that makes the reader want to keep reading. Since it was a memoir, though, he needed to tell the truth, so he would have to excise all the intriguing anecdotes about fighting his (nonexistent up to that point) agent and editor to the death for "creative control" and "joining the ranks of the literati—damn them". He also needed, I told him, to leave out the parts about his vast qualifications to write the book and how much the reader stood to gain from reading the story—and let the story stand on its own.

He was horrified, and his first thought was that I was being malicious. Then he recalled our many years of friendship and that nothing I had ever done or said before provided a sound basis for such a conclusion, so he resolved that it must be the publishing industry that was rotten and biased and I was just showing him what he would have to deal with "out there". At that point he decided he would not waste his time and talent on such a system, and he moved on to other dreams and plans.

Friend B is another story. He also has a lot to learn, but makes up for his shortcomings with his love for and dedication to writing. He does the work, and has been doing it for many years. He puts in the time to learn more about the craft, constantly challenging himself. At some point he decided he wanted to have something to show for his years of effort, so he self-published an anthology on Xlibris. There was just one problem: he believed the royalty checks would start pouring in from the very next month. When I tried to tell him a bit about the reality of self publishing at the time, he got an angry glint in his eyes and a certain set to his jaw. I knew what he was thinking: that I had gone and gotten a publishing contract and now I was  trying to rain on his parade. I was being a wet blanket. A purveyor of negativity.

I shut up. He went ahead with his plans and at last check, after five years, he had not yet sold 10 copies of the book. He continues to ask my opinion and advice, though. The difference now is that he pays attention. I don't know everything, but I share what I do know. I'll always try to help Friend B to the best of my ability because he works hard and loves writing stories. I hope that he finds some measure of success in publishing, whatever his definition of "success" might be.

So, unlike Sunny, I no longer try to put new writers right about the realities of publishing. When they ask in person or write me for advice, I point them to helpful websites. And I don't read their manuscripts unless they are paying me to edit them. I've discovered that to some aspiring writers, it's all about fooling around with a fuzzy dream of immediate fame and fortune. They aren't interested in the years of toil, setbacks, and disappointment, with rare moments of bliss, that go into the making of a real-world publishing career.

Liane Spicer

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

What have you done for your writing lately?

As a writer you're never done learning. This can be daunting, especially when you stumble across a book that blows you away—like The Portrait of Dorian Gray did to me two years ago—and you realize that even given multiple lifetimes you might never attain anything close to the genius of an Oscar Wilde.

But few of us have such lofty aspirations anyway. We just want to write what we enjoy in such a way that readers enjoy it as well. Many readers, preferably. We gain pleasure from the realization that each book we write is better, craft-wise, than the one that went before. And the way we ensure that we get better at what we do is to hone our skills. How do we achieve this?
  • Reading widely should not even be on this list because it's a given: writers of fiction are--or should be--great consumers of fiction. The former state grows out of the latter. I have met too many aspiring writers who say they don't have time to read, or only read the Bible, or only read sci-fi, or romance, or some other narrow slice of the wealth out there. To paraphrase Stephen King: anyone who doesn't have the time to read has neither the time nor the tools to write.
  • Fall in love with words, if you aren't already. I know people, including some editors, who are miffed when they stumble across unfamiliar words in a manuscript. I happen to love authors who challenge my vocabulary and teach me exciting new words. I'm not referring to to those, particularly in the literary arena, whose paragraphs are minefields strewn with obstacles to clarity, or the ones who engage in thesaurus overkill. Expand your vocabulary and use your new tools to telling effect. 
  • Challenge yourself by taking writing courses. I did a fiction writing course last year, and followed up this year with a poetry writing course. I can tell you, that poetry class was a challenge! The class days were the highlight of my week; it was fulfilling to spend three hours reading, critiquing, discussing, learning, and just being in the creative zone with like-minded people. As a consequence, I wrote more, and I wrote better. 
  • Befriend writers on social networks. Most of my online contacts are writers. I have learned much from them about the business of publishing, about writing craft via their favorite books on the subject, about their workspaces, their problems and their solutions to writing and publishing issues. I've learned where to go for cover art and marketing advice. These writers are my lifeline. 
  • Attend writing retreats, residential workshops, conventions. I haven't been to any of those, but from all accounts, the laser focus of a writing retreat and the energy and excitement of conventions are invigorating. In addition to learning new skills, atendees often end up making new friends for life and discovering valuable industry contacts. 
These are just a few ways in which I boost (or plan to boost) my writing. What have you done for your creativity lately?

Liane Spicer