Saturday, June 29, 2013

Guest Blogger Stephanie Berget: On Storytelling and Setting

Setting can and often is an integral part of a story, but there can be different types of settings. When I started writing Sugarwater Ranch, I needed to find the perfect place for my characters to live. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life training barrel horses and competing at rodeos, most of it in the Northwest. My cowboy and I have traveled all over Idaho, Oregon and Washington, so it’s a region I’m familiar with, and the perfect place for my character’s hometown.
One reason I picked central Oregon was because of its unique landscape. Sagebrush and juniper covered mountains, lava flows and ranches with lush hay fields and pastures surround the small towns in the area. Although, Dalhart, Oregon is fictional, the rest of the towns are real. 

The first story I ever wrote was about a barrel racer. The heroine’s brother had a bit part. He was a party animal and caused her no small amount of trouble. Sean intrigued me and made me laugh. I wanted to see what his story was, and if there was any way he could redeem himself. He’s tough, parties a little too much (okay, a lot too much) and thinks he was put on this Earth to ride bulls. He’s got his life all figured out until he meets Catherine.

The book is set in Oregon, but SugarwaterRanch is also set in the world of rodeo, which is as
unique to the story as any town. Most sports have rules and referees to control the game. In rodeo, nobody gives the animal a rule book. They are an unknown quantity and may buck differently each time the gate is opened.
Traveling to as many as five rodeos in a week is both exhilarating and exhausting. You learn to sleep in the truck, drive all night and take care of your animals before yourself. Rodeo people are also a different breed. They compete against each other at every rodeo, yet wouldn’t hesitate to drive for hours to help one another out. 

Cowboys and cowgirls come in different sizes and personalities, but they all have courage and perseverance in common, along with the desire to win. Whether it’s riding bulls and bucking horses or roping or dogging steers, each cowboy loves what he’s doing and gives it his all. And if you think cowgirls have it easy, try racing a horse at top speed and riding it through three turns, sometimes on slick or treacherous ground.
When Sean is introduced at the beginning of Sugarwater Ranch, he’d rather climb on the back  of a one ton bull who’s only goal in life is to get rid of the cowboy on his back. Man against beast. He’s found the thing he loves most in life then he meets Catherine, who won’t settle for second best. This cowboy’s got some decisions to make.

Whether it’s a sheik’s palace, a remote town in Oregon, a billionaire’s penthouse, or a rodeo arena, the setting is the backbone of a story!

For more on Stephanie, check out her website HERE 

Order Sugarwater Ranch from AMAZON or Barnes & Noble

You can follow her on Twitter @stephanieberget

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Post by Mark Arundel: Remembering the Author Alistair Maclean

I think every writer has a favourite author who inspired and influenced them, whose works they read over and over, and whose writings they try to emulate.  The author in question is not always the best-known, and is not always au-courant, but often the author is one of the standard-bearers for his or her genre.  For me, that author would be Robert B. Parker and his "Spenser" series.  For Mark Arundel, the key author in the world of action fiction is Alistair Maclean.  Let's hear what Mark has to say about him:

Remembering the Author Alistair Maclean
Younger readers may never have heard of Alistair Maclean. After all, he died in 1987 at the age of 64 and now rests in a cemetery in Switzerland alongside the actor Richard Burton. A Scot with a background in the Royal Navy and employment as a schoolteacher, Alistair Maclean went on to write 28 novels, a collection of short stories and several non-fiction titles between 1955 and 1986. Even if someone doesn’t recognise his name, that person will probably know one of his novels because Hollywood made it in to a film: Where Eagles Dare starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. 

Alistair Maclean was a prolific bestseller and a hugely popular author throughout the 1960s and 1970s. One reliable source puts Maclean’s total book sales at 150 million. In the list of all-time bestsellers, that figure puts him somewhere between Stephen King and Dan Brown. Not bad for a writer whose books never contained any sex. Maclean thought that sex was a diversion that slowed down the action.
After 50 years, his books can feel dated but the high quality writing shines through especially in his work from the 1960s. My personal favourite is Fear is the Key written in 1961. It’s a twisting tale of revenge written with suspense, action and humour.
Perhaps the quote that sums up Alistair Maclean for me is “I'm not a born writer, and I don't enjoy writing.” The expression on his face when he said those words was not recorded and so, unfortunately, we don’t know whether he was serious. I like to think he was sporting a big grin. Anyway, grinning or not, in my opinion, Alistair Maclean is one of the all-time great action writers and if I was half as successful I’d be very happy.

Cheers!  Mark Arundel

Mark Arundel was born in London and likes to travel whenever he can.

Mark plays weekly five-a-side cage football and seven-a-side carpet football. In the winter, he skis and at other times, constructs escapes to sunny shores where he snorkels among the fishes before eating one for supper.
Mark is currently working on Rafferty File #2, a sequel to The Washington Sanction. He has also made a start on the plot of Codename File No.3.

Find Mark's books on AMAZON
Follow him on Twitter @MarkArundel


Friday, June 21, 2013

Guest Blogger Claudia King on Sex in Literature

Sex in Literature

When I first got into the world of writing at the end of last year, I did so via sex.
No, I didn't sleep with some publishing executive at Barnes and Noble, but like many indie authors I took my first dip into self publishing by dabbling my toes in the ever-lucrative pool of Erotica.

What started as a fun attempt to make a few bucks from a handful of naughty short stories quickly turned into something of a passion for me, and over the past months I've been focused on understanding exactly what makes the erotic so compelling in literature as opposed to other mediums.

I'm sure most of us have had to sit through an uncomfortable sex scene in a movie theatre, cringed when too much detail about their bedroom habits, or giggled at the cheesy bow-chicka-wow-wow porn soundtracks of the eighties. There are plenty of examples of sex being silly, sordid, or just downright embarrassing in popular culture. So what makes sex in literature so different?
a friend goes into a little

Well, in my opinion, literature has the unique power to reflect the most intimate and personal qualities of our most taboo pastime in a way few other mediums are able to grasp. There are no strangers sitting in the movie theatre with you, no actors fudging up their sensual lines (though authors aren't exempt from this either, admittedly!), and no exterior distractions to take you out of the experience. Books can plumb the depths of emotion and sensation in a way that often escapes other forms of art, and in my mind the intimate relationship between the reader and the page makes literature the perfect medium for tackling sex.

But what's the point of cramming pages and pages worth of sizzling prose into your story? There's an important distinction to make here, and it's one I've seen overlooked time and time again by casual critics of erotica: Sex that exists purely to titilate and sex that exists to facilitate the story being told are two very different things. One erotica novel can leave you hot and flustered, but no richer as a person, while another might leave you deeply moved, with a renewed understanding of relationships, sex, people, and the whole range of emotions we attribute to the erotic.

So the point of sex in literature, just like the point of anything in a well crafted story, is to evoke emotion. In particular: arousal.

Just as a comedy scene exists to make you laugh, or an action scene to make you excited, a good sex scene triggers an equally powerful emotional response that a skilled author will use effectively to engage the reader with what's happening on the page. This is just as true for the cheap and cheerful side of erotica as it is for the deep and meaningful end of the spectrum. As an author of both the cheapest and smuttiest of single-chapter sex scenes, as well as much longer and (hopefully!) more engaging sexual stories, I've learned that erotica is a complex beast, with just as much potential to be amazing (and terrible) as any other medium out there.

But what I love in particular about sex is the ability it has to convey information alongside all of its exciting naughtiness. It's a way to show characters at both their most passionate and their most vulnerable. The way a husband looks at his wife in these moments, the way an authoritarian lets go of all their control in private, or heck, even the difference between a character who rips off their clothes and one who folds them neatly on the dresser; all of these things are ripe with potential for exploring character, emotion, and relationships.

It's a shame that most literature that concerns itself with sex is often classified under the same umbrella, because sex has so much potential to be used to powerful effect beyond simple titilation. Many of my favourite (non-erotic) books are what first interested me in writing sex scenes through their masterful use of them within a broader story, and I often find myself wishing that many other novels would give us more than just a fade-to-black when the hero and heroine close the bedroom door behind them.

However, having said that, I understand that not everyone's as dirty-minded as I am! As academic as you can get about the idea of sex in literature, the vast majority of it wouldn't exist (or be anywhere near as popular) if it wasn't ultimately all about evoking arousal. Some people like to dismiss erotica because of this, but I think the distinction isn't a whole lot different than that of any other niche genre.

Ultimately, sex is there because people enjoy reading about sex. Erotic scenes can cater to different kinks, be artistic, inartistic, move a story forward, or reveal information about characters; but their fundamental purpose is to serve the same basic emotional need that any other genre of entertainment exists to supplement.

Sometimes we're in the mood for drama, sometimes we're in the mood for sex.

Check out Claudia King's collection of smut and freebies on AMAZON.
Or, if you liked this article, maybe you'll enjoy some more erotic musings on Claudia's BLOG.  And follow Claudia on Twitter @CKerotica

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What Does Cherise Kelley Write???

Today's post is from guest blogger - and very busy writer! - Cherise Kelley.  Cherise has a knack for jumping into a wide array of topics, and she is as comfortable with fiction as nonfiction.  Check out what she has to offer (and read to the end for info about how to get FREE paperback copies of her books!)

What do dog aliens, substitute teachers, and wanna-be brides have in common? Besides Cherise Kelley as their book's author, I mean. Please tell me! Pretty please? I need a short snappy answer when colleagues ask, "So, what do you write?"
Dog Aliens is my series for dog lovers. My two dogs inspired it. We adopted them from the animal shelter, and they are both mixed breed, but they are the smartest dogs I ever met. Raffle uses his intelligence to make his humans happy by anticipating our every whim and being obedient. Oreo uses his smarts for evil! He delights in eating Raffle's food. When we first got him, he ran away all the time and chewed things he shouldn't.

In the books, both dogs are from the planet Kax, but only Raffle knows this at first. Raffle communes with the Kaxians. Oreo thinks Raffle is nuts.

High School Substitute Teacher's Guide: YOU CAN DO THIS! is my way of paying it forward. Someone
was nice enough to explain to me how to get this job when I needed it, and I want today's unemployed college graduates to know they could be working! Many are intimidated by teaching, let alone teaching high school. My book tells not only how to get the job, but how to keep it and love it.

Mixed in are lots of anecdotes. I made many mistakes when I first started out. At the time, they were devastating, but now they make great stories! The last chapter, Don't Be a Bad Example, tells of many bad teachers I have worked with or known of, throughout the years.

How I Got Him To Marry Me: 50 True Stories is a book that nagged at me for a year until I got it

together.  I interviewed 50 married women to see what they had to do to get their men to commit to marriage. This is a controversial book. Some people think I am advocating manipulation. Others say I shouldn't tell women they have to be married.

One reviewer got it just right. She says if you want marriage, then you shouldn't settle for just living together. That's really the message I want to send.

The first 25 people to post reviews of any one of my books on Amazon get free paperbacks! Buy the Kindle book for a significant discount, review it, and get a free paperback! PM me on Goodreads with your mailing address once your review is up at Amazon!

You can also check out Cherise's blog and some of her articles for Yahoo:

Cherise Kelley's Blog: Size 12 By St Patrick's Day
I also have a weight loss blog... I know! I am all over the place with my writing topics! Anyway, I lost 90 pounds in ten months. Every day, I blogged what I ate and what exercise I did. Today, this blog is about keeping the weight off. Right now, I am 10 pounds over. I've been struggling to drop these ten pounds since Christmas!

OK, and yeah, I also write articles for Yahoo!
Some of the 133 topics I have covered are: Career hopping was good for me,  My dogs are my workout (mostly), How I quit smoking, and You can negotiate most insurance claims. I was a claims adjuster for eight years, in another life...

For more updates, follow her on Twitter @CheriseKelley

Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest Blogger Darren Craske: My Road to Publishing

My Road to Publishing
Guest post by Darren Craske, author of 
The Cornelius Quaint Chronicles

Way away back in 2006/2007, when I first came up with the outline for the first of the Cornelius Quaint
Chronicles, it was always intended to be an ongoing series.

Fusing my love of writing and drawing my own comic books with my love of things such as Doctor Who, Indiana Jones, a bit of Sherlock Holmes and a dash of James Bond, I wanted to create a story set in Victorian England about a travelling circus that gets mixed up in a conspiracy involving serial murders and lots of sly goings-on, with a few steampunk/supernatural elements thrown into the mix.

I approached writing the book in the same way that I approached writing comics. I wanted to create a group of people with different skill-sets (super-powers, for want of a better hyphenated word). Just as with any good super-team, I knew that I needed to have various types of characters to balance it out: a strongman, an acrobat (or two), a skilled knife-thrower, a clairvoyant fortune-teller, and the grizzly, short-tempered conjuror who leads them. I wanted my main character to be in his mid-fifties (purely because that’s how old Bruce Wayne was in ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ by Frank Miller, which I devoured and adored in my teens) and it also gave me the chance to give him any sort of back-story that I wanted, or give him no back-story at all. The possibilities were endless.

I knew exactly what story I wanted to write, how many books it would take me to get there, and what was going to happen after that, but what I didn’t know was that the journey to get to that point would not be easy.

I was rejected many times when I had submitted pieces of work to publishers and agents (this was long before self-publishing or even ebooks came along) and after many years of trying and failing, I was lucky enough to find a website where you could publish the first few chapters of your book, and then get constrictive criticisms from your peers (there are a lot more of these around nowadays, such as HarperCollins’ authonomy site). A clever points system for characters, writing style, plot and setting was introduced, and those excerpts that scored the highest were shown to a professional publisher, with the possibility of getting a publishing deal.

I had received so many rejections from previous attempts, so I didn’t hold out much hope. But then I was contacted by a gentleman called Scott Pack who, at the time, had just moved on from being the head buyer for Waterstone’s book stores to being part of a publishing company called The Friday Project, whose aim was to spot talented authors on the internet and transform their books into reality. Scott spotted and enjoyed the first few chapters of what was to become The Equivoque Principle and he wanted to read more. One thing led to another and after a couple of months I was offered a publishing contract.

With the benefit of knowing exactly where I wanted my main characters to go, I walked into that initial 1 book contract full of ideas for the future, and when it changed from being a 1 book to a 4 book contract, I was able to sow the seeds in each of the first 3 books, leading up to the status quo changing revelations contained within the fourth. Everything fell into place, but I was careful to leave a few threads dangling so that I could pick up on them once I had concluded the initial 4 book arc. 

Now my 4 book contract with The Friday Project (owned by HarperCollins) has come to an end, and it
feels like my love for the characters has been rejuvenated, now that I am no longer tied to telling their origins. With the advent and accessibility of self-publishing, it means that I can write what and release it whenever I want, so to me whilst this is an ending of sorts, it is only just the beginning for where the series is going to go next.


Darren Craske began his career writing and illustrating comic books before his first published work, The Equivoque Principle in 2008. Since then he has written 3 more volumes of The Cornelius Quaint Chronicles, plus 2 short stories featuring the enigmatic conjuror, with the 5th book in the series, The Monarch Key, due later in 2013. He has also written several other books for adults and younger readers. Craske lives in the United Kingdom with his wife and two children.

Get Darren Craske's books on AMAZON
The Quaint Chronicles
The Monarch Key (2013)

For mature(ish) readers
Beyond His Years (2013)

For younger readers

Follow him on Twitter @DarrenCraske