WHAT IS A VOOK?

A Vook is a combination of a Video and a Book. Think of a story or text interspersed with images. Is this another harbinger of the future for the publishing industry? Evidently, you can access your Vook online or on your iPod and no doubt soon on your ebook reader, too. Videos can be watched alone or you can just read the text or view the integrated version. What’s next–interactive stories where you decide which path the character will take? Those have been done but not in this format. Not yet.

What will it mean to have video accompany the text? For a cookbook, this could be useful. For a novel? I like the power of the imagination. Will that be lost if we watch images like short movies in between the pages of text? Or will it enhance the story? And as authors, will be have to write with more visual scenes in mind?

What do you think?

Check out these resources for more info on the Vook:

http://vook.com/vook.php

http://www.facebook.com/Vooktv

http://tinyurl.com/y9hy9sv

PUBLISHING TRENDS: MASH-UPS

What is a mash-up? I hadn’t heard the term until I read about it in RT BookReviews magazine in the February issue. No, it’s not a type of mashed potatoes. We’re referring to literature here.

A mash-up in publishing is essentially a cross-genre blend. In other words, it’s a combination of genres, such as classic romance and horror in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter blends the vampire craze with history. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Shakespeare Undead are other examples of classic lit twisted with fantasy or supernatural elements.         zombie

So why is the mash-up so hot in the literary marketplace today? Perhaps because literary mash-ups are taking the spotlight, mixing classics with the paranormal phenomena so popular right now . Even agent Lucienne Diver states in an online interview that she’d love to see a mash-up of history and the paranormal.

This mini-trend isn’t new to the romance genre which has mixed romance with mystery and sci fi and fantasy through the years. Just because books are termed paranormal or mash-ups or steampunk doesn’t mean this concept is virgin.

Speaking of steampunk, has that trend already lost its steam? The latest Sherlock Holmes film brings to mind the historical atmosphere blended with the gears and wheels of old-fashioned technology. How many more Wild Wild West type stories will we see before this trend dives? For more on this subject, visit mystery author Vicki Lane’s recent blog: http://tinyurl.com/yhgxxt7                 steampunk

And what is paranormal, since we’re on the subject? It’s anything to do with extraordinary abilities: i.e. magic, supernatural, or psychic powers. So why is a paranormal mystery, i.e. a mystery story with a ghost or witch, for example, not called a mash-up? Or is it? What about sci fi romance? Or a historical with mythological beings? It all seems to be a matter of terminology.

Keep in mind these are my loose definitions of the terms. As a writer, it’s more important to blend something old with something new to create what Hollywood calls the High Concept.

PUBLISHING TRENDS: ANGELS

A recent article (http://tinyurl.com/yghvnku) implies Angels are the next great thing in publishing. After vampires and werewolves come zombies, but zombies play better as evil beings. Hence the next bad boy hero: an angel who’s done something so bad he gets kicked out of heaven. What could be more appealing as a romantic hero than a man with a sullied reputation who seeks redemption? He’s dangerous, driven, and supernatural. Only the power of our heroine’s love can save him. Consider this theme as another variation on the Beauty and the Beast archetype. The alpha hero rules again, only this time he’s bigger than life, bad, and yet yearning for a second chance. Get ready: A new flood of fallen angel stories are about to descend into our literary arms.

angel
angel

The Fallen Angel can also be a villain, like in the Cotten Stone thrillers by Joe Moore and Lynn Sholes. (http://www.cottenstone.com) More fallen angels will be showing up in theaters and books as the trend takes off.

Who decides these trends? Is it based on reader demand? Popular movies? Do editors decide what’s coming next? Or do authors take up the slack and start submitting a slew of stories with this theme? They will now, once the pronouncement about the Next Best Thing in Publishing makes the rounds. If you were tired of vampires before, prepare for an onslaught of angels. But wait….they don’t all have to feature dark heroes. We can have comedic ones who are sent to Earth with a mission. Well-meaning guardian angels. Angels who have screwed up but are good at heart, who’ve been returned to life to make up for their mistakes. Better reserve that pair of wings for Halloween already.

What’s next? I’m waiting for a surge of mythological super beings. You know, the ancient gods from Greek, Roman, and Norse legends. My paranormal romance series is based on Norse mythology. Any publishers out there listening?

Today it’s vampires. Tomorrow, it’s angels. What’s next?

Do YOU believe in angels? If so, which kind: Guardian, Fallen, or the Heavenly halo type?

BOOK REVIEWS

Do you keep track of the books you read? Some readers maintain elaborate spreadsheets or use software programs to catalogue their collection. I prefer to write a brief blurb on each story and to list the books I read on a monthly basis. Since I haven’t shared these with you in a while, here are the last two months of books that have kept me hooked. I’ve thrown in a film review for your pleasure.

TEMPLE OF THE WINDS by Terry Goodkind (Fantasy)

This is the fourth installment in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I got hooked by watching Legend of the Seeker on TV and now I can’t put the books down. As in the other volumes, a love story propels the plot, which features woodsman Richard Cipher, now known as Lord Rahl and a wizard in his own right. His powers are tested as a plague sweeps the land, decimating his people and his army. Dark magic started the disease, and only magic can stop it, but at a terrible cost to both Richard and his lady love, Kahlan the Mother Confessor. The evil Emperor Jagang is determined to defeat them. Between him and Richard’s former nemesis Darken Rahl, they force Richard and Kahlan to pay a terrible price to save their people.

THE PROPHET OF YONWOOD by Jeanne DuPrau (YA Fantasy)

Eleven year old Nickie comes to Yonwood with her aunt to sell her late great grandfather’s house. The town is in an uproar after a citizen predicts the end of the world. To save themselves, the townsfolk follow the dictates of righteous Mrs. Beeson who seeks out evil like an incarnation of a Salem witch hunter. This is the third volume in DuPrau’s Book of Ember series, but unlike the other two, it takes place before the cataclysm that destroyed civilization as we know it. Although this story deploys the author’s theme about people’s intolerance of anyone who is different, I didn’t enjoy this story as much as the first two books. The City of Ember was wonderful, with imaginative world building and engaging characters. Like Legend of the Seeker, the film City of Ember hooked me on the series. The People of Sparks, the second book, shows how conflict can build between two groups who don’t understand each other. The Prophet of Yonwood introduces this same idea about intolerance but the lesson is almost too obvious to be appealing anymore.

SHERLOCK HOLMES (Film).

Robert Downey Jr. is good in the lead role, and all the other actors are convincible as well. The period sets are very atmospheric. The villain is so evil you don’t know how Holmes will stop him, and as a detective, Holmes’s deductive reasoning is logical if a bit hard to follow. I enjoyed Holmes and Watson being more action oriented in this film. It’s gritty and dark, giving a realistic view of the era, but satisfying in its climactic resolution. You’ll want to see it again to follow the clues.

KINDRED SPIRITS by Allison Lane (Regency romance)

Colonel Jack Caldwell is plagued by nightmares after cashing in his commission and retiring to his country estate. But peace is out of reach when he meets neighbor Marianne Barnett. Marianne, an orphan, is a victim of her guardian’s greed. The man will stop at nothing to acquire her inheritance. Since she’s about to come of age, he takes drastic steps to ensure control, playing on Marianne’s fears and memory lapses from a horrific event in her past. He doesn’t count on interference from Jack, who proposes a solution. Jack marries Marianne and together they forge a tentative bond while attempting to free themselves of the emotional shackles binding them. Their histories must come to light before they can move forward and find true happiness.

LARCENY AND LACE by Annette Blair (mystery)

Vintage clothing shop owner Madeira Cutler has enough to contend with before the grand opening of her store, but finding some old bones leads her to a long ago murder. The killer is still alive, however, and determined that Maddie doesn’t get a clue about what happened. With the help of her psychic abilities and a resident ghost, she follows the threads, weaves the clues together, and gets to the cut of the crime. Cleverly magical.

THE LADY AND THE CIT by Blair Bancroft (Regency romance)

Wealthy landowner Aurelia Trevor seeks a husband who can manage her estate and get rid of her cunning uncle and his son who covet her lands before she reaches her majority. When she meets London financier Thomas Lanning, she decides he’ll suit her needs. Surprisingly, he accepts her proposition, while guarding his own agenda. He doesn’t count on his quiet wife growing into a force of her own, nor does she realize there’s more to life than her small country world. Soon their life is turned topsy turvy as more family members descend on the newlyweds and Thomas aims for a political seat. Will Aurelia support him, or will she turn him out? Despite Thomas’s apparent aloofness, he isn’t immune to his wife’s charms and soon wants a lot more from their marriage than her dutiful support.

JEWEL OF ATLANTIS by Gena Showalter (paranormal romance)

Grayson James has been sent to Atlantis to recover the famed Jewel of Dunamis. Attacked by various beasts, he accepts aid from a mysterious woman named Jewel. Gradually, he realizes she is more than she seems, but by then she’s stolen his heart. How can they ever be together when their worlds are so different? If Jewel crosses into his domain, she might die. But neither can he leave his people behind. Is there any way for them to be together?

KENSINGTON’S SOUL by Faith V. Smith (paranormal romance)

Detective by day and vampire by night, Zachary Kensington rescues Dr. Miranda James when she is attacked by a couple of thugs. Doomed to spend eternity in his unwanted immortal form, he battles against the evil vamp Gabriella who turned him. When he falls for Miranda, can he keep Gabriella away from his love, or will she become the next victim? Savannah is the charming setting for this tale of passion and redemption that will have you cheering for Zach to achieve his heart’s desire.

 

BACKSTORY

One of the most common problems in new writers’ works is the insertion of backstory into the first chapter of their book. Nothing else kills the pacing quicker than paragraphs heralding back to some past event in the character’s life. Maybe it’s necessary to relate some of these facts, but they can be done in a less intrusive manner. You must keep the action moving forward. The reader wants to know what’s happening now, not twenty years in the past.

So how do you deal with this burning issue? Here are six tips to get you started.

1. Leave backstory until later. Is it absolutely essential to the core of the plot as the story opens?
If in doubt, leave it out. The story should start with some sort of crisis or change that propels your character to take action. Let the reader wonder why this is happening until your character can take a breather and reflect on what’s going on . That shouldn’t occur until at least the second chapter. Remember to end the third chapter on a hook, because this proposal is your selling tool. Kill the pacing, and kill your chances for publication.
2. Filter past events in gradually, not in one info dump. Only reveal what is necessary at that time in the story.
3. Leave some elements purposely out to create a mystery. The reader will keep turning pages to see what happened between your people in the past or why your heroine feels this way.
4. Add in the backstory through dialogue whenever possible. Let your character tell her story to someone who doesn’t already know it. Or have two characters gossip about your protagonist. If you’re in her viewpoint, she could overhear or one of them could mention it later. Find ways to work it in so that it’s interesting to the reader.
5. If you want to relate the backstory from your protagonist’s viewpoint, offer tidbits of past history a line or two at a time. Or segue into the past in a quick paragraph with a sensory element that ties the past and present together. The idea is not to get bogged down. Keep moving forward!

How do you deal with this problem?

RESEARCH AND THE MUSE

A reader at one of my author talks recently said she was surprised by how much research I did for my books. She believed fiction writers made up their stories. I was appalled. No wonder some people (not YOU, of course) look down their noses at popular fiction writers. Any author would be dismayed by this observation because we put a lot of work into researching our tales.

As any reader of historical fiction knows, the writer must thoroughly research all details of the era in order to be accurate. Ditto for mysteries. I get people asking me all the time if I had been a hairdresser because my sleuth’s job details are so accurate. When I mention that my background is in nursing, they are astounded. How did you learn enough to write about a
hairstylist who solves crimes for your Bad Hair Day series? Well, I interviewed my hairdresser and followed her around the salon. I visited a beauty school and checked out their curriculum. I attended a beauty trade show in Orlando. I subscribed to Modern Salon Magazine. And if I needed to know anything else about hair, I asked my hairstylist or had her read relevant passages in my manuscript for accuracy.

That’s just the beginning. Consider that I also consult a homicide detective for crime details and police procedure, even if forensics doesn’t play a heavy role in my books. Plus each story has its own topics to research. I’ve investigated such diverse subjects as medical waste disposal, tilapia farming, migrant labor smuggling, the dog and cat fur trade, vanilla bean cultivation, and more. Then there is on-site research, i.e. pounding the pavement in Mount Dora to get street details, skulking through a Turkish Bath in my swimsuit, getting a reading from a medium in Cassadaga. I take very detailed notes and photos to use in crafting my story.

Authors who use contemporary settings cannot make things up out of thin air. Besides the location, we may need to research pertinent issues to include in our stories. I always try to include a Florida based issue or something of universal interest (like Alzheimer’s Disease) to give my stories added depth. Newspapers, magazines, the Internet, personal interviews, and on-site visits are just some of the techniques we use. Probably the most fun I’ve had for research was going on a couple of cruises for Killer Knots. I challenge you to fault any of my minute details in that adventure.

But what about the vampire and werewolf fiction out there now, and other paranormal stories? Don’t those authors just make up their imaginary worlds? No, because these worlds must be consistent, and they’re often based on mythology or early Earth cultures.

For example, my proposed paranormal series is based on Norse myths. I have several texts on the subject and took extensive notes so I can understand their creation theory. I wrote down the different gods and goddesses, because they play a part in my story as well. For this tale as well as Silver Serenade, my upcoming futuristic romance, I needed to name spaceships, weapons, and/or military personnel. Using the Internet to look up ranks in our own military gave me a model. I also have a collection of Star Trek and Star Wars Sourcebooks which are great inspiration for weaponry, ships, propulsion and such. So even for fantasy, research is necessary. Science fiction is even more exacting because you’re extrapolating what might be plausible in the future or exaggerating a current issue from the news.

So please have more respect for fiction writers. We do extensive research, and a truly gifted writer will not let it show because you’ll be swept into the story. A good work of fiction is like a stage show, with all the blood and sweat and tears going on behind the scenes. All the audience sees is the fabulous performance.

Note: This blog first appeared at http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com on November 13, 2009

BOOK TRAILERS

I’ve just posted my first book trailer on YouTube. Watch it there at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNcSYlRHAY4
OR click the Book Trailer tab above.

This has been an educational experience for me. Linnea Sinclair, multi-talented author of sci fi romance, put the video together. She’s done some of her own and they’re fabulous.

First Linnea had me look on http://www.123rf.com and on http://www.istockphoto.com for images to match my characters. This was fun but incredibly time consuming. You have to register for an account, then create a Lightbox. Each time you find an image you like, add it to your Lightbox. When you’ve selected the photos you want to purchase, you have to decide which size you want. I bought the medium sized images at istockphoto and the print sized images at 123rf.com.

Then we came up with 10 short lines of text. Linnea matched the text to the images to see if I liked the pictures. I changed some of them, and she substituted them in. Now we had an action sequence. I let my technically proficient friend do the music since I’m not at all talented in that area. Linnea altered some of the hair colors and backgrounds as well to suit my story and put the whole thing together. Many thanks!  This takes a lot of work but it’s so exciting when finished.

Next, I uploaded the trailer to YouTube. This meant creating a new account, filling in my profile info, then uploading the video. YouTube gives you links so you can direct link to their site or embed the video. Since I didn’t want to mess with HTML code, I added the direct link to my website and blog. Now I’m trying to figure out how to get my name to show up in the search feature on YouTube. Clearly, I still have a learning curve to go. I also have to find where else to upload the video besides my publisher’s website.  Suggestions?

Find links to Linnea’s book trailers on her website: http://www.linneasinclair.com

A WRITER’S THANKS

What does a writer have to be thankful for in these days of shrinking lists, cut print runs, lower advances, and fewer markets? If we stop to think about it, I’m sure we can come up with several items. So here’s my list. I am grateful for:

  • My fans, first and foremost. I write stories to please you, to sweep you into my worlds, to offer you an escape from daily toil. Your feedback gives me the encouragement to keep writing despite the highs and lows of the publishing business. Your feedback shows me what you respond to in my writing and my blogs. Your feedback lifts my spirits.
  • My writing talent. I am grateful that I have been gifted with storytelling ability, that I can lose myself in imaginary worlds, and envision scenes in my head with people I’ve created. The drive to write cannot be taught. Writing craft can be learned, but the urge that makes a writer pick up a pen or sit at a keyboard comes from the heart.
  • A love of reading fiction. I can look at printed words on the page and soar into the zone where a story unfolds. It’s such a glorious feeling that I feel bad for people who read non-fiction and don’t understand what they’re missing. Not everyone has this ability. Consider it a gift, too.
  • The publishers who have accepted my work so that I could share my stories with you. So thanks to Dorchester, Kensington, and The Wild Rose Press. SILVER SERENADE will be my fifteenth published book.
  • My husband whose support has allowed me to pursue this career. He helps with the errands, often with the cooking, and this frees my time to write. He drives me to signings and other events. He listens to me whine. I realize not all spouses are this supportive or generous, and I am grateful for our 33 years together.
  • My kids who give out my bookmarks to their co-workers.

What are you, my fellow writers, grateful for today?