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Category Archives: On Writing

How-to and assists on the craft of writing.

I’m no brain surgeon so when the subject of technology and physics terminology and logic popped up on one of my Facebook writing groups yesterday I read a lot of the posts and commented where I could. I was happily surprised that there are a few other authors like me who don’t go into the hard science perspective, preferring to focus on relationships (sometimes I can’t help it, my first publisher was a romance publisher) in a futuristic society complete with aliens (think Katy Perry’s song ET here).

I suddenly realized that there are two different camps in sci-fi: hard science and what some wonderful author called “low-tech” sci-fi (if you are her or know her, please connect us so I can proceed to give her credit due) which I think fits my level of sci-in-the-fi. In any case, I love the term. Many of those authors on the group give effort to trying to keep the science and physics correct which I love them for; I posted that while I love reading hard science, I’m not qualified to write it. But I do love semi-military sci-fi just because I dig giant alien killing or scorching big guns. So, what’s a low-tech science fiction author to do?

Well, I think that doing/showing/exposition should be done…simply. What I do is try to describe the ship, what I would like to see in/on it. Now, it’s a bit difficult for me to picture highly developed aliens who can travel across galaxies not having the wherewithal to include some nice, luxurious accouterments. That is unless they closely resemble the alien in Alien the movie, in which case their body structure is so different from us that hanging upside down is a way of sleeping rather than a spine stretch. Oh, and also if the character or characters are supplied ships via their military or are self-employed and dare I say it poor. Now that it is possible Mars had water and possibly life forms and similar environment to our own, it might not be so far-fetched that they might have similar physical and mental evolutions. Again, cue the ET song. My only hope is they don’t look like what one reporter called the “Spoonhead” aliens in Close Encounters.

So I like to think that my readers might think like I do: girls can carry big guns and have alien boyfriends and all aliens are not rich in the traditional sense. They have to work too otherwise a relationship is going to suffer in some way or another. And just because the aliens do not believe in or have any type of religious structures, they can understand the concept of “giving” whether it’s selfless or not, and can have a sense of fairness and justice in one way or another. Just maybe not our sense of justice.

Take Alekzander Brede for example. He cares absolutely nothing at all for what humans, even in their dystopian society, consider priceless: gold. What matters to him is physical power instead. On the other hand, Elektra Tate who worships him would love to have anything that could pass as money just to eat.  He makes his own justice and has no compunction against killing anyone for any reason most of the time just because he can. His size and physical strength dwarfing humans makes no one question him and pretty much everyone to avoid him to remain alive. Only Elektra is fairly safe and I mean fairly safe.

But again, I don’t go too much into the hard science factors. And, if I do, like I posted, I use what little science I’m familiar with–not in the Brede Chronicles–but in other series where I’ve used DNA evidence in unusual ways. But I try to simplify it so it’s not too daunting and is interesting to a reader. Like I posted it’s all about relationships. Why is that? Because what good is a book or story if humans can’t relate to it? And at this point, aliens are all conjecture.

I think if you’re writing commercial sci-fi you’ve got to make it comfortable and understandable to your audience. If you introduce something too strange or even just difficult to think about, you’re going to lose readers. And Lord knows that one of the last things an author wants.

That’s the lecture for tonight.

Good Night my little Imperfections!

OH. YEAH.  Tara Sparling kicks some title butt.

Book Title Generators.

5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about.

Listen up Futurists! This is for YOU.

Happy New Year Futurists! I hope your 2015 kicks ass and you achieve your dreams—all of them! Even those pesky writing ones!

In order to kick start (or kickass—might be my new phrase for 2015) your upcoming journey towards those dreams I’m opening 2015 with a post on reading, genre and influence on your writing style and voice.  I was very active in 2014 on LinkedIn.com where there are some great writing groups and even greater writing discussions. I’m also pretty sure I pissed off someone somewhere with my at times snarky—well, downright pissy—comments.  But be assured little Futurists, I snark with the best of intentions. I WANT you to be good—no, great writers—even if I have to beat you into it.

Since the first book I ever finished and got published way back in 2009, I’ve said that I do not read when I am writing and have received the cold shoulder from people more than once over that statement. Why? Simply because I have my own voice and style and people seem to like it and I don’t want to be influenced in any way, especially subconsciously.

Finally, people are starting to agree with me.

But I’m not going to bang on my chest over that. I’m not concerned with people agreeing with me. I’m concerned with you and how to expand on your writing experience.  I mean the whole experience this time, not just the mechanism of getting the right words in the right order.

Most, if not all, writers begin by reading words written by other writers in various genres and varying styles, voices, techniques.  Writers generally start early in life, in those most receptive developmental years, being influenced by what they read.  Those words, translated into images in our new, tiny, absorbing minds, give us infinite pleasure and intellectual expansion simultaneously and we yearn for more and more and more of them as we grow.

Think back to some of the first books you ever read; are the memories happy and pleasurable? Or, like me reading Shakespeare’s MacBeth, intensely psychological and emotional? I’ve read both bright and dark books from childhood and every single one of them influenced my writing in one way or another. And I feel pretty confident in presuming the same has happened to you too.  As we age, we expand our reading (and writing) experience to higher and higher levels of sophistication in more and more genres and eventually we learn to write almost by a subconscious osmosis. We learn how to phrase dialogue, sentences, descriptions, settings in school but also we learn in a more subtle way via our reading. I like to think of it as the ability to fine-tune our writing voice and style and technique like a high performance car engine that we maneuver along the highways of our stories.  At the end of our journey is The Writing Zone: the last place a writer stops and plants the seeds of authorship. (And perhaps a new blog title for me if it’s not already taken.)

By the time we reach that final destination, we’ve learned even more things along the way and we’ve learned more about ourselves specifically as writers. Because we love words and because we love absorbing them and re-issuing them, we have or develop innate abilities to switch between POV (Points of View for neophytes), timelines, settings, etc. and therein lies the danger of being influenced.  We move so deftly and quickly through the worlds we create it’s easy to absorb something from someone else without conscious thought—we’ve been doing it since we could read remember. And while that is a good thing when learning, it may not be as good a thing when we’re writing. Certain phrases, lines, quotes stick with us over the years and we keep them tucked inside our heads and performance engines to inspire, assist, and express our own work. But we don’t use them without crediting the author almost always.  That’s what’s dangerous.  When we quote, we’re quite aware of what we’re doing. When we’re writing our original work while reading something simultaneously we may not be aware of absorbing and re-issuing another author’s style, phrasing, voice, technique unintentionally.

Call me simpleminded (yeah, it’s happened before) but I don’t trust myself not to suck up some other great author’s line or style without realizing it or realizing it too late.  I think our creative brains are locked into absorbing gear especially pleasurable information such as a great new book from an author.

But that’s another post for another day.  Today, however, that’s it for Part I of this New Year’s Day post to rev up your writing.  I wish you all, every single one of you, a happy and most prosperous New Year. Welcome 2015!

P.I. Barrington

Finely tuned engine

Finely tuned engine

The Brede Chronicles

Half-human Alekzander Brede is a law unto himself…or so he thinks. Elektra Tate, the street orphan who loves him has other ideas. When she betrays him for no apparent reason, he vows to punish her one way or another. Taking the one thing she treasures most—their son—begins a cat and mouse relationship spanning two planets and costing possibly his life. Elektra will stop at nothing to save her son but can she overcome Brede’s twisted idea of vengeance?

 

In my Gypsy heritage, we have superstitions. One of them is that whatever you spend doing on the first day of a new year, you’ll be doing it every day for the rest of that year! I have to admit it seemed like that was going to happen since I cleaned the house feverishly on New Year’s Day 2014 and did it all the way through February! However I did spend 2013 writing a new novel that obsessed me and finally last month submitted it to a new publishing house. I signed the contract for The Brede Chronicles on my birthday and haven’t stopped working on the book & its production since. 

So in all the rush and busyness I completely forgot to tell everyone about it!

So I will post again when I have cover art and maybe a review or two. In the meantime I can tell you The Brede Chronicles is a sort of darkish, sci-fi adventure/romancy type book! The story is set in 2107 New Cairo Egypt Earth and various other planets and it follows the relationship between half-human Alekzander Brede and Elektra Tate the street orphan who loves him. It takes a few dark turns.

Many thanks for those of you who follow this blog and have over the past few years! When I have things in hand, perhaps there will be a giveaway…and a book launch! Belated Happy New Year 2014! Things are off to a great start for me and I hope a wonderful start for you too!

Thank you to all who have followed, read, commented on this blog over the last year! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your interest especially in the flood of blogs on writing out there!! Hopefully in 2014 I’ll be able to post more and interact more and more quickly to your responses!! Again I thank you and wish you the very very best for the new year 2014!!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

At the beginning of the 1980’s people began a twisted fascination with dystopian society, fueled by depressing yet accurate films such as The Day After and Testament about the after effects of nuclear war. We were still in the Cold War at the time and I think we needed to believe that somehow we (me, you) would be the “special” ones who survived (as if any could)–the total destruction of humanity; too enormous to contemplate. As a child of the 1960’s “duck and cover” generation where nuclear annihilation survival was taught regularly in public schools, the horror of that reality terrified me and still does. 

Cover of "The Day After"

Cover of The Day After

In the 1980’s I was a young adult and TDA and Testament were the epitome of that terror. There was little way to survive something so incomprehensible so we came up with the idea of a dystopian, surviving society in a gritty dark culture. Our fascination (as adults and parents back then) with that dystopia I believe has influenced our adults now as evidenced by our films and novels World War Z etc. The difference is, now we write novels and make films about it–in abundance. We no longer fear the dark, surviving cruel society of post-nuclear destruction; we prefer it.  Perhaps subconsciously we reject the easy, instant technology of today (not that we’d ever give up our SmartPhones) for the survivalist mentality; guns, knives, swords, crossbows, and the occasional machete are our methods of dispensing instant justice without media pundits arguing endlessly and pointlessly over the political correctness of it.   There was only one problem: we’d survived annihilation; it would be stupid to attack and kill each other now. Again, we came up with a solution: Zombies!! They’re already dead, all we have to do is make it permanent! Best of all, there’s no guilt! Finishing off those zombies is something to be proud of; collecting their body parts as jewelry something impressive. It appears we’ve come full circle: our cultural ancestors performed similar trophy collection, headhunting and drinking wine from enemies’ skulls though with zombies those skulls probably wouldn’t hold up very well as cups.  The only difference is the rotted, bombed out, skeletal frames of city buildings or the newly untamed wilderness that serve as the backdrop.

Hell I have nothing against zombies or the killing of them. I mean come on, the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price was the ultimate and the model for our zombiefication: a virus made all of humanity, mindless blood drinking vampire/zombies (hey was that combination ahead of its time or what?) and only Price had the immunity to reverse the process and save mankind. (SPOILER ALERT: Guess what? He didn’t. They killed him before he could transfuse his blood into theirs.) Move over Will, this was the original.  My only real concern is zombie romance. These dead guys and girls stink. Come on, rotting flesh smells good? I don’t think so. But to each his or her own…

Cover of "The Last Man on Earth"

Cover of The Last Man on Earth

Why am I telling you all of this? Well someone on a group asked why we write in the genre’ we write. I started to post my standard, snarky response of “I write to entertain people” but then began thinking about it. Why do I mainly write sci-fi or at least futuristic novels? Why not Westerns? Well, okay I do write westerns, one WIP in progress. But mostly I stick with sci-fi. Half of it is probably because as a child I was raise on Star Trek, Lost In Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Space 1999. Some schloky, some excellent but all HOPEFUL. These were our dreams: a future in space without limitations, prejudice, greed, or warfare/violence (except as needed of course). Humanity could survive and even grow in more ways than we could ever imagine or expect. At least that’s what we hoped.

I’ve always been a writer, like it or not. It chased me down not unlike those aforementioned zombies. I’ve read pretty much all genre’ from literary to romance and anything in between so choosing a genre’ didn’t really matter.  I read them all, I could write them all too. I just never took any of it seriously. Until now.

When I started writing seriously, I resumed with sci-fi/futuristic.  I couldn’t bear to put those awful, nuclear annihilation fears down and make them real again. For me, I came to the point where I could still see something hopeful in our future; colonization of space, commonplace alien interaction, human problems still trying to be dealt with sanely or not.  Yet a future, somehow some way. People say my work is ‘dark’ and I do too but humanity survives and expands in my work and in my settings. Now I can’t bear to see it any other way.

 

 

I can’t help it. There are certain male actors I love and always have and most likely always will. I like to call them the “good” bad guys. Not because they’re good at being bad, though they are, but because they’re so filled with attractive angst and most importantly gentility. Oh come on. Nearly every paranormal romance (especially Gothic) has the genteel hero be he demon, devil, angel, or vampire. He’s the gorgeous one dressed to the teeth (pun intended) in livery.

 

Why the sudden musings on good bad guys? Vincent. As in Price not Beauty & the Beast in any of its television incarnations. I don’t even remember what I posted on FB that got me thinking about him and about all those good bad guys.

 

I think if I had to sum up Vincent Price in a sentence it would read this: “He was such an evil gentleman.”  And he was. Vincent, regardless the role cheesy or cherished, carried himself with the air of a tortured nobleman: a good guy turned bad sometimes through no fault of his own (sound familiar romance readers?) He had that voice, distinguishable anywhere; not quite British but not quite American or “continental” either. And that laugh. At once evil and refined, mad and sexily bad. He never showed up onscreen in jeans or a cowboy hat (though I think one of his films might have danced along that vein) and the only horses he rode were those of the gentility as well: those used for “the hunt” or for nobility travel.

 

No, Vincent was always dressed formally usually in historical settings and apropos costuming. It didn’t matter if he was the scheming vizier to the king or queen or the crazed curator of The House of Wax or even the goofy lonely archaeologist in the cave during The Brady Bunch’s vacation in Hawaii, even in Margaritaville garb (Hawaiian print shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops), Mr. Price could give you shivers and make you love him for it.

 

I think it’s that gentility that makes me love Clark Gable as Rhett Butler; he’s a thorough scamp but a nattily dressed one and I get chills from him too! 

 

Perhaps it’s just me. Perhaps not. Perhaps you are intrigued by well-dressed men as well, be they good, bad or indifferent toward you (the worst kind). 

 

I think the Vincent Price/Rhett Butler syndrome is one that helped nourish the paranormal romance parameters–I see so much similarity between them and the immortal heroes of today.

 

Or it could just be as simple as this:

 

 

Top coat, top hat,


I don’t worry coz my wallet’s fat.
Black shades, white gloves,
Lookin’ sharp and lookin’ for love.
They come runnin’ just as fast as they can
Coz’ every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

 

~~ Sharp Dressed Man~~

Music and Lyrics by ZZ TOP

 

Since it’s already the third month of the new year I won’t say happy new year other than I hope it’s been happy so far. For me one huge thrill in 2013 has been that Crucifying Angel, Book One: Future Imperfect is now available in PRINT (Waa-ah-ah HOO! Thank you Desert Breeze Publishing!) at Amazon.com:

 http://www.amazon.com/Future-Imperfect-Book-One-Crucifying/dp/1612529410/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361913303&sr=8-1&keywords=Crucifying+Angel+Barrington

On to the actual post.  Once again I find my work placed under yet another genre’ category, Women’s Fiction, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On one hand it exposes me to other readers/audiences who might never check out my books because they don’t know about them. On the other hand, it gets a little confusing and even frustrating at times when I submit it for reviews or even just a social media posting. I’ve actually checked out the definition of Women’s Fiction and while my novels always always deal with relationships this genre seems an odd fit. Romance in my books usually takes the back seat mainly because I get so involved in the plot and the action and I’m not by strict definition a romance author. My romance elements nearly always have edgier slightly gritty and sometimes even dark relationships in the sense of depth. There’s very little romantic fantasy and the conflicts that unite or present obstacles are deep and steeped in guilt of some sort.

Then there’s futuristic. Crucifying Angel, mentioned above, kicks of the Future Imperfect, a semi-dystopian, near-future (my term) crime thriller is a prime example of the conflicts of the two main characters dragging around huge personal baggage that affects most of their relationship. The story is set in 2032 Las Vegas and is a real crime thriller with souped-up technology. But there isn’t any extensive true science there other than things I’ve created and some authors insist that sci-fi requires real science.

Hmm. I don’t write chick lit. I barely write romance. I play fast and loose with the sci in sci-fi. So what do I call my genre? After nearly four years of trying to figure it out myself and driving editors, reviewers, and readers at book fairs, librarians, social media etc., insane I think my own definition would be Commercial Fiction, sub-genre everything. (I’ve even got a romantic western in the bin believe it or not!))  Hopefully what I write has the potential to read a broad audience and not just female either. I strive to write something that men will find entertaining as well. I strive.

Commercial Fiction has been looked down upon, widened to the scope of all genre inclusion from Chick Lit to Fantasy and Vampirism and loved wholeheartedly by people like me and in a way it is all-inclusive.  Every genre can have broad appeal and that broad appeal is my definition of both my work and Commercial Fiction.

That is my definition of what I do.  I try to entertain and touch my readers emotionally somehow and as many of them as possible. But then again, I am not a publisher or editor, those angels who descend to sprinkle miracle dust all over to make the books shine bright like a diamond (Hi Rihanna!) in the sky whatever the genre’.

I’m wondering if anyone else has this odd problem or if I’m the only one.  If you are so inclined let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

                                                                                                                                                                                      ~~~~~~~

“Don’t make me get a warrant,” he told Ernesto Calderon as they both stood in the surveillance bay.  Alfonso was gone for the day and Calderon drew the swing shift. “I really don’t think you want Garcia dragged away from his wife at this late hour.  All you have to do is make me a copy of the footage I looked at the other day.”

Ernesto looked askance at Gavin, as if the detective wore a set of horns.  He moved along the inside of the monitor station backing away and running a hand along the underside of the console.

“I advise against that.”  Gavin reached into his holster.  “I can put you down before your fingers touch the button.  Make me the copy.”

“What format?”  Ernesto played for time.

“All of them.  And please put a rush on it.”  He smiled and pointed his tricked out Glock at the man.  “I have a deadline to meet.  One I cannot miss.”

Ernesto did as he was told and Gavin knew Calderon would hit the panic button as soon as Gavin walked out the door.  He prevented that by walking around and shooting the wiring to shreds.

“Thank you, Ernesto,” Gavin told him as he took the chip, stick, and a cylinder from him. “You have my permission to blame everything on me.  I should think you’d make a point of that to Garcia. Again, thanks.”  He backed out the door in case Ernesto possessed any weapons and all the way to the elevators.  His bio-identification still held and he smashed a finger against the express button that shot him to the casino floor.

He broke into a run out the front doors and leaped into the patrol car as the on-duty security force exploded out the front doors of the casino.  The unit’s tires slammed down onto the pavement under Gavin’s foot and fishtailed as it flew off the premises and down the highway.  He got a last glimpse of them taking aim and popping off a few rounds before they scattered like ants without a pheromone trail.

 

*****

 

Alejandro Jesus Garcia slammed down the phone in his penthouse bedroom

“I am not happy,” he announced to the group of guards who stood just inside the penthouse suite’s front doors.  Garcia untied the silk belt at the waist of his robe and tugged on a shirt.  “Bring Calderon to my office.  I’ll deal with him there. Sergeant, stay with me.  We will discuss how to handle this… breach of security on the way down.”  

Garcia buttoned the collar of a newly pressed shirt and then buttoned the cuffs.  He picked up his gun in its holster and slung it over his shoulder, finally pulling a jacket over it all.  The clock on the wall read 10:30 p.m. but no one looked at it.  The time was of no concern to anyone in these matters — matters that they must now take into their own hands and resolve.  Garcia arrived at his office at exactly 10:39 p.m. and looked into the pale face of Ernesto Raul Calderon without pity.  They had extracted the details of Gavin’s visit and his possession of the footage of the Amazon’s casino floor and rooms from Calderon and now Garcia made his decision.

“Take him out,” he told the mini-troop of soldiers.  “Have him write a note of suicide and then shoot him.  Make it look like he pulled the trigger himself. Get him away from my sight.”

Calderon barely squeaked out a faint protest as they lifted him off the floor and carried him by the armpits out of the office.  The terrified expression never left his face.

“Now.”  Garcia turned to the rest of his staff.  “We will deal with this Anglo detective and his girlfriend.  I want my top officers on this by the break of day.  There will be no more tolerance of this game.”

He lifted the receiver of the phone.  “Not only will I not tolerate this interference, He will not tolerate it either.  As it is, we will have to have a face-to-face meeting tonight.  Yes, Elena? Have the car brought round to the front. Yes, immediately,” Garcia snapped as he dropped the phone receiver back down and looked into the faces of his contingent of guards.  Not one of them looked at ease.

“Come! We go.”  He picked up his jacket again, flung it over a shoulder and shoved his arm into the sleeve.  He adjusted the holster as he shoved in the other arm.  Then he led the mini-squadron toward the elevator and down through the casino out into the waiting limousine.

 

*****

 

“What do you want with me so late?”

Garcia bowed low.

“Please forgive the intrusion, Jefe.  There has been a… breach of security at the Amazon.”

“That is for you to deal with, Alejandro.  It is your job.”

“Yes, Jefe, and I have already taken care of the employee.”

“So?”

Garcia hesitated, knowing that even a momentary hesitation could cost him his very life.  He bowed even lower.

“So, it is not a minor breach, Jefe.  Someone has gotten hold of a security tape — a very important section of footage.  He has it in his possession.”

“He?” the deep and frightening voice asked, curious.

“Yes.  It is a police officer, Jefe. He is a homicide detective and—”

“The new detective?  A man from Britain?”

Garcia paused in confusion.  How had the boss, the Jefe, learned of this particular man? Alejandro Garcia rocked back and forth a moment, contemplating the possible consequences of his lapse in absolute control over the dominion of The Amazon.

“Yes, Jefe. A Briton.”  Garcia’s voice was a whisper.

“He has already come to my attention, Alejandro.”  The Jefe’s voice contained no trace of anger.  Garcia held his breath. “I have already put contingency plans into place to… deal with him. He will soon be out of the way — completely, permanently.  As will his woman partner.”

Garcia let out a tiny breath of relief.

“However, Alejandro, I cannot let this moment of weakness on your part go unpunished.”  The voice was now terrifying in its total lack of emotion.  “You may choose your punishment: the death of your wife or the death of your daughter.  Which will it be?”

“Jefe—”

“Which will it be Alejandro?”

“Jefe, I—I cannot—”

“Then you have already chosen, Alejandro.  Take him to his family.  His… ex-family.”  A faint trace of a satisfied smile could be heard in the Jefe’s voice.

Alejandro Garcia screamed in his own mind.  He did not know whether it could be heard or not and it no longer mattered.  Nothing mattered but the grey matter of his wife’s and daughter’s brains spattered across the living room walls of his penthouse suite.  He never stopped screaming.  Not until he took his last breath on Earth many, many years later.

Book One in the Future Imperfect crime thriller trilogy now in paperback from Amazon.com

Book One in the Future Imperfect crime thriller trilogy now in paperback from Amazon.com

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