Independent book review: 5* for Ghost Star



Ghost Star is a rollicking good space opera for young readers. Anyone from reading age to mid-teens will enjoy it.

Plot

Nolo Bray, a member of the Ruam race from the planet Tac, is the most elusive smuggler the galaxy. The book opens as his ship, the Ghost Star is finally caught and boarded by the Lingering Death, a moon-sized cruiser of the Imperium, which is ruled by the monstrous Nell. The Nell are humanoid, but much bigger than Terrans and equipped with blade-like foreclaws on their wrists.

Only one crew member remains hidden in a locker. Galen Bray, Captain Nolo’s teenaged son, watches on video as Mohk kills his father and orders the execution of the rest of the crew. But he decides to keep Bray’s young daughter, Trem, alive as a prize to deliver to his commanders in the Nell home world.

Teenaged Galen waits until the Imperium marines leave the ship, then manages to frees the smuggler ship from its tether to the Lingering Death. He’s helped by one last robot, Hex, and by the AI of the Ghost Star, which has the personality of his long-deceased mother, Bartrice — something that he doesn’t appreciate at first.

But in escaping the Imperium, Galen flies too close to a real ghost star, or black hole. There, he finds an ability he didn’t know he had. Time slows for him, allowing him to guide the ship down a plasma tube, where he discovers a planet inhabited by the last remnant of his race, the Ruam.

Surprise follows surprise. His father was the last living Ruam lord, making Galen now a lord. The smuggler Ghost Star is actually a Ruam battle cruiser disguised with scarred outer plating. It was the Nell who started a war against the Ruam, killed their home world of Tac and wiped out almost the whole species.

The pace never lets up. Galen gathers a crew of Ruam on a mission to rescue his sister. However, they first have to find a device to keep their planet from falling into the black hole. Along the way, they visit the Ruam homeworld of Tac, and an artificial moon called Zed that’s a smugglers’ haven. Think the island of Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean, in space. It’s there that Galen finds his long-lost aunt, Eria.

Characters

This book has everything you want in a science-fiction adventure: lots of action, a fast-moving plot, hairsbreadth escapes and lovable characters. I have to admit, Hex is my favourite. Eschbacher manages to create a personality with the perfect combination of modesty, eagerness to help, and a bit of dry humour that keeps him from being obsequious.

Eria is a badass warrior intent on killing as many Nell as she can in order to save her niece. And Burr, the Ruam’s chief scientist, is a blast. I can absolutely picture him as my high-school physics teacher.

As the villain, Lord Mohk is perfect. Evil oozes out of his every word. He kills for pleasure, maims for discipline, sends thousands of his own soldiers into almost certain death in the hopes that some of them might be able to carry out his will.

The author

Eschbacher is a professional writer with a long career in children’s television. His style shows it: snappy dialogue, lots of humour, the right amount of sadness and a dash of teenaged hormones allow young readers to identify with the main character. Get to know more about Roger on his website and blog.

If you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced sci-fi adventure, or know a young reader who is, get this book.

5*

 

Don’t miss your chance to save: Book launch for Wildfire coming March 22



You can reserve your advance copy of Wildfire for just 99 cents—but only until midnight March 21.

It’s only 6 days till the first Wine Country Mystery goes live on e-book retailer sites.

That means there’s less than a week left to pre-order your copy for just 99 cents. As of launch day—Thursday, March 22—the price goes up to $2.99.

So do as your parents advised you: buy when it’s on sale. And it’s on sale RIGHT NOW.

Win a signed paperback

I’m giving away three signed paperbacks copies of Wildfire. Send a screen capture to contact@writtenword.ca showing your order to enter your name in a draw for one of them.

And email this blog or the links to your friends who love good mysteries so they can enter the draw, too.

What’s Wildfire about?

The sun sets through the smoke from wildfires in Sonoma County, California, October 9, 2017. Photo by the author.

Wildfires swept across California wine country in 2017, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and killing dozens of people. Law school grad and single mother Tara Rezeck finds herself in the middle of the catastrophe. When she returns to her job at the most award-winning vineyard in Sonoma County, she finds her employer’s body in the ashes.

The question that challenges her brains and her legal training is: was it an accident? Or was his body burned to hide evidence of murder?

Join the launch party on Facebook March 22 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, you can read the first two chapters for free on Wattpad.

Writing tips: What is style?



Creative Commons: dbdbrobot

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing style lately. Actually, I’ve thought a lot about it for a long time — as long as I’ve been writing, which is most of my life.

I find that my response to a book or to a writer, no matter what the subject is, depends a lot on style. I like an author who is original, who does not just try to copy a best-seller or the current trend in books you can pick up at the drug store.

But there is also something else that determines how well I like a story, something about the way the writer uses language.

I’ll give you an example: Margaret Atwood is generally accepted as one of today’s greatest writers. She has written a great many books in of a range of types — I am trying to avoid using the word “style” in different ways here — and, it could be argued, in different genres. Alias Grace could be called “historical fiction,” set in 19th century Upper Canada and based loosely on real events. The Handmaid’s Tale is a set in a dystopian future and, while it doesn’t have a lot of sci-fi tropes, it won the Arthur C. Clarke award for best science fiction.

Atwood is both accomplished and unarguably a master of the writing craft, but while she writes about many different subjects, there is something about her manner of writing that puts me off a little. The only word I can use to describe it is heavy. Her writing is heavy — I don’t read it quickly or easily; on the other hand, I can’t put it down once I start, either.

One writer whose style I really admire is Mark Helprin’s, particularly in his Winter’s Tale, a fantasy set in New York City. In addition to his ability to meld fantastic elements, humour and action into a setting simultaneously believable and fantastic, Helprin also manages to be very descriptive as well as economical with prose. It’s as good an example of magical realism as any I’ve ever read.

But what is it that determines the style? Word choice? Sentence length? Description? Active voice? Those are just a few items in the writer’s toolbox. Also critical are creating realistic, believable and interesting characters, pacing, mixing action and pathos and so much more.

The accepted good

There is a tension between popularity and what is accepted as “good writing” by the publishers and the leading literary critics of any time.

For instance, today, “good” writing is usually characterized by lean prose, active voice, realistic dialogue and sparse description. Writing coaches keep advising us to avoid adverbs in favour of more precise verbs, except when it comes to describing dialogue. We should only use “said,” and not try to change that around with “exclaimed,” or “replied.”

Crime novelist Elmore Leonard came out with ’s 10 rules of writing a couple of years ago; he admitted that he was at least a little facetious at the time, but now he says he seriously believes them. Okay. And Leonard is a great writer, and changed the literary world, and sells zillions of copies, okay, okay — but is he the arbiter of the English language, now? What if something happens in a sudden way? Elmore, what is wrong with the word “suddenly”?

The exemplars of great writing are still supposed to be Fitzgerald and Hemingway. I love their work, but again — should we all try to emulate their styles?

On the other side of that tension is writing that flies in the face of those rules, yet sells millions of copies. The current target of criticism is EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s a passage:

I watch José open the bottle of champagne. He’s tall, and in his jeans and T-shirt, he’s all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair, and burning dark eyes.

Descriptive, yes. Also clichéd — it’s been done so many times. “Burning dark eyes”? While we can all imagine what those must look like, couldn’t the author have thought of something original?

And yet, millions of readers ate that up, burning eyes and all. Did the burning eyes cause heartburn, I wonder?

Description

Writing coaches also tell us not to use too much description. Hemingway and Fitzgerald did not describe what their protagonists looked like. Okay, but Dashiel Hammet did.

I agree that too much description can get in the way of the story. There is a lot of material for people to read, that communication of any kind must compete for an audience’s attention with so much more material than there ever was before, so we writers should always try to get as much information across as efficiently as possible — fewer words, more information. I get that.

Efficiency is the goal! (Photo: The Pug Father/Creative Commons )

But we do need to describe some things, some times. And occasionally, an adverb is the best way to do that. See?

Who says so?

Watch this space. Last week, children’s- and middle-grade author Roger Eschbacher opined about writing style. In future, other bestselling authors will weigh in on the subject. So watch this space, and leave lots of comments and questions for the guests, please. Maybe we can finally determine exactly what writing style is, after all.

What is writing style? Guest post by Roger Eschbacher



What is writing style? It’s an elusive topic, in many ways.

To help me chase down the essence of writing style, I’ve called upon some author friends for their opinions. First, we have Roger Escbacher, author of a number of middle-grade books, such as the Leonard the Great series,  Dragonfriend and Giantkiller, middle-grade/young adult fantasy adventure stories set in the time of King Arthur, as well as Undrastormur: A Viking Fantasy Adventure.

140d6-roger-portrait-small_dsc00275editRoger Eschbacher is also the author of two children’s books: Road Trip, and Nonsense! He Yelled, both for Dial Books. He is also a professional television animation writer who’s worked for Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, The Hub, and Cartoon Network. His blog is The Novel Project, and his Twitter handle is@RogerEschbacher.

How would you describe your own writing style?

I would describe my writing style as cinematic. My goal is to describe the action, world and characters in my book in such a way that readers have a movie playing in their head as they read along. I think this comes from two places, the first being that I’m a television animation writer. In animation, one has to fully describe what is happening so that the artists can animate it. Detailed descriptions are required in my “day job.” Second, as a reader I’ve always preferred books written in that style. I love getting lost in the “brain movie” when I’m reading for pleasure. In general, SF/fantasy books tend to be written this way, which is probably why I read this genre almost exclusively.

Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?

Dragonfriend

I admire the writing styles of Neil Gaiman, J.R.R.Tolkien, Douglas Adams, J.K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan, to name a few. All of these folks are quite “cinematic” so I suppose that’s the reason why. Of those four, I’d say Tolkien would be the strongest influence. I love his command of the epic tale so much that I find myself rereading LOTR and The Hobbit every couple of years. Oddly enough, I try not to emulate him too closely for fear of coming off as a low-grade copy of a true master.

Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?

Oh, yes.

How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?

My writing style is very important to me and I am happy with it for the reasons listed above. When I’m editing, I do my best to make the manuscript an exciting and easy read. My goal is to produce a page-turner — something that flows. I want readers to fly through the book and not get knocked off course by speed bumps and, as Elmore Leonard says, “the parts that readers tend to skip.”

How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favour? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?

UndrastormurFor me, it’s all about story, pacing, and characters. Natural-sounding dialogue is important, too. I hope that readers would describe my style as fast-paced and exciting.

Do you think your genre imposes certain restrictions on writing style?

Not really. I tend to write “quest-y” stories and for me that’s liberating in that everyone expects that the hero and his friends will go somewhere, do a lot of stuff along the way, almost get killed but survive and make it home. The challenge is to tell a quest tale in a way that follows the expected rules but also continues to surprise the reader.

Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?

 Yes, I do. My favorite reader compliment on Dragonfriend was from a kid who said, “I can totally see this as a movie.” I smile every time I think of that.

How important do you think writing style is to an author’s commercial success?

I honestly don’t know the answer to this one.Giantkiller

Thank you very much, Roger.

Readers, let Roger and me know what you think. How important is a writer’s style? What do you like? What do you wish authors would stop doing? And does an author’s writing style affect your decision to buy or recommend a book?

Undrastormur: An independent book review



The best children’s books are those that also appeal to adults, and they do that by presenting characters with elements that readers of all ages can recognize in themselves.

Undrastormur: A Viking Tale of Troublesome Trolls by Roger Eschbacher is one of those books. It continues the author’s oeuvre of middle-grade books based on ancient northern European mythology, started in Dragonfriend and Giant Killer.

The story

Undrastormur is the Storm of Wonder, unleashed by a special spell to the thunder god, Thor. The story begins when young Eirik wakes up before dawn one morning, feeling extra hungry, so he goes out into the forest to find mushrooms. Because he’s away from his Norse village, he avoids an attack by giant, horrible trolls who mysteriously are not deterred by sunlight. Terrified, he hides in a cave too small for trolls to get into. There, he finds part of his grandfather’s staff, a weapon that when whole can call down the Undrastormur, the storm that will destroy the trolls and save the village.

But there’s a problem, explained by the guardian spirit, Bruun: the staff is broken and will not work until its two halves are joined together again, and the other half is in Nilfheim, the Norse underworld, a cold, dark land of despair beneath the roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree.

Bruun explains that Eirik has inherited his grandfather’s magical properties, which is why he can communicate with a guardian spirit and survive the trip to Nilfheim. Taking his grandfather’s talisman so that he can return to his own world—after surviving an encounter with the trolls and escaping—Eirik goes to Nilfheim, where he meets a girl. It turns out that Astrid had also been sent to find Eirik’s grandfather’s staff, but had been stymied when the staff had been taken by a monster of Niflheim.

And here is the challenge: Eirik must learn to trust Astrid and work with her to defeat the monster, return to Earth, and then use the restored full staff to defeat the trolls.

Sure, it’s based on that trope of a young man, or teenager who inherits special properties that make him the only hope of his people—but hey, this is a fantasy, based on ancient mythology. It works.

Characters

One of Eschbacher’s main strengths as an author is his ability to show us interesting and believable characters. We can recognize in them people that we all know. Old Aesa, a tough old lady of the village, is my favourite. She reminds me of some of my relatives in her no-nonsense talking manner and her delight in shocking young people.

Eirik and Astrid are believable young people. Eirik is often terrified, but knowing that he’s the only hope for the village, embarks on his adventure anyway. Astrid is a strong, smart and able young woman who has learned how to survive. Even Bruun, the household spirit, is funny and interesting.

And the trolls are great: huge, ugly, disgusting, dim-witted and very funny.

Wonderful for adults & kids

Undrastormur is a lot of fun for the middle grade set: humour, grisly, messy deaths at the hands of hideous and amusingly stupid trolls, magic and resourceful young people finding the solution to problems that freeze grown-up hearts.

140d6-roger-portrait-small_dsc00275editAs an author, Eshcbacher, is a true professional. He’s written a number of children’s books and works in Hollywood as a writer for children’s programs. So of course, Undrastormur has obviously been professionally edited and produced, and has a professionally designed cover.

It’s a book that’s aimed at children, but with a solid story, fully developed characters, lots of humour and a surprising twist at the end, like the best of all art for children, it’s a book that adults can enjoy, too. I just wish it had been longer.

You can get it on Amazon.

5*

How not to miss an issue of Written Words: subscribe!



For my first post of 2016, I’m going to ask all of you to subscribe to get the Written Words blog by mail. All you have to do is fill in the box to the right with your email address.

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Why subscribe?

You’ll still be able to read it in your Web browser, but with a subscription you’ll get an email to remind you when a new edition is out.

This way, you won’t miss:

Free stuff

You’ll also get a free info-graphic detailing my Get a GRIP writing process. Print it out and tack it up over your computer monitor so you’ll never forget the four steps to help you write well and quickly.

And if you sign up by January 10, I’ll also send you a FREE e-copy of my occult-paranormal-thriller short story, Dark Clouds, Part 1: The Mandrake Ruse.

So there: lots of reasons to subscribe. I promise that I’ll never spam you, nor give nor sell your information to anyone else. And you can unsubscribe at any time. Even after you download the free stuff.

Why am I doing this?

I’m trying to build my “author platform,” of course—to increase the exposure I get and ultimately, sell more books. But as I said, I won’t spam you, and if you’ve read this far, you know I’m not a hard-sell kind of guy. This is just my way of gently letting you know about books and other things from authors, artists and smart people that I think are worthwhile.

What do you think?

Of this strategy? Of the blog? About email? Or about anything else on this website? I always welcome comments (from real people).

 

What do authors like about writing? Three very different bestsellers spill



You would find it hard to find three excellent writers who are more different than Seb Kirby, Lisa Jay Davis and Charity Parkerson. Seb writes thrillers and science fiction; Lisa published a bestselling memoir of her time as an event producer in Hollywood; and Charity writes erotica, romance and fantasy.

But you’ll be surprised at the things they agree on.

Which element of a book is most important to you as a writer:

  • plot
  • characterization
  • setting
  • getting the little details right, such as the weapons your characters use, the science involved, or the historical aspects of the time period your book is set in
  • action
  • sex, or
  • other?

Charity Parkerson: Since I write erotica and spicy romance, I have to say the sex.

SebKirbyLargerSeb Kirby: The first two interest me most. Story arc and character arc and how these interact is something that I’m working hard at developing in my writing. Think Walter White in Breaking Bad as a supreme example of how this is done well. In addition to that I think that giving a story a real sense of place is very important. Much of the rest flows from this.

Lisa Jey Davis: Considering I have only written non-fiction thus, far, I’ll have to answer from that perspective… I’d have to say characterization and humor.

What part of writing do you spend the most time on: research, writing, editing, making coffee or cleaning your work space?

Charity Parkerson: Writing. I’m focused.

Seb Kirby: What’s missing here is promotion. I spend about as much time on that as I do on writing. Research comes lower down the list, but when that involves traveling to new places, my interest spikes.

Lisa Jey Davis: Editing number 1, writing number 2.

Which of these do you enjoy most?

Charity Parkerson: Making coffee, lol.CharityParketon2015

Seb Kirby: Of course, it’s the writing. In the end it’s what makes the whole thing tick.

Lisa Jey Davis: Writing.

What do you wish you had to do less?

Charity Parkerson: Cleaning.

Seb Kirby: Books that don’t get promoted don’t get read. So, there is little point in writing them. Which means that every author needs to be a promoter. That can be fun and you can meet some wonderful people. But the real currency is in the writing. So, less promotion and more time for writing would be top of my list.

Lisa Jey Davis: Editing.

What part of writing or publishing do you think you could help other writers with?

Charity Parkerson: I’m pretty good at marketing.

Seb Kirby: I’ve been self-published now since December 2010. In this digital world we now live in, that’s equivalent to saying sometime in the Cretaceous Period. Which is a way of saying that I think I could help best with advice on self-publishing. How we all write, well, I think much of that is down to personal choice.

Lisa Jey Davis: Marketing! Lol.LisaJey2

Which of your books or other works are you personally happiest with? Why?

Charity Parkerson: Every time I start a new book, I’m happier with it than any other. It’s like a new love affair.

Seb Kirby: Like most authors, it has to be the most recent one! I guess the hope is that you learn a little more with each book you write. The reality, perhaps, is that you never know whether that might be the last. So, the answer here is Each Day I Wake. It’s my first psychological thriller. I found the challenge of getting deeper into the mind of my main character was really stimulating.

Lisa Jey Davis: My memoir, Ms. Cheevious in Hollywood: My Zany Years Spent Working in Tinsel Town. It’s a book that people read, as opposed to my other book, Ahhhhhh … Haaaaaa Moments With Ms. Cheevious: A Yoga Routine for All Levels, which is primarily a guide to  following along to photos.

Thank you all!

About these bestselling authors

Charity Parkerson is an award-winning and multi-published author with Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Indie Publishing House LLC, and Punk & Sissy Publications. Born with no filter from her brain to her mouth, she decided to take this odd quirk and insert it in her characters.

  • 2015 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner
  • Winner of 2, 2014 Readers’ Favorite Awards
  • 2015 RWA Passionate Plume Award Finalist
  • 2013 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner
  • 2013 Reviewers’ Choice Award Winner
  • 2012 ARRA Finalist for Favorite Paranormal Romance
  • Five-time winner of The Mistress of the Darkpath

You can find Charity Parkerson online

Seb Kirby is the author of the James Blake Thriller series (Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More), the Raymond Bridges sci fi thriller series (Double Bind) and now the psychological thriller Each Day I Wake. An avid reader from an early age—his grandfather ran a mobile lending library in Birmingham – he was hooked from the first moment he discovered the treasure trove of books left to his parents. He was a university academic for many years, latterly at University of Liverpool. Now, as a full-time writer, his goal is to add to the magic of the wonderful words and stories he discovered back then. He lives in the Wirral, UK

Seb Kirby’s books:

Find Seb Kirby online:

 

Ms. Cheevious in Hollywood

Humourous memoir by Lisa Jey Davis

Lisa Jey Davis is an award-winning writer, an author, and a former television production talent manager who worked with musicians, fashionistas, celebrities and other characters for shows produced by MTV, CBS, the NFL and many more. She is the editor in [Mis]Chief at MsCheevious.com where she “brings the funny” about life and love. Also a fitness and health nut, Lisa Jey has made appearances on The Doctors TV show and the CW in Los Angeles (among others), talking women’s health issues. She is a health and fitness contributor for LiveStrong.com and blogs for the Huffington Post. Lisa Jey is also a certified Pilates instructor, Lagree Method trainer and yoga instructor. When she is not speaking at seminars and events, she offers personal fitness and weight management sessions and teaches fitness classes around the Los Angeles area. Lisa Jey resides in Santa Monica and enjoys every single moment.

Lisa Jey’s books:

Ms. Cheevious in Hollywood: My Zany Years Spent Working in Tinsel Town

Ahhhhhh … Haaaaaa Moments With Ms. Cheevious: A Yoga Routine for All Levels

Follow Lisa Jey and her alter ego Ms. Cheevious:

Websites

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram