What do writers like about writing? Raine Thomas and Stephen Woodfin share some surprises



Today, Written Words presents two very different writers who answer the same questions about what they like and dislike about being an author.

Raine Thomas writes young adult and new adult romance and science fiction. Stephen Woodfin writes action thrillers and political thrillers. While they have some understandable differences in perspective, the similarities may surprise you.

Which element of fiction is most important to you as a writer?

Raine Thomas Headshot (small)Raine Thomas: There’s no denying the importance of all of these elements, but I think I’d fall under the “other” category. To me, dialogue is the most important element of fiction. It’s something readers may not notice if it’s done well, but if it’s done poorly, it will ruin the story. Think about what writers convey through dialogue and dialogue tags: tone, emotion, body language, dialect, education level, geography/region, time period, actions. Nearly every other element of fiction writing can be captured with properly written dialogue.

Stephen Woodfin: I would have to say that plot comes first for me, but action is neck and neck with it. I hope to keep things moving while I tell the story.

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

Raine Thomas: Definitely research. I’m a plotter, so I create detailed character sketches for all of the main characters and then complete a chapter-by-chapter outline in addition to the intense world building I do for projects like my fantasy, Sci-Fi, and futuristic novels. Once I finish that, the writing is quick and smooth and my wonderful alpha and beta readers make editing a breeze!

Stephen Woodfin: Definitely writing. My approach is to race all the way to the end of book before I look back. The editing process for me consists of filling in holes in the plot. I can usually do that with an extra sentence or two here and there.

Which of these do you enjoy most?

Raine Thomas: I’d say the actual writing. That’s when I can really get into my characters’ heads and infuse my voice into the story.

Stephen Woodfin: Writing. Hands down.Stephen Woodfin author pic beach

What do you wish you had to do less?

Raine Thomas: I have a full-time job, so I wish I had to work less on that so I could write more. I enjoy all of the elements of publishing books.

Stephen Woodfin: The proof reading part of editing is just torture, plain and simple.

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

Raine Thomas: Up until now, I’d say my New Adult Contemporary Romance For Everly has pleased me the most. It was something new for me at the time and turned out to be my most well-read book. The story concept is personal to me, so it means so much that readers enjoy it!

Stephen Woodfin: My personal favorite is The Warrior with Alzheimer’s: The Battle for Justice. I call it “the Woody book” because the main character is a WWII vet named Woody Wilson. My father was a Battle of the Bulge vet, and my mother died of Alzheimer’s. So that book has many connections to my soul. I was also honored to have Kirkus Reviews name it one of the Best Books of 2013.

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

Raine Thomas: If I had time, I’d best be able to help other writers with their editing. I do this on occasion now (I used to do it for a living) but my time is so limited between my full-time job, my writing, and my family that I hardly have any time to spare for beta reading and editing.

Stephen Woodfin: If I met them at an early enough stage, I might be able to talk them out of the whole enterprise.

Thank you, Stephen and Raine.

Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author of eight novels. He also blogs for the popular Internet site Venture Galleries.

Stephen’s novel Last One Chosen, the first book in his Revelation Trilogy, received the prestigious Top Five Finalist Award for best independent book of 2012 in the thriller genre.   The second and third books of the trilogy explore the bizarre intersection of faith and politics in American life.

Because he has long been an advocate for persons with Alzheimer’s disease, he has also written about that dread scourge. His book The Warrior with Alzheimer’s: The Battle for Justice was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews. 

Visit Stephen’s Amazon author page for more information about his books.

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream.

When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Visit her website and Amazon Author page, or follow her on:

Seamless weaving of romance, mythology and psychology: A Prayer Heeded



An independent novel review

A_Prayer_Heeded-682x1024A Prayer Heeded is the follow-up to Samreen Ahsan’s multi-award winning A Silent Prayer, the book that brought Ahsan international acclaim.

A Silent Prayer has won six international book awards, including Best Romance at the 214 Paris Book Festival.

But A Prayer Heeded is not really a sequel, because the two books together tell a single story. The premise to Fifty Shades of Gray, but written by a talented writer who lives in the real world.

The premise

Adam Gibson is a very wealthy Toronto real estate developer with a troubled past. He has been estranged from his mother, who, he believes, abandoned him as a child. He became a billionaire in a real industry, as a real estate developer in Toronto. It’s a plausible premise.

Adam is an atheist with a strong social conscience who supports several charities. He pays all the costs of a women’s shelter, called Hope.

Rania is a graphic designer, professional, strong, independent and devout with a troubled past of her own. She is estranged from her father, but not through choice.

These bookend characters meet more or less accidentally, through work, and are instantly attracted. Yes, it’s love at first sight, but this is a romance, after all.

Of course, there are a lot of obstacles to their relationship. There’s Rania’s past as an abused wife, which dissuades her from getting involved in another romance. There’s Adam’s past, his estrangement from his mother, which leads him to a string of loveless couplings with women.

And there’s their religious difference. Rania is a faithful Muslim, and Adam a convinced atheist. Gently, with kindness and examples, aided by some mystical experiences on both their parts, Adam comes to believe in divinity.

By the end of A Silent Prayer, Rania has accepted Adam’s love, but then his jealous outburst sends her away. And that’s where A Prayer Heeded begins, with Adam searching for Rania again.

When he finds her, Rania tells him their relationship can never work because Adam’s jealous outburst not only humiliated her, it showed her that he cannot offer what she needs.

But really, she’s running from Adam because she is literally cursed. A jinni loves her, or a woman who looked like her thousands of years ago. For millennia, this jinni has pursued women who look like Rania and prevented them from having normal relationships with human men.

SamreenNew

Samreen Ahsan, author of A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded

That’s where the book takes a sharp left turn and delves into the confluence of mythology and contemporary paranormal fiction. But at the same time, like the best in the paranormal or fantasy tradition, the fantastic elements can be interpreted as metaphors for the traumas in the lives of the main characters.

It’s obvious that the author, Samreen Ahsan, is very devout, like her protagonist. Over the course of the book, she weaves aspects of religion with psychology and romance, carrying the readers along like a shuttle.

Strengths

Ahsan’s characters are well developed, believable, and sympathetic characters. Like people we all know, they can be strong one moment, vulnerable the next. But even when they’re not at their best, they’re likeable.

Gibson is a believable billionaire, largely because he’s smart and the author takes care to show him working at his job. Rania is a modern, professional woman who knows what she wants, but hides a terrible secret from everyone she loves.

Weakness

The only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of both A Prayer Heeded and its predecessor, A Silent Prayer, is the pacing. They really make up one book, together. That would be a long book, but that’s my point — it takes too long to get to the core of this story, which is the possession, the magic and the ultimate villain of the piece.

On the other hand, the long story does allow Ahsan to fully describe the development of Rania’s and Adam’s love story. So, I’ll just hold back a half-star for that.

4.5*

 

IT’S ALIVE! JET – Stealth launches with the JET Kindle World



The JET Kindle World has launched! I feel both proud and humble to be included in this group of bestselling writers. JETworldimage

The Kindle World is an Amazon initiative where writers can contribute to the fictional world of another author. Russell Blake invited me and other authors to write stories based in the blistering-paced world of his Mossad-agent-turned-Mom, Maya, code-named Jet.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing JET – Stealth, a story that features the title character and introduces two of my own, Van and LeBrun.

JET - Stealth - 500 x 800

 Here’s a sample:

Maya heard an odd buzz from the gun as the flight attendant flew backward and fell onto the passenger in front of Maya. She saw blood bubbling out of his mouth and spreading down the front of his navy-blue uniform.

The first flight attendant’s continuous wails were joined by screams from nearly everyone in first class. “Quiet!” shouted the gunman. He leveled the gun at the flight attendant, who clamped her mouth shut even as her eyes seemed to be trying to pop out of her head.

The wounded flight attendant fell off the passenger and onto the floor, gasping for breath. Maya undid her seat belt and reached for him, ripping his uniform shirt open.

“You! What are you doing?” shouted the gunman. Maya looked up into his brown eyes and said calmly, “I am going to try to save his life.” She tore two strips off the wounded man’s shirt and pressed them against the wound. The bullet, probably a .32, had punctured a lung, and it was a toss-up whether the man bled to death or suffocated first.

The gunman turned his attention to the female flight attendant. “Take me to the pilot. We’re changing our destination for Columbia.”

This can’t be happening, a part of Maya’s mind thought even as she struggled to keep the wounded man alive. She grabbed the collar of his shirt and ripped off half of it, then tossed it to the passenger he had fallen on, another businessman who was watching the goings-on with his mouth hanging open. “You,” she ordered. “Tear this into strips for bandages.”

A useless order. The flight attendant was bleeding out in front of her.

She heard pounding footsteps from behind and turned to see the rest of the cabin crew running forward to the first class compartment. A man in the last first-class row stood and blocked their way. “Stay back, or you’ll get what he did,” he said with a nod of his head toward the dying man.

How could anyone hijack a commercial jet in this day and age? Maya wondered.

I would like to say thanks to Gary Henry and Roxanne Bury for editing the manuscript, my good friend Thane Brown for excellent advice, and of course David C. Cassidy for such a great cover. (I think it’s the best in the series, but I’m a little biased.

Find it on Amazon. And while you’re there, check out the JET Kindle World and all the great new titles. If you like one, write a review!

Six sentence Sunday: The vampire edition



Portrait of a female vampire borrowed from 123RF photos

A couple of years ago, I participated in a Web and social media initiative called Six Sentence Sunday. The idea was to publish six consecutive sentences from a writing project—book, story, play, whatever—link it to the Six Sentence Sunday page and then, every Sunday, read the samples of other participants.

Six Sentence Sunday has since closed down, but I thought I would republish my own series here on this new blog. Let me know what you think in the Comments.

Six sentences: enter the vampire
This excerpt features a vampire scene from my first novel, The Bones of the Earth. Not cute, sexy, romantic vampires. No, mine are horrifying bloodsuckers.

Context: this excerpt is from Part Two: Tests. The MC, Javor, his mentor, Photius, and their recently rescued damsel in distress, Danisa, are walking south in Dacia toward the limes, the border of the Roman Empire. They camp for the night. The two men are supposed to take watch in turn, but both fall asleep one dark, dark night. Javor dreams about his old girlfriend:

Her hands roamed over his naked skin, and her kisses became nips and bites. She kissed his throat hard, sucking the skin into her mouth until it hurt.

A sharp pain penetrated his neck, and his eyes flew open as he gasped. The sun was gone the sky was dark, and Javor felt cold. He was back in the night under the oak tree, and there was a terrible pain in his neck. He groped at it and felt something … hairy.

Want to find out more? Want to read about a realistic fertility rite? Click the Sample selection from the Work we’ve done menu at the top of the page for the first chapter. Want to read about vampires who are not friendly and pretty (for a change, at least)? Order the e-book from Amazon or Smashwords.

And continue the Six Sentence Sunday trend — post six sentences from your own work (if you have one) and post a link here, too.

Detail and action add up to a riveting read—An independent novel review



Gray Retribution, by Alan McDermott

No one writes action like McDermott.

From the first sentence, Gray Retribution delivers that combination of action and detail that few writers can manage. Not only does McDermott put us eye-to-eye with his characters, he gets the little things right, like the types of weapons and the way they all work, and the tactics that makes the difference between experienced soldiers and fighters who die on their first time.

Gray Retribution continues the saga of Tom Gray, the character that McDermott created for his first novel, Gray Justice. The initial trilogy told a complete, if complex saga about an ex-special forces soldier who sets up a private security company. Gray uses his arcane skills to seek tough justice against repeat criminals after his son is accidentally killed by one such repeat offender driving a stolen car, and Gray’s wife kills herself in depression.

The next two books sent Gray literally around the world and finally back to his home in the UK, rehabilitated socially if not fully psychologically. The fourth book, Gray Retribution, finds Gray back in charge of his company, struggling against the usual challenges facing any small business—plus clients nervous about being associated with someone as notorious as Tom Gray.

Once again, McDermott skillfully blends a personal and a global plot. Organized criminals threaten Gray’s new family, while in Africa, his friends and employees are caught in a war zone in Africa with scanty ammunition and supplies and a huge number of refugees to protect.

It’s a testament to the author’s skill at plotting that he manages to drive both plots simultaneously at his trademark breathtaking pace, without straining the readers’ credulity too much. The good guys are all crack shots and almost never make mistakes, but that’s part of the action genre. But I found myself identifying with Tom Gray—not because I am a crack soldier, but because I have found myself in those situations with two priorities clamouring for undivided attention because of huge, looming consequences coming up fast. I really felt for Gray as he tried to protect his family, rescue his friends and keep his business afloat, all at the same time.

McDermott’s attention to detail really brings the action to life. While he is never gratuitous with depicting violence, he doesn’t flinch when it comes to the more gruesome aspects of war. 

It all adds up to a book I could not put down.

I read a preliminary version of the book in manuscript form, and I’m looking forward to the final version sitting on my shelf.

Gray Retribution will be available on Amazon on July 8.

5*

Sample Sunday: a chapter from the spooky work-in-progress



Hallowe’en is coming up fast, and in honour of that auspicious occasion, I’m posting some spooky stories on the next few Sundays. 
If you’ve been to this blog before, you’ll recognize Dark Clouds. “The Mandrake Ruse” is the first chapter in what is slowly growing into a complete novel that I hope will cross the occult/paranormal-spy thriller genre boundary.
You can download Dark Clouds: The Mandrake Ruse as an e-book for free from the tab at the top of the page.

What follows is a short chapter, this one focusing on “pretty little Teri,” the heroine of The Mandrake Ruse, What Made me Love You? and The Graveyard, and the wife of the Witch’s son and hero of the tale, Matt.

Dark Clouds: Teri and the river 

Photo of Dumoine River copyright Scott Bury

The water was surprisingly warm, swirling and dancing in the setting sun, dark where it was deep, orange where it flowed over rocks, white were it leapt and spun and rolled in joy.
Teri let herself drift. She closed her eyes to let her spirit see freely. She felt the river’s joy, its happiness in its own strength, in its ability to feed the life in it and around it. Teri saw the fishes and the other creatures below its surface, hiding under soil and rocks and among the trees that pushed their roots into the river to draw their lives.
Teri’s skin tingled with the energy of life, but she ignored the sensation. She could not even be certain she was breathing, whether she was above or below the surface, but she pushed those thoughts, those fears out of her mind. She opened her spirit wider, searched for every sensation and tried to contact the river’s spirit.
A riot of sensation shocked her and her eyes flew open involuntarily. She found herself lying on her back on the water’s surface. She let the river take her. Trees drifted past on either side. The current pulled her until she drifted downstream, head-first. She felt a tug to one side and saw a boulder slide past her vision. The river had kept her from injury.
Teri took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She opened her mind again, willing herself not to think of language or any human constructs so that she could communicate with the essence of the river.
There it was: the joy, the power of the river, constant motion, different in every second, eternally the same. Dark, alive, irresistible. The river acknowledged Teri’s attempt at communication, and her mind filled with a cognizance of a powerful, dark, living and curious presence.
She wanted to ask “Where am I?” but knew that forming human words in her mind threatened to break the communion she had with the river. She explored the edges of her consciousness and found she could not exactly see, but gradually become aware of the world beyond the river’s banks, of the trees and hills and other rivers and lakes and animals, the forest stretching across the world’s curves. Life buzzed and oozed until it twisted or cramped in pain, and Teri understood that happened where humans built their cities.
But there, to her left, no, now her right as the river turned her playfully, there, far but not so far for the river, was her home. And beyond it, her parents’ home. And over there, yes, she could tell where Racine was. She could feel his rancour, feel the stink of his fear.
And in the other direction, a malevolence that could only be Helen. The Witch Queen was looking for her, but she did not have a connection with the joyous river and could not see Teri.
Teri felt the river probe her spirit. Later, her memory would translate the deep connection she had into words.
“Do not fear, little one,” the river said.
“I am not afraid. Thank you for saving me. How did I end up in you?”
“I do not know. One moment, you were there. Perhaps you fell in? The banks, though, do not remember you.”
“The last thing I remember is being in a dark room, chained to a bed,” Teri told the river, careful not to make her thoughts too concrete. “How long have I been in you?”
“A full day. Do not worry, my child. I will keep you warm until I deliver you into the waters of my brother/sister.”
Teri realized she was naked, but not cold. She wondered, briefly, if the sun had set yet, but she did not dare open her eyes in case that would sever her communion with the river.
“Who is your brother?” she asked.
She felt the presence swirl under and over and around her, like an enormous otter or fish, playing in the water. “Some of your kind call her/him the Ottawa River,” said the presence. “I will carry you to him/her by the time the sun rises again. You are tired. I can tell. Peace, child. Sleep. Trust me to take you home.”
Sleep. How long had it been since she had slept, Teri wondered. Days? Weeks? She had no idea how long Helen had kept her in that windowless room. The time had dragged; she knew that Helen had drugged her, somehow, to bring her there, and had used drugs or spells repeatedly to take away her consciousness. She remembered opening her eyes to see Helen’s only inches away, or across the room, supervising Loretta or one of her other bitches as they humiliated her. Even the water’s warmth could not keep her from shivering at the memory of two of Helen’s coven, hands on her ankles, spreading her legs apart while Helen laughed and brought a small crystal vial toward her vagina. But it had only been psychological torture; Helen would never bring herself to actually touch Teri.
Teri let the river calm her, let the water caress her skin. Her thoughts retreated from the world around her, from the embrace of the water, from the presence of the river. And then she felt the presence within her, and she knew that she had defeated Helen.
She slept, and the Dumoine River carried her gently through the night until it gave her to the embrace of its great sibling, and Teri moved with the speed of the deep natural world toward her home.

Independent novel review: Double Bind by Seb Kirby



“The guy with the bad attitude has been following me all week.”

Seb Kirby gets right into the story in Double Bind. There’s not a wasted word in this book: no background, no world-building, no nonsense. The writing is spare and clean, active yet evocative, told in first-person present tense, which enhances the action and immediacy.
Take this for an example: “Elmington Drive is a wealthy suburban street. Smart gardens, no parked cars, large houses, most with gravel drives and tall shrubs.”
Because he gives readers credit for knowing something, Kirby is able to painted a picture in a few phrases.
In short, Kirby is a true professional writer of fiction.
The story begins with the narrator, successful author Raymond Bridges, meeting his double at a book signing. The double accuses Bridges of stealing his face and identity — and his pen name. Soon, Bridges finds himself in a new body, victim of spreading ripples of identities displaced into new bodies. Double Bind is a science-fiction story presented like a mystery — not an easy assignment for any writer. Kirby has the skill to pull it off.
Kirby makes it all make sense by explaining the process and the science through the characters’ actions. Bridges, who becomes Erin Pascoe (that’s a man’s name in the UK, apparently) gradually learns the details, like one of Raymond Chandler’s detectives.
Kirby makes his characters real through their words and actions more than through verbose descriptions. Bridges is actually not that likeable. He’s a liar, an imposter, someone more than willing to take shortcuts to get what he wants, no matter what they do to others.

Victoria Bletchley, Bridge’s love interest, is one of the most desirable and admirable women I’ve read in fiction lately. An English professor, she’s a long-legged looker, too. She loves “rutting” and reading, more or less in that order, and she’s smart. Even for an English professor.

Here’s my favourite passage featuring Victoria:

Strang [a cop] is sounding impatient … “Pascoe is a suspect in at least one, possibly two, murders. Keep stalling like this and you’ll leave me with no option but to take you in for obstruction of justice. That’s if I don’t arrest you as an accomplice to murder.” 

I’m wondering how Victoria is going to get out of this when she uses her contextualizing skills to great effect. “OK. I do porn. Looks like I’m well off, but this is my mother’s place and I have expensive tastes.”

Smart, sexy, beautiful, brave and able to think on the spot of something sure to throw a cop off his game — what more could anyone, even a writer, want in a woman?
All the characters are believable, especially the villains, who range from London gangsters to corporate types. Again, Kirby is able to evoke them clearly in the readers’ minds with a minimum of words.
All the way through (it’s not a long book), Kirby keeps us hooked with tantalizing clues and a style that you just cannot put down.
Double Bind may not be Kirby’s best-known book, but if you want a read that won’t let you go, that tells a good story well and doesn’t waste your time, download Double Bind now.
5*
Seb Kirby’s website and blog