Thursday, June 19, 2014

Author Spotlight: Lara Wells

I'm excited to introduce fellow Shine author, Lara Wells. Her novella, Shine 9-Cassandra, is the latest to be released as part of the ongoing Shine series. Haven't read the previous books? No problem. Cassandra is a stand-alone story that can be read separately from the rest. (Although the Shine authors would greatly appreciate if you do read the others!)

I've had the opportunity to interview Lara about her writing process and give you some exclusive information about a talented up and coming author. I met her at the Rose State Writing Conference, where she raked in several writing awards, and won the overall best author award. I was certainly impressed. After you read Cassandra, I know you will be too!

If you haven't read her book, it's available on Amazon. Here's what Cassandra is all about:

In the near future, a few young women manifest extraordinary abilities called "Shine." Each girl's ability is different. Some develop extraordinary mental abilities. Some become physically strong. Others have powers that defy description. But the world does not embrace these Shines. It fears them.

Cassie's life was turned upside-down by the destruction of Seattle. She had to escape from "St. Augustine's Home for the Mentally Deranged," where Florida's Shines were being incarcerated. But the escape only gave her a new and even more dangerous set of problems. She meets a boy, a strange cat, and an alleged Shine school, and they all claim they want to help her. But can she trust any of them? Or does she need to escape again, before the malevolent forces searching for her make escape--or life--impossible.

Lara Wells on facebook; @lara_wells1 on Twitter

1. When did you start writing? I have memories of making up stories for my younger sister even before I wrote them down. I’ve been writing stories and poems since elementary school.
2. How did you come up with your story? William Bernhardt invited me to contribute to his Shine series. I recorded the audiobooks for his first five stories, so I was familiar with the world he created. My 13-year-old son routinely asks me if I could have a superpower, what would it be. We’ve had many conversations over the years about potential superpowers. When I began crafting my own characters, I thought back over those conversations.
3. Give us some insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Cassie is able to feel a person’s emotional state. She also has the ability to reach into a person’s mind and stroke their pleasure center – something she thinks of as giving a “brain hug.” She considers it a pretty worthless special power.
4. What are your favorite/least favorite things about writing? When I write, I’m completely immersed in the story I’m working on. Time flies by. I enjoy creating stories and characters and sharing them with readers. I love the idea we can touch one another’s lives with words.
5. Do you have any future projects in the works? I have a completed manuscript I hope to see published soon. It’s about a woman traveling in India who encounters an orphan embroiled in the grave underworld of human trafficking and slavery. The story follows her struggles to save the girl from a terrible future. In the process, the woman also confronts some of her own issues.
6. What are you working on right now? My next Shine story.
7. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Someplace tropical – I’m always cold.
8. Think fast…
Favorite season: spring
Favorite fairy tale: Beauty and the Beast
Cats or dogs: dogs
Sweet or salty: sweet
Dark, milk, or white chocolate: dark

Friday, June 6, 2014

Really Horribly Truly Terribly Bad Writing

Okay writing friends, I know you've all heard these rules, but in case you haven't, I'd like to refresh your memory. This is bad writing 101, and I'd like to take you through the rounds of truly bad writing.

Bad Writing Tip #1: Adverbs and adjectives. Use them as much as you like and as plentifully as you want. They clutter a sentence so bad that they make it unreadable. But who cares? We were taught to use adverbs in grade school, weren't we? You remember the worksheets, right? (Use two adverbs to describe each verb.) The more the merrier! And why wouldn't you use an adverb. Doesn't it sound classier to say, "She ran swiftly." As opposed to, "She sprinted." Classier, right. Personally, when I run, I run slowly over the hot gravel track, panting heavily, wishing longingly to stop immediately and partake quickly in some cold, flavorful, delicious Blue Bell ice cream.

Bad Writing Tip #2: Here's what sparked this post in the first place. I read an article here that I found informative, and I recommend you read. But I have one beef with it. As an example of what-not-to-do in writing, the author uses an example from the #1 bestselling novel OF ALL TIME (right behind the Bible.) Dan Brown's, THE DA VINCI CODE. For me, this was a less than compelling example. Give me an example from a little known, poorly written book, and yes, I will agree. But from the bestselling book of all time? Give me a break! I can give you an example right here. The topic is bad foreshadowing. You find the sentences all the time in books for young readers. "Little did she know that when she ate the carrot, a magic evil bunny would chew a hole through her hat and turn her into another, more beautiful, less magical bunny." It's the "little did she know" part that we writers have issues with. (Ignore the other bunny stuff, I was having a bit of writerly fun.)

In my opinion, the "little did he/she know" device breaks the point of view. It's author intrusion at its finest. If she didn't know it, then how could we? No, only the author knows this. And worse, the author must tell us, or else we wouldn't know it!

There are ways to get around this kind of bad writing. "When she bit into the carrot, she detected a faint bitter taste. Was there something wrong with the carrot? Had it been poisoned? By magic, perhaps? The bunny had been acting strange. No, it couldn't have been. She took another bite, convinced that she'd imagined the awful taste. No one would want to poison her anyway. And she didn't believe in magic."

Bad Writing Tip #3. Bad similes. Similes are like salt. Use salt too much and it overpowers your food. I'm reading a book right now that used a simile in sentence one, and the similes haven't stopped since. The story is fun and engaging, but when I read similes like, "lightning drew through the sky like a knife through a raw egg..." I stop reading. Why couldn't the lightning just cut through the sky? Did an egg really need to be involved? A runny egg? I know the answer. Do you? Because, as in example #1, we still remember those worksheets from grade school. (Write three similes in each sentence. Do it for the next fifty sentences.) Similes make writing better, not worse, am I right? They add seasoning and flavor. Down with those short sentences that convey meaning with only a few words! Why use a more engaging verb when we can use a lengthy simile? We need more flavor than we can handle. Overburden us with so many words that we have to reread the sentence three or four times to get the meaning.

I'm sure we could all come up with thousands of more examples, but I've found the only sure way to avoid bad writing is to write. Do it everyday. Do it when you don't want to. It will pay off. Go back. Reread your stuff. Let others read it. After awhile, you'll see what makes writing good or bad.

I'm proud to put my name on my first published novella, though this was not my first finished book. I went through the rounds of bad writing. I admit to using every one the devices I just mentioned. But with time, my writing has improved. If you'd like to read my novella, Shine #6, Raze in sale for only 99 cents. Here's what readers have to say, "Two wise-cracking, down at the heels sisters tackle insurmountable odds. This novella has all the components for a good evening's read: humor, believable characters, lots of action, and an unpredictable plot..."
And don't forget to check out my latest novella, Shine #10, Never Say Reven, to be released June 10!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gearing up for REVEN

My next installment in the Shine series is SHINE 10, NEVER SAY REVEN, to be officially released July 10. To help prepare for the release, here a few pictures. Enjoy!
This is an early sketch of my main character June Brighton. As a Shine, she has the ability to hear heartbeats. On the night of her senior prom, she uses her ability to track down a Reven, a Shine bounty hunter, named Memphis Stone. He's ruthless, cunning, and smarter than any Reven she's encountered before. He's also the only Reven who's been able to capture her...
Like Raze, Reven is also set in NYC. This is St. Patrick's cathedral in NYC. Isn't it beautiful? I wanted to have a Shine fortress in my novella, and St. Patrick's was the perfect inspiration. I hope to post more pictures soon. Until then, don't forget to read Raze, my first Shine novella, about two sisters who face insurmountable odds with a good dose of humor, sarcasm, and sisterly love. It's a fast-paced, fun read that's perfect for the weekend.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

My thanks goes out to Angela Archer for involving me in the writing process blog tour. The concept is simple: I answer four questions about my writing, and then pass the questions on to other writers. If you're interested in being part of the tour, please let me know!

1. What am I working on at the moment?

I'm working on a novella for the Shine series. This is book three of a three-part series. Shines are girls with unusual abilities. They're also really fun to write about. My character, June Brighton, can hear heartbeats. As the series progresses, she'll also learn how manipulate them.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

When I'm not working on the Shine series, I write an urban fantasy series called Olive Kennedy, Fairy World MD. It's about a licensed medical doctor. Her patients have visited fairy world and come back to our world, but they've lost their memories. Because of it, they've got a host of depressive disorders. Olive Kennedy uses magic to help them remember and overcome their disorders. Her patients also happen to collect fantasy memorabilia.

I wanted to bridge the gap between fantasy fans and the books they read. I don't know of any other series that does this. It's made for some really unique characters. Plus it's a lot of fun to write!

3. Why do I write what I do?

This is a question that's close to my heart. In fact, I was pondering this question this morning. I started writing because I was in a stagnant place. I'm a stay-at-home mom, which I love, but it can also be a strain. My husband was doing his general surgery residency and worked an average of 80-90 hours a week, leaving me to be the sole caretaker of our three young children. We'd moved away from home. I had no family here, and I was having trouble coping with the ins and outs of daily life, and doing it by myself.

My friend loaned me a book called Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. It was a fun fairy tale story. I really enjoyed it. But I also felt that I had stories in my head that were just as good. I'd tried for years to write a book, but I always got discouraged halfway through and eventually gave up. This time would be different. This time I would write a book and finish it. It didn't matter if it was perfect. It just had to be finished.

My husband, even though working his 90 hour weeks, was a huge support. A month later, I'd finished my first draft of my first novel.

So, to get back to the question--why do I write what I do? Because it keeps me sane. And because I absolutely love it.

4. How does my writing process work?

First, I know that I have to write every day. My goal is 1,000 words. Usually I make my goal, especially if I'm working on something I'm really passionate about. Of course, this all begins in my head. As long as I know I have to do this, I will. I don't give myself an out. That's my goal. I do it before the dishes or laundry. I do it while the baby naps. And after I finish, I feel that I've accomplished something. It makes my whole day go better.

TAGGED: Sherry Ficklin