Sunday, June 30, 2019

Final Trip Around the Sun

Last Words

After a 10-year run, the Novel Spaces blog will post no more. Our archives remain available, however, for the thousands of visitors who still find themselves on this site every month. 
Read, learn, enjoy and... Happy writing!

Maggie King: "Years before I joined the Novel Spaces lineup, I admired not only the posts, but the cover collage. Sunny Frazier got me a guest post and in no time I landed a regular spot. Liane and the other authors are incredibly talented and generous. I’m happy to transition to a Facebook group … and that we’re keeping that collage!"

Liane Spicer: "I've been a member of the Novel Spaces blog community from the very beginning, and it's been a most rewarding journey. Thank you for your fellowship over all the years, dear Novelnauts, and heartfelt thanks also to our numerous guests and readers. My last words are borrowed from French writer Guy de Maupassant: "Get black on white." Just do it.

Linda Thorne: "Goodbye to an awesome blogspot. I’ve hung around Novel Spaces for years, visiting and commenting. In June of 2016 I had the honor of becoming one of the Novelnauts with my own regularly scheduled posts. Novel Spaces will be missed, but never forgotten."

Amy Reade: "Writers are readers first. Read a lot, read everything you can get your hands on, read all the time in lots of genres."

Carol Mitchell: "Write. Rest. Revise. Repeat.
I was recently approached by an author whose book I gave a mixed review a couple of years ago. He has revised the book and said to me, “I was ashamed of the work as it was.”

When people ask me for advice on writing, my first response is: Write. Get the story down because if you don’t nothing else is going to happen. However, eight years of reviewing and editing ‘first drafts’ masquerading as completed manuscripts has revealed to me that my advice is flippant, incomplete, and does an injustice to our craft. While the initial writing is obviously necessary, it’s often really a brainstorm, just the opening of the first door into the oft-time painful journey towards a completed book. Too many writers wrestle that first door shut then lean on it breathing heavily from the effort, resolved never to open the door again. But we must.

 If you can give yourself the time to put down that first draft, come back to it with fresh, honest eyes willing to rip it apart not once, not twice, but as many times as necessary, and then to be open to having someone else do the same, you may emerge on the other side of the process with a true reflection of your story that you’ll be proud to present to the world."

The Novel Spaces community wishes you all the best in your publishing career. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The definition of success

Novel Spaces is celebrating its 10th anniversary! We hope you've enjoyed the popular posts from our archives which we've shared with you over the past months. This one was first published on October 25, 2012. Enjoy! 

By Jewel Amethyst

While watching the local newscast, I heard a reporter introduce a prominent doctor as a successful surgeon, before proceeding to recite a long list of his achievements.  I turned to my husband and asked sarcastically, “So if another surgeon doesn’t accomplish all that he has, does that make him an unsuccessful surgeon?” 

My husband shrugged nonchalantly and responded, “I guess it depends on how you define success.”

I smiled.

When I first decided to publish my stories, my idea of success was getting a traditional publisher to publish my story.  At that time, I was not thinking about self-publishing and (now shamefacedly) like many authors a few years back, I didn’t think of self-publishing as being successful.  But now that I have gotten my work published, and spent three years without another in print, my idea of success has changed.

What makes a successful author?  Is a successful author a prolific author?  I can think of one Pulitzer Prize winning author who only published one book.  Harper Lee is by any measure a successful author.  Not only did she win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, but her book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, is considered an American classic and is assigned reading for English Literature in most middle and/or high school classes.  Yet Harper Lee is not prolific.

Is a successful author a rich author?  Well in that case the successful authors are few and far between.

Is a successful author on the NY Times bestseller list?  That is one measure of success.  But does that mean any author who is not on the NY Times bestseller list is unsuccessful?

Is a successful author published by a traditional big publishing house?  I’ve seen many successful authors who have self-published, even some producing bestsellers.  I’ve seen huge publishing houses publish books that tank.

What I’ve concluded is that what defines a successful author is dependent on the definition of success.  And that definition is not only subjective, but is also dynamic.  The definition of success as a writer is constantly changing for me.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Writing Night at the Movies

Novel Spaces is celebrating its 10th anniversary! To celebrate, we're sharing some of the most popular posts from our archives. This one was first published October 11, 2010. Enjoy!

By Charles Gramlich

I don’t often talk about movies. I’m not a big movie buff. I haven’t been to a theater to see a film since Lord of the Rings. I probably average ten or less movie rentals a year through PPV, although I do watch movies when they finally come out on TV, and I rewatch movies that I like when they show up on the little screen. However, we live in the age of video imagery and I haven’t escaped its influence. I’m amazed sometimes at how many movies I have seen. And my writing has definitely been affected. Here are some movies that I like very much, and a bit about how they’ve influenced my writing. (Thanks to Scott for the inspiration for this post.)

1. Once Upon a Time in the West: Sergio Leone’s greatest work, even if it didn’t feature Clint Eastwood. Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, and Charles Bronson were superb. The staging of this movie, the dramatic way in which the scenes were set and the stark landscapes, helped establish the way I visually stage story scenes in my mind. The dusters worn by “Cheyenne’s” men in this movie were a direct influence on the rawhide coats that the bird riders of Talera wear. Lines from the film such as: “You brought two too many,” “Just a man,” and “An ancient race” have influenced the way I structure dialogue. This is my favorite movie of all time.

2. The Thing: I’m referring here to the John Carpenter version, which is my favorite horror movie. (Even the novelization by Alan Dean Foster was thrilling.) This film certainly wasn’t the first to create a sense of claustrophobic horror, but it did it very well. And it also had a great ensemble cast of characters who responded to the horror in wonderfully realistic ways, from their physical actions to their dialogue. This film was certainly an influence on my desire to create ensemble casts for my horror fiction and get them to act like real people facing absolute terror. This was part of what I wanted to do in Cold in the Light, and in that book I often used the night and the woods to create the claustrophobia.

3. Alien: My second favorite horror movie, and it is definitely horror even if it is set in an SF universe. The “chest burster” scene is, to me, the most effective scene ever caught on film. The “alien” is still the coolest alien ever. This one also had the claustrophobic element and the ensemble cast. And it had a strong female lead character, which I’ve tried several times to achieve myself, without great success, I’m afraid. It also had the “ringer,” the one member of the ensemble who turns out not to be what he seems to be. This is a great device for a writer and one I’ve used several times, particularly in Witch of Talera.

4. The Thirteenth Warrior: My favorite fantasy movie of all time. I also thought the book upon which the movie was based was very good. That book was Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton. The gritty realistic feel to this movie contrasted strongly with the more “fantasy” feel of such movies as Conan the Barbarian. Instead of it reminding you of “an age undreamed of,” it made you feel as if every instant was absolutely real. I want to achieve that kind of realism in my fantasy. I want my readers to feel the dirt under their nails and the biting tang of blood in their nostrils. The dialogue here was also extremely good and created a sense of drama that I believe fantasy fiction needs.

5. Predator: A reader remarked a number of years back that the Warkind in Cold in the Light reminded him of the “Predator.” I know the “Predator” did influence the development of the Warkind, although there are also many other elements that went into those creatures. In part because I was curious about the nature of the “Predator,” I created an extensive background and social structure for the Warkind.

There are many other movies that have had some level of influence on my work, though certainly nowhere near the level that books themselves have influenced me. Some of these other films would be: The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Hearts and Armor, Conan the Barbarian, Jurassic Park, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, and Star Wars.

How about you? Have movies influenced you? In your writing? In other aspects of your life? If so, which movies? What’s your favorite?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Holding the book you wrote

Novel Spaces is in its 10th year! Over the coming weeks we'll be featuring some of the most popular posts from our archives. This one was first published July 19, 2010.

By Kevin Killiany

Arrived home from work on Friday to find a box from Simon & Schuster on my doorstep. Inside were ten copies of Star Trek Corps of Engineers: Out of the Cocoon -- an omnibus of former e-books that includes my own Honor. I know from my experience with Orphans in Grand Designs that even though Honor has been on the market for half a decade, more people will read it now that it's part of a "real" book than bought the digital version. I anticipate a deluge of one, maybe even two, emails and nearly a dozen first-time visitors to my Livejournal (which is not about writing as much as I meant for it to be).

The book itself is beautiful (though I confess for me the most attractive thing about a book cover is my name) and all pages seem present. I am particularly satisfied to be sharing this volume with three of my favorite compatriots from my brief tour in the Star Trek writing stable. Phaedra Weldon has been a good – though long distance – friend for something like a decade. We met in Trek, and at the Oregon Coast Writers' Workshops, and wandered into BattleTech together. She has gone on to write very successful urban fantasies and keeps threatening to build a young adult urban fantasy series around a trio of psychic sleuths that includes two of my children. William Leisner and I were in Strange New Worlds #s IV and V together. But for me his greatest claim to fame is that he was once willing to collaborate with me on pitching a Star Trek novel to Pocket Books. (As I recall it was a DS9/Powerpuff Girls crossover.) We didn't get the contract, but I enjoyed brainstorming our way through the plot and outline together. Though I've never met him in person, Bob Jeschonek and I used to correspond fairly regularly. He has one of the most interesting minds I've met; his "Whatever You Do, Don't Read This Story" (in Strange New Worlds III) remains one of my top-10 favorites of all time – in any genre.

I will never forget the first time I saw the anthology containing "Personal Log," my first professional sale. It was May of 2001, and I was rounding an endcap in Barnes & Noble, en route to the science fiction section, when I unexpectedly found myself nose-to-nose with Strange New Worlds IV. I let out a falsetto yelp (followed by a big show of looking around as though I could not imagine where the sound had come from) then snatched the book from the shelf. I read my story standing in the aisle, then bought the book so I could take it home to show my wife Valerie.

One thing I noticed then, something that's been a constant every time I've first held one of my books: There is a particular thrill to holding a book you have written – or have had a part in writing – in your hand. Most singular is the fact the volume has no weight; it seems to hold your hand up by the sheer energy of its existence. And that thrill has not diminished. Though I no longer yelp, I still experience a frission at first contact with the physical reality that has sprung, concrete and irrefutable, from weeks and months of thought and effort and creative discipline. Though this spark is not what drives me forward as a writer, as a reward for work well done, it's more than cool.
I cannot imagine ever growing tired of that moment.

So now I have ten – make that nine, since my youngest has appropriated one – copies of Out of the Cocoon. One of them will be awarded randomly to a person who tells me she or he would like it in their comment.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

You're In It For The Money

Novel Spaces is in its 10th year! Over the coming weeks we'll be featuring some of the most popular posts from our archives. This one was first published April 13, 2014.

By Sunny Frazier

Oh yes, you are! And that's nothing to be ashamed of even if it sounds crass to admit your intentions aloud.

I've been blacklisted on at least one artsy site and bad-mouthed on others for blatantly saying "I like to make money from my writing." I blame my attitude on my early years as a journalist. In those days I was paid to put words on paper and I grew to like having an income. It felt good to have people reading my articles, even when my precious words were tossed in the recycle bin after a day. Now there are few newspapers and my degree languishes, but I still like the notion that my words are worth a few dollars.

Kudos to those who write simply for the sake of their art. Perhaps satisfaction comes from pieces published in literary magazines for limited readership. Me--I want lots of people reading my stories and books. I want those hours (years) I put into my work to be rewarded. This is a business for me and the IRS concurs.

Not that it's ALL about money. I have no problem contributing to Novel Spaces because I'm investing in a site I respect and hope readers will possibly invest in me. I give books away when I'm on panels to pepper the pot for sales. I've donated my novels to the local Senior Center and VA Hospital. I've even gifted to people who were too broke to spend $12 on one of my books.

Does expecting money for my work make me a hack? Possibly. I know what readers want and I strive to give it to them. They want an entertaining story, interesting characters, a few cringe-worthy moments (I write mysteries) and a satisfactory ending. But, to keep my standards high, I also give them craft, personal insights, soul-searching questions and a bit of astrology. Yes, it's worth much more than the few dollars I'm asking in return.    

What I'm against are those people who make money off of the one segment that can't afford the cash--new authors. When starting out, it's hard to resist the carnival barkers promising quick routes to the bestseller list. They come in the form of costly conferences, webinars, PR people, paid reviewers and businesses that impersonally shovel titles to the Internet. All of this can be done for free--and should be. The info is readily available in your computer if you know where to look. Since we're close to Easter, I'll liken the process to hunting for those colored eggs. The search will take exploring websites, following leads and a bit of time.

Time is money. I realize that and I also understand the World Wide Web can be a very confusing place. My solution was to start a Posse. Several years ago I decided to share my own searches with others. Authors just send me their email addys and they're in. They get emails from me pointing them to articles on marketing, platform building, inside business info, places looking for guest bloggers and yes, my blogs.

There's no charge because the effort is minimal on my part. It's my way of paying it forward. Consider it a gift from one author to another. I hope others do the same with their future network. And, who knows? Perhaps I'm make a fan or a friend who will buy one of my Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries. Because, as the L'oreal ads say, I'm worth it!  

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Local Color

Novel Spaces is in its 10th year! Over the coming weeks we'll be featuring some of the most popular posts from our archives. This one was first published April 21, 2013.

By Liane Spicer

Writing coaches recommend that writers use local color in their stories to make them come alive. Every location, real or fictional, has unique sounds, sights and flavors. The characters in a story don't live in a generic town; they live in a town in a particular place where the stench of the swamp permeates when the wind blows south,
where little blue buses called "Conchita" bustle along the main street, where a paraplegic veteran sits in a cart in front the courthouse and curses the gov'mint every Saturday morning.

I'm from the Caribbean so a reader might expect to find a certain island flavor in my storiesinfusions of hot sunshine, white beaches, clear turquoise waters, lush vegetation, and market stalls heaped with mangoes and pineapples forming the perfect pictorial background to my scenes. They might expect colorful characters from the postcolonial melange of cultures, the syncopation of soca, calypso and reggaeand they would very likely find these. But local color extends far past the touristic image of a tropical paradise. Those elements are not the whole picture.

Particularly exciting to me are the languages, myths and legends of the region. There are many versions of English, English Creole and French Creole spoken in the Anglophone Caribbean, varying from island to island and even within territories. Then there are the mythsthe tales of jumbies in Trinidad (duppies in Jamaica, ghosts elsewhere), the lagahoo (loup-garou or werewolf elsewhere), douens and La Diablesse... Penetrate deeper and a kaleidoscope of fantastical human, animal and supernatural characters emerge.

Some myths blur the lines between reality and fiction. When I was a child one of the tales with which my father held us in thrall was the story of the giant snake. It lived in forest pools, he said, and every so often it would come out and raid nearby villages, swallowing livestock and children whole. This horrifying creature was called a wheel, and years later, whenever I swam in deep forest pools after a long hike, the image of the wheel lurking below never failed to send shivers down my spine even as I laughed and splashed with my fellow adventurers. Suppose the thing was real? Why was it called a wheel anyway? Did it put its tail in its mouth and roll through the forest like a hoop? Suppose one lived down there? Would it emerge from the green, shadowy depths and pull me under where it would proceed to swallow me whole as I thrashed in vain, while my companions ran (or swam) for cover?

I subsequently discovered that the snake is not a wheel but a huile, French lexicon creole for oil, and the name is derived from its fluid movements in the water. The huile is also known locally as macajuel, a Spanish creole form, I think. It is a type of boa constrictor and is related to that famous South American giant... the anaconda. My father did not invent the huile; the darned monster is real.

The more I write, the more I feel the urgency to capture the colors of this place. The old spaces are being razed; the old words are dying out, replaced with the Americanisms of cable television. I remember standing in front of a literature class a few years agowe were reading a novel by local novelist Michael Anthonyand not one of those teenage suburbanites knew what laglee was. (It's the sticky white sap of the chataigne or breadfruit tree that's spread on twigs to trap birds.) When I was a child no boy worthy of the name would be ignorant of the existence and applications of laglee. The colors are fading fast, including those of the old characters, the lagahous, douens and that man-eating she-devil, La Diablesse, who are retreating further and further into what's left of the tropical forests.

There's only one way to keep them alive: on the pages of our books. Keeping them alive has become an important part of my mission. Do you feel a compulsion to conserve the colors of your patch of earth?

Liane Spicer

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How “Real” Are My Characters?

Novel Spaces is in its 10th year! Over the coming weeks we'll be featuring some of the most popular posts from our archives. This one was first published April 21, 2018.

By Maggie King

Are my characters modeled after real life people? This is always an interesting question. The answer is yes. And the answer is no! As my characters are a hodge-podge of the many “real” people I’ve known over the years, snippets of their experiences wind up on my pages. And I’ve known people who live turbulent lives; Carlene Arness, the victim in Murder at the Book Group, #1 in my Hazel Rose Book Group series, is a case in point.

I think people expect similarities between myself and my sleuth, Hazel Rose. Like Hazel, I was born on the east coast, moved to Los Angeles in my twenties, and started my career as a computer programmer. Like Hazel, I had a calico cat named Shammy who accompanied me when I moved back east in 1996 and settled in Richmond, Virginia. Hazel and I share a commitment to the environment, we’re both frugal and unimpressed with the high life.

But divorce and widowhood have not touched my life—I will soon celebrate 29 years with my one and only husband. I may get stuck in ruts, but not for long. And, alas, I don’t have Hazel’s “money green” eyes.

The biggest difference between me and Hazel is this: if I needed to re-purpose my life a murder investigation would not be the method I’d choose. No question about it. 

But real people did find their way into Murder at the Book Group, like a woman I used to see at a gym in Richmond. I never knew her name or even talked to her except for a hi and a wave. She was partial to leopard prints and chartreuse. The last time I saw her she sashayed into the gym sporting chartreuse stiletto boots and a leopard cowgirl hat, platinum blonde curls cascading down her back. She became Kat Berenger in the Hazel Rose series. As a perk, I gave her a personal trainer job at the same gym.

Jeanette Thacker “reminds” me of a former co-worker. Jeanette doesn’t feel the need to censor her speech.  However, her language was much saltier in earlier versions. My editor advised me to ditch the swear words. If the real Jeanette reads my tome and recognizes herself I think she’ll be pleased but will probably wonder why she’s using words like “frigging.”

Another character is based on a woman with whom I once had an adversarial work relationship. I made her nasty as all get out. But I had a runaway word count and some ruthless editing was in order. Ms. Nasty got whittled down and, lo and behold, she became quite nice! I’m still scratching my head about that. Do other writers unwittingly transform their characters via literary nip n tuck? Is writing a vehicle for forgiveness? Someone with savvy in the spiritual realm can weigh in on this question.

Here is a list of some classic characters you may not have known were based on real people. Dorian Gray is one of them.

Image from

How about you, my fellow writers: how “real” are your characters?

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and two overly-indulged cats.

Instagram: authormaggieking

Amazon author page: