Monday, August 11, 2014

What Makes a Story? Beginning, Middle… End?

I usually post a modified version of the book reviews I do for an established literary site on my blog and Goodreads, but this time I don’t feel comfortable doing so. I’m a different type of book reviewer, you could say. I’d rather say nice things about a writer’s work, or at least make some constructive criticisms of where he or she could improve it, but sometimes I’m at a lost for words. This is one of those times. Amazing, isn’t it?

Back in the day of the dinosaurs, those of us who had the pleasure of taking English composition classes and creative writing courses where taught the basic structure of fiction. Every short story, novella or novel has a beginning, middle, and last, but not least, an end. These are sometimes called by fancier names such as inciting incident, rising action, and resolution, but they pretty much mean the same thing. When a reader sits down to read fiction he or she expects to find character(s) who start a journey of sorts—physical and/or emotional—and after a series of incidents, which illustrate the personality of the character(s), the story comes to a resolution of sorts. A story may have a “happily ever after” ending or a “happy for now” ending or the merely satisfactory  “that’s the way it goes but tomorrow is another day and we’ll keep trying” ending. One thing is certain—the tale comes to a conclusion

I guess this isn’t the case anymore. How did I know my English professors back in the dinosaur days were wrong? After recently reading a “short story” collection by a recent graduate of an Ivy League Institution, I’m led to believe that strings of words thrown onto a page can qualify as a story. Okay, it’s not all that bad, but in a way it is. It’s a crime. A young author, with a strong voice and a talent for coming up with interesting characters and situations, has been taught that telling just the beginning and middle somehow equals crafting a complete story. To me, and probably the majority of humanity, it doesn’t. Who would knowingly mislead impressionable students?

Another sad observation—when did using passive “was” verbs and adding he saids all over the place equate to creating dynamic prose? I’ve learned a lot over the years from genre writing workshops, particularly that a good writer shows not tells the story. Readers don’t want to read a listing of dry facts. Readers want to imagine the characters in their minds taking action. In the process of exercising our imaginations, we readers walk away from the story feeling that we’ve learned something about ourselves or life and, better yet, were entertained in the process.

How can readers learn anything from being told the beginning and some of the middle of a character’s arc? We can’t. An incomplete piece of fiction breaks the cardinal rule of all artists, “Whatever you do, don’t be boring.” Maybe in Ivy League literary fiction circles the entertainment factor isn’t considered all that important and, subsequently, has been junked? Perhaps root canals are considered entertaining in those circles? Yikes!

 Throwing up academic credentials as an excuse for being boring reminds me of a conversation at a party a friend and I had with a man introduced as a creative writing professor from a local private university. My friend asked him what sort of creative writing the professor had published recently. This gentleman stated that he didn’t publish his fiction because, “It was too good to be published.” My friend and I continued talking about our recent novel ideas and book deals while the creative writing instructor looked at us as if we’d grown horns or a third eye.

I surmised the professor didn’t enjoy receiving rejection letters from publishers, so he simply didn’t even try to pen publishable fiction anymore. But then that begs the question—Why should parents pay tons of money to a college which employs an instructor with no interest in writing publishable fiction to instruct their children in the craft of creative writing? Shouldn’t the professor teach “creative ways to avoid rejection” classes instead?

After this recent book review, my impression of creative writing classes offered at prestigious and costly private colleges has not improved. I learned one simple axiom in many writer’s workshops: Writers write. And the sole purpose of writing for publication is to connect with readers—not to bore them. I liken offering incomplete works to the reading public to a master chef tossing uncooked ingredients willy-nilly onto a plate and calling it a culinary masterpiece. (I realize some enjoy sushi, but I want my fish cooked.) When you can’t finish the job, you’re not really a success, are you? 

I can’t boast an Ivy League education, but my books have received some great reviews over the years. Not one reviewer has ever said my fiction was boring or incomplete. I listened in English class and took notes at writer’s workshops and became a published author. Thank heaven I received good advice!

Click on the Cynthianna Mainstream Romance book link at the top to learn more about my PG-rated romance novels and novellas. You can even review one if you wish. ;)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Responsible Gun Owner Amendment

I had a dream that somehow we needed to add an amendment in the Bill of Rights that protected people harmed by others who misuse firearms and deny their fellow citizens the right to live in safety.

That's why I created a petition to The United States House of Representatives.

Will you sign this petition? Click here:

Here is the text I wrote in full:

“The Responsible Gun Owner Amendment”

I propose a Constitutional amendment which states:

All individuals in the territorial boundaries of the United States of America and its possessions who wish to own a personal firearm must pass all mandated federal, state and local background checks and pay a $1000 per year federal licensing fee per weapon. Owners who do not renew their firearm license and undergo an annual background check review will be fined $10,000 for each firearm not in compliance with the law. Persons found to be in possession of an unlicensed firearm whose legal owner cannot be verified will bear full responsibility of paying any and all fines and fees associated with said firearm and must be able to pass all mandated federal, state and local background checks. These federal fees and fines are not intended as a substitute for punishment of criminal or civil laws, and the state or local municipality where the owner/person in possession of the firearm resides retains the right to file criminal and/or civil charges against the firearms owner and/or individual in possession of said firearm for violation of state or local laws.

For every use of a firearm in the commission of a crime and/or physical assault against another person or persons by either the owner or an individual in possession of said firearm—whether or not permission to use said firearm was expressly granted by the owner—the owner of the firearm will be fined $1,000,000. Furthermore, for every instance of permanent disability or death of a victim of firearm violence incurred, the owner of the firearm will be fined $10,000,000. If the legal owner(s) of a firearm used to commit a crime, assault or death cannot be verified, the person or persons found to be in possession of the firearm will bear full responsibility of paying any and all fines and fees associated with said firearm. These federal fines are not intended as a substitute for punishment under criminal or civil laws, and the state or local municipality where the firearm violence occurred retains the right to file criminal and/or civil charges against the firearms owner and/or individual in possession of said firearm for violation of state or local laws.

All moneys raised by the firearm licensing fees and fines for misuse of firearms will be deposited into a designated federal fund that will go toward compensation of property/livestock/pets stolen, lost, damaged, destroyed or harmed during the commission of a crime while using a firearm. Also, moneys from said fund will go toward compensation to the immediate family for any and all wages or income lost by the disability or death of a family member by firearm violence. Moneys raised by the firearm licensing fees and fines will also go toward funding the mental and physical rehabilitation of the victims, friends and family members who have suffered as a result of firearm violence, as well as funds to create information programs to educate and promote firearm safety.

A firearm is defined as any weapon that is capable of propelling a projectile with such force to cause harm or death. Such weapons include hand guns, rifles, and automatic assault weapons. Antique or replica firearms used for display purposes or historical reenactments that are modified so as to become incapable of shooting a harmful projectile will be exempt from the law, provided the owner can demonstrate safety precautions have been taken to the satisfaction of law enforcement officers and accepts liability for any misuse of the firearm under criminal/civil laws.

Firearms owned by the federal government and in the possession of active duty members of the United States Armed Services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard, or Coast Guard) while on sanctioned maneuvers will be exempt from fees and fines, but the possessor of the firearm may be subject to criminal/civil laws. Firearms owned by the federal government and in the possession of active duty members of federal policing agencies while on sanctioned maneuvers will be exempt from fees and fines, but the possessor of the firearm may be subject to criminal/civil laws. Firearms owned by state or local municipalities and in the possession of on-duty law enforcement officers (i.e., police, sheriff or highway patrol) will be exempt from fees and fines, but the possessor of the firearm may be subject to criminal/civil laws.

Firearms owned by private clubs or organizations, incorporated or unincorporated, will not be exempt from the law. The officers or presumed leaders of the club or organization will be considered the owner(s) of said firearms and will be held responsible for the licensing and care of these weapons in compliance with the law. The officers or presumed leaders of the club or organization designated as owners of said firearms will be liable for any and all fees, fines and criminal/civil charges for misuse of the club’s/organization’s firearms by them, their members or others who may take possession of their weapons.

Congress has the right to enact further legislation to aid the implementation of this amendment such as a gun amnesty program in an established period before the law goes into effect to allow individuals and organizations to relinquish without penalty any and all firearms they do not wish to license.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Not Quite an "Iron Author" from DetCon1

We're home from the NASFic, aka DetCon1, and still trying to mentally and physically recoup. My husband Adrian took some great photos and put them up on Facebook for all to see. (Click here to see his photos.) I wanted to make sure that anyone who sat in on the "Copyediting--don't fear the editor" panel on Sunday and came looking for my testimonial page knew they'd found the right place. Just head to the top of the page and hit the link that says "editorial services". (No, this blog has not been copyedited. I'm tired. So there!)

We had a lot of fun in Detroit, met some nice folk, and got a couple invites to area conventions to talk about writing, publishing, whatever. Adrian sold two of his world famous bookends in the art show, so all-in-all, not a bad showing.

I thought I'd share a bit of the flash fiction I wrote in the "Iron Author Detroit" contest I participated in Sunday morning. (Yes, it was early on the last day of the con--not the best timing for a contest.) The winner was the fabulous author Lucy A. Snyder, so I don't feel too bad for losing to her at all. However, I do wonder about the sanity of the audience members who came up with the "prompts" we used to write a short story in five minutes. My example below will show you why I have some reservations on their mental stability, as these three words actually made sense or at least more sense than the last three sets of prompts. Enjoy! ;)

Prompts: a Watermelon, a Triceratops, and a Lost Shoe (the secret ingredient)

"Wherever could it be?"

Lilah looked at the trail behind her. No shoe. It must have fallen off after she had forded the stream, after she had eaten some of the delicious wild watermelon, but she was pretty sure she was still wearing it when she scrambled over the sharp rocks near the waterfalls.

"I knew this was a mistake. I knew I should have never listen to Marc (the panel MC). This is beautiful country, but really... What's so special about it?"

She sighed and plopped down on a boulder. That hiking shoe had cost hundreds. She'd never be able to afford another pair anytime soon.

"Why did I believe, Marc?"

Then she heard the sound far-off... Oh, my God! A triceratops was grazing in the meadow below where she sat.

"The Lost World!" she cried. This is why Marc had told her to come here.

I was writing with pen on legal paper since I didn't bring a laptop. I'm not sure the story would have been much longer or better written using a keyboard, but I certainly could have read it with less problems. Deciphering my horrible handwriting a day later is a challenge and a half! 

Feel free to leave a comment below, especially if we met at DetCon1, and feel free to like me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc., at the links on the right side of the page. It was great getting to know you, but now I need to catch up on my sleep. Zzzzz... :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

See you at DetCon1

We'll be seeing you at DetCon1 in Detroit this weekend. It should be a lot of fun and draw a lot of folks, as it's this years N. American Sci-Fi con (since World Con is in London). I'm on two hard science panels (really!) and one editing panel and taking the "Iron Author" challenge. I've never attempted to write flash fiction under pressure in  front of a live audience before, so this should be quite... different! ;) 

Be sure to say hello if you see us! 
Now at All Romance eBooks, the latest in my Kindred Vampires series for eXtasy Books:


The Vampire Next Door

By: Celine Chatillon | Other books by Celine Chatillon
Published By: eXtasy Books
ISBN # 9781771118644
Word Count: 52832

Available in: Adobe Acrobat, Palm DOC/iSolo, Microsoft Reader, Hiebook, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc), Mobipocket (.mobi), Rocket, Epub
Read More

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Two Short Book Reviews for Two Long Books!

Raising Steam (Discworld, #40)Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun tale for fans of the Discworld series. I'm a follower of the wacky wizards and their magic and sadly they only make a brief appearance in this tale, but over all there's plenty of action, adventure, terrorists (of the dwarf variety), and steam engines. Who could ask for more?

View all my reviews

  People of the Morning Star (North America's Forgotten Past, #1)People of the Morning Star by W. Michael Gear

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating look into the Mississippian culture at Cahokia of a thousand years ago... I lived across the river from the mounds and always wondered what its citizens had been like before they disappeared. There's a large cast of intriguing characters in this story--from a thief on his way to becoming the first P.I. to a captured/enslaved warrior on his way to becoming the first paramedic--and the story has more twists and turns than the Big Muddy itself. There is a lot of graphic violence in the plot's resolution, so readers are forewarned if this isn't to their tastes. However, the full-bodied realization of what the Cahokians' city and culture must have been like captures your imagination and makes you wish you could have been there in the day.

View all my reviews