Comedy-romance novella MARIEL’S MARRIAGE MAYHEM is now available to readers. It can be found on the following sites:
Today I have a double book cover reveal rounding out my books for 2016. New adult romance novelette ALBY MARTIN is first, due in October 2016, followed by short story romance SILAS SAVAGE, the sequel to MAN ON A MOTORBIKE, which will be released in December, 2016.
Cute, spunky university student Alby Martin likes nothing more than to take life as it comes, with a big smile, and heart to match. One day at the park he encounters Faire, a young woman with a troubled home life, and Alby becomes enchanted with the ethereal, but unsettled young woman. A central thorn in Faire’s life is her stepfather Everett who is suspicious of anyone who comes into contact with her. Faire had made a promise to her late mother to look after Everett which he exploits at every turn to his advantage. Will Everett’s interference in their relationship be the ultimate straw, and Alby come to regret his attachment to Faire?
Tragedy has visited Linda’s life yet again, and unable to cope with the loneliness she moves in with her parents. One day she meets the man on the motorbike one year after their initial encounter, and is drawn to get to know him better, despite her parents’ misgivings. Will his moody disposition, and secrets from his past make Linda regret that she came into contact with the enigmatic, volatile Silas Savage?
In today’s guest post, I warmly welcome author Doug J. Cooper to Marcia’s Book Talk. Doug, author of science fiction novel CRYSTAL DECEPTION, its sequel CRYSTAL CONQUEST and prequel CRYSTAL HORIZON, discusses the use of vignettes in his upcoming release CRYSTAL REBELLION, and their effectiveness in providing background and depth to characters in a story. This is very pertinent information that I am sure readers and writers will find extremely useful. For more about this subject, here is Doug with his great insights into this topic…
* * *
Joy of the Vignette
Doug J. Cooper
Thank you, Marcia, for inviting me to your blog. I appreciate the opportunity to share my writing with you and your readers.
My latest book, Crystal Rebellion, is moving through the editing process for release on August 31, 2016. While writing the book, I learned something about myself: the joy I feel when my task for the day is to write a vignette.
These are backstory snapshots from a character’s life that afford readers insight into motives and behaviors. I get a thrill from the burst of creativity that accompanies developing these formative experiences. They tend to be very personal and revealing incidents, and so I learn something about the characters as the piece unfolds. Each vignette emerges over the course of a few hours, filling me with a sense of accomplishment at the end.
In the remainder of this post, I present three of my favorite vignettes from the new book, one for each of the human members of Criss’s leadership.
The first one is a rather dramatic example of a defining vignette. It’s about Cheryl, a tough, accomplished, and physically lovely ex-Fleet captain. As a member of Criss’s leadership, she can give him orders. And he, an artificial intelligence with the cognitive ability of a thousand humans, can provide her pretty much whatever she desires.
In this scene, she and Sid, another member of Criss’s leadership, are trying to get a brain reader to work. Their success is vital to the security of Earth. We join them in the cage where they’ve worked a long day struggling with the technology.
* * *
When Cheryl couldn’t connect, Sid moved the chairs around the room looking for a sweet spot of maximum signal strength. Then they adjusted the settings on the ops panel in a systematic fashion to be sure they tried every combination.
Frustration grew as the hours passed. Then Sid—Cheryl couldn’t say why the comment even had relevance—suggested that she “just relax and let it happen.” He might as well have slapped her.
Beyond the fact that the statement implied that their problems were her fault, the words themselves were a trigger phrase for her.
She’d snuck out from her parent’s home when she was fourteen to meet James—eighteen and gorgeous. He started molesting her the moment they were alone and she’d fought him like a wild cat, knees and elbows swinging everywhere. Then he’d wrapped a huge hand around her neck and used those same words.
Sitting in the cage, she flashed a memory of the fear that had pierced through her as he’d leaned in for a kiss. Puke and liquor. His breath smelled awful.
And she remembered running home wondering how she would explain the bloom of ruby-colored blood on her blouse. She’d head-butted his face with her forehead, breaking his nose with a sickening crack.
Standing up from her chair, she let Sid see her ire. “I’m taking a break.”
Get it together, she scolded herself as she left the room.
* * *
I told you! Dramatic and defining for Cheryl, creative and emotional for me to write. And perhaps one reason why she grew to become a tough, confident military officer.
This next scene is on the lighter side. It develops the relationship between Sid and Criss. As it turns out, Criss is not only smart, but also a sentient AI, which means he, too, has thoughts, motives, and feelings. And Sid, who once served as a covert warrior in the Defense Specialists Agency, now considers himself to be in the security business, with Cheryl and Juice as his only clients (Juice is the third member of Criss’s leadership, introduced next).
Sid is strong, decisive, and deadly, and he has a bit of a maturity problem, treating Criss more like a frat brother than anything else. Criss rises to the challenge as we see in this next vignette. As an aside, Criss is a master of technology, so he can appear as a projected image just about anywhere he wants.
* * *
Criss shifted to the common room and projected himself robed in a traditional Japanese gi. Sid arrived moments later, stretched, and squared up in front of the heavy bag Criss had readied for him. Sid began a slow punch-and-kick routine as he warmed up. Criss mimicked him on the other side of the small room.
When they’d first worked out together on the bag years ago, Criss had analyzed Sid’s every twitch and tell. He used that knowledge to predict the next moves Sid would make, then he performed them first, a fraction of a second earlier.
To an observer, this tactic made Sid look like he was following Criss’s lead, and it annoyed him to no end.
Challenged, Sid began planting false signals. Criss read past the deception, but his lead over Sid decreased. Buoyed by his success, Sid drew on the same gut-level instincts that guided his well-honed intuition, except here he used his instincts in an inside-out fashion, driving behavior so random that it stumped Criss.
Now, during workouts, the two moved as one. Kick, feint, punch, punch. Jumping and spinning in one motion, they both delivered a roundhouse kick to their bag. Thwack.
“Walk me through it again,” said Sid. “And this time start at the beginning.”
* * *
In the scene above, we learn about a time when Criss teased Sid. The tables are usually turned, however, with Sid giving Criss a hard time.
And then there’s Juice, the third member of Criss’s leadership. She is the scientist who created Criss (with help from alien technology) and is the free-spirit of the group, with no military training and no desire to learn. In this scene, she is in the process of rekindling a romantic relationship with Alex, who is first introduced into the story line in Crystal Rebellion, and we learn a bit about their shared past.
* * *
“Oh my God, Alex,” she said, looking at a crinkled sheet of paper stuck among a collection of items. “You kept that, too?”
Using his knee for support, she stretched forward and read aloud the words scrawled in her own handwriting across the top of the page. “The laws of life.”
Years ago, they’d been at a pub in Boston sharing a pitcher of local brew and having a deep, philosophical discussion. During a spirited exchange that extended into a second pitcher, they’d crafted the three laws. Juice had acted as scribe that evening, documenting their work on a piece of scrap paper atop a table sticky with beer.
In a theatrical voice, she read the laws aloud. “One. Life is a trip, enjoy the ride. Two. Strengthen society so more can ride. Three. Don’t detract from other people’s rides.” She nodded. “They still work for me.”
For weeks after, they’d made references at work that only they understood, like, “That jerk is messing with my ride.” It had been a silly but wonderful time of sharing.
Her hand still on his knee, she turned in her chair to face him. His cheeks reddened.
Is he ever going to kiss me? she thought.
* * *
So there you have it, special moments in the lives of the characters of the Crystal Series as revealed in the next saga, Crystal Rebellion, coming August 31. I enjoyed writing them and appreciate the chance to share some of my personal favorites.
Thanks again for hosting me, Marcia. I invite your readers to learn more about my books with a visit to my main portal at CrystalSeries.com.
* * *
Doug Cooper Links
In today’s guest post, I have the immense pleasure of welcoming author Eichin Chang-Lim to Marcia’s Book Talk. Eichin, author of the TOUCH SCRATCHES book series and FLIPPING, answers questions about her books, her thoughts on writing, and favorite pastimes. I will now allow Eichin to elaborate on the details…
Q: For how long have you been writing?
A: I have done “unpublished,” mumbling kind of writing for about 15 years, just to transpose my inner thoughts into written words. Serious writing started about six years ago.
Q: What inspired you to write your latest book?
A: The seeds of my latest book, Flipping, were there way before I wrote Tough Scratches. I infused much of my personal experience into Flipping, especially the part about raising a special-needs child, walking alongside him during his growing-up years, learning to let him go, and seeing him struggle to spread his wings and fight to be independent and be loved.
Q: What do you especially love about writing?
A: Writing is a form of art. Being an artist is sharing one’s soul with others; at the same time, it’s therapeutic. I enjoy being an artist more than being in any other profession.
Q: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?
A: Flipping, by far. I think it has more depth and layers than Tough Scratches.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: I read a broad array of genres, and my favorite authors change from time to time. If I have to pick one at this very moment, I would say Kazuo Ishiguro. However, my favorite book is All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. I have found many aspiring Indie authors with great works, and I am fond of a few of them. I earnestly support Indie authors.
Q: Do you have any upcoming releases that you would like to tell readers about?
A: I am co-authoring with my good friends to share our experiences of raising a special-needs child. It’s not a “how-to” book. Our desire is to let other parents in a similar situation to know that they are not alone. In the meantime, I am in the beginning stage of my fourth novel.
Q: Will you be writing any shorter works in the future?
A: Not in the immediate future, but it’s something that has been dancing in my head for a while.
Q: Being an optometrist, have you found any parallels between optometry and writing from your experience? Has one field complemented the other in ways you originally never thought possible?
A: The answer is yes and yes. I cannot tell you how much I love my day job and how much my patients enriched my life. I appreciate every person for giving me the privilege to look into his/her eyes, which are the windows to the soul. (I know, it may sound like a cliché.)
The anatomy of human eyes remains almost the same, yet no two pairs of eyes are identical. The soul carried by the owner of the eyes is unique. Every soul is precious and is a living story from which to learn. I usually ask my patients, “How is life treating you?” instead of “Any complaints about your eyes?” I learn of their stories this way. Inevitably, I modify, dramatize and incorporate their stories into the characters of my books.
Writing arouses my imagination and creativity, and my experience as an optometrist enriches and enhances my writing through the stories I hear and the people I meet. These two professions run parallel and yet complement each other more than I initially thought they would.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time to unwind?
A: Two major activities: listen to music and workout.
Honestly, I cannot live without music. I love many kinds of music, especially classical music and opera. My favorites are from the Classical and Romantic eras. My favorite operatic composer is Verdi.
In terms of workout, it’s a “work” to me, and I have to kick my rear-end to do it, just because I “have to” do it to keep my energy up. I do dance aerobics two-three times a week and weight lifting at least five days a week. I also do stationary biking while reading (yes, multi-tasking). Due to time restraints, all the workouts are done at home; I am not a gym person. The outdoor sports I enjoy are golfing and biking, but they are time-consuming.
Q: Do you have any favorite TV shows, either from the past, or currently on the air?
A: I love comedies. My favorite one is The Big Bang Theory.
Eichin Chang-Lim Links
This is a topic upon which I ponder every so often – are shorter books looked down upon compared to longer works by readers, or, do readers and writers have a special affinity for bigger books for specific reasons? There are some points which have cropped up repeatedly over time that I would like to examine, and I find these particularly interesting, and helpful, as I myself often write shorter books. I will list each of these points, and detail some of the reasons why these may be so, but also, depict the other side of the matter.
1. Short books are haphazard, often badly written, and skim over plot details which longer works explore at a much more leisurely pace, not taking into account the emotional factor for the reader.
This is relative to the reader, and how they envision the individual book, but this can also pertain to a book of any length. Like everything, what is gold to one person may be rusty to another. I have read books which, while in the scope of a short story, novella or novelette, offered long scenes, emotional hooks, and twists and turns that were, quite simply, revelatory. I believe readers may have the preconception that they may be ‘cheated’ if they read a shorter work, but, from experience, this can be alleviated by certain factors for the writer of shorter works.
Having longer scenes interspersed with briefer ones, rather than a collection of short scenes can create the impression of length and smoothness to the reader, and that the shorter book resembles a longer work. Also, segmenting the book into chapters can also make scenes flow better and offer a greater sequence of events, instead of just one unbroken slab of story.
2. Longer books earn more than shorter works, thus the leaning towards them by readers and writers alike.
This does seem to be true from viewing the top books on the websites such as Amazon, and what is in the best-seller lists. The books which are bigger are also generally more expensive, and have more reviews, than the shorter works. The earning power of longer books is probably another attraction, specifically at Amazon, with the feature of 70% royalties for works 2.99 and above. The affinity for longer works, though, neglects the fact that there are some great works waiting to be read which are of a shorter length, and offer the power that a bigger book can, just in a shorter format. There are often shorter books which are priced in the 2.99 bracket, and which possibly earn as much as longer books in this category which is another point to consider.
3. The author who writes shorter works cannot ‘write’ bigger books, thus, they compose briefer works.
From the many short stories that I have read over time, I have found that this is not the case. There are writers who have written both short, and longer books. Stories sometimes do not need to be long, a series of events can be summarised in fewer words than going for a lengthier version, which may become repetitive if stretched out too far. This, by and large, depends upon the writer, and how many characters they wish to deal with. The multi-character narratives are often longer works as they examine/compare/contrast more characters than a shorter work, but, smaller narratives can do the same, but with less characters, and a tighter framework.
What do you think? I have outlined some of the points (probably the tip of an iceberg) which I have seen crop up often about short versus longer works, and would love to hear your viewpoint on this matter.
On the day of her wedding, feisty Mariel Crain discovers that her fiancé, Duane Davenport, has been carrying on an affair with best friend Melissa Meadows behind her back. All hell breaks loose at the church, as Mariel gives Duane and Melissa a piece of her mind, to mother Aretha’s delight, who never liked Duane.
Mariel is comforted by Duane’s best friend Damian Anders, the man who exposed his shenanigans. Wanting to seek revenge for Damian’s betrayal, the wily Duane concocts a plot involving Damian’s lifelong friend Sawyer Mandrell, but will this bring him closer to Mariel, or drive an even bigger wedge between them?
Here is the cover reveal for MARIEL’S MARRIAGE MAYHEM, which will be released in August 2016.
Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing Tamara Ferguson, author of romantic-suspense books THAT UNFORGETTABLE KISS, the first part of the KISSED BY FATE series, the TALES OF THE DRAGONFLY book series, and TWO HEARTS SURRENDERED, amongst her works, and welcome her to my blog.
Thank you Marcia for having me. I always enjoy our visits!
Q: For how long have you been writing?
A: Probably about 6 years – but much more seriously the last 3.
Q: Have any life experiences inspired you to write your books?
A: Once my autistic son graduated from school and didn’t enter the vocational program he was supposed to because of our state’s budget cuts, I was forced to become his full time caregiver. So I guess you could say that ALL my life experiences are behind my writing. I write about what I know; since autism and disabilities are very much a part of my life.
Q: Each writer works in different ways with reference to writing. Do you have a writing program/schedule that works for you?
A: I prefer to write after a good night’s sleep. I find that what I write later in the day doesn’t always make as much sense as what I write when I’m fresh.
Q: Do you have any favorite book genres which you love to read?
A: I read a lot of suspense and romantic suspense, but I actually love to read historical romance. And because there were a lot of authors in the historical genre who I enjoy, I began writing contemporary-partly because I found a lot of contemporary romances I began reading didn’t always seem to hold my interest.
Q: Are there any favorite books and authors who have been influential upon you and your writing?
A: When I was younger, I would have had a totally different answer for this. I enjoyed lighter romance/chick lit. But now I’d say there are three authors – Mary Balogh, Linda Howard (I love her later romances more than her earlier) & Nora Roberts. All three mix up a great blend of humor & romance, while Linda Howard and Nora Roberts add in the suspense. One of my favorite stories by Linda Howard is Open Season-it’s made me laugh each time I’ve read it.
Q: After reading THAT UNFORGETTABLE KISS, which I found to be an entertaining novel, I enjoyed the romance between Kate and Murphy, but also liked the supporting characters, who backed up the protagonists in a wonderful manner. The detail of home construction was also another striking feature of the book, adding authenticity and background to the characters’ occupations. What inspired you to write this story with its rich tapestry of characters and situations?
A: The home improvement is easy – I do all these things myself. I was a single parent for many years and had a house to keep up. The house I live in now has a list of never-ending problems that have been really hard to keep up with. But all my stories feature strong women who are not necessarily looking for love, so it’s easy giving them jobs pertaining to what I’m the most familiar with.
With this story, I wanted to go in a different direction with my writing. I wanted to write something with a little lighter subject matter and a lot more humor. After getting some critiques from the RWA, I was told that this story would fit perfectly into the new adult genre-which I’d never even heard of! And so began my transition as a writer.
Working with an editor (DS Williams) really helped with this a lot. After my critiques, I began thinking in terms of my target age groups. This makes a big difference in the formality of my writing and use of contractions, etc.
And each editor is different, in the way they approach my stories. Sometimes the slightly older school editors don’t really understand that my way of writing- as far as new adult – is totally intentional.
Q: Amongst your stories, is there one which is closest to your heart, and why?
A: My favorite story is usually the one I’m writing at the time! But the story I think I’m the proudest of (so far) is Two Hearts Surrendered, while Tales of the Dragonfly In Flight is probably closest to my heart because two of my characters are based a little on myself and my autistic son, as well as the troubles and struggles I’ve dealt with as his caregiver.
Q: You have participated in several book compilations with other authors covering themes such as Magical Weddings, Mother’s Day, and A Touch of Passion. How is the experience of writing on a specific theme in combination with other authors?
A: You know as far as the theme, most of us are off doing our thing for several months while we’re writing our stories. The time we need to work together the most is when we’re approaching our release dates-and this can be really difficult. I’ve had a totally different experience with each group I’ve worked with- but mostly good. I’ve made a lot of good friends. I find the more I get involved in anthologies, the more of a promotion person I’m becoming.
Q: Do you have any favorite TV shows, either from the past, or currently on the air?
A: I’ve always liked NCIS- and probably won’t ever get tired of it. CSI and Law & Order I’ve liked, but am so SICK of the reruns. Seems like everyone shows the same ones over and over again. I liked HOUSE a lot too. I do enjoy old movies BUT even Turner Classic Movies has become slightly monotonous. The most popular movies are shown so much, that I kind of get sick of them. I used to like their format when they featured the same star the entire day.
Q: Are there any hobbies or pastimes you like to participate in when you have spare time?
A: What IS spare time?? In the old days it was gardening and floral design (I still have a home business) as well as big time home improvement projects, but since I began writing and particularly since I began using social media, I seem to behind my computer from the time I wake up in the morning until the time I go to sleep at night.
Q: You are a versatile writer in terms of genres, tackling stories in the romance, military, new adult and suspense genres. Would you like to write stories in any other genres?
A: It’s strange that I like to read historical, but I don’t want to write it. Right now I’m at a crossroads – I’m trying to decide what kind of story I’d like to write for a new anthology I’ll be in next year. Do I want to go light – and do more of a chick lit theme (which I’ve never really written)? Or do I want to stick to slightly serious subject matter, but still inject a lot of humor? I seem to be best at this, I think. I am not especially inclined to write fantasy, there are just too many authors out there already tackling this, but I think I’d enjoy writing a Christmas ghost story at Dragonfly Pointe. I’m a fan of old movies and The Canterbury Ghost and Topper are a lot of fun to watch.
Q: Have you written any unpublished short stories, you eventually aim to publish?
A: I haven’t had much in-between time lately. Every time I’ve finished up with one anthology, another one has come along. So I am kind of a write on demand person lately. I think I do have a short story tucked away somewhere – that need a lot of work! And I began Tales of the Dragonfly Emergence last year, but I know I’ll be completely changing that up when I go back to it. I really want to revise my first TOD In Tandem – but I know it will require an awful lot of work!
Q: Are you left-handed, or right-handed? Being a left-hander, it is interesting to see how many writers are either one or the other, or ambidextrous.
A: I’m right handed but I use both hands to manipulate my laptop. I’ve had some hand, arm and shoulder issues too; not because of my writing, but because of the time I spend on twitter!
Q: Do you have any other writing projects, or new/upcoming releases, that you would like to mention to readers?
A: First of all, the revised Tales of the Dragonfly In Flight will be released on June 28 with a new cover created by the award-winning Blue Harvest Creative. I’ve joined their author team for the next year after winning a huge prize from Readers’ Favorite. Two Hearts Undone (Two Hearts Wounded Warrior Romance #3) is due to come out any day now in Annie Acorn’s 2016 Romance Anthology, and I’m currently writing Tales of the Dragonfly Emergence. It should be released sometime next spring. I’m also working on the first novella of a new series to be featured in the bestselling Wedding Pets & Kisses series, which will be released in March of 2017.
I am certain you will join me in thanking Tamara today for her time, and that we look forward to reading more of her works in the future. If you wish to contact Tamara she is available on: