Bloody Valentine Blog Hop

A. F. Stewart is hosting this blog hop to celebratate heartbreak, love gone wrong, romantic mayhem and tragedy, hopefully with that little splash of humour and blood. There is no blood in the following short story of mine, but there is plenty of hearbreak in only 100 words.

The Kiss (100-Word Story) by Pat Bertram

When Jack entered her flower shop, all Jen could do was stare. It had been years since she’d seen him, years she’d spent regretting their final quarrel, yet she still felt the same attraction. His heavy-lidded gaze told her he felt it, too.

He held out a hand, and she let him draw her close for a kiss that spanned the years. She snuggled into his embrace. Everything would be perfect now that they were together again.

“How did you know I was here?” she asked.

“I didn’t. I just came in to buy flowers.”

“For me?”

“For my wife.”

***

“The Kiss” and five more of my 100-word stories were published in the Second Wind Publishing anthology Love is on the Wind, which you can download free from Kindle or Smashwords today.

I hope you will check out these other blogs participating in today’s Bloody Valentine Blog Hop. There should be plenty of mayhem to satisfy your both your romantic and unromantic desires.

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A Diamond In The Dark

GetYourBookNoticed

A Bloody Kind of Lust

Keith Pyeatts Horror with Heart Blog

Musings of Papa Zen

The Cult of Me

Bestiary Parlor: The Musings of a Zoologist

Sheila Deeth’s Blog

Ash Kraftons Demimonde

GMTA UK

Yours in Storytelling

Author JCooper

Laughing for a Living

Lift You Up

Spoiler Princess

The Curse Books

Worldbinding

Pagan Spirits book blog

Random Babble

Exile on Peachtree Street

A. F. Stewarts Blog

Celebrating the Sweet and Sour Sides of Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, Second Wind Publishing is celebrating romance with an ebook giveaway. If you have not yet shot cupid’s arrow to get your romance ebook in the ebook format of your choice, click on the target and it will take you to the game where they will give you what you want this Valentine’s day — romance, tender sentiments, and true love. The rules are simple, and everyone wins!

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If you’re expecting to win one of my books, though, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Although each of my novels has romantic elements, none of them are romances. More people tend to die in my books than fall in love, which is why tomorrow I will be participating in A. F. Stewart‘s Bloody Valentine Blog Hop to celebratate heartbreak, love gone wrong, romantic mayhem and tragedy, hopefully with that little splash of humour and blood.

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I hope to see you at one of these events!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Message in a Blog-gle

When Margay Leah Justice from Moonlight, Lace, and Mayhem invited me to be a guest, she said, “November is going to reflect the themes of gratitude in honor of Thanksgiving, so if you can work up a post along those lines that ties to you as a writer and/or the theme of your book, that would be great, especially if you could tie the two together.”

Of all the topics I’ve discussed during my blog tour, this one gave me the most difficulty. I have plenty to be thankful for, it’s just that I couldn’t think of a single original idea. So, what did I do? I did what I always do when I have a writing problem to work through — I blogged about it. A couple of days ago, I posted this note:

I’ve agreed to write an article about giving thanks, and I have no idea what to say. I am thankful for many things — for my online friends, for my fans (odd to think I actually have fans!), for my publisher who understands my books even better than I do — and yet it’s not the sort of article I would want to read, so I’m looking for a different angle — a hook — and not finding it.

The wonderfully generous and supportive A. F. Stewart commented: I’m thankful for art, nature, Hugh Jackman, that I have an almost zero chance of being eaten by a shark or velociraptor.

My good friend Joylene Nowell Butler commented: Giving thanks for literary critics. What would our little corner of the world be like if we weren’t aware of some literary critic ready to pounce on our books and scream bloody murder that we wrote a disgusting book! Makes me pay attention to every tee and every I.

Susan Helene Gottfried, who maintains the incredible Win a Book site, commented: turn the topic on its head. When did you FAIL to be thankful? How did that teach you the value of giving thanks?

Great ideas, all of them, but Ms. Stewart’s comment gave me my hook. I am thankful I have almost zero chance of being eaten by a velociraptor, but my hero in my poor stalled work-in-progress is in such a danger. (Or he would be if I knew what a velociraptor was.) So, here is my hook: I am grateful that I am not a character in one of my books!

I am also grateful for my blog readers. They never fail to offer support and suggestions, and they are not afraid to let me know when I am wrong.

Thank you.

You can find today’s blog tour stop here: Grateful to be an Author

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I Fear, You Fear, We All Fear

Sheri Parks, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, says that many teens today have had years of exposure to violent video games and media images, which studies show desensitizes them to violence.

How odd to think that there are now studies showing this desensitization. Many of today’s — and yesterday’s — video games were developed by the military because studies had shown that repeated images of violence and death inured people to killing. In World War II, as many as 85% of soldiers fired over enemies’ heads or did not fire at all. After World War II, there was a concerted effort by the military to overcome this natural reluctance to kill, and apparently they succeeded, because during close combat in Vietnam, only about 5% of soldiers failed to aim to kill.

These same desensitizing “games” were later released as toys for children. Is it any wonder that teens today stand by and take pictures while a young girl is gang raped?

Today I am a guest at A.F. Stewart’s blog talking about fears. I kept my post light in honor of Halloween, but findings such as these about desensitization scare the heck out of me. Author Lee Child says that we don’t write what we know, we write what we fear, and that certainly is true in my case. I fear the machinations of the powerful, deadly, and calculating men and women who control our lives behind the scenes.

This theme is most prevalent in More Deaths Than One (in fact, I came across the information about desensitization while researching the military, soldiers, and killing for that particular novel) though it shows up in milder forms in all of my novels. Conspiracy? Perhaps. Truth? Probably. Fear? Definitely.

Now that I have scared you, go check out a lighter side of fear and tell me: What Are You Afraid Of?

More Deaths Than OneMore Deaths Than One is available from AmazonSecond Wind Publishing, and Smashwords. (You can download 30% free at Smashwords as well as buy in all ebook formats.)

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On Writing: Deconstructing Descriptive Passages

A. F. Stewart, author of Inside Realms, has accepted my invitation to be a guest host. Stewart is from Nova Scotia, and writes fantasy stories and poetry. Stewart tells us:

Wandering through cyberspace’s social networking, I have come across many an aspiring writer eagerly posting their work for comments and critiques.  As a result I have learned two things:  that the internet is alive with writers with notable, appealing ideas and many of these aspiring writers have problems creating a good descriptive scene.   These would-be writers either construct a simple methodical listing of the scene’s surroundings or they fill a scene with unnecessary detail punctuated with fluffy adjectives/adverbs.  Both of these ways of writing a narrative scene can render a piece of work tedious and mediocre.

The straight descriptive technique reads like an inventory list, is a quick way to lose a reader to boredom, and buries talent in uninspired prose.  Never write is an illustrative scene where you simply tick off the surroundings in an orderly fashion.

Here is an example of a list-like description:

Butch was standing on the back porch, staring at the garden.  To his right were the red rose bushes, beside the pink azalea bushes.  The two cedar trees were at the back, along the stone garden wall, and the cobblestone path ran through the middle of the garden.  To his left were the lilac bushes and the lilies.

Now that described the garden well enough, but did you care?  Did you feel like you were there with Butch, or would like to be?

Now this passage:

 Butch was standing on the back porch, in the fading light, staring at the early summer garden.  He could smell the heady scent of rose bushes wafting on the slight breeze.  He turned his head to the right, noticing how well their deep red colour mixed with the pink of the nearby azalea bushes.  Movement by the back stone wall caught his attention; he chuckled as a squirrel raced up one of the two cedar trees that grew against the wall. 

He could hear the drone of the hummingbirds and the sweet chirping of the sparrows, and spied them flitting among the lilies and white lilac bushes that bloomed in the left side of the garden.  There were chickadees feeding on the winding cobblestone path; Jessica had most likely thrown them some seeds earlier.

It is far more expressive, isn’t it?

A good descriptive scene invokes the visual, but also other sensory input such as sounds, smells, tactile feel, even a character’s memories.  The best writing tries to recreate how a real person would experience the event. 

Now cramming every tiny detail into scenes doesn’t work either, because you veer into the comical and absurd.  It screams amateur to readers, as does using unusual adjectives/adverbs to illustrate and emphasize.

I shall demonstrate:

Jessica was sitting harshly, rigidly, upright at her very murky, black, baby grand piano that her most beloved grandmother had happily given her for her sixteenth birthday four years ago; the very antique piano that had once belonged to her grandmother.  She had been staring exceptionally hard for more than fifteen minutes at the vaguely spider-webbed cracked, ebony-black, ivory keys that just lay there like a stiff, solid, bit of off-white fishbone that had the last of the flesh scraped off it.  She could not focus her scattered thoughts on the sheets of music that were laid out most carefully in front of her on the shiny, shadow black music rack that was attached to the piano.  She was certainly supposed to be practicing Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude , a piece of music she thoroughly treasured and often played, but her thoughts and feelings would not depart the memory of Butch leaving her this morning to sail far away across the deep ocean to Cornwall, England.  His face still bounced in her memory; his thick, shiny, exuberant, wood-brown hair, his sparkling, sassy, intelligent emerald green eyes, his sculptured, firm, Roman nose, his warm, full, soft, exquisite mouth.

Now that was a passage just brimming over with description, and confusion. 

Here’s something showing less is more:

Jessica was sitting stiffly at her baby grand piano, the antique her grandmother had given her for her sixteenth birthday.   She stared yet again at the slightly cracked keys, knowing that she could not focus her thoughts on her music.  She was supposed to be practicing Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude, but her thoughts kept wandering to the memory of Butch’s leave-taking this morning.  His face still haunted her memory; his thick, brown hair, his sparkling, green eyes, and his warm, exquisite mouth.  Now he was sailing from her, to Cornwall, England. 

A writer must be careful about use of details, too many spoil the mix.   Also beware the overuse of adjectives and adverbs, and make certain you match the adjective/adverb with the mood of your narrative passage.

Remember to keep it simple, evocative and never tell your reader everything at once.  Feed your reader details like crumbs, making a trail through your story. 

When creating a scene or description, you are trying for atmosphere, to make a reader feel they are within your words.  A writer has to set the scene, and strike a balance between doling out the details and going overboard with the wordage.

For more information, see Stewart’s Squidoo lens: How to Write a Fantasy Novel.