Monday, August 31, 2015

Elements of Storytelling - Dialogue

Dialogue can arguably be one of the most, if not the most, important part of characterization. And it’s not about what the character says, but how he says it. While the formatting of the dialogue in a screenplay or comic book is different than from a novel (and for you novel and short story writers, I have something extra for you about dialogue), the character still needs to sound real, and his personality needs to show in the words he uses and how those words are arranged. “I challenge you!” is a completely different personality than “Come at me, bro!” and can also be used as a means to show the overall culture the character has grown up in. Another thing to remember is that people who know each other are not going to say each other’s name at the end of every other sentence:

“Did you take a look at this, Bart?”

“No, Bob, I didn’t.”

“What do you think of it, Bart?”

“I think you need to stop saying my damn name all the time, Bob.”

“Look who’s talking, Bart.”

Unless they’re having hot steamy sex with each other, and even then it’s done passionately:

“Yes, John, yes!”

“Oh, Betty, oh—wait! My name isn’t John!”

Also, wasting precious time (and pages) on idle chitchat that does nothing to progress the story along or helps reveal character depth is, well, a waist. Cut it out, preferably with scissors dabbed in gasoline and set on fire. And for God’s sake, stop having humans talk like robots! Robots talk like robots! Humans talk like humans—except when it’s Mitt the Rombot, but he could be a Cylon, so….

Now that you have a good idea of what not to do, I’ll leave you with a tip on a “to do” that often gets missed: body language. Over 75% of communication is body language, more than the words out of your mouth, more than even how you say those words, your body language is what gets picked up on the most. The characters in your story should be no different. Even the makers of video games understand how important body language can be. With movies and plays, it’s the actors who get that responsibility. With graphic novels, it’s usually the artist with some minor input from the writer on occasion (unless both writer and artist is the same person). But for novels and short stories, well, it’s all you, baby. So stop forgetting about body language.

Now go start crafting some good dialogue!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight Cover Reveal! New Enggar Adirasa Artwork!


Seventh Star Press is proud to reveal the new cover art for Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight, the latest in the popular anthology series! From editors Alexander S. Brown and Louise Myers, Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight will be released in print and ebook editions this October, just in time for Halloween!




In Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight, you will find stories from the following authors:


Alexander S. Brown
Angela Lucius
H. David Blalock
C G Bush
Della West
Diane Ward
Elizabeth Allen
Greg McWhorter
John Hesselberg
Jonnie Sorrow
Kalila Smith
Linda DeLeon
Louise Myers
Melissa Robinson
Melodie Romeo
J L Mulvihill
Robert McGough
Tom Lucas

Synopsis: Deep within the South, read about the magickal folk who haunt the woods, the cemeteries, and the cities. Within this grim anthology, eighteen authors will spellbind you with tales of hoodoo, voodoo, and witchcraft.

From this cauldron mix, readers will explore the many dangers lurking upon the Natchez Trace and in the Mississippi Delta. They will encounter a bewitched doll named Robert from the Florida Keys, and a cursed trunk that is better left closed. In the backstreets of New Orleans, they will become acquainted with scorned persons who will stop at nothing to exact their revenge.

These hair raising tales and more await you in Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight. Read if you dare.




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Brick Marlin Wednesday Excerpt!

Running Sequence 8 Dash 1 

Chapter 2

Whenever you find yourself in a cemetery, never step on a person’s grave – its powerful bad luck,” according to Gilbert’s grandma admonition. “Worse than breaking a mirror, causing misery longer than seven years.”
            Gilbert’s mom had never believed in such “nonsense”, waving off Grandma and her crazy superstitions. Even his dad told him to ignore Grandma’s “babbling”. Now, considering what had happened to his parents and surrounded by this forbidding landscape, he lent a bit more weight to Grandma’s words. Treading cautiously above and between the presumed dead husks of creatures (no telling if natural or artificial), superstition gripped his spine.
            After all, this is one of the Baron’s Sectors, he thought. Anything is possible, especially here. Everything is on the table, no matter how improbable or bizarre.
            Gilbert climbed a hill, swerving around and between headstones, careful to not traipse over a plot. A stone archway ended his descent, though a swath of a hundred feet or more shoved in every direction multiplied headstones.
            Now what?
            Gilbert noted how the stone construction of the archway seemed ancient and modern at the same time. Rubbing his hand over the serrated, not sharp, deterioration seemed worn from centuries of weather, though fit together seamlessly.
The opening of the arch peaked about six feet above his head.
Through the archway his eyes drew to glyphs etched into the interior faces of the stones. Moving steadily, distracted by mysterious writing, he failed to notice a shimmer in the air as he passed the midway point. Nor did he notice the quality of light deteriorating as he progressed.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
His flesh prickled.
A swath of ominously roiling dark clouds hovered above.
“Uh-oh.” Another Sector!               
Gloom replaced sunlight. The atmosphere energized, different than any other Sector.
Weird.
Fifty feet away, two ghosts appeared. Two dismantled robots sprawled to the side.
Sensing Gilbert’s presence, the ghosts fluidly turned to face him.
Much too far away to make out the details of their facial features, Gilbert strained to do so, returning to an all too familiar sense of being in the wrong place, wrong time, wrong plane of existence.
A glance over his shoulder.
The archway had been replaced by an immense rock cliff face.
Gilbert’s adrenaline recharged, ready to flee.
Back facing the apparitions a chilled breeze struck him in the face, delivering a wavelength of:
“Who is that? Why is a mortal roaming about the graveyard, Eero?”
“No telling… Say, let’s steal this child’s body and keep it for our very own, Polkins.”
“Can you smell that? His blood is fresh and pure! His stamina is strong! A vessel of life we shall both possess!”
“Brilliant idea, Eero! Two possessions are always better than one. Our masters, four demons inside their transparent spheres, the Metempsychosis Quartet, a.k.a. the Reckoning will be pleased with us! Let’s steal his husk of flesh!”
“Yes, let’s!”
Grabbing each other’s hands they became a nebulous blur, darkening, morphing into a vortex, swelling hundreds of feet in height. Then the shapeless dark winds shaped into hundreds of blood-leaking, severed heads of children donning dead masks of flesh, split lips pulled back into grins. One head leading, turned its collective attention to Gilbert as its brethren followed. 
Gilbert rocketed off.
Screeching plagued the air in his wake.
He needed to find some kind of refuge – anywhere – to elude these monsters.
The huge flock of severed heads crested the hill, some bouncing off the ground, speeding momentum of their pursuit. Giggles and guffaws invaded Gilbert’s ears as he shot a glance over his shoulder. Malevolently glowing red eyes and eerie voices ululating up and down etched into his memory.
Gilbert disregarded his late Grandma’s warning and leaped over headstones, leaving shoeprints on grave after grave. He had joined the ranks of those who find it better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.
The heads merged into one improbably huge head, stretched out a snake-slithering forked tongue, flicked the tip at Gilbert’s head, knocking him headfirst into a headstone boring the number 13.
Sinister guffaws cut through the air, dropping like acid rain on Gilbert’s ears.
Pain wrapped a clamp around his head from the crash into the stone and as he looked up, witnessed the huge head explode into its previous state of smaller heads, connecting into thin membrane-fleshed strands, all stemming from a larger head’s empty eye sockets.
Gilbert saw tiny faces, all screaming inside the transparent strands, some imploding, some turning themselves inside out, splattering gore within the interior of the membrane.
Scrambling to his feet he ventured downhill again, lost his balance, tumbled, skidding to a halt in front of a large tomb.
He screamed.
A gargoyle stared down at him. Wings of an angel, clawed feet gripped a stone pedestal mounted above a doorway. Eyes blazed a bright red.
Gilbert grabbed the handle of the wooden door and pulled frantically.
It moved an inch.
The heads shrieked, closed in.
Gilbert gripped the handle with both hands and pulled again.
Screeching ripped an echoed across the land.
Gilbert wrenched the opening wider.
Small mouths chewed into the soil, using their jaws to balance the huge head which imploded, reformed, long white worms shaping a child. The child’s arms and legs became membrane-fleshed strands, a mass of heads at the tips.   
The door opened wide enough for Gilbert to squeeze inside. He barely registered the tingle on his skin and the hairs on the back of his neck rise as he pushed the door closed, excluding the creature outside, sealing himself in the perfectly silent darkness.
He anticipated a thump or pounding from the excluded pursuers.
But the sounds never came.
Silence shrouded the interior of the tomb and a chill touched his skin.  
Gilbert concluded he had entered another Sector. He had felt a tingle. He had felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.
Sticking his hands in the darkness he felt a cold stone wall, used it as a talisman to move away from the door, pressing his back against it. Yet again Gilbert had no idea which way to traipse. Standing still was not a viable option.
Scrape of stone far away…
What was that?
Gilbert tried to swallow, his throat parched. Gooseflesh scrambled across his body.
Keeping close to the wall he moved, his fingers touching grooves and indentations. Stick figures, animals and indeterminate geometric shapes in the etchings.
The path took an abrupt ninety degree turn.
The wall vanished.

And the floor.

Do Yourself A Writer's Disservice

Photo by Peter Welmerink

Do yourself a writer's disservice and...

DON'T WRITE.
Only for a little while, mind you. Because, like me, if I don't write after a while I tend to build up with all sorts of stories and ideas and insanity and threaten to explode.
Sometimes though, as a writer, you need to turn off, well okay, reduce the volume, put the writer's clock on SNOOZE, and get out there, get outside, and breathe the air, stick your toes in the sand, and revel in life.
I don't care what you do. You can hang out with some friends for the weekend. You can go for a long drive, with all the windows rolled down (keep the AC on if its just too hot), or simply take a step outside, drag a lawn chair along or whatever you have, and take a seat and just look at the blue sky and nature and everything around you. Even if it is a cloudy, crappy day, with rain, shut off the writer's chatterbox for a bit and go and...
RE-CHARGE.
Sometimes, like Facebook, you just need to shut things off, shut things down, and go native. You know, native, like before the writing bug bit ya and you were forever happily afflicted with having to write and weave stories in whichever you were blessed to weave them.
There is no harm and no foul if you get out, spend a little time with your family, your friends, even just some down time with yourself, and breathe the air. In fact, just as not writing will make your head explode, so will not going out and living and seeing what the real world is up to.
It doesn't count, checking into the real world, if you simply grab a newspaper or watch the television news or check the latest horror story on Yahoo. No, you need to disconnect and go outside, go to a favorite park, a lake, a high, OPEN AIR, vantage point over your city...and breathe and take it all in.
We get wrapped around the axle with writing. It's in our blood and we have to do it, MUST do it to survive. But you will grind yourself and your imagination, your creativity, down to a little frustrated nub if you ignore life and living and the natural world.
Do yourself a writer's SERVICE and get out there and breathe the air once in a while, take the world in, re-charge the literary batteries...
Then go back and abuse the keyboard, or blank pad of paper, and write write write!
###
Peter Welmerink has been writing since he found a stash of notebooks in a hallway cabinet drawer in grade school and began to scribe incredible tales of adventure and mayhem. He writes Epic Fantasy and Military Adventure fiction. He can be found at peterwelmerink.com, grandrapidsaltered.blogspot.com and darkheroicfantasy.blogspot.com.

TRANSPORT, his fictional Military Post-Post Apoc Zombie Thriller series, is available now. The events of the tale are set in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan. Childhood dream of massive adventure in his hometown brought back to life and published. Bazinga! Dream it. Do it. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Elements of Storytelling: Developing Character

Character is everything. You can have the greatest plot on Earth, but if the characters are boring cardboard cutouts that talk like machines (especially if they’re not machines) then everything else about the story isn’t going to matter. Nobody’s going to care what happens to your protagonist—or even your antagonist. There are four primary elements that are vital to creating a good character: appearance, personality, motivation, and weakness. Every major character should have all four elements well developed, and even minor characters should have at least two if not three.

Appearance: Even in a screenplay for a film, it helps to give the film director some clue as to what to look for when he picks his actors. Describing a character’s appearance is also vital for the artist in your graphic novel to have an idea of what to draw. And those descriptions are all the novel and short story reader will have to visualize the character.

While technical specs are fine and dandy when creating a character, don’t put that crap into your manuscript. It’s boring (not to mention it violates that whole “show, don’t tell” rule). To show how boring, here’s a comparison (using my character, Yavar Thain):

Tech spec version: She stood 6’ tall with a slender build, had long black hair, and dark brown eyes. Her skin was a dark brown. She wore arm greaves over a silk shirt and leg greaves over black leggings and knee-high boots. Her armored cape was made of water dragon scales. On her belt were several weapons.

Show-Don’t-Tell Version: The woman with tightly braided coal-black hair walked with purposeful but quiet steps in soft leather knee-high boots, and her tall lean form moved with a deadly feline grace. Tight black leggings highlighted the movements of the supple muscles in her thighs and calves. The white of her silk shirt made her smooth mocha skin more noticeable where exposed. She could have been easily mistaken for a mere aristocrat were it not for her metal greaves on her shins and forearms, an armored cape fashioned from the silver-like scales of a water dragon, and her belt of throwing daggers and two curved knives. If that weren’t enough, the cold cruelty found within her dark eyes would chill even a battle-hardened warrior.

Not only does the second description sound more enticing to the reader, a bit of the character’s personality also gets revealed in the description of her appearance. And this leads to:

Personality: A well-developed personality is paramount to creating a great character. But just as with appearance the personality should be shown, not told. It isn’t enough just to tell your audience that so-and-so is a likeable outgoing person who happens to be a bit of an airhead. Show his outgoing nature with his body language (“He flashed a smile at anyone who took his fancy”). Prove his likeability with his dialogue and by showing how other characters react to him. And as for his airheadedness, well, that shouldn’t be too hard to show….

Body language, action, and dialogue are your friends when it comes to showing your character’s personality.

Motivation: Hero or villain, everybody has an agenda. Everybody.

Nobody does things “just because” (unless it’s Korgash, and even he only pretends it’s “just because”). And the more personal the motivation, the more depth your character will have. Ask yourself: why is your villain determined to rule the world? Is he addicted to the power? Does he think he can do a better job than the last ruler? Does he have a utopian dream that unfortunately requires a few eggs to be broken?

And why is your hero thwarting him? Is he idealistic (“no one should have that much power. Nothing good can come of it.”)? Does he think he can do a better job than the villain? Or was his family one of the “eggs” that got broken? Of those three motivations, which one makes him more sympathetic to the reader?

Or perhaps it’s the villain who is seeking revenge for his family?

What motivates the characters in your story will have a big effect on the choices your characters will make, and thus will effect the plot in many and unforeseen ways.

Weakness: Every great protagonist (and antagonist) usually has a weakness or character flaw. Superman might be able to juggle asteroids with his pinky fingers, but toss a little Kryptonite his way and suddenly he’s a whiny little wuss. Dr. Doom has a bad habit of gloating at the worst possible moment. And the Hulk reverts back to Bruce Banner when his anger gets spent.

Every Achilles has his heel to deal with, even if it’s just a personality quirk that gets in the way of him accomplishing his goal. What are your character’s weaknesses and flaws? Is he highly intelligent but too arrogant to know when he’s wrong? Is she terrified of trusting others because of past betrayals? Perhaps he’s a hopeless romantic with an ugly face and a hunched back.

Never make it too easy for your characters to accomplish their goals. And the best way to insure they have a hard time is to give them a weakness.

And now that you’ve got the basics, go make some awesome characters.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Michael Knost's Author's Guide to Marketing With Teeth Cover Reveal and Announcement!

Seventh Star Press is proud to unveil the cover and make an announcement for Author's Guide to Marketing With Teeth, by Bram Stoker Award-winner Michael Knost!  Covering the world of book marketing, this incredible new title features input on the subject from major bestselling and award-winning authors such as Charlaine Harris, Diana Gabaldon, Jonathan Maberry, Kevin J. Anderson, Lucy A. Snyder and Dan Poynter.




Author's Guide to Marketing With Teeth will be unveiled at Imaginarium 2015, a creative writing convention hosted in Louisville, Kentucky from September 11-13 where Michael Knost is a spotlighted guest as an Imaginator.

 A special pre-order window will go live this Friday, featuring an exclusive online writing class with Michael in October for all those who pre-order the new title.


Here's the full scoop on the new book!



Author’s Guide to Marketing with Teeth is a collection of essays and interviews on marketing and advertising for authors and books. Michael Knost has spent more than a quarter of a century in marketing, working in the radio, television, and newspaper industries, as well as serving as marketing director and chief marketing officer for several large companies, including those in the automotive industry.

Mr. Knost has taken the lessons he’s learned from his extensive experience and captured the best tips and advice for authors (or anyone in the publishing industry) who hopes to increase sales and/or name brand recognition. Each chapter covers a different subject with tips on theory and execution.

And let’s not forget the interviews. Michael is also including several with successful authors to learn about their personal marketing strategies—from when they began their careers to now. You’ll hear from superstars such as Charlaine Harris, Diana Gabaldon, Jonathan Maberry, Kevin J. Anderson, Lucy A. Snyder, and Dan Poynter.



About Michael Knost: Michael is an author, editor, and columnist of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and supernatural thrillers. He has written in various genres and helmed several anthologies. His Writers Workshop of Horror (Woodland Press) won the 2009 Bram Stoker Award® for superior achievement in nonfiction. His critically acclaimed Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy (Seventh Star Press) came out in 2013. His debut novel, Return of the Mothman (Woodland Press), hit bookshelves earlier this year. He resides in Chapmanville, West Virginia with his wife, daughter, and a zombie goldfish. To find out more, visit www.MichaelKnost.com.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Elements of Storytelling: "And so it Begins...." - Hook & Reel

Hooking the audience’s attention as early as possible is Paramount, er uh, important. It’s best when done within the first minute, the first page—the first word if possible. As much as I loved the Transformers live action film (Psst! Transformers: The Movie animated film from 1986 is way cooler), there was one major problem: If it hadn’t been Transformers, and Megan Fox wasn’t so hot, I would never have remained in my seat long enough to wait for it to get interesting were it not for the exposition at the start of the film (in Optimus Prime’s voice no less) promising some really cool stuff to come. But, alas, such “prologues” are often used so much they might as well be considered crutches.

And face it: most of us don’t have the advantage of a brand name to keep our audience/readers interested. Therefore, you have to peak the interest of your audience from the beginning, or else you’re screwed (and not in a good way). From a novel or short story perspective, the first sentence should be sufficient to throw out that hook.

There’s a lot to be said about L. Ron Hubbard and Battlefield Earth (and no, I’m not even going to bother talking about that damn movie with the same title)—and very little of it good—but one thing he knew was how to hook in his readers with a single sentence:

“Man,” said Terl, “is an endangered species.”

He peaks your interest, leaving you wondering what was meant, and provides you a foreshadowing of what the story is mainly about: humanity as an endangered species. Later you learn why humanity is about to go extinct, but the important part is that you know they’re endangered at the very beginning of the story.

In film, it’s often the introduction of the main character (often after the panoramic view shot)—usually found in an awkward or compromising situation (which I like to refer to as the “Huh!?” moment)—that tends to be used as the hook.

There’s many ways you can throw that bait and hook into the pond, and it’s fun to practice different ways of doing it—even if only to figure out what baits work best on that hook. But that hook needs to go ker-plop! Otherwise, why bother?

And once that hook is in your audience’s collective mouths, it’s time to start reeling them in.

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