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The Challenge of Finding New Voices

May 7th, 2015 No comments
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Meeting new characters can be awkward…
Credit: Enokson, Flickr

I started writing Falling, the first book in my Girl With Broken Wings series in 2010. For five years, Maya, Gabe, and Tarren have been a constant presence in my life. They drop by on a regular basis to tell me about their lives, to give me suggestions for the latest novel, and to let me know quite sternly when I’m not listening to them as I write. In other words, we’re kind of besties.

I recently embarked on a new writing project with new characters, and we are definitely not besties yet. In fact, I feel like all of us are at an awkward networking event with our names scrawled out on dopey nametags. I hate these kind of events, so naturally my hand is shaking as I tightly grasp a glass of wine and attempt a winning smile at the stranger in front of me.

When I write in the voices of these new characters, it doesn’t feel right yet. Their words are clunky and unenthusiastic. I wonder if this is normal. I think back to 2010, to that first terrible draft of Falling and try to remember if Maya’s voice came naturally to me. Was Gabe was already 100% Gabe in my mind?

I also wonder about the authors who pump out six books a year. How do they find and become besties with their characters so easily? Are they the rare extrovert who can work a room full of strangers, turning everyone into a treasured friend overnight?

I started writing my new project too soon. My bond with my characters was weak, and I hoped that we would become comfortable as we started this journey together. Instead, I found myself staring blankly at my computer, trying to peck out a story that didn’t want to move. The characters weren’t showing up. They weren’t speaking.

I realized that it was unfair of me to just throw them into the story without really getting to know them first. So now I’m pulling back, tying the story to the dock so it won’t float away while I spend more time with my characters. I am sitting down with each of them now, asking questions, exploring their lives, finding their voice.

It is adding more time to this project, but it is time well spent. Now my new characters and I are starting to chat and laugh. New friendships are blooming. It will be a while until I can share these characters and their story with you, but I hope you’ll have some new literary besties in the future!

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Fun With Overlapping Narratives

August 2nd, 2014 No comments

Every story presents its unique challenges. Sometimes the plot hits a brick wall and I stare helplessly at my computer, at that last lonely sentence waiting for a mate. Other times the characters pull against their leashes, and we have to trek down mysterious paths together.

My current project, RECOVERING, led me to a different puzzle. This novella overlaps the first half of my novel RISING and is written from the foul-mouthed point of view of my character Gabe. The whole reason that Gabe insisted I write the novella in the first place is that he only makes a short cameo in the first half of RISING.

Roughly 90% of his novella covers new ground, but several early chapters in the novella play out events that are featured in RISING when Maya briefly returns home and interacts with Gabe. In essence I had to write the same scenes over that already exist from Maya’s point of view – same action, same dialogue – but infuse it with Gabe’s perspective.

Sounds easy, right?

Not exactly. To get the scenes just right, I had to carefully reconstruct them from the chapters of RISING, reading and re-reading those chapters as if they were under a microscope.

When I wrote the same scenes for RECOVERING, I had to force myself out of Maya’s guilt and concern and put myself in Gabe’s shoes to show his loneliness and self-loathing. I had to write from his sense of betrayal, shame, and anger using the same dialogue and the same scene structure that already existed.

This little experiment forced me to focus more on Gabe’s inner thoughts to make the scenes seem fresh and also to change the pacing of the scenes so that it wasn’t a rote rehearsal of the scenes found in RISING. For example, Gabe often summarizes longer bits of dialogue that Maya’s narrative in RISING recalls in full. Gabe’s focus will also emphasize different parts of the scene. He doesn’t notice the sad state of the house as much as Maya does. He also thinks a lot about his mother and sister, people Maya never met.

On the technical side, I ended up putting the text of RISING on one monitor and the overlapping text of RECOVERING on the other to make sure every word of dialogue matched up, that the timing of events was accurate, and that Gabe reacted outwardly in the way Maya observed in RISING.

I hope the result is a fresh take on Maya and Gabe’s interactions that doesn’t feel stale or repetitive. I have to believe that Gabe is such a charmer that his perspective can put a new twinkle on everything!

How do you think I did? HERE is a chapter from RISING and an overlapping chapter from RECOVERING. Enjoy the sneak peek of RECOVERING!

The Dread Monster Comes Again – The Fear Of Starting Something New

July 5th, 2014 1 comment
Young girl, scared

This is kind of what I feel like every time I start writing a new book.

The laptop is open in front of me, the page white and fresh. It’s time to start the first draft of the fourth book in my Girl With Broken Wings series. I want to feel excited. I want to feel plump with possibility like a perfectly ripe grape that bursts between your teeth. I want my fingers to be humming with anticipation.

But what I feel is a deep, dark, shapeless dread.

The old worries whisper through my mind. I won’t be able to finish this book. My writing will come out stale and mildewed on the page. My characters will spout vapid dialogue and be as colorful, as deep as shadows.

It doesn’t matter that these worries are pointless. I’ve already completed three full books in the series as well as one novella. A second novella is on its second draft. I know I can finish this book. I know my talent won’t shrivel up and fade like some mystical, short-lived flower.

So why is it so hard to get started on this book and all the previous books? Why are my first, faltering words always overshadowed by a big, snarling Dread Monster?

The more I think about this, the more I realize that the Dread Monster has always been stalking at my heels. I remember my stomach flip flopping, my throat tight on the ride over to gymnastic meets when I was ten. Later, in high school, my whole body would be tight with fear as the last hour of the day ticked down before a tennis match. We had matches three or four times a week during tennis season and that I enthusiastically made the team all four years, and yet I could never quell the Dread Monster. I could never run fast enough to leave him behind or find a sword to pierce his hide.

Is it just nervousness about starting something new? I don’t think so.

Nervousness is that fluttery feeling on a first date when you don’t know what to do with your hands and words become slippery like butter.

This is dread. A dismal sense of emotional pain, of unstoppable worry and anxiety. It is a growling, slobbery monster that eats light, goodness, and positive mantras for breakfast.

Maybe you’ve felt this way too. Maybe not, and I’m just a freak who gets off on self-sabotage. I wonder if there are other people out there with monsters walking behind them. Maybe some of you have found ways of facing your Dread Monster, of starting new things without worries or an endless pit of doubt opening up beneath you. I have not, but I have found a weapon that works against my Dread Monster.

I ignore him.

I write.

When I look at the white page, while the worries spin so fast in my brain they make me dizzy, I put my fingers on the keys and make them move. The words come, slow at first but then faster and easier. I’ll hit hard parts, and my writing will be as graceful, as smooth as running through sand, but I will buff and polish these areas to a high shine in the editing process. The dread will shrink little by litter and the love of writing, which has always been inside of me, will begin to softly beat inside of me like a second heart.

One day I hope that I can approach a new book, a new project, a competition, or a big life choice with enthusiasm, eagerness, and confidence. But until then I’ll elbow past my Dread Monster and start writing, one word at a time.

Oops, I Published Again

March 3rd, 2012 No comments

If you’re anything like me, then you are tired (so utterly weary) of vampires in literature.

What gives? I used to love reading about vampires. They were viscous, blood thirsty (literally) and could be usually be counted on to cause general and specific mayhem wherever they roamed. I mean who doesn’t appreciate a good neck suck every now and then?

But then something happened. It’s all very simple.

Vampires began to sparkle.

That’s right. Sparkle. Vampires.

It’s a crying shame. No more delightfully nasty rampages, or beautiful women drained of their precious rubies. Now we find vampires spouting poetry, lying around in a field accompanied by sappy music and generally being total wussies.

Naturally, I took it upon myself to remedy this state of affairs. I know, I know…tis a heavy burden, but someone had to do it.

The result is a humorous and delightful (in my opinion) short story that I think takes the vampire genre to a whole new level.

Employment Interview With A Vampire is a vampire satire that basically asks one question: What would happen if vampires did age, albeit very slowly? From here, I’ll just let the story speak for itself. Below is a short sample for your reading pleasure.

If you like it, please check it out on Amazon. It’ll only put you back $0.99. The laughs are worth the price. Trust me.

 

Cover, Employment Interview With A VampireEmployment Interview with a Vampire

The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles

 

Betsy’s notion of a “fixer upper” is actually a dilapidated mansion that might have been an especially nice country estate about 50 years ago. Now the paint is peeling, the window shutters are crooked, and the place looks—in three words—spooky as hell.

And this is before I search in vain for a doorbell and am forced to use the heavy brass gargoyle knocker. I hear its echo reverberate inside the house, and a chill runs all the way through me. My unconscious mind is starting to have some doubts, but my conscious mind is all too aware of the stack of bills sitting on my kitchen counter.

“Come in,” a deep, sonorous voice calls from inside.

I push open the door, and yep, it gives out a nice, lusty creak.

“Mr. Hayward?” I venture. “This is Deidre from the Bullseye…employment….agency.”

My voice trails off as I look around the foyer, which seems to be functioning as some sort of spider web sanctuary. Then there are the dust bunnies, which are actually just about big enough to qualify as dust German Shepherds.

“Come into the sitting room child,” that spooky voice speaks up.

Betsy never mentioned how much this job paid, but I’d already made up my mind to hold out for at least $12.00 an hour. Now I wonder if maybe I should crank it up to $12.50 an hour. My feet hesitantly shuffle into the living room, and this is where I get my first official eyeful of my potential boss.

A cape.

Nathaniel is actually wearing a black cape.

I will learn later that Nathaniel feels very strongly about wearing the cape for houseguests, but in this moment I am completely flabbergasted.

I guess it’s also time to deflate another long-held vampire myth. Not all of them are incredibly attractive. Or even mildly attractive. And they definitely don’t stay young forever.

When Nathaniel sees me in the doorway, he throws back his cape dramatically revealing a bow tie, suspenders, and a pair of pants cinched up around his belly button. He also has a pencil mustache on his upper lip, bushy black eyebrows and a white poof of hair on his head.

“You’re late,” Nathaniel says.

I look down at my cell phone. 9:03 AM.

“What kind of watch is that?” Nathaniel asks accusingly.

I’m not wearing a watch, and it takes me a moment to realize what he’s talking about.

“It’s a phone,” I tell him.

Nathaniel waves a pale hand in disgust. “Everyone is so excited about those damn phones. Give me a telegraph any day of the week.”

Nathanial lowers himself into a ratty, wing-backed chair with stuffing coming out of several holes. In the grate, a large fire blazes and throws shadows wildly across the room.

“Yeah, telegraph, those were the best,” I mumble. I wonder if I should sit down, but since he hasn’t invited me, I just keep standing in the doorway.

Nathaniel’s piercing blue eyes give me the once over.

“I see you chose to wear pants.” His bushy black eyebrows crunch together in disappointment. “How very improper for a woman.”

I look down at my nice navy slacks. “Sorry?” I venture.

“And you seem quite old to be seeking independent employment.”

“I’m 24,” I tell him, though I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to discuss age in a job interview.

“Surely you are married and have born your first child.”

Okay, this part is definitely illegal, but I answer him anyway. “Nope, it’s just me.”

“A spinster then,” Nathaniel clucks his tongue with reproach. “Perhaps if you didn’t dress yourself in such disgraceful garb you could make yourself more desirable.” He waves a hand. “Though, perhaps it doesn’t matter. At your advanced age, your chances of finding a good marriage are exceedingly low.”

At first I’m too shocked to even be offended or angry, but then his words sink in, and I feel a hot flush jump to my cheeks.

“These pants are just fine,” I huff. Yep, this is the best comeback I can muster on short notice.  “I think…I think I’ll just go.”

I turn to leave when a sound fills the room.

It is the Macarena.

“Damn,” Nathanial says, “it’s the telegraph.”

He stands up, walks over to the mantel, lifts the lid of an ornate box and pulls out a cell phone. He stares at it, obviously confused.

“Here, let me.” The phone is on its last chord of the Macarena when I take it from his hand and accept the call. Turns out that Nathaniel’s blood pressure medication is ready for pickup at the local WalGreens pharmacy.

I give Nathaniel the message, and this puts a sour expression on his face. “I need to stop eating so many obese humans,” he says.

Despite the cape and severe anachronisms, I still haven’t figured out that Nathaniel is a vampire, so I automatically assume he meant to say, “I need to stop eating with so many obese humans.” Of course, this doesn’t actually make any better sense, but I don’t give it much thought.

“Well?” Nathaniel demands.

“Well what?”

“Go on and pick it up.”

“I’m not your slave,” I reply before I can stop myself.

“Of course not,” he snaps back. “You are white and this is a non-slavery state. I’ve considered moving to Tennessee for just that reason.”

We stare at each other. Two things hit me. First, Nathaniel is one hell of a misogynist and racist. Secondly, I think I just got the job.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Employment Interview With A Vampire can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Smashwords.

 

Categories: Writing Tags: , , ,

THE CHANGE IS ONLY THE BEGINNING IN J BENNETT’S DEBUT NOVEL, FALLING

January 11th, 2012 No comments

Falling, A Paranormal Ebook Now Available For $0.99

 

SAN DIEGO, Jan 11, 2012 — Fans of paranormal fiction are in for a treat when they pick up a copy of J Bennett’s debut novel, Falling, which was released as an ebook January 5th for $0.99. Readers will appreciate the quirky and unapologetic narration of the novel’s protagonist, Maya, as she explains how her normal college life was shattered when she was kidnapped and changed into something beyond human.

 

J Bennett lavishes care on her characters as she slowly unwinds a story filled with paranormal action, wry humor, and terse family drama. The strong narrative voice of the novel feels natural and engaging as Maya faces a new life, a new family and a new body.

 

During the change, Maya’s senses sharpen, her body becomes strong and agile, and she develops the ability to visually see the emotions of those around her as colorful auras…beautiful auras…tempting auras.

 

Struggling to control the murderous appetite that fuels her new abilities, Maya must accept her altered condition and learn to trust two vigilante half-brothers she never knew she had. As she joins the battle against a secret network of powerful and destructive beings that call themselves “Angels”, Maya vows to find and destroy the one who changed her.

 

“The novel includes plenty of action as well as exciting paranormal elements,” said author J Bennett. “But at its core, Falling is about family. Maya and her brothers confront extraordinary challenges, both internally and externally, and the only way to survive is to learn to trust each other.”

 

Falling, at approximately 70,000 words, is the first novel in the Girl With Broken Wings series. The ebook is available for sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. As an introductory promotion, the novel will retail for $0.99 throughout the month of January and will then increase to its regular retail price of $2.99. The second novel in the series, Landing, is slated for release in 2013. A novella that takes place between the first and second book is also in the works and will be released in the second half of 2012.

 

J Bennett is a professional copywriter and copyeditor as well as an author. She lives and writes in San Diego. To learn more about Falling or to read the first part of the novel, visit www.GirlWithBrokenWings.com. J Bennett also writes the blog www.ShyWriter.com.

 

Falling contains some violence and explicit language, and may not be appropriate for children and younger teens.