Friday, September 28, 2012

Review of LOVE COMES LATER by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

Love Comes Lat56

Author: Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
Genre: Multicultural; Family Saga; Romance
Page Count 256
Book Summary
Hind is granted a temporary reprieve from her impending marriage to Abdulla, her cousin. Little does anyone suspect that the presence of Sangita, her Indian roommate, may shake a carefully constructed future. Torn between loyalties to Hind and a growing attraction to Abdulla, Sangita must choose between friendship and a burgeoning love.
A modern quest for the right to pursue love and happiness, even when it comes in an unconventional package, LOVE COMES LATER explores similarities between the South Asian and Arab cultures while exposing how cultural expectations affect both men and women. Identities are tested and boundaries questioned against the shifting backdrops of Doha, Qatar and London, England.
Although romance is not typically my genre, I enjoyed Love Comes Later. Set in Qatar and London, the 256 page book provides a look into the never easy path of love through eyes of a family living in the Arabian Gulf/Middle East. This book is enlightening and would be a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the area (most people?).

The summary above, provided by the author, is slightly misleading in that the book begins with a focus on Abdulla, a young widower and his little sister-in-law Luluwa (a terrific character in her own right and worthy of further development). Only later does the viewpoint shift to Hind.

A graduate of London School of Economics, and less bound by tradition than the rest of his family, Abdulla is an incurable workaholic. He is not interested in marrying again despite the pressure to fulfill familial obligations. However, he finally submits and becomes engaged to his cousin, Hind. She isn’t all that thrilled with the arrangement either and heads to London for a year of school. I can’t tell you more without spoilers.

The book is very cleanly written, and provides an entertaining peek into the lives and loves of this family.

The only downside that I found was the dizzying array of introductions in the prolog. By my count, fourteen people in the prolog and nine more in chapter one. In fact, I kept a written scorecard to remind me of who everyone was.

Despite that minor nit, and some cultural differences that a few people may find jarring, you will recognize many of these people in your own family.

Highly recommend.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Create Living Characters

Great characters will help you create stories with depth and complexity. Stories that will last in your reader’s mind.

Every character should have a description that you keep handy. Consistency is extremely important. You can’t have a character with one trait on page seven and another that conflicts on page eighty. You may miss it, your editor may miss it, but your reader won’t.

Unless the plot dictates otherwise, when you first introduce your character, you’ll need to provide the person’s name, and a few traits that briefly describe the individual. At this point, you are trying to set an image in your reader’s mind. If it’s a minor character, that’s about all you’ll need to do. A major character, one who appears throughout your book, needs to be fleshed out, with descriptions and traits delivered over a longer period.

There are a number of templates on the web that can help you pick the characteristics you want to describe. Most include some variation on:

Eye color

To this, describe the character’s personality, their wants and needs, how they react in certain situations, and their environment.

From your list, create a narrative that puts your character in context with your plot.

An example:

Tamika Johnson.
Since her husband died, Tameka stays in her 1940’s bungalow, sitting at the bay window, and looking out at a world that’s passed her by. She’s fifty-years-old. Or maybe younger. Hard to tell. Her hair is dyed with a half inch of gray at the start of each cornrow. Her voice is throaty and hoarse, from smoking and drinking. She has empty Jack bottles in her recycle can.

As she talks, she flicks her cigarette with one of her yellowed teeth. She is tough and smart, with a smart mouth. She favors various brightly colored, cotton housedresses, athletic socks, and pink slippers. Her home was once well cared for, but after her husband died she’s let things go. The once nice furniture is tattered and steeped in cigarette smoke.

She is sad and tears up when reminded of her husband or her late friend across the street.

Here’s another:

Pamela Griffin

Forty-five-years old, petite and still curvaceous but going to seed. Small rolls of fat bunch under her faded-to-pink Rolling Stones t-shirt, the one with the tongue. She always wears low-rise bellbottom jeans, the kind with the hem worn out in the back from dragging on the ground. Flip-flops slap on her dirty feet as she walks. Her complexion is sallow and dry from too much nightlife and too many cigarettes. Hair is bleached blonde with mousey brown roots. “I keep it short so I don’t have to fiddle with it, and it looks great.” Nobody else thinks it looks great. She had a kid when she was fifteen, but didn’t know who the father was. The kid is now thirty and in prison. She hasn’t seen or spoken to him in nine years.

She flirts, but in a proforma, sad way, as if knowing that the only takers will be drunken losers. She also knows that it’s 50/50 that these “dates” will beat her.

Can you picture these two characters in your mind?

After you come up with descriptions, you need to write a scene for each character. It can be one for use in your novel or one unrelated. What’s important is that you use it to create the flow and cadence of your character’s voice. Referring back to this scene and your description as you write your novel, will help you maintain character integrity.

Next post: A scene with Tameka Johnson

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Your Editor is Always Right

Your editor is always right. You heard me. I’m not talking about niggling little punctuation problems, word usage, or even misspellings. All of that is considered copyediting, and you should have paid attention in school so most of it wouldn’t happen in the first place. I’m talking about the comments. Most editors use track changes in MS Word. So pretend you’ve gone through the copyediting part of your manuscript and clicked on the Accept Change button. That leaves the comments. The little ones in the right margin that can drive a writer nuts.

You’ll see something like this in a blue box:

Comment (U62) Again, why? This
is not a clear motivation.


Comment (U58) This should have
been much clearer earlier . . . because
then her march/journey would be
much more purposeful.

Do not get yourself in high dudgeon and send an email. “What do you mean? It’s perfectly clear in chapter 4, where she mentions it.” Or, “You missed the point, It’s explained on page 13!”

Maybe she did miss it. She is still right. “What?” you say. Yep, she’s right. No matter what you think, if your editor says what you’ve written is not clear, it is not. If a professional reader such as your editor didn’t get it, your other readers won’t either.

I’m not suggesting that the editors of the world don’t miss things, they do. Keep in mind, if they do it inadvertently, your readers do it on purpose. Sad to say, most readers are skimmers. They’ll get to a paragraph that looks long and skip down to the next break. You know which paragraphs I’m talking about, The Ones That Look Boring. Or they’ll read a sentence or a piece of dialog and assume in their mind what should logically follow and skip to the next sentence.

I know what you’re thinking. How dare they? Trust me, they dare. So get in there and make sure it’s clear. If it’s important, reinforce it, and leave no doubt in your reader’s mind. And don’t forget, if it’s not important, cut it. Cutting is the easiest fix of all.

Sometimes, your editor will write a comment that has confused you. Bear in mind that the confusion started with your manuscript. Go back, review the noted section, and you’ll likely find the problem. If you find that your editor flubbed it somehow, go back and enhance/clarify the problem area anyway. You’ll be a better writer for it.

Whatever you do, don’t agonize over changes. Make them and move on. After all, they are only words, and you have plenty of words, right? If you love the magic of your prose and can’t stand to press the delete button, cut and save it to a “little darlings” file. I used to have one of these and didn’t use a single line in another story, so I deleted it. But if it makes you feel better, go ahead.

Just remember, your editor is always right. Accept it.

Oh, and if you think you don’t need an editor, God help you.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Are you a pantser?

Are you a pantser? Someone who doesn’t outline their story, or at most partially outlines it. I fall into the latter category.

My current YA novel started life as a 250-word flash mystery story submission to a pulp magazine. It was a runner-up, and I liked it, so instead of lengthening it some and submitting as a short story, I decided to use it as part of a scene and build my novel around it.

I didn’t try to blow that story up to become the novel, but instead to use it as a seed. It turned out to be around one fifth of Chapter 3.

Since I had designed the character and given her the attributes I wanted in the short-short story format, it was an easy task to write the first few chapters, and create a suitable ending. Doing it that way made it a lot easier, since I knew exactly where I was going.

The novel has been through its first pass with an editor and sits at a little more than 55,000 words. A decent number for YA.

Let me know your method.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review of Alexandra Sokoloff's Huntress Moon

5 Stars to Alexandra Sokoloff's Huntress Moon

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke heads to an emergency meeting with his undercover agent when he sees him killed in a gruesome accident. That is, if it was an accident. He sees a beautiful blonde standing quietly behind his dead agent staring at him.

I really can't tell you anything more without ruining the many surprises in the book. I can tell you that Huntress Moon gets a grip on your mind and won’t let go.

The book is very cinematic which is not surprising, as Ms. Sokoloff is also a screenwriter. And not only does it play visually, it gets you at a gut level, making you think of human monsters and the things they do.

Ms. Sokoloff has created a stew of memorable characters, beautiful settings, and a tight plot. Into this, she has ladled generous amounts of terror, guaranteed to keep you up at night.
Be prepared, Huntress Moon is one hellava ride.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Last Call - Flash fiction for April

I had terrible bruises, and it hurt to sit on the little wooden bench in the phone booth. I was trying to stay out of the chill wind that was blowing in off the ocean. My eyes had finally adjusted to the dark, and I looked out over the dunes, waiting for my husband.

I’d been on a walk with my friend Jill, and when we finished, her ride came. Mine didn’t. Leaving me stranded was one of Tony’s favorite pastimes. I could have ridden with Jill, but if I did, he would hurt me. I touched the stitches in my lip. In the past few months, he’d added physical abuse to his repertoire. I would have to call him and plead for a ride.

I dropped some change into the coin slot. It was an old rotary phone and the receiver clicked through each number.

“Hello?” His voice sounded cold and flat.

“Please, Tony. I’m freezing.”

“It will all be over soon.” There was a crackle, then silence.

Minutes stretched into an hour. I heard a sound and he appeared at the phone booth door, his face twisted with rage. He hammered on the glass, yanked it open, and lunged at me with a knife.

Even standing close, I doubt you would have heard the three pops over the crashing waves. Tears ran down my cheeks as I slipped the little .380 automatic into my pocket.

I took a deep breath and made a last call to 911.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cover Reveal for "Street Crimes"

Here is the cover created for my mystery anthology "Street Crimes." by Carl Graves of
Hope you like it!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

German shepherd dog

Took Lily to dog school last week. She completed a six hundred foot track over blacktop, ice plant, concrete, and dirt at Fort Ord. She tracked the bad guy to a building where I sent her on a building search. She cleared the first floor and found him on the second.  All this in about four minutes. GSD's noses are amazing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A little 500 word story

Had a little flash mystery published on In another form, it was runner-up in an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine contest.