Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The book that scared the crud outta me

Once upon an autumn, I was a lone weirdo in a gothic Texas family. Like, I read a lot of Stephen King and J.R.R. Tolkien, and everybody else in my family went bow-hunting and two-stepping and listened to Merle Haggard. My parents clearly didn't know how to shop for me, and my newspaper route paid crap money, so I supplied my book habit at yard sales and the public library five-bucks-for-everything-you-can-fit-into-a-paper-sack sale.

I wasn't old enough to stay at home on the long weekends when the family all went deer hunting, so I got hauled along to leases out west of San Antonio, usually some rocky windswept ranch, usually to murder wildlife, which was very much not my thing.

On one such trip, I brought along one of those library-sale paper sacks full of treasures books.

One of those books was called The Amityville Horror.

The rest of the camp went out on a hunt right before twilight, because deer come out to forage at sundown, and that's apparently the best time to kill them. If someone "got" a deer--i.e., shot one-- they had to wait until the hunt was over to go out and find the unlucky creature and, if it wasn't dead yet, put it out of its misery. Sometimes the search-and-finish could last for hours, long after dark.

I almost always stayed behind in the camper. And read books. It was glorious.

Except that one time. With that one book. 

I didn't know it then, but the evening hunt was pretty successful. Several deer were "got," and several searches ensued. I was alone in the camp with only the wind for company for miles and miles of dark Texas night. Just me and my delicious readable.

I considered myself fairly brave as far as books went. At least, I hadn't read one that stopped me from reading others. King and Koontz and Poe and Susan Cooper, not to mention all those collections of ghost ship stories and unsolved mysteries, had inured me to losing my shit over a book. I mean, they were just books. Just in my mind. All made up, fantasy stuff. 


So I snuggled down in a sleeping bag, cracked open The Amityville Horror, and read blithely, bravely, decadently.

For those who haven't read the book or seen the movie (movies?) this starts off innocently enough. Normalish family moves into a house. It's a nice house, kind of fancy even, with a boat house. But (SPOILERS!) it's haunted as hell, and freaky stuff starts happening, and the dad goes a little crazy, and suddenly there's a demon pig in a rocking chair up in the attic. 

Which was when something scratched on the side of the camper. 

I kid you not. Something was out there. Scratching. Low, near the ground. Right below my camper window. A sound that was not the wind. It was close.

Scratch, scratch.

Remember, every human person was out in the night wilderness killing Bambi.

So what was scratching out there?

I sure as hell wasn't going to go outside and investigate. And I could not, could not just keep reading.

Demon. Pig.

That was totally a demon pig outside.

I closed that book, shoved it way, way down the sleeping bag, and huddled there in the camper, listening. Terrified. For hours.

Family got back eventually, skinned their kills, and iced down the meat, and then we all went to bed. Next morning, after I slept not at all, I woke up and checked out the side of the camper.

There were scratches on the side. True fact.

Never did finish that book.

(Happy Halloween, y'all.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Scariest Books I Ever Read...

The scariest books I ever read were...

The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy

Your doctor gives you medical advice. Your mother buys you baby clothes. But who can give you the real skinny when you’re pregnant?

Your girlfriends, of course—at least, the ones who’ve been through the exhilaration and exhaustion, the agony and ecstasy of pregnancy. Four-time delivery room veteran Vicki Iovine talks to you the way only a best friend can—in the book that will go the whole nine months for every mother-to-be. In this revised and updated edition, get the lowdown on all those little things that are too strange or embarrassing to ask, practical tips, and hilarious takes on everything pregnant.

What really happens to your body—from morning sickness and gas to eating everything in sight—and what it’s like to go from being a babe to having one.

The Many Moods of Pregnancy—why you’re so irritable/distracted/tired/lightheaded (or at least more than usual).

Staying Stylish—You may be pregnant, but you can still be the fashionista you’ve always been (or at least you don’t have to look like a walking beachball)—wearing the hippest designers and proudly showing off your bump.

Pregnancy is Down To a Science—from in vitro fertilization to scheduled c-sections, there are so many options, alternatives, and scientific tests to take that being pregnant can be downright confusing!

And much more! For a reassuring voice or just a few good belly laughs, turn to this straight-talking guide on what to really expect when you’re expecting.

What To Expect When You're Expecting

This cover-to-cover (including the cover!) new edition is filled with must-have information, advice, insight, and tips for a new generation of moms and dads. With "What to Expect’s trademark warmth, empathy, and humor, it answers every conceivable question expecting parents could have, including dozens of new ones based on the ever-changing pregnancy and birthing practices and choices they face. Advice for dads is fully integrated throughout the book. All medical coverage is completely updated, including the latest on Zika virus, prenatal screening, and the safety of medications during pregnancy, as well as a brand-new section on postpartum birth control. Current lifestyle trends are incorporated, too: juice bars, raw diets, e-cigarettes, push presents, baby bump posting, the lowdown on omega-3 fatty acids, grass-fed and organic, health food fads, and GMOs. Plus expanded coverage of IVF pregnancy, multiple pregnancies, breastfeeding while pregnant, water and home births, and cesarean trends (including VBACs and “gentle cesareans”).

Dear readers, when my sister announced she was expecting her first child, being the supportive sort of gal I am, I co-read these books with her. I...I...
~runs shrieking off into the sunset~

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Two books for shivers.

Okay. I read a LOT of horror. let me clarify that for you. A. LOT. OF. HORROR. BOOKS.

Guys, seriously, I've been writing the stuff professionally for over twenty-five years. it's my comfort zone.

The thing is, I don't scare easy. Hell, I don't even squirm easy. I'm not made uncomfortable by much not even what most people consider "taboo" because, frankly, I've read it all.  That's not really an exaggeration.From Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to Stephen King and Anne Rice and Robert R. McCammon. there's remarkably little that gets past me without being read, assessed and catalogued in my mind.
And only a handful of the books have ever actually unsettled me.

First up, I give you Stephen King's PET SEMETARY. The misspelling is deliberate and the story has a powerful, deeply unsettling note to it. A great deal of King's work is creepy, but that's the one that unsettled me the most.  Not surprising, really, as King himself shelved the book for several years before deciding to go ahead and publish. Why? He thought it was too grim. He's not wrong.

The premise is simple enough: new doctor in a college town discovers a dark miracle of sorts n his backyard (well, a few acres into the treacherous woods behind his yard, but still). That dark miracle takes place past an animal cemetery set up by the local kids and added to over the decades. As the catch phrase for the movie says, and as the book proves true: Sometimes Dead Is Better.

The second book I look at for this is BALTIMORE: Or The Steadfast Tin Solider And The Vampire, by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola. The two gents in question had a wonderful ay of working together and their first serious collaboration, the aforementioned Baltimore is a brilliant tale of revenge set against a backdrop of World War One Europe. There are many moving parts here, including takes within tales and the rich fabric of the story is worth savoring.

There you have it. Two of the very finest works of horror I can recall. Let me reemphasize this. HORROR. As in scary stuff. Grim stuff. Don't expect happy endings.

Have a happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Two Books that Freaked Me the F*ck Out

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is, appropriately enough, our favorite horror or scary book.

Now, I don't really a lot of horror or scary books, because I am a fragile flower. I've never really gotten the point of reading something to be frightened or horrified. So, when I thought about what my favorite books in this genre would be, I could think of exactly two. 

But it's cool because they're by friends - which is the only reason I read them.

I really loved them, too, even though they freaked me the fuck out. 

A HUMAN STAIN, by Kelly Robson - who most usually writes SFF, is a wonderful story that starts with low-level dread that gradually builds to a truly freakifying conclusion. Read it if you love gothic slow-burns. Avoid if you have a tooth phobia. You can read it in BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, Volume 10, which I'm sure is fabulous, since Ellen Datlow edited it. I, of course, *won't* be reading that!

Megan Hart started out writing erotic and nuanced romance, but has moved into more horror lately. LITTLE SECRETS is a haunted house story that also plays on the insecurities of pregnancy and the strain that - and moving into a freaky house! - puts on a marriage. Read it for the subtle build of terror and rich story. And don't worry - the cat's okay. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Very Different Ghost Story for Halloween!

Happy Halloween in just a few days! Next week we’re going to talk about favorite spooky or scary books written by others but I thought it’d be fun to lead into the week talking about a very unusual, award winning ghost story I wrote a few years ago.

(I’m ignoring our actual topic of this week, which is Point of View because I’ve written about it here before on SFF7, I’m not a fan of anything written in first person, Halloween is coming and there – I’m done with the subject.)

Ghost of the Nile is one of my “Gods of Egypt” paranormal series set in ancient Egypt. For quite a while I’d been fascinated with the idea of writing a story set on an estate in the 1550 BCE era. One of the interesting things about Egypt was that for literally hundreds of years the climate and the daily life stayed pretty much the same. Pharaohs came and went but the more ordinary folk had quite an unchanging routine, linked to the Nile’s floods. I felt my ghostly hero could return from the Afterlife and fit right into his old home, although as a guest, not a resident. I thought the challenges for him could be intriguing.

The Egyptians of 3000 years ago believed that unless you were buried in the soil of Egypt and had all the proper rituals recited for you, as well as your name preserved, you couldn’t enter the Afterlife. So my hero Periseneb, who was murdered and didn’t receive the rites at the time of his death, has been condemned to roam the fringes of the Afterlife and wage endless battles against demons and giant snakes.

I’m always fascinated with the goddess Ma’at, who represented truth, balance, justice…and who happened to be the goddess of second chances. I’m a Libra myself – scales, balance…. She was one of the Judges who weighed the heart of a dead person, to see if they deserved the Afterlife. So I decided she’d need a champion to accomplish some task in Egypt, and selects Periseneb, who she believes deserves a second chance at entry to paradise. A favorite old movie of mine is the 1963 version of “Jason and the Argonauts”. I love how the goddess Hera tells Jason she’ll help him three times along the way. I decided Ma’at would help Periseneb, and you’ll see in the book how he has to call for her assistance.

The next intriguing concept this novel allowed me to play with was the ancient Egyptian idea of the terrifying nature of ghosts, or akhs. They believed that a person's soul was split into various parts, anywhere from three to five. Each part of the soul had different powers and concerns. For my novel I simplified the situation and concentrated on the 'intellect as a living entity' portion of the soul and selected those aspects which worked for the story.

According to Wikipedia, the akh  “could do either harm or good to persons still living, depending on the circumstances, causing e.g., nightmares, feelings of guilt, sickness, etc. It could be invoked by prayers or written letters left in the tomb's offering chapel also in order to help living family members, e.g., by intervening in disputes, by making an appeal to other dead persons or deities with any authority to influence things on earth for the better, but also to inflict punishments.”

The hero of my book, Periseneb, is uncomfortable with being an akh returned to Egypt, and worries a lot about inadvertently loosing the evil powers he now possesses on the innocents around him.

And last but not least, there’s the terrifying goddess or demon Ammit the Destroyer, who was part lion, part hippo and part crocodile, and known as Devourer of the Dead. I’ve wanted to find a way to incorporate her into a novel in a meaningful way because she’s so intriguing.

The story:
Betrayed, murdered, and buried without proper ceremony, Egyptian warrior Periseneb is doomed to roam the gray deserts of the dead as a ghost for all eternity.

But then the goddess of truth offers him a bargain: return to the world of the living as her champion for 30 days. If he completes his mission, he’ll be guaranteed entry into Paradise. Periseneb agrees to the bargain but, when he returns to the living world, two hundred years have passed and nothing is quite as he expected.

Neithamun is a woman fighting to hang onto her family’s estate against an unscrupulous nobleman who desires the land as well as the lady. All seems lost until a mysterious yet appealing ex-soldier, Periseneb, appears out of nowhere to help her fight off the noble’s repeated attacks.

Meanwhile, Periseneb’s thirty days are rushing by, and he’s powerless against the growing attraction between himself and Neithamun. But their love can never be. For his Fate is to return to the Afterlife, and Death cannot wed with Life…

iBooks    Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Kobo 

Friday, October 26, 2018

POV Invitation

The beasts have breached the sanctity of the bed! It's adorable, but it's also slightly short on sleep. Still. They have a hard time working out that bed means sleep. This picture to the contrary notwithstanding. They seem to only want to sleep in the bed when the humans aren't in it. If the humans are in the bed, then it's a playground. Oh. And the elder girls are horrified by this development.

All righty. Why were we here? Oh yes! POV. You've had definitions. You've seen arguments regarding which POV goes with which genre. Some of us have expressed our preferences regarding which POVs we prefer either to read or to write.

Here's my slightly out on the fringe rant about Point of View.

It's an invitation. Point of view is my engraved invitation to you to enter into an emotional journey. How I word that invitation dictates how you'll experience the emotional arc of the story and the characters. First person asks you to step into the roll of main character. Third person puts you at a slight remove from that, but it allows you to slip on the masks of multiple characters rather than just the protagonist's. It's my job to decide how deeply I want to immerse you into the feelz of a book. If I'm writing Women's Fiction, deep emotion is the expectation and first person is going to make it easy for me to pull you in. Not to say that Women's Fiction can't be third person. It  can and often is. It's just that deep POV in third person is harder work.

Summary on that: POV is a tool that dictates how readers will experience emotion in a story. Know your story, your genre expectations, the limits of your toolset and then go forth and break all the damn rules about POV and story just to see if you can make it work.

Why do I say that? I have distinct opinions about what POVs I prefer. Distinct. Opinions. And every single time I voice them, someone comes along and writes a POV I profess to hate. They do it so skillfully that I end up loving it. So maybe I am finally learning to say, 'hey, with enough vision, skill and drive, you can make anything work.'

Another note on POV - I draft in first person and then (if the story calls for it) rewrite to third person. It's a tip an editor gave me back at the dawn of time. It was one of those things I shrugged figured I'd try once and discard, but it stuck. It forces me to really immerse into a character and connect with what's going on in a story. Does it make rewrites a pain in the kazoo? Absolutely. And yet if I try to skip it and write straight to third person, my beta readers throw things at me because half of the emotion is missing. So there you are. I write weird, I guess.

I'm sorry I don't have great golden wisdom to impart about point of view and how to pick which one is best. Emotion governs the decision for me - not mine. The reader's. Once I know what and how much I want readers to feel, I can make a POV choice. And like Jeffe said. No one wants to notice POV. They just want that invitation slipped into their hands so they can edge into the story and lose themselves  in it.

In keeping with the incredible shit storm that has been today, I'll tell you that I wrote this post yesterday and scheduled it for super early this morning. No problems right? Imagine my surprise when I check in on the blog tonight and my post is nowhere. Uhm. Blogger? Oh look. My SFF Seven THEMED post went live on some other random blog site. Nice. I'm comfortable certain those people think I am out of my damned mind. They may well be right. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Point of View and Trust

Point-of-View is one of those funny things writers get very worked up about.  And I’ve noticed, reading through some older books I have, making concrete POV choices is a relatively recent development.  I mean, yes, certainly, the distinction between first-person and third-person (and the rare second-person) was always clear.  But third-person was often more of a muddled third-person-omniscient instead of the discrete multi-person third-person-limited, where individual scenes have a clear POV character.  Even the idea of a “POV Violation” as a writing mistake seems to be a relatively new thing.

Because, let me tell you, a lot of classics are just loaded with POV Violations.

However, the standard today, when writing third-person multiple-POV is for clear, discrete definition of whose head your in for any given scene or chapter. George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice books do this explicitly, telling you who the POV character is instead of a chapter title.  I hear a lot of “rules” of how to do a POV character, who can be one in your book and when you can let them be one.  I’m of the opinion that who can be one and when is whoever you need it to be for the scene, whenever you need that scene to be.   Frankly, one of my favorite bits in The Holver Alley Crew is when Mila steals the dress from the rich woman, because it's from the woman's POV.  She's just a one-off character, that scene alone, and some people will tell you it's against the "rules", but I say BAH.

My big thing with POV is trust.  Unless the Unreliable Narrator is a technique you’re utilizing, then you have to present your POV character in an honest way.  You have to have trust in that character and their engagement in the plot.

Now, that doesn’t mean the POV is limited to the “good guys”.  I love my antagonist POVs, as long as they are antagonists that I can trust are being honest with how they engage in the plot.  If I have a character who is against the hero privately, but acts as his friend, and I don’t want the reader to know that… then that character can’t be a POV character.  But if I want that betrayal clear, then that’s exactly who I want as POV.

This was especially hard for me in A Murder of Mages, which is probably my most constrained work, POV-wise, in that I only have Satrine and Minox as POV characters.   This is because, at its core, it’s a murder mystery, and if you go into the head of murderer, then the mystery is given up.  By limiting the POV to my two Inspectors, then the reader has the same set of data that they do.
In The Way of the Shield, it’s more complicated than that, but similar rules of not using a character for POV apply.  There are people whose motivation and trustworthiness I want the reader to keep in question, even in a subconscious way.  Ideally, when their truths come to light, it will hit the reader like a hammer, because they might not have even suspected it.  That's where a lot of the fun is.

Right now, I'm working on The Fenmere Joband I've imposed one rule regarding POV on myself for it, because I think it's the best choice for the story.  But I might decide over the course of things to break that.  If that's what's best.   We'll see. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The perils of point of view

When I was chiefly a reader and not interested in selling my scribbles, I’d buy a book because it looked fun or was recommended to me, and other than broad categories like romance or fantasy or whatever a book store considered “general fiction,” I didn’t pay attention to its market. I also didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to whether a book was written in first-person, second-person, or third-person point of view. (Aside: If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I reference “point of view” in terms of writing craft, Jeffe Kennedy did a fab run-down earlier this week.) Now that I am trying to sell my stories to other folks, I pay a lot more attention to point of view, and I’ve discovered a few patterns. Here are some quick answers to "which point of view do I use for my story?" quandaries.

Lots of characters with thoughts? You want to use third person.

In books where readers get the interior thoughts of more than two characters, writers tend to use the third-person point of view. Think of, for instance George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series: so, so many characters, and a large number of them are point-of-view characters (i.e., we experience the story through their “eyes” and thoughts). If that epic were in first person, I would be perpetually confused.

Note that I’m careful here to recommend third-person specifically for stories that feature the interior thoughts of more than two characters. I did not say fantasy as a whole. Some fantasy writers manage to tell stories using first-person and make it not at all confusing. However, the successful fantasies that do this typically focus narrowly on one character, sometimes two. Amanda Bouchet’s recent Kingmaker series, for instance, is written in first person, but since we are only given and are only interested in the main character Cat’s point of view, the first-person POV works well.

Main character in the young-adult(ish) range? First person.

YA novels, regardless of their genre, tend to be written in first person. If you read a few, you can see why this POV choice aids the purpose of a YA book. Because a good YA book is about one character’s attempt to grapple with relevance in a world that keeps telling them “you don’t matter yet,” the narrative must of course be all in that character’s head. It must of course be suffused with all the agony and frustration and hope and striving that is typical of not-quite-adult-ness. First-person point of view allows angst-wallowing in a way that no other POV choice can.

Hint: the POV recommendation is applicable to character age and also reader age. If your target audience --  your market – is young adult, first-person POV is a good choice.

Similarly, if your characters are recent teens and now just barely adults – a niche that was until recently called “new adult” – I’d stick with first-person POV. First-person books featuring 22-year-olds in their first post-college job yet still making iffy decisions tend to sell a lot better than third-person omniscient books covering similar topics. Somehow, if the character does a boneheaded thing blithely , optimistically, and with no thought of possible consequences, it feels like a grand adventure rather than a poor life choice. Plus, if such an episode were written in third person, there’s always a danger it might sound judgy.

Are sensory details super important to the story? First person.

I’m going to disagree with my awesome co-SFFSevener, K.A. Krantz, and say that if you’re writing erotica or erotic romance, first-person POV is the way to go. Most erotic stories are written in the first person, so it’s a reader expectation. Also, in erotica, if you’re doing it right, the sensory details are front and center. In a story that is about the character completing his or her arc by having sexual adventures, nothing matters more than how that character feels. I mean both internal thought feeling and also satin-sheets, chocolate-sauce, feather-tipped leather feeling. Do I need to go on?

Often paranormal and urban fantasy stories are written in first person, and again, I think that sensory (or in this case, extrasensory) details are central to those sorts of stories.

Trying to sound literary or experimenting with an unreliable narrator? Either first or second might be fun.

Most of the time, second-person POV is only useful for experimental literary fiction or choose-your-own-adventure stories. Note that the latter are not exclusively for kids. A site called Silkwords used to publish choose-your-own-adventure erotica and erotic romance stories, and they were definitely not for kids.

Do I have to pick just one?

Er… technically no? One of my favorite young adult books, The Farm by Emily McKay, uses first person for the main character and her sister and third person for Carter, whose loyalty and good intentions we are supposed to doubt at the beginning. Although using both point-of-view choices works brilliantly for this story, I’m not sure it’s a good idea for a writer with less experience and storytelling command to try. So, although no, technically you don’t have to pick just one POV, please do realize that picking two complicates your work. A lot.

What about you, Viv?

Oh right. My opinion. Seriously, this is necessary? The truth is, I’m an easy read and have favorites using all kinds of narrative choices. However, though I won’t throw a book against a wall just because it’s, say, in first-person present, most of my DNFs (books I did not finish reading) tend to be told in first-person from the point of view of a character I can’t root for. Sometimes that character is too whiny, too certain he’s funny when he’s not really, too oblivious, or too self-absorbed. Sometimes I just can’t bear to be in the head of that person for 300 pages.

Bottom line, though, think about this before you start writing, make a deliberate choice taking all market and reader and genre expectation variables into consideration, and then tell me your story. If you tell it well enough, I won’t even stop to worry about your POV choice.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

1st, 2nd, 3rd POV: Which Is Preferred By Me

When reading, which Point of View do I prefer? It depends on what I'm reading. Jeffe defines POV in her Sunday post, so I won't repeat it.

95% of novels I prefer told from a 3rd person deep POV because I like character-driven stories. 3rd omniscient steps up for epic adventures, but too often I feel that deliberate wall between me and the narrator. Choose Your Own Adventure novels totally need to be written in 2nd. I haven't tried RPG Lit yet, but I suspect those also lend themselves to 2nd.

1st Person--if done well--can be delightful, particularly in horror and thrillers, but it takes me longer to sink into the story. The two genres I can't--just can't--abide in 1st are Romance and Erotica. Makes me feel like I'm reading a phone sex script or having a TMI conversation with a creepy couple. That's not to knock the authors who write Romance & Erotica in 1st; there are a lot of readers who like R&E in 1st. I'm just not one of them.

If you're writing in 1st, I penned a cautionary post a few years ago about When the Kaiyaiing Beast Takes Over Your Writing.

Now, if you thought I was going to chat about multiple POVs (multiple characters) telling the story, well, I've got a post for that too: So Close To Perfection...If I Was A Hydra.  TL;DR:  I will wall bang a book at page 2 if there's head-hopping (changing which character is telling what part of the story without clear transition such as a scene or chapter break).

Monday, October 22, 2018


Jeffe has made my life easier If you look at yesterday's post you will see all the definitions you could possibly need for first, second and third person. That's important because (I'm supposed to discuss which perspective I like best.

the answer is simple too: It depends on the piece I'm writing.  I'll go 50/50 split on first and third person for short stories. MOSTLY I prefer third person for novels. Here's why: Short stories need to be intimate and they need to get there fast. I feel, rightly or wrongly, that first person is a great way to pull a reader into a story and keep them there. I think of it as a sort of literary shorthand. When you're reading a first person  account there's a sort of forced intimacy.  It doesn't work for all stories, but it works for a lot of them.

For novels I always feel it's more fun if the readers learn at the same speed as the characters. Sometimes that's a challenge. In my novel DEEPER I decided for the first time to go First Person on a novel length work. It was my shortest novel ever at that time, at 85,000 words and change. It was also an incredible challenge because I had to make the character learn everything organically. There were no assumptions made. He didn't learn anything offscreen as it were. he learned it in front of the reader's eyes and I had to do it without cheating, which meant that if something happened when the main character wasn't there, he learned it from someone else. he learned it second hand. That can put a big dent on proper suspense, frankly.

One one occasion, the novel SMILE NO MORE, I did three separate parts of each chapter. first were the scenes from Cecil Phelp's perspective. Cecil was a sixteen year old boy who ran away from home, joined the circus, learned a few life lessons and then was murdered. Second was the perspective of Rufo the Clown, who was actually Cecil Phelp's stage name before he crawled back from Hell and went out on a quest for revenge  and to find his family members. Then, finally, the rest of each chapter was third person, limited omniscience (meaning one lead perspective at a time, but still told in third person). The reason for that was simple: I needed to garner sympathy for the devil as it were. Rufo the Clown is both the hero and villain of the piece, depending on perspective. From his point of view, he is/was perfectly reasonable in committing the absolute atrocities he commits. From the perspective of, oh, basically anyone who is sane, he is a monster.

I must have done something right because several reviewers made comments about how much they liked Rufo and Cecil both, right up until the times when Rufo got a little, well, psychotically violent. After that, they felt bad and even a little dirty for still liking the character. That was the main idea.

Like every part of the rules of grammar, perspective is a tool. It should be used as needed to get the point across, just as brushes and paints, quills and inks should be used to make a picture. Words are merely another medium for driving the point home.

That's my two cents on the subject.

Keep smiling,


Sunday, October 21, 2018

What's Your Favorite - First, Second, or Third Person?

Minerva Spencer's kitchen in Taos - isn't it gorgeous? I'm up here visiting for the weekend and she wants me to tell you it's normally much tidier than this but we've been having an eating, drinking, talking writer's bacchanalia. 

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven, to continue the contentious cycle of last week's one vs. two spaces throw-down, is: First Person POV vs. Third – or Second – Which Do You Like to Read?

I've blogged about this topic a fair amount and discussed it on my podcast. And I've been asked there to explain the difference between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, so I think I'll kick this topic off in part by defining some terms.

POV = Point of View

Point of view, commonly referred to as POV (Pee-Oh-Vee), is how the story is told, from what perspective. You can think of it like a camera recording the scene - it can be close up on faces or panning over the landscape. We refer to close up as "deep POV" and the most distant focus as omniscient, where the story is told by someone who knows everything that's happening and that everyone is thinking. Who is telling the story gives you the POV.

One way to look at the type of POV is like you may have learned in grammar or if you learned a foreign language. You learn to conjugate verbs according to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, singular and plural. For example:

I am
We are
You are
You are
He/She* is
They are
*"They" is also appropriate for a gender-neutral 3rd person singular, though the verb conjugates as the plural.

Most writing is going to have instances of both singular and plural POVs, but whether the author chooses 1st, 2nd or 3rd person to tell the story - or a combination of those - affects a great deal about it.

First Person

First person POV, the "I" perspective has the camera very close, essentially inside the character's head, viewing the world through their eyes, knowing only what that person knows. It's the deepest POV.

Example: I was at the store the other day and saw the strangest thing.

Second Person

Second person POV is kind of funky but also hip, especially in more literary efforts. It speaks to "you," drawing into into the story as the character and telling you how you're behaving and feeling. This is also a deep POV, though I find it also has a distancing quality, like a game or a dream. It's almost always done in present tense (that I've seen). 

Example: You're at the store and you see the strangest thing.

Third Person

Third person is the most traditional storytelling style. It can range from deep - though never quite as deep as first person - to omniscient. This is telling a story that happens to someone else. 

Example: She went to the store last week and saw the strangest thing. 

With all that established, what do I prefer, as a reader? I actually don't really care what POV a story is written in. I read for character and story and don't pay much attention to POV. That said, I don't love second person and it often reads as pretentious to me. And it's a flag that the story is meant to be more literary and I rarely enjoy something deliberately designed to feel erudite. Just me. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Two Spaces or One Plus NEWS!


(Squints at this week’s topic.) Really? One space or two after a period??? Well, ok, I started typing at the age of 7 or 8, banging away on an old Royal typewriter, never took a typing class (which is apparently where this two spaces thing was taught) so no, I don’t leave two spaces after a period. Or only by accident LOL.

(Dusts hands.) Done with THAT.

I had an exciting week – Pets In Space 3 made the USA Today Best Seller’s list, which is the second year in a row we’ve hit the list with this anthology. My fellow scifi romance authors and I are very grateful to our readers! We’re about to take the ebook off the wide distribution, as of October 25th, and go into Kindle Unlimited on November 1st, which is a new experiment for us regarding the collection. When the KU period ends after ninety days, the book goes off sale completely because we only have the rights to the stories for so long. So if you wanted to buy the ebook so you can read and re-read any time, here are the links!

Blurb: Pets in Space™ is back! Join us as we unveil eleven original, never-before-published action-filled romances that will heat your blood and warm your heart! New York Times, USA Today and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Ruby Lionsdrake, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Carol Van Natta, Tiffany Roberts, Alexis Glynn Latner, E D Walker, JC Hay, and Kyndra Hatch combine their love for Science Fiction Romance and pets to bring readers sexy, action-packed romances while helping our favorite charity. Proud supporters of, Pets in Space™ authors have donated over $4,400 in the past two years to help place specially trained dogs with veterans. Open your hearts and grab your limited release copy of Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space™ 3 today!
Amazon     iBooks     B&N    Kobo     Google

And then, I released the next book in my own scifi romance series, the Badari Warriors, Timtur: The Teacher’s Alien Healer, under the In the Stars Romance banner.

The blurb: Genetically engineered soldiers of the far future, the Badari were created by alien enemies to fight humans. But then the scientists kidnapped an entire human colony to use as subjects in twisted experiments…the Badari and the humans made common cause, rebelled and escaped the labs. Now they live side by side in a sanctuary valley protected by a powerful Artificial Intelligence, and wage unceasing war on the aliens. The luckiest Badari find their mates among the humans.

Far from her home in the human Sectors after the mass kidnapping, teacher Lily Garrison is making a niche for herself in the valley by running a school for the Badari young. Although she yearns for Timtur, the pack’s healer, another Badari male has his eye on her and won’t take no for an answer.

Timtur feels the weight and responsibility of being the pack’s only healer, constantly on call as the soldiers fight ferocious battles against the alien scientists and their troops. With scarcely a moment to himself, he’s drawn to the gentle Lily but worries he won’t be able to juggle his duties, his loyalty to the pack and a relationship with a human woman.

When Lily’s stalker takes direct action to kidnap her and steal her from the safety of the valley, she’s forced to reach deep inside to find the strength to battle for her life. Timtur realizes too late how foolish he’s been to resist the bond with his fated mate and leads the rescue effort.

Before this situation can be resolved both will have to put their lives on the line and decide what really matters in a dangerous world ruled by the enemy.

Although this is the fifth book released in the Badari Warriors scifi romance series, the story of Timtur and Lily is a standalone and actually comes immediately after book two’s events.

A tiny teaser excerpt:
He’s late. I hope he’s not planning to stand me up entirely.

Despite her concern and annoyance over her date Timtur’s failure to arrive on time, Lily sat on the flat rock jutting over the serene lake trying to remain calm. She raised her face to the sky, enjoying the warmth on her skin. Of course, all too soon she’d get a sun burn and be sorry for her rash behavior if she remained in the same spot. Red-headed, pale humans had that problem on every world, not just this one she’d been brought to by alien pirates as a kidnap victim.

Now she scanned the azure sky with less pleasure, fearing the sight of enemy flyers, even if this valley was labelled as a sanctuary by the Badari pack, including Timtur, who’d rescued the humans. Rising, she retreated to the shady forest glade surrounding the rock formation. The climb was an easy one, only a few feet, and she made it quickly. Heights were one of her phobias so she wouldn’t go much higher than this.

Except for the brief moment of savoring the sun’s warmth, on the whole, she felt safer hidden under the canopy of branches.

The picnic lunch remained in its container, probably still perfectly fine to eat, but not as delicious as it had been when she packed the foods in the valley’s communal kitchen a while ago. Winking and nudging her in the ribs playfully, the head cook made a joke about what big eaters the Badari warriors were. “Definitely, the way to his heart,” she’d said wisely.

Lily plunked down on the edge of the blue-and-green striped blanket she’d brought for this special date and knotted the fringe nervously. I can’t use the food to appeal to his heart if he doesn’t show up. This picnic had been his idea so surely Timtur wasn’t planning to avoid meeting her. She’d cancelled her afternoon classes to be free, gotten her hopes up maybe today was the day he’d want to talk about how he saw them as a couple…I probably placed too much emphasis on his wanting us to have time alone today, away from his packmates and my sisters. After all, dating is a totally new concept for the Badari.

She imagined him placing his strong, healer’s hands on her body, not just gliding above her skin exercising his special power. When she’d first arrived, she’d had a relapse of stasis syndrome that defeated the best efforts of the human doctor in the valley, and Timtur had spent hours attempting to heal her, monitoring her condition. In the course of the treatments, the two of them had talked endlessly about every topic under the sun and grown close. Of course, she’d fallen hard for her handsome healer. She wasn’t sure if he felt the same way.

Opening her eyes, she sighed. The healer was something special all right but, despite her best efforts to let him know how interested she was in taking their relationship further than friendship, he always held back. He didn’t show any interest in any of the other human women now living in the valley. She had no rivals for his affections. But still there was something keeping them from going to the next level, and today was the day she wanted to discover what the impediment was.

Which was going to be impossible if Timtur didn’t even bother to show up.

Should I give up on ever being more than friends? The idea of never seeing where their relationship could go, never exploring the deep emotional bond she felt with him brought a wave of cold sadness, and she shivered despite the warmth of the sun. Cutting herself off from contact with Timtur would break her heart, not cure her of desire for him.

 “Dreaming again?” His voice, deep and full of good humor, came from behind and to the left.

 Amazon     Apple Books     Nook     Kobo     Google

Friday, October 19, 2018

Apparently, I'm Alll Kinds of Modern.

Who knew?

This week's topic is whether we type one space or two after sentences. I just checked. I type one.

I know that sounds odd, but it's not something I think about. i just do it. I think always did it and, when I had to, I fixed it on edits.
These days y computer does most of it before me. My manuscript is typed double-spaced. My em-dashes fix themselves automatically. The space at e beginning of a paragraph is trained into the format first thing after I start. Yay, modern technology!

Without modern technology I have absolutely no idea how many spaces I type. I think it's just one. I know that I used to have to consciously think about it, and that nine times out of ten I still got it wrong. So, yay for computer software. I have a powerful suspicion I would still be on my first noel manuscript and fixing typos if not for the advances in technology.

I am the King of Typos. I am a hot, wet mess when it comes to run on sentences and extra apostrophes. My hands do not keep up with my brain. I type very, very fast, which is how I've often managed five to six thousand words a day. And then I clean up the mess, which, even with autocorrect, takes time.

There are no rights or wrongs on this front, not for me. The end result is what matters.

We're closing in fast on Halloween, and so I'll throw a reminder that scary stuff need not be gory by reminding you that Shirley Jackson wrote one of the very finest haunted house stories ever done with remarkably little by way of violence. What you got was atmosphere.

I loved the new adaptation on Netflix. I especially l've that it took several root ideas from the novel and then went in a completely different direction. Previous adaptions have been done and stuck close to the source material. The original version of  THE HAUNTING was, in my opinion, very nearly a perfect movie adaptation. Sometimes moving away from the source is the very best thing you can do.

Just a moment of admiration for a truly phenomenal author.

Have  great week, folks!

James A. Moore.

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone." -- Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House

And on another unrelated note: fans of the Griffin and Price books by yours truly and Charles R. Rutledge should know there's a new novella coming out soon. 
Cohesion Press is releasing SNAFU: Resurrection in December You can pre-order it right here. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Portrait of the Writer as an Odd Kid

So, let's talk a bit about Marshall Was A Weird Kid. 

(I know, you're probably shocked.)

Now, despite the fact that I spent a good chunk of time watching and rewatching a bunch of bad movies, I did, in fact, have other activities, including going to summer camps.  One of the day camps I went to regularly was structured thusly: it had two-week sessions, in which you would register for a single course, be it theatre or computers or filmmaking or auto mechanics or what have you.  Whatever you signed up for? That was your morning for the two weeks.  The afternoon, though, was a little more loosely structured, in that there were a handful of varied activities, and you chose, daily, which ones you were signing up for.  One of the most popular afternoon ones was the limited-capacity trip to the local state park for swimming, which my sister made a point of signing up for Every. Single. Day.

That?  Was not me.

In fact, my first year there, I was seven, which was itself a bit odd because the camp was for 8-14 year-olds, and I think my mother got an exception made for me because my sister was there as well.  So there I was, the only seven-year-old among older kids, looking at choices for afternoon activities, most of which were outdoorsy and/or athletic, to which I was nope.  But then one caught my eye.


Seven-year-old me signed up for a goddamn typing class that was mostly populated by teenagers who were there for summer school (the camp was held on the campus of a private school), and I'm pretty sure I was the only one from the camp who signed up for it.  But I signed up for it EVERY SINGLE DAY of my first session there.

Every day. Typing. At the age of seven.  And this was 1980, so it was on a typewriter.  That's how and when I learned, and obviously it was a valuable skill that stuck with me.

BUT, since that's how and when I learned, you're just going to have to accept that a double-space after a period is simply embedded in my muscle memory.  It's there, and there's no dislodging it.  So there we are.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Manifesto of a former grammarista

Folk who know me best also know I used to be a copy editor at a book publisher. I mean, for like a decade. And then I managed copy editors. And then I wrote style guides. That sort of work history will scar a girl, and even to this day, despite my best efforts at self-improvement, parts of my brain remain a bit proscriptive. If you could make Strunk & White's Elements of Style into a verb, that would be my brain ("Oh, don't mind me, I'm just over here StrunkNWhiting").

So, even though I'd never harp on these abominations to your face (we don't do this! we never do this!), here is what those brain-parts are screaming as I read your manuscript:

1. Dangling or misplaced modifiers help no one, ever. Unfortunately, I see a bunch of these, even in published books. Educate yourself on these things and avoid them. Please, please, please.

2. Yes, character names ending in S are fun (I love me a Rhys, an Alexis, a Lucius, maybe a...Salacious?). However! Be aware that there are two legit ways of making possessives of a singular noun ending in S: one way has you add an apostrophe+S, and with the other you add just the apostrophe. It's important that you know going in that whichever method you choose, half of your readers will be completely and totally convinced you're doing it wrong. So, just stick with boring non-ending-in-S names, yeah? Also, don't harangue people who are choosing the other method. They're okay, too.

3. There can be only after a period. If you are putting two spaces, congratulations for passing typing in high school all those years ago. Also, welcome to variable-width fonts and the twenty-first century. (Aside: This is the topic at SFF Seven this week. We are seriously discussing whether there should be one space or two. I love this blog so much!)

4. I know you really want to use a semicolon, but restrain yourself. Don't do it. Even if you think you know how to use a semicolon, sadly, you're probably doing it wrong.

Oh, now that you've got me rolling, I can think of SO MANY peeves, things that just make me crazy: sentence fragments with no subjects and a whole buncha -ing phrases, homonym misuses, pronouns that refer to the wrong thing or nothing at all, word repeats, run-on sentences... yikes!PANIC!JUDGMENT!

*in through your nose, then out through pursed lips*

You know what, though? Don't mind me and my ridiculous, proscriptive (adj, StrunkNWhiteous?) brain. Tell your story. Tell the hell out of it. If you tell me a good enough story, I won't even pick nits.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Writing in Days of Yore: A Walk Down Memory Lane

Ah, The Old Rules. The Way Things Must Be Done. The bygone era of two spaces after a period. Of flipping the manual return and that gloriously distinct sound of the carriage sliding left, ready to start a new line. Lo, those were the days of typewriters. Then came the dawning of carbon paper copies; when correction tape gave way to white out, which was eschewed for erasable ink, that was then thrown out for dot-matrix-printed papers.

Get ready to shout GET OFF MY LAWN if these ring a bell:

  • You not only know what "CC" really means, but you've also used carbon paper. 
  • You recall the agonies of retyping an entire document. Back before auto-save, back when one line-edit meant rewriting everything.
  • Picking white-out from under your nails and the dread upon spotting the ink/carbon smeared across the side of your hand is quite familiar.
  • Tearing off the hole-punched paper guides from dot-matrix papers and cursing when the perforations tore before the print job was done.
  • The joy of learning Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS still gives you a warm fuzzy.
  • The days when apps were software and you had to buy them in a box from a brick-and-mortar store, which meant planning a trip to a bookstore or CompUSA. 
  • You can describe cartridges, cassettes, floppies, and 3.1s.
  • The sight of grey text on a blue screen brings back fond memories. Yep, green on black too.
  • Adding sticky notes to your wall of DOS command codes to run programs and locate files (and threatening bodily harm to co-workers if they took one of those notes).
  • The arrival of Windows 3.1 meant you didn't need to remember the DOS codes and was cause to celebrate; probably coincided with the start of your Solitare addiction.
  • You laugh recalling at the first time you used spell check (F2+Ctrl). 

Progress, it's a fabulous thing.