Thursday, September 4, 2014

Story Planning for Pantsers

Hi, my name is Mysti, and I'm a pantser.

You may nod in understanding, or you may ask, "What the heck is a pantser?" If the latter is true, here's a definition from Urban Dictionary:
Pantser - A NaNoWriMo term that means that you 'fly by the seat of your pants' when you are writing your novel. You have nothing but the absolute basics planned out for your novel.

This outlook towards writing is often opposed by the 'planner', who knows exactly what is going to happen, when it will happen, and where it will happen. There is often enmity between the two types of writers.


In recent times, I've been slowly recovering, thanks to many things.

  • NaNoWriMo: Writing 50,000 words of a novel in one month is not possible unless you have SOME sort of story plan...if you want something that can eventually pass as a novel one day, that is.
  • Co-authoring a secret project with a seasoned story planner (more on that when it's time to publish). Teaming up with someone more experienced in planning or simply being mentored by a great planner can help in the road to recovery from pantser-ism. 
  • The Art of Blurb Writing: A wonderful online course taught by author Beth Fred. Not only will you learn how to write a lovely, compelling blurb, but you'll be able to use the techniques to plan future stories. Which brings me to...
  • The Seven-Point Plot Plan: Based on the 3-Act Story Structure that basically applies to every story since cavemen times, this expanded outlining plan helps to lay out those major plot points so you've got a little framework to build on.

Without a doubt, I'll never be a meticulous story planner. That would kill the fun for me quicker than dancing with Miley Cyrus. Every outline, note, and draft is fluid and subject to change until published. But, I am starting to see the benefit in more careful planning, both before and during the writing process. It helps me not fall into plot holes so deep I can't scratch my way out. Once that happens, I lose my will to write, which can often mean death to a story. 

And that, my friends, is the real tragedy. No more dead stories! Grab a notebook and pen and take some time to plan before you write. Remember, there is no ONE right way to write anything. You have to find what works best for you. But, a little planning goes a long way!

Remember kids, stay in school and don't do pantsing. ~Mysti

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review of What Gifts She Carried by Lindsey R. Loucks

What Gifts She Carried (The Grave Winner #2)What Gifts She Carried by Lindsey R. Loucks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The dead just won't stay dead in Krapper, Kansas. Book Two of Lindsey R. Loucks's young adult paranormal series takes us straight back to the graveyard with a story that will leave you on the edge of your seat and begging for more.

The story opens with young Leigh Baxter washing off the muck from the ending of the last story. She's managed to avoid being buried alive and turned into an undead sorceress, thanks to her own determination, her best friend Jo and two guys she kinda loves (Callum & Tram). They are all catching their breaths, relieved that their small-town nightmare is finally over.

But it's not. Before poor Leigh can even settle down to sleep, knowing that she, her dad, and little sister are safe, something dead spies on them. It knows exactly what Leigh and her sister are. That secret is now a magnet, drawing the followers of evil super-sorceress Gretchen right to Leigh to finish what they started.

Instead of running from trouble and denying her powers, I admired Leigh for deciding to explore exactly what she can do. Tram (a powerful magical being himself) once again proved himself the gallant teenage knight I thought he was and agreed to train her in using one aspect of her magic ability. The rest she had to discover through a whole series of dangerous happenings, but luckily Leigh wasn't alone. The whole cast of characters, including some good sorceress teachers, came to her aid once again to make this a truly exciting sequel.

The only thing I stumbled upon in the story was the amount of magical information that sometimes proved more confusing than anything. Lots of terminology is tossed about involving who possesses certain powers. I found myself having to go back and read in places where I really just wanted to push forward with the mounting action. There's also the ending cliffhanger and knowing the third book isn't due out until....? Yeah, so without giving anything away, be prepared to scream "What? No! It can't end there!".

If you're like me, you might be tempted to pester the author to hurry up and finish the last book. However, if it turns out to be as nail-biting as the first two, the wait might well be worth it. If you're into the young adult paranormal fiction genre, do check out this series. These are not standalone books, so you'll want to start with The Grave Winner before you jump into What Gifts She Carried. You'll be glad you did.



View all my reviews

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review of Love Birds of Regent's Park by Ruth J. Hartman

Love Birds of Regent's ParkLove Birds of Regent's Park by Ruth J. Hartman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like other regency romances by Ruth J. Hartman, Love Birds of Regent's park proved to be a sweet romance full of mirth and heart-tugging challenges. It began with pair of love birds who met in Regent's Park, but love wasn't an easy flight for this couple.

Young Lucy Ashbrook is an eligible young woman who dearly loves the bird sanctuary at Regent's Park. Nothing gives her more pleasure than sitting along the well-manicured paths, sketching the feathered residents. Nothing, that is, but a sanctuary worker named Oliver Barrow whom she meets there on one fateful morning.

Oliver Barrow is a man of two worlds--one he wants nothing to do with and the life he prefers, working in the natural tranquility of the bird sanctuary. And that world brightens on the day he meets Miss Ashbrook as she sketches birds. Cue a bashful introduction and a hilarious goose chase/hat rescue, and you know these two are birds of the same feather.

As the story progressed, I grew to empathize with both Oliver and Lucy. In Regency Era London, a simple hook-up and go-steady relationship was unheard of. Marriages were political partnerships involving not just a couple, but entire families. Such is the case with these two. The conflict is further complicated by Oliver's dying father, Lucy's blackmailed father, and the sleazy Conrad Croome, who wants Lucy for a proper bride.

That's where the weak point came in for me, however. The conflict never quite reached the point of an unforgettable climax. All in all, it proved fairly predictable, though it had room for greater twists and surprises. With a little expansion, I think it could have well achieved that.

Overall, the writing itself was lighthearted and smooth. The older supporting characters, Lucy's maid Anna and the sanctuary caretaker Richard, served as sweet mentors to the lead couple. Their romance provided a nice "aw" effect throughout. The setting and cast was vivid and compact enough to provide an enjoyable, leisurely read. I'd recommend Love Birds of Regent's Park to any sweet romance fans, particularly those who love Regency.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Despite crippling disease, Bartonville author Leona Pence dreams big

Leona was one of my first mentors at F2K (a seven-week writing course which starts again tomorrow!). She's been a great online friend ever since. I'm so excited that I'll get to meet her in person at Imaginarium in September. She's featured in the Journal Star, so be sure to read her story. If you don't feel inspired yet, you will!



PHOTO: Fred Zwicky/Journal Star





CLICK HERE: Despite crippling disease, Bartonville author Leona Pence dreams big

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guest Post: The Art of Finding an Artist by Dan Wright



Since I've recently commissioned art to supplement my books, I asked Dan Wright to talk about the process of finding an artist for a book project. If you've ever wondered how to go about it, I think you'll find this article REALLY helpful. Read on:




The Art of Finding Artists

Thanks for Mysti for once again having me back on her blog and for being part of the Final Ragnarok: She Returns blog tour. Always great to be asked back to her blog for a guest post, and today’s one is a post that she requested. And who am I to refuse? ;)

I’ve always loved having artwork to accompany my books, which dates back to when I used to read comics and manga. Art as a medium really interests me – but I myself can’t draw for toffee! But when I was creating my Draconica series, the one thing I wanted to include was interior art as well as front and back cover art. Two reasons for this – 1) I felt that helped bring the story to life and complemented the words and 2) I love seeing how other artists interpret my story and characters. Even though I try to keep my characters looking the same where possible, I do enjoy seeing how other artists put their own feel to them. Not only that, but a lot of the artists that I hire say how much they enjoy drawing them – that’s always a good sign!

Now I get asked quite a bit as to how I go about finding all these artists, but in actual fact there is no real secret or trick. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to do – as there are always tons of artists out there willing to help writers/filmmakers/musicians/etc. Art, like most professions, can be pretty cut throat and hard to break into – so there is no shortage of artists that are willing to help if you’re willing to pay them.

There are a ton of websites and forums out there advertising for artists. Myself I use Deviantart, which is pretty much what most people use. Yeah, I know people say that DA has its detractors, but there is also a ton of amazing artists just waiting to be discovered. You put an advert up for an artist then I guarantee you will get responses.

Here’s a little tip that I found out from putting up adverts – you will get WAY more responses if you use any of the following words: Disney, Manga, Anime, Pixar, Dragons or Fantasy. Believe me, when I first put up adverts for artists for my Draconica series novels (after losing my first artist) I got about 50 plus replies. And that was just in the first two minutes! After about an hour I had 200 plus replies! It wasn’t easy choosing them out of all the replies, but I have found some amazing artists – many of which I am now friends with J.

So how did I go about choosing an artist for my work? It wasn’t easy, but I went with these factors – How much did I think their art suited my project? How much do they charge? How fast can they work? The first one is pretty standard, but the other two were also important factors. Now bear in mind that I also work a job as well as writing and have bills and loans to pay off, I can’t really afford to spend too much on artists. I’ve even had to turn down artists based on price, even if I like their art. Also, the time frame for me is pretty important. Now, I’m not an asshole – I don’t expect artists to get work to me the next day or the day after, but the last thing I want is to sit around on my backside waiting for just one bit of art. I remember one time I commissioned an artist and they took about two months just to get me a sketch! I understand that artists have other commitments, but let’s face it, would you be prepared to wait that long?

That being said, you have to treat artists with respect, the same way you want to be treated. Nothing angers me more than people pissing and moaning about how artists are too expensive and that they shouldn’t pay high costs for something that isn’t even a real job. (News flash to anyone who thinks that – artists have their own bills to pay as well!). I think this picture pretty much sums up how some – not all – commissioners can be like. Thankfully I’ve been told I don’t fall under any of these categories from artists I have worked with.



For Final Ragnarok: She Returns, the artist I found was AtelierEdge (check out his profile at http://atelieredge.deviantart.com/) and I was very lucky to find him. Not only was his art brilliant, but his turnaround time was one of the best I’ve ever seen with an artist. In fact, one time he got a piece of work to me in less than a week and he even apologised for being late! Plus it helped that he really enjoyed the project and I was very pleased with what he did with the art and the front cover.

Deviantart is a great place to find artists, and you need to find an artist quickly I highly recommend that as a starting place. Of course, there are plenty of other websites you can search to find artists, but Deviantart has never let me down so I recommend it if you need to find a great artist quickly. It’s a real blast for me finding these amazing artists and seeing them draw my work. Nothing gives me a better feeling than seeing my work come to life – and I am happy to say that I’m pleased to have worked with all the artists I have. Even those that only did a small commission for me.


Thanks to Mysti for featuring me once again and I hope this helps you guys in your own search for artists J.

****

About Dan Wright:

Dan lives Canterbury, Kent, UK. A huge fan of both Fantasy and Manga, he has a style that combines both within his writing, which lets him tell stories that are both dramatic and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. He picked up a love of Fantasy stories after reading The Lord of the Rings, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and numerous Roald Dahl novels.

Dan also runs his own website, blog and a wiki page dedicated to the world of Draconica. He has also been a reviewer for the website Read2Review and occassionally reviews books on his blog. He has also written a short comic book strip called Queller, which was published in an anthology for the comic Lighting Strike Presents... At the moment he is also currently working on a script for an independant video game - to be released in the future.

Authors who have inspired Dan are Douglas Adams, J.R.R Tolkien, Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, Joss Whedon, H.P Lovecraft, George R.R Martin and Hiromu Arakawa.

Contact links:






Saturday, August 9, 2014

Interview with Gabriel Constans, author of The Last Conception

Please welcome fellow Melange Books author Gabriel Constans, who has just released 'The Last Conception'. Be sure to check out the links at the bottom!!


Gabriel Constans
Where are you from, and what do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m from Santa Cruz, a beautiful little city off the coast of California, about an hour and a half south of San Francisco. When I’m not writing I sculpt stone, read, eat chocolate and keep in touch with our children and grandchildren.

How did you come up with the idea for this book/series?

In some ways, this is an extension of my previous novel, Buddha’s Wife, except that it is completely fictional, takes place in contemporary America and challenges readers’ to think about what they would do if they found out they were the last in line of a famous spiritual teacher, who supposedly never had children.

Tell us about the writing process—what were your favorite and least favorite moments?

I enjoy everything about writing, except for waiting for others to get back to me, when I’m waiting for edits or feedback. Writing, editing, preparing the manuscript, publishing and letting people know about the story, are all pleasurable to me – really.

What’s your favorite cure for writer’s block?

It isn’t something I’ve ever had. The issue is usually the reverse, and that is to choose one out of many, stories, people or ideas and write about it.

Can you please share an excerpt?

Savarna tried another yoga pose. “Damn,” she said, losing her balance, just as the phone rang. She picked up her cell and answered.

“Hi, Sis. What’s up?”

Savarna’s sister, Chitra, had married Mike Nolan, an architect. Savarna loved him like the brother she’d never had. He was easy to get along with and always up for a joke or two, even if the joke was on him. Chitra and Mike were the same age. Their parents, Mira and Davidia Sikand, had been hesitant at first, since Mike had been raised Lutheran and wasn’t, as they said, “from quite the right background.” Her parents quickly came around when, after being married only six months, Chitra had been diagnosed with metastatic cancer. They saw their son-in-law lovingly and devoutly stay with their daughter through the horrendous but successful surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. If it hadn’t been for Mike’s determination, energy, and positive attitude, they were not sure Chitra would have fared as well as she did. “Savarna, could you stop and pick up some drinks for Mom’s party? It’s the only thing I forgot.”

“No problem. I’ll get some juice and chai. You know how much she loves her chai.”

They both grinned, certain the other was doing the same. Their mother could drink a gallon of chai and keep guzzling if more was offered. Then she would always complain that she had to go to the bathroom so often. It was a lifelong obsession that her children made fun of at every opportunity. When they were younger, some of their friends accidentally called their mother Mrs. Chai, having heard the girls calling her that themselves when she wasn’t present.

What’s your next/current writing project?

Having written the screenplay for The Last Conception, I’m presently contacting producers to try to get it made into a film. There are a few producers reading it present. We’ll see (hopefully, literally).

Here’s a totally random question: How weird are you? Let’s be scientific and determine the answer with this quiz I found. http://www.nerdtests.com/ft_weird.php Be sure to share your answers and the final result for our weird readers J

So, I was only 96, which looks totally and completely in the middle of boring and not much less or more weird than anyone else (who took this).

Thanks so much for stopping by! ~Mysti Parker

****
Author Bio:

Gabriel Constans previous novel, Buddha’s Wife, was highly acclaimed by writers and reviewers, such as Bell Hooks, Chitra Divakaruni and Robert Blake. It is presently being adapted for the screen, as is The Last Conception. Other works of fiction by the author include St. Catherine’s BabyThe Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales, and Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Buy at:



Additional links:
Gabriel’s Blog - Here, There & Everywhere: http://gabrielconstans.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Highlights from Fandomfest 2014

This past weekend, I attended Fandomfest at the Kentucky International Convention Center. It rocked! Attendance was down from last year, but it was still a fabulous show. Several factors were in our favor. For one, the whole shebang was in one building and one floor. Not TOO many big name celebrities were in attendance. Last year, both William Shatner AND Stan Lee were there. Both of those guys brought in thousands of fans each and resulted in an over-capacity crowd.

This year, we still had a great showing of celebs like Karl Urban:

They didn't have an LOTR background, darn it!
And Mark Ryan, the voice of Bumblebee and many of the other Transformers:



And there was a costume contest hosted by Ville TV. I won for best female--even had my pic and a quote in the Courier Journal!
(Photo: Jessica Ebelhar/The Courier-Journal)

Click HERE to read the article ---> http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2014/08/02/costumed-fans-gather-fandom-fest/13523491/

I had a ton of pics made with attendees, most of them in front of my banner, which made a great background:


The literary track was a huge success this year, thanks to the hard work of Stephen Zimmer, Robin Blankenship, Ken Daniels, and many more. I sold out of books for the first time at a show, as did several other authors. The panels were well-attended and active, especially the Hobbit: Book vs. Movie panel, which I moderated:

Panelists from left to right: Stephen Zimmer, Mysti Parker,
Robert Midgett, & Tony Acree
My costume was the best I've ever worn, thanks to the super-talented Kelsey King for the custom made corset and to my hubby Bryan for making the arm guard. A BIG thank you to my hubby's coworker Gus Datillo for letting me borrow his grandfather's 100+ year old longbow, which made an awesome prop! The very BEST part of the show was having Bryan there with me. He manned the table so I could do panels and walk the show floor. He did a great job in handing out our swag:

Sizzling cinnamon Jelly Belly jelly beans, with a QR code
to download a free copy of A Ranger's Tale.
He also made for a fine-looking Tony Stark:

Sci-fi and fantasy collide!

I'm still recovering and playing catch-up with emails and posts, but it's a good kind of tired. We're already gearing up for Imaginarium in September. In the meantime, I'm busy working, writing, and doing the mama thing until I can put my ears on again. 

For more pics of Fandomfest fun, visit my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mysti-Parker/103786449704221