Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fictional Heart Strings by Michael Davis

Fictional Heart strings

I was having a cup a coffee the other day when a female friend ventured by, tapped me on the shoulder, and continued to the counter to get her own mug of brew. For simplicity, let’s call her Joy. On her return passage by my table, Joy seat down across from me, and began to chat. I love it when my local friends and acquaintances offer idle chit chat. Joy is a sweet but mysterious young lady. She coveys a unique reflection about life and all its complexities. Behind those green eyes resides a spark and compassion that is missing in many of today’s lost souls. Finally she came to a topic we often discuss, my books. You see, she loves to read my stories. I’m not sure whether it’s because she really likes them or because I’m the only author she knows.

Anyway, she began to ask about a character in a particular story (TAINTED HERO) and discuss how touched she was at what happened to this particular person. Then she caught me off guard with the question, “Isn’t it hard to do that?” I smiled with pride, “A little.” Joy continued. “I thought so. I’m not sure I could do that. I thing I’d be crying over the keyboard.” Then I realized the insight of this young women’s inquiry. She wasn’t asking about the creativity process; she was probing into the nature of people to empathize with the plight of others, even if they were some fictional character that was conjured from their own mind. And she was right. I remembered back to when I struggled with that particular scene. I was moved, not to tears, but my throat actually tightened and I wanted to reach through the screen and help the character, and especially to strangle the villain. I was so moved, I actually changed the outcome. In my original outline the female character died, but I was so struck by her and all she had gone through, I couldn’t deal with losing her. She still suffered, but she survived.

Then I realized I had experienced this same heartstring relationship with fictional characters in all my stories. I guess they became so real I empathized with their plight. I know it sounds weird to be moved by a scene evolving out of your own head, but I really do. Some stories more then others, but always to some degree. Maybe that’s why I enjoy that first breath of the story when I initially create the scenes, and see it happening for the first time. I remember in one story (Shadow of Guilt) I was moved to such a degree, I literally had to stop and go outside to split some wood and relieve my anguish. The character was suffering so deeply, her path in life so sad, I couldn’t stand it.

I know that’s strange, especially for a big guy, and I’m not a wussy, but don’t most of us choke up when we see another human suffering. In this case I hated the outcome of the story, but I couldn’t change it. It was what the novel was all about. Without her history, what this poor girl experienced, you had no Shadow of Guilt.
I’m curious if other authors encounter this same heartstring response when their fictional characters undergo pain and sorrow. Or maybe it’s just me. Perhaps I need to get some testosterone injections to reaffirm my guyhood. My wife always did say I was too emotional (g).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Comfort Zone by Michael Davis

The comfort zone

For must humans, there’s a place they go to relax, exchange some good words, or just because they feel comfortable there. For example, there’s a little hardware store near my house were all the local males come, like moths to a light. When I was six, it was Charlie’s Shack. My aunts and cousins would take me there to get a moon pie and an RC cola, and a can of snuff for my grandmother. I think most people have a comfort zone that makes them feel welcome and cozy inside.

The other day, I had an epiphany that all my romantic suspense novels possess one common property – they have a comfort zone where the characters return. For example, in FORGOTTEN CHILDREN, it’s a Bar and Grill named Tally’s. The hero and heroine spend a lot of time socializing there, especially on Goobers night every Thursday. In BLIND CONSENT, the hero focused on May’s Emporium, an old country store where the heroine worked. In TAINTED HERO, the hero spent a lot of time in ice cream parlors because he loved to watch the women in his life enjoy sweets. In VEIL OF DECEPTION, it was Ruth’s Place; a convenience store out in the middle of nowhere. In this case, it was an actual place where all the local’s hang out for coffee and a cathead biscuit.

I didn’t notice this pattern in my stories until a reader asked me, “Is there any common theme in the way you create scenes.” Then I realized there is; it’s the use of a comfort zone for the characters. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. As I mentioned earlier, most people have some comfort zone or zones in their lives where they go to get away. Come to think about it, those are the scenes I like writing the most. Maybe it’s just a “me” thing. Perhaps because I relate to gathering holes in my world, it’s just my comfort zone. I’ll have to see if the trend continues in my future stories.

Till next time, be safe.

Big Mike

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Invisible Multiplier by Michael Davis

The Invisible multiplier

Until I became published, in my novice mind, the process was simple: get accepted, turn the manuscript over and that’s that’s. Yeah, right. Like the iceberg, there’s a massive hulk under the surface that the reader never sees. Forget the promotional activities, forget dealing with the rewrites to satisfy the submission reviewers, forget the Errata reviews, etc. There’s an invisible multiplier to the quality of a finished novel that few would ever understand, unless they’ve had a great Content Editor (CE). I’m one of those lucky authors. I’m smart enough to recognize the quality of a story when I submit it now, and honest enough to admit the contribution made by my CE. It’s not the theme or sub plots. That’s there. It’s the molding, polishing, refining where the true talent of a CE shines through. I will admit; I’ve always had the same editor, Cindy Davis, primarily because I get down on my knees each time and beg my publisher. But I don’t have to work with a dozen different editors to recognize the contribution (and enjoyment) I experience with Cindy. So what does she do? What she does appears simple on the surface, so simple in my first novel I kept hitting myself saying, “Why didn’t you see that, moron.” Then I realized, as an author, seeing the things a CE sees is not a talent I possess. I take pride in the realism of my stories, yet she is able to bring out the hidden possibility that lies beneath the surface. Here are a few examples.
1.     Consistency – As an author creating fiction across 300 pages, sometimes you forget that you gave the heroine a black jeep on page 23 and changed it to a red Elantra on page 125, or the hero was born in Maine, then strangely admits he’s never set foot in New England. Yet the CE enforces that consistency across the story.

2.     Perspective – What is a story without internal monologue, it’s boring. My CE can ask a simple question, “Did he really forget his wife that fast?” or “Doesn’t she think it’s suspicious that he just happened to have that in his pocket?” Your first response is, “Well sure, the reader knows that,” but when you think about it, no the reader doesn’t. As the author, the images in your mind tell the whole story, but you forget they’re not inside your head. I remember a particular scene in one on my recent novels where the hero is franticly searching for his wife, concerned that some really bad guys have taken her to get to him. In his search, he discovers a possible source by solving a rather obvious puzzle. Well, my CE asked,  “Doesn’t he think it’s strange that after everything that’s happened, he was able to stumble upon this answer?”  Well of course he does, dah.” Then I realized, she was right. The thoughts, twists, confusion, reluctance, fear that would be going on in his mind were not there and they were damn important to the story. In fact, it lead to an entire new scene I created to convey the hero consciously allowing himself to be trapped because it was the only way to get to the woman he loved. Afterward, both of us stood back and admitted, “damn that’s good” and it was, but it wouldn’t have been without her probing question.

3.     Five senses/environment – A simple question to an author - “What was she smelling, what color was it, was there nothing on the walls, did the animal make a sound, etc.” Yes, indeed, such a straight forward question, yet so profound in the reflection of realism in the story. And again you fill like an idiot for not recognizing the void in the first place. Fact is, when your creating the entwined storyline, you forget those special fine brush strokes that really make the story come to life and made the reader become absorbed in the story.

4.     POV – Now, this is the killer for me. It’s my mega button above all others and Cindy knows it. She loves to hammer on that button. Out of respect from her insight, I do everything I can to conform to her strict “No POV switches, Mikey” posture. Except in the bedroom. That’s where we fight and argue. You see, I want to be in both the hero and heroine’s head because I am into the sensual elements (I’m a guy, if I’m going to reflect romance, got to be an intimacy side, cause that’s how us guys demonstrate love in our minds). I want to know what’s going on in both their minds, (after all, we boys and girls are such different creatures).. So that’s were our battles occur, over and over again.

5.     Fun factor – In 98% of the cases, I truly enjoy the interaction with my CE. She’s witty, smart, has a neat sense of humor, and can take my loving male jests with a fleer. Except for POV. Then I just sigh, shake my head, and attempt to comply in all but a few cases.

All and all, I really feel we work on a project as a team, and I consider myself lucky to have hit the jackpot on the first roll of the dice. I know the stories came out of my warped mind, but by the time we’re done, it’s our story, and I think she feels that way too, otherwise, how could she read it over and over so many times. I also sense that exposure to sure a talented person has allowed me to expand my horizons as an author. I find myself asking, “Given they just tried to kill him, wouldn’t the hero be seeing dragons behind even turn of the road?” Or, “no Mike, you started in Ryan’s head and he wouldn’t be thinking of himself as the young man.” But I also recognize, I have to be careful. Swell a woman’s head too much, and you’ll pay for it in the end.

So this round of brew is to you, Cindy, girl. And remember, you still own me lunch, although I honestly forgot what the bet was, but I didn’t forget I won.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tattle & Wrye - April 2010






Tattle practically floats into the office, dressed in a full yellow skirt, white ruffled blouse, an enormous frilly, flower strewn Easter hat and yellow bowling shoes. "In my Easter bonnet," she sings, ending with, "...Grandest lady in the Easter Parade.  I adore April."  Nine bees and one fly buzz her bonnet.

"On April first I'm always tired after the long March to it."  Dressed just as dapper, including a top hat, tails, ascot and diamond tie-pin, Wrye questions with a grin, "We're off to a parade?  A parade with rabbits in the heat of the day.  Would that give us hot cross bunnies?"

"No, we're off on our Love of Literature Leap."  She holds out an Easter basket filled with books.  "All our favorites!"

Out of Wrye's top hat, as if a magician's, a hare pops two lengthy lopped ears.  He extends his crooked elbow, hands her a fancy colored egg and they leap, letting anyone who notices that on the seat of his pants is a bunny tail.

Wrye picks a book, flips it like a coin, and the two leap into FLAWLESS by Kimber Chin, a romantic suspense.

"Oh my, he looks familiar," Tattle says, spying a dangerous but handsome man, fanning the spontaneous flash of heat.  "My, he swelters!  Killer looks...hubba, hubba...the man has reformed."  She waggles her tushie.

"Hadn't noticed.  Ah, yes, yes, Tavos Santos, he was introduced in Kimber's best seller INVISIBLE.  Tavos is a known killer."  He bites the butt off a chocolate bunny and the ears of another, turns them to face each other, and as if two puppets he speaks for them, one saying, "My, my, my butt hurts."  The other bobs.  "Huh?"  Wrye puts the rabbits back in his pocket and as if his play had never happened, turned to Tattle.  "He's a killer."

"I can see that my April showers...hunks."

"As for being a reformed killer, Grace Williams, however, thinks differently, for upon meeting him, she believes he has been sent to...da...da...da...daaaa!"  Runs a finger across his throat, making the appropriate slitting sound.  "You would think she’d flee in fear, bunny hop away!  But obviously smitten, she kisses him instead.  It was one of the things on her list.  List!  Am I on her list?  How do I get on the list?"

Tattle points to the paragraph about the list, "Ah, yes, one of the many things she'd like to do before she dies, kiss the scarred stranger sent to..."  Tattle emulates Wrye's gesture.  "Risky is she?  You sure you want to be on that list?"

"Tavos wasn't there to do Grace harm, so it is said, but to protect her from her psychotic father, or was he? The father was recently released from prison...plot twist...and at the behest of a mysterious green-eyed woman, head of the relocation service Grace had contacted, Tavos had been solicited."

"Does green-eyed foreshadow jealousy?"  Flips over a few more pages.  "I know not, but she decides to take a stand against her father, and Tavos decides to help."  And the plot coagulates.

"By kidnapping her?"  Wrye looks incredulous.  Pulls cell phone out, it attached to a pigeon and enters 911, pigeon giggles, but Tattle persuades him to return the techno-bird back to his pocket.

"To keep her safe.  After all, Grace can be stubborn."  By now she realizes his Easter suit was that of a magician's.

"As her father, for he comes after her, but not before they...."  Wrye whispers into Tattle's ear, and wiggles brows.

Cooing, she again emulates his response.  "If this book got any hotter, it would smoke!"  Picks Wrye's pocket and uses a flapping pigeon to fan herself.

"Yup, smokin' with sensuality, suspense, and intrigue, a down-right page turner.  Weooo, away we go, hot, hot, hot!"

"Question is, just who will survive.  Was that shots I heard?"

"Let's leap so as not to give any more away!"

She returns the pigeon and grabs the chocolate bunny, noshes as they leap.

Their next hippity-hop leap takes them to FLAHERTY'S CROSSING by Kaylin McFarren, a woman's contemporary, where Tattle instantly blots at tear wet lashes.  "So very sad."

"We've entered the scene where Kate Flaherty's estranged father is dying," he whispers reverently, pulling a pocket handkerchief, he hands it to Tattle.  She takes it and unreels seventeen more attached to it.  Tattle shrugs a so-sorry.

They both stand at a respectful distance, and hear the father's bedside confession about his part in Kate's mother's death."  Has he foredoomed himself?  The plum of possibility sweetens.  "Do you have a dictionary in your bloomers?"  Wrye looks at Tattle's butt for big book protrusion, "You seem to be a smarty pants."

"Ouch!" Tattle says, "Add this on top of her marriage falling apart.  Her husband Drew mentioned something about separation!  Sword of Damocles moment!"  She looks at the bunny she is eating and wonders if her butt is huge-ing. Shrugs her shoulders and bites off a leg.

"Not good...not good at all."  Wrye leans over, fingering the book pages, to peer further into the story, tickling Tattle with his bunny ears.  "There is no lull in the suspense tonight, da da, on her way home, da da, there is, da da, a detour, da daaaaaa!"

Not realizing her lips are chocolate smeared, she garbles and drivels, "Read further along, it's not all bad, it gives her a chance to talk to a stranger, to think through some of her emotions about her marriage and herself, before she ends up fleeing for her life, searching for faith and forgiveness."  Using the wad of hankies, she towels her mess then tries to return the mass into his top pocket, leaving a uni-boob.


"Huh?"  Tattle shakes her head.  "Oh, yes, she is a sweet dear, emotionally suppressed perhaps, artists can sometimes have greater depths of feelings."

"No, I meant...."  He points a few pages back, "There is a deer in the road and she is motoring straight for it."

Both read swiftly.  "Watch out!"   Reads more.  "She swerved!"

"She can't see anything but darkness!"  Reads further, "Oh no!"

"She's going to...."  Wrye holds a finger to Tattle's lips.  "Time to go."

"But...but...but!"  She is dragged into the vortex of literature.

"It's foggy in here," Tattle says, blowing at the white mist as they appear in HEATED DREAMS by Julie Grissom, an erotic fantasy/paranormal time-travel. (Carnal Passions Publication)  She egg-spected (Easter humor) the fog to be chilled but it was more steamy, thus foretelling.

"A dream," Wrye responds just before his jaw drops, eyes bulge, pulse races, and the bunny ears erect.

Tattle follows the direction of his glance, puts a hand to her chest oh so lady-like and grins oh so salaciously.  "Oh my, what are they doing?  Mmmm...oooohhh...ahhhhh!"  Was it lust?  Were they...?

The GQ of gentleman, Wrye covers Tattle's eyes, she peering through the gaps in his fingers, as he big-bunny-knows-better drags her to another page, "This is a private dream, wow it is, Tattle, m'gal."  At this point, he notes in his Blackberry the page number.

A door chimes as they arrive in Roxy's bookstore, which seems normal enough, but the air sizzles and sparks!  Foreshadow?  Maybe.  Foredoom?  Could be.  Foreplay?  Hopefully.

"That was Roxy's dream," Tattle says, as she notes in her Blackberry the afore page.  "And he..." points to the mega desirous male who had just entered, "...was in it.  She looks shocked.  Why?  Whereas, he looks likes his boots belong under my bed!"

"She is shocked.  Boots!!  She has only met Brett Sperry in her spicy dreams."  Wrye wonders if Dreamscape technology is available. Bites into a peanut butter egg, likes it, forgets about the dream.  Peanut butter tints the ponder of his knowledge of Roxy, "She had a disastrous unfulfilled marriage, drat, and thinks she is flawed, poor kitten, can't...errr..."  Flashes red face.

"What?"  Tattle asks, watching Wrye's strange expression, remembers Roxy's dilemma and goes, "Oh...the big O?"  She turns red faced.

Nods with the support of another bite, composure returns, "Brett takes an interest..."  Wrye straightens his ascot, in a manly act strokes his rabbit ears.  "In her...or...."  The red returns.  "He's from the 45th century, and is magical.  I guess they've matured and deal with that stuff."

Tattle tilts her head to check Brett out from behind.  "I'll say!  Magical!  He could make my randy disappear."  Catches herself and says, "What is he doing here?"  Starts searching for the pigeon again, flapping needed.

"His mission is to find a missing runaway VIP from his century and bring him back. The plot hardens in so many ways."  Wrye is so egg-centric. (Easter humor)  "But he can read Roxy's thoughts and finds them simultaneously stimulating and distracting...simultaneously...I'll repeat, simultaneously, 'nuff said!"

"Does he find the VIP?  Does she find her Oh YES, YES, YES!?  Just what does the future hold for these two who ignite passion across time?  Do you have any more peanut butter eggs?"

"Read and find out."  The bunny married the chicken and was the first rabbit to lay an egg was Wrye's final Easter thought.

With a hop and leap, they appear back in the office.

What a hoppin' good time!  Next month we'll spring forth with enthusiasm into TAKES A CHANCE by Eve Langlais coming June 2010, BOLT ACTION by Victoria Roder, and THE ENTRANCEMENT by Carolina Montague.
Happy Easter!

Dona Penza Rutabaga Tattle, Esq.
and Associate Wrye Balderdash
of Blather City, Wannachat