Monday, March 29, 2010

James N. Frey: A Damn Good Inspiration

James N. Frey
The Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group had The Write Stuff Conference this past weekend with leading creative writing teacher and novelist James N. Frey. Frey is known for his widely read How To Write a Damn Good Novel; How To Write A Damn Good Novel II; The Key: Writing Damn Good Fiction Using The Power of Myth; and How To Write a Damn Good Mystery. His newest book due out this week, How To Write A Damn Good Thriller. He’s also an award-winning playwright, Edgar Award nominee and author of nine novels.

His lectures and keynote were very informative, inspirational and filled with wit and humor. He shared some his own experiences, as well as his friends, about his journey to publication. He spent many years learning his craft, had many rejections, had a hard time getting an agent, and getting published. With hard work and persistence he succeeded. He suggested we not put a manuscript into a drawer unless we get at least 85 rejections, then changed that number to 184. He’s adamant about writing every day—2,000 words a day, he says with a humorus note. "If Uncle Fred is coming to visit, F..., Uncle Fred.” Get the writing done, then visit. He also felt an MFA was a waste of time. Writing and reading were the best ways to become a better writer.

One technique he suggested to improve your style or prose was to select a best selling author and copy a page out of her novel, then attempt to write a couple pages yourself using that style. Do this as an exercise to get yourself in a writing mode. Then try a new author every day. He guarantees your writing will improve.

The “P” Word: Frey made a point about Premise and how important it is to know what your premise is in your novel at the beginning of writing your story. By Frey’s definition, Premise “is a statement of what happens to the characters as a result of the core conflict of the story.” The core conflict is the main action. Premise is not the moral of the story although it may seem like one. In screenwriting the premise is called the concept or it might be called the original idea. If you establish a strong premise, you’ll stay focused while plotting and writing your novel and you won’t have meaningless scenes that don’t contribute to the plot.

Frey said one way to figure out premise is to take the character, add their struggle, which yields a transformation or conclusion, and this will equal the premise of the novel. Some examples: Honesty leads to ruin. Foolishness leads to doom. Obsessive love leads to loss love. War drives a tender innocent insane. Greed destroys idealism.

I realized my stories tend to have a similar premise. (If I understand premise correctly. I think I need to study this more.) My general premise in my novels is: With courage love will find a way. But I need an original idea or a more detailed premise specific to each novel to keep me on track. It might also be considered a tag-line. This keeps me from meandering into dead ends or tangents. Here are a couple examples using movies: What if Peter Pan grew up? (Hook); What if you could make dinosaurs from old DNA? (Jurassic Park); A man dies and becomes his wife’s guardian angel (Ghost).

I bought Frey’s book: How To Write a Damn Good Novel II. So I hope to learn more about premise and improve my own writing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Student Poetry Writing Project

April is National Poetry Month when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools, poets and lovers of this form of the written word all celebrate poetry and its special place in American culture. This past week I volunteered to judge a poetry contest for students sponsored by Public Radio WDIY in Allentown/Bethlehem, PA and The Press newspaper. The entries came from students from three age groups: Elementary, Middle School, and High School. There were three other judges besides me: a school teacher, a representative from the radio station and an editor from The Press.

At first when a writer friend asked if I would be interested in the project, I didn’t think I would qualify. Even though I like poetry and have three novels published, I doubt I could tell the difference between free verse from blank verse, a lyric from a limerick, or an epigram from an epitaph. When I write poetry, I never worry about how many “feet” are in a line, only if it flows well and has (sort of) a rhythm. Somehow I managed to get a few of my poems published in a literary magazine called Potpourri. That was quite a few years ago, and I don’t think that publication even exists anymore.

When I arrived at the radio station to judge the entries, I expected the other judges would find my academic knowledge in poetry a bit lacking. I was wrong. They were a wonderful group. It was such a pleasure to meet and work with them on this project. The poetry entries were read and re-read, and passed around, as we eliminated them one by one. It was tough. The ones eliminated had to be agreed upon by the group. Finally, we came to the final top three for the winners. A difficult choice because we had so many grand entries. We selected winners from each of the three groups. I was very impressed with the student’s poems, their words used a variety of styles, created images and stirred emotions both happy and sad. Some poems had cute or cleaver twists, or added a fresh metaphor or simile.

All the students should be very proud, and I hope they’ll continue to write. You can teach a student to write well, but you can’t teach a student to be creative. That is a gift. I feel all the students who participated have a special gift.

The winners will read their entries on WDIY 88.1 FM Allentown/Bethlehem, PA on April 19, between 6-6:30 PM. The judges will be interviewed as well. It was an enjoyable experience for me. I look forward to doing it again next year.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Guest Kathleen Coddington - Understanding Your Dreams

Welcome Kathleen. Thanks so much for visiting the Passion Sense blog. I just loooove the cover to Palace of Dreams and the story sounds so intriguing. Of course since I'm one of Kathleen's critique partners, I got a sneak peek and can vouch that it's a fabulously sexy and romantic story.

Understanding Your Dreams

Thanks for allowing me to visit today, Kathy to talk about my new book, Palace of Dreams. The book is set inside a dream dome on the planet Cereus Prime, sort of a Las Vegas planet of the stars. In researching sleep and the dream process I found some interesting information concerning dreams and their meanings that I think your readers would enjoy. I’ve also included a short excerpt from the book. So off to dream land.

We’ve all had them—dreams of flying, falling, being chased, or finding ourselves suddenly naked in front of our friends or colleagues. One of the most fascinating aspects of dreaming is exactly what do our dreams mean and what are they trying to tell us? Dreams can provide insight into our selves. Interestingly, regardless of our culture and language humans share many of the same dreams. Most of the common dreams like the ones I mentioned above stem from a feeling of anxiety. Fortunately, for Inari Rau, protagonist of my new book, Palace of Dreams, divining the dreams she guides isn’t something she needs to worry about. You on the other hand may be curious as to the meaning behind some of your dreams.

Running from danger is the instinctual human response to danger. If you’ve dreamt recently that you are being chased it may represent some aspect of self, anger, fear, jealousy is the pursuer. If you are the pursuer, it may signify you desire to attain something or some position in life that you see as desirable.

Losing teeth during a dream could indicate anxiety about your appearance or the consequences of aging. Or it could reflect a feeling of being powerless or possibly embarrassed. Flying dreams have both positive and negative meanings. If you are flying with ease you are on top of the situation. If you have difficulties staying in the air or flight is impeded by obstacles, most likely you feel a lack of power to control circumstances. Test dreams often express a sense of being judged or unprepared.

And what about those naked dreams? Metaphorically clothes are a means of concealment. When we dream that we are suddenly without them, it is a sign of feeling exposed, defenseless or caught off guard.

Whether you dream about these common themes or castles, butterflies, shopping on Rodeo Drive or sailing a yacht on a sunny sea, as the guides at the Crystal Palace would say, “Dream Well.”

Excerpt: Palace of Dreams

Inari yanked herself out of the man’s arms. What in the Lords of Cosmos had just happened? Somehow she had lost control of the dream. In all her years as a guide nothing like this had ever occurred. She looked around in bewilderment. Where were they? Three moons in different phases floated above her head in the night sky. A seemingly endless phosphorescent sea stretched out before her.

She caught the tang of salt on the breeze that caressed her skin. In the faint light of the triple moons she saw she was attired in a sheer sleeveless tunic that ended just above her knees. A belt of tiny sea shells surrounded her narrow waist. She held up an arm. Thousands of miniscule pale green scales glimmered softly in the moon light.

Sucking in another breath of salty air, she fought back a wave of panic. She glanced up at the three moons then out over the glowing aquamarine sea. She knew this place—had read about it in one of her many research sources. She was on Luvia, fourth planet of the Epsilon Delta system. She wrapped her arms around her and shivered despite the warmth of the night. She hadn’t just lost control of the dream. It was more than that. Someone else was controlling it.
She turned and looked at the man standing behind her. Green hair shot with silver brushed his broad shoulders. Like her he wore a sleeveless tunic that bared his muscular arms and legs, a belt of shells similar to hers around his flat waist. The deep v of his tunic revealed a considerable portion of his sleek muscled chest.

The corners of his mouth quirked upward in a slight smile, but the oval tilted sea green eyes that met hers were wary. He was the same man from the other dream, the one she’d been weaving, which meant she was still linked to her client, Kastel Fane.

“Incredible view, isn’t it?” His voice, deep and sensual sent a ripple of awareness through her.

Ignoring his question, Inari stalked across the pink sand and poked him in the chest. “It’s you, isn’t it? You’re the one doing this.”

He regarded her steadily, his expression guarded. “Does it matter?”

“Of course it matters.” She swung her arms wide encompassing the scene around them. “I’m not controlling this. And if you aren’t either we could become permanently locked in this dream cycle.”

The man folded his arms across his broad chest with a thoughtful frown. “According to what I’ve been told about the process, I didn’t think that was possible.”

She bit her lip struggling to decide how much she should tell him. Best to be honest. “It’s rare, but it has been known to happen.”

“And when it does? What happens to the participants?”

Anger made her blunt. “They survive in a vegetative state, until their brains burn out and they die. Of course, they don’t realize what’s happening. They’re happily living their final hours in their dream world. At least that’s the theory. No one really knows for sure.”

The man she was beginning to think of as Kastel nodded, but despite the seriousness of his expression she detected a glimmer of amusement in his eyes. Before she realized what he was going to do, he caught her in his arms and pulled her to him. “I can think of worst ways to die.” He bent and nuzzled the side of her neck.

Book release date: March 5, 2010
Ellora’s Cave: Aeon
Novel. You can purchase the book at
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Kathleen Coddington has three books, a paranormal romance and two historical romances, published by Cerridwen Press and one erotic futuristic through Ellora’s Cave Publishing. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Pocono Lehigh Romance Writers and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. A retired school librarian, Kathleen enjoys reading and travel and is also, a member of two Civil War reenacting units. She and her husband and two cats live near their son in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania where she teaches a novel writing course at the local community college.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What Paranormal Creature Are You?

Recently I was a featured author at Fang-tastic Books (February 2, 2010) and offered a contest for those who left a comment and said what paranormal creature they would like to be. The prize was a Free ebook of my new release Damned and Desired. I received some interesting responses. Check out Fang-tastic books, they have great interviews, contests and more. A very cool site.

Congratulations to Rosie who won the copy of Damned and Desired. I hope you enjoy the book.

The large cat family seemed to be the most popular. Maybe the sleek, sexy and powerful body of a leopard, lion, or jaguar is appealing. In Desert of the Damned, my hero Jake Montag is a mountain lion shifter. In the next book Damned and Desired his brother Brad is a leopard shifter. A number of people liked the idea of being a wolf shapeshifter. But most said they wanted to be able to switch back to human form at will.

One reader liked the idea of being Sam in the True Blood series. Hmmm. Another intriguing suggestion was a unicorn or a horse. I don’t think I ever read a story that had either of those.

My heroine Sakari in Damned and Desired is a demon but she’s also a falcon shifter. This is a form I would like because of flying and the speed. I also like the idea of being a sea gull. Flying around the beach, standing at the shoreline watching waves all day, having little old ladies toss popcorn at me doesn't seem so bad. Another reader liked the idea of a bird shifter but thought an eagle would be better because their speed, fierceness and ability to see at a great distance.

Another choice was to be a witch with all her supernatural powers. Those who liked the idea of immortality preferred to be vampires. Vampires will always be hot. I enjoy a good vampire story.

Who would you be?