Rebirth Cover Reveal

I have the wonderful opportunity to be part of the launch team for an upcoming book. I really love reading and reviewing books. It’s kind of an excuse to get to read for fun, because I’m doing it for someone else, not just for me, so when I see opportunities, I try to jump on them.

So, when I got asked to be part of the launch team for Amy Brock McNew’s upcoming novel, Rebirth, I was thrilled. I had seen little bits of the story in other contexts and was extremely intrigued by the writing and the concept and where the story was headed, so getting to read the whole book was a bonus.

Today is the day I get to help promote this exciting book by revealing the cover and telling you a little bit about it.

So, without further ado, I give you Amy Brock McNew’s Rebirth:

Liz Brantley has a gift she wants to return.
Able to see and fight demonic forces, she has spent her life alone, battling the minions of hell bent on her destruction, running from the God who gave her this curse. The demon Markus, drawn to her abilities, unleashes havoc on her hometown and pulls Liz further into the throes of battle.
She’s desperate for a normal life.
When she meets a mysterious man who seems unaware of the mystical realm that haunts her, the life she’s always wanted flits within reach. But her slice of normal slips from her grasp when an old flame, Ryland Vaughn, reappears with secrets of his own. Secrets that will alter her destiny.
Torn between two worlds, Liz is caught in an ancient war between good and evil.
And she isn’t sure which side to choose.
Author bio:
Amy Brock McNew doesn’t just write speculative fiction, she lives and breathes it. Exploring the strange, the supernatural, and the wonderfully weird, Amy pours her guts onto the pages she writes, honestly and brutally revealing herself in the process. Nothing is off-limits. Her favorite question is “what if?” and she believes fiction can be truer than our sheltered and controlled realities.
Visit AmyBrockMcNew.com to learn more about this intriguing author.
Stay tuned! This book will be available on May 24!

Writing Craft 101: Backstory and Info-dumping

Backstory is information about your character that has shaped who he is and why he does what he does. This includes his past, his personality, his relationships, and so on. Certain things are pivotal to your character arc, and there are certain beautiful and painful moments that simply must come to light if the reader is to understand why your character is who he is and why he does what he does.

Info-dumping is exactly what it sounds like. It’s telling your reader what you feel she needs to know about your character’s backstory in a way that is boring and inorganic to the storyline. Info-dumping is piling information, necessary or not, into your story that your reader has to wade through to get to the meat of your story. The difficulty is figuring out exactly what to put where and when.

Here are some pointers for effectively writing backstory.

  1. Don’t Info-Dump.

Backstory should be done in little bits, not pages and pages at a time.

Example: Bill and Frank walked down the alley toward the warehouse. A German Shepherd jumped against the fence, barking and growling. Bill’s heart began to race and the back of his neck broke out in a sweat. He couldn’t see a German Shepherd without having a panic attack. When Bill was seven, he got bitten by a German Shepherd. He was innocently playing in his own back yard, but there was a hole in the fence. A new neighbor had just moved in, and had a huge German Shepherd. Even though Bill did nothing to taunt the animal, it rushed through the hole in the fence and jumped on him, gnawing at his arm until its owner came and grabbed it. Bill had to get eleven stitches, and he couldn’t stand to be in the same house with a German Shepherd, despite how many years had passed.

Notice that only the first three sentences are relevant to the action with Bill and Frank walking toward the warehouse. Now look at the same scene without the info-dump.

Bill and Frank walked down the alley toward the warehouse. A German Shepherd jumped against the fence, barking and growling. Bill’s heart began to race and the back of his neck broke out in a sweat.
“You okay?” Frank asked.
Bill rubbed the scar on his arm where he’d had to get eleven stitches. “I’m not a dog person.”

I’ve conveyed the same information, but in a much more interesting way.

  1. Use dialogue to convey information.

Your reader gets to know your characters just as he would get to know a new friend, by talking to them and spending time with them. As your character interacts with other characters, your reader will see what they say and how they say it, and what they do and how they do it. This is how they will start to get a picture of the backstory.

Example: Joe admired his wife’s new dress. That color of blue reminded him of the first time they’d met at the arboretum. She’d been standing next to a patch of forget-me-nots. She looked up, saw him, and smiled, and he’d commented on how the flowers matched her eyes.

Now, contrast that with a conversation.

“How do I look?” Lisa asked.
Joe kissed her cheek. “Beautiful. I love this color on you.”
She smiled. “I know. That’s why I bought it. Just like the forget-me-nots on the day we met.”

Do you see how the dialogue conveys the same information, but keeps the reader engaged in the action of the story?

  1. Use information sparingly.

Add only as much as the reader absolutely needs to know to understand what’s going on. Treat backstory like a piece of glass. Drop it, let it shatter, and then pick up the pieces and insert them along the way in the manuscript. Don’t just insert them wherever, of course. Insert the necessary information only when and where it is absolutely necessary. If something in your character’s past is vital to something that his happening in his present, insert that when it’s happening.

Example: Indiana Jones is terrified of snakes. In the first movie, he has a moment with a snake where he flips out. At that point, we as the viewers know he’s afraid of them. There’s no explanation, no reason, just enough of the fact to know, when he later gets dropped into a tomb full of them, that this is one of the worst possible situations for him. The reason why is really inconsequential.

Eventually, in the third movie, Indy’s fear of snakes is linked to an event in his youth when he was trapped in a box full of snakes while he was being chased by bad guys. If that scene had come as a flashback near the beginning of the first movie it would’ve just been annoying. All we really needed was the one line, “Snakes. Why does it always have to be snakes?” We get it.

Which brings me to my final point:

  1. Trust your reader.

They get it. Trust that your readers are smart enough to read between the lines. You don’t have to spell everything out for them. In the first example, with the character who is afraid of dogs, they don’t need to know the whole situation to infer that Bill got bitten and is now afraid of dogs. They get it. Give them just enough information to figure it out for themselves.

Review of The Healer’s Rune

Every now and then I actually get to sit and read and when I do, I really appreciate it when the story I’m reading is worth the time I spend on it.

Such was the case when I got to read The Healer’s Rune, by Lauricia Matuska.

Back cover blurb:

Three hundred years after a great war shattered the Council of Races, the warriors of Rüddan have all but eradicated their cousins, the faerie Aethel. In so doing, they decimated the Dryht sages and enslaved mortal Humanity. Now a voice rises above the chaos and calls her people to rebel. Young Sabine, one of the Human slaves, must learn to overcome centuries of lies and prejudice to forge an alliance between four enemy races. But what chance does she stand to overthrow the Rüddan with her dangerous secret, a secret that threatens not only her own life but the existence of all the races on the planet?

 

This recently released book is the first in a series that promises to be epic.

I love a good fantasy, especially when I can get sucked into a world and enjoy the plight of the characters, and this book totally delivered. I read it in about three days, because I couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those stories that gets in your head and makes you eager to come back to it. Matuska’s writing is clean and compelling, and her characters are layered and interesting.

I particularly loved the dynamics between the races and the way that played out, with Sabine’s position as a Healer undermined by her status as a Human. I’m excited to see where the author takes these dynamics in the sequels.

I also loved the relationship between the main character, Sabine, and her sister. It felt very real and relatable, especially toward the end when some of the backstory was explained.

The one thing I thought it could use, and I suspect this will come out more in subsequent novels, is the nature of magic and Sabine’s actual powers. This book primarily covered Sabine’s journey to figure out what’s happening in the world and uncovering the truth, and I’m looking forward to seeing some more depth to the world.

I gave this book 5 stars on Amazon, because I really enjoyed it, and I absolutely recommend it for anyone who enjoys Christian fantasy.

There you have it. You can buy it on Amazon here. Enjoy!

Writing Craft 101: Tense

Tense has to do with when the story is told.

Tenses are past, present, and future. You can study tenses further in a grammar book, but primarily what you’ll see in fiction is past tense and occasionally present tense.

Present tense is when you’re telling the story as though it’s unfolding right now. Present tense locates the situation in the present time. In fiction it is useful when trying to create a sense of urgency and immediacy. When you’re writing in present tense, the reader experiences the action along with the character and there are no guarantees for the ending.

Past tense is by far the most common tense used in fiction. It places the action in the past and indicates that the events taking place have already happened. This does not mean it’s not as interesting or engaging as something in present tense. If it’s done well, it can be just as captivating. And, it’s much easier to do well than present tense, and in most cases it’s easier to read than present tense, which is why most authors prefer it.

When you mix tense with person, you start to develop the voice in which your story will be written.

Imagine a scenario. For example, the character is trying to unlock a door.

First person, present tense: I stick my key in the hole and jiggle, but nothing happens. Please, please tell me he didn’t give me the wrong key. I do not have time for this.

Third person present tense: She inserts the key slowly, listening for every click of the tumblers. She tenses as the key sticks. This has to work. It just has to.

First person past tense: I jiggled the handle. Locked. Could this day get any worse? On TV they always picked locks with hair pins. Was that even possible? Could I even find hair pins in the bottom of my purse?

Third person past tense: She glanced around. No sign of anyone watching. Listening. Good. She pulled the pins from her hair and inserted them into the lock, feeling the clicks as the tumblers slid into place.

As you can see, different tenses can be useful to accomplish different things, and how you want your story to play out will be accomplished, in part, by what person and what tense you use. As an exercise, try writing the same scene in several different ways and see what works best for you and your story.