Tuesday, May 28, 2013

World Building With Kai Strand

I'm turning the blog over today to my writer pal, Kai Strand, where she'll be chatting about "world building." Crikey! I have a hard enough time trying to build a household! Anyway, here's Kai:

In a way, this book, BEWARE OF THE WHITE, began with world building. In a post on Mayra Calvani’s blog, I talk about the inspiration behind the story and how dreaming up that one little character – a Molly – made me think…

Where would you find a Molly?
Who would use this Molly?

When I sat at the computer to start writing BotW, I already knew I had to get Terra underground to use the adorable transportation animal I dreamed up. So I imagined a well-disguised trapdoor in her yard that opened to a long dark stairway. I realized that even at the bottom of the stairs, there would still be a long trip ahead to get deep into the earth. That is when Terra and her Introguide, Hermie, hop onto a Molly.

Having used the initial inspiration so early in the story, I had a lot more world building to do. I had to take into account why Terra was being escorted to the underground city, what role she was supposed to play within the city and how it could get screwed up so that the story was worth reading. Then I had to build a world around it.

Terra comes into contact with so many different creatures as she moves through the new alien city. I had the most fun dreaming them up and figuring out their place within the community. I imagined how Terra would react interacting with creatures. Like when she wasn’t too thrilled about shaking hands with a slimy skinned creature, but hid her concern when she noticed Frank’s hand remained slime free after his handshake. As is always the case with fantasy, so much of the world building got cut in the editing process. There was one classroom in particular that I told my editor I’m making sure gets into the movie version of BEWARE OF THE WHITE (wink.) It was so cool – but didn’t really move the story along.

When building a world – whether it be fantasy or contemporary – it is important that you be present alongside your characters to step through the paths and jump over any obstacles and most importantly to make sure everything there belongs and each reaction and interaction is noted. For example, a Trepidus named Finny, visits Terra in her school. He is an Underworld creature and it was important to note his reaction to the Outerworld girl’s bathroom because even though a middle school bathroom isn’t a foreign location to us, it certainly is to Finny.

In the end, this alien Underworld location of Concord becomes so important to Terra, she is willing to risk her life to restore its peace. The only way to make certain the readers understand Terra’s motivation is to make them understand why she loves Concord so much. It is crucial your reader fall in love with the location if it is the threatened entity of your plot. Show them why it is worth protecting. Make them want to visit too.

About the book:

As is tradition, Terra learns on the Saturday past her twelfth birthday that she is a Natures Spirit. It is her legacy to serve in the peaceful underground city of Concord. Learning she is named in a prophecy and being threatened by the leader of the death tribe…that part breaks tradition.

The Trepidus are the death janitors of the Underworld, responsible for delivering fatalities with a smile and cleaning up after themselves until Blanco, recent leader of the Trepidus, decides the day of reckoning for his species is coming. He begins organizing the creatures and leads them toward an uprising. The prophecy says there is one person who can stop him. Terra.

With Spirit of Security, Frank, protecting her, Terra attempts to complete her training and discover her Spirit talents. Together, they go on a rogue investigation to learn how to defeat Blanco. In the end, it comes down to a battle of the minds. The future of Concord is at stake. Will Blanco, the older, more experienced being win? Or will Terra, the young, new Spirit earn back the peace of the city?

Buy It:

Or look for it on iTunes
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About the author

Kai Strand writes fiction for kids and teens. Her debut novel, The Weaver, was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards. She is a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. The most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, "Do your dishes!" She and her family hike, geocache, and canoe in beautiful Central Oregon, where they call home.

To find out more about Kai’s books, download companion documents, find links to her published short stories and discover all the places to find Kai both virtually and in person, visit her website: www.kaistrand.com. She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to send her an email or visit her facebook page, Kai Strand, Author.

To celebrate the launch of BEWARE OF THE WHITE, Kai Strand has awesome book related prize packages. Be sure to enter to win. And return again and again to claim entries as you qualify. Kai will also have Spontaneous Giveaways during her book tour. Those giveaways won’t be announced so be sure to follow Kai’s tour. Only virtual stalkers will have the opportunity at all the fun!
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day Of The Riddler

Really don't know why I've been thinking about this. But I have.

Kim Dickerson. Ninth grade. My dream girl. At least at the time. With my outta' control hormones and lunatic teenage idiocy, she was a pin-up dream come to life. Probably helped that she was voluptuous and a "bad girl." She loved trouble, and therefore, since I loved her, I loved trouble by proxy.

We had a strange relationship. I don't know if she ever had romantic feelings toward me, but she certainly liked to hang out with me. There was a party once where she sat in my lap and draped her arms around me. But you know what? I was too freakin' terrified to act upon it. Wouldn't've known what to do. My parents never told me about sex. My limited education was based on locker room talk (not TO me, you understand...eavesdropping. Because only terrifying bullies had sex in ninth grade) and National Geographic.

Terrified, titillated and fascinated. Sums up my young years.

And the crazy girl got me in loads of trouble. Exciting, I tell you.

One day at school she said, "hey, let's cut outta' here." Being no fool, I said, "okay."

So. We set off across a multi-hour journey by foot to Missouri. We went to the Plaza, a ritzy shopping district just over the Kansas border. On the way, however, we ran into a local TV station's headquarters.

Out in the front yard, Frank Gorshin ("The Riddler" from the '60's TV show "Batman") was smoking a cigarette. I knew he was in town. Saw the ads. He was performing at a cheezy joint called "The Gold Buffet (even worse than dinner theatre for M.A.S.H. ex-actors, I suspect).

I told Kim who he was. She doubted me at first but taking me up on my dare, we approached him. Kim asked if he was really "The Riddler." Looking somewhat pissed off (and drunk), he said he was. She asked for his autograph, but the only thing she had for him to sign was a "sexually explicit book of the occult" called "Lucien."

Frank had his doubts but signed it anyway.

Long story short: I never kissed Kim; I got busted the next day for skipping school (a teacher drove by us as we walked home); I had to learn about sex through experience; Frank Gorshin's probably turning over in his grave.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When Socks Go Wild

We undervalue socks. We take them for granted. But you know something? They're always there. Like a loyal pet.

Except when they're not.

It was laundry day. Everything was going swimmingly well. Shirts didn't look wrinkled as usual. Underwear folded miraculously into compact rectangles. I didn't discolor, shrink, or stain anything. Bonus! But, wait. What? My favorite sock was missing its partner. Gah! I backtracked, retraced my steps, didn't find it. I raised my fists to the heavens, shouted, "why have you forsaken my sock?" My wife didn't understand my anguish. She rolled her eyes, mumbled something about "drama queen," and went about her business.

But they were my favorite socks. So comfy. So friendly. So...enticing.

What happens to missing socks? One of life's biggest mysteries. Do they get fed up and run away with that missing shirt you haven't seen in a decade? Is my wife secretly consigning them to the rag bag? Are there unknown and unseen forces at work that conspire to steal socks? For nefarious sockly purposes? Does a black sock hole open up in the dryer, sweeping socks away to a realm better not even spoken of? If there's a sock God, he (she?) doesn't like me. It's not the first time my socks have been vanquished from earth.

It kinda' reminds me of when I see a single shoe discarded along the highway. How does that happen? Does a driver suddenly decide he prefers one shoe over the other and chucks the unwanted bastard shoe out the window? Does someone get run over so hard, it knocks the shoe right off 'em? Maybe it's a runaway shoe, fed up over the favoritism shown its mate. I don't know. And it's things like this that keep me up at night.

But I digress.

You know, I can't throw the lone sock away. I put it into a special drawer designated for lonely socks. The drawer's getting quite full, but I just can't let go. Can't say goodbye. Besides, you never know when the missing sock might reappear. Of course they never do. But hope springs eternal.

I want to live in a world where socks coexist peacefully with humanity.  I miss you, favorite sock.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Catch A Falling Star With Michael Beyer

Say a big howdy to Michael Beyer, author of Catch A Falling Star. Michael’s book is one you need to read. It’s very well-written, excellent, and deserves to reach a wider audience. It’s a tale of a small town alien invasion set in rural Iowa during the summer following Voyager Two’s flyby of Neptune in 1989. Pitched somewhere between the awe and spectacle of a Spielberg science fiction blockbuster and the whimsy and humanity of a Frank Capra comedy, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 Enough of my blathering, let’s chat up Michael.

Michael, please tell everyone what your book’s about. But you have to do it in the voice of your marauding alien invaders, the lizard-like Tellerons. We’re but mere earthlings and haven’t got a clue.

“We are amphibianoids, not reptiles,” replied Captain Xiar the Slightly Irregular with an angry glare, “And the stupid book is a chronicle of our failed invasion of the planet Earth. Can you believe that? The best the Telleron Empire has to offer defeated by monkey men from a backward planet like Earth! It’s a story of accidentally exchanging offspring both alien and human, cross-species love, misunderstanding of cultures, and other themes so controversially humorous they leave my green frog-like people brown in the face.”

I’m suspecting you’re cinematically influenced. I’ve already name-dropped Spielberg and Capra, but there’s also a bit of the ‘50’s sci-fi Bug-Eyed Monster movies element involved. Am I wrong? 

 Saturday nights in the 60’s I would secretly sneak downstairs to watch the old Motorola B&W TV because they had Sci-fi and Monster movies on. Lon Chaney in the Wolfman, Godzilla vs. King Kong, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Dad forbid from watching those horrible things because he thought they would give me nightmares. So, of course I had to watch them! And, of course, I had nightmares.

Yep, I was a big fan of late night creature features as well. The more forbidden they were from parents? The more I HAD to see 'em. How ‘bout literary influences?

As a high school junior I undertook a quest to find the greatest novel ever written. I read Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; I read Dickens’ David Copperfield and the Old Curiosity Shop; I read Goldsmith’s the Vicar of Wakefield; I read Thomas Hardy’s the Return of the Native; I even read Salinger’s the Catcher in the Rye. Do you want to know the winner in that quest? So do I. I am still on it. There is no end to the stack of Great Books. I learned gobs of stuff from every single one of them.

Your book is refreshingly old-fashioned in certain aspects. Almost naively innocent, hopeful. Ultimately moving. Why’d you take this approach in this day and era where everyone's afraid of their own shadow?

As a teacher at both the junior high and high school levels, I have learned that all people are basically good, even the bad ones. No one looks in the mirror and sees the villain in their own story. Everyone has a story, and every story can have a happy ending, even if it doesn’t turn out completely happy, or isn’t even a little bit happy. Whoa! Rereading that last sentence, I just realized why you used the word “na├»ve”.

Catch A Falling Star magnificently captures a small-town environment, with characters acting like people I’ve experienced in rural Kansas towns. The humorous peccadilloes of the folks inhabiting your town of Norwall puts us right there in the action. Why not go Big City?

Hey, you’re from Kansas, so you know that “there’s no place like home.” The only real people you ever really get to know are the ones you grew up with. In a small town everybody knows everybody. We can even turn an alien into one of us. I live in a suburb of Dallas now. I don’t know all the neighbors and the ones I do know look at me funny… unfortunately with good reason.

Okay. What IS the deal with '50's TV sit-coms? 

Delta Pavonis, Tau Ceti, and Zeta Reticuli all began receiving our TV shows in the 1980’s. They are all Sun-like stars. If you were watching TV from 20 or 30 light years away, you would be seeing shows from 20 or 30 years in the past. Sorry! I should wear a warning label; “Danger! Science Fiction Geek.”

Your book encompasses many characters, different planets and species, and even different eras. Half-way through I was wondering how in the world you were going to tie it all together. But you did and in a very satisfying way. Not a question, really, but, hey, how about a comment?

My first novel, Aeroquest, had hundreds of characters both big and small. It totally flopped. I finally realized in order to succeed as a story-teller, I had to leave out at least a few of the crazy people that inhabit my head.

Religion and faith play a big part in your characters and how they respond to situations. It was interesting to read a Jehovah’s Witness family put in a non-derogatory light. Did your personal beliefs play into your tale?

I was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness in 1998. I accepted the Bible as a guidebook for life and accepted the notion that you should only follow the teachings of the Great Book itself, and not be influenced by the interpretations of other men. I have read the whole Bible twice and am working on the third time. That being said, I’m really a lot more complicated than that. I believe in God, but I am actually a Christian existentialist. My more righteous friends would call that being another kind of atheist, or just plain nuts. I haven’t been disfellowshipped as a Witness yet, but if I keep writing, it’s probably coming soon. Who knows, maybe I’ll buy a chimpanzee and start wearing one glove on my right hand. (Poor Michael, he should never have left the Kingdom Hall.)

All right. Who’s your favorite character? You have lots. Mine might surprise you. I enjoyed the bible school teacher Mrs. Harmony Castille.

I love all these characters and I love all the people in my actual real life that inspired them, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be young Davalon, the alien boy who gets left behind on Earth. He’s such a mishmash of E.T., Oliver Twist, and a kid from my seventh grade English class in 1985. You may have guessed that Michael Dobbs is really me… a much more pious and faithful version of me, but I’m not sure I really like that guy all the time.

What do you want readers to take away from your book other than a rollicking good read?

Well… if you catch a falling star and put it in your pocket… who knows? Maybe you will meet a mad inventor, fly a steam train to Mars, and meet the girl of your dreams… though she’s probably green.

What are you waiting for, folks? Go get Michael's book. It's good.


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Beauty of "Winterbeast (No, I'm Not Talking About Sally Field)"

You guys gotta' check out the movie Winterbeast. It's better than Spielberg's Lincoln. Plus Sally Field's not in it.

I know, I know. Lincoln's supposed to be an important movie. But have you guys seen it? Really? Boring. It documents a tumultuous time, details socially relevant issues, narrates the tale of one of our greatest presidents. Ho-hum. Pass the awards and wake me when it's over.

Lincoln's like lima beans. Everyone says they're great for you, but no one has the gall to step right up and say they suck. So everyone nods their heads and says, "yeah, Lincoln's brilliant" because they're too ashamed to admit the truth (see Gandhi, Out Of Africa, Reds or any important academy award winning film in the last couple decades). We feel guilty if we say we don't like it.

Winterbeast should be an academy award winning film. Every year. It's not dull. It's miles more entertaining than "Lincoln." But for all the wrong reasons.

Laughter's good for the soul. Winterbeast isn't a comedy, but it's the funniest film I've seen in years. A wrong-headed (in all the right ways) horror film from the early '90's with scarier monsters than Sally Field. There're multiple, stop-motion beasties, a villain in a hideous plaid jacket who should be hosting a game show, and dialogue Ed Wood would find insulting. Characters flow in and out and cops chortle over nudie cards. Best of all, within the same scene, the nominal hero's mustache and hair changes. Like magic! Magic like Winterbeast.

There's some sorta' nominal plot about totem poles causing damage and evil and destruction and monsters or some sorta' nonsense. I got lost within the peyote-induced cinemonstrosity of it all. It doesn't matter. Winterbeast is like a loving mother octopus. The movie wraps it's squiggly, goofy tentacles around you, pulls you in tight, not for a hug, but a lasting, lingering, gushy pile of inky murkiness. Sublime.

A couple years ago I bought the DVD from the director. He also included the soundtrack, a T-shirt, and an autographed poster. All for twenty bucks. Bargain! I can't find the link now or I'd share it with you, but it's available at other venue.

It's a very special film. I give it five thumbs up from Kansas (I live by a nuclear plant).