Tag Archive for fiction

Kensington Day of the Book Fest Coming 4/26

Save 4/26 for Day of the Book

Save 4/26 for Day of the Book!

Ten years ago a simple sidewalk literary event debuted in Kensington, MD, with a handful of authors and barely enough visitors to fill a subway car.

On April 26, more than 80 authors and a record crowd of 5,000 will be on hand to celebrate the International Day of the Book Festival’s 10th anniversary.

I look forward as this year’s emcee to honoring the talent and tenacity of our authors and performers, and to rejoicing with all who still cherish the profound pleasure of reading.

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. along Howard Avenue in Historic Kensington and will feature appearances by:

– Tim Tobin, author of, Your Leadership Story. Tobin explains how, by thinking of your career as a narrative – with a plot, characters, and an arc – you can become a more effective, insightful, and inspiring leader.

– Martin Goldsmith, author of Alex’s Wake: The Tragic Story of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany and a Grandson’s Journey of Love and Remembrance.

– Chef Jonathan Bardzik, a Washington, D.C. cook and author whose culinary passion is exploring ingredients, techniques and flavors and sharing those adventures to help others find joy in their own kitchens.

– Major General Oleg Danilovich Kalugin, KGB (ret.), who will discuss his book: Spymaster: My Thirty-Two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West.

Live music will fill the air courtesy of: The Nighthawks (root rock and blues); the Rock-A-Sonics (rockabilly, classic country, vintage rock ’n roll); and by Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings (chamber folk).

Festival founder Elisenda Sola-Sole says the celebration will include author readings, an open mic, activities for kids and adults, and “books, books books!”

All activities are free and will take place rivotril 2mg rain or shine along Howard Avenue in historic Old Town Kensington.

Come join us, and stay up to speed on the latest announcements here. 

 

Wanted: Reader Questions!

Post a question on my Goodreads page!

Post a question on my Goodreads page!

One of my favorite parts of author events is Q & A. I’ve been asked about plot, process, writer’s block, character development, dialogue, inspiration, marketing, sex scenes and a lot more. I love when my answers ignite a conversation that sheds a little more light on issues that interest readers and my fellow writers. Goodreads, essentially Facebook for folks who want to talk. share and review books, has taken note and now offers members an easy way to ask questions online. If you have a question, please click on over to my author page and post it. I will respond within 24 hours. Promise.

To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please follow this link.

 

 

7 Tips for Better Sex (Scenes)

A hot young couple. Alone at last. He hisses, “Tell me what you want.” She murmurs, “You know what I want.”sex copy

Now Imagine a couple married 32 years in the middle of a garage that hasn’t been cleaned since their 20th anniversary.

“Tell me what you want,” he shouts, exasperated. She is equally frustrated. She wants to park in the garage, but can’t because of the mess.

“You know what I want,” she says.

When it comes to sex scenes, context, tone and tenor matter more than size.

As writers, how do we capture the sexual tension as well as the act – for the two are not the same – in a way that is arousing, revealing – in terms of character development – and which successfully moves the story forward?

Here are seven tips:

1 – Use Sex Scenes To Expose Your Characters

Well-written sex scenes are titillating, sure, but they can also reveal personality, creativity, and other traits. Is she comfortable enough to guide him? If so, does she whisper directions? Move his hands? Change his pace? Are these two givers or takers? Traditional or experimental? Talkers or quiet? Are they clumsy? Athletic? Patient? Frantic? Do they want the lights on?

2 – Eroticism Should Advance the Story

This actual line from a work of fiction does not advance the story: “When he slid his tongue into my mouth, I felt like a pork loin simmering away on the stove. All warm and mushy.” When the passion has subsided, we should be further along in the story than when clothes started flying.

3 – Treat Sex Scenes Like Any Action Scenes

Sex is not new. Courtship is not new. The chase is not new. Everyone knows a lot about the subject. If you’re going to tackle sexual tension and the act – or its many variations – you must work extra hard to make your prose unique. As Kerouac said, “It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”

4 – Be the Bikini

A skimpy bathing suit or short black dress is more erotic than a naked body.  There are things readers do not want to see, hear or smell in sex scenes. Leave a little to the imagination. Be the bikini.

5 – Prevent Premature Evacuation

We speak in fiction of breaking the dream – of writing something that is so jarring it stops the reader cold. It could be a line of awful dialogue, a factual error, or an inaccurate description of a city. Or it could be plain old bad writing – a confusing sentence or a participle dangling.  Commit any of these infractions and your readers will be gone – premature evacuation.

6 – Beta Test Trusted Readers

That means well-read folks (professional writers or editors if you know or can afford them) who will give an honest reaction to your work.

7 – Attend to Before and After, as well as During

Before: What makes sex sexy is all that goes on beforehand – the eye contact, the sparring, the walk to the door. Just as you only get one chance to make a first impression, the first kiss is also the last first kiss. The path isn’t always smooth. That’s okay. Bumpy is fine so long as the bumps are intended and believable.

After: Theoretically, there’s no more tension now. What’s going to keep the readers interested? The cliché is that women want to cuddle; men want to get out as fast as possible. Avoid the cliché, just as you would with anything you write. What they do and say here is important. Be creative.

What else goes into a well-planned sex scene?

 Follow Steve’s “Back Story” blog by clicking here.

 

5 Ways that Reading a Novel Delivers

Science shows good things happen when you read novels

Science shows good things happen when you read novels

Part of comic Jim Gaffigan’s riff on laziness goes: “You ever talk about a movie with someone that read the book? They’re always so condescending. ‘Ah, the book was much better than the movie.’ Oh really? What I enjoyed about the movie: No Reading!”

Turns out that reading a novel – though it requires heavier lifting – returns a hefty dividend. Readers, and I suspect that includes Gaffigan, already know this. But a new study by Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy  adds some science to the equation.

“Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person,” says Emory neuroscientist Gregory Berns. “We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it.”

He adds, “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

What have the neuroscientists at Emory stumbled upon here? What are people finding in books that got lost when technology began offering so many more options? To me, it’s:

1 – More depth and a richer, long-lasting experience.

2 – The chance and challenge to decide what a character looks and sounds like based only on the author’s description.

3 – An opportunity, again based simply on text, to imagine all the sensory elements that movies deliver without making us work.

4 – The pleasure of getting lost in a story, because reading is more active than watching.

5 – A chance to role-play. Emory’s Berns says, “The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist.”

This isn’t about books versus movies. Rather, it’s part of the explanation for why reading, despite all the high-tech competition, continues to thrive. Anyone with doubts should check the stats from Goodreads (Facebook for folks who prefer books to selfies). Goodreads.com nearly doubled its membership last year to 25 million. The site now hosts 29 million book reviews, and readers are discovering a new book every four seconds.

What do you get from reading a novel?

To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please click here.

 

 

 

Free Webinar: Take 2 on the Secrets Your Characters are Hiding

Your characters have secrets to tell

Your characters have secrets to tell …

Please join me Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for the repeat of a free webinar on how to discover the secrets your characters are hiding. Click here to sign up and participate in an interesting and practical session with actionable tips you’ll be able to put to immediate use. What will we cover? Novelists know that our characters begin much like the little wooden boy began. They sit one-dimensional, quiet and unmoving unless – or until – we pull the strings. Only then do they start to move, talk, lie and grow big noses. But a funny thing happens the deeper you get into your story. Call it growth. As your characters develop and mature, they come alive. Your work at the keyboard is like the blue dust that turned the wooden boy into Pinocchio. Once this transformation takes place, your characters become more like sentient beings, full of the same needs and emotions that drive the rest of us.

Those of you with children will recognize this as a significant moment – the day when the kids begin expressing their own point of view, and when your words are no longer accepted as gospel simply because you are the parent. Yes, you can subdue or quiet your characters in a way that will not work with your children, but that is the wrong strategy, in my view. For if you look at the writing of a novel as a journey through uncharted territory – and with you as the leader – your characters, if you let them, if you talk to them, ask questions and listen to what they have to say … will steer you to fascinating and secret places that do not exist on any map. And that is where your stories will take off.

I hope you’ll sign up and join me this Thursday.

(To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage).

Free Webinar 10/1: Character Above All

Uncover your characters' secrets

Uncover your characters’ secrets

Novelists know that our characters begin much like the little wooden boy began. They sit one-dimensional, quiet and unmoving unless – or until – we pull the strings. Only then do they start to move, talk, lie and grow big noses. But a funny thing happens the deeper you get into your story. Call it growth. As your characters develop and mature, they come alive. Your work at the keyboard is like the blue dust that turned the wooden boy into Pinocchio. Once this transformation takes place, your characters become more like sentient beings, full of the same needs and emotions that drive the rest of us. Those of you with children will recognize this as a significant moment – the day when the kids begin expressing their own point of view, and when your words are no longer accepted as gospel simply because you are the parent. Yes, you can subdue or quiet your characters in a way that will not work with your children, but that is the wrong strategy, in my view. For if you look at the writing of a novel as a journey through uncharted territory – and with you as the leader – your characters, if you let them, if you talk to them, ask questions and listen to what they have to say … will steer you to fascinating and secret places that do not exist on any map. And that is where your stories will take off. I hope you’ll join this discussion in a free webinar Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

 

 

Free Webinar Tuesday: Honing in on Those Distinctive Details

Free writing webinar Tuesday

Free writing webinar Tuesday

What separates great and average writing? A sharp eye and the ability to turn important details into compelling storytelling. As legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Little things make big things happen.” Dial up this webinar and be prepared for a deep dive into the small details that will make your writing unique and original. The sign-up sheet is here.

 

To subscribe to Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage.

 

 

Happy Hour and the Dead Man

Toasting Hank Moss

To Hank…

If you could spend Happy Hour with anyone you wanted, dead or alive, who would you pick, what would you drink and where would you meet?

I was warned ahead of time that I’d be asked those questions during a live interview on Big Blend Radio. It didn’t take long to make my pick. I chose Hank Moss. Hank is the missing character from Bella, my first novel. Some quick background before we shift to the bar.

Hank and Bella had only been married a few years when he died on an Afghan battlefield. The military told Bella he was killed by the enemy; an anonymous source said it was friendly fire. Hank, a rising pro tennis player, had joined the Army after his sister was killed on 9-11. Everyone urged him not to do it. Except me.

Here’s how our talk went down over a few beers at a quiet country bar.

SP: So I’m drinking with a ghost?

Hank:  You’re asking if an imagined man killed on an imaginary battlefield now drinking imaginary beer at an imagined bar in an imagined conversation is real?

SP: You’re right; forget I asked that. Was joining the Army a mistake?

Hank: They killed my sister. It felt silly pretending it was still important to hit tennis balls. I didn’t really have a choice.

SP: Seems you did. Seems you chose revenge over your wife and daughter.

Hank: Anyone ever kill someone you loved? If not, you don’t know; so don’t judge.

SP: I’m guessing you know they lied to Bella. What did you think she’d do when she found out it was one of our own soldiers?

Hank: Try to prove the truth. Nothing would stop her. She’s got a side no one knew about. Now they know.

SP: But you’re talking about routine stuff, like which movie or which sitter. This thing put her up against generals and congressmen.

Hank: Fierce is fierce. She’s smart and beautiful and dangerous when she’s angry.

SP: Are you proud of her?

Hank: I love her and what she did for me, so yeah, I’m proud.

SP: Besides being proud, what else would you tell her?

Hank: Watch close over Katie. Don’t let anything happen to her. She’s still a scared little girl. It’s going to be hard for her.

SP: Thanks, Hank; sorry this has to be so quick. I’ll pass it on.

Hank: Tell ’em I’m sorry. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Tell ’em to remember the good times, but to move on. There’s lots of life to live, lots more stories…

Do you ever talk to your characters? Have they ever surprised you?

(To subscribe to Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is All Fiction Inspired by Fact?

Reporter taking notes

Covering Strom Thurmond at the Capitol, circa 1995

In 1992, there was an election that gave South Carolina its first black congressman since the Civil War.

That’s where fact stops and fiction begins in Bootlicker, my account of a historic election imperiled by a dark secret. This week I was honored to talk about fact-inspired fiction and a number of other topics with Pattie Welek Hall, host of JOYradio. The interview follows. If there are any follow-up questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!

Listen to internet radio with JOYRadio with PattieWelekHall on Blog Talk Radio

(To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icons on the blog homepage.)

Sex Versus Sexy & More!

JenningsWire-Banner1 – How should authors hug the line between sex and sexy? This post offers some ideas.

2 – Where do you get your news, and why? Here’s a piece on why we need to be smarter news consumers.

3 – Is anyone buying the guilt-free Coke? A closer look at how Coke’s marketing department is getting ahead of an on-going debate about obesity.

 

(Subscribe to Steve’s Back Story blog by clicking the green or orange icon on the blog homepage)