Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And the winner of ANNALS OF THE IMMORTYLS...

Congratulations to Anonymous (kndmgck@hotmail.com), winner of last week's giveaway of Denise Verrico's dark urban fantasy ebook anthology, ANNALS OF THE IMMORTYLS.

For excerpts of the Immortyl Revolution Series, character profiles and the Immortyl Lexicon visit

For insider information on the series visit


Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens.

This is T.W. Fendley. You can also find me at www.twfendley.com and on Twitter @twfendley.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Two Authors and Two Great Events!

Two Authors and Two Great Events:
It's an Olympic Sized Literary Double-Event!
By Brad R. Cook

With everyone’s attention on the Olympics’ opening ceremony, I wanted to tell you about two authors who will represent their genres in a couple of literary events.

Shawntelle Madison, author of Coveted, and Jeannie Lin, author of Butterfly Swords, The Dragon and the Pearl, and My Fair Concubine will present two workshops for St. Louis Writers Guild in a cross-over event of Olympic proportions.

On Saturday, August 4, Shawntelle and Jeannie will present Worldbuilding: Enriching Your Story With Culture and Setting at St. Louis Writers Guild’s monthly Workshops for Writers, and then on Saturday, August 25, they will discuss how to Acquire an Agent and Publisher at the third annual Writers in the Park!

They will be going for gold in both events! (Groan, I know, but I had to keep the Olympic theme going)

I would suggest adding them to your “To Read” pile, you won’t be disappointed.

Shawntelle Madison

Is a web developer who loves to weave words as well as code. She’d never admit it, but if asked she’d say she covets and collects source code. After losing her first summer job detassling corn, Shawntelle performed various jobs—from fast-food clerk to grunt programmer to university webmaster. Writing eccentric characters is her most favorite job of them all. On any particular day when she’s not surgically attached to her computer, she can be found watching cheesy horror movies or the latest action-packed anime. She lives in Missouri with her husband and children.


For werewolf Natalya Stravinsky, the supernatural is nothing extraordinary. What does seem strange is that she’s stuck in her hometown of South Toms River, New Jersey, the outcast of her pack, selling antiques to finicky magical creatures. Restless and recovering from her split with gorgeous ex-boyfriend, Thorn, Nat finds comfort in an unusual place: her obsessively collected stash of holiday trinkets. Nat’s pack is under attack from the savage Long Island werewolves—and Nat is the first target in the turf war. Toss in a handsome wizard vying for her affection, a therapy group for the anxious and enchanted, and the South Toms River pack leader ready to throw her to the wolves, and it’s enough to give anybody a panic attack. With the stakes as high as the full moon, Nat must summon all her strength to save her pack, and ultimately, herself.

Jeannie Lin

Jeannie Lin grew up fascinated with stories of Western epic fantasy and Eastern martial arts adventures. When her best friend introduced her to romance novels in middle school, the stage was set. Jeannie started writing her first romance while working as a high school science teacher in South Central Los Angeles. Her first three books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and The Dragon and the Pearl was listed among Library Journal's Best Romances of 2011.

As a technical consultant, backpacker and vacation junkie, she's traveled all over the United States as well as Europe, South Korea, Japan, China and Vietnam. She's now happily settled in St. Louis with her wonderfully supportive husband and newborn twins, and she continues to journey to exotic locations in her stories.

My Fair Concubine

Chang Fei Long has been called back home upon the death of his father to learn that the family is swimming in debt. Before his death, his father arranged for Fei Long’s sister to become an alliance bride to regain favor with the imperial court. When Pearl begs for mercy, he can’t bring himself to force her into marriage and exile to a barbarian land. As a result, he has to come up with another false princess to go in her place.

Yan Ling is a servant at the tea house where Fei Long goes to brood about his troubles. When she mistakes his musings as a proposition for sex, she dumps a pot of tea on him and gets thrown out into the streets. Now homeless and destitute, Yan Ling begrudgingly accepts Fei Long’s offer to train her as a replacement princess.

My Fair Concubine takes place in 9th century Tang Dynasty, purposefully setting it apart from the alternative history seen in Butterfly Swords and The Dragon and the Pearl.

St. Louis Writers Guild’s Workshops for Writers
The 1st Saturday of every month
Worldbuilding: Enriching Your Story With Culture and Setting
Saturday, August 4, 2012
10am – Noon
Kirkwood Community Center
111 S. Geyer Rd. Kirkwood, MO 63122

Worldbuilding is not merely where your story takes place; it's about the unique way that your characters interact within the world and with each other. Authors Jeannie Lin and Shawntelle Madison discuss the ways in which they bring their worlds to life by incorporating elements of surface and deep culture. Jeannie Lin is the author of Butterfly Swords, a groundbreaking historical romance set in Tang Dynasty China. Shawntelle Madison is the author of Coveted, a unique, quirky urban fantasy about a werewolf who hoards Christmas ornaments.

Followed by,

Third Annual Writers in the Park
A free mini-conference held by St. Louis Writers Guild
Acquiring an Agent and Publisher
Saturday, August 25, 2012
10am – 2pm
Lions Amphitheater at Kirkwood Park
111 S. Geyer Rd. Kirkwood, MO 63122
There are multiple breakout sessions an hour for adults and writing workshops for kids in 4th through 8th grades.

Shawntelle Madison is represented by Jim McCarthy of the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management and Coveted is published by Ballantine Books. Jeannie Lin is represented by Gail Fortune of the Talbot Fortune Agency Inc. and My Fair Concubine is published by Harlequin.

For more information on both these events please visit www.stlwritersguild.org

The full schedule of events for Writers in the Park will be posted on the St. Louis writers Guild website in the beginning of August, but when it gets a little closer, The Writers’ Lens will bring you more details.
Enjoy the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony! Maybe one of the events will inspire some great tale.


Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit www.bradrcook.com or follow me on Twitter @bradrcook

To learn more about St. Louis Writers Guild, visit www.stlwritersguild.org Saint Louis Writers Guild on Facebook or on Twitter @stlwritersguild

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Winner of the Shades of Fury Giveaway!

The Winner of the Shades of Fury Giveaway!

Congratulations Twistingthelens, you have won the Shades of Fury Giveaway!

You will receive a copy of Red Hot Fury, Green-Eyed Envy, and the latest release Blackhearted Betrayal! The entire Shades of Fury series by Kasey Mackenzie!

Thank you for entering The Writers’ Lens Giveaway,

My apologies to Mrs. Mackenzie, and Twistingthelens, the winner of the giveaway. I thought I had announced the winner, but I have been planning a writers conference plus all my other work and I forgot to post the winning announcement. Yet again, my apologies, and I assure you I will strive to schedule the posts so this does not happen again.

Meet Sharon Woods Hopkins at 6 North

Meet local mystery author Sharon Woods Hopkins from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, July 28, at:
6 North CafĂ© 
14438 Clayton Road
Ballwin, MO 63011

Sharon Woods Hopkins’ mystery series featuring mortgage banker Rhetta McCarter and her ’79 Camaro hits close to home. Sharon is a branch manager for a mortgage office of a Missouri bank. She also owns the original Cami, a restored ’79 Camaro like Rhetta’s.

Sharon’s hobbies include painting, photography, flower gardening, and restoring muscle cars with her son, Jeff. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Southeast Missouri Writers’ Guild, and the Missouri Writers’ Guild.

KILLER FIND is the second book in the Rhetta McCarter series. When Rhetta McCarter's '79 Camaro is destroyed in a fire, her best friend and mechanic Victoria (Ricky) Lane, finds a replacement, a "barnfind" vintage Camaro in perfect condition, except for one major flaw: a body buried beneath it. Rhetta is forced to fight her way through a labyrinth of danger and misdirection to find the murderer before the killer finds her first.

Autographed books will be available for purchase on July 28. www.sharonwoodshopkins.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Riches of Writing

It is amazing how many people will say “I am going to write a book and get rich, and then I can sit around all day.” The idea of writing a story as a way to get rich fast scheme is often the dream of someone who has not really tried to write or get their stories published. They do not know the hours of work that goes into it and realize that most writers would barely make minimum wage if what they earn was divided across all the hours of thinking, plotting, writing, and editing.

Why write? There is a richness that comes with writing well. It is not in the clink of coins or rub of money. The gold standard that a writer has to measure his or her richness is in the expression of those who read or hear the story. The riches come from the words of “wow, that was great” or “I really liked that story.” The dividend is invested in the “that story made me feel” and in the “that character touched me.”

All writers want to make money and a living on the art we produce. What we make sometimes will not pay the bills, so we work elsewhere. We continue to produce because of the richness that comes from writing, not because we will likely become rich from doing it.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

And the winner is....

Congratulations to Jacqueline Seewald, winner of last week's Winner's Choice Giveaway.

You can buy Sandra Saidak's books at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Saidak/e/B006C1QZR8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 

Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens.

This is T.W. Fendley. You can also find me at www.twfendley.com and on Twitter @twfendley.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Giveaway: Denise Verrico's ANNALS OF THE IMMORTYLS

This week's giveaway is Denise Verrico's ANNALS OF THE IMMORTYLS, a trio of dark urban fantasy tales featuring characters from her Immortyl Revolution series.

  • Mia Disantini thought she'd found the man of her dreams, but is trapped in a nightmare from which she can’t wake up.
  • Kurt Eisen makes a monstrous bargain to survive a Nazi concentration camp and begins to understand what a monster truly is.
  • Cedric MacKinnon was once a celebrated vampire courtesan. Now he’s a deadly assassin, who has cheated death too many times.

HOW DO YOU WIN A FREE COPY OF ANNALS OF THE IMMORTYLS?  To enter the contest, simply leave a comment or question on the Writers' Lens between now (July 23) and midnight July 28, 2012. Please include your email so we can reach you if you win. The more comments you leave, the greater your chance of winning the contest. If you refer others to The Writer's Lens who mention your name in their comments, I'll enter your name again in our random number generator along with theirs, also increasing your chances at winning! Good luck and comment often!

About the author:  Ms. Verrico is an Urban Fantasy author and New Jersey native who grew up in Western Pennsylvania. She attended Point Park College and majored in Theatre Arts. For seven seasons, she was a member of the Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC. Denise has loved vampire stories since childhood and is a fan of the Dark Shadows television series. Her books are published by L&L Dreamspell Publishing and include:
Cara Mia (Book One of the Immortyl Revolution Series), Twilight of the Gods (Book Two of the Immortyl Revolution Series), and My Fearful Symmetry (Book Three of the Immortyl Revolution Series). She currently lives in Ohio with her husband, son, and her flock of seven spoiled parrots.

For excerpts of the Immortyl Revolution Series, character profiles and the Immortyl Lexicon visit

For insider information on the series visit


Friday, July 20, 2012

What Makes a Horror Good?

I could ask this question of a thousand “horror fans” and get back at least as many different opinions. One of the biggest reasons for the differences is due to the number of sub-genres of horror. Some horror fans love tales of bloody knifes and slashed, hacked, and mangled bodies. Other fans enjoy stories of vampires, ghosts, golems or other supernatural monsters. A third set enjoy stories of human beings acting in horrific fashion as they commit monstrous acts.

What I tend to write falls into two of these categories: the tales of the supernatural and the tale of human beings acting monstrously. Yet, these categories do not truly define “good horror.” For that we need to look at the works of the genre (short stories, novels, and film) that have stood the test of time and ask ourselves why they have. Some of the common reasons are:

Identification with the characters
This is true for any story, regardless of genre. The characters have to be identifiable and believable. They have to feel like they are real and their fears or hungers shared with the reader. I don’t know anyone who can sanely claim to know the hunger for blood or flesh. These hungers are metaphors for other desires that are tangible to the common reader. They may be the addiction to a drug, suppressed lust, greed or any other dark emotion. They can just be as easily the search for salvation, the sense of being lost in a hostile world, or even the desire not to have to grow up and lose naivety. 

There are tomes written about suspense. Despite all the volumes of suggestions on how to be suspenseful, it is an art that can only be produced with the foreknowledge of the author as to what kind of suspense is desired.
In a romance story, the suspense is hung on the relationship. In a mystery, it is on the question if the killer will escape justice. Each genre has a foci point regarding suspense. Horror’s suspense focus is on survival, escape, and –sometimes—salvation.

Fear is critical to a good horror. There should be scenes that engross the reader, seduce them into the story, and send shivers of fear across their bodies. Fear should be used in such a way that the reader feels like they are watching a train wreck as it unfolds. They are helpless to stop it. They want to turn away and cover their eyes, but if they do they are peaking between sprayed fingers in fascination.

Out of all the genres, horror is truly the tale of morality. How can this be? It is a study into the darkness of man. With great intention it looks upon the painted doll like facade of accepted societal morality and behavior and then pulls the mask off to show the maggots that lurk in rotten flesh just underneath. 

There are other common grounds that define good horror, but this makes up my list. I would love to hear from others what might be on their list.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Denise Verrico: Creating Memorable Characters

Today I'm very pleased to offer a guest post by Denise Verrico, who I met through our publisher L&L Dreamspell's writers' group. 
Denise Verrico

I thought I might share some thoughts on creating characters. Writers are often told to stick to the familiar in creating characters. This is true in some senses and a good starting point for the new writer. However, I write speculative fiction and this genre is always stepping outside of the norm of experience. The author’s task is to build a believable world out of the alien, and this includes characters that are often vastly different than human beings. 

In writing my vampire novels, The Immortyl Revolution series, I had to stretch the creative muscles in bringing to life characters far outside of my personal experience. This is the kind of challenge that makes me tick as a writer. The first two books have an Italian-American female protagonist. She is a young actress in New York City. Her ethnicity and profession are somewhat similar to my background, but she was born in 1930 and becomes a vampire. Whoa, now the imagination must kick in. In the third book, out of nowhere, another character was born in my head and begged to step into the spotlight. He took me on a pretty wild ride.  I’m a heterosexual, American, all-too-human female, yet in this third book I write from the first-person POV of a bisexual, Scottish, vampire male. Is this too far out of my sphere of experience to write? Well, I don’t know any genuine vampires. That one is probably out of nearly everyone’s experience. Can an American truthfully render a person from another country? Do I, a female, have the right to get inside the male psyche? Does a straight person understand how a gay person feels?

The answer is yes. Every character written is part the author, part research and part pure imagination. I happen to think “typical” people don’t usually make for interesting characters. It is the extraordinary person that often becomes the hero or heroine of the book, even if he or she appears to lead a rather ordinary life. Jane Austen wrote about acerbic, critical Lizzie Bennett, not sweet, obedient Jane Bennett. Tolkien chose to write about the restless Frodo and Bilbo, not the peaceful Hobbit folk of the shire. The writer must find that person who for some reason stands out from the pack.  I was thrilled this spring to serve on a panel with the amazing fantasy writer, Tamora Pierce, who wrote the Song of the Lioness series.  I had proposed a panel called “Writing What You Don’t Know”, which dealt with creating characters different from one’s circle of experience.  I never expected the guest of honor to be on this panel.  It was my first time as a moderator, and I was so nervous!  However, Ms. Pierce was a lovely person and had some interesting insights to bring to the table.  She believes that writers should step outside of their experience, and to do this they must research thoroughly.  One her favorite sources of information about a culture is their cookbooks.  This Italian girl loved that.

My training is in acting. The master acting teacher, Stanislavski, speaks of something called the “Magic If”. In other words, what would I do in if thrust into this character’s given circumstances? All people share common experiences and desires that allow us to empathize. Even if the writer is dealing with a fantastical creature like an elf, alien or an android, the character must be approached as a person with an internal conflict.

The trick in writing someone so “different” from oneself is to thoroughly think out what this character is all about. Stanislavski also said, “generality is the enemy of all art.” Make your character’s traits, likes, dislikes and deeply held beliefs very specific. A character’s religion or lack of it tells a lot about that person. Give him or her a ruling passion or obsession, a family history and lots of emotional baggage. Everyone experiences these things.

First off, I create back-stories for all of my major characters. All of this is for my personal use and only bits will show up in a book. How the personal history impacts the character is the important thing. For example, I have a character in my vampire series, Kurt Eisen, who as a teenager was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. He lost his entire family and did some unsavory things to survive. His vampire master ultimately gives him immortality. This all adds up to a heavy burden that Kurt carries with him for a half-century. It fills him with a sense of wanting to right wrongs and spurs him to fight injustice.  Readers told me they were intrigued by Kurt and wanted to know more about his journey.  Later, I wrote a short story about Kurt’s experience that is now in the collection, Annals of the Immortyls.

There a many good exercises for developing well-rounded characters. I tend to fall back on those I learned in acting and keep a character “notebook”. This is always fun for me. I ask myself all sorts of questions about my character, even if the information never ends up in the book. It helps to do a lot of research. I also look for images, art, mythology, poetry and music that relate to this character. These I keep in a file, along with my research notes. Research need not only come from books. For Cedric in My Fearful Symmetry, I watched several TV shows featuring British teenagers to get the slang and rhythm of the speech. I then had an English beta reader check my manuscript for accuracy of British syntax and terms. You may not want to keep a detailed character notebook on incidental characters, but they deserve to be given a thorough look to give them some interesting traits in a brief appearance.

There are some who feel what a character looks like isn’t important. Wrong. While long descriptive passages of narrative slow down a story, a hint of the physical appearance of a character and his garb can speak volumes about who he or she is. Mother Teresa didn’t dress or behave like Lady Gaga. The way other characters treat your heroine because of her appearance says a lot about character relationships and informs conflict. A beautiful person takes for granted advantages that a plain person would love to have. Conversely a beautiful person may feel his mind and abilities are unappreciated. These hints come out in dialogue or action. Instead of saying the hero is very tall, let him drop that information by having him looking down to talk with a friend. Attitude is important.  The way a villain speaks to a woman he desires will be very different than one he hardly notices. The words they choose have impact.

Another important consideration to keep in mind is gender, sexuality and race. These come into play in a person’s development through both nature and nuture. From birth, we all experience the difference in how the sexes are socialized. There are differing views on how men and women are hard wired, but as a writer it’s important to remember that not every man or woman will behave in the expected way. Every character, like every person, is an individual. Does he or she accept the socially conditioned role or do they rebel against it?  A person’s sexual and racial identity is also very important in determining that person’s place in a culture. Sexual and racial minorities face daily conflicts that the majority doesn’t. Experience will affect how a person of a different race or sexuality responds to conflicts. Things a heterosexual person takes for granted, like holding hands with a lover in public, becomes a taboo in many places. How a minority is treated in a given environment may highlight the prejudice of characters.

Another interesting way to define your characters is to give them a “job”, even if they are creatures of fantasy realms. This can add a lot of texture to the story and uncover conflict. Say you’re writing historical fiction or fantasy, if your character is a servant or courtesan in the royal court, it gives him or her obstacles, etiquette and attitudes differing from the king’s closest advisor or a general of his army.

One final point I’d like to touch on is the character’s flaws and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid of a few warts. A character can be sympathetic and yet sometimes behave cruelly or like a complete ass. He or she can show poor judgment at times. Nobody is perfect. Don’t forget odd quirks and pet peeves. Remember that you want to show your character’s growth. I had a writing group member read an isolated, early chapter in my third book. She commented that she hated the hero for acting stupid and immature toward a woman who was teaching him. Well, in the chapter she’d read, this nineteen-year-old boy was acting like a spoiled brat. He was definitely cruising for a bruising. But I took the reader’s comment as valid and amended the chapter to show the teacher dealing the boy a well-deserved comeuppance. Yes, this character, Cedric, can be an ass, but this group member hadn’t read an earlier chapter where we see the boy suffering through a low point in his life, scrambling to survive on the London streets as a prostitute. Cedric garners reader sympathy in the previous chapters through his struggles. There is a learning curve in the book where this character faces obstacles and starts to care about the plight of others around him. The young man with a mission at the end of the book is very different than the vain, selfish boy in that early chapter.

Remember, in a story, the journey is the thing. Getting there is the fun part.

SERVANT OF THE GODDESS is the fourth novel of the urban fantasy vampire series written by Denise Verrico. This installment follows up her debut novel, CARA MIA, which introduces the characters and world of Immortyl Revolution and its sequel, TWILIGHT OF THE GODS and MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY.  Set in 2001, Verrico’s MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY introduced a new vampire hero, Cedric MacKinnon, a temple dancer in service to the Goddess Kali, who learns his beauty and speed render him a lethal weapon. “My vampire society originates in India. In my third novel, MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY, I delve deeper into the origins,” says Verrico.   “In the fourth book, I unite heroine Mia Disantini and Cedric in a way that raises some sparks.  It takes place in NYC in 2001, so there will be momentous events my characters must deal with.”  As in all her novels, SERVANT OF THE GODDESS maintains a science fiction twist on the genre, action-packed thrills and a touch of romance.

Amazon Page: http://amzn.to/K3NhVS
Servant of the Goddess Trade PB: http://amzn.to/K8uwPb
Servant of the Goddess Kindle: http://amzn.to/J0R2Id
Barnes and Noble: Servant of the Goddess Trade PB and Nook: http://bit.ly/IIz7ru


About the author
Ms. Verrico is an Urban Fantasy author and New Jersey native who grew up in Western Pennsylvania. She attended Point Park College and majored in Theatre Arts. For seven seasons, she was a member of the Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC. Denise has loved vampire stories since childhood and is a fan of the Dark Shadows television series. Her books are published by L&L Dreamspell Publishing and include:
Cara Mia (Book One of the Immortyl Revolution Series), Twilight of the Gods (Book Two of the Immortyl Revolution Series), and My Fearful Symmetry (Book Three of the Immortyl Revolution Series). She currently lives in Ohio with her husband, son, and her flock of seven spoiled parrots.

For excerpts of the Immortyl Revolution Series, character profiles and the Immortyl Lexicon visit

For insider information on the series visit


Thanks for reading The Writers' Lens. Comment to enter this week's Winner's Choice giveaway contest for a copy of a book by Sandra Saidak.
This is T.W. Fendley. You can find me at www.twfendley.com and on Twitter @twfendley.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Winner's choice giveaway & Saidak: Feminism, Patriarchy & Gender Issues

The winner of this week's giveaway from Sandra Saidak will get to choose either her latest release, SHADOW OF THE HORSEMEN, or  the first book in the series, DAUGHTER OF THE GODDESS LANDS.

HOW DO YOU WIN A FREE COPY OF ONE OF SAIDAK'S PREHISTORIC EPIC BOOKS?  To enter the contest, simply leave a comment or question on the Writers' Lens blog between now (July 16) and midnight July 21, 2012. Please include your email so we can reach you if you win. The more comments you leave, the greater your chance of winning the contest. If you refer others to The Writer's Lens who mention your name in their comments, I'll enter your name again in our random number generator along with theirs, also increasing your chances at winning! Good luck and comment often!

Daughter of the Goddess Lands--Abducted by a tribe of violent horsemen, Kalie, daughter of a peaceful, goddess-worshiping society, escapes from slavery and returns home, only to find her trials are just beginning.  When her warnings of an upcoming invasion go unheeded, Kalie seeks sanctuary in a temple of healing.  Here, she learns to help others, yet is unable to heal her own pain or stop the nightmares.  When the horsemen return, it is up to Kalie to find a way to save her people from slavery and death, while at the same time, finding the courage to confront the ghosts of her own past.

Shadow of the Horsemen continues the saga of Kalie, the intrepid heroine of “Daughter of the Godess Lands.”  Kalie is rising in status and influence among her captors, the horsemen that control the rugged steppes of prehistoric Europe.  Now she seeks the weapon that will save her people, but time is running out as Haraak the Kingmaker, forges a mighty federation of tribes, intent on invading Kalie’s rich and peaceful homeland. Kalie finds, an unlikely ally in Riyik, a powerful warrior whose crippled son Kalie has been treating with her healing skills.  Forced to work together, the two find themselves growing closer than either had intended.  But in the violent, chaotic world of the steppes, love can be a dangerous thing. As alliances shift and warriors battle for dominance, Kalie must use all her abilities see her enemies defeated and create a new life for all of those she has come to love. 

Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Saidak/e/B006C1QZR8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1  

Feminism, Patriarchy and Gender Issues: 
How did we get to where we are now?
By Sandra Saidak

How did male dominance come to be?  I remember asking that question of my college Anthropology professor.  He rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, God, I don’t think anyone knows for sure.”  He then proceeded to rattle off a half dozen theories.  The interesting thing about all that, I thought, was the simple, unexamined assumption that everyone in class held: there is nothing natural about one gender dominating or oppressing the other.  It was engineered.  It was (please forgive the pun) man made.  It came about because people chose it (although not necessarily consciously.) 

The theories that I have learned while researching this subject include:
1.      Men’s jealousy of women for the power to create life (Self-explanatory, I hope.)
2.      The discovery that men do have something to do with procreation (This theory posits that early in human history, humans did not get the connection between intercourse and childbirth.  While men were ignorant of their contribution, they felt no sense of ownership of offspring, nor any desire to control their mate’s sexual behavior.  Once they got the connection, all of that changed.)
3.      The invention of agriculture (This theory suggests that once humans settled down and began farming, their relationship with Mother Earth changed from one of worship to one of ownership.  Also, a settled way of life made people dependant on a piece of land—to lose that land meant starvation.  The need to defend it from others led to warfare, an increased sense of ownership, and the belief that it was part of the natural order that the stronger should dominate the weaker.
4.      An increase in material possessions (Similar to #3, this idea claims that with more property came the desire of men to pass on what they owned only to their own offspring.)
5.      Economic conditions (this one suggests that when resources are plentiful, people simply get along really well and don’t try to dominate each other.  Scarcity leads to fighting and a strictly enforced pecking order.  Also, constant fear of starvation or enemies taking what little one has makes people vulnerable to charismatic leaders who step forward and say: “God has spoken to me.  Follow me and everything will get better.”  Those situations are almost universally bad for women—and everyone else who is not part of the prophet’s inner circle.   
I have never found the first two theories very credible.  I believed the land/property ownership theories until I did enough research to discover that many agricultural societies have been peaceful and egalitarian, while others have been violent and misogynistic.   
This is why the economic theory makes the most sense to me.  When life gets bad, it seems it’s just human nature to oppress someone.  Why a man would make that someone his mother, sister, wife or daughter…?  That one I’m still working on. 

What do you think? Remember, your comments will enter you in this week's "Winner's Choice Giveaway" for one of Sandra Saidak's books.
SANDRA SAIDAK graduated San Francisco State University in 1985 with a B.A. in English.  She is a high school English teacher by day, author by night.  Her hobbies include reading, dancing, attending science fiction conventions, researching prehistory, and maintaining an active fantasy life (but she warns that this last one could lead to dangerous habits such as writing).  Sandra lives in San Jose with her husband Tom, daughters Heather and Melissa, and two cats.   Her first novel, “Daughter of the Goddess Lands”, an epic set in the late Neolithic Age, was published in November, 2011 by Uffington Horse Press.  Learn more at http://sandrasaidak.com/

Be sure to check out Sandra's previous posts on The Writers' Lens:
Why I decided to self-publish
Kalie's quest for vengeance becomes journey of healing & redemption

 This is T.W. Fendley. You can find me at www.twfendley.com and on Twitter @twfendley.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Interview with Joe Prentis

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Joe Prentis, who I met through our publisher, L&L Dreamspell. His latest book, INNOCENT, is in his Sheriff Daniel Barrett series. He also wrote The Renegade series, Abraham's Bones series, and more! 

JOE: Books have always been an important part of my life, and I continue to be fascinated by the many wonderful things I discover each time I open a book. When I was growing up, we moved frequently, living in cities, as well as in small towns, and on a working farm in a rural area. The sharp contrast of each of these places caused me to appreciate the busy and varied experience cities had to offer, but also the quiet life of being close to nature in the countryside. I was impressed early on by the vast differences between the geographic areas of the country, and the part ethnic backgrounds, social differences, and education played in the lives of people. Books about history, science, romance, mystery and suspense, have always presented an irresistible attraction to me. Writing is my way of introducing others to the things I have observed and experienced. I now live in a small village in the South. I have written ten novels and over seventy short stories. I am now writing full time and loving every minute of it. http://www.joeprentiswebsite.com

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus--the characters, the stories, the love of words? I write character-driven fiction as opposed to plot-driven. In character-driven fiction, the story is carried along by the characters as they are impacted by the events in the plot. I start any writing project with a general idea of where I want to go with the story, and then populate the world I create with my characters. The plot might begin with a situation like a foreign agent working in the White House. Questions immediately start to flow through my mind regarding how the spy got there, and what does he want. The ‘what does he/she want’ is the single most evocative question any writer can ask. I don’t like fiction where the characters seem to be constructed of cardboard. Real people seem real to us because they are complex. I try to create a reality where each character has the same virtues and flaws as the real people I know. As several writers have pointed out, each sentence must either advance the plot, or show something about the character. These two elements working together can produce a great story.

What inspired your latest book? My latest book is nearing completion. It is the second book in the Sheriff Daniel Barrett series. Several incidents in the news brought about a discussion between me and three other friends on a forum. As the discussion evolved over several weeks, I learned that all three of the women were clinical psychologist. We discussed sexual abuse and the growing problem in our society. They urged me to write a novel about the things we had discussed. A lot of the material in Innocent is things taken from the real world, but it also deals with the victim’s reaction, and the aftermath of the situation. The second book in the series, which is almost finished, continues with the same theme. It deals with love, hate, anger and family values. My characters are not perfect people, and their flaws create a wonderful (and sometimes, not so wonderful) series of events.

What makes your book/characters unique? I am a devoted fan of romance writer LaVyrle Spencer. I have learned from reading all of her novels that you don’t have to write about world-shattering events to create nail-biting suspense. Spencer usually writes about very simple situations. It might be a divorce and the agony of a parent being separated from his or her children. The situation always works because everything is true to life. Certain types of people gravitate toward certain occupations or social situations. What I am suggesting is not stereotyping, but reality. I am an observer of humanity and what makes them tick. If characters are real enough to the reader, it will create an OMG moment where the reader will know what is likely to happen as soon as the scene starts. There need to be some surprises along the way, and I like to include them too.  

What are your top three reasons for writing? I have more than three reasons for writing, but here are three of them. Someone said that a real writer writes because he cannot prevent himself from doing so. There are many who want to be a writer rather than being compelled to write. I am thoroughly convinced that the real writers among us are born and not created in some creative writing class.

My second reason for writing is to bring pleasure to my readers. I don’t think there is any greater calling than to entertain. One of the first occupations was traveling storytellers who went from hamlet to hamlet telling stories. I was in a doctor’s office once and had brought along a print edition of one of my novels, intending to scan through it as I planned the next book in the series. When I checked in and returned to my seat, a young woman had taken my book and was reading it. Rather than asking for the book back, I spent the next thirty minutes watching her read. Her mouth moved occasionally, but it was her eyes that caught my attention. Sometimes they narrowed thoughtfully, and at others, they were wide open with delight. I try to hold that memory in my mind as I write and revise.

My third reason is to inspire. We are all capable of being much more than we are, and we can improve by reading how others handle various challenges. There are a lot of boys and girls who started their journey toward adulthood from within the pages of a book. I hope there are those who read things I have written and decide to meet those challenges head-on. A book is a dream, a fantasy, a challenge. . .

I would like to think that some of the things I have written have made someone reach out in a positive way.
A phone call in the early hours of the morning shatters the tranquility of Sheriff Daniel Barrett’s household when he finds out that the stepfather of his daughter’s best friend has been the victim of a brutal homicide. Viewing the body at the scene of the crime convinces Barrett that there is a monster loose in their town, and the deranged killer is poised to strike again. Barrett is in a race against time with a lab full of evidence that seems to lead nowhere, and a growing suspicion that everything is more complicated than it seems.

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